Voivod are one of this universe’s most underrated yet influential metal bands. Having released fourteen studio albums during their thirty-five-year career, Voivod has during those three and a half decades continued to make an impact and important statements via their unmistakable progressive sci-fi trademark sound. In September Voivod return to our shores to tour their brilliant new fourteenth album THE WAKE for the first time in twenty years. Ticket on sale now here: http://www.drwe.com.au
Drummer and founding member Michel “AWAY” Langevin was kind enough to sit down and chat about a variety of topics all pertaining to Voivod both past and present with Metal V.
N – Firstly Michel, congrats on the awesome new album The Wake.
A – Well thank you it has been getting some great and positive reviews and we’re very excited!
N – Having read through the press releases and some of the review of your new album and also hearing about some of the major bands that you have been an influential force on throughout Voivod’s thirty-five year career such as Mastodon, Tool, Neurosis, Opeth, Meshuggah, Gojira and The Dillinger Escape Plan, now with the most recent songs you have premiered from The Wake in “Obsolete Beings”, “Always Moving” and “Iconspiracy”. How does it feel to have been around for such a long time, and still be both so influential and also remain important and relevant in the metal scene?
A – Well it is really amazing that The Wake is actually doing so well and getting such amazing reviews. After thirty-five years on the road, it is kind of a miracle. It is hard to renew ourselves so we don’t try to overthink anything too much. For The Wake we worked on it steadily for three years. From the start Snake (vocals) wanted to write and tell a long story, almost a conceptual album. So we wrote and recorded the demo’s both on the tour bus and backstage then recorded them onto a laptop which allowed us to fine-tune our album and make every detail really intricate. So the fact that is has been so well received, it is quite amazing, as you said Neil, to still be relevant after thirty-five years it has been rewarding but also quite a challenge.
N – Now Away, I know that it’s been twenty years since you were last here in Australia but I am one of the lucky ones who saw you on that tour and headline Australia’s now deceased Metal For The Brain festival which was our country’s annual Metal pilgrimage for many years in Canberra. Do you remember much from that last tour here?
A – Of course! That was at a big university and we were extremely happy that so many people turned out to see us. Though, after twenty years which is such a long time ago that tour is now kind of vague, but we did love being on the tour bus travelling through the tour and being able to take in so much of your country’s beautiful scenery. But right now we are just excited to come back and see and feel Australia. It is just such a long way away and has been such a long time.
N – Now Michel you briefly touched before on the fact that The Wake has a conceptual feel to it. Would you mind explaining the concept behind it to us?
A – Well Snake wanted to write about an industrial disaster that is triggered and finally opens the eyes of all the inhabitants of Earth. All the social and religious structures on earth are shattered. Then the middle of the album is more introspective and becomes a sort of awakening and then at the end it becomes intergalactic. So overall I think Snake wanted to touch on as many different subjects as he could and its tentatively based on the many things that are going on on Earth right now but through a Sci-Fi feel, but it was mainly through Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain (guitars) that allowed Snake to write music that was very cinematographic.
Many musical thoughts and themes were being realised and rearranged by them both but also thanks to Francis (Perron) who owns the recording studio (RadicArt Recording Studio Canada) where we recorded and also engineered the album and he was able to add many many layers of feelings through the music to capture the albums feel overall.
N – I would like to talk about the amazing book that came out by Ramón Oscuro Martos called “…And Justice For Art” which, for those who are unaware, is an incredible book that features exclusively the artwork of timeless, amazing and influential Heavy Metal album covers. And furthermore tells the story and history behind many of those album covers! Voivod are obviously present in that book. Now, Michel, you have had a lot of input and are responsible for many of your band’s album covers. Would you mind please talking about what it was like, firstly being asked to contribute to “…And Justice For Art” and secondly the process of having your artwork featured in the book?
A – I had been asked for many years to be a part of many books about the origins of Hardcore, Metal and Thrash designs and their MO’s. And it was thanks to artists like Pushead that had paved the way to creating artwork that is so recognisable that being considered and featured in books like that is always an honour and pleasure.
N – Having touched on Voivod’s album covers in “…And Justice For Art”, I would like to expand on the artwork, covers and concepts of the album covers which you Michel do that represents Voivod. You start off by simplistic doodling and drawing in order to encapsulate the themes and feelings to represent Voivod. How much of what you do goes into being the final product and what we see on the cover and in record stores?
A – Well, in the seventies when the magazine Heavy Metal came out, it really really influenced me. And all of the artists who drew for them influenced me incredibly and I wanted to be an artist and contributor for Heavy Metal. So because of that, I created for Voivod a kind of Cyber Vampire who guarded a planet. And there were many characters who formed that story. But it was later when we formed Voivod in ‘83 that we decided to develop a story with both music and lyrics.
When we are touring, quite a lot of the art that I do, in every town that I am in, at the end of the day I will draw my impression of that particular city in a booklet in ink and then I will scan that drawing onto a digital tablet and add colours with a digital pen which I have been doing for decades now.
I did the first four Voivod album covers as paintings but since I was never trained in art at all I switched to digital art in ‘86 or ‘87.
N – The cover to Voivod’s new album The Wake is very chaotic which is both different yet not so different to some of the previous Voivod album covers you’ve done. It is also a very clear indication in its depiction of chaos that it is a clear interpretation and representation of the way the world is today. Would you explain please Michel your motivation behind how you came about designing it and how it incorporates the message and meaning to The Wake as a whole?
A – I really wanted to express the chaotic state of this planet because the lyrics on the album really express that chaos. I wanted to try and go back and really capture what I was trying to depict on the first four Voivod album covers which were based during the Cold War era. During the process of The Wake I was discussing with Snake the aftermath of this and the aftermath of that based on a political vibe, so my vision was one of us as Voivod holding a wake for a dying or dead planet. And I tried to depict that as best I could. The best thing was that as I was doing the artwork, the mixes of the songs were coming through to me and I was really able to absorb myself with the feeling and emotion of music on the album and try to express it properly.
N – Wow Away, that was a stunning summation of the album and what it represents fully. Now, you are, finally after twenty years making the trip back to Australia in January, tell us what your fans can expect to hear and see on your upcoming tour?
A – We’ll definitely be covering material from the era of the ’80s and early ’90s plus the latest material which features bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche. Hopefully, there are screens at the clubs where we play where we able to project and stream images that I have done for and represent the band over the years so we can do a slideshow during our show.
N – Michel, with Voivod having been around for thirty-five years now and having an incredibly large and diverse fan base, how hard is it to create a setlist from an incredibly huge back catalogue for a country that you haven’t been to or performed for twenty years?
A – Well Voivod have to or three different setlists that we have prepared and are able to choose from and alternate from making them different night after night, pretty much for those fans of ours that will be following us around for a tour and that also keeps our performances fresh. We do actually refresh our set a couple of time a year because we do tour a lot and that’s just so we don’t get bored and our fans don’t get bored.
Voivod have fourteen studio albums now which is a lot of material to pick a set from we know that many of our fans want to hear songs from Killing Technology (1987), Nothingface (1989) and Dimension Hatröss (1988) and so on, so we make sure songs from all those albums are included every time because those are our classic albums. But even the albums War and Pain (1984) & Rrröööaaarrr (1986) which we know our fans love that thrash period of ours we also play songs from them. But then we can include songs into our set from the new album The Wake which overall morphs into one big Voivod style and the flow is intact and the old material fits perfectly with the new material which overall is the signature of ours that’s there and it doesn’t really matter because no matter what we do you’ll hear the Voivod signature!
N – The last thing I’d like to you Michel is, there are obviously a lot of young up and coming incredible Metal musicians and bands in the world right now who are all both trying and vying to be seen and heard by an audience in an extremely flooded market and industry. For a band who has been around for so long and is still respected and relevant. What advice do you have for them to A: Become relevant and B: remain relevant?
A – Well, that is a tough question, but I think that you have to harness and write the music that you want to play and not try to follow any trend. Because, by the time that you write, record and release an album then that trend has already gone and there are tons of bands trying to write the same sort of music. I honestly think that it is a difficult road to follow to write, record and release music that is parallel to everything else. But in the long run, because of what you do as an artist, people will respect you, other musicians will respect you, but to me, the main ingredients to being successful is integrity and perseverance!
N – For the upcoming Australian tour will Voivod be doing a VIP ticket package or do you as a band prefer to just hang around after your set and just hang with your fans and enjoy a beer?
A – Well for Voivod, for fifteen to twenty minutes after every show we will always go to the merch desk and chat with everybody, take pictures, sign anything which is always what we do as a way to meet our old friends plus our old and even new fans. Which we do at every show and for us it is amazing.
Voivod tour dates and venues Australia January 2019 are:
Wednesday, January 23rd – Brisbane – CrowBar
Thursday, January 24th – Canberra – Basement
Friday, January 25th – Melbourne – Max Watts
Saturday, January 26th – Sydney – Crow Bar
Tickets ON SALE NOW!