2016.02.17 – The Daily Times interviews Away!
Tennesee’s The Daily Times newspaper published this interview with Away on February 17, 2016.
Voivod continues its explorations of post-apocalyptic metal landscapes
By Steve Wildsmith firstname.lastname@example.org |
When the post-apocalyptic vampire overlord known as The Voivod was first given life by the band that bears his name, the headlines were gloomy ones that lamented the disappearing ozone layer, the threat of acid rain and the nuclear meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor.
More than 30 years later, Michel Langevin, creator of The Voivod and co-founder/drummer for the band Voivod — which performs Monday night at The Concourse in Knoxville’s Warehouse District — looks around and sees that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
“It’s like a retro nightmare in a way,” he told The Daily Times this week. “Back then, he was evolving in that world, and now, it’s Fukushima, global warming — the destruction of the environment is worse than ever — and plus we have more information and disinformation than ever with the Internet and 24 hour news on TV. There’s still a lot of stuff to talk about, but we tend to do it in some sci-fi folk tales.”
Not that Voivod traffics in folk music, by any means. The Quebec-based outfit is metal through and through, using elements of progressive, thrash and speed over the years to give life to the Voivod character, which evolved from a concept Langevin had in the 1970s, back when he wanted to draw comic books that took their cue from the “Heavy Metal” animated film. The Voivod was described as a “vampire lord in a post-nuclear age … immortal and unstoppable,” and when Langevin explained his concept to his new bandmates, they seized upon it as a vehicle to make a contemporary statement on the socio-political landscape of the mid-1980s.
Dennis “Piggy” D’Amour was the musical engine that gave Voivod lift off; his compositions combined elements of jazz, metal and progressive rock on the band’s debut album, 1984’s “War and Pain,” and fans soon began trading tapes of the Canadian band; by 1986, Voivod was touring the United States with Celtic Frost, and by 1987’s “Killing Technology,” the Voivod character had expanded to other worlds and other stories. After 1989’s “Nothingface,” however, the Voivod character disappeared.
“There was supposed to be a last chapter of the Voivod saga, and Steve Albini was supposed to produce it; it exists as a demo, but since then, we still haven’t used the character,” Langevin said. “But I’m really thinking of writing a concept album — not for the the one coming up at the end of this year or early next year, but a future one. The one after that. I would love to do a concept and do a painting for the cover instead of digital art. I’ve done that since the ’80s, but it takes me months to do a painting, and I’ve only done four in my life — the first four album covers.”
Like all bands who flirt with some measure of fame, Voivod hasn’t been spared its share of drama. Two of the founding members left in the early ’90s, and in 1998, and replacement member Eric Forrest was critically injured in a car accident in Germany. That final Voivod concept album was a collaboration between Langevin and Forrest during the latter’s convalescence, Langevin said, but lawsuits and infighting soon led to Forrest’s departure, and the project was shelved. Although Voivod soldiered on, the band suffered another blow in 2005, when D’Amour was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“It happened really quick in a way; in March, he checked into the hospital, and in August, he was gone,” Langevin said. “For 20 years or more, Piggy and I saw each other daily to discuss Voivod. I’ve waited for his call, every day, for a year or two after that, and I still think of him every day. I still hear his chords everywhere.”
D’Amour’s work, archived on his computer, provided the blueprint for some of Voivod’s future releases; although the lineup has shifted a number of times — the band is on its fifth, by Langevin’s reckoning — the group continues to make new music (the EP “Post Society” will be released Feb. 26), and it’s back catalog is consistently praised by contemporary rockers as influential works of art. To hear a superstar like Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl praise his band, Langevin said, is a gratifying thing.
“It’s like when Jason (Newsted, formerly of Metallica) joined the band briefly; it got us a lot of attention,” he said. “It’s great that they try to promote the band. We’re getting a lot of attention through these guys, but they’re also super-nice and down to earth. They’re all friends of ours, and if anything, I’m real proud that we are an example and that we have a lot of love from the crowd, the critics and the industry. It’s all good.”
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at email@example.com or at 981-1144, follow him on Twitter @TNRockWriter and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.