SOCAN 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award winners Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance have spent more than 35 years co-writing some of the most successful songs in pop/rock music history. Adams, one of Canada’s greatest musical success stories, has sold many millions of records, toured the world, won 20 JUNO Awards, and earned multiple nominations for Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards. He’s been inducted into the Order of Canada, and received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. And after several years apart, he and Vallance are still at it, having co-written another stellar pop single in last year’s “You Belong to Me,” and currently collaborating on a Broadway musical. For all that, it’s telling that the first thing Adams said onstage to accept his SOCAN Award – after seeing four videos interspersed throughout the gala to celebrate the astonishing career of himself and Vallance – was, jokingly, “What a load of shite!” To him, songwriting, while thoroughly enjoyable, is just what he does. SOCAN spoke briefly with Adams backstage at the SOCAN Awards; here’s a record of that chat.

W&M: How did you and Jim Vallance come up with “You Belong to Me”?
Bryan Adams:
A friend of mine is a [movie] director in L.A. He was doing a pilot for a TV series, and he wanted songs that sounded like songs out of the ’60s. So we wrote a couple of songs, and that was one of ’em. The song happened; the TV series didn’t.

W&M: Can you tell us about the musical that you’re working on with Vallance now?
It’s probably about 30 songs that we’ve written for it, of which probably 22 will end up in the musical. It’s a musical adaptation of the film Pretty Woman, and it doesn’t feature any of the songs from the original film. It’s all new music, because it’s all about the narrative, the songs telling the story of Vivian and Edward.

W&M: You guys are getting an award for 35 years of working together, but here you both are, writing together again, with another mountain to climb, another goal.
I don’t think of it that way. I’ve always continued on my little journey. When Jim retired, I just kept finding ways to be creative, and that’s what it’s about. It’s about finding creative things to do. I love the experience of creating something from nothing.


W&M: Can you tell us the story of first meeting Jim Vallance in a Long & McQuade musical instrument retail outlet in Vancouver?

According to Jim Vallance, you guys have spent 100,000 hours writing songs. In 1984, you spent 12 hours a day, seven days a week co-writing. You seem to have been so ambitious and determined.
It’s not like that. That’s complete rubbish! It’s just what I do. I get up and I write music. It’s not like I get up and go to the office. It’s really a pleasure to go to work every day.

Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams


Photo: Fany Ducharme

It’s often said that in 2017, songwriters are faced with a massive challenge because everything has been said already, especially in the folk realm. Re-inventing the wheel is nearly impossible. And 15 years as a music journalist seems to point in the same direction. As a matter of fact, critics tend to abandon their quest for originality in favour of a quest for authenticity. In that case, and artist stands out from the lot by spilling their guts. This occurs as much through their sound as it does through the dynamics of their playing, their energy and their sensitivity. When all those elements coalesce, even the most discerning ear will feel like it’s hearing something fresh.

It took all of one minute and thirty-four seconds for Beyries’ first album, launched in February 2017, to have that effect on this journalist. Sombre and fragile up to that moment, Alone, the album’s opening track, begins spreading its wings melodically in a goosebump-inducing way. It’s as if a beam of light pierces through melancholy, taking the piano, guitar and voice of Amélie Beyries to another dimension. The singer-songwriter replies with a very personal and touching resilience and strength to the adversity that informs her songs.

And then, a piece of information is revealed that’s the key to the puzzle. The 38-year-old musician has had 1,001 odd jobs before mustering the courage to share her songs. Then, an aggressive breast cancer and its relapse acted as game-changers, and pushed the musician to her extreme limits, whence she responded with Landing, a magnificently cathartic album.

“I let go of what I can’t control. I’m not as hard on others and myself as I was before.”

“The media abundantly covered the fact that I had cancer, that I went through a very rough patch,” says Beyries. “But suffering people are everywhere. It can be disease, death, a divorce, a depression… For me, the most important question remains: what will you do with your pain? My album is a post-event process, a post-traumatic growth.”

Beyries makes no bones about it: it’s not just what she does for a living that changed after she received her diagnosis. “I now go to places I would never have dared to go before the illness,” she says. “My vision of failure has completely changed. I let go of what I can’t control. I’m not as hard on others and myself as I was before. I absorb bad news and unexpected things with a much more zen attitude. On the flip side, I realized I have much less patience for people who constantly complain about the same damn stuff. At a certain point, we need to stop victimizing ourselves; it’s useless and prevents us from moving on.”

By transforming her pain into wisdom, Beyries burst onto the music scene with the life experience a 20-year-old can only dream of. “Starting a career in music with some life experience allows you to better see shit coming,” she says. “When I play showcases in Paris, London or New York and there’s barely anyone in the room listening because they’ve been drinking the open bar dry for the last two hours, I manage to remain focused, and to tell myself that I only need one attentive person for it to be worthwhile. When you’re my age, you’re more analytical. You’ve learned to not take yourself too seriously. It becomes easier to ask yourself the right questions and remember why you do what you do.”

But despite her hard-earned maturity, Beyries still started her life as a musician filled with a sense of being an impostor. “I feel strange, but super-happy at the same time,” she says. “I took the recognition of qualified people [including Alex McMahon, who produced Landing, and Louis-Jean Cormier, who duets with Beyries on “J’aurai cent ans,” a song that was nominated in the SOCAN Songwriting Prize] for me to start believing I had my place. I’ve not had a single negative comment since the album came out. In the end, I think that regardless of age, if you offer something personal, you’ll make a place for yourself.”

Folk music might be several Centuries old, but everything remains to be seen for an artist who spills their guts. Landing demonstrates that every time it plays.

A notice to neophytes who still believe the metal community is composed of the Devil’s children: Voivod’s Michel Langevin is the total anathema to your misconception. First, because he can boast one the most impressive scorecards among his very few peers, and second, because he has the uncanny ability to keep cool in basically any situation. Even when he says stuff like “we’re considered living legends when we play metal festivals,” one can only agree and find him even more endearing.

With more than 35 years (!) behind the hi-hat, and playing as fast as ever after thousands of concerts all over the globe – not to mention their incredibly easygoing demeanour and mind-blowing humility – Langevin’s Voivod is resolutely in a class of its own.

Let’s take a look back on those three decades.

On the Importance of Themes

Voivod“I often wonder why so many kids are still into thrash metal,” says Langevin. “I think it’s because the themes are still relevant to this day: the nuclear threat is still real, environmental issues are as pressing as ever… Everything is worse than when we started.” Dystopia might be a part of the equation, but the glue remains the mutual energy-sharing the band experiences with its audience. “The fans’ loyalty is what keeps me going,” says Langevin. “I always feel like they deserve a new album from us.” And the fans are always there when it comes out. And so, the cycle continues.

Artistically, “Away” – Langevin’s alias – is powered by a deep-seated desire to always surpass what he’s done before. And, according to him, it’s especially true with the band’s latest lineup, which includes Denis “Snake” Bélanger on vocals – the only other original member of the band, back since 2002, after a 12-year hiatus – Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain on guitar since 2008, and Dominique “Rocky” Laroche on bass since 2014.

Whereas personnel changes can sometimes be seen as detrimental, Langevin prefers to see them as an opportunity for renewal. “Whenever the band’s lineup changes, I play differently,” he says. “With Newsted (the ex-Metallica bassist who joined Voivod from 2002 to 2008), we sounded more like Black Sabbath. With Eric Forest (1994–2001), we sounded more like Sepultura. With Blacky (Jean-Yves Thériault, 1982–1991, 2008–2014), whose playing is quite punk, we sounded more like Motörhead. Each time, I need to adapt, and I like that. Today, I’d say we sound very progressive, almost jazz-metal.”

“I can’t pretend I know for sure I’ll still be playing a double bass drum for five or six minutes, five years from now. But for the time being, we’re still able to do 30-date tours over a short period of time without losing it!” – Michel Langevin of Voivod

His Own Man

Voivod Logo PatchLangevin is the only remaining original member since 1982, through all those personnel changes. But why? “I’ve wondered more than once whether I should stay,” he says. “What allowed us such longevity is Europe, which still has its metal venues and festivals circuit? Our audience there is incredibly loyal and consistent. Over here, metal’s popularity ebbs and flows, over there it’s constant. We play festivals alongside Scorpions, Testament, Sepultura, Megadeth, Exodus, etc. Basically all the same artists as 30 years ago. We’ve become a classic thrash metal band, and that’s cool!”

And at 54, the man does not seem even close to giving up the drums. “I can’t pretend I know for sure I’ll still be playing a double bass drum for five or six minutes, five years from now,” says Langevin. “But for the time being, we’re still able to do 30-date tours over a short period of time without losing it!”

Voivod have maintained the pace, but still had to largely give up the “live fast, die young” attitude of the early days. “When I was in my mid-thirties, I realized I really had to cut back on the partying if I hoped to still be playing drums 20 years later,” says Langevin. “It was essential. [Whitesnake drummer] Tommy Aldridge and a few others are models, in that regard.”

So, 35 years later, does he still worry about critics? “Yes, no doubt,” says Langevin. “At this point in our career, all we can do is write the music we want to play. It would be ridiculous to try and re-invent ourselves. All we want is to play good Voivod music. We question ourselves after the recording sessions, and when the critics are positive, we feel validated. I take them with a lot of humility. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to do what we’ve been doing for so long, and to still be able to release new material. I’ll never take that for granted.”

So what’s the key to such a long and successful career? In this case, the answer is obvious: arms of steel and exceptional clear-headedness.

Voivod will share the stage with Metallica at the Festival d’été de Québec on July 14, 2017.