Daniel Mongrain, guitarist for Canadian Progressive Metal band Voivod.
Daniel Mongrain Interview
1. Could you tell me about the upcoming Voivod album “Target Earth” and its recording process?
Daniel Mongrain : The new album is very intricate and progressive, sometimes chaotic and psychedelic with space for dynamics and melody also. It has pretty much all the ingredients of all the previous albums, but also has a new touch to it. Blacky’s killer bass sound is back. Blacky and I wrote the main ideas and riffs of the music and we arranged everything all together at the jam space. We also recorded improvisation that became the core of some of the songs. We really worked as a team. It was one of the best creative journeys I’ve had so far in my career.
2. What were some of the influences used in writing these songs on “Target Earth”?
I don’t think influence is a conscious thing when it comes to writing, I would call that copying. I think if you let your ideas flow out of yourself and if you give yourself the chance to be spontaneous, your influences will all be there as a part of your personality, translated into music (in that case) or any other form of art. Of course there is plenty of influence from all of us on this record, but who am I to pretend that I know what they are…I know I’ve been influenced a lot by Voivod, King Crimson, Allan Holdworth, Zappa, Bela Bartok, etc…But when I write, I don’t think about what influences me to write an idea or a riff…I just write it without thinking.
3. What type of amps and guitars did you use on this album? The guitars sound very tight and heavy.
I really am happy with the guitar sound, it was pretty basic. For the rhythm, tracks were all recorded with my Les Paul Classic with Burstbucker pickups through a JCM 800 and also a Mesa boogie Triple Rectifier, then each head was plugged in a different cab. One was a Marshall with greenback speakers, and the other one was a Hiwatt cab. I used a Boss blues driver before each head just to change the grain of the sound. I didn’t use much distortion, just enough so every dissonant chord could sound precise. I doubled guitar tracks with every head so it resulted in four rhythm guitar tracks. Then Sanford Parker could play with the blend of the amps depending on the song. For solos, I used the Les Paul, plus my Liberatore custom when a whammy bar was needed, played through the mesa. And for the clean tone, I used a boutique amp called Tone King with my Fender thin line telecaster.
4. Any tour dates lined up for Voivod?
Not much details for now, but we have plans. We’re gonna tour the whole planet hopefully– Chile is confirmed for April. I know it’s gonna be a busy year!
5. Would you say that social media has helped Voivod to find new fans?
I guess, I think it’s pretty good for every band, but nothing replaces seeing a band live. I mean, not a live performance on YouTube, but seeing a band live at a concert is where, in my opinion, you really experience the magic of that band.
6. What do you think of promo videos and its importance now?
I think it’s a good way to get to the fans faster and easier. It’s like the teasers in movie theatres. It’s a good tool if you use it the right way.
7. What could we find interesting in your music collection at home?
Wayne Krantz (Two Drinks Minimum), Michael Jackson (Thriller), Zappa (Them or Us), Shostakovitch (String Quartet), Virus (The Agent that Shapes the Desert), Jason Becker (Perspective), UK (Alaska), Aerosmith (Get a Grip), Hank Williams III (Damn Right Rebel Proud)
8. Could you describe what goes on in a day in your life as a musician?
I teach full time in college (music program), jazz and pop music, sight-reading, improvisation, harmony, electric guitar. Then I go home and write music or record or make a music score. Sometimes I’m on tour playing shows, or working as a freelance for different projects of different kinds of music. The last thing I did was a TV Show in Montreal– rappers, country singers, pop…It’s all about music.
9. How is the music scene in your area today?
Pretty good actually! People are still going to shows, but going to a concert is becoming more and more “exotic” since a song is only 1 or 2 clicks away on a computer or on an Ipod. Nothing has yet to replace seeing a band live.
10. Any words for future musicians?
Never forget who you are and the reason why you’re doing music from the start. It’s supposed to be fun, a form of accomplishment, a way to express yourself. Be a good team mate. Do it with love and respect for yourself and for others.
Extra Questions for Daniel Mongrain guitarist for Voivod
Life without music would be: Hard to imagine.
Favorite movie: It really depends on how I feel, right now it could be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Planet of the Apes (original).
Favorite sport: Fishing.
Favorite food: Fresh food.
Favorite drink: Micro-brewery beers from Hopfenstark, Scotch Whisky.
Favorite quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (A.Einstein)
Favorite car: With 4 wheels, preferably.
Favorite book: Tom Sawyer (Twain), A Brief History of Time (S. Hawkins).
Favorite band: Changes too often, I don’t believe in favorite bands. Can I say Voivod? Because that would have been my answer before I joined the band…
Star Wars or Star Trek: Both for different reasons (but I’m a Star Wars fan first).
PC or Mac: Both for different reasons.