Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
We had a chat with Voivod founding members Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) and Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals) before their set in Dublin on the Deathcrusher Tour.
Alan: Hello. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome back to Dublin. You were here a few years ago in the Village?
Away: Yeah, two or three years ago, with Doom. And also I played here in 1995 I believe. I’m not sure exactly.
Alan: From your last visit, do you have any memories of the show?
Away: I remember that the crowd was amazing. The show was great. But right after, there was a disco night and we were kicked out of the place in a rude way. But supposedly it’s not the same here!
Alan: Well, hopefully you can have a few drinks here after the show! I know you’ve toured with Napalm Death quite recently. Have you toured with Carcass and Obituary before?
Away: No, but I played with Jeff [Walker] at the Dynamo festival about twenty years ago, but his band was Blackstar back then.
Alan: Cool. So how’s the tour going so far? You’re a few dates in already.
Snake: It’s way more relaxed now, because when you start up the tour first, you’re like “Ok, what are we going to do with this, or that. And the changeover”. Now we fixed things up little by little, and now we’re enjoying ourselves, and the tour is going fine.
Alan: Yeah, it’s a great line-up.
Away: Oh yeah. It’s going to be very successful. So far the shows have been pretty packed. It’s exciting.
Alan: Tonight should be busy. It’s not quite sold out yet, but there should be a huge crowd.
Snake: Well, you know, it’s Monday night. Everybody hates Mondays!
Alan: So how did the whole Deathcrusher Tour come to be? And how did you get involved?
Away: I know that they did the Deathcrusher earlier this year in Australia with Obituary and Carcass, and maybe Napalm Death. And then when we went across the USA early this year with Napalm Death, Jeff from Carcass asked us if we were available. Of course we said yes immediately. It’s all the people we met before and it’s great. We’re three bands on the bus and crew. A lot of people.
Alan: Cool. How do you choose your setlists at these shows with such a short stage time and such a huge back catalogue to choose from?
Snake: It’s really difficult because we’ve got so many songs. Of course there’s a few songs that we have to play. Plus a new song [‘Forever Mountain’]. That’s from the split 7″ we did with Napalm Death. And the classics like ‘Tribal Convictions’.
Alan: Are you changing the setlists around from night to night?
Snake: Yeah, we have two different setlists.
Away: We alternate. And of course, because it’s the Deathcrusher tour we’re doing a lot of the thrash metal material and we sort of skip the songs that we do all the time like ‘The Prow’. It’s going to come back into the setlist eventually though.
Alan: And what’s your favourite track to play live at the moment?
Away: Personally, it’s ‘Forever Mountain’ because it’s so fresh. It’s exciting for me to play every song, but I’ve played ‘Tribal Convictions’ and ‘Voivod’ so many times, it’s a lot more exciting for me to play a new song.
Snake: Yeah, it’s like “let’s try it” and see how people react.
Alan: Of course, there’s a trade-off between playing a song that’s fresh to you, and other songs that are fan favourites that the crowd go crazy for.
Away: You can be really sick of playing a song, but if the fans want to hear it…
Snake: …We have no choice!
Alan: Especially when you’ve only been to a city a couple of times like here in Dublin.
Away: If we don’t play it, they will let us know. They will scream it at the top of their lungs.
Alan: So the thrash and death metal genres have made a big comeback lately, and a lot of old-school bands have reformed. Why do you think that is?
Snake: As I see it, heavy metal music came back 10 or 15 years ago with a big revival. I think it’s part of a cycle that goes around. After 10 or 15 years of this, the movement gets back to the roots and the generation have changed. It’s a weird factor. It’s hard to pin-point what’s the deal with that.
Alan: Of course it’s good for bands like you who have been around for thirty years.
Away: Yeah. Of course. We’ve always had a pretty loyal following, so it was always good for us to tour but there is a resurgence of thrash metal for the past ten years or so, and lots of kids are into Voivod and Kreator and Destruction. Maybe it’s because we talk a lot about the destruction of this planet and nuclear war and the environment and toxic waste. I think it’s still relevant. Maybe that’s why people think it’s still up to date.
Alan: So at some point, bands may need to call it a day. Black Sabbath have said next year is the end. Lemmy recently had to cut some Motörhead shows short due to his health. How would you know when it’s time to stop? And I’m not at all suggesting it’s time for Voivod to stop, but how would you know?
Away: Haha. I think you can’t really think about stopping if you’ve done that all your life. What are you going to do at home? Lemmy, Iggy Pop, Ozzy are all heroes of mine. I really hope to be able to play music when I’m their age. I really respect what they do, and I don’t see anybody making fun of them for doing that because they are an example of perseverance.
Snake: The other thing is it’s no fun dying at home. If you’re still able to make it, you should do it. We’re musicians. We’ve been doing it for so long. For me, if I can be on the road forever, that would be great.
Alan: Of course you never know what’s going to happen. It’s ten years now since your bandmate Piggy passed away. Did losing Piggy change your lifestyle?
Away: Yes. It was a wake-up call in terms of aging. I take better care of myself. And on a deeper side of things, I had a lot of conversations with Piggy on his hospital bed that changed me a lot. I think I have become a better person because of what happened. It was a very traumatising event, but I grew stronger out of it.
Snake: Because you never know, you have to live your life like it’s the last day, and enjoying every minute of it. That’s why, at our age, we’re in a state where we don’t complain if this or that is not right. We are alive, we’re on stage. Our fans are there. The rest… we don’t need.
Away: All of a sudden, all the minor problems seem to be stupid.
Alan: Might we see a new Voivod album next year maybe? Have you started writing and recording?
Away: Hopefully, yeah. Every tour we release a 7 inch split vinyl. We have one with Napalm Death right now. We have a tour across the USA early next year with Vektor and we’re going to release an EP, and then after that, more recordings and we’ll combine everything with more new songs and release an LP and then do a headline tour.
Alan: So do you find small releases work better than a full album every eight years, say?
Snake: It’s a different way, but it’s a cool way to keep the fans into it until we release a full album. And it’s pretty punk. The 7 inch records are limited editions and it goes quick and it keeps the band alive and the fans are really digging it.
Away: And we have a pretty good touring schedule nowadays. It’s great in between tours to go into the studio and do one or two songs. I really like it. I don’t know if we’re going to do that all the time, but we decided to do that this year.
Alan: Have you got any titles or themes for the new songs you have already written?
Snake: Not yet. Well, there’s a few ideas, but we don’t know which one we’re going to pick.
Away: We’re working on a title for the EP we’re going to release for the Vektor tour in the USA.
Alan: Next week is Halloween. What’s your favourite horror movie of all time?
Away: ‘The Thing’, maybe.
Alan: The original? Or the recent remake?
Away: There was one from the fifties that I saw in the sixties that was scary as hell, but the one from the eighties is really amazing. And the first Alien movie was great.
Alan: What about you Snake?
Snake: There’s many. Even ‘Jaws’ when I was young scared the shit out of me. I couldn’t swim after it, even in a pool.
Away: I remember when I saw ‘Jaws’, my father asked me to take the garbage out behind the house, and I was afraid to meet Jaws behind the house!
Alan: And growing up, did you dress up and go trick-or-treating? What did you dress up as?
Away: Oh yeah. I had a crazy Hunchback of Notre-Dame mask. You could blow into the tongue like a balloon, and one eye was sticking out. I loved that mask. I wore it for years.
Snake: Yeah, I remember dressing up as a water heater!
Away: Oh yeah, I remember. You won a contest!
Snake: I was a teenager, and it was in a bar we used to go to. I went there like that and everyone was laughing and I won second prize.
Away: He took the sticker off the water heater in the basement of his house, and put it on his costume. He looked like it. Only his head was sticking out.
Alan: Not a very scary costume!
Snake: It was just weird!
Alan: Well, thank you very much for taking the time to chat. Have a great show tonight and good luck with the rest of the tour.
Away: No problem