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Strapping Young Lad: City Dwellers.

17 February 2003 | 1:00 am | Eden Howard
Originally Appeared In

All The Young Dudes.

Strapping Young Lad is in stores now.

“I’m Kermit, definitely,” laughs Strapping Young Lad frontman Devin Townsend. “No question about it. I think Gene would be Snuffleuffegus. Jed would be either Super Grover or Floyd from the band, you know, the guy with the big eyebrows. I think Byron would have to be Fozzie Bear.”

“Kermit is just fucking retarded, man,” he notes before a near perfect impersonation. “Hello…”

Right now you’re wondering if this man, or perhaps any man willing to compare himself and his bandmates to the Muppets, should be taken seriously. You shouldn’t, and Devin himself would be amongst the first to admit it. But play along, there is a point.

“Jim Henson was actually me first big influence. The Dark Crystal changed my life forever, man. It’s the whole yin and yang thing, positive and negative.”

There we have it, the two sides of Devin Tonwsend, swinging back and forth between the light and dark sides of his eclectic musical personality. In the early nineties, Townsend caught Steve Vai’s attention and ended up recording an touring on the Sex & Religion album. In 1995 Strapping Young Lad’s debut Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing began to take metal to new extremes, and their 1997 release City stands the test of time as one of metal’s classic albums.

Then things begin to go haywire. After two very bleak Strapping albums, Devin releases Ocean Machine, a complex, invigorating and near operatic work. Infinity begins to take things further out of left field before the Strapping line up reunites as Physicist, putting together another monolithic release. Within a month, Terria is also released, a light and emotional work manly miles removed from the remainder of his catalogue.

Now, six years after the release of City, Strapping Young Lad have figured the time was right to head back in the studio to record what was set to become the long overdue follow up.

“We did a tour last year with Fear Factory and Godflesh in Europe, and both those bands were on their last tour ever. We were just sitting around thinking everyone was not getting along in those bands, but we seemed to. We were just jamming along in the bus, and that’s where it started. We went home and started throwing ideas around to make the heavy metal record to end all heavy metal records.”

Was that the goal this time around? To make the heavy metal record to end all heavy metal records?

“I just like to scare people,” he laughs. “You put on that first song, and it’s like rrroooaaaaarrr! That’s the true nature of it. I’m pretty repressed emotionally when it comes to day to day life, but when it’s time for music I let it pretty much all hang out.”

Even so, there’s a definite sense of much of his work, particularly the heavier material, being somewhat tongue in cheek.

“The idea of doing all this as a parody tends to undermine all the effort that goes into it,” he chuckles. “There’s one side of me that’s wanting to do something emotional, and the other side is like Beavis & Butthead. Yeah, that was pretty cool.”

“(when I’m recording) I feel like I’m like this eight year old boy opening presents on Christmas day and pretending he’s the golden boy in the family’s eyes. With everything I do I think of my family viewing me, which is why the whole rock and roll thing makes me feel really stupid most of the time. It’s not me. I’m not Steven Tyler from Aerosmith,” he sighs. “I never got to be the dungeon master…”

Due for release later in the year is an album from the Devin Townsend, recorded at the same time as the Strapping album, but in a different studio and with different musicians.

“They were pretty obvious records for me in terms of what they should sound like. Before I move into the next phase of something really freaky I’ve got the Strapping album to do, which is an extension of City, and another album to do which is really an extension of the Ocean Machine record. I was wanting to really do an updated version of each to end the era, so to speak.”

“But the thing was, that if I did one, I had to do the other. For better or worse. We did the DTB stuff at home in the evenings while Strapping was spending the day in the nice studio. They actually came out sounding kinda similar in terms of quality. DTB maybe even a little more consistent, which leads me to believe that’s where I’m heading a lot more. It’s all like little lab projects at school for me. You get graded on your school projects, and the reviews are like the grades for me.”

Without wanting to delve too deeply into the duality of human nature, good sides and dark sides, yin and yang, The Dark Crystal… is this where does your true musical heart lie?

“I think the metaphor should be something like people want to fuck Strapping and marry DTB. That’s pretty much how it lies. I like Strapping, but I like it in its place. The DTB is where my heart and soul is, but every now and then you just want to get this shit fucked out of you.”