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Interview

Voivod Drummer Michel "Away" Langevin Explains "The Wake"

After a five year wait for a new full length album, Quebec's legendary thrashers Voivod are back with "The Wake." A concept album telling the science fiction story of a great event which changes humanity forever, the record has everything fans love about the band and still manages to surprise listeners. To promote the album, the band are currently on the road in Europe and at their recent show at The Underworld in Camden, North London, I had the opportunity to meet up once again with the band's drummer, co-founder and resident artist, Michel "Away" Langevin to discuss "The Wake," the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, the fate of humanity and more. You can watch the chat in full below.

Diamond Oz: The new album, "The Wake" is finally out and it's a very ambitious album. I suppose the first thing to ask is about the story, could you tell us a bit about that?

Michel "Away" Langevin: I could but Snake is probably the guy to ask about that. But as soon as started working on it, Snake mentioned that he wanted to write a long story and then Chewy thought about bringing back musical themes but re-arranged. So we wrote the album and the lyrics together and I know that at first, the story involves an undersea disaster which triggers a big revelation that changes all the systems, religious and social and if you look at the album it becomes it's very introspective. In the end it's totally intergalactic, so I think Snake wanted to touch on all the subjects that he was interested in and it's related to this planet and the state that it's in but in the typical, post-Apocalyptic, sci-fi Voivodian way.

Oz: In that respect then it's like a best of Voivod, lyrically.

Away: I know what you mean and we also touch on all the aspects of Voivod, from "War And Pain" to "Angel Rat" with a new twist, so I think all the Voivodian elements are there.

Oz: Excellent. Well one thing I know I can ask you about is the artwork, which is incredible, as it always is with Voivod. It's very special in that it fits in with the lyrics of the album and it's like a head trip just looking at it.

Away: Thank you. I really wanted to capture the intensity of the album. A bit like I did for "War And Pain" or "Rrroooaaarrr." I used Photoshop paint brush instead of Photoshop head brush, which I've used for decades. So it's a new task for me. I discussed the lyrical content with Snake and he told me about the aftermath of this and that, so I thought about the four of us as Voivod, holding a vigil for a dying planet.

Oz: Nice! Musically, it's all connected very well. It's intense but you have to think about it. When you were writing the album, was it a conscious decision to touch on the more progressive elements of the band?

Away: I think that the lineup we have right now is more fusion metal and I think that's the direction we're heading right now. It's hard to tell. We will definitely try to push it forward from here. There was a lot of work and so many details on this album. We made it very experimental and progressive. Right now it's hard to imagine that we can go further away, like a parallel dimension.

Oz: With this being the thirty fifth anniversary of Voivod, was it important to you to have a new album out for this year?

Away: We really wanted it out for this year. We tried to bring it out in the Summer but it was impossible because we just went crazy on the music and everything. We worked really worked on the mixing. It was important for us to celebrate the thirty fifth anniversary with a new album.

Oz: I interviewed you in Bristol a couple of years ago and we spoke about what was to become "The Wake." You mentioned then that the record will be a double album and now that it's out, it's just under an hour. Was it a case of you were aiming for a double album and decided to discard some things?

Away: I think I meant a double vinyl. I was pretty sure with the length of the songs that it would be a double vinyl considering the length of the songs. The final song was supposed to be an instrumental and only a couple of minutes long but then Snake decided to add vocals and Chewy added riffs from throughout the album but re-arranged, so then it ends up being about thirteen minutes. It's a fairly long album, although it doesn't have many songs. The songs are fairly long because they're very progressive album. Nowadays it's become difficult to release a forty minute long album, especially for us! I think it's probably going to be steady 55-60 minute long albums and we found a way of working with a laptop in the bus or backstage so hopefully we'll now be releasing albums quicker.

Oz: Oh good! You mentioned "Dimension Hatross" which was also a concept album. When you were writing "The Wake," was there any comparisons being drawn to that album?

Away: Not necessarily. We did make sort of a salute on the last song of the album, but we didn't think about "Phobos" or "Dimension Hatross." Chewy is the main composer and he gives Voivod a new direction. Of course it will probably be compared to "Dimension Hatross" and "Phobos" because they're full on concept albums, but the Voivod spirit is intact but it's not something we think about.

Oz: I've seen you a few times already this year on the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise. I was going to ask how that went but I've just bought the special edition of "The Wake" and I noticed that the show is on there as a bonus disc, so you must have been very pleased with how it went.

Away: Yes and it sounds really good. Also we have footage from it so hopefully we can do something with that. It's a fantastic trip to be on. We've done two editions and it's fun to meet with people we've toured with over the years like Exodus and Sepultura and it's also very cool to meet our heroes, in my case, Raven, Saxon, Exciter. We've been lucky enough to have been invited twice. It's kind of funny that we ended up on an island inside the Bermuda Triangle, which I never believed existed!

Oz: One thing I wanted I wanted to ask about when it comes to the album is that since the story involves a great awakening of people, do you personally believe that humanity can reach a high plain of thinking than we have now?

Away: I don't really know if we have time to wake up at this point. Soon we're going to be living on a huge ball of plastic and with global warming going crazy and all that. I think we need a first awakening to get away from pollution in order to move on to the next level and of course there's nuclear weapons and all that, which is something that's been a recurring nightmare for me since i was a kid. We need a first step before any kind of conscious awakening.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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