The eighties gave birth to so many thrash metal legends and their specific legacies live on. Now the names that came out of this era were essentially across two continents – Europe and America. We had the San Francisco scene in the US and the New York contingent, whilst in Europe we had Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Great Britain (if we are game to include them in Europe). However, there was one band who came out of the north of America, namely Canada and Quebec, Voivod. It is quite impossible to overstate the importance of this thrash outfit, their sound, dynamic structure, timing and subject, were unique. They burst on the scene with their debut, in 1984, with War and Pain, and quickly caught the attention of NOISE Records in Germany and Metal Blade in the US. Nothing sounded like Voivod, and still to this day no one does. Don’t get me wrong, they have left their mark on the scene, have influenced countless acts, and yes their sound at times shines through other bands, however, nothing really sounds like them.
From this debut the band released four more classic albums, up until Nothing Face in 1989. By this stage they were thrash metal legends and had the respect of the collective metal world. However, with their release of Angel Rat, in 1991 the band had morphed their sound, it was still Voivod, but it was a different Voivod. Some the “die-hards” struggled with this album, but if you gave the album the time it deserved, you can appreciate its richness and maturity. The band, like all, had their ups and downs from this point, business woes, line-up changes, the unfortunate passing of a band member, and even a member of Metallica joined for a while. Despite all of this the band never lost focus, and here we are thirty five years into a career, and fourteen studio albums later. The great news for Australian fans, is that the band are on their way back to Australia early in 2019 for a second tour, and I was lucky to have a chat with founding drummer, songwriter, and conceptual genius, Michel “Away” Langevin, to discuss the new album and the tour.
Congratulations on the new album, The Wake, it is extremely impressive, can you talk us through how the album came together, and your thoughts on the material?
“It actually started about three years ago. It was a lot of work as it is a long story and we all started to rearrange parts to fit the story and concept. Rocky set up a small studio backstage during touring so we recorded demos on the road and this helped a lot. The album naturally took this prog fusion direction and sort of became a concept album. We put a lot of work in and it is quite intricate. There was countless hours and layers of music on the album and we are happy with the reviews and people who love Voivod are into it. We have just done a successful European tour and so are excited about coming to Australia.”
The current line-up has been in place for four years now, and two albums, what do you believe each member brings to the Voivod sound?
“Well they are definitely more fusion then Snake and I. It is interesting how this has morphed into our sound. We are still a thrash and punk band, but more precise, and the pattern we are all following we will try to add more prog elements. We haven’t started to write new material yet so it will be interesting how we develop further over the next few years.”
After such a long career, what keeps songwriting and playing still fresh and important to you?
“Really for me I have been in the band for thirty-five years. To write music, record it, and play in front of new and old friends, it is addictive and I can’t stop. It keeps me healthy and sane, and it keeps me going. I am lucky as Voivod fans are super loyal and this has enabled me to keep going.”
Are their albums or aspects of your career that you see as pinnacles or high points?
“Yes, actually right now we have super real momentum. During the Nothing Face phase, we had great touring and videos on MTV and it was amazing. When We did Ozzfest in 2004 with Jason (Newsted), this was super amazing, and it was a great experience. When we played different festivals like Hellfest, Wacken and we did the 70,000 Tons of Metal tour and these are memories that we will always remember.”
The first time I heard Voivod was in 1988, and your album Dimension Hatross and it blew me away, and is still in my top ten metal albums of all time. Did you realise at the time of recording, the album the band created?
“Oh actually no, we never over think what we are doing. We just really write the music we want to play. Back then we were living together and rehearsing every night for the whole NOISE catalogue and the progression between the albums was fantastic, and the acceleration of us learning how to play and developing the concept worked so well. It was a high point in our career. We also started touring the world at this point with so many other metal bands. It was very exciting and so with this album we wanted to experiment and get our sound out. We used new sampling technology and this helped us a lot and during the 80s with the wall coming down, the album gave us something particular. Now it has been thirty years and there is still a lot of relevance to this album which is great.”
Now the next album, Nothing Face was a fantastic progression, and then Angel Rat a few years later hit me for six, I loved the album, but I didn’t know why, as it was so different and it took me years to really appreciate the importance and enormity of this album. How did this change in approach for Voivod come about and how do you see the album?
“It’s fresh but it wasn’t well received back then. But now it has become people’s favourite album. I think it is strange because in our minds we thought that after Nothing Face we were going to go in to more prog but it became quite gothic and it wasn’t conscious, it was where we are at, at this time, it was organic. It is an album that has had a life of its own. I am very proud of all of our albums actually. It is only on digital at this point but we are working on re-releasing the album in the future.”
Away can you talk us through your painting of the Voivod character Krogull and where it came from and do you still paint?
“Yeah, well I switched in 1986 to digital form of art. I still did painting but I am more of a digital artist for the past thirty years. Nowadays, for The Wake cover, I wanted to catch the vibe of the early albums so I used photoshop paintbrush and I am going to go down that road or sure. Apart from that I do do some painting when I get a chance.”
If we could focus now on your up and coming Australian tour, do you remember much of the first time you toured here?
“Of course in 2000, I remember. We had an amazing time and we also met the singer from King Parrot who we toured with a few years later. It’s actually exciting after 19 years to come back and we cant wait.”
Now it is a real treat to have you guys coming back over, how did this tour come about and what should we expect from the shows?
“Well we wanted to go to Australia for many years but it has been difficult to build a strong following so we decided after going to Japan that we will come to Australia and hopefully New Zealand.”
Do you have a message for your Australian fans leading up to the tour next January?
“We really owe our long career to people following Voivod and following us for so long. There are quite a lot of them in Australia and we want to thank you all. We will see you son”
This is definitely not a tour to be missed, and one, and to be honest, I thought would never happen again. Check out the following site to purchase tickets for all January shows and I guarantee they won’t disappoint.
Interview by Mark Snedden
Voivod – Australian East Coast Tour 2019
Wednesday January 23rd @ Crowbar, Brisbane
Thursday January 24th @ The Basement, Canberra
Friday January 25th @ Max Watts, Melbourne
Saturday January 26th @ Crowbar, Sydney