October 30, 2010

Away On Voivod's Legacy

Voivod has been one of the most important names in thrash since their 1984 debut War and Pain. Now touring for their final studio album with original bassist Blackie, had the opportunity to talk to drummer Away about Voivod's history and the band's upcoming performance at the 2010 Wacken Open Air.
 Any reason why Jason Newstead isn't on this tour? Not that i mind.
Away: Well, he's more of a producer nowadays and does studio work. Yeah, he doesn't tour much any more. Also on this tour we wanted to do some sort of eighties revival and we called Blackie and we're concentrating on the first six albums and that's why Jason is not involved right now.
 Since Infini was stated to be your last album, do you care to explain the story of Voivod in your own words?
Away: We met in high school in the 70s but Piggie and I started jamming together around 1980. We were very influenced the the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and then found Snake and Blackie and by early 83, the band... we all had full members, you know. We started writing material pretty much influenced by Venom, Motorhead and hardcore music like Discharge, Broken Bones, stuff like that. A lot of progressive rock in France also. We signed to Metal Blade in '84, then did War and Pain.
We moved to Montrel in 85 since we're from North in Quebec and then we signed with Noise in 86 and released three albums, Rrröööaaarrr, Killing Technology - which was recorded in Berlin - and Dimension Hatröss which was also recorded in Berlin. Then we jumped to MCA in 89 and released Nothingface.
 Do you have any interesting stories about the Nothingface era as that was really your breakthrough?
Away: Nothingface was pretty popular because we did a cover of Pink Floyd called Astronomy Domine and the video was playing a lot on MuchMusic and MTV and so we got to tour with Faith No More and Soundgarden and Rush in 1990 and then we started recording our sixth album Angel Rat. Before we got to mix it, Blackie left the band.
 What contributed to Blackie leaving?

Away: By the time we hit the early 90s, the spirit wasn't there anymore and Blackie wanted to do some other kind of music and so he left he band and moved to Vancouver on the West Coast. We sort of hired a bunch of bass players in the meanwhile. We recorded The Outer Limits in '93, did a lot of touring and when we finished touring for The Outer Limits in early 94, Snake also wanted to do some other... stuff with his life. So he left the band and we found Eric Forrest who replaced both Blackie and Snake, both bass and vocals. Then we did a bunch, I mean a lot of touring with Eric and released three albums, Actually four. Negatron, Phobos, Chronic and then the live album Voivod Lives. At that time we had a couple crashes. In one of them, Eric was seriously injured.
 Where exactly was he injured?
Away: We were touring in 98 for Chronic in Germany and we were headed for the Wacken Festival. We crashed and rolled five times so all the gear went out of the van and so did the singer so we took a year off Eric was a year in the hospital. He came back and we toured with Iron Maiden and Neurosis for a while. By early 2000 when we released the live album, we decided to split the band because we wanted to do something else with out lives individually and a couple years later we reformed but Snake came back and then Jason Newstead joined the band. Then again, we did a bunch of touring with Sepultura and Ozzy and at this point Jason was playing with both Voivod and Ozzy. We released an album in 2003 called Voivod with this lineup and in 2004 we wrote a bunch of songs and demoed two albums and in 2005 Piggy was taken ill and passed away. So in 2006 we finished one of the two albums and it came out. It's called Katorz and in 2009 we finished the other one Infini, which came out last year.
We have material for a live album because when reformed again in 2008 with the original bass player Blackie and Dan Mongrain on guitar we went and toured Japan and Mexico and USA and Canada and recorded a bunch of shows for a live album. We're going to Russia in April. We're going to record a few shows there. As for a studio album, I really can't tell what's going to happen with that. It's hard to say.
 What's your favorite tour story?
Away: We toured with Motorhead and they're heroes of mine but I think that going to Japan for the first time in 2008 was one of my favorite moments in my career and we filmed a concert and just released it on DVD. Touring with Rush in 1990 was pretty overwhelming also. There were a lot of pretty good moments. It was quite a roller coaster ride so there were quite a few down moments but overall I had a great, great time.
 Are you looking forward to playing the Wacken Open Air in Germany?
Away: It's something that I really wanted to do since like '98. We couldn't play there since we crashed on the way there so were were pretty bummed out about it. While Eric was in the hospital in Germany in a coma we were watching the Wacken Open Air on MTV in the hotel room and the bands were dedicating songs to Voivod on stage which was quite nice but were quite that we didn't make it there so the fact that we are going there this year is sort of a victory in itself.
 So this is something that you've wanted to do for the past twelve years?
Away: Yeah. Always wanted to go there to get rid of the sense of defeat.
 What was your favorite album that you recorded?
Away: Probably Killing Technology. It has all the elements that I like. Hardcore, prog rock and metal and a little Killing Joke and Bahaus thrown in there.
 After Wacken do you have any other tours lined up?
Away: In June, July and August we are doing all the European festivals again and we want to come back to USA in the fall.
 So this is not the last we've seen of Voivod?
Away: As far at touring goes we want to keep going as long as we can. It's just in the studio department that's a bit uncertain right now.

Lou Is Sick Of It All

For more than two decades Sick Of It All has been championing the New York hardcore scene, sticking on track to release a new full-length album every few years. After four years of touring the band recently set loose "Based On A True Story," their latest fist-pumping, mosh-inducing foray into hardcore. Commenting on the new album, vocalist Lou Koller stated: "This one is definitely a combination of all the stuff we’ve done in the past. I think we’ve matured enough that it’s more focused and our writing is way better. We’ve written more memorable songs..."
Lou spoke with me about the lyrics on the new album, the recording of the music video for "Death or Jail," their recent tour dates with unlikely allies AFI, and his love of Manowar. These topics and more can be found in the transcription of the interview below.
xFiruath: Is Sick Of It All the only band you guys are involved with right now?
 Lou: It’s just Sick Of It All for me. I do guest spots on other band’s records and I’ve done that for years. The only guy in the band who works another band right now is our bass player, Craig. He plays Bass for the Cro-Mags whenever they need him and he has free time.
xFiruath: It’s been four years since the last album “Death To Tyrants.” What’s been going on with the band since then?
 Lou: A lot of touring. We did almost two years off of “Death To Tyrants.” Around that time we were thinking about getting into the studio to write because we had a bunch of ideas but then we released a tribute record. We didn’t expect it, but we got a bunch of calls for tours so we toured off that record for another year and a half almost. We finally had to say “enough” and get back into the studio.
xFiruath: Your new album is “Based on a True Story.” Tell me a bit about the new album and what’s different about it from your last release?
 Lou: This one is definitely a combination of all the stuff we’ve done in the past. I think we’ve matured enough that it’s more focused and our writing is way better. We’ve written more memorable songs I think. We loved the production we had on “Death To Tyrants” with Tue Madsen. We said we wanted to work with him next time, but he wanted us to come to Denmark because he said he could do it even better from the studio he was more familiar with, and I think it shows. ‘Death To Tyrants” has got great production, but this one just sounds ten times bigger and has a more “in your face” sound.
xFiruath: What’s going on with the lyrics on this album?
 Lou: It’s a little different now. “Death To Tyrants” is more political, but this one is more introspective. That’s why we used the title “Based on a True Story.” It’s about stuff that happened to us growing up and things that we’ve experienced, both good and bad.
xFiruath: I just saw that new video for “Death or Jail.” How did the recording go?
 Lou: We went up to Boston to do some shows around St. Patrick’s Day. A friend of ours who did our last video said he had a real easy and fun concept. We did the day after our two shows and we went into this warehouse he had booked for us. We just had at it. I got smashed against a wall by an actor playing a cop for like three hours. That was fun.
xFiruath: I liked the shots inside the car with everybody screaming the lyrics.
 Lou: They said “You ever see Cops? Just act like that while you are in the car.”
xFiruath: Not too long ago I spoke with another New York hardcore band, Killing Time, and their guitarist Carl Porcaro was telling me about how the scene there seems to come and go in waves. He also mentioned how there has been a lot of violence plaguing some of those cycles. What are your thoughts on where the New York hardcore scene is now compared to where it used to be?
 Lou: We’ve stuck it out. Killing Time was around and then took a hiatus or broke up for years. For us it never really went in waves. I see it going in waves more in the interest of the mainstream. Magazines for certain periods will suddenly interview hardcore bands and then they’ll let it fade out before coming back. They do it with everything, with whatever will keep readers interested I guess. I’d agree with him though that there have been cycles of violence plaguing the scene. We’ve been through it constantly and you have to pick and choose what kind of bands you are going to play with. If you are going to play with bands that promote that kind of thing then you are going to get that kind of thing at your show. We were friends with bands that have questionable backgrounds but we’ve always told them we don’t want any stupidity at our shows. To us, hardcore has nothing to do with that. Hardcore is all open mindedness to us.
xFiruath: This was a few years back now, but tell me a bit about getting your song “Injustice System” on Grand Theft Auto IV.
 Lou: One of the guys who works for that company, and was in charge of the music, wanted to make it an authentic mid-80’s New York City. And of course they had the mid-80’s hip hop. But you can’t talk about the ‘80s in New York without New York hardcore. The director of the video game was like “Well, you live through it, you choose the bands.” He did a really great favor for all of those bands, because it’s another way to expose your music. I thought it was really cool that they kept authentic by putting some New York hardcore in there. We kind of wanted to re-record the song, but they wanted the one we did in the ‘80s. We’re not embarrassed by those songs, but I think the performances could be a lot better since we know more of what we’re doing now. Back then we were just going into the studio for the first time.
xFiruath: What is your tour schedule looking like to support the new album?
 Lou: We’re doing a couple of shows. We’ve got our record release show on June 11th in New York. After that a bunch of festivals in Europe and I think by early Fall we’ll do a full U.S. tour.
xFiruath: You guys had a U.K. tour with AFI, which seems like an odd combination as they really aren’t the same style of music as Sick Of It All. How did that tour go?
 Lou: That was great. We’ve been friends with them for decades. When they started out they were like a California hardcore band. They were more on the punk side that was faster and aggressive and they’ve progressed into what they are now. Even when they were changing we were still friends with them and we took them out on the road. They really appreciated that and they just returned the favor. They wanted to show these kids another side of their influences. We were lucky enough that they still respect us and love our music. Playing for their audience was great because it’s a totally different audience. Out in Europe they still have a large punk following, which surprised me, so it wasn’t that big of a stretch. We got to play for some really young kids. I think in Scotland the age group was like 13 to 29. These 13 year old kids who had never seen hardcore before were just blown away we came on. It was fun.
xFiruath: One more quick tour question here. I saw that you had a South American tour lined up with Terror that got canceled. What happened with that?
 Lou: Me and my wife are having our first baby, any week now. Instead of doing a full tour in the summer in South America, which would be about two and a half weeks, we’ve postponed it to early next year so I can spend more time at home with the family. Instead of that we’re doing just two more shows in Europe. I thought it was funny that I got an email from some guy in South America saying that “I guess you’re going for the big money in Europe.” I’m laughing because we’re doing two shows. If we played a tour of South America we’d make a hell of a lot more money. This is just so I can spend time with my newborn daughter. That’s the only reason. Terror are friends of ours so I’m sorry we can’t do it with, but I think H20 is going to do it with Terror now through South America. I think when we go, it looks like it’s going to be us and Comeback Kid.
xFiruath: You’ve been to quite a few different countries touring. Is there anywhere you haven’t gone yet that you’d like to hit?
 Lou: We had to cancel a tour of Korea about five years ago and we’ve never gone to there. China has also been asking us to come, so China and the Philippines and places like that. We’ve gone through Eastern Europe, which was amazing and we have to get back to them. There’s three places I’d really like to go we haven’t played, which is Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska. They are closer to home, so it’s like we can go halfway around the world but we can’t go to Hawaii for some reason. I’d love to play Alaska.
xFiruath: What have you been rocking to lately?

 Lou: A whole bunch of stuff. There’s a band from New York called Tombs. I like that new album “Winter Hours.” I’ve been playing that a lot in my car. It’s really heavy, it’s Helmet meets Neurosis kind of stuff. I like the new Cancer Bats. I’ve been listening to Maximum Penalty a lot. Believe it or not I still like metal and I love Manowar.
xFiruath: Hey there’s nothing wrong with that. Everybody needs a little Manowar every now and again. Any parting words about the new album?
 Lou: We’re just hoping people like it. We are really happy with it, sound-wise and song-wise. We’re hoping people pick up on it.

The Agoraphobic Nosebleed With Jay

Thanks for being down to do an interview, dude! I’m glad I caught that particular tweet. Your Twitter account is a constant source of hilarity, hostility, and opinions, and you’re clearly unafraid to say exactly what you’re thinking. How did you get hooked on Twitter? Who are your favorite users to talk to and berate?

Relapse sort of nudged us to start personally updating all these different kinds of social platforms, and for me, Twitter was the most doable of the lot — short and fast, just like old ANB. When I started, it was sort of an experiment in social suicide,  but now I just soap box the piss out of everything on there. I think like only 1% of the people who use Twitter use it to it’s full potential. My favorite Twat Swappers are probably Vice Magazine,Low Card Skate MagGary Busey, andHubba Wheels for their “Good Morning Wood!” posts.
How has social networking changed the band-fan relationship?
It’s more like anti-social networking — bands seem guarded about sharing up anything accept product and event-related shit. There is nothing personal getting aired out, and bands these days and are short on expressing their opinions about anything, It’s just new avenues for promotion for them. I really don’t go on the internet to “socialize,” but I do share my thoughts on shit and appreciate the feedback I get. You would sort of figure this would be a way for bands to express themselves, get their message across etc. It used to be that at least some bands would form around a idea but these days it’s all big riff, little thought. If people like Kurt Brecht of DRI, Ray Cappo of Youth of Today, Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, etc., had these kind of options to self-publish back in their salad days, I think they would have been going the fuck off with it!
You’ve recently started waxing philosophical upon the inherent shittiness of deathcore. Kids today, man. What was the stupid frat dude metal/hardcore equivalent of deathcore when you were growing up?
Yeah, I was sort of schooled on the whole “deathcore” thing a few weeks ago by some people and it seems pretty corny. If the kids are into it, whatever, I guess. I don’t get the “frat dude” reference unless frat dudes are rocking Zac Efron haircuts and skinny jeans these days. When I was a teenager, the only scene I was really into/ hows I ever went to where hardcore shows, and at the time, we used to relentlessly shit on and dis bands that had those same chud, chud, chud mosh parts that these bands seem to be writing around. I miss when hardcore bands sounded like hardcore bands and not like shitty over-produced metal bands. At least somebody came up with a shitty name for it.
You’ve also been talking about the decline of the music industry, and have mentioned how you empathize with the record labels, as well as being clearly on top of your shit when it comes to digital distribution issues, copyrights, and the business at large. Do you see any hope for the music business? In five years, will CDs be gone and labels defunct, or will some new entity have risen to sell music, rip off bands, and promote records?
CDs are very quickly becoming a novelty item, like vinyl and record labels  – [they] eventually are all going to go the way of the wooly mammoth and become extinct. Some of the bigger labels I could see possibly becoming A&R firms for band /artists in the future, but for the time being, I think bands need to be very careful of labels offering to post their music on iTunes. A label has no manufacturing costs with digital distribution and isn’t creating or distributing a product for you, so why should they get any piece of that action when you can publish your own shit on iTunes for next to nothing? You don’t want, down the road, to have some has been person/label disappear from your life and just be collecting royalties from iTunes on your work.
I do empathize with the labels to a point, because a lot of them do work very, very hard, but a lot of what’s happening has less to do with piracy and more to do with their failure to adapt and unwillingness to change. Their are a lot of 30 to 40+ year old record collector snobs running these larger labels, with outdated tastes in music, trying to sell music that other 30 to 40+ year olds might have liked or bought back in the day, before they had kids and a mortgage they’re struggling to pay.
They are putting metal before making money and are completely ignoring the biggest demographic for music sales: kids and early 20 somethings. If your trying to run a serious business that has any sort of hope of succeeding, you can’t afford to not pay attention to what they are listening to or worrying about being a sell out.
When did metal become “safe?” Do you personally feel there are any bands out there still pushing the envelope and putting their money where their mouths are?
Metal has always been a sheep in wolves clothing. You can write songs about depraved shit and put as many skulls, gutted women, etc. on your record sleeve as you want, but metal is just theater. When I had made the comment about metal being “safe,” I was talking about how, out of [all] music trends, metal has had the least negative social impact. It’s not like hip-hop — it has no hardcore, widespread negative influence on popular culture — it’s not really music people party to, it never really has attracted massive drug use, women, tragedy. Financial woes of failed musicians aside, The Doors, The Beatles, The Dead, Pink Floyed and Phish have each ruined more peoples’ lives than every facet of metal combined.
“Expecting women not to fuck around is like asking them not to eat or shit anymore; you will never be everything to a women — get over it!” might be my favorite of your tweets (as a lady who thoroughly agrees with your assessment!). The lyrics in ANB could be construed as being heavily misogynistic, but you personally seem to be quite the opposite, and one of the members, Kat Katz, is, in fact, female. I think the inclusion of a female voice makes the bizarre offensiveness of the words even more powerful, and provides a nice little mindfuck for people with notions of what women “should” be like. Is there a feminist message lurking beneath ANB’s surface?
It’s always been insecure men, not women, that have slammed me a misogynist. They think women are something they need to champion, protect and modify their behavior for in order to score/keep. It’s funny, because a lot of these same idiots are the jealous, controlling ones who really resent/hate and don’t trust women. Most of these guys can’t even handle the idea of their girl masturbating or thinking about other men, never mind being cool with them fucking other people. All the women I know are into men being men and are big on honesty. Women don’t trust “nice” guys for good reason — when they can’t keep up the nice guy act they turn mute and get all hurt about them talking to other people. I like me a bad bitch and I’m cool with a women in a relationship talking to and fuckin’ whoever they want. I’m really into women being women and just doing their thing and if I love somebody, I love them for the right reasons. I love them for who they are.
That said — I can’t stand all this phony psycho bitchkiller shit that’s out there. If you come across something in our lyrics that seems to lean that way, it’s just me making satire of the emo-tormented, hurt pussy vocals these bands just love to indulge. I mean, describing a break-up with a girl like it’s the fuckin’ apocalypse… “You were my heaven ablaze… blah, blah, blah, bullshit, bullshit, waste of time, bullshit”…  is weak. These same broken-hearted bands write about MURDERING women all the time and never get called out as a misogynist because it’s written all faggy and shit, but because I’m a white dude and use the word “bitch” — it’s over.
Agorapocalypse was shockingly listenable, in that you guys came up with recognizable songs with structure, as opposed to your trademark schizogrindmindfuck approach of the past releases. What brought about this change? Should we expect to see a kinder, gentler, slower AnB from now on, or was this record merely a deviation from deviance?
I wasn’t really that involved withAgorapocalypse, aside from the lyrics and pre and post production of the record. I know when we did the record, the whole retro-thrash thing was happening, and we wanted to explore what a post-thrash sound could be. On the Apartment 213 split, we went for a post-power violence sound.
I don’t think anybody should expect anything from us, we do what ever the fuck we want. I know Scott [Hull], as a producer, loves to single-handedly put other bands to shame and just slam the fuckin’ door closed on whole genres of shit. Though I’m not always on the same page with everything he wants to do, I love that attitude, and it’s a total honor to be working with him still.
The lyrics on this record (as well as the other ones, really) are pretty ridiculously fucked up. There is a lot of violent, pornographic imagery, which begs the question: What kind of porn are you into? What are your favorite sites to patronize for inspiration?
I ain’t into porn –I like to fuck, and if I want to jerk off, I’ll do it with or on a woman. My computer and I don’t have that kind of relationship.
After all these years, why does ANB still use a drum machine instead of a human drummer?
Drummers are a fuckin’ pain in the ass, you got to “rehearse” with them, set up all that shit… fuck that. Plus, all the decent drummers are in, like, six bands. I ain’t even trying to give the illusion that this is a “band” — the process for us is more akin to how hip-hop is produced, and I like it that way.
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this one, but I’ve gotta ask –- are ANB going to play live anytime soon? If so, when? If not, why the hell not?
I personally am not a “performance” artist, I can not just manifest staged rage and act all aggro just because it’s go time — I’m not that theatrical or dramatic of a person. If the rest of them for some reason need the ego boost, they can go ahead [and perform live]. I don’t really care.
What are you working on right now? I know you’ve got a Despise You/ANB split happening, splits with Agents of Satan, with Lack of Interest, with Thrones…what else is in the pipeline, with ANB and on your own?
Well, I’ve been doing a lot of video stuff of late, editing skate videos, etc. I’m not really into “music videos,” but I do this blog for Bastard Noise called “Annex One” that has tons of video content I created for it, and is something I’d like to start doing for ANB’s new website. I also just recently did a fifteen minute long analog noise piece for the new Noisear record that’s coming out on Relapse. My buddy Pete Benumb did some spoken word stuff over part of it, sounds pretty rad.
Probably the soonest new release you’ll see from ANB is our split 5″ with ANS on Tankcrimes. Both bands cover songs by Boston Skatecore legends Gang Green — below is a promo I did for Tankcrimes for the release. It’s a remix of a video that Ryan Sinz of Dios Mio cut to our cover of “Alcohol.” The footage is of ANS and Cross Examination doing a trans-tour van beer bong at like 90 mph! It brings drinking and driving to a whole new level — just watch the videoell me about the Despise You split in particular. When did you guys start working on this? What does your side of the split sound like? Will you guys ever play a show together and play the split live? Because that would be amazing.
Sadly, we started working on this record prior to Agorapocalyse, it just took us forever to get back on track to finish it. Our side of the record is sort of all over the map, and the finished songs sound so different now from what I originally tracked over. The version I’ve been listening to for months is raw and pissed, sounding sort of like that Slayer album Undisputed Attitude, where they do all those old punk and hardcore songs. In the finished version some of that still comes through, but it’s more produced and built up like our material onAgorapocalypse — with Kat and Rich’s vocals added, layered in spots, mad guitar solos — it sounds pretty nuts! Massive! Scott is extremely, extremely happy with how it came out.
The Despise You material on the split is probably some of the most important hardcore that’s been written/recorded in the last ten years. I have listened to their half of the record everyday since I first got the material from them a couple months ago and it just owns — it fuckin’ owns!
Who are the dudes on the cover?
The photo is from Joe Rodriguez’sGang Life In East LA. It’s a photo that was taken seconds after a drive-by shooting in Boyle Heights circa 1993. Chris Elder and I wanted this to be in every way a urban hardcore record, the ANB material unfortunately steered away from sounding the part but our lyrics definitely are still on point.
What’s up with this 4-way simultaneous album release you guys are doing for “the next AnB album?” Is it a KISS-style solo album bonanza, or just a cool way to tie in upcoming releases from the three members? What will your joint with Hull be like?
We kind of want ANB to sound like twelve different bands. People hate that shit, but whatever. Scott and I wanted to do a classic sounding Cali punk-hardcore record sort of in the style of Bl’ast and Black Flag, but that really ain’t Rich and Kat’s bag. Rich is a total 80′s Hesher and Kat’s all gloom & doom. Scott had the idea on each of us working with him on our own record. I was all about it, because I really do miss working just with him on shit and I haven’t really been able to since Honkey Reduction. I’m pretty sure Rich could use a break from dealing with me also — he and I don’t really see eye to eye on much, we are about as different as two people could be.
Any parting words or apocalyptic messages you’d like to share?
“If the shoe fits slam it up someone’s ass,” hahaha… no, I think I’ve said plenty. The trolls I’m sure are going to have a fuckin’ field day with this.