Interview and pics Arto Lehtinen
”VVVOOIIVOODDD”- is the immortal scream which opens the debut album WAR AND PAIN of the Canadian legends Voivod. Since those days a lot of water has passed under the bridge until now. Voivod is about to unleash their 13th full-length studio album called TARGET EARTH. The album will feature the current guitarist “Chewy” who has created the newer material for TARGET EARTH. Voivod recently visited Helsinki and vocalist Snake had a few minutes left for the short but informative interview.
This is your last show of the tour here in Helsinki, then going back to home – You have got 25 or 26 shows in a row?
Yeah 26 shows in 29 days. We left Barcelona a few days ago, then we have had flight cancellations, no sleep at all, we had two cancellations of flights, lost luggage. This has been really stressful and no time to do anything, just doing it.
This is your third time here in Finland.
DIMENSION HATROSS AT ROADBURN
I saw you at Roadburn Festival last spring, playing the DIMENSION HATROSS album as a whole. Did this idea come from the Roadburn organization asking you to do the whole DIMENSION album there?
No, what we did want to do, they wanted us to put out something different for the festival because we were the curator and we had two shows to do. We said to ourselves “well what were going to do because we wanted to do something special” and I think it’s an idea that came up, maybe from Walter or from Lars, but I don’t remember. We played a whole album and then yeah, why not you know? So we went and we practiced like crazy trying to remember the lyrics because it’s an album that was released 25 years ago. Some of the songs have never been played live.
Like “Macrosolution To The Mega Problem”?
That was played live when the album came out, but songs like “Cosmic Drama” and stuff like that, so it was, for us it was like rediscovering the album and it was great. It went fantastic.
How did you end up picking up the DIMENSION album, not NOTHINGFACE instead, as far as I remember NOTHINGFACE was basically the breakthrough album for Voivod in general?
Well I think DIMENSION HATROSS was a thing on its own, because it was a concept album. I think it was perfect for the situation, for playing it from one song to another like you would listen to the album at home. So I think it was the real thing to do to pick up DIMENSION HATROSS as for a special feature.
MECHANICAL TARGET EARTH
When listening to new songs like the single “Mechanical Minds”, it takes me back to the heyday of the 80’s. In my opinion it has vibes of NOTHINGFACE and of DIMENSION HATROSS. Did you try to capture the old spirit when writing the new songs for the TARGET EARTH album?
I think when Chewy was coming up with riffs and “Mechanical Minds” was something he recorded at home and when I heard it the first time I said wow, this is like going back, like what we were doing 28, 20-something years ago. And because Chewy a real Voivod fan in the beginning and he really captured what the most important features for this song and because he’s a fan he knows what the fan wants. That’s the way it happens and we never step back and say “oh it was the perfect thing to do” and get back to the roots, when the fans a long time ago was listening to DIMENSION HATROSS non-stop and trying to figure out what was going on and stuff like that.
Piggy was always the main composer and writer in Voivod and now Chewy is the guitarist of Voivod, so how was the writing process different for you?
Yeah it’s a bit different because it’s not the same person, but actually it’s great for capturing the essence of Voivod and as you learn from. He was 13 years old when his first show was Voivod. The next day he bought a guitar and tried to learn Piggy’s stuff. So the way he put it together it was just like it would have been Piggy’s stuff, it was just like. It’s pretty amazing the way he put things together and the whole spirit of Piggy is on the album. He’s not copying the guy, he doesn’t try to imitate the stuff, but he knows how to make them fresh with the spirit of Piggy and that amazes me. I’m really proud of what he has done.
As far as I know the songs of the new album are completely new and they’re not leftover from the era of Piggy?
Completely new ones.
You completely recorded the album in your hometown. Was it obvious choice to record there and not going into elsewhere and record and work it there then?
We did a pre-production in our home studio and stuff and then we went to a studio in the nature, like far out in the woods. You have to go there, the roads are inexistent. You have to go 4×4 to get there so it was during winter and we were there three weeks, focused on the album, just nothing else to do. Forsaken in the middle of nowhere in the woods so it was the perfect thing. You know the four of us, same place, cooking our own meal, relaxing and it was our perfect place to do because when you play, say you record in LA or New York or whatever there’s always distractions around. Sometimes you lose one member, two members, they go out and night and they visit stuff. So it’s more like you want them to be really focused on what we were doing.
Well did that happen when you recorded the self titled album with Jasonic?
Yeah Jasonic, we recorded at this place, well we did a big pre-production at this place and then we were doing a record plan, it was in Frisco. But I was quite close to his place and we were returning every night but we didn’t have any distraction there too, that one we were just doing it. It was a serious thing.
Was it hard writing the INFINITE and KATORZ albums because Piggy had recorded all the material on his laptop, you tried to get them
out and record them by putting the pieces together?
Yeah it was different process, because we couldn’t play it. It was what Piggy has left and we wanted the integrity of it, we wanted to keep it that way. Even if Katorz and Infini was basically demos. We kept the structure as it were. We didn’t want to fool around with it. But in the process of creation you’re kind of stuck in the box and you cannot move. So this time around with Chewy and we were free to do whatever we want and so it’s quite a big difference to have the opportunity to express yourself and not being confined and dealing with what’s already there is.
As Blacky has returned to the band in 2009/2010, and when you are out on tour supporting the Infini album when you played here in Finland I guess, I remember you didn’t play any songs from the Katorz or Infini album, even though you were promoting those albums. What are the reasons why, was it because Blacky had returned to the band and Jasonic was out?
No. While we were playing “Global War” I think but I don’t remember, because sometimes in festival, but sometimes when we play festivals we’ve got like 45 minutes and so we wanted to focus on stuff people know best, traditional “Tribal Conviction” and “Over Reaction” and like stuff like that. However, of course I struggle in the mind how these classic we cannot go out there and not play them. No, it has nothing to do with it I think.
Do you think that the writing of songs is getting a little bit challenging for you because you always have the pay attention to the legacy of Voivod?
Well of course we try to do the best every night and we focus on what we do and as we get frustrated because we’re getting older every day, but I think when you do a big tour like that it gets better every day. Of course you’re tired from the traveling and all that, but as a performer things didn’t go easier in some ways. It becomes like a kind of a job, another job. It’s like a mixture of you have to do this.
You however enjoy being on the road.
Of course my favourite satisfaction is when I finish a show and everybody’s going crazy and okay we’re done but people enjoyed it.
Do you miss the old days when people were literally going crazy, doing stage diving the whole thing is more controlled by security and stuff like that. But back in the day when you played with Possessed, Deathrow, Vio-lence and stuff like that, the people were completely out of control.
That was back in the days when metal was like exploding everywhere and we were part of it and we were young kids going crazy as the crowd was going crazy. I remember when Possessed was finished; it was pure mass of people on stage. I mean we couldn’t play because there was like 20 people on stage dancing.
What happened in Bochum in Germany as Jeff Becerra from Possessed has also told stories about that gig ?
Yeah we had to stop the show at one point and police came and it was pure hell. That was when metal was exploding everywhere, hahah
IRON GANG FACTORY
You are now on Century Media. The previous albums came out on Relapse and End Records and the self titled album came out the Chophouse. Do you usually make an one album deal with a record label or how come you switch labels every time?
Well it’s just a matter of the business. It’s different for everybody. It’s not like the old days where we had big contracts for 3, 4 albums. The record label doesn’t take any risk and the same for us. If we’re not pleased with a company, it’s not that were not pleased with what the other companies did, but the situation nowadays is really different than what it was. You don’t want to sign like long contract deals; you don’t want to put money and advents on anything. It’s almost they want a finished product and then release it. So it’s a matter of negotiation. I’m not dealing with the owning of negotiations, it’s more like the management thing. We see the offers from different companies, sometimes people are not interested you know. It’s just bizarre you know.
When you are on Noise Rec in ’87/88 and things were a little bit different at that time. I did an interview with Andy Sneap who used to
play in Sabbat, he told that Sabbath got little bit ripped off by Noise. They would have needed someone to guide them as they were so young when making the deal with Noise. What about you? Did they treat you fairly or did you have the problems?
They were a few things that happened, but it was not a big deal because we signed a contract for three records. At the end of it we had an offer from MCA… And we switched to MCA. Of course Noise wanted us to stay with them and perhaps called Walter back; he flew to Montreal to try to convince us, make us change our mind. But we’re going to a major label and that’s how it happens but I don’t see, there was nothing wrong there.
Do you basically want to keep control over Voivod albums because you have this Iron Gang Factory, are you are making license deals with record labels for the TO THE DEATH and LIVE IN ROADBURN albums as they came out on Iron Gang Factory ?
Well of course we always try to negotiate with them about the opportunity to keep all the rights and If we do like a re-release or another pressing. We try to always have the option to do so. It was about the negotation. But with major deals it different. they want to keep their hand on the thing and it’s more complicated to do another pressing or a re-release. You need big lawyers and stuff.
Do you think it’s easier for you to work with record labels and their staff who are familiar with metal stuff because big corporations are not aware of metal and how they are supposed to treat metal bands?
Well things have changed since 25 years ago I think. But record labels have changed their attitude towards bands. There seems to be really more open-minded, because for them the situation has changed to so they don’t have like the power they had back in the days. And so their more, they realize that if we work together to, if we work together efficiently it can create something better than just like having a control on people. That’s in the past, that’s over.
AWAY’S ART AND SNAKE’S PREVIOUS DEPARTURE
Away’s art is a trademark of Voivod, it’s quite unique, gives some kind of picture what Voivod is all about when you’re seeing the art or Voivod and Away’s art and works. How do you see that art concept with Voivod?
I think it goes together for me, my opinion, Michel’s art and Voivod’s music is almost like inseparable. It’s just like one goes with the other and I write lyrics when I get inspired by his drawing. Sometimes he draws something inspires my lyrics and it’s a work in process and we try to make it like one big picture. A musical picture and a visual picture as well. And it’s part of the Voivod world I guess.
Away had the art exhibition at Roadburn and there was a lot of people visiting there and there was a huge collection of his art from the different decades.
He had the gallery at the Roadburn festival. Plus we had the big screen back then showing stuff on the wall.
When OUTER LIMITS came out and you left the band. I was really surprised at why Snake left Voivod, and though” it’s not Voivod anymore cos his voice wasn’t there anymore”. Did you get disillusioned about Voivod because you toured with Faith No More and Soundgarden and they got really huge and Voivod had more the cult following – Did you get tired as things led nowhere or why did you quit the band?
Back then the grunge thing really hurt all metal bands; even Metallica cut their hair off. It was any good years for metal. But I had my personal problems as well and something else in life, it was rough. It all started, when I was 18 years old, and every experienced back then. I needed the fresh air somehow and experience other things. And it’s good sometimes to get out of the bus. It was a tough decision. It was not easy but at the time I thought it was the best decision and a few years later I regret it. I wanted to come back because I realized I was a real artist, because music was part of my life and I missed it so much and so I started a few bands that never got anywhere but just to make music. And I realized that music was part of me. I need it like eating, it was necessary to my life and when the opportunity came to me to rejoin the band I said yes.
That was easy.
Alright. Thanks for the interview.
The official VOIVOD sites :
VOIVOD IN HELSINKI ON THE 31st OF OCTOBER
MICHEL AWAY LANGEVIN’S ART GALLERY AT THE ROADBURN FESTIVAL
And the master himself with his art