Voivod’s Michel ‘Away’ Langevin: 10 albums that changed my life

Metal Hammer

As drummer with Canadian visionaries Voivod, Michel ‘Away’ Langevin was there at the birth of both the thrash and prog metal scene. Fittingly for someone with a casual disregard for musical boundaries, his tastes run the full spectrum. “I really didn’t have a problem buying Kiss, the Sex Pistols and Genesis or Gentle Giant all at the same time,” he says. We asked him to dig deep into his record collection and pull out the albums that mean the most to him.

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Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden (1980)

The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was very popular where we are from, in Jonquière, northern Quebec, so we were able to find albums by Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, the bigger names.

With the first Iron Maiden album, the front cover really stuck out in the record store. I grabbed it and looked at the cover, then flipped it over and looked at the song titles and immediately they became my favourite band. I had no idea what they even sounded like.

I went back home and put the needle on the record. Prowler started and I was, like, ‘Yeah, they are my favourite band.’ They had everything I liked in music, from punk to metal to prog to goth – everything was in there.

And of course, Eddie was an influence on me. I created the Voivod character before forming the band, because I wanted to be an artist, but when I came to draw the War And Pain [Voivod’s debut album] cover, I wanted it to be immediate like the first Iron Maiden album. The cover of War And Pain comes directly from that. 

The Beatles – Twist And Shout (1964)

It’s an old Canadian compilation of The Beatles’ really early songs. The first song was I Saw Her Standing There, and that’s when I first felt the energy of Ringo Starr – that’s what made me want to drum.

Later on, I saw the movies Help! and A Hard Day’s Night. There’s footage of them live and you can literally see the drums shaking – Ringo banged the drums and cymbals as if they were about to fall apart. The way he moves and keeps the beat with his head really helped me to understand how to get the groove going. To this day I still drum keeping the beat with my head sideways. That’s from Ringo.

Rush – Hemispheres (1978)

Prog rock was huge in Quebec. A lot of progressive rock bands formed here, singing in French slang. But in terms of Canadian bands, Rush had the most impact. People talk about 2112, but Hemispheres has some deep prog stuff on it.

I learned to play drums in my parents’ garage. So when I was learning to play long songs, I had to go to my bedroom, listen to the song, run back to the garage and try to play it. The fact that I was able to memorise 20-minute songs really came in handy later in my career.

Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks (1978)

Where we grew up, there were not that many people into punk. But when I was in high school, I read a lot about this band called the Sex Pistols in a magazine called Rock And Folk. I could not wait to get hold of Never Mind The Bollocks, but it didn’t make it up to where we lived until maybe a year after it came out.

When I finally did it get hold of it, I could not believe how great it was, how full the sound was, how everything seemed to connect together. Johnny Rotten was floating on top of tons of guitars. And that’s when I discovered you could be really tribal on the drums – Paul Cook is a great drummer.

They just had this youthful energy, and I was impressed with the lyrics because it sounded like this was made by people who were 19 or 20 years old, but it pretty intelligent, and revolutionary

Van Der Graaf Generator – H To He, Who Am The Only One (1970)

I saw an advert for a record store in the local paper in my home advertising a special deal for three albums: the first Black Sabbath album, the first King Crimson album and this album. I had never heard these bands before, so I asked my mother if she could order them, but they all scared the hell out of me.

Van der Graaf Generator were like this apocalyptic prog band with kind of scientific lyrics. It’s heavy, but it’s not heavy metal. And it’s dark. [Frontman] Peter Hammill is kind of a like a vampire singing. There’s something super-atmospheric about the band.

[Late original Voivod guitarist] Piggy and I were always big Van der Graaf fans. Their drummer, Guy Evans, is one of my favourite drummers of all time. With Voivod, we picked bits of Van der Graaf’s music and twisted it around, especially on the [1993 Voivod song] Jack Luminous.

Venom – Welcome To Hell (1981)

It was just a step forward in heaviness, but with a punk energy. Venom were like Black Sabbath in terms of scary vibes, but they took the speed of Motörhead to another level.

I was very much into anarchist punk rock and fear of nuclear war, so I thought the Satanic thing they had was a gimmick, like Kiss or whoever. When we finally got to play with them at the Ritz in New York, I realised they were definitely not Satanists.

Kiss – Alive! (1975)

A couple of years after I got into The Beatles, I started to hear about Kiss. I asked my parents to buy this album for me for Christmas. When I got it, they went, ‘Put it on! Put it off!’ So I put it on and they went, ‘Take it off! Take it off!’ I was, like, ‘Yeah! These guys are badass!’

I was 12 or 13 and it was perfect timing. The costumes really influenced me – Gene Simmons with the skulls on his shoulders and elbows and knees. They definitely appeared in my drawings a lot in the ’70s.

Deep Purple – In Rock (1970)

My sister is a little older than me, and when I was learning Kiss material, her boyfriend showed up in his muscle car, with his eight-track tapes of Deep Purple In Rock, and I was blown away.

It was a lot heavier than what I had heard before, and also, being a drummer, [Purple drummer] Ian Paice made me realise that I had a lot to learn. My sister’s boyfriend – who is now my brother-in-law, cos they’re still together – had Led Zeppelin II and Uriah Heep’s Demons And Wizards and all that stuff, but Deep Purple In Rock was the one that really impressed me. It’s definitely one of the first metal albums before metal.

GBH – City Baby’s Revenge (1984)

At the time, I was really into anarchist punk bands like Crass and Conflict – they really opened my eyes. But GBH weren’t really anarchists – some of their lyrics are really funny. They called themselves punk rock, but they were really part of that early 80s UK hardcore scene along with The Exploited and Discharge.

Many people would go for their first album, City Baby Attacked By Rats, but the one that really did it for me was City Babys Revenge. There’s more reverb on the sound – it takes me somewhere where there’s been a nuclear war.

Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)

When I think of albums that changed my life, I also think of albums that changed my art and my way of drawing. I grew up living next to a factory, and I could see it looking outside my window. I used to look at the factory and listen to Animals – it gave me direction in terms of trying to express the desolation in the music visually.

It’s is just an amazing, dark album. I believe the band were imploding and it’s like they’re just super-disgusted and offended with the situation here on earth, which I connected with. [Laughs] There’s no fun there.

Voivod’s new live album, Lost Machine, is out now

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April 12, 2021

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