Interview with Blacky of VOIVOD (English Translation from French)
by VsGreg, VS-webzine.com
Voivod returns to the European scene for an assortment of festivals with a particular line-up.
With Piggy no longer there, the line-up of the Quebec group is made up of Jean-Yves "Blacky" Theriault, the historic bassist of the group who has returned after 17 years ... the perfect occasion for me to speak with him again ... 10 years after our first interview.
1- It seems that since our previous interview in 1999, you have always closely followed the lives and the news of the group. Did you miss Voivod a lot since your departure in the beginning of the 90's?
Certainly, when you are in a group for 9 years and one day you decide to leave ... at the beginning the ties had all been cut, and out of respect for the other members I decided not to keep much contact, but I followed them from afar.
I think that doing music in front of a big crowd last summer gave me the taste for playing again.
2- The first and only time where the 4 original members of the group had been reunited was June 5, 2002 where you rejoined Snake, Away and Piggy for an autograph session in Montreal which celebrated 20 years of Metal in Quebec. What do you remember about that reunion?
It was Maurice Richard [original Voivod Manager] who organized the session. It was fun, I think in the end it was a pleasant surprise, because Maurice had not warned the other members of Voivod. I did it more for Maurice than for myself, even if I was happy to see my compatriots from the good old days.
3- A few months later, you found yourself on stage for a show with BLACK CLOUD (November 8, 2002 at the Medley in Montreal) with a certain Dan Mongrain at your side in a Quebec All-Star band reviving the thrash classics such as "Tribal Convictions" and "Nuclear War." What did that concert mean to you? Did you want to create a new group after that concert?
Actually, I think that since the autograph session, Maurice really wanted to do another Voivod show, but that never happened…so we decided to do BLACK CLOUD, to celebrate the 20 years anniversary, we decided to create a band of accomplished musicians who had been directly influenced by that time in metal.
But no, I didn't want to do a band in any real sense. Just a short-term project.
4- In August, 2005, Denis "Piggy" D’Amour died. I know you had the opportunity to see him a few days before his death.
Strong ties held you two together during the 80's and you had lost sight of that. Can you say that you miss Piggy today?
In fact I saw him one day before he died, I was in a state of shock. I had had no direct contact with the band, and one day on Voivod.net there was a post that had been removed that said there was some very bad news... I already knew for a few weeks that Piggy had not been well, but like everyone I believed he would pull through. So I called him directly, and his mother answered the telephone, I imagine she had already been at his place for a few days and not in Jonquiere where she lives, a few minutes later I called Michel and we met at the hospital where he died about 36 hours later. It was very sad, one of the most difficult things I have experienced. He was like my brother during the years I was part of the group. For sure, I will always have a place for him in me.
5- What are the things that you learned at his side during the years when you were a part of Voivod?
Everything that is concerned with musical technique, in fact. At the start, he was the person who knew how to bring out my hidden musical talents, he was a very perceptive person who knew what he wanted, he gave me very good advice, I was a keen student with him, and also I must say that in the beginning we were very close.
He was my best friend, later during the "Killing Technology" era, one of our friends from that time said that we were like a two-headed monster. I think he was making reference to the times when we were in composition mode, we were an inseparable duality. And I believe that during this period of Voivod was when we started to do our best work.
6- You continued the homage to Piggy, joining ALCOHOLICA (group of Pierre St-Jean, ex-session bassist for Voivod) with Dan Mongrain on stage in September 2005 for "Tribal Convictions" and joined MARTYR for "Brain Scan" a few months later.
Certainly I was personally very proud of what we had accomplished; even today I am proud of that. How could I malign that.
Also we have to see things the way they are, we were part of a musical movement, so we contributed as the other metal bands of our time did. It's certain that we made a more profound mark in Quebec, but it's all relative.
When someone like Dan tells me that at 12 years old he started to play the guitar and to play Voivod riffs, it's certain that our influence was important in the metal scene. But I think that often there are a lot of things in life that arrive by accident, for me Voivod was one of them.
7- Each time you performed Voivod songs during the 2000’s, you were accompanied by Dan Mongrain. How did you meet him? Can you tell us more about that?
Maurice put me in contact with Dan, in the beginning after one or two espresso it was in the bag (laughs). It was really the first time he came over to my place I had made him one of my Super Blacky coffees, believe me, that helps if you have to deal with me. No, but I thought that after our first meeting, and brainstorming session, we both knew we would have a strong friendship.
The guy is just a fun person, and right away we started to work on the songs we wanted Black Cloud to play. I was really hooked by his incredible talent, he had learned from Piggy, come on man, he's a musical genius that guy and plus, he has a personality that is very cool, he's an intelligent guy.
Technically he's accomplished, an impeccable soloist and even more than that, he knows how to read and write sheet music, that's something that no one from my era knows how to do, even less in the metal scene. I believe that is one of the tools that is the most important today, I would have really liked to know how to do that.
I think that we will work together for a long time. From a personal point of view, he has a girlfriend, so girls, he is taken. His ultimate secret is his long mane of hair; it's where he gets his musical power!
8- June 22, 2008, you returned to the stage with Voivod for Heavy MTL with Dan, Snake and Away. Who was behind the reunion, how did it come about?
Michel contacted me one day and asked me if I would be interested to play with him and Denis, playing material from the first six Voivod records, and he also suggested Dan would be the guitarist.
I said yes right away without a moment’s hesitation. We managed to recreate something close to what we experienced during that time even if Piggy is no longer with us.
For Dan also, I think it was essential and a prerequisite that we revive the mood of Piggy's guitar. I know it took a lot of courage for Denis and Michel to play the music of Voivod without Piggy at their sides.
The essential in all of that was to have the pleasure of playing the good old songs. So our mission was accomplished for sure. We were all very satisfied.
9- What was your experience of returning and were you been received by the many fans of the group who never forgot you?
It was like I had been in hibernation for more than 17 years and suddenly I woke up, I was still active, perhaps not all the time as a musician but also as a sound technician, live and in studio.
I think that largely people were surprised to learn that I played live with Voivod again. Personally, I was happy and I think that others were too.
10- You are going to Europe to do a festival tour and you will be in front of enormous crowds. Are you excited by this next undertaking?
Yep, all four of us are super excited by this tour, there are many countries where I’ve never been. And I’m going to give 100%, that’s for sure. We’re going to play old material once again but also a few songs from the new record.
11- Thank you for your time and I leave you with the final word...
Ok, as is the tradition, I only have a few words to add... TO THE DEATH!!! We’ll see you soon.
25 ans de Métal Québécois, à Radio-Canada - en français, 29 août 2007 (Youtube.com)
CBC Television, 25 years of Quebec metal - August 27, 2007 (Youtube.com)
"I’m not (yet) too old to get off on — er, appreciate — the driving industrial rock score by Jean-Yves Thériault (a.k.a. Blackie of the 1980s Canadian heavy-metal band Vovoid)
. . ."
Sara Wolf, LA Weekly, USA, June 15-21, 2001
"Jean-Yves Theriault's powerful rock score. . ."
Lewis Segal, LA Times, USA, June 22, 2001
"Jean-Yves Thériault, co-founder and bass player of Quebec’s legendary futuristic metal band Voivod . . . has branched out in unexpected directions including computer graphic design, [and] full-length musical composition..."
Will Wilson, Budapest Week, Hungary, April 18, 2000
"Jean-Yves Theriault's escalating score for this evening-length piece seems to hunt us down..."
Laura Molzahn, Chicago Reader, USA, April 28, 2000
". . .a pulsating percussive score by Theriault." "Accelerating nearly too fast to follow, 'our brief eternity' reaches warp speed near the end, with the deafening music rampaging..."
Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Tribune, USA, April 29, 2000
"Jean-Yves Thériault . . . created such a high decibel barrage for Our Brief Eternity that he makes the wall of sound employed by Montreal's La La La Human Steps seem like a lullaby."
Linde Howe-Beck, The Gazette, Canada, November 16, 1996
"Jean-Yves Thériault has created electronic rhythmic repetitive rumblings that pound in our ears, invade our flesh and furnish the frantic background for a total landscape of sound and images."
Alvina Ruprecht, CBO-FM (CBC Ottawa), Canada
"The multi-media experience that has become the holy body tattoo’s trademark was forged by the company’s founders and artistic directors, choreographers Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon and composer Jean-Yves Theriault."
BC Arts News, Canada, Spring 1999
"Thériault's music provides an ear-shattering couterpoint to the dancing. Performed in live by Thériault and Craig Riddock, who thump out the industrial rhythms with as much muscle as the dancers themselves, the score underscores the vibrancy of the performance as a whole."
Deirdre Kelly, The Globe and Mail, Canada, March 4, 1995
"Multi-media elements play an integral part in this sensibility. Composer Jean-Yves Theriault's soundtrack first assaults the ears."
Tralee Pearce, Ottawa Sun, Canada, October 25, 1997
"It wasn't until quite some time after the album was released that I realized just how popular Voivod really was and how legendary this guy Blacky was. I didn't realize that Jean-Yves was the same person."
Mark Spybey, Sonic Boom, USA, August 7, 1998