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One of the most prolific, unpredictable and underrated artists working in the metal scene, Devin Townend has spent the last two decades effortlessly slipping between genres, from the extreme metal of the now-defunct Strapping Young Lad to the surreal concept album Ziltoid the Omniscient. Despite first emerging as a singer-for-fire on Steve Vai’s 1993 record Sex and Religion, the Canada-born multi-instrumentalist soon grew tired of the egos and power struggles of working for other artists and created his own project with his debut offering Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing.
While Strapping Young Lad would gain considerable acclaim for their sophomore classic City, Townsend’s urge to experiment and embrace other genres would result in other ventures taking priority, with a solo career soon followed by the Devin Townsend Project. With offerings ranging from the sublime Ki to the electro Addicted, Townsend continued to defy expectations with an array of eclectic ventures.
Maining creative control through his own label Hevy Devy, Townsend has refused to merely embrace his metal origins and instead incorporates all manner of styles from thrash to progressive rock, resulting in praise from the music industry and an army of loyal fans. His latest offering Transcendence was released earlier this year and, as Stereoboard claimed in their recent review, it ‘will blow your fucking mind.’
Earlier in his career, however, his operatic vocals were not the only defining feature that Townsend was known for. During the days of Strapping Young Lad his appearance included an infamous skullet, a hairstyle that was long at the back and bald on top, much like a Klingon from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In an interview republished by Metal Hammer, Townsend commented on the moment in which he finally decided to shave off all his hair. ‘That was the easiest decision that I’ve made in recent memory. At first it was kinda weird ’cause you get attached to it,’ he admits. ‘It’s hard enough to get laid in general at this age, but when you’ve got massive, snot-covered poo-sticks hanging off your head, it becomes that much harder. I had to go to the bank to get a loan for my Pro Tools rig and I felt like Krusty The Clown. That was it!’During the discussion he also addressed his decision to become a singer, ‘I do what I do because there are no other options. If I could do something else with my voice then I would! But the tools I was given are the ones I use. That being said, I’ve never been a fan of singing, I prefer playing guitar, but when I was younger every singer I worked with was a douchebag so I thought I’d just handle it.’
Music fans are known for their obsessions and sometimes artists are asked to participate or contribute in somewhat questionable activities from groupies, but even when it comes to something more commonplace such as autographs the situation can become a little strange. ‘Every single body part, male or female, has been presented to me as something a fan wants signed,’ he recalls. ‘On the female front, it’ll be up on Facebook in no time and my wife will be like, ‘Why did you do that?’ With male parts, I’m heterosexual, I have no desire to sign a guy’s cock. I signed someone’s cat once! That was the only time I signed a pussy…’