Heart of Steel: Interviews

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Interview With Voivod
Interview By Chris Hawkins

While trends seem to permeate the social conscious in heavy music, including but not limited to baggy pants, masks, and urban dialect, some of Metal’s founding fathers refuse to see the art form lost forever in a stale sea of mediocrity. Thus, let the backlash begin. A Metal scene that is more proud, more pissed, and more united is a goal of legends, Voivod, a band that has pushed the boundaries of the genre since its inception two decades ago. Perhaps this era mirrors the other, with hairspray and lipstick mutating to Addidas and chain wallets. Still, though, Voivod is the constant. Always being the band that refused to stay stagnant, their music has often flown over the heads of some, but gained the respect and sheer awe from many. The same can be said for their new self-titled album. With its sense of unity, its unbridled creativity, and the overall chemistry that flows between Snake, Piggy, Away, and Jasonic, “Voivod” is indeed the album we all need at the moment. Please read on as singer, Snake reveals the secrets behind the success of the new album and Voivod’s longevity.


What have you guys been up to lately?

We are rehearsing for the upcoming tour.



With Sepultura?

Oh yeah! We’ve been rehearsing quite a lot, mountain biking, getting in shape so we’ll be on fire.



It sounds like some pretty rigorous training.

Well, you know it’s always good to be in shape. When you’re about to go out for a few months it’s better to be in the best shape you can be.



So how did the tour with Sepultura come about?

It’s booked pretty solid. We don’t have a lot of days off. We’re opening for them, but time-wise we’re going to have like an hour and twenty minutes. We expect a lot from this. It will be good. We have this new guy, Jason and he’s real excited about playing live again. It’s going to be great to be back on stage.


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There’s a very positive vibe coming from the Voivod camp…

It feels great. I just hope that all the black clouds and all the bad things are behind us. Hopefully, we won’t have any crashes or anything like that. The vibe is so positive right now that I expect a lot from it. It feels really good and people around us are great. They make you feel good. I think it’s really important to have a team around you…I don’t ask anybody to be super-friendly, but having people around you with good vibes makes you feel good and excited about what’s going to happen. That’s what is happening right now. We have good results from the album, we’re all excited, and it looks great for the future for sure.



I think that positive vibe was definitely conveyed in the album…

Yeah, the album was also a way to translate our feelings. There’s a few songs like, “I Don’t Wanna Wake Up” which is talking about coming back and it’s great to see people again. It’s going to be great to bring this music to the people again. It’s really positive.



So it was a pretty short time for recording, right?

First, when we started doing the pre-production and we knew Jason was a full member, it was like, “Yeah!!” We started the pre-production, composed stuff, and so we had the session booked. It went so fast. We did the whole thing in 75 days or so. It was quite tough for everybody. We had like an hour or something of driving back and forth, two hours of traveling everyday. We didn’t get much sleep. It was around 15-16 hours of being in the studio. It was also tough for Jason because he was always in the recording room, and when he was not recording he was behind the board, focusing on producing the album. We were always around the studio.



I guess you’ve got to strike while it’s hot.

That’s the thing. What I like about this record is we didn’t have the time to sit and think about it. That’s why I think it’s pure with no afterthought. For me, it’s almost like an improvising record. It’s a good way to make a record.



I think you captured the energy of the band…

Exactly, because if you record one song and then take a week break or whatever, there’s too much break in between. Plus, we can’t afford being lazy. It was like a training camp almost.



How about the writing process? When you guys started to write the record, when did you know you were really hitting on something?

Of course I had a few personal things that I wanted to talk about. Also, the way I did the lyrics, I didn’t want to speak just for myself. I wanted to speak for all the members. We matured quite a lot. I’d been away from the band for quite a long time. We all have our own experiences. Those experiences touched us here and there. Even Jason has his own stories and experiences. I wanted really, for them, for the other members, I wanted them to recognize themselves in the lyrics also. Jason had about 25-30 pages of stuff he wrote, random stuff, but cool stuff also. I just took the whole thing from everybody, mixed it with my stuff, and we ended up creating good songs I think.



As far as the recording, was it more or less a jam session, or did everybody bring something to the table?

I would say half of it was already kind of written, but it was not arranged or anything. We also had sessions, jamming sessions. We took some tapes of jams that we had. It was so good. There were a few songs right there. Also, we picked some little parts and fit them together. We really wrote it on Jason’s porch at Chophouse Records. It was really quiet, totally unplugged with little bongos…



That’s something we don’t really expect to hear from Voivod…

Yeah, but we were just trying to compose the music. You don’t have to play it loud all the time. We wanted to make sure we had the right structures for all those songs and how they feel. After doing it many times, how does it feel? Does it sound redundant? You have to be really careful about that process. It was great that we did that that way because we were not used to really sitting down and going through all the parts. It was kind of a new method for us, but I enjoyed it.



If you can take away all the amps and effects and still have a quality song, then you know you’re doing something right.

Yeah, especially with picking and if you have too much effects, you can’t hear what the other guy’s doing. You have to make sure you’re doing the right thing. Playing soft, you can really hear what’s going on. It’s a new method of doing things, but I think it worked for us.


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The new album has just a pure, classic Metal sound. Is that what you guys were going for?

Yeah, we just wanted the album to really rock. We wanted to have a Rock album, and Michel’s playing, he hits the double bass quite often on this record. I think it’s great because I think we wanted to have something really strong. Plus, we’re in such a need of good Rock. What I’ve heard, there’s good bands out there, but sometimes there’s a lack of maybe the old school. There’s something that’s missing sometimes. We wanted to have this kind of old school, rocking attitude that do or die vibe.



A lot of quality gets lost on image or what not…

Yeah, that fluffy stuff, the makeup and all that. It’s all the industry that does that sometimes. It created different kinds of crossovers. Crossovers are good, but the sometimes the fashion trends are just created. There’s no vision. People do bands and try and be in a category. They shouldn’t. They should be themselves. Everybody’s original in someway. You don’t have to be part of the trend that’s “now”. There’s new bands out there, but you should buy old records out there. There’s good stuff out there. Music is like anything else. It is like a cycle. Do kids ever listen to Black Sabbath, to Deep Purple? They must. They should get that old vibe from Rock and really see where this is all coming from.



Don’t you see Metal being more pronounced and coming back stronger?

I think so. I think people my age and even younger want to hear those bands. It’s sort of a revival in your head. You want to be at a Rock show and remember all the good times you had. People want to relive all that magic. I think people miss the good Rock shows.



There’s definitely a hunger there…

Everybody realized this is a business, an industry. People want the real stuff. That’s why we came up with this album. This is real. This is a true album from the bottom of our hearts. I think that’s what people are looking for now.



How do you feel, having been on a major label, to currently be on Jason’s label?

I think it’s great because sometimes on major labels, they’re so huge and you have to be careful. It’s so huge and they have so many people to take care of. You’ve got to make sure they have somebody who’s pushing your band. If you don’t have that, you’re going to end up on a shelf. You’re out of a deal if you don’t do good. People don’t realize how hard life in a band can be. Those people are sitting in an office and you’re on tour. They don’t realize what’s going on. They don’t realize all the work. They don’t understand the needs a band has. Jason, he knows. He knows all that. He’s been there. He knows what a band needs. Having him on bass, being the record label, being Jason Newsted, I think it’s great. If something happens, he’s there. He will be the first to know. He won’t be sitting in his office or playing golf somewhere. That’s what I like about it. He understands Rock. Ok, he’s a businessman, but he understands. He’s not doing it only for the business. He wants to rock. He’s really active and really focused. When he has something on his mind, nothing can stop him. He’s a strong man. When he hits the bass and playing live, he’s doing it 100%, whatever he does. That’s what we’ve needed for so long.


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You guys were tight when he was in Flotsam and Jetsam…

Yeah, it’s a long-term relationship. We always kept an eye on him and he always kept an eye on us. He had a lot of success in Metallica, and now with Ozzy. That’s great for him. All the buzz on him is reflecting on us too. If he’s happy, I’m happy. It’s pretty contagious.



So the thought always lingered in the back of your head that maybe you guys would hook up and do something?

Yeah, I think it was meant to be. I was away for a long time. In 2001, when I joined back, we did a few shows with Motorhead and we opened for Dio. He called a few weeks later, the guys told him I was back in the band, and he flipped out. Jason, Piggy, and Away had recorded sessions before in ’95. We did something in ’88 also. There was this project, what he called Tarrat back then that he wanted to put together. When he called and knew I was back, it was like, “Ok, this is the right time to do it.” I think it was right.



How do you feel about being invited to join Ozzfest?

I try to be focused. I try not to think about fame and all that. I just want to really concentrate on what I’m doing, and give the best I can. I know these are important shows, and I’m really excited about it. Every morning I wake up and it’s like, “Am I dreaming?” Never in my life, especially when I quite the band, did I imagine this. I thought it was over for me.



Were you active in music?

I kept myself away from music for about a year and a half when I left. I had a few addictions. I had to clean up my head so I stayed in the woods in a little shack for a year. I cleaned up and went back in the city. The music came back to me real quick going back to Montreal, seeing old friends. People were still calling me Snake so I guess that didn’t help. I got hooked up with some people there, guitar player, bass payer, we did a band and it was just fun. We did a small Quebec tour, and it really helped me to keep the music in my blood. I had an eye on Voivod also. That’s for sure. I respected them. Every time they were playing, I would go to the show, say hello. I had a good relationship with them. Suddenly, the door opened for me to come back and I took it. I’d been dreaming about it. It’s funny because you want to quit, and you’ve got this need for it. Music is really part of my life. No matter what I do, I had a job, I had everything I wanted like a normal guy, but if music isn’t a part of it, then it sucks.



Once it’s in your blood, it’s never going to go away…

Yeah, and from my point of view, I have to have music. If you’re just working, coming home, and doing the same thing, there’s no culture and no way to express yourself. For some people it’s writing or painting, for me, it’s music, singing. All the things that I kept inside, they are part of me.



Any person that’s creative has to have some sort of outlet.

You’ve got to do something.



How would you compare your vision of Voivod back in the mid to late 80’s with now?

Well, when we started up, we were young kids, na´ve kids. That is cool too because when I listen to it, we had the energy and it was raw. It was the beginning of the journey, of this odyssey. We didn’t know how far this would take us. When I look back and look at myself now, I think I’m really proud of myself. I can be proud of the guys, and I can be proud of Voivod. I can say to my father who always said music would take me nowhere, “Look at me now!” I’m just really excited and proud of what we achieved. We went through a lot of shit. Having problems and all this shit around you, that makes you stronger. You’re a better person, a stronger person, when you get through it. Now, we’re headed for fun, for rocking, and giving it everything we have. We can be proud of ourselves, we can be proud of our past, and we can expect a lot out of the future.



So where do you see Voivod going in the future?

Right now everything is good. If God can keep us alive for a while, we’re going to head in a good direction. Hopefully this tour can take us to another level and make another record. We want to make good music for the people, we want to be able to bring the music to the people, and hopefully people will love it and enjoy our music. That’s all I ask.



What can we look forward to in terms of the set list?

It depends. We have the opening set list. We always keep changing the set list. We’re going to try to move stuff around. We want to fool around with it, and try a different thing every night. I would say a few songs from every album. Of course we’re going to focus on this one, but the old songs sound great with Jason. There’s a new life to it.


Band Website: www.voivod.com
Label Website: www.surfdog.com