STRAPPING YOUNG LAD

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TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE

This interview with vocalist / guitarist Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad was done by phone by Adrian Magers on April 7st, 2005.

With the new Strapping Young Lad disc "Alien" hitting the masses hard and unmercifully, band mastermind Devin Townsend has reason to be smiling a demented grin. The band's fourth album arguably tops anything the quartet has done on previous albums. Recently I had a chance to speak to Devin about the new CD, the live show, and all other things "Alien."

First off the new album is amazing, all the reviews I've been reading have just been great and I personally think it's just mindblowing coming from Strapping Young Lad
Cool, thanks. It's just weirdos making music, that's what happens.

I was curious what was going through your head when the songs were written and recorded.
Lots of stress. But in general Strapping's just an outlet to freak out, and this record is definitely a freak out.

It seems a lot more focused, every song with the exception of one the acoustic track is just relentless.
Well, I mean, there was a part of me that listening to the DVD that we did, and I was just like "Man, we need more songs." You know, more things that you can really grab onto. So with this record we tried to make each song sort of individual.

I definitely agree with the statement that it takes a couple listens because of the amount of riffs.
Yeah, I know, I agree, I agree. But at the same time I think that if you spend enough time with it you can get some really cool stuff out of it

Also I hear you guys have a video that's going to be receiving airplay...
Yeah, we did it for "Love?". It's a cool video, we did this whole like 'Evil Dead' treatment to it, it's kinda campy, but it's pretty cool.

Who'd you have directing it?
I think his name was Joel Lynch. I don't know who else he's done, I think Kataklysm and Devildriver.

I know Strapping doesn't normally get a lot of mainstream attention-- do you see anywhere you fit in as far as the current metal scene?
No, I mean, there's a number of reasons why the record's called 'Alien' and maybe's that's one of them. I don't see us really fitting in too well anywhere. In terms of what we represent in the band, we just want to be a relentless musical force, but in terms of who we tour with and who we play with, and all this other stuff. We just go where we're wanted and try and stay away from where we're not.

Speaking of the tours, the new songs because of the intensity must go over well live.
Yeah they really do, actually. They're pretty intense. A song like like "Skeksis" in a live place, it's just like "What the fuck are these guys doing?"

How'd you guys pick which songs to play? Which tracks have you been performing?
We just try to pick the ones that are best representative of the record and stuff we can do well consistently every night. Off the new record we play "Imperial," "Skeksis," "Shitstorm,"Shine," and "Love?".

I'm surprised "We Ride" isn't on the setlist. That song stuck out the most the first time I listened to Alien, but it's the kind of record where you get a different favorite song every time you listen.
I think that we'll probably do "We Ride" we just have to re-learn it [laughs].

That's another thing, the instrumentation on there is fantastic. The drumming is absolutely brutal, and vocals are sincerely emotional, which is something that's lacking in a lot of the more popular American metal bands right now.
I can see that. I'm stuck in the position of being the singer and that gives me a lot of weird things to write about that. I just think that the singer is the focus point in a band. I think that needs to convey a lot so we try and go out of our way to be that band.

The lyrics, from what I could pick up, and what I read online, they seem to resemble more rants than traditional verses and choruses.
Oh yeah, totally, have a bunch of song structures and just scream over top of it, whatever I'm screaming, just as long as it's about something in particular than it's cool.

Were the lyrics done off the top of your head?
Yeah, like I said, as a singer I just have the job of writing the lyrics, so I just write about what interests me, write about what's affecting me as a musician or as a person.

Is there anything else you're involved in right now? I know you're producing the new Darkest Hour album.
Yeah, we just finished their record last week and it turned out real well. I'm doing the Devin Townsend Band after we get done with the Strapping tour and I think in the long run we're going to just keep doing a lot of stuff in the metal scene and just hope it turns out well.

Are there any other bands you're looking at for Hevy Devy Records, or are you keeping that for your own projects?
I'm keeping that for my own projects it seems to make more sense to me that way.

Where do you see the metal scene right now, or is something you don't really look at?
I try not to look at it, but I think it's on the upswing if I did look at it. It seems like metal in general seems to be more popular, so we'll keep doing our thing, who knows what will happen.

Are there any other plans after the tour?
I hope to take a break at some point. Get into a position where I can take a couple of weeks to myself and just go away for a while. Other than that there's a lot of other projects I can be involved with right now. I just keep judging which one is the most appropriate for where I'm at in life and hit it from there.

I know I read once you normally write the Strapping songs when you're pissed off. I take it the solo stuff is more for different emotions?
Maybe not even for different emotions, just more for balance. You go so far in one direction that if you stay there you're pretty unbalanced. I go really far in the Strapping direction then follow it up with something that's really far in the D.T. vein. They kind of even themselves out.

I'd like to thank Devin, Century Media, and our editor Vincent for their patience with all the mishaps surrounding the preperation for this interview. Strapping Young Lad's newest opus "Alien" was recently released and is highly recommended to anyone who's ever had an interest in SYL, industrial-laced heavy metal or maniacally angry music in general.


Links of interest:

Strapping Young Lad

Century Media