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Martyr Music Group

Part 2 - After The Battle In The Dark

"Back [in the '80s] we were considered an advanced band. . . ahead of our time. But now is actually that time. The time is now, 20 years later." -Snake

There's hardly a better way to sum up where Voivod has been and where they're currently standing than the above quote from the band's vocalist, Snake (a.k.a. Denis Belanger). Like the first installment of our Voivod interview with drummer Away, this interview with Snake was conducted the day after their 10th studio album (and 13th overall release) 'Voivod' was unleashed on the public. The unique vocal presence of Snake is front and center in the new material, something many fans had been hoping for since his hiatus began in 1994. Here in 2003 we find Voivod comprised not only of the original core of Snake, Away and guitarist Piggy, but new bassist Jason Newsted, who surely needs no introduction. See the numerous discussion threads on, and for the wide variety of views and opinions regarding the band's current activities in the eyes of their diehard fans (referred to for decades now as the Iron Gang) . . .or better yet, read something straight from the mouth of the serpent himself. . .

METAL UPDATE: It's fucking awesome to hear your voice on a Voivod record again.

SNAKE: (laughing) Well, thanks!

MU: You're sounding really happy to be back in the band. That energy really comes off on the new album. [Should we start calling this their Red & Black Album? -JW] But what were you doing in your time away from Voivod?

S: Well, I did Union Made and before that I was really. . . When I left the band in '94 I just wanted to get away from everything, so I took a year off and I was living in the woods. So I took a break. I wanted to be far away from the city and the habits and everything. When I got back in the city, suddenly the will to do music was coming back and I got some guys here and there and we formed Union Made, but during all those years I just worked on getting back in the system because when I joined Voivod I was 18 years old. I didn't know anything else besides playing in a rock band, so when I left in '94 I didn't have a lot options. It took me a while to get back in the system. It was really hard, because when you don't have any experience in any kind of job or whatever, it's really tough. It's like being in prison somehow. But the taste of music was still there and people were still calling me Snake, so I think back then, when I used to see Voivod play, I was kind of wondering if one day maybe things could happen and it would be great if I got back in the band. And suddenly, a bit later on, the door opened in front of me.

MU: Were you aware of what Voivod was doing after you'd left? Did you listen to 'Negatron' and 'Phobos'?

S: Yeah, we kept in touch here and there. Sometimes we'd have a small reunion during Christmas time, things like that, and I would join them when they were playing, singing "Voivod", and I was backstage and everything. I shared what I was doing with them, I was doing Union Made, so we shared tapes and stuff. They were doing 'Phobos' and 'Negatron' and -


MU: What do you think of those albums?

S: Oh, I think they're great. I think for that period of time and the situation they were involved in, they had to focus and get back to the roots of metal and that's what they focused on. From my point of view, that's what I hear, but maybe they'd have something else to say. I think they headed for a really crunchy sound in a way to get back to the band's metal roots.

MU: When you were singing with them on stage as a guest, did you feel your re-entry into Voivod was imminent?

S: Well, back then, it's funny because I didn't know what to expect. I think after a while they had a hard time with Eric and for some reason it didn't work out, but back then when I was watching Eric singing I thought it was great and I was enjoying the lineup as it was. (laughing)

MU: The new album seems to carry on from where you left off with the band - 'The Outer Limits'. It seems like a logical step forward from that album, but a little more direct and a whole lot more heavy, as far as the bass and rhythm end of it goes. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

S: I think you're pretty much right there, because just the fact that I was coming back into Voivod I grabbed all the stuff that I left in a box and I really carried on like it was yesterday, it was like "Boom!" But the other members, because they knew I was coming back and we were just getting back together, I think they got inspired by old songs like "Brain Scan" and "Jack Luminous" and the other stuff I did with them, so I think for them they kind of approached the music how it was back then. Where we left off.

MU: And of course, Voivod never makes the same album twice. I suppose it might've been tempting to sit around and think, "We should go back to the roots." I'm not talking about capturing the aggression or being really complex, I'm talking about trying to exactly mimic a popular era from your past. You have refused and continue to refuse giving into that temptation. But was that ever considered, to try and recapture something old rather than trying to do something new?

S: Well, the new album is a combination of our older influences and experiences and our new influences and experiences. We matured during all those years and we got to a point where we can create better songs with our style. I think it's more listenable than some of the previous albums, but still some of the songs are really kicking ass and having double-bass drumming like the old albums. We want the metal fans to like it, but we want to reach a new crowd, we want to really make our mark in the sphere of rock. We want to take our place. I think this album reflects all the talent and all the perspectives of Voivod. It represents what we're heading toward in the future. Plus the fact that we took influences from some of our old albums, people are going to relate to it also. I think that's why we called it just simply 'Voivod'. It's like a direct point in our career.

MU: It's rare to find a band 10 studio albums and 20 years into their career as excited about their new material as you are. And you're already talking about what you're going to do next.

S: It's just that we love doing music and that shows. For example, Jason is so excited, he's such an energetic guy, he's so excited about everything, and it's really motivating to create when you have that vibe around you. Plus we have the tools to do it. He lent us financial and technical support also, and that's all part of what an album needs to have today.

MU: The lyrical approach on this album is interesting. It's been a long time since you've written autobiographical lyrics. In the early days you had "Voivod", "Iron Gang" and "Suck Your Bone", all those are about the band, and stuff like "Fuck Off And Die" and "Ripping Headaches" are about the noise the band was making. And then you went on to different topics and more cerebral concepts. Now on this new album you're doing autobiographical stuff again, like "Gasmask Revival" and "We Carry On".

S: Plus "I Don't Wanna Wake Up" is sort of about coming back into the band and being on stage and being in front of the people. Yeah. But I've been missing it, so for me just doing it is great, it's great to come back, so I wrote stuff that reflected that. I'm enjoying it so why not write about it? As for the sci-fi approach that we had on previous albums, right now the world is sci-fi enough, I think. You just look at the news and that's a good example of what sci-fi was, cloning and everything. 20 years ago we were thinking, "Man, wow, what if you could clone a human?" or "One day all the world will be supervised by computers," and it's happening now. (laughing) It really goes fast. So some of the lyrics too are like the definition of what real sci-fi is, what we're living in now. Back then we were considered an advanced band, that we were ahead of our time, but now is actually that time. (laughing) The time is now, 20 years later.


MU: We hear that in the more worldly songs on the album, the social or environmental songs, like "Reactor", "Blame Us", "Strange And Ironic". What about stuff like "Rebel Robot" - that covers the fictional aspect of your lyrics, right?

S: Yeah, it was a sci-fi approach that we kept from 'Angel Rat' or 'The Outer Limits' or whatever. But robots are part of our world right now and the sci-fi thing or the folk tale spin that I put on some of our sci-fi lyrics, that's my approach on that particular song. But I focused also on social issues through that song, and in "Strange And Ironic". It's a combination of social issues and sci-fi and personal stuff. And even though I talk about my personal influence on the music or being back in the band, it reflects the other members as well. I don't want to write lyrics for myself only, I want to write lyrics for the band. So everybody brings me their own stuff, an article in the paper that they read or something they saw on the Internet or whatever. They feed me with all this info and I put it together and rearrange it and work on it and make it sound good and happening.

MU: With the exception of the 'Dimension Hatross' and 'Nothingface' albums, which were totally fantasy / fiction based lyrics, you often did stuff like "None Of The Above", "Cockroaches", "Order Of The Blackguards" - all of it having a kind of social context.

S: Yeah, it's true. I had and still have this attitude that, well, we all live in the same world. You can talk about Mars and everything but there's also some problems on Earth that we have to fucking solve before something weird happens. It's pretty much out of control here, and we have to get together. We have to put our heads together to solve problems instead of throwing rockets here and there and kill ourselves and whatever.

MU: One topic on the new album that is just flat-out odd is "Les Cigares Volants". That's bizarre: ". . .flying cigars, the coolest name for UFOs. . ." It's pretty lighthearted in comparison to some of the other stuff on the album. Where did that come from? The inside of a joint perhaps?

S: (laughing) Well, uh. . . It's a get-together reunion-session rocket! (laughing) Well, it was Jason's idea at first. It was kind of a joke at first. We just went on with it. At first "Flying Cigars" was the working title for it, then I decided that it was a good title. Then one night Kirk Hammett showed up in the studio and he heard that song and he said, "Oh, 'Flying Cigars' - there's actually a place that's named Les Cigares Volants in France," and I thought, "Oh wow," so I decided to call it by the French name.

MU: Which goes back to your French-Canadian roots, and songs like "Le Pont Noir."

S: Yeah. And it's also good to have fun songs on the album. The world is already depressive enough, so some smiles here and there is fun, you know?

MU: Tell us about the video shoot you did for "We Carry On".

S: It was great. We worked with two guys from George Lucas's crew [Keith McCabe and Jeff Ertl]. It was fun, they came with a kind of scenario and we looked at it, but basically you're thinking of Lucas and you're thinking like, "Ooh, huge effects" and stuff like that, but actually it's not. It really shows our faces, showing what Voivod is. There are a few effects here and there but if people want to see the new 'Star Wars' or something, it's not that. (laughing) People sometimes expect too much. It's just a video, you know? The reason why we're doing a video is we want to make sure people know who we are, that's the purpose of this one, I guess, for the first one.

MU: Will you be doing another?

S: Oh, I don't know. But if we do I'd like to do it for "Blame Us". Especially with what is going on in the world these days.

MU: Are there any songs from the old days that you're especially looking forward to singing live?

S: Oh yeah, there's of course "Tribal Convictions" and "The Unknown Knows". Of course we'll have a few surprises from the new and the old. We might end up playing new new songs, if we've got a chance to create something on the road. Why not? Everything from day one we can play, it's not a problem, it's just a matter of making the decision of what to play and how much time we have to play.

MU: So Ozzfest is a pretty big event for the band.

S: Oh yeah, well, when we heard about it, it was like "Wow!" - jumping all over the kitchen! (laughing) Ozzy is the godfather of rock so that's cool.

MU: Having Jason Newsted in the band is a huge asset in a lot of ways, musically, financially, technically, all that. How much of a friendship did you have with him before he joined the band?

S: I met him at the same time the other guys did, at the same place. We had some barbecues. He was always around somehow up until the time I left, so I've known him for quite a while. From '88 or so. And even before that, when he was in Flotsam And Jetsam, but we really had a chance to get to know each other in '88, at his Oakland home. From then on we would pass tapes to each other, have a barbecue, we'd play football, and he always kept an eye on us and we always kept an eye on him, what he was doing with Metallica through all those years. I think it was meant to be, this album, because I think he had a plan in his head somehow. And for us it was so great to have him join us.

MU: What do you feel he brought to Voivod that wasn't there before?

S: First, his personality. His approach. And his style of playing, which is kind of a Black Sabbath-ish mode. And he grooved the band more than the previous bass player. And he brought his style that he'd had from Flotsam through Metallica and all the experience he had. All his knowledge. As a producer he was working really hard on the record, putting in many hours, from morning 'til night. Of course everybody did, but it was a really stressful situation sometimes for him: take care of this, take care of that, creating all the time. So he had a really stressful month there -

MU: But it sounds damn good for it. It's a nice sounding album, man.

S: Yeah, he really wanted to release this record on time, so he worked hard to help get it done.

MU: What are your expectations for this year, the touring, the new lineup, the future? It's all pretty wide-open, isn't it?

S: Yeah, we'll see. Right now I just have to focus on preparing myself to hit the road. I'm sure maybe more dates will be added and we'll go from there but right now we're booked 'til the end of the Ozzfest, which is August 28th. From there maybe more touring or maybe jumping on another record.

MU: 10 more records?

S: (laughing) Yeah, well, I don't know. Anything is possible!

MU: How about an oddball one for the last question: People have only lately started to come around to 'Angel Rat'. When it was released, most people just didn't like it or couldn't understand it. Some just hated it. It didn't meet the expectations a lot of people had after the 'Nothingface' era. A lot of those people recently - not all of them, but many of them - have come around and said "I dug out 'Angel Rat' for the first time in years and I love it now." This has been said to me more than a few times in recent years. For a band that was always being hailed as ahead-of-its-time, 'Angel Rat' was perhaps more ahead of its time than any of your other albums. Any comments?

S: Well, 'Angel Rat,' when it came out, it was kind of weird because we wanted to have this strong album and Blacky left during the sessions, so it was kind of a weird situation right there, but as for the music and as it was taken back then, maybe it was not the right time to release it. Like I was saying, some people were saying we were an advanced band, or we were misplaced in time, so 'Angel Rat' was looked at in a very different way back then than it is now. But when there are so many bands releasing so many albums in a year, you sometimes end up in a bad position. When there are two albums in a year that are pushed so far and so hard, people are going to jump on them and anything else will be shit anyway. [He may be referring to Metallica's black album and Nirvana's 'Nevermind' here, both released in the year of 'Angel Rat', 1991. -JW] It's a matter of taste and a matter of point of view, too, what is good and what is not, and it's also a matter of timing when you release it. But I'm glad that people discovered it. Late, but they discovered it. I like when people discover what we did many years ago. I hope that's going to be the same for the other albums. I think that the new album will lead the new fans to buy the old records and discover where we come from.


War And Pain - 1984
Rrroooaaarrr - 1986
Killing Technology - 1987
Dimension Hatross - 1988
Nothingface - 1989
Angel Rat - 1991
The Best Of Voivod - 1992
The Outer Limits - 1993
Negatron - 1995
Phobos - 1997
Kronik - 1998
Voivod Lives - 2000
Voivod - 2003









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