VOIVOD drummer Michel “Away” Langevin talks about Target Earth, what it was like recording without Piggy, and where they plan to go from here
VOIVOD are a Canadian thrash metal band who have made a name for themselves over the last 30 or so years with iconic album art, terrifying sci-fi lyrics, and their unique guitar and bass tone. Despite losing original guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour to colon cancer in 2005, as well as other lineup changes, they have managed to carry on with new guitarist Dan “Chewy” Mongrain and record a new album. They have also brought their original bassist Blacky back into the fold. I caught up with drummer, visual artist, and original member Away to find out more about Target Earth, what it was like recording without Piggy, and where they plan to go from here.
You guys are on tour currently, right?
Yeah, we’ve been on tour since the beginning of the month, and we finish the tour at the end of October, we’ve been touring for a month nonstop.
Have you been doing any new songs on the tour?
Yeah, we’ve been doing three of them, actually. The reaction has been great.
Your new album Target Earth comes out in January. Where did you record it at and who produced it?
It’s produced by VOIVOD, it was recorded in the woods of Montreal. We were snowed in, and worked full days tracking everything. It was mixed this summer by Sanford Parker from NACHTMYSTIUM.
I think the title is very fitting for a VOIVOD album. Does it hint at any sort of lyrical theme for the album at all?
There’s no overall concept, but since we originally wanted it to come out in 2012, it’s got a bit of an apocalyptic vibe to it. It’s got the usual VOIVOD subjects like pollution, war and a destruction of the earth type of thing.
The first single “Mechanical Mind” has kind of a vintage feel. When recording Target Earth, was there a focus on getting back to the old school VOIVOD sound?
No, we made sure the songs would be intricate, and that’s definitely reminiscent of Dimension Hatross and Killing Technology and Nothingface. But everything is there, even some elements from the newer albums.
What was it like recording a VOIVOD album without Piggy, and how well has Dan filled his shoes in your opinion?
Well, it was a bit….strange, but when we started writing in the studio, we had toured already with the new lineup and when we felt confident enough with the material, it came very naturally. But since we were touring the 80′s material, I think it rubbed on the new stuff, so it definitely has, like you said, a very vintage feel, and the recording also went really naturally and we tried to keep the spirit of VOIVOD in it.
How involved was Dan in the songwriting process?
Oh, he was very involved, as a matter of fact, he and Blacky pretty much wrote a big bulk of the music and it’s probably why it is a bit like Dimension Hatross. The blower bass is there, and there’s the fact that Blacky was very involved with Piggy in the writing of the music, so the process went pretty much the same.
You mentioned Blacky being back in the lineup and this is his first VOIVOD album in over 20 years. What was it like having that unique bass tone back on a VOIVOD record again?
It’s definitely a flashback for me. Although, the three bass players that we’ve had in the band have had their own distinct style that I liked, so I like all three of them, but to have Blacky back, of course, brings back the vintage sound of the band.
As far as the album covers for VOIVOD go, you’ve always designed them and they have an iconic feel, and it seems that Target Earth is no different. Does the cover art match the theme of the album?
Well, the whole theme is classic VOIVOD, it has futuristic elements as well as an apocalyptic vibe, so I’m really hoping that people will connect to it. It also includes colors from many albums that I’ve used in the past. I was told that the music sounds like all of the eras combined together, so I tried to do the same with the art.
With Blacky back on bass and Dan bringing the thunder on guitar, as well as signing with Century Media, you guys seem to be firing on all cylinders again. What are your goals for the future of VOIVOD?
I think that when the album comes out next year for the 30th anniversary, we should be very busy tour-wise. We’d like to keep it going for as long as we can and hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate the 35th anniversary eventually, that’d be great.
I know you guys are playing a huge show with NEUROSIS and YOB in the US in mid-November, will you be playing more shows in the US for the Target Earth touring cycle?
Oh yeah, definitely. We plan a full on US tour for the new album.
Tour-wise, there are a lot of areas that you haven’t been to in the US in a while, will you get a chance to hit more of those areas on the tour?
Oh yeah, we haven’t been to the West Coast for a while. Two years ago, we did a tour with KREATOR but it was on the East Coast, and last year we did Maryland Death Fest and all through the East Coast, so we definitely want to hit the West Coast this time around.
Lastly, there’s been a lot of talk over the last few years about the “big four” of US thrash with METALLICA, SLAYER, MEGADETH and ANTHRAX. However, Canada has had their fair share of amazing thrash bands as well; particularly bands like Sacrifice, Exciter and of course, VOIVOD. If you were asked to come up with a big four of Canadian thrash, who would be on it and would you ever do a show with those bands on the same bill?
Oh, that would be great. I would have to go for ANVIL, EXCITER…and a dream bill would include RUSH, but that’s a tough one. There are so many great Canadian bands now; especially in Montreal we have KATAKLYM, GORGUTS, CRYPTOPSY, UNEXPECT and DESPISED ICON. If I were to keep it old school, I’d have RAZOR, but to have ANVIL and EXCITER would be great.
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