Tuesday, 29 April 2014



Voivod mean a lot to many of us. In my case, they were one of my early pathways into metal. 
Back then no-one sounded even remotely like them. They had something very familiar (the punk ethos) and (naturally) alien that seemed to go right under my skin... I had been playing their first four albums religiously, but when Nothingface was released they shot at the very top of my personal Olympus. My Voivodian Love felt powerful but at the same time very fragile: I felt I had to protect it. That included (oh, the madness!) turning down interview chances simply for fear of being "disappointed" or worse still, falling hopelessly in love with one of them! I kept hearing how nice and down to earth they were, and I was determined that it should stay that way... Seeing them live was always torture & delight at once! Well now I can revela that Away, with his dreamy and troubled air, was always the one I wanted to talk to really badly: I felt he knew something dark and secret that also lurked in my early childhood's subconscious... Having grown up a little since, these days I am no longer afraid of damaging my love for music as, by now, I know that it will stay with me forever. So Roadburn 2012 definitely meant coming home for me: Away was finally all mine for an hour and a half!

It must have been hectic for you in the last few days, Michel, how are you feeling?

Well for the very first time since we got here I was able to have some extra sleep. For the first two days I had to do our sound-check in the morning, open my art exhibition and do some interviews. The other guys were going back to the hotel to sleep but I couldn’t do that… So yesterday when we started the show I felt really little tired but I had enough adrenaline to keep me going. It was a hard show to bring home, you know, playing fast and complicated early material and the Jack Luminous song: I was really stressed out, we all where, but it went really well and that gave me a big boost of energy.

You strike me as a very laid-back person: it is pretty unusual for chilled people to pick up the drums, how did it happen?

Like with so many other bands, I met some friends and we thought of putting a band together; there was already who could play the guitar and the bass so I was left with no choice… I started banging on the drums and loved it so I never stopped!

Don’t you think that the drums bring us the ancestral, primitive side that still lives inside us?...

Totally!!! I can easily imagine our ancestors sitting entranced around a fire while someone is beating rhythmically on something… And you know, if you are a stressed kind of person with some forms of anxiety, playing the drums makes it all come out, so once you are done you can be laid back again. Yes, it’s something that helps me a lot when I feel anxious.

I have noticed that the very moment you sit behind the drums you switch on and enter the zone immediately…

Yes, nowadays I truly feel in my element when I sit behind the drums: as soon as I feel the cymbals and touch the kit I am in a dimension where I can be completely free. It is an instant switch that is one hundred per cent pure instinct, and it is no coincidence that many parts of our songs are tribal if you see it like that.

So it’s like with some types of meditation: something visual triggers the mind to enter instantly in another dimension…

Exactly like that! I often compare playing drums to meditation because many people ask me how is it possible that after an hour or an hour-and-a-half long thrash metal show I do not look tired or even sweaty in any way? Well it’s because my body does really shift into another dimension! I don’t even get exhausted that much because there is a way to “float” over things…

Have you ever had an out-of-body experience?

No, I have never experienced anything like that. I do not meditate and I am not thirsty about all that kind of psychic experimentation like remote viewing and so on, but I do believe that art and music do channel us into something else. I truly believe that everything in the universe is interconnected, that there is an inter-dimensional path that can connect us to places that are not actually tangible for us, and what I do somehow leads me to it.

I often feel that art is a portal towards something else: that sensation is very strong when what you began to create eventually becomes something else altogether, something with its own life!

Yes, completely!!! If I were to try to discover these dimensions I would probably use ancestral methods like potions or “magic” herbs, because I am not into the use of heavy drugs. You can reach some higher states of mind by the use of LSD but after a year or two you pay the price, like Syd Barret did, so that’s why I do not try to discover what’s out there by the drugs method.

So your love for sci-fi stems from an interest in the new sciences, like quantum physics?

Oh yes! I am not trained in art at all; I have a purely scientific background and at university I studied physics. My main goal was to become a physicist because I truly wanted to find a way to understand all these ideas that I had about the universe since I was a kid. Then the first Voivod album came out though, I understood that I could be a professional musician so I left the academic world. I actually got my nickname Away from the times when I was so busy with university that I was always really late for rehearsals: it came a point when I had to chose between my studies and the band… 1994 was a crazy year for me because I had my lessons in the day and rehearsals every night!

Glad you eventually chose Voivod! Are you excited about the outcome of the CERN experiments in Geneva?

In Dimension Hatröss I describe a micro big-bang between particles where the Voivod goes into: it is exactly the same thing… In the 80s I was buying scientific magazines where there were articles on this gigantic particle accelerator that was being built in the next 20 years, so I made a concept album out of that incredible notion. The next thing we know, it’s all happening right now!

[b]It was kind of exciting when they initially thought that the neutrinos were going faster than light-speed because I kind of expect that Einstein’s ideas will progress into something new. These are indeed exciting times! I still religiously buy Discovery magazine…

Do you feel that science is the only way towards knowledge?

No I don’t… The scientific community is against magic, mythology and so on but I have read books by people who are primarily into magic which gave me deeper insights than science. Well, it’s hard for me to say because I am such a fan of science…

My view is that they complement one another other somehow…

Yeah I think so… It’s like when in 1996 we saw the orbs in the sky in Buffalo: that was a phenomenon related to U.F.O. mythology, but if the scientific community were to do more about understanding such phenomena we could really have a more balanced view in-between myth and science.

Our understanding of the universe and how it works is still rather basic.

And yet many thousands of years ago people seemed to know stuff like constellations and the movements of the planets without the aid of modern instrumentation… Incredible!

We are funny people: we are capable of the most barbaric acts and yet we do wonderful things too!

Well, the barbaric side of us humans makes me ashamed of belonging to this race: I have real trouble with certain periods of our history, like the Inquisition and all the genocides…

The genocide of the American Indians was something appalling, and it pains me that people ignore it completely… 

These kinds of things are hidden away. In America what is left of the indigenous inhabitants is constraint in areas where you just don’t see them, but if you happen to just go through the Indian reserves it’s really really bad… What they have to deal with daily is unbelievable… People just do not see that, only perhaps in big cities where you see them sleeping rough on the pavements.

Is it true that the French Canadians sided with the indigenous populations during the war against the English?

Actually some Indians sided with the English and some with the French because they were long-time enemies and had been at war between themselves for many thousands of years prior to the arrival of the westerners. But the French speaking people of Quebec right now cannot connect at all with the rest of Canada… You see, in the last couple of years there has been a conservative government that is a replica of the old Bush one: all funding for art has been cut, they refused to sign the Kyoto agreement and all they focus on is selling oil abroad. Right now they are going through a big scandal because of fraud at the elections… For many years Quebec has been trying to separate itself from Canada: we had two referendums which did not work out and at the moment there is a resurgence of the separatist movement because everybody is really fed up.

Do you think Quebec will manage to obtain full independence?

It’s hard to say because whilst people say that the new generation is really active thanks to the internet and the social media, so it’s easy for them to organize a prompt manifestation in the main square, at the same time they seem far too interested in their iPhones and shit like that to truly, deeply care… They are stuck right in the middle of the consumerist game: on one side they have wonderful tools to organize themselves, on the other they do not seem to be ready to be really involved on a personal level. The ones who are truly fighting are the old guard, so if they could find a way to combine their passion with the younger generation’s skill in using technology, they could succeed. Personally, I was not a separatist before, but the new developments made me change my mind…

We are both huge punk fans, and it’s impossible not to relate to the Occupy movement. What I find incredible is the lack of awareness in most people: have we grown up with too much of everything to even begin to care?

It’s hard to say but, without going into these conspirationist theories, I think there is a mass brainwashing going on. As I said before, on one hand it’s great that people have all these modern tools and technology, but they seem to have far too many distractions to really be able to stop and truly think with their own brains. What was important in the 80s, when we discovered bands like Crass and so on, is that everything was done by mail, and that meant a lot of personal involvement and time spent on what you truly deemed as important… Back then there was a big preoccupation about nuclear war, but after a while people seemed to forget about it, as if all the nuclear weapons had suddenly gone away! But the interest faded away and I remember doing interviews in the 90s saying that there could still be wars and people reacted as if I were so out-dated, as if I were out of fashion or something! I was saying, look, the weapons are still there, in fact are even more lethal: they are laser-guided and soon there will be robots involved (today’s drones)… It’s only in the last few years, with the supposed threat from Iran and North Korea, that people have become a little bit more aware. So for a long while people stopped putting together anti-war movements like we saw in the 60s with the hippy generation and in the 80s with crust punk.

Did you ever visit the Crass community? They changed my outlook on life! I think it is really important that their legacy is brought forth: I am so happy that you brought Doom to Roadburn!

Crass changed my life too, but sadly I never met them… When I started to tour in the mid 80s the only access I had for this kind of alternative music were the counter-cultural libraries in London where I could find these rare publications, and that’s how I found out about the movement. Today it’s really easy to find information online so… sure, there is a community out there who is involved, but “online”, you know?... To be honest I am not involved enough to know whether there are new bands carrying on that ethos; I am still pretty much into the old guard, although there were some bands in the 90s who were quite good, like Tragedy for example. I am sure there are still bands out there actively promoting the DIY philosophy and pacifism…

Did you get to see Doom last night?

I was never going to miss them! I invited them personally - as Voivod are curators for this year’s Roadburn - but we had already played together at Maryland festival last year and they were my absolute highlight of the event! I called Walter and said “You’ve got to get them on the bill!” The guys in Doom are so honest, humble and nice, and to me they are the real deal: this is what I want to hear and see; the logo, the look, everything! Naturally now I want to play with them in London: Voivod and Doom together would be just perfect… (And sure it happened!) We invited also Discharge, Broken Bones and Amebix, but only Doom could make it in the end. 

Did you hear when Doom said during the concert “Stop smoking, it only kills you: don’t fall into that trap!” Who says these things these days? It just came from the heart… 

Yeah, that’s why I love them so much, they are so honest and real. I don’t think I have met anyone like them, you know?... 

And that’s why people love Voivod so much: we can feel the honesty and the nice vibes…

Well, we were always true, we were always humble… Many people over the years have said to us that we would never get anywhere by being “nice”, that we needed to have more attitude. We never cared about that!

Who told you that, the labels? 

Labels and other musicians: people who think that only by being a jerk you become “famous”.

Well you were never “rockstars”… It is the right moment to mention Piggy. Last night I called home briefly: that’s the only use I make of my mobile phone, otherwise it stays shut and forgotten in a corner because not only do I dislike the rat-race for the newest model but I am aware of the radiations that it emanates… No wonder cancer is on the increase!

Oh yes, I must be one of the 5 people in the world who does not own a cell phone… I don’t need to live with another phone ringing in my pocket, if people need to speak to me they can call me at home and if it is important they will leave a message. I am really afraid of cancer… In Canada there are no regulations for antennas for wi-fi signals, so in Montreal you can find one on top of every church, which is pretty much on every street corner, since Quebec was very Catholic! That’s way too much… We are bombarded with invisible waves that go right through our body and there’s nothing we can do. That really freaks me out!!!

So you live in the city, do you?

Right downtown… I am definitely a city person. I come from a very desolated place 300 miles from Montreal, a grey industrial place. All I could see from my window was factories and that had a strong impact on my art. So I always dreamt of moving out of there to the big city. Once I did that I never wanted to go back to the rural environment. I am really happy to live right downtown on top of the subway station. Montreal is very cold during the winter season, so we live pretty much in a subterranean version of the city where we have everything, shopping malls, theatres, all connected by tunnels, so I can go to the cinema in my t-shirt even when outside is below zero! I think it’s the biggest underground city in the world…

You could live all your life without catching a sunray if you wished to!

If I wanted to, yes. It would be probably not too good for my health but…

No vitamin D!

Ah, but the sun is really bad for the skin right now, with the big solar flares… In 1989 a big solar flare hit Quebec and the magnetic overcharge caused a huge black out. Today we are more prepared for these events… We are expecting more and more to come, but we are more equipped than before.

There was a big one a couple of weeks ago but nothing bad happened…

Yeah, all the systems we have now are more resistant. You know, we had the northern lights up there where I lived as a kid. I remember the first time I saw them I got really scared as I had no idea of what was going on… My parents gave me the scientific explanation for the phenomenon, the magnetic winds from the sun interacting with the magnetic protective layer of the north pole. I sort of understood but it really scared me so I began to look at the sun and the environment around me as something far too powerful and unpredictable…

Unsurprisingly, the sense of vulnerability that emanates from you art is incredibly intense and touching: the environment where you lived as a young child affected you deeply.

That’s why there are many little characters against very big elements. My experiences with a hostile surrounding started as early as 3 or 4 years old. From my window all I could see was a factory so I thought that beyond that the world actually ended. As I grew up a little – I must have been 4 - and could reach the window slightly more easily - I noticed that there was a train track and trains were going back and forth, so I thought “wow there must be something else behind the factory”, so one day I sneaked out to see what was out there. I tried to reach the factory but there was a dead end street where I was suddenly attacked by this seven-year-old with a razor blade: that was my very first encounter with the real world. A year later I gave it another go, and walked towards that dead end street. I saw a bunch of stray dogs and kids having a fight and one of them chased me and cut me again with a razor blade… The next thing I knew, my family told me we were moving right at the very end of that cul de sac! I was so scared that I didn’t get out of the new house for a year, so when I finally did, a kid saw me and yelled “come and play!” so I reluctantly walked towards him. There were empty sheds all around and suddenly a group of kids run out of them to attack me: it was a trap! I turned back and started to run towards home but I didn’t look when crossing the street so a car hit me. It was really bad, I went to hospital and it took me about 6 years to recover from the incident and the psychological implications of all those “adventures”. It wasn’t until I was 12 that my fear of blades and all sharp objects, and fear of cars and all types of machinery, became kind of manageable. I got over all that by drawing and illustrating my nightmares. You see, the factory noises also concurred in making me very anxious and I had bad dreams all the time. When I was waking up I would draw what I dreamt, so the Voivod concept came to light: every noise corresponded to a character, so all the voivodian mythology was all there. I knew all the noises coming from inside the factory by heart: I was always paying attention for a new one to appear and I would imagine that some sort of mechanical snake was on the lurch, and so on… This is pretty much how it all came about, as big therapy-process.

You have to think about making a film out of this story, it would be amazing… an illustration film!

Hehe yeah, maybe… This was just the short version… There was a lot of bad stuff going on in that period, but all those little characters were born…

Were your parents aware of all your fears and so on?…

No… My parents were very loving but they both worked at the factory and they were never there. For dinner we were having frozen food and we pretty much fended for ourselves.

So you had brothers and sisters in the house with you? 

Yes, I had an older sister and two younger brothers.

I was an only child and was very lonely because both my parents worked. Actually Mom worked from home giving private tuition to students all afternoon in the kitchen, but I was not allowed in there for hours on end, and sometimes I was very scared on my own…

Aaaw, me too! I was not just scared of the outside but also of the inside of the house as well. I remember that when we first moved to the new house at the end of the road, I stopped outside – I was only 5 – and thought that there was something not right about it… I thought there were visitations, nothing negative or aggressive, but I could feel a presence and it real scared me. There were people who had lived in that house for a long time before us and they actually died there…

Do you think we can leave a sort of energy imprint behind?

Well, if I want to be really logical about it, I could say that it’s perhaps an interdimensional thing, but perhaps it could be that the energy is looking for a body to enter; I really don’t know, I should read more about this subject… But I am a strong believer in multi-dimensions and I can explain a lot of phenomena like that.

I also had a lot of “experiences” as a child and they carried on ‘til I was a teenager; as I grew older they seem to become more sporadic. Do you think that when we are younger we are more open, more perceptive?

I am not sure, all I know is that my experiences slowly faded away… I guess a lot of people would say that it is just imagination, but some of the stuff was so intense… The earliest memory I have was when I was 3 and it was something very strong and very real. I feel very awkward about these recollections, which are still so vivid in my mind, because that’s when people can say “this guy is a little strange”, if you know what I mean… But with hindsight, especially now that I see my flying saucers on big banners (the huge Roadburn 2012 banners all over the city of Tilburg)… sometimes I think that some people could be… more receptive… and… maybe there is a message to be delivered that most people cannot hear but we could… because we are a little bit different… I was already talking about psychic entities when I was a kid… you see where this is going… (he looks a little hesitant)

We can omit this from the interview if you want…

No, that’s fine. I would not go as far as describing things in detail unless the recorder was off, but the point is that… sometimes I believe that everything I talked about in the Voivod concept is a message from somebody else. It is hard to explain, but it doesn’t feel as if it came from me. I know it is not something I can explain in logical terms, and that’s why I am so reluctant to speak about these things. I have already told you much more than I usually say, I don’t want that people thought “oh no, Away has lost it!”…

Well you are in good company: I am sure that when I (rarely) talk about my own experiences most people think I’m mad haha!

Yeah, I’ve had that a lot… Well at least you won’t think I’m nuts haha!!! But at the same time I have to let these things out into the world somehow, so I try to do it subtly with my artwork. If people really look closely they will be able to see that there is a message behind it all. The medium is quite mundane, if you know what I mean, but there is a lot of mythology and symbolism in there. I was raised with Heavy Metal magazine and there were a lot of cartoons in it, which I loved: at 13 I really wanted to become an artist for that publication and I studied the work of the various artists who appeared on it.

Do you still paint?

No, the first 4 Voivod album covers are the only paintings I ever did. Then I jumped onto computer graphics right away because I was not trained in art and it would take me months to do one painting… After Dimension Hatröss I bought a computer to accelerate the process. I do a lot of hand-drawing during the tours though, while at home I draw digitally with my graphic tablet.

Shall we talk about music? Tonight I am really looking forward to a Finnish act called Oranssi Pazuzu: they are a clever, down-to-earth bunch with a strong sci-fi theme in their music, which is very psychedelic, progressive over a very strong black metal edge. It’s really great stuff, you should check them out!

Yeah, thanks, I will…(his big dark eyes light up)

Pink Floyd are one of my earliest influences, so when you guys did the cover of “Astronomy Domine” on Nothingface I thought wow, they are my spiritual brothers: they are into Crass AND Pink Floyd!

Haha, yes, we also believe in brotherhood within music… I was a big fan of Syd Barret when I was young and Piggy loved David Gilmore, so we decided to do a track from Ummagumma where Gilmore was playing, so it was like paying homage to both at once. 

Ummagumma is my favorite album by Floyd, which is yours?

Mine is Animals because it had a factory on the cover, so I would listen to it whilst looking at the factory from my window and think: “One day I will be out of here!” Just imagine, today as we were setting up Animals was playing, and it is always a very special emotion for me… I carried on listening to them also when I was in high school, when punk had exploded and I was into it too, but a lot of people at the time had a real problem with that: “either you are a punk or a hippy!” and I was like “no way!”

Well most of Crass founder members came from a hippy background…


That leads me to the next question: are you familiar with the avant-garde metal genre? To me the adjective “avant-garde” refers to open-mindedness and freedom of expression in searching for something off the beaten path, and somehow I cannot use it to define a specific niche genre. What do you think?

With Voivod this has been an issue because there has always been someone saying “why are you doing prog rock” or “why are your vocals not more like that or the other?”… Music should be about what you feel like doing without limitations. Avant-garde metal for me could be anything, like having drone mixed in with more classical metal styles and so on… Actually it is pretty much what Roadburn is about!

Are you familiar with US black metal acts like Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room?

We invited Wolves in the Throne Room to play here, they are really good. Actually it’s funny you mention Agalloch: I saw the name on the bill yesterday and it really struck me, so I wanted to see them but in the end I could not. [b](Well John Haughm was there for Voivod, right under the stage and as excited as a kid! – werent’ we all J)[/b] But I shall pay attention to them, it is a very beautiful name: the name is very important for a band as makes you want to hear their music. Oh, we toured with Nachtmystium in 2010 and I really liked them…

So have you been following black metal and its evolution throughout the years?

Yes I have. I like Darkthrone because they had a crust punk influence, at least as far as music goes… I can relate more to the first wave of black metal but I in the second era I liked Mayhem and I listened to the more symphonic stuff like Dimmu Borgir. But you know, everything took me back to Bathory and I kind of preferred them. To be honest my first reaction to the stuff that was going on in Norway, with the murders and the heavy drugs, wasn’t good… I truly disliked the neo-nazi Satanist stuff, besides, when we played in Norway in the early 90s some friend of ours from Sweden told us that they could not play there for fear of being killed: the band was actually surrounded by black metal kids who threw stones at their tour bus… I thought that was awful and initially it really turned me off the whole scene. But I know that Voivod influenced Norwegian black metal, which is a very strange thing: we played Hole in the Sky two years ago, and all the black metal bands were all saying how much they liked Angel Rat! Of all our albums that is probably the one I would have thought they might not dig, but on the other hand, it’s moody and dark… Angel Rat has become slowly a big favorite for many people.

When it came out it was not well received because everybody expected Nothingface II… Why the change and was it conscious?

Yes, Nothingface was very popular in the underground, so people were disappointed by Angel Rat. It was actually the product of a conscious decision… In fact yesterday’s gig, during which we played our earlier and most complicated stuff, made me think back at that period. Our music had become so complex that we were spending most of our time onstage working out the notes, being really focused not to make mistakes and having less interaction with the crowd, less eye contact. So after we toured with Soundgarden in 1990, exactly when people looked for the more technical stuff from us, we realized that we were missing out big time: while we were concentrated on our instruments, Soundgarden were jumping in the crowd and around the stage… So we thought, maybe it’s time to go back to the time when we did not have all these time changes, and Angel Rat was the result of that. Also, we thought of making it more accessible as MCA was throwing a lot of money into the band and we thought we might get the big break after selling 300.000 copies with Nothingface: we felt the pressure of not disappointing those who supported us, and at the same time we did not want to be thrown out by the label. We worked really hard at Angel Rat, but in the end it was still too weird and it sold half of what Nothingface did. We kind of knew that we had missed our chance, but we also realized that it was what we were able to do, so that was the beginning of our “strange” period. In the 80s Voivod felt really strong and positive but in the 90s it all crumbled and it was never the same… I shouldn’t really say that because I really love all the Voivod phases, since I have been in all of them, and I love all the different friends who played for Voivod, like Jason Newsted, who is a great friend.

It was a strange time because things seemed to just collapse…

Yes… Of course Nirvana had just come out with Nevermind and that was all that people wanted to hear: for the 80s bands it must have been like for the 50s bands when the Beatles showed up! It was like, shit, how can we compete with that? They had touched a nerve and suddenly there was no interest for our music... Such is the music business: I was not really worried about it because I had my art and my job as a graphic designer.

You mentioned that you wanted to do well because you had a contract with a major…

We did not want to disappoint the trust that people put in us. In fact we left MCA in very good terms. They heard Negatron, which was like a hardcore/metal album, and they said “we love you guys, but we do not know how to market this kind of stuff, so you are free to go”, which was great. We were always very humble and honest with ourselves and the others, and that worked in our favour. Other people it was loads more difficult, like for example my good friend Jess from Carcass: he had a lot of hassle with the major he was signed to, and that really made him angry and frustrated for a long time! Can you imagine no longer being able to use the name of your band?... That was a big lesson for me.

So, as a honest person, how do you interact in a world that is based on business?

In all the years I have been involved I have learned the trade on my own skin, so I can deal with it pretty good BUT I always hire a manager to sort out the various dealings: I could not handle the labels by myself as I know I would start to argue and it would turn out really bad, so I prefer to have a professional manager to take care of all that. 

Some bands prefer to stay small, work with small labels and thrive in their niche so, in your experience, can a really honest person keep his integrity when working with a bigger label or a major?

Yes! Just think of Tool… I would have never believed that Tool could become such a huge band, but they always remained the same nice people. The main thing is to keep your music really original and fresh, that’s the real question: if you succeed in doing that, you will have no problems. My main advice to younger bands is always to avoid being a copycat!

Is popularity something necessary for an artist?

It depends on the person: for some it is food for the ego, for others it’s a good way to make a living; but for the most people I know it is all about spreading your art across… It can get quite frustrating if you don’t get any recognition for what you passionately do, thinking that all your hard work is only appreciated by a small handful of people… On a personal level, I hope to reach as many people as possible and yet I tend not to worry about the financial side of things, but then again I am doing well with my graphic design - I have a lot of requests from bans to do their artwork - so I am able not to rely on music to make ends meet. Ideally, I would have half of the year touring and the other half at home doing art, and that would grant me a pretty good life, but I can understand the hunger that some may have to become popular.

Is the new album ready and are you pleased with it?

We recorded it before we came to Roadburn and we are going to mix it as soon as we go back. I am very pleased with the songs: because we recorded while we were also rehearsing for the Roadburn shows, with a focus on Dimension Hatröss and Jack Luminous, that rubbed off our new material, which has a very modern approach but is also linked to the early era of Voivod. Also, when Blacky came back a couple of years ago, we listened to a lot of thrash metal together and I think you can feel that too. We shall tour in Europe at the end of 2012 and will return in 2013: the new material is just perfect for a live situation; we are very excited about touring with this album!

All photos by Mystery Flame @ Roadburn 2012: UNFORGETTABLE!!!

Monday, 21 April 2014




I felt pretty weird even before the wonderful Terra Tenebrosa exhibition on Friday night and, sure enough, the following morning I woke up shivering and ill. Aware of a new bout of influenza sweeping across the Brabant region, I took a hefty dose of paracetamol, downed a whiskey from the mini bar to warm up and returned to bed. I woke up in the middle of the afternoon feeling better but realizing I had already missed 11 PARANOIAS, Adam Richardson’s new band whilst Ramesses are on hold indefinitely, which pissed me off slightly. I had also missed out on Walter Hoeijmakers' live interview, where he discussed the necessary passion and foresight and inevitable struggles in organizing a yearly event like Roadburn. 
I rushed to catch my Eindhoven-Tilburg train (being located outside Tilburg was not too much of a problem as trains run every 30 minutes and late into the night) to enjoy a very captivating performance from YOB. 
While I must be in a particular mood to appreciate their heavy and hypnotic sound, this year I dug every minute of their set also largely thanks to the splendid visuals by artist Jérôme Siegelaer (pictured below while conducting his show), which transported me into another dimension by focusing on the perpetual motion and strength of wild water

I left for the Green room to catch the last excellent 20 minutes of Bavarian psych-stoners OBELYSKKH raising their hymns to Pan: with a drummer called Steve “The Krusher” Paradise, you really cannot go wrong!

Following on, Chicago's INDIAN destroyed a packed Patronaat with a vehemently intense show of the noisest, loudest sludge one can possibly imagine, which had many fans in rapture. Featuring past and present members of Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium and Wolves in the Throne Room, these is indeed a band with massive attributes.

But it was INTER ARMA that I was eagerly waiting for. They surely enough offered a truly unforgettable aural and visual journey with one of the performances of the festival. Their apocalyptic mixture of styles reached moments of pure catharsis, especially when diving into full-on cosmic black metal, which is where my spiritual home is. The Americans (incidentally, this year there was a particularly hefty presence of excellent Relapse bands) have crafted an intense, gripping individual style: on stage they are simply themselves, totally lost in the eclectic, often epic vortex of their own music, a stunning melting pot of sludge, black metal, post metal and what not, and the cozy Green Room was the perfect stage for such type of fiery, moving shows. A special mention must go to drummer T.J. Childers for an exceptional physical performance both during the blasts and the slower, crushing parts. (Note: I wonder why I never take notes at fests. I know I get irremediably overwhealmed by music, and yet I always think I won't forget something as odd and... memorable, like for example Inter Arma's drummer chucking his sticks to pick up a large tree branch to play the very last note of this supreme gig. But I did - hence this postumous note, for which I have to thank Miss Laverty). Anyway, I hope that the following selection of images I took will give you an idea of how powerful this experience was.

Finnish young trio HORSE LATITUDES closed my day with their fascinating drone/doom driven by yet another eye-catching tribal drummer, also on vocal duties (yey!), supported by two bass players (indeed, no guitars). As you can imagine, they built up a heavy, oppressive set which was gritty, dark, hypnotizing and very successful at bringing their vintage roots very much into the present. They created a great ambience in the Green Room from the beginning by using a very suggestive image of an unspoiled pine forest surrounding a lake as backdrop, so this was indeed a very good end to a mammoth Saturday which completely defeated any viral attack by sheer aural bombardment.


Sunday is synonymous with Afterburner, an unmissable event within the festival, especially so this year since it opened with the commemoration of the late SELIM LEMOUCHI. His brave sister Farida was surrounded by 10 skilled musicians, with whom the very talented guitarist and lyricist had recently collaborated, for a stunning and moving performance. Positioned in a circle, as if two complete sets of bands faced one another, SELIM’S ENEMIES summoned his spiritual presence in the middle of the stage. Alongside the wonderful psych rock from “Mens Anumus Corpus”, on the 013 giant screen there appeared the slow-motion sequences of a poignant cleansing ritual filmed by Jérôme Siegelaer where Selim, beautiful and genuine as always, bathed under cascading, freezing cold water.

Selim’s tattooed body emerged from the waterfall with powerful vitality and his face, breathless under the force of the pouring water, at times seemed to move towards his sister, who watched, small and dignified, from below: truly unforgettable ... I cannot even begin to imagine the overwhelming emotions that must have felt Farida, Jérôme and all of Selim’s close friends, gathered for this poignant celebration so soon after he left. I chocked a few times, but eventually I surrendered to the embrace of some of the best music and poignant lyrics written in recent times. At the end of the performance a solar photograph of Selim appeared on the huge screen while an applause that seemed to never end saluted his huge talent and exceptional humanity: you will never be forgotten, sweet brother...

Ferocious Swiss duo BÖLZER brought me back down to earth with a kick in the teeth. Their blackened death metal, utterly primordial and ultra-violent, took me back to the barbaric and unhealthy roots of underground extreme metal, and that felt good. Yet again, a mesmerizing drummer, perpetually engulfed in abyssal dark-blue light, made the show gripping and fun. It was the only time when a few people in the audience attempted at causing a bit of a stir in front of the stage, but it all died down soon. Oddy, this year the crowds were a little less keen to instigate a moshpit (memorable the furious antics at the Black Breath RB gig in 2012) but still ill-mannered enough to steal artifacts from the exhibitions and vandalize the live-work of an artist in residence: most definitely NOT in line with the friendly Roadburn spirit!

Lastly, from the big stage, the dark metal of TRIPTYKON & Tom Gabriel Fischer, playing a mix of golden-oldies and songs from the new album, sounded old and devoid of stimuli to my spoiled ears... I used to blame the larger stage setting for my recurrent lack of interest in big historical bands, but the fact that I loved Voivod to bits in this very venue two years ago, and enjoyed Goblin this year, must mean that my conscience is clear. 

So for me the curtain sadly closed before MORNE got to the stage: Roadburn 2014 was once again a fabulous, surprising and joyful marathon that will keep me charged with positive energy for a long time yet. Definitely until September for Incubate... see you soon Tilburg!