Between A Rock And A Prog Place: VOIVOD’s DANIEL ‘CHEWY’ MONGRAIN On The Album Title, Synchro Anarchy – “Our Drummer Wanted To Go To His Drum Riser, But His Shoelace Was Detached…And He Almost Killed Himself!”
March 23, 2022, 6 months ago
What truly is progressive music? Each month BraveWords will aim to dissect that answer with a thorough overview of the current musical climate that is the prog world. Old and new, borrowed and blue. A musical community without borders. So watch for a steady and spaced-out array of features, current news and a buyer’s guide checklist to enhance the forward-thinking musical mind. So, welcome to BraveWords' monthly column appropriately titled, Between A Rock In A Prog Place.
In this month’s column, we speak to Voivod guitarist Daniel ‘Chewy’ Mongrain, who discusses the new album Synchro Anarchy, modern day prog, as well as his pick for “greatest prog rock guitarist of all-time.”
Is ‘sci-fi prog’ a fitting description for Voivod’s music?
“Yeah. I would say it is correct. But labels are only good for clothes. [Laughs] That makes sense to me.”
Who would you say was the greatest prog rock guitarist of all-time?
“I would say Allan Holdsworth, right away. I don’t know what he was doing – if it was either prog or jazz. He was a unique person – just the way he looked at things. And he reinvented musical theory in his own way – without getting the knowledge in school. He just analyzed it, internalized it, and he used it in his own perspective. And it created a very unique musical landscape. There will never be another Allan Holdsworth. And I’m not talking about his crazy legato technique or whatever. It’s just the whole thing – the harmony, the composition, the improvisation, the way he looks at the guitar, and music.”
For fans who enjoy heavy metal who may not be familiar with Allan Holdsworth, which albums would you recommend?
“It’s strange, because I really like the first one, [1982’s] I.O.U., and one of the last ones he recorded, [2000’s] The Sixteen Men of Tain. There is a double bass on The Sixteen Men of Tain, and trumpet solos – it’s more of a jazz feel. But the sound and production is amazing.”
Which modern day prog bands do you fancy most?
“I don’t know if it is prog or modern day, but I listen to a lot of Cardiacs, which is a band that formed in the late ‘70s and they stopped in 2008. I don’t know how to describe it, but they’re from the UK. They don’t exist anymore, but they created very unique music in a very twisted way. I got back to that quite a lot when I want to listen to something different.”
How do you think Synchro Anarchy compares to Voivod’s classic albums?
“I think it is a deep album – lyric-wise and music-wise. It has a depth to it. The production is really up to date. I think Francis [Perron] did a great job for sound. The energy is there. It’s really reflecting on how the band sounds today and all the touring we’ve done in the past years with this line-up. I think we can recognize the core sound of the band – the dissonance, the progressive, the sci-fi side. But there is a maturity to it. As cliché as it sounds, there is a lot of air between parts. When we write, there is no ego in the way – it’s just what’s best for the song and what’s best for the riff and what’s best for this idea. And when we work together, maybe change a half-step here in the vocal line, and change this note here in the bass – so it all fits together like a puzzle, and everything falls into place and there is no conflict. And if there is a conflict, it’s intended to create tension. I think we have a very good relation when it comes to writing together. There’s no idea that belongs to anybody – it becomes its own beast or entity that we have to feed. And treat it the right way, so it gets better and better and it’s ready to be recorded. I think it’s very melodic – even though it’s very complex, it doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t feel so complex…but it is. When something is well-constructed, you don’t have to know it’s complicated.”
What’s the meaning behind the album title?
“That’s just two words that were lyrics in a song. We were looking for a title for the album, and we were struggling. It became a title of a song, as well. We thought it was really reflecting the vibe on planet earth – socially, politically. The tension that we can feel now everywhere. It’s a bit contradictory – Synchro Anarchy. But it fits with the music, as well. Those two words came from an incident that happened in the jam space, actually. Our drummer wanted to go to his drum riser, but his shoelace was detached…and he almost killed himself! Because he almost fell on the hi-hat stand. We were like, ‘That’s life. You can have a shoelace detached, and your life is fucked. It doesn’t take much to change the whole existence.’ It started like that – as a seed for a greater way of explaining this nonsense.”
Touring plans for Voivod?
“We really wish to tour, of course. We’re probably going to do more streaming shows, because it was fun and we could connect with the fans and friends afterwards – like an after-party – and discuss with them on Zoom. We had guests like Jason Newsted and the guys from Gwar and At the Gates after the shows. We might do that if we can’t go on tour yet. But we’re really missing the road and the friends all around the world.”
Between A Rock And A Prog Place News Blast
Ukrainian prog metallists, Jinjer, recently released new shirt designs to raise funds to support their country (who are in the midst of the Russo-Ukrainian War). 100% of the proceeds earned from these shirts will be distributed directly to charity organizations of the band’s choosing. Last month, Sabaton issued their tenth studio album overall, The War to End All Wars, which by now, you’re probably already quite familiar with the single/video, ‘Race to the Sea’. This month, extreme metal/proggers, Meshuggah, issue their latest LP, Immutable, and wouldn’t ya know it…a video is already available for viewing below – “The Abysmal Eye.”
The long-running non-profit progressive rock festival, RoSFest – aka the Rites of Spring Festival – will be returning to Sarasota, Florida from April 15-17 (including headliners Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew the first night, Jon Anderson with the Paul Green Rock Academy the second night, and Dave Kerzner All-Star Prog Band the final night). Click here for info and/or to purchase tickets. A new book was recently released, Frank & Co: Conversations with Frank Zappa 1977–1993, which as its title suggests, features interviews and discussions between Zappa and his longtime friend, Co de Kloet, and can be ordered here. One of the pioneers of electronic music and master of the Moog synthesizer, Klaus Schulze, will be releasing his latest album, Deus Arrakis, later in 2022 via SPV. If you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Schulze, be sure to check out the “Classic Clip” at the bottom of this month’s column.
Dream Theater singer, James LaBrie, will be issuing his fourth solo album overall on May 20th, entitled Beautiful Shade of Grey. The album’s first single/video, “Devil In Drag,” has been released as a taster of things to come (view it below). Symphonic metallists, Visions Of Atlantis, will be issuing their next album, Pirates, on May 13, but you can already view its first single/video, , ‘Legion of the Sea’. Greek symphonic trio, Fortis Ventus, will be issuing their debut album, Vertalia, on June 3, but you can already inspect the lead-off single, ‘My Death Is My Devotion.’
Italian symphonic folk metallers, Aexylium, recently issued their latest album, The Fifth Season, from which an official lyric video has been assembled, and can be viewed. Progressive death metallists, Arkaik, issued their latest album, Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts, last month. You can get a taste of what to expect by the recently-issued video for the album’s title track. Bay Area-based conductor, Nick Vasallo, recently released his second metal/classic hybrid album, Apophany, from which a minute-long sneak peek is available.
Rarely should an entire sentence merely be copied from a press release, but after reading the following about Vanderlust, you’ll surely understand why: “Birthed to travel the cosmos, Italy's Vanderlust is a power-heavy metal band with prog-thrash influences that tells tales of space travels, astronomy, space engineering, and sci-fi adventures.” You can be the judge if such an extraordinary description is deserving, upon examining their new “official visualizer” for the track ‘Scavengers of Kuiper Belt.’ The sophomore album by Shining Black – which features Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Ring Of Fire, Royal Hunt) and guitarist Ölaf Thorson (Labyrinth, Vision Divine) – is entitled Postcards from the End of the World, and was recently released…as was a video for the tune ‘A Hundred Thousand Shades of Black.’
Transatlantic progressive metal outfit, Monuments, have issued a new video for the track ‘False Providence,’ which was plucked from their new album, In Stasis, which drops in the middle of this month. Melodic-death-prog-metallists, Mors Principium Est, unleashed a new video clip, ‘Valley of Sacrifice, Part 1,’ from the soon to be released (on April 8), Liberate The Unborn Inhumanity. Swedish folk metallists, Manegarm, are prepared to issue a new album in the middle of the month, Ynglingaättens Öde, and you can already view the video for ‘En snara av guld’ now.
Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson returns this month as a member of the new band, Envy of None, whose self-titled debut appears on April 8, and can be sampled by clicking this clicker. And while we’re on the subject of Rush…let’s not forget that that this month sees the release of a mammoth box set celebrating the release of their classic album, 1981’s Moving Pictures. The set is loaded with goodies – as witnessed within this unboxing video Lastly, Blind Guardian have issued a new single/video, “Secrets Of The American Gods,” which can be viewed/heard directly below…for your convenience.
April New Albums
April 1, 2022
Pattern-Seeking Animals- Only Passing Through
Varjo-Orkesteri- Prima Volta
April 8, 2022
Envy of None- self-titled
Hällas- Isle of Wisdom
Mors Principium Est- Liberate The Unborn Inhumanity
April 15, 2022
Manegarm- Ynglingaättens Öde
Monuments- In Stasis
Ronnie Romero- Raised on Radio
Rush- Moving Pictures (40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition Box Set)
April 22, 2022
Adventure- Tales of Belle, part 1.Across The Ocean
April 29, 2022
As stated earlier in this month’s column, one of the pioneers of electronic music and the Moog synthesizer, Klaus Schulze, will be releasing his latest album (Deus Arrakis) sometime this year. What better time than now to experience the man back in the day, navigating through a bank of Moogs and dangling wires?