Metal-Roos: 35 years as a band, Voivod have seen and done it all, twice. Now released a new album and storming the world on your anniversary and hitting Australian shores for the first time in 20 years. Most bands don’t last 20 years let alone re-visiting a country for a tour, probably a silly question, but looking forward to coming back down under?
Of course! We are thrilled! We really hope to try to build something in Australia where we can go more often. Plus, the last time we were there was the year 2000. I’ve always wanted to go back to Australia and now finally it’s happening!
M-R: Back in 2000 you headlined Metal for the Brain, that festival is held close to many in the Aussie metal community, do you have any fond memories of the event?
I think we also played Sydney and Melbourne, but we drove a lot! I remember the beautiful scenery and we’re really thrilled to go back. Was it the university? I just remember that it was really packed! I remember the event really well. I also remember walking around town at about 5 in the morning with a bunch of friends that we had just met…hahaha
M-R: How has the celebration been so far for 35 years as a band?
We spent the first part of the year finishing the new album The Wake and then in the summer we played a whole bunch of festivals in Quebec, then all over Europe through September and October. It was really well attended and a very successful tour. Now it’s time to take a short break and we start over again in January and come down to you, then it’s North America and Europe. We want to go to East Asia before the end of the year, but the big thrill was to release The Wake at our 35th Anniversary. We really wanted to have a new album out.
M-R: You have recently released your latest album The Wake, where did the inspiration come from for the new album? Is there a concept?
Actually, yes! It is a long story from start to end. We started writing the album about 3 years ago, but we tour a lot. So, we found a way to do writing and recording on the bus and back stage on Rocky’s laptop and that helped a lot. As soon as we started writing, Snake said he wanted to write a long story, very introspective, but based on what’s going on in the world at the moment, but like, in a sci-fi setting of course, you know post-apocalyptic and all that. So, Chewy, our guitarist and main songwriter/composer, he decided to really go for it, write the musical themes that would come back through the album, arrange them differently. It became quite a puzzle, it turns out it’s quite a lot of work to do a concept album! When we came back from Europe last year, we spent the Winter recording and the Spring mixing and mastering, Francis who owned the studio is a very good engineer and he helped to produce the album. We really went with a progressive fusion thrash metal explosion thing, hoping the people would like it and it’s doing really well! That is a good motivation for us to go down that prog rock path.
M-R: How challenging was recording the demos on the bus?
We plug our instruments directly into the laptop. I wasn’t able to do drums or anything like that, it was mainly bass guitar and Snake with the microphone throwing melodies on top. In between tours, we would rehearse the material that we had recorded on the laptop and it morphed into Voivod material. There were many parts of the album that came from when we got together at the jam space. We recorded improvisations and jam sessions and the best parts Chewy our guitarist would rearrange into Voivod songs. But it’s really when we get together that the Voivod style comes in. I have the D-beat going, Snake is kind of a punk singer, Chewy and Rocky are more rock and roll fusion metal and all together we get that Voivod sound.
M-R: During the recording process does anything stand out as a fond memory or a difficult time?
It’s really all highlights! We recorded in the woods and there’s an apartment at the studio, so I actually slept there for about a week and it went a bit too well! At first, we were going to write a final of the album that would last about 2 minutes, an instrumental. But then it to turn into a 13-minute final song with vocals! After three days I was already done with the seven tracks from the album and Chewy was trying to make the 13-minute final song. We get chunks of it bit by bit and then I would record chunks of it. Then we get more and so forth and so on. The last part of the recording session was a bit hectic because we basically wrote the final song in the studio but everything was super exciting, we had a bunch of guests turn up, a string quartet, lots of people doing different types of percussion, we really wanted it to be a psychedelic trip in a way.
M-R: You tend to keep the kit to one rack and one floor tom with a single kick when progressive bands and metal band usually have such extensive kits. What makes you want such a for lack of a better word ‘simple’ kit?
I did have a full on metal kit in the 80s, two bass drums, two floor toms. I can’t remember how many cymbals… So, I did have that but, I just eventually got a bit bored and decided in the early 90s to have one kick with the double pedal. I still had a couple of floor toms but only have one rack, but then I eventually just kept the biggest floor tom, the 18 inch. Now I’m back to where I came from when I learnt The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
M-R: Do you think it’s easier or more challenging to write progressive music on a smaller kit?
I don’t think it’s any harder really. I can achieve the same sounds and I really like the range between the rack tom and the floor tom. I came to appreciate doing everything I used to do only on 2 times I think it’s probably, for me, tighter for me to play 2 kicks instead of one double pedal. I find it difficult to be really tight with one double kick pedal but it’s been almost 30 years now so I’m getting better, getting a hold of it…hahaha
M-R: The drummer is arguably the most physically demanding part of the band, and your music isn’t the easiest to play, do you have any routines for loosening up and keeping stage fit?
I do have a couple of exercises right before the show. I don’t get tendonitis and all that. I do try to sleep a lot because we tend to do something like 36 shows in 40 days, so we try to sleep the most I can. I don’t really party after the show, I try to eat well, It has been 35 years and I’m now 55 so I’m trying to really take care of myself so I can tour for longer. So far so good, I don’t really run out of gas.
M-R: You have been creating the Artwork for Voivod from the very beginning, and have said it takes up half your life. Can you compare the difference in looking at a piece of blank canvas when starting to paint and when you are writing a new track? Are the creative vibes similar?
It’s probably very similar. It’s actually hard to tell because in the case of Voivod it all comes together, the art would be influenced by the music and the music the art etc…whenever I was doing the art for the new album I was having discussions with Snake about the lyrics and also was getting mixers from the studio of what we had recorded. I was really absorbed in the concept and the music. The artwork was directly related to that because I really wanted to try to represent the atmosphere of the album as much as possible visually. So, it has to be about the same to do a piece of art or to write a song from scratch. Many people will tell you it seems to come from somewhere else. It seems to be dictated to you, and sometimes I get inspiration that seems like that, where it comes from something else somewhere in the universe. You sort of know when it’s a very good idea or really good flash and somehow you end up thanking someone somewhere for it.
M-R: I read that you hitchhiked 500k’s to see Motorhead in ’81 which was when they recorded “No Sleep till Hammersmith”. With the world how it is now, that sounds impossible and amazing, what an experience! Can you tell me about that journey? How was the show?
Yeah! It’s actually a summer and it was amazing. I kept hitchhiking to Montreal from way up North where we grew up, to see Iron Maiden on The Killers tour. Girlschool came and then Motorhead came. I would literally hitchhike, I sold most of my prog rock vinyls to be able to get a bit of food and buy a ticket. I did that many times in ‘81, we all did, a whole bunch of people from the north came to Montreal and slept in parks, on benches, on floors, everywhere. It was very much a life changing experience for me, especially when I came back to see Motorhead I was so blown away, it’s really where I decided I was going to try to be professional drummer. Iron Maiden had the same effect Clive Burr and Filthy (Phil Taylor) were my favourite drummers back then, as well as Guy Evans from Van der Graaf generator a Prog rock band from England.
M-R: During the 35 years as a band, how has the heavy scene evolved through your eyes?
It had many different waves and now we feel for the past 10 years or so, thrash metal has been increasing in popularity so it’s really good! Super good momentum that we have now with a new album. We’ve kinda jump into the classic thrash metal categories so we’re invited to these big festivals around the world with friends that we chilled with back then Exodus, Testament, Destruction, Kreator. We meet everywhere and it’s amazing even on 70000 tons of metal cruise was an amazing fantastic time.
Interview Date: 2018-11-29
Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley