DEVIN TOWNSEND: STRAPPING YOUNG LAD ‘Wasn’t A Healthy Place For Me To Live Emotionally’

EverythingRock conducted an interview with Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend‘on November 15, 2011 at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

EverythingRock: Do you miss STRAPPING YOUNG LAD?

Devin Townsend: 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. There was a lot of drugs, a lot of drinking, and it wasn’t like… I think 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 of mine, everything that surrounded that band became very negative and I don’t miss that shit at all, man. It seems to be the hardest thing for people to understand. People will be like, “Why did you leave?” and I’ll be like, “Because it became really lame for me before the end.” But that being said, I still talk to Jed, Gene and Byron often — they’re good friends of mine.

EverythingRock: Do you think leaving STRAPPING YOUNG LAD has furthered your career? I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but some of the things you’re doing at the minute probably couldn’t be done with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, so would you argue it’s helped you evolve as a person and musician?

Devin Townsend: Totally. 100%. 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. A lady said to me before, “Why would you not do it again?” and I replied, “Why would you want me to?” If I’m not there, it’s going to ruin the romance for the people who expect it to be something I’m not anymore. When I was in STRAPPING, I was furious and on drugs and shit, and I worked a lot of it out — it’s not like it went away, but I worked it out. I consciously made an effort to work that shit out. A lot of people are upset when you work out your anger issues, but there’s a big industry for music which is furious and angry because, in my opinion, the world is looking for a justification to feel the same way. It’s popular to say “Fuck everything” so it must be OK,” 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. But again, the way I chose to write music and the way SLAYER write music is different — I’m not saying SLAYER are unhealthy…

EverythingRock: SLAYER are just SLAYER.

Devin Townsend: Yeah, they’re a collection of people who aren’t necessarily angry but are good at doing that. And it seems that they can do that and not have it seep into their personal lives, whereas when I was in STRAPPING, I found 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.

EverythingRock: What are your thoughts on illegal downloading? Do you see the possible benefits in it?

Devin Townsend: Fill your boots. Take it all. Money fucking sucks! I make music for people to hear it so get it however you want! If you want to buy a shirt somewhere, that’s cool, if you don’t, that’s cool. If you’re making music strictly to make money, you might as well find another job. I make it because I want people to hear it and I tour my ass off and we make a living, but ours is not the position to complain. If you do a good enough job, then eventually it’ll work out for you.

EverythingRock: We can see it’s worked for you as you have some great fan support!

Devin Townsend: Yeah, man, it’s insane! That’s why with the box set I went out of my way to make it good because I know people will buy it. I guess it’s a learning curve at this point, and I don’t know what’s right or wrong but I know what’s right and wrong for me and I think that there’s a certain clique in the industry that’s “If you lie to everyone, we’ll pay you lots of money,” but again, it’s just money and you’re stuck with a bunch of money and an empty soul so if it means you have substantially less money and you’re happy, then fucking right. So yeah, if you know anyone who hasn’t heard what I do, just tell them to download it all. [Laughs]

EverythingRock: What are your best tips for aspiring artists?

Devin Townsend: Learn to accept criticism, because as things become more popular, the more people go out of their way to hurt them; they’ll have a personal investment in telling people how lame you are or how much of an asshole you are. But it comes with the territory. I can’t imagine anyone has gotten to any level of success without the same thing happening to them. I mean, when I was a kid, I used to rag on bands I didn’t like, too, relentlessly, without thinking about how they’d feel about it. If you can’t take criticism, though, you can’t take the accolades either. If someone tells you that your shit DOESN’T stink, and you want to believe that, you also have to believe the person who says it does. If you want to make music — don’t listen to the good things, and don’t listen to the bad things.

Read the entire interview from EverythingRock.