Voivod’s probably one of the most underrated metal bands in the history of the genre. Their music and style is all their own and they have cultivated a truly dedicated fanbase of “Voivoidians” by simply staying true to their artistic intent which dates back to the early 80s and albums like “War and Pain” and later “Nothingface”. The band hailing from Jonquiere, Quebec, Canada has endured musical trends, industry schism and even the death of their longtime guitarist Piggy in 2005. Now, the guys, along with “new” guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain (who’s actually been in the band for years) have made one of their best albums yet and are ready to go on the road to support it. “Target Earth is the band’s thirteenth studio album and was released Jan. 22 via Century Media on multiple formats including vinyl, hell yeah!. 2013 is shaping up to be a great year for Voivod so I talked to Chewy about the new album, their fans and those amazing, amazing, album covers. Read on…
Legendary Rock Interviews: You have been in Voivod for some time as a touring member and you and your brother’s band had shared the stage with them. How different was it to actually be involved in the writing process on “Target Earth”?
Daniel “”Chewy” Mongrain: Well, the main difference for me was that everybody in the band was involved. It was really teamwork. Blacky and I would write some ideas, trade files and bring ideas to the jam space, then Away would try a different groove on it, then the new groove would completely change the perspective of a riff or sometimes just accentuate it. Once the groove was installed, Snake could improvise some vocal lines on top of it and it would find its way. Sometimes we would just improvise together and record those jams that would become the core of a song, which would be later developed and arranged. We arranged the songs together by playing them and improving them until they sounded right to us. We exchange ideas, suggest new approaches to each other. It was a great creative journey!
LRI: Late guitarist Denis D’Amour (a.k.a. Piggy) had some pretty progressive influences and it showed in his arrangements and playing. You not only are a huge Voivod fan, but also teach guitar and obviously have your own influences. Do you think you actually share a lot of the same influences as Denis?
Chewy: I share it indirectly because Piggy has been a huge influence, so I guess his influences have reached me in that sense. I’m not from the same generation, but I always dug King Crimson, Zappa, Stravinsky and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. So I guess we share some of those influences, but of course we come from different backgrounds, being different persons.
LRI: Fans who are hoping to hear seriously heavy music from the band will be loving tracks like “Mechanical Mind”. Was it important not only to have the best material overall, but also to have as much diverse material as possible?
Chewy: It really was an unconscious thing, we honestly just wrote as spontaneously as possible, just following our instincts. I guess we wanted some intricate stuff, song heavy riffs, and some dynamic and melodic stuff also. It’s a pretty balanced album. I think it contains pretty much all of the ingredients of the past and a new touch. Blacky’s bass sound is very colorful and reminds us of the early Voivod sound. I really like it, it inspired me a lot to write ideas.
LRI: The album art and lyrical content on “Target Earth” focuses on many of the things that affect the human species, and this is a theme that has been visited before on earlier Voivod albums. Your drummer Michel “Away” Langevin always comes up with the best art in the universe. What are some of your favorite album covers or lyrical passages in the classic Voivod material you grew up on?
Chewy: Killing Technology and Nothingface would be my favorite album covers. Lyrics…There are so many, but this one caught my attention right away when I first heard it:
“No sun for the grey children waiting to catch the strange airy notions of that place;
Now their evolutions means their brain mutations;
The wider is the comprehension, the deeper and stronger is the illusion
They’re no more material since they’re invisible”(“Brainscan”)
LRI: Speaking of the early stuff, “Target Earth” features the return of Blacky on bass and his unique sound. You worked with Blacky a little while you were in your band, Martyr. Other than his signature blast bass, what else does Blacky bring to the studio?
Chewy: He is a prolific composer. A good part of the odd time signature and progressive stuff comes from him. He also has the ability to write complementary lines to the guitar parts or to the vocal part. He has a great musicality, which contrasts with his raw distorted cutting edge sound. He also was also very implicated as an engineer in the studio and was also the one taking care of recording and mixing all the pre-prods.
LRI: Voivod has garnered positive reviews and a diehard fanbase over the years. How has the reaction been from those hardcore fans to your joining been? Have you enjoyed meeting the fans and seeing their devotion?
Chewy: I felt a warm welcome from everybody, onstage as well as after the show and meeting them. Everybody’s happy to see Voivod alive and “live” again. Lots of people share stories about Piggy, when they met him, etc…It’s great! And most of the fans make me sign their Voivod albums even if I didn’t play on them…I feel like I’m part of the close family. It’s really touching to be accepted and to also be given that warm and true passion toward the band. Voivod fans are the best! I know because I’m one of those fans!
LRI: Obviously a lot of the new album is going to make its way into the upcoming tour set-list. The title track has already been performed and is getting lots of hits on Youtube, do you think most of the material will eventually make it into the live transition?
Chewy: Well…The songs are sounding pretty much the same than on the album, as we played all the songs for a long time before recording them. It’s gonna kill!! Haha! I’m pretty confident, the response was great for all the four new songs we’ve played live so far since late 2011.
LRI: VOIVOD has always had this inate ability to be as memorable and tuneful as it is progressive and challenging. Is crafting a melody still as important as ever to this band?
Chewy: I really don’t know, I think the most important thing is to be authentic throughout your art. It depends on what you want to express through a song, a musical passage. I don’t personally think about that when I write, I focus on the emotion I want to translate into music, if it’s complex, then so be it…If it’s melodic, so be it….And why couldn’t it be melodic and complex also?…There are no rules.
LRI: As much as everyone wants to see headlining shows from a band with such a rich history as Voivod, it is often hard to turn down a big package tour support slot? What will we see in 2013 as far as U.S. touring?
Chewy: For me, it doesn’t matter if we’re headlining or not. A direct support spot is great! We did this headlining tour in Europe that went really well! Lots of sold out shows! I think in the states a direct support tour would be great with openers. There are plans for touring the states soon, but I don’t have details about it right now.
LRI: Thanks for talking to us and much continued luck, Daniel. Last question: What is it about Voivod’s music that creates so much loyalty amongst the fanbase for so many years? What was it or is it that drew you to them all those years ago???
Chewy: Thanks my friend! It could be the uniqueness and authenticity of Voivod. No band sounds like it. Also, their avant-garde side, their proximity to people and simplicity as human beings.