Devin Townsend Defends His Departure from STRAPPING YOUNG LAD
When you usher an innate passion for riffs with the demons invoked by years of heavy boozing and tripped out touring, self-destruction can become a familiar – almost safe – haven. Such was the case for Devin Townsend. The infamously vitriolic and belovedly eccentric, former frontman of Strapping Young Lad described, in a recent EverythingRock interview, how his role in Strapping Young Lad became toxic for his emotional, physical, and creative well-being – expressing that "I don't miss the environment; the environment was really bad for me — it wasn't a healthy place for me to live emotionally or chemically."
While Townsend stays in contact with bandmates Jed, Gene, and Bryon, Strapping Young Lad is a toxic venture to which he has no desire to return. When asked if he missed being in the band, he expressed how it ultimately began to feel "lame," and he felt that "you have to make a choice to be happy in your life, because it's very easy to be paid to be miserable and that whole situation, although Byron [Stroud], Jed [Simon] and Gene [Hoglan] are all good friends, everything that surrounded that band became very negative and I don't miss that shit at all, man."
It was a breaking point, where he had to detangle the years of drug-escalated depression and rage that seemed to now define his success. To keep writing and performing music with Strapping Young Lad would be equivalent to "being angry" for the sake of preserving the old style; it was very different than Slayer, who've been in the game for several decades, as the "collection of people who aren't necessarily angry but are good at doing that." But for Townsend, "doing" was a foreign animal; the separation between the anger, rage, and fury of his music, from the life Townsend led outside of the studio, was zero to nil. Anger is what Slayer does, without "letting it seep into their personal lives- " an antithesis to Townsend, who added that, "after a while, I couldn't get a good night's sleep because I was so bent out of shape because of what I was doing." For Devin Townsend, "doing" was equivalent to "being."
The very lack of separation between the emotions in Townsend's music fed on his ability to lead a healthy, happy life. The consequence? A toxic relationship with Strapping Young Lad; cranking up his dopamine release with drugs, and crashing back down with alcohol, became the waking agents for the hours that Townsend did not spend performing, writing music, or falling into the throes of his own depression. It was a negativity to which Townsend did not wish to succumb; he was at least subconsciously aware that Strapping Young Lad was holding him back.
While Townsend accredits his time with Strapping Young Lad as an essential launch-pad for and space of personal and musical growth, "100%," he stands by the fact that "without making that life change, [I'd] have been stuck where I was and the writing was on the wall and I say that and again I can say that until I'm blue in the face and people still wouldn't get that, but staying there would have stunted me emotionally for the rest of my life, so I chose not to. It's nothing against the music. I'm very proud of the music, I think it's awesome, but it's not me anymore."
But with a metal status as epic as his own, Townsend has gotten that annoying, but dearly-devoted-fan-ite question: "will you ever go back to the band? His response has been unabashedly simple: "Why would you want me to?" Modest enough, but truth speaks for itself, at least where Devin Townsend is concerned. He was quick to admit that, to go back to Strapping Young Lad, would just "ruin the romance for the people who expect it to be something I'm not anymore." He has since "made an effort" to work out his anger issues, starting from the very pinnacle, when he was "furious and on drugs," despite his belief that "a lot of people are upset when you work out your anger issues."
In a huge industry where you are arguably "required" to be furious and angry to make the cut, he added, the "world is looking for a justification to feel the same way…to say 'fuck everything,' so it must be okay, and I don't think it is in a lot of ways. It's OK when you're younger, but when you get older, you end up hurting yourself if you still feel that way." In other words, anger breeds deeper anger, until it pulls open wounds that have aged too long to be sedated or overturned. So, when he says, "nothing ever bothers me now," you can call it some sage-old wisdom, coming from one of the few metal frontmen that can consciously tame animate rage, while treking towards some kind of "inner-peace."