Q&A with Michael Langevin
Sheila Rene': Michael, this is such an incredible album. I got to hang with d'Amour at the Austin show. We had a great time.
Michael Langevin: That's wonderful to hear.
SR: We had to cancel our interview in November because of your van burning. I'm sorry about all that, but at least your equipment was in another vehicle. Then the second one broke down the day we were to talk.
ML: We had seven different vehicles on that last tour. We're survivers. We've already started writing on the next album.
SR: You've finished the tour for Negatron?
ML: It was a long tour, 67 shows in 60 days or something. We have been touring for a year and a half on this album. We went to Europe twice and four times to the U.S. Now it's time to move on to another concept.
SR: I hope you don't lose this urgency you have found with Eric.
ML: It's there for sure. We went for the total hardcore thing for Negatron but at one point I missed the progressive rock beats. We're trying to keep it as energetic as possible.
SR: How did the writing take place for this album? You wrote mostly with Eric.
ML: Yeah, the way we work is just to come together and improvise. We put everything on four track and after a while we sit down and listen to the jamming. Then from that jamming we build the songs. The three of us are involved in the writing. Denis writes most of the music and he's our arranger. Eric and I write the lyrics.
SR: Denis is one powerful rippin' dude on the guitar.
ML: He is unique.
SR: I guess you were delighted to find that Eric could sing, play bass and write too.
ML: He comes up with very cool ideas both on bass and vocals. What I was amazed about was when we started jamming the older Voivod songs I realized he could do the bass and vocals. Those were recorded with two different people. He can sing to different lines and patterns. He broke a string in New Jersey on the first song and he played the whole song singing and playing on a higher string and he didn't mess up a beat. Denis and I were looking at each other in amazement. We had to shake his hand after the show. We're very lucky to have found him.
SR: How did Jim Thirlwell get involved? Impressive that you give him his own track for his song.
ML: I was returning a favor to Jim. He came to a couple of shows in New York at the old Ritz and he invited me to work with him. I've played on a couple of his albums. He's like the Frank Zappa of industrial music. He works so well and I have a great relationship with him on a twisted level. We discovered that we are both into freak shows or fright shows. That's what "D.N.A. (Don't No Anything) is about. It's an experiment that turns bad and some human gets turned into a monster. He doesn't know because there's no mirror. He's totally monstrous. I asked Jim to do the lyrics but once I read them I knew he would be the only guy who could sing them. It's very cool of him, actually.
SR: You worked with a fellow countryman, Ivan Doroschuk former Men Without Hats vocalist as well.
ML: "Nanoman" was the song we worked on. He's an old friend from Montreal and that's where we live. I met him a long time ago and worked with him on a couple of projects. I played on one of his albums a few years back. I always thought he was a great lyricist and he helped me on this song. I'm working on a new song for the next album with him right now.
SR: You enhanced CD-ROM is the best I've seen in a long time.
ML: Thank you. I'd like it to be more complete with perhaps a video game or something like that. Next time maybe I'll do a retrospective of my art or something.
SR: At one point you thought about leaving Voivod after Denis Belinger left just to work on your art. I think you can have it all..the band and your art.
ML: Well, you know I get to play music. I get to do computer animation for the videos and put the sound tracks on it. I don't think I should quit doing it. (laughing) I did think about it at one time, but I'm pretty amazed that Negatron was even released. It was a miracle especially if I look back at all the shit that we went through for those three or four years. We hear the same thing all the time that we were ahead of our time. I don't think it's true. We were just always working in a different dimension, that's all.
SR: You are ahead of your time in my mind.
ML: We were in the early metal scene but we just took from Vandergraf Generator and mixed it with some Motorhead. (laughing)
SR: How did that whole on-line experience go when you were on Omni Magazine's site with astrophysicist Dr. Fiorella Terenzi? That was one whole month out of your life.
ML: It was fine for a while. It was supposed to be a dialog and at one point that other person just quite e-mailing so I had to entertain all these people for half a month every night writing whatever would come through my mind. I knew there were a lot of people wanting to know what she had to say, so it got really weird at the end. It was a very nice try from the people that put it together and I thank them forever for the experience. It was just too bad about Dr. Terenzi. I think she was abducted or something. (laughing, uncontrollably)
SR: The song matter on this album is so in tune with what so many people are into today. Fox Network's "X-Files" just picked up best show, best actor and best actress from the Golden Globe Awards. Your songs make sense to me just like that show makes sense.
ML: I went through that stuff on a couple of albums already and I'm trying to keep away from saucers but they come to me. I can't get away from it.
SR: I was listening to "Meteor" when you called. There's a big movie scare coming out suggesting that we'll just go up in a ball of fire.
ML: Of course, it's a possibility.
SR: "Bio-TV" is already here.
ML: It's funny I just read an ad maybe in Omni Magazine about the Japanese people who have created a TV that is supposed to control the infrared rays instead of the X-rays. They were saying that it was helpful and they should get their children up closer to the sets. Closer is better. That's so twisted and I guess it's just a gimic to get people to watch TV again. The TV is not going to become a human it's that people are turning into what they see on TV.
SR: Now we have the beginning of Web-TV.
ML: That's where you can surf but you can't download information. I played with one of those when I was in the States. I'm not sure if it's in Canada or not.
SR: Did you enjoy it?
ML: I think it's a great idea myself. It's good. It can be the biggest library that anyone can have a their fingertips. Everytime I think about something I go and try to find it on the Internet. I find tons and tons of unlimited information on all subjects about everything. One will always argue about being stuck in front of a screen forever, but I think it's better to look for information than to look at a soap.
SR: Can you believe Voivod is 13 years old and you've put out eight albums.
ML: It's nine albums counting the Best Of. When the Best Of came out I felt suddenly very old. I'm very proud of our work. I'm very happy about our albums. The next one will be the tenth and I'm 33 years old and I'm very happy that I've achieved that. We should have been a little more productive at times, but we still did pretty good.
SR: The next album will be totally different.
ML: Every ten years or so we have to do something that represents what we've learned in that decade. Once I conducted Dimension Hatross and it summed up a whole decade for me. Now I think it's time to do another one with the Voivod character coming back. It's a way to get stuff out of my head. Once Nothingface was done I didn't want to talk about the Voivod character anymore. He was in a coma and happy.
SR: So now the character will come out of a coma. Wonderful.
ML: Yeah, he's been trying to wake up. It's time to wake him up.
SR: Do you ever get your lyrics in a dream?
ML: Yeah, most of the time. They come from a dream that I draw when I try and wake up. I wake up and then I write my notes under the drawing and I take them to Denis. Sometimes it comes with a riff or a character that I put down to paper. A whole bunch of songs have been written like that.
SR: I guess this album represents the emotions you felt after Denis B. left.
ML: We were in a pressure cooker. We had to let the steam go. It went off and that's what we recorded.
SR: Was this an easy recording?
ML:We're not on a major label anymore since we are so agressive and angry. When we started getting offers we changed our plan of attack. We decided to produce ourselves. We used the engineers at Hypnotic Studios in Toronto, Alfio Annibaline and Daryn Barry. But by producing ourselves we could license the album in every country. It was a good move because I am a lot happier than I was a few years ago. Not from album sales so much but richer in experience. We're still not a rich band. We're still very much underground.
SR: It's more important to be richer in mind and spirit.
ML: Yes, I believe that. Definitely.
SR: The artwork...this fabulous ant. How did the ant come to you?
ML: I've always been obsessed with the mechanical movements of insects. I've always drawn spiders and loved the way they moved. I studied the way they moved through books. When I started to use the 3-D annimation Soft Image program (the program used in "Jurassic Park") the first thing that came to my mind when it was time to draw an object was that it had to be an insect..a spider or an ant. I was reading a book about ants and they are so fascinating with the different levels of their world, the army, all the different levels. The Nanoman is another drawing inside the cover from that program.
SR: Who did you work with on your video for "Insect?"
ML: Again, the same approach. I produced the video and did most of the things on the computer. For the stop motion I went to some friends at Optical Assembly in Toronto. I gave them tons of sketches and they made the characters out of clay. There were hundreds of insects all made of clay. They're really, really cool people to work with.
SR: You're one of the most talented people I've ever talked with.
ML: I wish more people were aware of what we're doing. The only regret I have with the whole Voivod experience is that it's always the same. All the bands like us, but it's hard going. We have a hardcore following around the world and every couple of years we can record and you can't ask for more that.
SR: It's such a pleasure to finally get to talk to you. I've been a big fan since the early '80s.
ML: You were at the Stone when we played with Celtic Frost. I love playing in San Francisco. I love Texas also. We once played the Liberty Lunch when they didn't have a roof. Now, there's a roof there. We'll be coming back to Austin with the new album.