Patrick Prince of Powerline magazine recently conducted an interview with drummer Michel “Away” Langevin of Canadian metal innovators VOIVOD. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Powerline: You have said that you think this new album has all the elements of VOIVOD throughout its history. Obviously the Blacky era?
Away: I think Blacky‘s bass sound is very recognizable — and his playing as well, of course — so it brings me back to the ‘core-thrash metal of the ’80s. But I think there are elements of … when I think about a song like “Resistance”, it brings me back. And another song like “Mechanical Mind” will bring me back to the ’90s — the Eric Forrest years (vocalist and bassist, 1994-2001). But it’s mainly the elements of the Blacky years, of course.
Powerline: Were you surprised by Jason‘s [Newsted, former VOIVOD bassist] eventual decision to leave?
Away: After [late VOIVOD guitarist] Piggy‘s departure in 2005, we got together early 2006 to finish “Katorz”, which we started in 2004, and it was a very grueling experience. We were pretty drained. We decided to put the band aside for a while. And, I think, that at this point Jason — like Snake and I — had the mission of eventually finishing the album “Infini”, but aside from that, he left the band pretty much on hiatus. I think that when we reformed in 2008, I don’t think Jason was into going on with us but we [still] had a great musical relationship with him. I know his intention was to one day finish “Infini” to make it available to the people who like VOIVOD. After touring in 2008 with Blacky, Snake and I were recharged enough and we found Jason and we ended up finishing “Infini”. It is confusing because in 2009 we have an album with Jason, Chewy, Snake and I, and we were touring with Blacky. But we ended up including “Infini” songs to the thrash metal material of the ’80s and eventually added “Forlorn” from “Phobos” from the Eric Forrest years and we had an element from all the eras, and then we started writing the album “Target Earth” in early 2010. But we played a month ago with NEUROSIS in San Francisco and Jason came to the show and it was really amazing to see him again.
Powerline: Do you think [new VOIVOD guitarist] Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain brings a newer sound?
Away: It’s definitely a different sound and a very different picking as well than Piggy, and different approach, but we try to keep the spirit of VOIVOD intact. On the other hand, we try not to overthink it. We try to make it very natural. But I know Chewy is a huge fan of all the VOIVOD albums. I think that’s one of the factors of us having different styles and eras of VOIVOD represented on the new album. I notice the difference between Piggy and Chewy at the very first couple rehearsals, but after that it was the same to me, to my ears. It was a very natural and gradual process after a while, and he was very well accepted by everybody into VOIVOD, which is very great as well.
Powerline: Now, as Canadians, do you really scratch your head at American politics?
Away: No, because I would think that — although I speak for myself and not for the band — that people here in Quebec are used to it. Here in Canada, we have the conservatives in power and in Quebec it’s kind of different-minded and we find that what’s going on in Canada in terms of politics, closer to America, so I find it very normal for me. In terms of traveling and all that I try to have a great appreciation of everywhere I go, without prejudice. So I can really travel without thinking too much about politics and make friends everywhere. It may sound cheesey but I like to go somewhere without thinking too much about the politics. In terms of VOIVOD‘s science-fiction stories, they’re more global and universal, not really on a country in particular. As a band, we try not to talk about politics that much but we worry about social disintegration and all that is appearing right now. We all have different political views, but, of course, we have the same worries in terms of things like hi-tech weaponry and pollution and destruction of the earth, like a lot of people.
Powerline: The conservatives here always bring up Canada as a point when they are trying to fight socialized medicine. They always say, “Look at Canada. It’s horrible!”
Away: Yeah, well, I don’t know but I know that Quebec is a great place to live. But even here I’ve noticed that since we — VOIVOD — moved here in 1985, an increase in homeless people and I recently learned that there are 30,000 homeless per 2 million people in Montreal, which is quite awful. So even though I find Montreal a very cool place to be, I notice the collapse of the economy as well and … all of these homeless people that wander around without medicine and all that, it’s becoming very Mad Max-like, you know. But I must say that I live on top of a subway station in downtown Montreal and it’s very urban.
Read the entire interview from Powerline magazine.
“Target Earth” EPK: