Kanadensiska Voivod har hamrat på sedan 1982 och verkar inte vilja slå av på takten så här 35 år senare. I samband med deras spelning på Sweden Rock Festival fick vi möjligheten att ställa några frågor till Michel, som bl a berättade minnen om Chris Cornell, sin beundran för Jason Newsted och kommande album:
“I would say it will be out early next year. It´s probably going to have to be a double album vinyl wise, because the songs are really long and progressive. They´re 7-8 minutes long songs and we just realized it might have to be a double vinyl album and it´s a concept album as well. Musical parts are coming back into other songs and it took a bit longer than expected, but we´re almost finished.”
What are your memories of the early days of Voivod?
Those were pretty exciting times, even though nowadays are pretty exciting for us. In terms of having the thrash metal scene exploding in the mid 80´s and touring with people our age, early 20´s, like Kreator, Possessed and so on with big mosh pits and craziness. It was really amazing for us, because we grew up in northern Quebec. We spoke a little bit of English, but mainly French so we really didn´t believe we could have a deal with let´s say Metal Blade Records in LA. Everything happened very quickly and it seemed like within three years. It was just madness and pretty fun times.
Do you get nostalgic and miss those days?
No, not really, except for a couple of times where we were forced to stop a year or two. We kept doing the same thing, recording and touring and recording and touring and I really enjoy the moment and don´t really overthink about the past. It´s not always fun to thing about those days because Piggy (1959-2005) passed away unfortunately and we parted ways with Blackie, so I´m more concerned about what´s going on now because we´re having an amazing time and the lineup is solid and we have a good label and we´re writing a new album. With the reissues that just came out from the Noise catalog, I worked a lot on them and it brought back a lot of memories because I had to put it all into digital format, photos, art, cassettes… It kind of brought a bit of nostalgia into it and then as soon as I was done and we started doing a new album, I just got into the new mode.
What´s the plan for the new album?
It´s almost done in terms of writing and we are recording in August and September. We have a few shows before that. After the European tour we have festivals in Quebec with Metallica and as soon as we´re done with that, we go into the studio and to finish up and record the album. I would say it will be out early next year. It´s probably going to have to be a double album vinyl wise, because the songs are really long and progressive. They´re 7-8 minutes long songs and we just realized it might have to be a double vinyl album and it´s a concept album as well. Musical parts are coming back into other songs and it took a bit longer than expected, but we´re almost finished.
How do you feel you guys have evolved throughout the years when it comes to writing music? Do you still write songs the way you used to or has it changed in any way?
We never really changed the way we write songs. Back then Blacky and Piggy were the main writers and we would sort of morph the songs together into Voivod, but there was a strong base with Blacky and Piggy. Right now, Chewy and Rocky are working together closely. A lot of the parts come from improvisations we do and we record everything. Then we try to pick the best parts and then Chewy and Rocky will rearrange it into songs and then we rehearse it and Snake comes in on vocals, so we have to extend parts and shorten parts. It´s basically been the same way of writing since the beginning.
What´s been a low point and a high point throughout your career?
The low point has to be when Piggy passed and the there was another very dark period when we were in a car crash in ´98 and Piggy and Eric (Forrest) were hurt. Eric was thrown out of the van, so that was very sad. The high points for me… there were many… One that I really cherish is when we toured “Nothingface” (1989) with Soundgarden and Faith No More in 1990 and then with Rush in Canada. That´s the highlight of my career. In 2003 when we did the whole Ozzfest with Jason Newsted was another highlight. He played with both Voivod and Ozzy, so it was tough for him since we spent the whole summer touring. Then, since reforming in 2008, there´s been many highlights because we sort of jumped into the classic thrash metal category, where we were asked to open for heroes, Motörhead, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. We were also asked to play many festivals, so it´s been quite a beautiful ride the last few years. Now we have a new lineup since 2014 and things are going very well so we are pretty happy now.
What was it like working with Jason?
I know two people like that, Dave Grohl and Jason. They are like super hyper, lots of positive energy all the time and they really get things going all the time. I love these guys and they brought a lot of attention to Voivod and we will always be grateful to them. Jason´s been a wonderful friend. Last year we played in San Francisco and he came and he hasn´t changed. He´s still the same guy. We love him and he´s a great friend.
You also mentioned touring with Soundgarden. What are your memories of Chris Cornell, who sadly passed away recently?
I was speechless and may people phoned me and wanted me to express my point of view on Chris´ passing and I couldn´t. I said “There´s nothing I can say right now.” First of all, he was very reserved and chilled and very quiet. On stage he was the best front man I´ve ever seen and he was actually the originator of like breaking everything and climbing everywhere, before Eddie Vedder started climbing and Kurt Cobain started banging stuff. Chris was doing that, so he was a pioneer for sure. Not to mention his incredible voice and presence, but he was also a very good friend. We traded art and he did a painting for me during the 1990 tour and right now I have a hard time looking at it. It´s pretty intense. I met him a couple of times over the years in Montreal when he came there solo or with Soundgarden and we not necessarily kept in touch, but I went to see him and he was always super nice.
Growing up and becoming a musician, was there a specific album that really had a deep impact on you?
Yeah, I was always a huge fan of the Sex Pistols and the 70´s hard rock like Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin and all that, but in 1980, when I heard the first Iron Maiden album, they became my favorite band. Even just by looking at the cover in the store, they became my favorite band. I didn´t know what they sounded like, but I was convinced it was good and the first few second of the album was like “That´s it! They´re my favorite band!” A bit of prog rock, metal and punk… everything was there and then I went to see them on the “Killers” (1981) tour and I went to see Motörhead for the “No sleep til Hammersmith” (1981) tour and “Ace of spades” (1980) before that, that´s when I started to think “Maybe I should be doing that?” Then I saw Iron Maiden on the “The number of the beast” (1982) tour and Anvil opened. I was watching them open and I was thinking “They´re too good!” and at this time only Blacky, Piggy and I were together, but I was thinking “We will never become that good and there´s no way we could ever open for Iron Maiden.”, but we ended up opening for them. But it was really when I saw Iron Maiden and Motörhead in the early 80´s that I thought “This is what I wanna do.”, but since we were from northern Quebec it was hard to figure the dream. We wrote and recorded a cassette on a ghetto blaster and sent it to all the labels, by looking at the addresses on the back of the albums and we ended up sending one to Metal Blade Records and a friend from up north as well, Wayne Archibald” helped us send cassettes to everybody, because he was a big tape trader and had many penpals. When we first got the deal for “Condemned to the gallows” on “Metal Massacre V” (1984), we thought “Wow, we have a deal with a label from LA!” We couldn´t believe that, but we were still unsure so we only dropped out of school when “War and pain” came out and it had a very strong impact on the thrash metal scene in 1984. That´s really when we thought “Maybe there is a chance?”, so we dropped out and moved to Montreal and from then on it just built and built.
When you started out, were you guys like the only ones around then or was there a vibrant scene where you lived in Canada?
Not at all. There were bands that would come up north like Anvil and Exciter that really impressed us. Actually, Anvil came a few times and they would play the whole week, two sets a night and we would be up front watching them and when we played Wacken with Anvil in 2010, we spoke to Lips and he remembered us, “Yeah, I remember you guys sitting front row the whole week!” Not many bands came up north and there were only two bands where we came from, Voivod and Death Dealer, and when we moved to Montreal, we realized there were no bands. There were only bands playing Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple songs in bars, but nobody had written songs. As soon as “War and pain” came out, bands started to form, but we really opened the door for those guys. Before us, nobody was playing thrash metal at all. Even Death Dealer were more like Iron Maiden.
Where do you see Voivod ten years from now?
We take it year by year. We are hoping to last a lot longer, although I am now 54, so it´s getting harder for me to picture myself in ten years playing thrash metal, but I saw Tommy Aldridge with Whitesnake and he played for 90 minutes and he looked like he was 62 or 63 and I went “Wow, I can do it!”, so who knows? We´re definitely gonna try to last as long as we can, for sure.
Text: NIclas Müller-Hansen