Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I’ll hold off sharing the meat and potatoes of my Montreal trip—the specifics on new Voivod album and my interviews with the band—for now. I'll post a link to the Unrestrained! Web site once my write up is done. What follows are some general observations of the events leading up to the main event.

I arrived on Tuesday evening, and took a cab to the hotel. Adrian from The End Records and U! had set up his PR command post in our room, with receipts, forms, and Blackberry spread out on the desk. Not only was he setting up two days of Voivod listening sessions in Montreal and New York, but The Gathering (another band on The End) are also due shortly in North America, and mini-crises abounded. He came out for something to eat with me, though he had to watch the time carefully. Jason Newsted (who joined Voivod shortly after leaving Metallica) was due at our hotel in a couple hours. I’d never seen the Energizer so nervous or quiet. Jasonic operates on a different plane of fame and fortune than the usual metallers he and I deal with. Adrian wanted damn sure to be there when he arrived.

After dinner I met up with the gang from Toronto, who were noshing at another restaurant a few blocks down Ste. Catherine. I’d talked or otherwise been in touch with both Martin Popoff and Chris Bruni in the past, so it was good to finally meet them in person. Richard from Caustic Truths, Laura from Exclaim and BW&BK’s David Perri were there as well. Their food had just arrived so I sat and had a beer while they noshed. After we’d settled the bill we checked out Archambault Music and the magazine store across from the hotel. I was pleased to finally be able to find an issue of Signal to Noise (Dirty Three on the cover), a magazine that I first read about on Brandon's blog at Ground and Sky a while back.

We split up after that, with Bruni, Richard and I heading to a pub for a few beers. I had a couple pints of Guinness then went back to the hotel where I found a very relieved and chilled-out Adrian. Newsted had arrived and all was good. He and Away (Voivod's drummer) were listening to the final mix of the new album up in his room. Away came down and I shook his hand—I may have even involuntarily bowed a few times—followed by Jasonic a few minutes later. I’d had enough brushes with greatness for an evening, so I went up to my room.

After the complimentary breakfast Wednesday morning (superb overall, though few things are more upsetting than buffet eggs) I went for a walk to scope out the neighbourhood. My West Coast candy-ass nearly froze to death after being out for 90 minutes. I retreated to the hotel, where Bruni and Adrian were about ready to pack up banners and t-shirts for the listening party that afternoon. The venue was the upstairs 200-capacity room at Metropolis, an awesome concert hall on Ste. Catherine. We got a tour of the main floor, which features a 2500-capacity hall, which I can only describe as a cross between Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom and the Orpheum, if you can imagine such a thing. Just a beautiful place. Dream Theater are playing there later this month.

We hung up some Voivod banners, organized a reception table and sorted the commemorative t-shirts by size, and waited for the 30-odd invitees to arrive. Snake was the first band member to show up, followed by Away and Jasonic.

At 2:00 Jason introduced the album on behalf of the band, urging us all to stay quiet for the duration as a mark of respect for Piggy, their guitarist who passed away late last summer. Like I said earlier, I’ll save all the musical details for my upcoming piece for the U! Web site. I will say that the new Voivod album lacks nothing in terms of mystique, atmosphere and surprise.

Adrian organized the post-album interviews for everyone who wanted to talk to the band. I talked to Away first, mainly about how he saw the new album in terms of their past albums. The fanboy in me took over at various points, and we talked about Magma, his artwork, the Voivod character, and my favourite Voivod album, Angel Rat, which I’d conveniently brought a copy of for him to sign. Away’s one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, so amazingly modest and self-effacing. I’m looking forward to arranging a follow-up phone interview with him closer to the album release date (June).

(I actually wish Away had been a little more self-promoting, because on my last afternoon in Montreal I picked up a free local entertainment paper and learned, upon opening it up at the airport, that he had an art show on right then, featuring the original paintings of the first four Voivod album covers. I’m still bummed out about missing that.)

What I remember of my interview with Jason was his incandescent passion for Voivod. He’s the guy who’s going to see Snake and Away through these dark days and make sure nobody forgets about their band. And according to what Away told me, the next couple years will be busy ones. It sounds awful and wrong for me to say this, but it’s going to be a good time to be a Voivod fan. Hang in there, because the band certainly will.

After the event, the Toronto gang got back in the van and headed out. Only Richard was planning to stay on. He and I went out for dinner and compared notes. After a day of being repeatedly knocked on my ass, Richard floored me again by mentioning, of his own accord, the Laser Voivod concept, which is a long-running fantasy my friend Smash and I have nurtured. He had an interesting twist on the idea that I can’t mention here.

On the way back to the hotel, we wandered through the main HMV downtown, where I got a good chuckle out of one of their displays. It was something you’d only see in Quebec—Gentle Giant topping the music DVD chart with their Giant on the Box release.


FredCQ said...

You lucky bastard ;)

I look forward to reading your details about the new album and the interview. All of those guys seem to be really cool. They were always one of the most unique bands in metal and Piggy's guitar style was like no other.

Any idea what the release date is?

This is going to be an awesome year for metal. In may, we have a new Celtic Frost and new Enslaved along with the new Voivod coming out this year.

The Mule said...

Heh-heh, that's the exact thought I had on the plane to Montreal—I am a lucky bastard.

The album's coming out in June. I haven't heard the exact day of release. There's going to be a track available for streaming next week via The End.

It's definitely going to be an excellent year for metal. I hope the new Celtic Frost is worthy of their legacy. Enslaved always deliver, so that's a guaranteed purchase.