How many people can say that they have played with guitar whiz Steve Vai, Metallica bassist Jason Newsted (in his IR8 side project), Geezer Butler, and industrial heavies Frontline Assembly? Not many, eh? But then again, not many people are like 23-year-old Vancouverite Devin Townsend, a young chap with emotions on full throttle, and about as many personalities as Shirley Maclaine.
His band's debut album on Century Media, _Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing_, is a ball-busting assault of industrial heavy metal. Music that'll make your ears bleed and your stomach turn upside down. Real heavy shit. Fueled onward by the young and fully energetic Townsend, Strapping Young Lad (SYL) is a grouping of music and emotions, entwined within reason and insanity.
Townsend explains the necessity for him to use SYL to vent his emotions. "I am doing so many things right now with other projects. I have four more albums to do with Strapping Young Lad. If I didn't have that it would be tough. I mean everybody gets in a bad mood, and some people show that by getting into fights or doing drugs. Strapping is sort of my release. Everytime I get in a shitty mood I write a SYL song. I have enough shitty moods to last me a couple of years," he says laughing.
"Doing all that other stuff is great but everytime I get in a shitty mood I'm like, 'Fuck I don't want to do this. I want to be doing SYL.' So I just pick up a flying-V (guitar) and go RRRWWWWR." He concludes, "I bet you if I didn't have Strapping Young Lad as an outlet, everything else I would be doing would be unfocused because I'd try to vent all of these emotions somehow."
With SYL, Townsend is proud that he is able to be in control with the direction and approach of the band, something that he has had to do without on other projects. "The album _Sex And Religion_ (with Steve Vai) was what it was. I had nothing to do with the record though. He wrote all of the melodies. He told me where to breathe." After leaving the Vai project, Townsend worked with other projects, one being his well publicized stint with England's The Wildhearts. But the formation of SYL was kind of like a blessing for him to be able to get his act together as he explains. "When I got around to this I had been dicked around so many times I just wanted something for myself. I got signed to Roadrunner and they then dropped me because, believe it or not, I was too heavy. Relativity Records didn't want anything to do with it because I wasn't commercial enough. So when I finally got around with SYL it was like, 'Fuck everybody and fuck everything.' I just went into the studio and did everything myself in about a week. It was just RRRWWWWR!!!! It was great. You can say anything about the record, but it is sincere."
Has Townsend grown up in the process of jumping from project to project? And if so, how does he plan to keep the focus of Strapping Young Lad in the future? "I have had to grow up a lot. The music industry is full of fake people and it is tough to deal with at times. I've seen a lot, I mean I'm only twenty-three, but I have been lucky to have seen it and be able to carry on. As far as focusing with Strapping's music, I don't give a fuck. I want it to be whatever the fuck I am doing. Last thing I want to do on stage is focus what I am doing."
The conversation goes on for a couple more minutes about the need for him to be able to grow with his music and the newer material of SYL when out of the blue, as if Townsend has been waiting to add this remark, he blurts out, "I hope I ain't doing this when I am thirty because I feel this way at the moment and it is not something I am overly proud of. It's like saying, 'Hey everybody I have a bad temper.'"
Regardless of how people perceive SYL, one thing is for sure, Townsend deserves all of the credit that comes with his hard work. This guy lives for his work, and Strapping Young Lad is proof of it.