Interview: Strapping Young Lad

(this interview originally appeared in issue #54 of Modern Fix Magazine in 2007).

Interview: Strapping Young Lad

Canada’s definitive metal band, Strapping Young Lad, is one of the leading extreme metal acts currently at work. Ever since their inception back in 1994, the Lad has been forging their own brand of heaviness, blending elements of thrash, industrial, and death metal elements with technical structures, ambient textures, and epic melodies.

When they’re not recording albums (and founder/songwriter/voice/co-guitarist/producer Devin Townsend isn’t recording under his eponymous Band), they’re on tour. Lately, Strapping Young Lad has been touring heavily in both Europe and the U.S., including on the Ozzfest tour, in support of their latest album, “The New Black.”

Lately there has been some concern among Strapping Young Lad fans that the band may be breaking up, largely due to some recent statements by Devin about fulfilling the band’s contract with Century Media Records. “No, we’re not gonna break up,” he said of the rumor, “we’re just gonna do (everything) when we feel like doing it.”

On a hot afternoon at the Mansfield, Massachusetts chapter of Ozzfest, Devin was kind enough to sit down and share some of his time and thoughts on the tour, “The New Black,” and the future of the band.

So you won’t be breaking up, then?
We’re gonna do a couple tours next year to conclude this record, and then, it might be two years, might be ten years, might be one year… I just don’t want to be forced to do anything anymore.

What will the rest of the band do in the meantime?
It’s up to them. They’ve all got other things going on. I wish them luck. I mean, it’s not that we’re not going to do it again. It would be when we feel like it, when I feel like it, as opposed to doing like ten records a year.

Now that “The New Black” has been unleashed upon the world, what do you think about it?
I like it. I really like it. It might be one of my favorites. We just had a short period to write it, and we wrote it in that short period of time, and then I was like, “Whew, I’m tired man.” and then when I was too tired to function, I had to do so many interviews, and by the end of the interviews, I was like, “You know what? I don’t care. Like, fuck everything.”

There were lots of new touches on The New Black, like the big band section on “Anti Product.”
Yeah, I’m an old hippie, man.

What brought that about, as well the numerous guitar solos and the other unusual touches?
I like Andrew Lloyd Webber. I like musicals so it’s always been part of my whole works. In terms of guitar solos, I’ve been a wanker for so many years that it’s just about time.

On “Far Beyond Metal” and “Fucker” you had guest vocalists (Oderus Urungus of GWAR fame, and Canadian singer/songwriter Bif Naked). Will you ever play those live, you think?
We’ve played “Far Beyond Metal,” but I don’t think we’ll play “Fucker.” I just wanted to write a pop song that you couldn’t play.

Would you say there’s ever been a specific genre that Strapping Young Lad belongs to, or would you just say it’s metal?
Freak metal. Weirdo metal. Bizarro metal. I dunno. It’s just weird, you know? Geeky, weird metal. Kind of avant-garde bizarro metal.

“Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing” just got remastered and re-released. Is something similar going to happen with “City”?
It’s up to Century Media, so they’ll probably re-release every record ten times in ten years, so… “Ooh, this one’s got a different font!” (laughs)

At each Ozzfest show, how is it to do X amount of songs in twenty minutes each time?
At least you get the day over with quickly. There’s not a lot of work to do each day. It just has this feel of corporate advertising, playing in a parking lot to a bunch of people that don’t understand you.

Is Gene (Hoglan, drums) going to do anything?
Yeah. I mean, Gene’s Gene, so he could make any band in the world sound better than they do already, so that will be fine, and Jed’s got a ton of things. I want everybody to be doing something really cool. And I’ll produce, and do some painting, and do some crazy metal music, and just do lots more, you know, my stuff, right? As opposed to “RAAAAARRR!!!”

When you were writing and recording “The New Black”, did you already have it in mind that you’d be taking time off?
No, no. But as soon as I was done it was a benefit. I was like, “I need a break.”

It would have been a nice coda if it was the last.
Yep, absolutely. And I mean, it might be. But, it might not. I just don’t know. I’m going to not do it anymore because I have to, I’m going to do it because I want to.

Right now you’re working under both Inside Out and Century Media.
Well, I mean, a label’s a label, right? But we finished our contract with Century Media, so whatever we choose to do, we can do it.

Well, here’s hoping you get to have a tour where it’s just Strapping Young Lad, so you can play whatever you want.
We’ve been touring for fifteen years. We’ve done a lot of shows, so you know, we’ll be around, man.



2006 The New Black (Century Media)
2005 Alien (Century Media)
2003 Strapping Young Lad (Century Media)
1998 No Sleep ‘Til Bedtime: Live in Australia (Century Media)
1997 City (Century Media)
1995 Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (Century Media)