When Adrian from the End Records
offered me an opportunity to interview the iron gang known as Voivod,
I instantly accepted; it's as if he had red my mind. When the time to
speak with Denis "Snake" Belanger
presented itself, I had a ripping headache and my body felt like it had
been in a thrashing rage from a tornado. Even though I was feeling under
the weather, I was still enthusiastic about asking him so many probing
questions, in order to discover his tribal convictions for the cosmic
drama. After all, only the unknown knows my extreme overreaction and sub-effect.
Denis and I may have felt forgotten in space and time; thus on a expedition
to the outer limits of the known angel's wrath and dognation, but we dealt
with the odds & frauds of the multiverse, and the horror of war and
pain; as well as personal tragedy. We apologize for any missing sequences
- please try not to blame us; bear in mind this is not an exercise...
MettleAngel: After being together for over
two decades - express to your new and older, loyal fans alike what the
concept of Voivod represents to them.
Snake: Voivod will always be a very special
band who came from the small industrial town of Morgoth. We have always
been slightly different in our musical approach. We have so many qualifying
influences. The Voivod character represents a survivor. He, like our
music, is always changing and evolving. His evolution is now faster,
as now he is mutating more quickly. Michel "Away" Langevin's
artwork expresses the reality as seen on TV and the news. It's still
a nuclear like era of war and pain.
MettleAngel: Yeah, I guess you could say that we are still experiencing
aspects of the killing technology and Voivod lives in it's music and mettle...
MettleAngel: The Voivod icon, your musical
mascot has always been a key component for the band. I read somwhere that
a Turkish Czar was called the Voivod - is this where the band found their
inspiration for the namesake?
Snake: Well sort of, in Transylvania there
is an older town with great history run by the Voivodian. He is is
the prince and count of this historical village of vampires. The voivod
for us, then, is a descendent of this caste, who has evolved over
time into a nuclear vampire. The science fiction lyrics tell the story
of the Voivod's journey on our CDs.
MettleAngel: Michel's artwork has always
been perfect for expressing the journey of the Voivod. How has this concept
evolved into today's themes? Musically, Voivod has evolved a great deal
over the years as well. How do you express these ideas to new fans for
the band, as well as those of us who have followed you from the beginning?
Snake: Piggy created a sound and style all
his own - never imitated. Now Jasonic adds his own rock grandeur.
Overall Voivod is and will always be ripping chords and those flying
saucer solos which are Piggy's signature. He always emphasized a more
direct and straight forward approach. He was older than the rest of
us He was a guitar maestro who enjoyed all those progressive '70's
bands like Genesis, Gentle Giant, Yes, etc. and he could play all
those songs, himself. We were more influenced by English punk like
the Sex Pistols, GBH, Discharge as well as classic metal. Voivod never
writes the same album twice. When we were recording Killing Technology,
Piggy was listening to several classical composers like Mussorgsky
and Stravinsky - he even played the records backwards to listen for
any unique raw or primitive sound to inspire him. He also paid close
attention to the scores and soundtracks on certain movies. I was just
watching the Mel Gibson movie Road Warrior II the other day and there
was one part where I just instantly recognized the main riff for the
song -Forgotten In Space. Piggy was such an incredible musician you
know! He always kept such an open mind when it came to music.
MettleAngel: I sure can tell because Voivod
riffs are one of a kind and you just know it when you hear a Voivod CD.
Now the new release is called Katorz which is French for the number 14
even if it is not spelled correctly. I counted all my Voivod titles and
I only come up with 13 - does this also include the DVD?
MettleAngel: Oh I see! Why did you chose
this name as the release title? Was there ever a decision to go with a
title which might pay homage and endearing respect to Piggy?
Snake: Piggy had written 'Katorz' down on the
demo as a working title for the next release. He deliberately mispelled
it in keeping with the Voivod style. We first noticed the demo on
the table, but did not give it much thought or consideration. Then
after he died, we did not want ot use any sad messages for a title.
Then unexpectedly, we noticed the demo 'Katorz' still on the table
and thought to ourselves, "Hey why not keep it as it is?".
We even used the same handwriting like he penned on the original demo.
Piggy had been in the process of writing this music before he became
ill; now with 'Katorz' we continue this process of his music.
I've read that Piggy has recorded twice as many tracks than there are
on the CD - how did you choose the best ten tracks, and is the band pleased
with the songs selected for Katorz? Will the remaining tracks eventually
go on a future release?
Snake: Piggy demoed 23 tracks. 13 of those
songs have no bass and 10 were recorded by Jason Newstead on bass
- so these are the 10 songs we selected. Piggy went to San Francisco
to work on songs with Jason. Jason only used a 10 watt amp to record
these songs. He was only able to finish 10 because he had an operation
on his shoulder and could not play bass for awhile. We just went with
these 10 songs which still needed to be reamped. These are the same
songs Piggy and Jason recorded while jamming on the porch in California.
Everything about the recording of the new album is just an unusual
process. Michel re-recorded his drum tracks and I added the vocals.
The recoding of Katorz was just not our usual way or process. We will
use the other tracks in the future, definitely.
MettleAngel: Strange things do happen you
know. On Katorz I detected a songwriting vibe similar to Angel Rat, Nothingface,
and even Outer Limits. Was this the flavour for which Piggy was striving
when he wrote those tracks?
MettleAngel: That's true and I only really
know the classic Voivod sound as I really never listened to the band after
your departure. I just found Negatron to be to industrial for me and I
missed your vocal nuances...
Snake: When those records came out, I had personal
issues to deal with, but the band remained strong and wrote excellent
music standing against all that grunge shit - so I have respect for
them for that, even if I was not a part of the band or songwriting
process at that time.
MettleAngel: Well another unique quality
for Voivod is your vocal style and your thought provoking fantasy/sci-fi
lyrics. Did you write all the lyrics this time? Does each track stand
on its own or is there still a concept ocurring like on the classic releases?
Snake: When you consider the artwork, music
style, and lyrics - the essence of Voivod always exists. I wrote the
lyrics this time but since it took two and one-half years to write
and put together, my influences lyrically came from watching too much
television. We did not want to change and alter what Piggy had created.
I knew what Piggy loved and I wanted my words to echo what he had
written for the demo. The sci-fi concepts are there, but my inspirations
were different. I have a lot of frustrations and sense a sign of emergency
as the world is spinning in the wrong direction. This really bugs
me. I feel it's the mission of the artist and lyricist to become the
third voice of reason. I have continued to write about war themes
like the debut; but this time my view is more personal and subjective.
When I see my surroundings, I realize that reality is stranger than
fiction. There are also songs dealing with failed relationships. "Polaroids"
is about an expedition to Iceland and how people survive the extreme
cold weather in the North Pole. "The X-stream" deals with
the idiocy of modern culture. Life is precious - so why do these guys
do dangerous things for a laugh or to create a crowd response?
MettleAngel: Oh, you mean the "Jackass" mentality meets
the X-games exteme sports. It seems to me that you need to turn off your
TV and enjoy life more. My wife and I have not watched television with
commercials for over six years. We choose to think for ourselves and not
buy into the media lies - seen through their distorted eyes. I love the
pun in Silly Clones which underscores this mentality for the lack of individualism
in modern society. Now switching gears a bit - what made you choose to
sign with the End Records - a label who is known for handling artists
outside the realm of metal?
Snake: We had many offers from other labels,.
The End really understands and cares about the band. We've been on
a major label before - so we know about all the bullshit that goes
with that. It was never a question of money, either. The End knew
what they wanted to do for the band. Everything was in steps - they
are not a company just concerned with putting plastic on the shelf.
They understand the band. They are also strongly connected to the
underground. We met the owner Andreas and we were quite pleased -
no false promises - just one step at a time. We follow each plan and
work together in agreement. This company fits the Voivod sound. This
goes the same with Nuclear Blast in Europe - they really get the band.
They see Voivod as being in a special category. When we told everyone
that we were not planning to tour we became inundated with interviews;
having to do some 160 interviews in only ten days all across Europe.
MettleAngel: Wow! That's a busy schedule!
I'm sure you became tired of being asked the same questions over and over.
I wanted to keep this interview celebrating the art and promise of Piggy
and not bombard or burden you with questions about his tragic death.
MettleAngel: So to keep his spirit alive
- which it is - everytime I play my Voivod tapes, I'm reminded just how
much I love Piggy. Are there any plans to reissue the older Noise/MCA
titles in the future through The End?
MettleAngel: I'm sure they will do an excellent
job like they recently did with the Dissection reissues. I will definitely
want to get those when they come out. I'm staring right now at my tapes
of those releases. Outer Limits even comes with 3-D glasses. Nothingface
is my favorite, though. I loved watching the DVD and seeing you sing all
those songs in your own unique fashion.
I'm overwhelmed with CDs arriving daily and MP3's files, for which I'm
eternally grateful; but the cassettes are how I first experienced Voivod.
Now I read in "Revolver" magazine that if you ever did tour,
that the only suitable 'replacement' for Piggy would be Andreas Kisser
from Sepultura. Is this true?
MettleAngel: That's so cool - especially
when the possibility of a classic Sepultura reunion is supposedly in the
works - now in closing I have to ask you the meaning of the names - Snake,
Away, Piggy, & Blacky. Did you get the name Snake because of your
hissing vocal style on the early demos? What about Away and the rest?
Snake: Before I joined the band I was doing
improv theater imitating a worm. Michel was in the audience watching
me and remembered me. So when I auditioned for the band, even though
I had never sung, they still liked my performance. However, I was
now the second Denis (Piggy being the first) so they dubbed me the
MettleAngel: Well in the early days of Overkill
they were all named Robert so they decided to create nicknames like Blitz,
D.D., Rat Skates, etc. What's with the name "Away", not quite
your evil metal name now is it?
Snake: That's a funny one. Back then Michel
was studying hard in the university so he kept missing band practice.
We were essentially playing without a drummer because Michel was always
absent and "away". So we gave him that nickname. Also, when
he was there he was often daydreaming - away- represents his state
of mind as well.
MettleAngel: Well given his incredible artistic
talent; he was obviously out there in deep thought creating. How about
Piggy? Does that have an affectionate Muppet reference, perhaps?
MettleAngel: I never saw Piggy's name as
being in poor taste or perjorative in nature. The name just fit and still
does. What about Blacky? I so loved his punk-metal hair cut, in the late
80's. When my hair was long enough I tried shaving one-side to look like
him; but I am of northern European descent with long blonde hair so it
just looked stupid on me; and I had to cut all my hair off and start over.
MettleAngel: Well now after all this time
I know the truth. I've heard other far-fetched explanations - but now
I truly know, and for this I am eternally grateful. Thank you so much
for taking the time to answer my questions.