I was excited to see Strapping Young Lad on the cover of Vancouver’s entertainment weekly, the Georgia Straight’s “Resurrecting Metal” issue, mainly because hardcore music receives little mainstream media coverage these days. As well, Strapping Young Lad are Canada’s premier Death Metal outfit and thus, in my opinion, deserve the support.
I remember back in pre-Strapping days when Noisescapes was the name and Devin Townsend (the mastermind behind SYL) was a completely focused, straightedge guitar prodigy. So it was a long-shot, I thought, that anything Devin would be involved in today would have any relevance to the cannabis culture. As you’ll see, however, the freak daddy of Canadian extreme metal, although no less focused because of it, has definitely had some intriguing experiences with marijuana as of late.
For all the pro-pot fanatics out there, be warned! Heavy Devy’s got his opinions and they may not sit well with the hash brownies you just munched back.
Devin: I’ve got three projects, Strapping Young Lad is like fire. It’s like a speed metal orchestra. The next one’s called Ocean Machine, very much like water, an ambient Pink-Floydy-type rock project. Then there’s Infinity. It’s a very white sound sort of music. Like heavy religious music. The soundtrack for the second coming.
With these projects that I’ve got going, each one’s an outlet for different vibes. It starts to frustrate people though because they get attached to Strapping and think that’s what I’m all about. But each project is what I like doing in the moment.
Ever done acid?
For the first time last week.
Three hits and it felt like I was stoned.
They put me in a psychiatric hospital last year after I wigged out, and they found out I was schizophrenic and pre-disposed to it as well.
Who is they?
My wife and the doctors
What was that from?
I started smoking pot when I was 23 (he’s 26 now), after finishing off the Steve Vai project, because it was a really traumatic time for me. I wasn’t interested in the music, I was getting a lot of back lash at home and just sort of screwing people over a bit. So in my depression I turned to marijuana as an escape, and it brought out this sense of self-deprecation and self-hatred. I did mushrooms for the first time as well and really freaked out, that’s when I wrote “City”, Strapping’s second release.
I think what people fail to recognize in the whole pro-pot issue is that it’s a powerful chemical, especially if you’re not used to it like I was. Once you’re used to it ? I mean I smoke pot now but I don’t even get stoned anymore. At first, though, it radically shifted my perspective of what I thought about myself and sent me flying into a loop. The Infinity record that I’m working on came out of me as a by-product of smoking marijuana.
What did the folks at Burnaby Psychiatric tell you? Did they tell you to stop smoking?
They weren’t looking for the justification of why I did it. They were looking at what it was doing to me then. I stopped smoking pot until I was able to deal with it. You see, I didn’t smoke until I was 23, and when I did I took the marijuana high so seriously that I ended up thinking I was Christ. That sent me on a loop because the amount of guilt I felt from such a blasphemous thought is just ridiculous.
At the time I went down to some metaphysical bookstore and the guy there told me about some “initiates” in Africa who are given pot so they could see the “light” and afterwards are told to find it on their own. And he said taking drugs after you’ve seen the light is the equivalent of raping your soul and that sent me on this massive downward spiral of self-doubt. I was still obsessed with smoking pot because I loved that I could get stoned, pick up a guitar and be ultra-creative.
So what happened?
So I had a decision to make about whether or not I had to sacrifice being an artist because now that I started smoking I couldn’t go back to creating “straight”. I ended up succumbing to the pot again. I thought the only way I’m going to get through this is by not being afraid of it.
I’m extraordinarily sensitive to people’s emotions and moods and life offers me so much chaos that the only way I can bring it down to a level where I can deal with it objectively is to get high. Eventually, I realized that everybody is Christ, everybody is tapping into this Christ consciousness. This consciousness is eternal, we’re just God in disguise looking at each other, fingers of God wandering around fulfiling the opposite of the metaphysical. We’re here fulfiling the physical.
I’m no different than anybody else. I’ve tapped into this consciousness and that’s the message I want to give everybody through this Infinity record. It’s not me the man, Devin the fallible little human being that likes blow jobs and smoking weed. It’s the other one, the one that has absolutely no fear of myself anymore. The fear is gone, and therefore I am able to grasp what is already there, what is infinite.
The front cover is me naked, the back is me naked, the inside is me naked shaking hands with myself.
Have you tried ganja food?
No but I’d like to.
Way more psychedelic!
Two nights ago I did three hits of acid and got my wife to tie my hands up so I couldn’t doodle or play the guitar. I ended up thinking about nothing but physics and math ? asexual bliss you know?
What’s the new Strapping Young Lad album called?
The new Strapping is called “No Sleep til Bedtime”, and it’s a live record we recorded in Australia.
You’re planning a tour?
We go to Japan and Australia in October, then we’re going back in January to tour Infinity which comes out next month (September/October).
So what’s up with marijuana now?
I want to eventually quit smoking because I essentially find it a dirty habit but I think the only way I’m going to quit is to smoke myself into oblivion.
You don’t say. Any parting words?
I’m very pro-pot because I smoke it and I’m aware of the consequences, but I wish people, especially spokespersons like Marc Emery, would take responsibility for the harmful side effects. I’d really like people to be responsible with the weed cuz I love it you know?
Are you a hippie?
Me!? I’m just Devin, I’m comfortable with myself, I like my pants big, I like my weed stinky, I like my food fresh, I like my people being honest and I like friends.
Devin Townsend’s projects, Ocean Machine and Infinity, are on his own label, Hevy Devy Records, out of Vancouver. “Heavy as a real heavy thing”, “City” and “No sleep til bedtime” from Strapping Young Lad are all on California’s Century Media Records.
Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
Strapping Young Lad
No Sleep til Bedtime, Live in Australia
I’m quite a health-conscious boy, so instead of perking up to pseudo-alertness in the morning with a quadruple espresso like my room-mates do, I crank up my favourite blend of Strapping Young Lad and usually find the ensuing struggle to remain sane ? a really nice synapse-jolting method of welcoming yet another beautiful day on Earth. Sure Gene Hoglan’s double kick-drum work alone is enough to send this drummer into orgasm, but add the whole hyper-kinetic (I got this cool word from the back of the CD) mosh into the mix and I’m creaming and spewing from every orifice in unison, with a smile on my face to boot.
The sampling, vocal and other intricacies are slightly buried on this 9-track, mostly live CD, with the exception of studio tracks 8 and 9, “Japan” and “Centipede”, respectively. Damn fine live recording though. I assure you that these intense fuckers will freak you out, giggle you with absurdity and send you draggin your ass bleeding back to mama. The only respite you’ll get from Mr Townsend and Co will be in the form of the Helmety-chunk of “Japan” and the industrial dance metal of “Centipede.”
Smoke some of your stinkiest, drink a cup of Amazonia Cubensis mushroom tea, pop a couple hits of “Dead” family acid, crank up some Strapping Young Lad and then see if you can match Hevy Devy’s little stint at Burnaby Psychiatric. Of course you’d be a fool to even try.
Under the Influence
Maverick a Strike
Reggae, soul, R&B, hip-hop, funk, fat bass, classic-sounding keyboard and guitar lines, fresh beats and Finley’s unique and sweet voice, smoothy mixed together like sex without a condom.
You’re at a dinner party. 10 bottles of wine and 20 phatties later someone puts some Finley Quaye on the system. You nonchalantly clear your table, hop on with your special friend and, slowly at first, so as not to startle anyone, begin enacting what “Maverick a Strike” is all about. Don’t worry about the other guests, if they’re hip to Finley’s vibe, they’ll surely follow suit. ?Chee Chee La Roo