By Carl Begai
Devin Townsend has been on and off the road for the past year pushing his “this was me, this is where I’m going” tetralogy, kicked off by the Ki album and yanked into motion with Addicted in 2009. At press time he was gearing up for the release of Deconstruction and Ghost, totalling four very different records that scared the hell out of a large part of his fanbase.
“It’s funny,” laughs Townsend. “I think of the whole process of these four records – and granted, I’m completely self-centered when it comes to why I write because I’m not catering to what people want (laughs) – a lot of it came down to confronting a fear I had of myself and my own process. I remember years ago, I was always second guessing what I did under the assumption of ‘How are people going to perceive this?’ These four records, the whole thing was saying ‘Fuck it.’ If I’m accountable to myself in terms of trying to be the best person I can be, if I let it flow naturally, there’s no more that needs to be said. What I can say about these four records is that there’s nothing on them conceptually or lyrically that I can’t stand behind.”
Which brings Townsend to the point he’s been trying to make since the release of Ki; there won’t be another Strapping Young Lad album. Talk of Deconstruction being the heaviest, craziest music he’d ever written – a claim made by Townsend and several people around him – had fans thinking it would be SYL music under a different name. Turns out it’s anything but that. Continue reading BW&BK Interview: DEVIN TOWNSEND – Leaving The Lad Behind
By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with vocalist / guitarist / producer and fellow Canuck, Devin Townsend, to discuss the release of his long-awaited Deconstruction and Ghost albums; parts three and four of his “this was me” tetralogy. During our chat we discussed the online rumblings about new music he’s working on, currently going under the name Epicloud, and he was remarkably open about the tricks up his sleeve. Perhaps not all that surprising, however, given that he’s been living with the Ki / Addicted / Deconstruction / Ghost foursome for close to four years.
“My wife and the people around me tend to question whether or not it’s in my best interest to just keep writing,” Townsend reveals, “but the writing actually happens regardless of what I do. It’s so automatic at this point that it feels like the process has been integrated so completely into my everyday routine. For example, I wrote a full song yesterday while I wasn’t thinking about it (laughs). I went for a bike ride and I came back with this melody in my head, so while I was thinking about what I was going to do for the rest of the day I spent two hours and just wrote the song. I documented it, made the demo, made the session, so when I come back to actually making a record there are all these songs that just happened alongside my daily routine. Not only do I find that it’s very natural, but it’s also very relaxing for me to write.”
During an interview we did for BW&BK back in 1997, Townsend described a similar music-in-control writing process for his Ocean Machine album, although it doesn’t seem as intense these days.
“I think it’s the same idea, but I’ve definitely learned in my mind not to hold on to it as much as I had before. At the time I was doing Ocean Machine the ideas were so precious to me that I falsely made the assumption that if I didn’t actualize it without that level of intensity that I’d lose it. What I’ve found is that if it’s a good idea it’ll be there. The level of intensity that existed during Ocean Machine also didn’t have the benefit of the control over technology that I’ve managed to acquire over the past 20 years. So now, when it comes to putting an idea down I can get it out really quickly.” Continue reading DEVIN TOWNSEND – Long Live The EPICLOUD
By Carl Begai
Small town Ontario has given the world big name pop stars Shania Twain (Windsor) and Avril Lavigne (Napanee), and coughed up metal artists that have received international recognition including Helix (Kitchener), Kittie (London), James LaBrie (Penatanguishine), Sebastian Bach (Peterborough), Woods Of Ypres (Sault Ste. Marie) and Protest The Hero (Whitby). Add to this list one Cory Manahan from Keswick, a 17-year-old shredder / singer out to make extreme metal a little more dangerous. His debut album, Commence was released in 2010, quickly marking him in and around Toronto as an up-and-coming talent to watch. It also makes him a little intimidating when one considers the high level of creativity coming from a teenager, following in the footsteps of some of metal’s finest.
For the record, Commence is clearly influenced by modern metal-edged acts such as Slipknot and Lamb Of God, but there’s no mistaking the old school undertones that put the record on par with some of Manahan’s heroes. No small feat for someone who is still learning the ropes.
“I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was 10 or 11,” Manahan begins, “and I started with playing early Zeppelin and Sabbath. When I was about 14 I started getting into the more extreme metal, and I’ve been listening to everything since. And playing and practicing. The first couple years that’s all I did, 12 hours a day. I’m such a nerd (laughs).” Continue reading MANAHAN – The Mountain Of Youth
Hails and all that happiness in the new year stuff. Too bad about your failed New Year resolutions, though. Anyway, drown your sorrows with beer and a few updates from the Great White-In-The-Winter North…
Devin Townsend, the original Strapping Young Lad, is gearing up for the release of two albums in April. InsideOut will issue the Deconstruction and Ghost records simultaneously, thus completing Townsend’s four part look inside his Hevy Devy persona (check out my previous interviews with him about the Ki and Addicted albums). Prior to the releases he will do a headlining tour through Europe; dates can be found here. The Devin Townsend Project, as this particular era has been dubbed, also features Terror Syndrome members Ryan Van Poederooyen, Mike Young, and Dave Young. More on them and Townsend’s escapades in the coming weeks and months, as they’re due to spend most of 2011 on the road.
Continue reading Only In Canada, Eh! – January 2011: DEVIN TOWNSEND, HEADSTONES, BLACKGUARD, HELIX, And BW&BK’s Year End Hot-And-Not Lists Of 2010…
(Click here for my May 13th, 2009 interview with Devin about the Ki album)
By Carl Begai
Devin Townsend’s last album, Ki, was a clear message that his beloved Strapping Young Lad was indeed dead and buried. Capping off two years of self-imposed silence, the laid back and atmospheric record seemed better suited to a university poetry reading or smokey after hours blues club than the catalogue of someone known for making authentic Norwegian black metal seem tame. Townsend was and remains unapologetic for the scare, and as promised he’s followed Ki up with the second installment of his unofficial Circle Of Hevy Devy’s Life four album exercise under the Devin Townsend Project moniker. And while it’s safe to say that very few people saw it coming, the appropriately titled Addicted may well be one of his strongest outings to date. It depends, of course, on how much one has enjoyed (or not) Townsend’s work outside the Strapping Young Lad demolition derby over the past 15 years, but anyone who is a fan of the man’s diversity as a singer, songwriter and straight-up musical talent won’t go away disappointed. If you do, check to see if your heart is still beating.
“It’s funny. I was talking to a friend of mine at ESP Guitars recently and he said that he didn’t understand why, if I do a record that has the potential to go somewhere, that I can’t keep doing that,” says Townsend. “I tried to explain to him that my process is automatic. I don’t think about it, I don’t preconceive it, and when I write songs I can literally sit down at my computer, turn it on and start writing. If someone left me there and gave me the chance to pee and eat I could have a record a month later. And I wouldn’t know what it was about. Continue reading DEVIN TOWNSEND – Emotion Machine
The Great Canadian Curveball is back. Not a reference to Townsend’s neatly shaped skull, rather a tribute to his ability to change gears from album to album without losing his fanbase or footing as one of metal’s / music’s most original contributors. Addicted is part 2 of Townsend’s four part musical journey through all things Dev, picking up the pace considerably from the quietly brilliant Ki album from a few months back. Hatemongers need not apply, however, as Addicted is the big dumb rock record the man warned us about. On top of that, it’s a good spirited big dumb rock record celebrating the stomping foot and banging head and singing-for-the-hell-of-it voice. Lots of heavy crunch, no splatter, and far from weak. Continue reading DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT – Addicted (InsideOut)
Back in 2003 Strapping Young Lad toured Europe supporting Fear Factory, and being the diehard SYL fan it was a no-brainer I’d take in at least one show and do some press while I was there. The fact that frontman Devin Townsend and I had been crossing paths and doing interviews since 1995 – including a memorable evening at a pseudo-posh Hawaiian restaurant in 1998 ordering up overpriced food and drink that the label paid for – made it a necessary visit, if only to say hello.
A late afternoon interview was scheduled but Devin chose to get some very necessary sleep before the gig, leaving guitarist Jed Simon, drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Byron Stroud to play hurry-up-and-wait with me. We traded the latest tour, album and industry info until word finally came down that Dev would be available after the band’s set instead. Thus, after double-checking all the necessary guest list arrangements, I made my exit so as not to wear out my welcome.
On the way out through the back door of the venue I encountered a fellow journalist – an assumption (foolishly) made based on the camera bag over his shoulder – and his well endowed eye candy. An inexperienced fellow judging by the way he was waiting around for someone to magically appear and say “Come on in, Dood!” as opposed to simply going in and looking for the tour manager. Not my problem, I decided, but as I walked past – offering a courteous nod to him and his woman’s attributes – he flagged me down.
“Excuse me? Do you know if Al is around?”
Continue reading Journalism For Dummies Starring Karma The Bitch
By Carl Begai
When it comes to music guitarist Jed Simon doesn’t do things quietly. From his early days with Armoros and Caustic Thought to a crushing decade in Strapping Young Lad and his continued work with Zimmers Hole, Simon’s life has been about being louder than everyone else. The mission continues in 2009 with the birth of Tenet, a solo project bubbling beneath the surface for the past 13 years that mutated into a band of familiar faces with an agenda based on grab-you-by-the-face brutality. Teaming up with ex-Forbidden guitarist Glen Alvelais, re-uniting once again with Zimmers Hole / ex-SYL mates Gene Hoglan (drums) and Byron Stroud (bass), Simon has unleashed a full scale old school thrash album entitled Sovereign that recalls the days when aggression wasn’t disposable paint-by-numbers kid stuff. It is the real deal, based on roots and feel rather than example. Tenet is not the answer to whatever gaping hole that may have been left in Simon’s life with the demise of Strapping Young Lad. It’s his next logical step as a musician who lives his metal rather than merely playing it.
Continue reading TENET – When It Reigns…
Having spent well over a decade as a member of Strapping Young Lad’s indestructible line-up, the fans are justified in expecting guitarist Jed Simon’s first solo outing to be a continuation of the SYL legacy. And that would be a big fat “nope.” Sure, there are moments on Sovereign that recall Simon’s days of sonic devastation circa the City record (‘Take A Long Line’, ‘Hail Hail’), particularly with drummer Gene Hoglan behind the kit and Byron Stroud ripping up the bass, but this is flat-out mean rather than trademark SYL aggressive. Tenet is about old school so-raw-it’s-bleeding thrash, and minus the big Devin Townsend production values the band has still turned in an unexpectedly brutal debut. A mere nine songs, Sovereign is a frantic beating within the realms of Death Angel’s heaviest Bay Area thrash punk moments and old, old, old Metallica; all shred and no brakes save for the half-speed rest during ‘Going Down’. Continue reading TENET – Sovereign (Century Media – 2009)
By Carl Begai
(Click here for my December 31st, 2009 interview with Devin about the Addicted album.)
The original strapping young lad Devin Townsend is back. And he’s naked.
We’re speaking metaphorically, of course, in reference to his return in the form of a remarkably understated record dubbed Ki. Completely devoid of the camouflage, smoke, mirrors and assorted baggage that enabled him to create the hellfuelled carnage that was Strapping Young Lad, it is the first of a four part introduction to the real Devin Townsend. The initial buzz surrounding Ki has been laced with confusion and some outright negativity due to its mellow nature, leaving fans ponder what might have happened to their revered Hevy Devy during his two year self-imposed hiatus from the spotlight. There are other diehards, however, that have followed him through his non-SYL escapades (Ocean Machine, Physicist, Terria, Synchestra) and embraced Ki as another important step in Townsend’s career.
Ki is also a pointed confirmation that Townsend wasn’t kidding when he announced back in May 2007 that Strapping Young Lad was dead. It was a decision made out of necessity, as according to the press release issued “the last tour (for The New Black) was a real struggle for him to muster any enthusiasm, mostly because SYL was initially created to vent all his frustrations, which no longer exist.” Furthermore, Townsend admitted flat out he was tired of touring and doing interviews, and had no intention or desire to return to the grind although he would release music from time to time. And while there’s little to no chance he’s going to resurrect SYL, Townsend decided in favour of the interview circuit in order to set his rather volatile record straight.
Continue reading DEVIN TOWNSEND – The Deconstruction Of Destruction