VoiVod – Vocalist, Snake (Denis Belanger)
Interviewed by EvilG
Interview Questions by EvilG and Arto
Transcribed by EvilG
It must be hard for VoiVod to talk about the painful topic of Piggy’s death and to continue the band without him (Denis “Piggy” D’Amour passed away on August 26, 2005 due to cancer). Despite Piggy’s physical absence, he is still quite present since his guitar tracks for the forthcoming VoiVod album KATORZ were already prepared in advance. In this interview with VoiVod vocalist Snake, we talk about the new album, playing live, DVD plans, and much more. Enjoy!
As a VoiVod fan, I’d just like to say thank you for deciding to release this album and to carry on. You guys did an incredible job of making something good come out of a sad situation. Initially, did you even think that this album would be possible, or did you think for a short time that VoiVod was finished?
Yeah, at one point, but we were more concerned about Piggy while he was sick until the final day. We couldn’t even think about music because it was such a tragedy. Even afterwards, we went to the funeral and memorial so we were totally devastated. As soon as we were thinking about VoiVod, it was too much to handle. It was just, “oh my god, what are we gonna do?”. When we got back to what was on his laptop, we were quite surprised at first. Denis had carefully done solos and everything was a good quality recording. It was of a good enough quality that we could do something with it. From that particular point, we at least saw a light at the end of the tunnel. We were starting thinking about continuing the wishes of Piggy. From that point, we got motivated. Instead of being by ourselves, being home, thinking about dark things, we got into the situation of making this record and it was almost like a therapy somehow. Of course, it was hard being in the studio without Piggy. That’s really when we realized that he wasn’t there anymore. We were all together doing something, and he wasn’t [physically] a part of it. It was kind of tough, but we managed to go through it. It was a part of the healing process from Piggy’s death, which is not even now, today……sometimes I wake up in the morning and I just can’t believe that he’s gone you know?
But I’m really proud of this record. From what we had, I think we did a great job. It’s good for the metal community to receive this record because it’s the thing Piggy wanted, to release his music and to share it with people. So we accomplished that, thank god. All the credits goes to Piggy, he managed to do everything.
Did hiring NOTHINGFACE producer Glen Robinson for KATORZ have something to do with the fact that NOTHINGFACE is perhaps your biggest album?
Yeah, Glen Robinson had a specific way of making sound for VoiVod. He understands the band. He really improved, even since NOTHINGFACE. He’s been working with a lot of different projects. He was good back then, and how he’s top of the line. He gives you everything you want within five minutes. If you’re looking for something, it’s not going to take a whole day to make it sound like you want to hear it. He knows exactly what the band wants. There was another dimension to it because he’s a good friend of ours and he wanted to be involved since day one on this record. When Piggy got sick, and then the whole tragedy afterwards, he was really concerned about this. It meant something to him to be involved in this record and he was a big part of it. For us, we didn’t have Piggy anymore to supervise things and we wanted Glen because we can rely on him, we can trust him, and we don’t have to worry about this or that. He knows exactly what he is doing so we’re feeling really more comfortable.
Piggy – WAR & PAIN era photo
What was involved in finding all the essential data that Piggy recorded and stored on his computer? What did you have to go through to recover that and use it for the album?
It was during the final days of Piggy. He asked Michel to come to the hospital and he said “well it looks like I’m not going to make it”. So he gave him all his passwords and codes to get at the files on his laptop. He also had stuff on his backup computer. We ended up looking at what he did on the original demo and at what he did afterwards and we realized we had something really good. It was strange because on the demo we had drums and Michel played them without any sort of reference. He didn’t have any time reference or playback, it was just by counting in his head and Piggy laid his guitars on those drums. When it was time to redo the drum tracks for real, it was a waving drum track (laughs). He had to sort of wave in and make it happen, make it straight, but catch up with what was on the original demo. That was quite a big task for Michel but he managed. It doesn’t show, it doesn’t feel like it’s waving… it is waving a bit but it feels like a natural wave and I think it adds something to it. The same for the bass tracks – they were taken from a 10-watt amp…so (laughs).
But the bass sounds really good, musta been a great amp!
Yeah (laughs). We re-boosted the guitar, that’s all we did. Re-did the vocals, the drums, and that was it. We didn’t cut and paste the guitar tracks to create something; we didn’t touch anything or do such editing.
Were the 10 songs on KATORZ the most developed of the ones you were working on, or are the forthcoming ones as developed?
Well they’re pretty much developed. We didn’t choose the songs, we just picked up the ones that had bass lines on them because it happened that Piggy had went to Chophouse (studio) at one point. So they were looking for bass lines on the tracks. Jason was playing on the porch with his 10-watt and Piggy was recording. Jason would say “are you cool with that Piggy?” and he’d say “yeah, cool, keep ‘er” and they’d move on. They did 10 tracks, and we picked up those 10 with the bass line on it because Jason couldn’t redo the tracks, the other tracks, because he had an operation on his shoulder. So back then, he couldn’t go back to the studio so we decided to pick up the 10 with bass lines one them. It was by chance that we ended up with those particular songs.
For the rest of the songs you won’t need any outside guitarists to finish any leads and all the rhythms are done?
No, everything is pretty much there man. It’s like…wow, incredible. He probably knew something was going on and wanted to make sure before he checked in that everything was pre-recorded or something. I never asked him, I never had the chance to. It’s as if he knew something was wrong…I dunno.
In an interview (METAL MACHINE), Jason Newsted said that it might be interesting to use guest musicians to maybe play a special VoiVod show in Montreal. Is this possible or something you’ve talked about or do you see the band as a studio entity only?
(Mentioned were Andreas [Kisser] from SEPULTURA and Josh [Homme] from QUEENS [OF THE STONE AGE] and Dave [Grohl] from FOO FIGHTERS.)
It would be cool to do a show. I know a lot of people would like to come as a guest and play and give a tribute to the guy. I know it would be special. We’re thinking about doing it around November (2006). But yeah, if we release the 13 other songs that we have to release, probably in 2007. I think we already had offers from guitar players who understand the circumstances and say ‘whatever you decide’…you know. We are thinking about it, maybe a replacement. As long as it’s Piggy’s music because we have so much material, we have a lot more material hidden in those boxes and I’m sure were can work with these somehow. As long as it’s Piggy’s music I think we can call ourselves VoiVod still and keep going even if it’s somebody else playing. We’ve got to think about stuff like that, it’s weird. But we are not sure yet, it’s still up in the air. We know it would be a big task to replace Piggy, it’s not going to be easy.
He’ll never be replaced I guess.
No, and if we continue promoting his music, as for the guy, it’s like I don’t think we can equal…
He’s one of a kind.
Will there be a video for any of the tracks on Katorz?
That’s what we are thinking about right now. I actually sent a message to Michel today. We’re trying to figure out a song still (laughs). It’s still that early in the process, we haven’t decided yet. So yeah, we’re planning to do a video and there would also be the documentary about Piggy’s life and the making of Katorz for early 2007.
Has that started yet, and that’s the Sam Dunn project right?
Yeah exactly. They came and filmed the making (of KATORZ). I think we’re gonna do another setup sometime soon. Maybe if we do that show they would go and take some footage of that. There is already a short trailer available at The End Records.
Were any of the tour dates from the previous tour, the opening dates for Ozzy, video taped with the thought of one day releasing something from them?
I know that on DVD-2, that would be the Eric Forrest version, then DVD-3 would be Jason’s period, so there was a tour with Sepultura and some footage at the Ozzfest, and we are still receiving stuff from people. It’s a work in progress, right now we’re just compiling footage from what we can put our hands on. If someone has something really cool, if you were there with a camera, go ahead and send it to us! (laughs).
How far along are you with the second DVD anyway?
I’m not really sure. Well first, I’m not a part of it really, so maybe Michel would know more about it. I know they are still working on it.
Didn’t the first DVD only go to the NOTHINGFACE period? (1991 “Clouds In My House” video is missing, nothing from 1993’s awesome album THE OUTER LIMITS is on it…)
No, it covers Blacky’s (former bassist) period, the first period of VoiVod, first videos. We want to have 3 different time periods of VoiVod.
When do you guys plan to start work on the next VoiVod album or have you looked that far ahead?
Right now it’s just a matter of getting the schedule together. Jason is with Supernova now so he will be busy for quite a while. They’ll do an album and a tour but I think Jason is gonna be free around November and after that, January or something so maybe around spring 2007 we will really start getting back to what we were at and finish what we have in our hands and deliver the next part of KATORZ.
I’ve read that there are a number of Piggy’s acoustic or clean guitar recordings as well. Is this something the band might release, or is it not really VoiVod material?
I think it’s a bit personal to be released…the entire thing. It’s really tough because on the original thing, you can hear him breathing and he was really sick. There is good playing but sometimes he…he was on morphine, so it’s a bit too personal to deliver it like that. But there are some good moments of lucidity and it’s really…wow, freaky, and flying. It’s just like…my god, it gets really deep. At one point, it’s tough to listen to this so we’re not sure about it.
Do you know yet if The End Records and Nuclear Blast with handle the forthcoming releases, or has that been decided?
For now, we want to have a long relationship with these guys. Both The End and Nuclear Blast are doing a great job so far. We are expecting a long-term relationship. So far, these are really down to earth people. They are not trying to make a big deal out of every aspect of this. We are working really close together and focused on reality rather than trying to put a dream in front of our faces.
WAR AND PAIN era line-up
Metal Blade released a very cool deluxe edition of the first VoiVod album WAR AND PAIN just a couple years back. Did Metal Blade approach VoiVod with the idea to do this or was it something you wanted them to do?
I think it’s both. The people who wanted a re-master first was us, we wanted to do it. I don’t know what was the process of who talked first, or who decided first but there was a demand for it. We decided to put together everything we had form the beginning of the band. So it was cool for fans, for collectors, to have this. It was a great idea.
Is it planned to give a similar treatment to all your classic albums OR do all your former record labels have rights?
Yeah actually, the three albums from Noise will be re-released by Century Media and I know they want to have another release for NOTHINGFACE. They are all going to be re-released and re-mastered, so that’s pretty cool.
After you left VoiVod, there was a period there where many wondered where you were. I understand you had or have another career in the restaurant business. Did you do anything with music during this period as well?
Yeah. Well, it wasn’t easy for me to go back to sort of a real life. I had to relearn how to be in the process of having a job and blah blah blah…all that stuff. After, I decided to open a restaurant with my girlfriend back then and it was cool. I created this band called Union Made which was pretty much like a funk band. It was a band to just go out there, drink on the weekend, get drunk and play (laughs). So that’s what I did, I kept myself busy. The band didn’t make it far, but it was cool, it was like “yeah, why not?!”. I kept myself busy but music was still a part of my everyday life. Even if I was involved in something else, at night I was listening to music, playing a bit of guitar, putting words together, never really stopping.
During that period, what did you think of the VoiVod albums that were being released or did it feel too weird to listen to them?
I really liked it. Eric did a great job. It’s not easy singing and playing bass at the same time. I saw them live and it was great and the records, when they came out, I was right into it. I think it was different, it was another singer, but it was still Piggy’s chords and Michel’s drumming. They have these fantastic crazy rhythms and it was still VoiVod for me. I’m glad they continued. That was one of my wishes, that they’d continue what they loved doing.
About another former VoiVod member, your bass player, Blacky. Does he still live in Vancouver or do you know what’s up with him these days?
I think he lives in Montreal now. We met at the funeral. I wouldn’t say we keep in touch really close together. I don’t know exactly what he’s been doing lately, I know he’s around, but that’s all I know.
You wore a gasmask in the VOIVOD video, do you still keep that around somewhere on a shelf or in a box?
I think I threw it out into the crowd once (laughs).
Oh no, you threw it away!??
Yeah. I had a couple and I was throwing it in the crowd so I don’t have them anymore. I might have to buy another one. (laughs)
VoiVod has always been labeled as one of the most important & innovative bands in the metal genre. For several reasons, the band never attained the commercial success deserved. However, the knowledge that your music has had a huge impact on many bands from metal, grunge, and punk must feel great and be one of the reasons why you continue to do this?
Yeah of course. We never had the major, massive success but I think it’s the price you pay for playing weird music. We never really compromised on our music, we never followed the trends, or a fashion thing, or whatever. We knew that was a long road but we always kept focused on doing what we wanted to do. Just for that, I think people respect that. On top of that, we came with a different kind of sound with different kinds of approaches so we were sort of innovative to a certain point. People who were doing music around us were looking at us and saying “these guys are really weird…wow” (laughs). We had the attention because we were one of a kind. That was mostly because of Piggy’s chords and that way he was playing. That’s the way it goes. When it happens as well you are sort of a pioneer. Like look at the Ramones. They were still touring in a van, while the followers, the bands that followed them, were traveling in big busses and they were making it big. This kind of situation is really hard to explain but I guess this is the true art of something. There is only a certain kind of people who had a chance to discover that. When people discover VoiVod, most of them get hooked for a long time…and that’s cool!