INTERVIEW AND PICS by ARTO LEHTINEN
The iconic Canadian metal combo VOIVOD released the five-song EP called POST SOCIETY in early 2016. The four-piece metal legends are however working on a full-length follow-up to TARGET EARTH (2013). Therefore Metal-Rules.com caught up with vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger to talk about the writing process of the 14th full length opus, and about the departure of the original bassist Blacky.
You have an EP out titled POST SOCIETY. Were you testing the waters, how the new material sounds and how the people are going to accept the new bass player?
Yeah, of course. When Rocky came in, it gave a little bit of a different edge to the music. We wanted to rush things out to get it out there as soon as possible. But we only had like stuff for a small EP, that’s why we released Post Society. Because we wanted as quick as possible to get new materials out. To go on the road with Rocky and to let people know that we have a new lineup, and we’re ready to rock. Now we’re working on new material as well.
Is it going to be the same kind of stuff as on the EP?
Actually it’s a bit different than… It’s always different for some reason. Because it’s different from Target Earth and it’s still different from Post Society. So we want to do like a solo vibe concept thing. A bit like Dimension Hatross, like songs related to each other. Different theme, musical theme, lyrics themes combined. That goes in-between songs and alternated songs and different. Changes on the same theme. A musical melody. Let’s say then we put it in different ways and different songs. It’s going to be like quite interesting I think. We’re still working on it though.
Do you work as a team or separately?
Both. I think everybody does his homework, but we meet every week or two. Like twice a week or so. We’ve been doing it this winter. It’s never as fast as we thought, it could be released. But we expect that early 2018 could be a good… Because we’re going to go in studio in August. So by the time everything is done.
Do you think it’s kind of challenging for you to come up with a killer stuff to please the fans?
We’re trying to please ourselves first, I think. That’s the main goal. If we think that something is kind of like not interesting for us. I don’t think we’re going to go for it. There is always something that either Dan or Michel or sometimes the ideas from our childhood. It’s like, remember that movie or something. When it was like that music. We’ve got inspiration for all kind of stuff. Everyone adds little spice to it. It’s always a work in progress and we really work for the song itself. We’re not working like, “this is my riff. I don’t want that song to sound like that”. If it fits the song and if I had an idea, sometimes I have a melody in mind. Or he does something, Dan does something and then it reminds me of something and then he can change his part. It is not totally… It’s an open mind…Team.
You said that you’re inspirited by all kinds of things like movies. Voivod has always brought different kinds of subjects to the lyrics. There have been things about animal rights, nuclear things, aliens – All kinds of things. What kind of topics fascinate you more to write about, for example for the next album?
Right now I’m thinking about it like a trans-fictional wave from space that could change events.(Laughter). It’s something that came to my mind, because sometimes you got stuff that happens and you realize like, “How comes this is happening?” Like let’s say, like when Trump got elected it was like, “What!” And now it’s like, it should be something from like an influence from out of space. But it’s all combined stuff. Sometimes it’s not really serious, it’s just like imagination. But…
It’s like someone has been adopted by aliens – kind of X-Files things like in the ‘90’s.
Yeah, that’s part of it. As always and also we work on, almost there is a few songs that reminds me of soundtracks of movies. The way it’s built. The whole chords and stuff like that, reminds a lot of soundtracks for a fact. But it’s still rock, it’s pretty pounding and it’s not finished yet. But still working on it, but I can’t wait to that. The final set up and right now it’s like I’m working on songs like at the same time. So like I’m working on number eight let’s say and then I go back to number one, and then I put some stuff from number one to number six. It’s just like I word the song as a block. So I think it’s going to be interesting. We want to sort of like do concepts a bit like that DIMENSION It was when it was one song following.Going into another, with an intro, an outro and stuff like that. Like I said variations on the music, but sometimes it comes back later on the albums. Then I heard that like it was in the first song. Was it in the first song or the second song? Stuff like that. We want to kind of surprise and mix people a bit.
How has your song writing changed during these years? Well KATORZ and INFINI albums are a bit different, because you used the material from Piggy’ laptop.
I guess it’s a different period of time. You got inspiration from – Back then it was like you said like nuclear wars and stuff like that and then more scientific. It’s amazing, I really love science. It is amazing how people can be so smart sometimes. But at the same time, there is always a bad side to it. It’s the same in Prison than it was in Killing Technology. It’s fascinating me, what we could do. What’s the possibilities that we have as human beings? To be more efficient and to be more sufficient and to be more creative and stuff like. But being creative sometimes, it has a bad side to it. You can imagine all kind of scenarios from that point.
Do you have a huge amount of ideas for the album, that you’re working on ?
There is stuff that we improvise sometimes, that we keep when we’re at some place. When it’s time to put songs together, we might go back to something that then recorded like two years ago. So it’s still there, it’s in the bank. Let’s say. But it’s true that these days first of all it cost a lot of money to release a record. We’re quite an old band. So we can tour most of the year and it’s more difficult to get everything organized to be like, okay. As you said one record every two years or so, one year or… Because record label doesn’t work like that. That much anymore.
How much has the line-up change had an impact on the writing?
Sure, it has an impact. Because first of all when someone leaves, you have to reorganize everything. As for it could be like promo photos to whatever contract. So it gets things more complicated for sure. To kind of rebuild this team, but actually this time it was pretty easy. Because Rocky is an old friend of Dan’s, so the communication was already there. But still it’s not something that you wish to have.
This was the second time when Blacky left – I can’t help ask if the split happened in a bad way or a good way?
It wasn’t easy. That’s all I can say. It’s never easy and it was the second time too. So it was quite tough, but we saw it coming. You can tell at a certain point, if it’s not going to work. At a certain point we just decided, it’s not going work in a long-term. So might as well make a move right now. Blacky, he has his thing. He has his own personality and he has his own play. But I guess his interest was on a different… He had a different vision than we had. In a long time it got impossible to work with the guy. It’s just that. When Piggy died and he sort of like wanted to come back in the band. It was an emotional thing. So we decided to take him back. But I guess it was because of Piggy’s death or something. We wanted to kind of like, we do it. But it failed out at a certain point and he doesn’t have the same vision that we have.
You know the Possessed guy, Jeff Becerra?
Possessed just inked a deal with Nuclear Blast.
Voivod toured with them over 30 years ago. Can we see that Voivod and Possessed would be sharing the stage in Europe again?
I wish it could happen, I would love to. I would love to. Yeah. Jeff is super cool and… Back in the days it was such a fun tour in 1986, when we toured with them. Because they were really young. We were young as well, but we were a bunch of kids on the road. So a lot of crazy things happened and I just recall things in my mind. We had a great time together on the shows. So it would be great to reach on and…
Have you met him now?
I didn’t meet him for a long time. I met him once. I think it was a long time ago when…. Was it at the Maryland Deathfest? Or something.We were just saying hi and cool. I didn’t really talk to him really. But I communicate sometimes with him on Facebook or I just like what he’s posting or something. But yeah, it would be great. It would be great.
As you know Larry Lalonde is in Primus, Have you played with them?
No, no. We’ve never played with them. I have never really met with Larry for some reason, but I know he’s cool. He’s a cool guy.
You mostly toured in Central Europe back in the day.
For me I’ll just say it’s a question of promoters and who buys the show. It’s if people from Finland would have bought the show back then, I would have gone. But I guess it’s also we had like a label, a German label.
Yeah. So I guess that would have back then they focused on their own territories, more than anything else. But it’s all a question of promoters. If someone buys the show will go. Even in India will go. It took a long time for us to go to Japan and finally we did. But it depends on circumstances.
Regarding Noise, did you read the posting by Thomas Gabriel Fischer as he wasn’t that pleased with Noise re-issuing the old Celtic Frost albums and he doesn’t stand by the whole thing. But do you have anything, bitter feelings towards Noise?
I think it’s a matter of… Its business and it gets… Karl Walterbach, he did his move and maybe it wasn’t a good move. When he switched to somebody by the Catalogue from all this records. He put us in a situation that we didn’t own the rights anymore. So it took a while to kind of re-issue all that and… But I’m happy too, now that it’s done. No, I don’t have a hard feeling, that’s for sure. Its part of the business and the whole industry has changed so much. During, look from 10 to 20 years ago. It’s changed so much.
Like these killer videos on MTV such as “Tribal Convictions” on the Headbangers Ball
Exactly. We don’t have that kind of support anymore. We have different kind of support nowadays. It’s not really supporting, it’s more like exploitation. But it’s progress and its new technologies and new stuff. That you cannot stop the wind with your hand. It goes this way and you cannot stop. So you might as well go with the flow, try to make the best out of it. What has passed has passed, there is nothing you can do about it really. But the whole music industry changed so fast for the last 25 years. There is no comparison. That is what is happening now to what was happening then, it’s totally different. I must admit that it’s… For an artist, it’s getting really tough. It’s getting harder to make these things happening. Which is what I’m seeing, what I’m afraid of in the future is that when I look at it. If you don’t sell a record. There is no money involved, how can a new band can grow and become like a machine like a machine like Iron Maiden? Like Iron Maiden. Like Iron Maiden, they are Iron Maiden because first they were good. But they released the first record, it was good. People bought it and then they could negotiate before the second record. They could expect, they could have like that hard expectation on how much money they would bring in. Then they can build up a bank account and so on. That’s how a band could become a big machine. Nowadays it’s really hard having the same perspective in mind.
Thank you for your time.