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Voivod

Het is af en toe best lastig om als vroege dertiger, zoals ondergetekende met metal bezig te zijn. Ik ben echt te oud om blij te worden van metalcore, of elke andere hype van het moment. Ik heb ook veel dingen, zoals de opkomst van black metal, net gemist. Volgens de wat oudere generaties heb ik in feite de meest belangrijke albums en concerten gemist. Born too late, dus? Enerzijds ontkom ik niet aan het gevoel dat het vooral een grote nostalgietrip is (en de geschiedenisboeken staan vol van nostalgie; het maakt niet uit in welke tijd je leeft, vroeger was het altijd beter…), maar toegegeven, sommige van die hoogst invloedrijke bands uit de jaren tachtig zijn echt briljant. Omdat ik de release van veel van die albums, en het enthousiasme dat daarmee gepaard ging, niet bewust heb meegemaakt, de producties veelal niet meer helemaal van deze tijd zijn en legio bands de destijds unieke sounds flink zijn gaan kopiëren, kost het nog wel eens moeite om me daarin echt in te kunnen leven. Het is dan ook fantastisch als zulke grootheden jaren later hun status bekrachtigen met een sterk nieuw album, zoals Celtic Frost een aantal jaar geleden deden met 'Monotheist'.

Voivod is altijd enigszins ongrijpbaar voor me gebleven, maar een drietal gebeurtenissen bracht hier kort geleden verandering in. Mijn neef had geen werkende draaitafel meer en gaf mij een paar van zijn oude Voivodplaten. Een vriend van me sleepte mij zowat aan de haren mee naar een optreden van de Canadezen. Nog belangrijker was het uitkomen van 'Target Earth', het eerste Voivod-album met materiaal dat is geschreven na de tragisch vroege dood van Denis 'Piggy' D'Amour. Hoewel het nog vroeg in het jaar is, zou 'Target Earth' wel eens op een hoop jaarlijstjes kunnen prijken uiteindelijk. Gitarist Dan 'Chewy' Mongrain licht het album telefonisch toe, en laat vooral blijken hoe leuk en ontspannen het was om deze cd te schrijven en op te nemen.

Door: Martin | Archiveer onder speed / thrash metal

Congratulations with your new album. I am really impressed! Most of all, it sounds like it was a lot of fun to make this album. Is that indeed the case?
Thanks! I am very happy you say that, because it is very precise. We had a lot of fun throughout the creation of this album. We made it with lots of passion and with all our hearts, and I am very happy we can share it with people now.

band imageThis album was created in a very different way than the previous two albums. Contrary to those albums, which were based on the song material Piggy recorded before his untimely death, 'Target Earth' consists of all new material. Did you feel any pressure to start this new chapter, in which you contribute to the songwriting?
At first I felt pressure, which was mainly coming from myself. I didn't want it to sound like anything else than Voivod, but also I didn't want it to sound like a bad copy of Voivod. After thinking about this for a while I decided I simply had to start writing and see what it would lead to. I started playing and worked on some ideas I had, keeping them as much as possible in the spirit of Voivod, in terms of sound and esthetic. It was pretty natural. Me and Blacky, we would bring some ideas to the rehearsal space, where the whole band started working with them, Away drumming and Snake singing some lines over it. From that point it felt very natural to write together and to construct the structures of the songs. We didn't struggle at all; it was a great collaboration.

In the years leading up to this album you have been performing live quite a lot. Did this contribute to the smoothness of writing this album?
Yeah, it did. We've been touring since 2008 before writing and recording 'Target Earth', so that's almost for four years. We have been playing a lot of the old Voivod songs, from the first five, six albums. Also, when you are on the road together for so long, you really get to know each other. It is quite a challenge that awaits you as human beings; four or eight people together in a small space like a tour bus is quite something, and you simply have to see if it is going to work. It turned out great. The chemistry within the band developed, as human beings and as musicians, so when we were talking about writing new material, we decided to just give it a try. Why not? The worst thing that could happen was that it wouldn't work. I also think that playing the old material, dating back to Blacky's first stint in the band, influenced the way we wrote the new material. These songs turned out quite reminiscent of albums like 'Killing Technology' and 'Dimension Hatröss'; it's showing the more progressive side of Voivod, with more odd time signatures and other weird stuff.

I agree that it's very much in line with those albums. Given that idea… A couple of months ago I attended one of your shows, here in Nijmegen, and unsurprisingly a significant portion of the audience was relatively old (no offense of course). It seems many of the early fans have stayed true to Voivod and came to see you again. This is of course very cool, but do you think that this new album will also win you any new fans?
I am pretty sure about it. When we toured recently a lot of people actually went to their first Voivod show. I have seen sixteen- seventeen year olds in the audience, knowing all the lyrics, and completely loving it. Of course there were also the older fans, who were really happy to see us again. The vibe has been really positive and the shows are getting increasingly crazy. It's a good time to be in Voivod, and we will definitely get some new fans; there's even fathers bringing their sons to our shows.

A few shows that were particularly striking were the shows you did at Roadburn the past two years. How do you look back at those shows?
Roadburn is one of the greatest festivals there is, and it has been an honour to play there. We had our first opportunity to play there two years ago and that was great. There are so many bands, and you can walk from one venue to another; the whole atmosphere is special, and it's very well-organised. Walter is such a nice guy. When he asked Away to be curator of one day of the festival we felt really privileged to do this. We were able to go on stage and play the whole 'Dimension Hatröss' album; one of my dreams come true! I loved that album when I was a fan, but I was too young to see the show back then. My first Voivod show was during the 'Nothingface' era, when I was thirteen years old. It was my first metal show ever. To play that album at Roadburn… unbelievable!

Maybe this is a question too cheesy to ask, but let's just give it a go: you came into the band being a Voivod fan. Would you, from a fan's perspective, buy this album?
That's really hard to answer. It's a good question, but I am too much involved in this album to be able to answer it. As a fan I would love to see Voivod on stage, even after Piggy passing away. I respect these guys so much and I wish them the best. I would be there in the crowd, having a blast for those guys, those survivors, paying homage to their fallen comrade. These three guys are keeping Piggy's heritage alive. So as a fan I would of course be a bit worried about the new album, but I would buy it and listen to it, and from that point I would form my own opinion about the record. I am on the other side of the meadow though, and I am really proud of what we have done. I am not a hired gun, but I am part of Voivod. I have my other projects, which were very much inspired by Voivod. Initially I was quite afraid of the whole prospect of being in this band, but now I am really comfortable. It has been a very positive experience so far. It's really hard to give you an answer, but what I can say is that I am really proud of what we have done with this album. I think it sounds like a Voivod album.

It certainly does. I kind of knew I was going to give you a hard time with this question..(laughs) Let's go for an easier question now. Voivod has inspired many bands. You have seen some of them, like for instance Virus, on the road. Do you take notice of these bands, and do they influence you in return?
Influence or inspiration is not a conscious thing. I think you are influenced by all kinds of things every day, by life basically. Yes, I am consciously influenced by Voivod, and by other bands, but I don't try to sound like something when I write. When you are being too conscious about these things it misses the point, so I try not to think about it too much. I am sure we are influenced by bands who are influenced by Voivod, Dave Grohl was influenced by Voivod, as well are Virus. I discovered Virus not that long ago and I like their music a lot. I don't go around wondering too much about what influenced me. If something sounds good, that's great. It just becomes part of my gene pool, haha.

Well, I really tried to ask an easy question… And now for something more straightforward, for real this time. How was it to be in the studio and record 'Target Earth'?
We went way up north Quebec, where there is not that much life, except for the animals and the forest. It was winter and we were far away from civilization, so we had to buy lots of food and cook together, which was fun. We were very focused on recording, and we came well-prepared, because we recorded a lot of demos during rehearsals and the jam stage. Therefore, when we arrived it was just a matter of finding the right sound. Once we got that right, we just put all our hearts into the sessions. It was one of the best recording experiences I ever had. I couldn't imagine going into the studio with those guys and record original material, working with (producer) Pierre Rémillard, who is an old friend.

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What's the plan for the next couple of months? Will you go on tour again to promote this album?
We have some shows booked in South America, in April. We would like to tour more in the end of spring and in summer. It seems 2013 will be a good year for Voivod. We will try to play everywhere on the planet, visit some places we never been to before as well as returning to places we have been to. It will be great to be back on the road and play songs off the new album. We will also start writing some new material soon. I don't know if it's going to end up on another record, but we'll just see.

It seems there is more to come, as long as it's fun.
Hopefully, yes. You never know what can happen in life. I try not to plan things too far ahead. We are not in our twenties anymore.

South America should be fun. I hear all these stories of crowds going completely crazy over there.
It's crazy over there. The people are very excited, but also very friendly and welcoming.

How about the festivals? Will you make an appearance on those as well?
At this moment I am not sure yet. We have been looking into a couple of festivals in Europe, but as of now I haven't got any confirmations yet. It would be great to play some festivals in summer though.

Can you tell anything about the lyrics on this album?
I can tell you a little bit about some of the subjects dealt with on 'Target Earth'. The title can refer to an attack from outside, an alien invasion or something, but it can also be interpreted as a positive message of the earth being a 'target' to take care of, because it's not going very well right now. There is also a song describing what pretty much happened to all native tribes all over the planet; strangers coming to their land, stealing, raping and killing. Another song deals with people going on the streets to protest against their government; there were many student manifestations in Montreal last year, because of education becoming increasingly expensive. We witnessed this huge manifestation, with literally hundreds of thousands of people on the street, making noise and screaming slogans. This influenced us as lot. There's also stuff about conspiracy theories and global panic. For the first time we also wrote a song in French, called 'Corps Étranger'. I cannot go too much into detail about the lyrics though, as this is more Snake's department. It's a wide range of subjects, but it's still very much typical Voivod. The world hasn't changed a lot these past thirty years, haha. It's things like these that for the inspiration for the lyrics and also the music. We're still facing many problems, no matter where you live on this planet. Some local problems may be different, but traveling a lot has taught me that we are all the same.

Do you discuss these things in the band, during the creative process and on the road?
It's not really conscious, but we talk a lot about these things, and we debate a lot. The music inspires Snake to write about the subject. The vibe of the music talks to him, so to speak. When he finds a vocal melody to the music, the subject finds its way to him. It is very respectful to the music. It can also happen the other way around; the lyrics inspiring songwriting. With Voivod it's mostly the music talking to Snake, giving him ideas about the lyrics. The actuality, things happening in the world, and our discussions about it influenced him as well though.

Since most promos are distributed digitally nowadays, in the form of mp3s or streams, I am not entirely sure about the formats on which 'Target Earth' will appear. I am sure there will be a CD version, of course, but is there already a Vinyl version, and if not, will there be one?
I am pretty sure there will be a vinyl version. I haven't heard too much about it up till now though. It has completely returned, so I am pretty sure, though not 100%, that the label will eventually release 'Target Earth' on vinyl.

How about you? Do you like vinyl?
I am a passive vinyl fan, haha! I don't have a turntable at home but I love the format. I own some LPs but well, I cannot play them, so buying a turntable would be the next step, haha.

Hmmm… not being able to play them kind of ruins part of the experience.
It does, but still I like the format because you can see the artwork in so much more detail. I prefer vinyl to CDs, and definitely like it a lot more than MP3s but then again, playing an LP in the car stereo is a bit of a problem.

Well, that sort of wraps it up for now, so it's time for the final, open question: is there anything you would like to add?
I hope that everybody will enjoy the album and I cannot wait, personally, but I can also say this on behalf of all in the band, to be on the road again with our friends and play these songs for all our fans, both old and new. We're having a great time, and I hope we can stay around for a while.

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