Strapping Young Lad
Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing (Century Media)
An interview with Devin Townsend
by Chaz Thorndike
Strapping Young Lad is a musical purge/studio project for Devin Townsend. I reviewed Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (Century Media) a few issues ago. The album is fast, angry, incredibly complex and funny. Funny? Yup, Devin manages to take extreme volume, speedbag drumming, freight train guitars and boy-am-I-angry vocals and inject a bit of humor into them. I had to talk to him. After exchanging niceties and comparing notes on the rainbow-colored phlegm we were both hacking up, we got down to, ahem, business.
So how did you discover this secret: Light-hearted, heavy-industrial rage?
That’s just the way it came out. I hear the music in my head and get it out. This album was heavy, the next one could be acoustic ballads. I don’t control it, it just happens. As far as the angst-ridden stuff goes; I’m a middle-class white Canadian boy. The only thing I have to be angry about is the price of beer.
It’s not exactly a typical progression you’ve been through, what’s your story?
I was 19, flipping burgers, mailing tapes out to any and everyone, and Relativity called up. They asked me to go on tour, singing for Steve Vai. Like I was gonna say no? So we toured. Steve and I had our differences. (That’s a nice way of saying I was young and paranoid and threw temper tantrums.) The British rock band, The Wildhearts, were opening for Vai. I loved ’em. They fired their guitarist. I left Steve’s band and toured with The Wildhearts for the summer. Those guys have an amazing following in England. It was a lot of fun. They can party harder and longer than any other human beings I’ve ever met. At the end of the summer tour, I really wanted to get back home and do my own project.
What about the other studio projects?
They asked. I needed the money.
What about your own project?
It was done in five days straight with no money and no jamming. I’m not into that pissed-drunk-band-session-thing. This was like a musical enema. No rough mixes. No demo versions. Straight from brain to tape.
What was the main influence?
If there was one, I’d say The Wildhearts.
Strapping doesn’t sound at all like The Wildhearts.
So how is that the main influence?
I love the humor, the composition of songs.
Weren’t you the bald guy in Vai’s “Deep Down in the Pain” video?
Yeah, that was me. When I started with Vai, I had mounds of hair. So did he. I got dreads. Then Vai got dreads. Two days before the video, I decided to shave my head. I did the video with my head looking like a big macadamia nut. When it grew back in, I realized I had this widow’s peak I never knew I had.
So check out Strapping Young Lad. It’s wild, and redefines the word heavy. Remember, he’s not just the writer and producer, but he’s also a member.