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Voivod Interview

A Conversation with Drummer Michel "Away" Langevin

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Voivod

Voivod

Century Media Records
Updated January 27, 2013
After the tragic death of guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour in 2005, Voivod released two albums (2006‘s Katorz and 2009‘s Infini) using music he finished before he passed away. Target Earth is their first studio album with new guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain, and also features the return of bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault for his first album with the band since 1991‘s Angel Rat. The band’s drummer Michel “Away” Langevin fills us in on the latest happenings with Voivod and their new album Target Earth.

Chad Bowar: You’ve had your current lineup in place for a few years now. Why was this the right time to record new material?
Michel “Away” Langevin: It was only after a couple years of touring with Chewy. We are starting our fifth year together. We toured in 2008 and 2009, playing mainly the ‘80s thrash material. By early 2010 we felt confident enough. The chemistry was great, Chewy was very well accepted by everybody.

So that’s when things got started. Chewy and Blacky did a demo together, and Snake and I were blown away. It brought us back to the Dimension Hatross days. So that’s how it started. Blacky and Chewy took care of a huge bulk of the music on the album.

Your last two albums were written in an unusual way due to the circumstances of Piggy’s death. Was it good to get back to a more traditional way of songwriting for this album?
Yes, but also the luxury of living in the same town really helped. We could go to the jam space and rearrange and demo the songs. That wasn’t the case with the last two albums were they were pulled from demos and Jason (Newsted) was living on the West Coast. It was harder to make intricate albums. This time around we wanted it to be very progressive, so we spent a lot of time writing the album, two years actually. We ended up recording it in early 2012, then we mixed it in the summer.

How was it being back in the studio with Blacky again after 20 years?
It was great. The energy of the new lineup is really cool. We have been playing tons of shows. We were pretty solid when we got into the studio. We went outside of Montreal in the woods. Pierre from Oblivion has a fantastic studio and we were snowed in and spent 17 days working on stuff, which was great. Pierre was tracking the album, but when he got tired Blacky could track it, because he’s also a studio engineer. It worked really well.

Sanford Parker did the mixing for Target Earth. How did that come about?
He was recommended by many people. We are good friends with Nachtmystium. We first sent a couple of tracks, and he really understood the psychedelic thrash metal of Voivod immediately. It sounds fantastic. It’s a really trippy album. It was a good match.

You say that the new album sounds like old Voivod. Is part of that because Blacky is back in the band?
Yes. His blower bass sound is very recognizable. It brings us back to Dimension Hatross and such. In 2009 Jason, Snake and I decided to finish the album Infini. So we started adding tracks from Infini to the setlist with the lineup that included Blacky and Chewy. Snake then asked if we could play some songs from the Eric Forrest era. So we ended up adding “Forlorn” from Phobos. So by the time we decided to start writing an album, all of these different eras had influenced our way of playing. There’s a bit of everything for everybody.

At what point did you start working on the album artwork, and what inspired it?
I started working on the artwork in early 2012. I did some sketches while we were in the studio recording. I had some discussions with the other guys, and we wanted it to be very galactic and space-like. But there were some events that made me mutate the art a little. In Montreal in the spring and summer of 2012, students took to the streets. There were a lot of anarchists. There were mass arrests for many months and helicopters above my building, because I live right in the middle of where this was happening. So slowly the art took a turn. It’s now more of an old-school destroyed city type of cover. I was definitely influenced by what was going on around my house.

How did you decide on the album title?
We wrote the song first. We were looking for a title for a long time. Snake mentioned Target Earth, and I thought it fit the vibe of the album musically and lyrically, so we went for it. The title track is about a hacker taking control of armed satellites around the planet to blackmail countries. It’s very representative of the album.

You’ve been on many different record labels over the years. How did you come to sign with Century Media for this one?
In early 2012 we had recorded the album, but it wasn’t mixed. We were curators of the Roadburn Festival in Holland and were able to invite tons of our friends. It was a great festival. People from Century Media came to the festival and saw our shows. We played Dimension Hatross in its entirety. It was a great success. The Century Media people were really excited, and were the most interested and enthusiastic label we contacted. I think we are in good hands. It’s a very established label.

What are your upcoming tour plans?
This year for our 30th anniversary it’s a very busy year in terms of touring. In mid-March we will play South by Southwest. In mid-April we’ll do South America. In May and June we’ll go across Canada and the U.S. In July we’ll be in Europe. We hope to go to Asia in the fall. In between tours we want to write new material.

It’s been a few years since you and I have talked. I wanted to ask you about your book Worlds Away: Voivod and the Art of Michel Langevin with Martin Popoff that came out a couple years ago. How did that all come about?
It was a long time in the making. Back in 2001 or 2002 we played some shows with Motorhead in Canada. I was backstage in Toronto and Martin was there. He was asking me when I was going to release my book that I had been talking about for many years. I explained to him that I tried to get it published by many companies, but nobody wanted to. I guess he kept that in his mind.

In 2007 he contacted me after he did the book with Derek Riggs, who did most of the art for Iron Maiden. The company wanted to release a second book, and they wanted me to be the artist. I was honored to be their choice. I ended up giving the publisher about a thousand drawings that I had done from 1976 to 2009. It was finally released in 2009. It was a limited edition of three thousand, and there are still some copies left at voivodbook.com.

It had been a few years since Jason Newsted had been involved in music, but he is back and just released an EP. Have you heard his music?
Yes. I think it’s great! We played with Neurosis in Oakland a couple months ago and Jason came to the show. We had a great time backstage. It was great to see him. He told me he’s back into the music mode, which is fantastic. He’s a really good bass player.

Anything else you’d like to mention?
We have a lot of projects in progress. We are working on a Voivod movie with Sam Dunn, who has done all these great music documentaries. It’s going slowly, because it’s self-produced by us. That’s a work in progress. Aside from that, we can’t wait to see everybody on the road this year, especially in the U.S., where we haven’t played a lot in the last couple of years.

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