When it comes to living legends crazy Canadian, Devin Garrett Townsend spreads his roots across the diverse spectrum of not only metal but music in general. The number of bands and projects Townsend has shed light on continues to grow deeper. Not only a songwriter, musician but also a record producer. Known for his distinct sound everything Townsend touches turns to gold. From producing records from Sweden’s Soilwork to Australia’s very own Contrive, the man’s resume is endless. Having just released a book titled, Only half there, being born in 1972 and releasing music from 1990 til present, let’s hope he is only halfway through a magnificent musical career and has much more to offer.
From picking up a banjo at the ripe age of five and learning guitar at the age of twelve it all paid off. At nineteen, Townsend started Grey Skies and joined Caustic Thought, replacing Jed Simon on guitar, joined by Byron Stroud on bass. Both of whom would join Townsend in Strapping Young Lad. Towsend was found by a record label and was asked to provide vocals on guitar virtuoso Steve Vai’s, Sex & Religion (1993).
In 1993 Townsend would create music going by the Noisescapes moniker. It was not until the formation of Townsend‘s very own label HevyDevy that the release of Ass-Sordid Demos (2000), Ass-Sordid Demos II (2002); a compilation of Noisescapes, Grey Skies, and Devin Townsend demos and Ancient (2016); demos from 1986 to 1994, released on a cassette accompanying Townsend‘s autobiography, Only Half There; til these tracks saw the light of day.
While touring with Vai‘s band, Townsend befriended Ginger, lead singer of The Wildhearts, who were Vai‘s supports. Townsend featured on The Wildheart’s single for Urge (1997) and Ginger later co-wrote songs for Infinity (1998) and Christeen +4 Demos (1998).
After being rejected by Roadrunner Records for Towsend‘s music being described as ‘noise’, a five-record contract with Century Media, who were after extreme metal, was on the cards and Towsend did just that. Strapping Young Lad was the answer and the debut Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (1995) was released. Townsend provided vocals, guitar, keyboards and all programming, mixing, editing, production, arrangements, and art direction; credited as Nived. Drums and bass were provided by numerous musicians, with Simon providing additional guitar on both, Critic and Skin Me.
It was the second album, City (1997) written about the city of Los Angeles, where Townsend moved to from Vancouver, Canada, that broke some solid ground for SYL. The introduction of drum god, Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel, Death) to the lineup of Simon and Stroud, who Townsend had played with in his teens in Caustic Thought, brought on a permanency what was much needed.
The third album, the self-titled, Strapping Young Lad (2003), saw a raw side from SYL. While the previous two albums were considered to be more industrial/extreme metal, Hoglan states that SYL were not an Industrial metal band, with the new album taking a more death metal structure. Gone were the over the top samples and keyboards.
The fourth album, Alien (2005) was written in a six-month period by Townsend and Hoglan. The final record for SYL was to be titled The New Black (2005). Described as the most melodic recording to date, the tongue-in-cheek humour saw a slight return. The album featured guest vocals from the likes of Cam Kroetsch (The Almighty Punchdrunk) on You Suck, Bif Naked on the aptly titled, Fucker and the late Oderus Urungus (GWAR) on Far Beyond Metal; a fan favourite also featured on the live album, No Sleep Til Bedtime (1998), which was recorded in Melbourne, Australia.
In 2007 SYL would disband. Stroud continued as a live bassist for Fear Factory, during the releases of Archetype (2004), Transgression (2005), Archetype (2005). Currently in numerous bands such as City of Fire, with Burton C.Bell (Fear Factory), Zimmers Hole, Ani Kyd and Tenet, Simon’s solo project which also features band mate Hoglan and Steve Souza (Legacy, Forbidden) on vocals. Simon was also touring guitarist for High on Fire and Scar The Martyr, before Joey Jordison (Slipknot, Murderdolls) left the band. Simons since then joined Jordison‘s latest band, VIMIC. Hoglan provided drums for the likes of Dethklok, Old Man’s Child, Fear Factory as well as joining his bandmates for Zimmer’s Hole. Hoglan currently drums for Testament who he has worked with in the past.
After the disbandment of SYL, Townsend would focus on his family life and solo career. Although SYL was Townsend‘s baby as such time was always made for his solo work and vast projects. Townsend‘s first solo record was the wacky, Punky Brüster – Cooked on Phonics (1996), which was released on HevyDevy records. A pun on the literacy program Hooked on Phonics it was a concept album on a metal turned punk group from the talented mind of Townsend.
The second solo album, Ocean Machine: Biomech (1997) featured songs such as Funeral, Regulator and The Death of Music, from early Noisescapes days. Completely different to the extreme metal of SYL and the tongue-in-cheek punk attitude of previous solo record, Ocean Machine saw a focus on ambient and progressive metal.
Third solo release, Infinity (1998), saw Towsend use his name for the first time and got fellow SYL drummer Hoglan to perform on the album. Christian Olde Wolbers (Fear Factory) also played standup bass on the album. After checking himself into a mental hospital and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Towsend realised where the two sides of music were coming from and came to the conclusion that Infinity was the parent project of City and Biomech.
Fourth solo release, Physicist (2000) saw the return of the SYL lineup of Stroud, Simon, Hoglan and Townsend after working with Jason Newsted who was with Metallica at the time. James Hetfield was furious that Newsted was working outside of Metallica and that he take part in no side-projects.
Taking a turn with the follow-up, Terria (2001), which was an honest album for Towsend, focusing on his homeland of Canada. The powerful album also featured Hoglan once again behind the kit. The album had elements of pop, ambiance and progressive metal,
Accelerated Evolution (2003), the sixth solo record for Townsend, was the first of two releases, under The Devin Towsend Band moniker. Long-time friend Brian “Beav” Waddell featured on guitar and was accompanied by Mike Young on bass, Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums, and Dave Young on keyboards.
The seventh solo album, DevLab (2004) was Townsend‘s first full ambient record and was followed up by Synchestra (2006), (the second and final album before the disbandment of The Devin Townsend Band. Steve Vai provided a guitar solo on the third track, Triumph. The follow-up was The Hummer (2006) which was Townsend‘s second ambient record.
The tenth solo album by Towsend saw the introduction of Ziltoid the Omniscient (2007), a concept album about an extraterrestrial being named Ziltoid from the planet Ziltoidia who travels to Earth in search of the ultimate cup of coffee. The music was a good mix between both SYL and the Devin Towsend Band.
The Devin Towsend Project was formed and released a staggering seven records to date. Both Ki (2009) and Addicted (2009) were the first two albums, brought out in the same year. Ki featured Duris Maxwell on drums, Jean Savoie on bass and Dave Young on keys and piano. Both Ryan Van Poederooyen drummer for The Devin Towsend Band and bassist Brian Waddell played on Addicted, with Mark Cimino accompanying Townsend on guitar. Female vocals by Anneke van Giersbergen, a former member of Dutch band The Gathering are also featured on the album.
The third and fourth album for The Devin Towsend Project saw the releases of Deconstruction (2011) and Ghost (2011). Deconstruction was yet another concept album from Townsend and featured guest vocals from the likes of Oderus Urungus (GWAR), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Ihsahn (Emperor), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Joe Duplantier (Gojira), Paul Masvidal (ex-Death, Cynic) , Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan) and Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp, Nightwish). As Deconstruction was one of the most intense records, the follow-up Ghost was the total opposite being a mellow piece.
The fifteenth solo album for Townsend and fifth for The Devine Townsend Project, Epicloud (2012) was created during the making of the follow-up to Ziltoid. Townsend would get ideas of pop songs that he wanted to get out of the way so he made Epicloud which featured elements of jazz, country, ambiance and heavy metal. Kingdom, a song off Physicist was even remade for the album.
Country side-project for Townsend saw him team up with Ché Aimee Dorval and released Casualties of Cool (2014), which had a strong Johnny Cash vibe towards it. At the same time, Townsend released Z² (2014), a double album with a follow-up to the concept of Ziltoid, being Dark Matters and the sixth album for The Devin Townsend Project, being Sky Blue.
The most recent release, Transcendence (2016), amazingly the seventeenth solo record from Townsend and the seventh for The Devin Townsend Project saw the first time that Townsend wasn’t sole-producer, being joined by Adam “Nolly” Getgood (Periphery) as co-producer.
Townsend continues to make faultless music for us all with no end in sight. Be sure to catch The Devin Towsend Project when they tour down under. Link below: