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
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 voivod.com,
voivod.net and voivodfan.com 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
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
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'
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
VOIVOD: PART 1 - METAL UPDATE INTERVIEW WITH AWAY
VOIVOD - OFFICIAL
VOIVOD - FAN SITE
VOIVOD - FAN SITE
VOIVOD - MP3
Interview: Jeff Wagner
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