In the vibrant tapestry of the music industry, success often comes with its own set of unexpected challenges and consequences. Devin Townsend, renowned for his boundary-pushing creativity and diverse musical ventures, recently opened up about his complex feelings towards the success of his former band, Strapping Young Lad.
In a candid interview with Monsters, Madness and Magic, Townsend revealed his profound dissatisfaction despite the band’s achievements, shedding light on the intricate interplay between artistic accomplishment and personal fulfillment.
Strapping Young Lad was a project that joined together elements of metal, industrial, and extreme music, and enjoyed a formidable surge in popularity during its heyday. The band’s music was a sonic onslaught, relentless and cathartic, attracting a devoted fan base that celebrated its audacious blend of aggression and melody. However, Townsend doesn’t remember the process of putting together the band’s debut album in a fond way.
“That one was like a booby prize in a weird way. Because I had been making demos for so many years trying to get signed. And the demos… When I first got signed to Relativity Records, it was based on the strength of the demos that eventually became both Ocean Machine and Strapping Young Lad. And at that time, I had both of them in one place. So it would go from song like ‘Skin Me’ to a song like ‘Funeral.'”
The folks at Relativity Records didn’t seem to understand Devin‘s vision: “They deemed it to be a schizophrenic-sounding output. So they dropped me. But fortunately, they didn’t charge me for the recordings that they had pitched in for, which was great of them, actually. And they let me go free and clear.”
“And so I had to try and shop the stuff. And so I kept shopping, I got signed to Roadrunner Records. And they signed me and they brought me out to New York and gave me back rubs and crab dinners. And then when I came home, I was recording for them. And then I found out later that they had dropped me.” remembers Townsend.
“So I, again, was out without a label. So I kept trying to shop Ocean Machine and trying to shop Strapping Young Lad as one thing. But Century Media contacted me and said, ‘We don’t want the Ocean Machine stuff but we want the heavy stuff.’ And I was thinking ‘Yeah, but they go together.’ And they said, ‘We only want the heavy stuff.'”
So Townsend did what probably seemed the best course of action at the time: “So I just bashed together a bunch of demos that have been in my world for years. And that became the first Strapping record. And I remember when it came out, it was just like, ‘No, that’s not right.’ You know, I don’t want my trip to be, like, brutal metal. I mean, that’s only a part of what I do.”
“And I think that probably played into why I became increasingly more dissatisfied with the success that Strapping had. I was like, ‘Yeah, but that’s just that stuff. I’ve got all this stuff too. And they’re meant to go together.’ It’s like one thing.” Townsend added.
The pressures of maintaining the band’s momentum while staying true to his artistic vision weighed heavily on Townsend‘s shoulders. His recent explanation offers valuable insight into the emotional journey of an artist grappling with authenticity amidst the clamor of commercial triumph.
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