Interview: Voivod’s Away talks tour, major label deal, art

Posted by on May 13, 2016



Canada’s Voivod have enjoyed the kind of career most musical acts would envy. Rather than being confined to one specific genre and struggling to come up with new and innovative ideas, this quartet have always boldly broke musical boundaries with reckless aplomb. And while there were some obvious hiccups along the way, it was those musical choices which defined the band. For those who’ve never heard Voivod, there is no better time than the present. Their 34th anniversary “Post Society” 2016 tour starts on May 19th (see poster) with Australian punk/metal rockers King Parrot and experimental metal act, Child Bite, who are signed to Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records.

This Canadian quartet play a heady blend of metal and punk with psychedelic overtones and always odd arrangements. Moreover, they were huge influences on such disparate musical acts as Ryan Adams (he dedicated his album Orion to late guitarist Dennis D’Amour), Tool, Soundgarden (band has dedicated songs to them and opened for them on their Louder Than Love tour), Mr. Bungle, Mastodon, Isis, Metallica, Dream Theater, Darkthrone, ALL, The Young Gods and countless others. They were also once hand-picked by Rush to open their Canadian dates and have headlined over Faith No More, Slayer, Exodus and many others. The aptly-titled Post Society EP is the band’s latest output and includes five songs including a wonderful cover of Hawkwind‘ s “Silver Machine.” Metal Insider caught upper with drummer/founder/artist extraordinaire Away AKA Michel Langevin to get connected.


Voivod are closing in on the 35-year mark. When you recorded your first demos, did you ever you would come this far?

Not exactly. When we started, it certainly did not seem that way. However, we realized we could actually make a living when the first album, War And Pain (1984) came out. It had a strong impact on the metal community and was a rather big deal for many thrash and death metal acts to come. Being French-speaking Canadians from Jonquière and being away from the big cities, it was quite a big deal to sign to Metal Blade.


How did that record deal happen?

To our surprise, we got a deal when we were still living at our parent’s places. And because of acts Slayer, Overkill and Celtic Frost taking off we soon found ourselves with proper management. We were really underground and later moved into an apartment together with cockroaches.


You later signed to Germany-based Noise Records. How did that come about?

We found an agent and organized a festival called World War III. We headlined and had Possessed, Celtic Frost, Destruction and Nasty Savage open. When the show finished (which was very successful, by the way), Tom Warrior and the Celtic Frost guys couldn’t believe we helped break down the stage and started helping the stage crew. It helped us finish Rrröööaaarrr (1986) for Noise.


Do you have plans for a new full-length album?

We want to supply Century Media with a new album by the end of the year. Since it would take us two years to write and record a brand new album, it will also feature four songs from the Post Society EP. We have a lot of touring to go and are going to everywhere soon including South America, Mexico City, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.


Where do you plan to find time to write and record the extra songs?

We write in the bus and also like to go out in the woods as three of the members live away from suburban areas like myself. I am a  suburban guy, but we do this to get away and have no distractions. It works very well for us. Of course, we will probably also put out a 7” with somebody as well before then.


The 80’s were arguably one of your most successful periods, but then Angel Rat (1991) was released and the tour fizzled in the United States. Do you think you stepped too far out of bounds?

I’m proud of every album we have done including this one (the band plays “The Prow” during their set these days). It was way out of sync with everything and with what was happening in music then like grunge. The problem was not MCA at all. During this time, it was very hard for metal acts to get noticed and especially new ones or bands with new ideas. When we released Voivod in 2003 with Jason Newsted, it seems like our fans came back We were still very huge in Europe and there was really no difference there. But in North America, everything changed. Only bands like Pantera were doing well it seemed.


It seemed like the 3-D package on The Outer Limits (1993) cost a pretty penny. Bands like Carcass, Napalm Death, Entombed and Cathedral enjoyed short stints on Columbia. Did your MCA record deal allow you to live somewhat comfortably?

Yes, the money was really good. They spent a lot of money on Voivod and we will always be grateful for that. Of course, we didn’t sell nearly enough for them to break even. After we released The Outer Limits, they were willing to do even more records. They could have ended the contact after Angel Rat but they promoted this material well also. The label only turned us down when they thought the material from Negatron (1995) was too heavy. Nothing but good things to say.


Why did longtime and returning bassist Blacky exit yet again?

He wanted the band to be self-managed and decided to part ways. It was a respectable move and he now has a project called Land Of Emergency that’s quite good.


What do you for a living besides Voivod?

I make a living with both Voivod and my art and spend my time at home doing art. Dave Grohl to use my cover art for the Probot (2004) record and it was also featured on records by Non Phixion (East Coast hip-hop act). I have also designed t-shirts for Danko Jones and do tattoo design. There will always be a random, Finnish act or death metal band who needs some work done.


At what age did you start drawing?

I was about four. I remember I seeing an Adam Ant drawing on the wall of my cousin’s room and I thought it was great. I asked if I could have it, but was instead, taught how to draw.


What should fans expect on this tour? Different sets every night or not?

We try to cover the thrash metal years yet also have the new album to promote and, of course, Target Earth (2013). We don’t play any material with Eric Forrest (Negatron) and from the Jason Newsted years, however. That may change later on.


Favorite song to play live?

The song I like most is “Order Of The Blackguards” from Killing Technology (1987). It’s such a fun song to play. Songs like “Tribal Convictions” (from Dimension Hatröss) are such big fan hits we have to play ’em.


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