Since going solo in 2008 everything he has put his wacky mind to has proven successful, his latest being a live DVD of the Retinal Circus performance, due out later in the year.
He is also touring Australia in October, and although he is skipping Adelaide this time around, we were very fortunate to be able to steal some of his time and step into his mind for a while...
So How are you?
Hmmm… Sorry, I have a mouth full of soda here. I am typically me in that on the good days I am confident and solid and on the bad days I have no idea why I do what I do. But the good news is I think I am past the point in life where I take either of those things too seriously so they tend to cancel each other out and in general I’m absolutely fine, if you know what I mean?
Well, I hear congratulations are in order as you’ve been nominated for two awards in the Prog Rock awards this year (One for Retinal Circus in the Live Event category, the other for True North from Epicloud in the Anthem category), these aren’t your first nominations, are they?
No, we were nominated at the Golden Gods Awards as well for several things, and I got nominated for a couple of records now, a couple of years running at the Canadian Juno’s, so it’s starting to become a little more visible. None of them have transpired into an actual win, but for me after 20 years of doing what I do and trying to convince people that maybe the aesthetic of heavy metal is something that I choose to do and is not indicative of the Iron Maiden, Slayer back patch wearing knuckle dragging set, right, it's nice for me to be slowly able to get my foot in the door with multiple genres. The goal eventually, through any of these projects including this variety puppet show we’re working on now is that in a couple of years maybe these things will allow us to be really visible and all of these absurd ideas that I have will be able to come to fruition, I mean, God, that would just be f*cken so great!
So if what it takes is to be visible in ways like that, bring it on!
Ha! I remember that Fowlers show!
Australia has always been such a wonderful experience for me on a personal level as well, I've met a lot of people who I relate to there, and I guess there is a connection between Canada and Australia in lots of ways. But do I have any goals? Let me think about it…
My goals are to be creatively free, like creatively liberated and that includes the ability to articulate any idea I have that I think is artistically viable, and I want to assemble a group of people around me that have talent in the ways that I don’t have, that I can delegate these ideas to and keep multiple multiple projects growing. My elements of it are almost exclusively like vision, artistic direction, music, the odd thing here and there but I have no interest in controlling all aspects of these artistic visions. I just want to be free to have an idea and say “we’re doing this tomorrow, we can afford to do it, I want this person to do it, and I want him to do it because I’m satisfied with what he is getting out of it, and he’s gonna do a great job!” This is what I want. And if I can utilize the opportunities that I've experienced through the touring or the nominations or whatever to achieve that, then that is my goal.
In terms of public perception or success or any of those things, that’s never been a motivation. For me it's about having a great time. It really is, and there is a lot of work involved in it but I do like that idea above all of it.
It certainly comes across that you have a great time on stage and in front of a crowd with audience members being captivated. It seems that everyone that knows and likes your music has no expectations of what’s next from you. They just go “Oh, that’s just Devin, he’s so zany like that!”, and that’s gotta feel so much less constricting compared to what most normal artists would feel?
I think there is also an element of my career and my world that’s never really been super cool, in hindsight people tend to romanticize Strapping Young Lad like we were this super cool thing. But I tell you, when we were happening, it wasn’t super cool, we weren’t part of the cool crowd. It was this awkward speed metal industrial thrash thing that was happening on the side of all the cool kids, right? And the same thing is happening now, so as a result of never being completely accepted into any particular genre, it's been liberating because no one really expects anything. If I had a ton of success with something, like if I was in Slayer, people are gonna expect that to be similar to everything else.
We’re doing this fucken puppet show right now that’s outer space puppet show with a lot of shit humour and quantum physics references and I love it, it's what I wanna be doing! So when people see it, it's like “Ok, it sounds like you’ve spent a lot of time on that, it sounds great – when does the record come out?”
Would this have anything to do with Ziltoid?
Yeah, this is it! We’re working on the Ziltoid show right now and it’s so awesome!
Again I went into the studio last night to do some voice over work for it and there was a dude there with his buddy who asked me what I was working on, and I told him it was a puppet show thing. He asked me to play it so I did and he was looking at me like I’m wearing a sweater! He was like “Why would you do that?” and I was like “Well because I want to, because I think it's fucken really funny!”
We’ve got great people guesting on this show, and we’ve got people interested in a syndication of this show, yet it's just so absurd, and so far removed from that sort of creative liberation that it proves a point, in my mind. You don’t have to follow those rules in order to get into that world, and I am hoping that by sticking to those guns and not only making it absurd, but as absurd as you can possibly take it comfortably, then you're making a point, that, ultimately, underlies the goal of being totally creatively liberated, right?
Oh my God!
I laughed so hard I nearly peed a little, I found it to be so hilarious!
We’ve got a lot of people working on the Ziltoid show with us now and because his dialogue virtues on really crude shit or misogyny or any of these things, but it doesn’t go there, that’s the thing! It’s a fine line! I think the way that the character can straddle it is, go to these places where you think “if I was your mother I’d wash your mouth out with soap”. However, it’s the over riding psychology of it and of the character that he’s just repressed, and so it never actually goes to a sadistic point or truly misogynistic or truly horror or whatever. So integrating new people into the process, that’s the thing. Other people will come up with ideas like “right here you could like kill a bunch of people”, but he doesn’t kill a bunch of people. He talks big, but he’s got this conscience that fucks with him. If you go into the back-story of his relationship with his dad which is really awkward, and he had an over bearing mother, so the depth of where you can go with that sort of character is again really creatively liberating.
So at this stage what we’re trying to do is set up that creative unlimited potential with illustrating the character through the show, right? Like when the guy was looking at it, he was shaking his head like “what the fuck?!” and then all of the sudden he is calling over his buddy saying “You gotta see this!” and then his buddy is like “What the fuck?!”
(Ziltoid: I just pooped in your bum)
He just said he pooped in my bum. Sure.
Will Ziltoid be making an appearance on this tour in October?
To a certain extent. He is busy making his TV show so I might keep him back here for a while, but he’s always there my friend.
When you do your live shows you’re so into it and have such a good time, showing that you love doing it. What happens when you come off stage, do you actually have a ‘come down’ from it, or do you just move onto the next thing to be done?
I think music in a live format is good for me because it allows me to be confident. Art in general I feel very confident with – my ability to do what I do, I never question. There is a shocking lack of negative self-image that is often a liability when it comes to doing what I do. However in real life, I don’t like being around people. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like loud things, I don’t like rock shows or loud motorbikes or fireworks. I like it quiet, I like to be on my own, I like it dark, I like nature, these are the things that inspire me. So after a show, my goals are not necessarily to hang out backstage and talk to people. I need to calm down. I wanna go have a bath, you know? I wanna go be on my own and be at peace for a while. If I have the opportunity to do that, which sometimes I am able to, then it keeps it in perspective and it keeps the two sides of my personality at peace with each other. Because if one of them gets all the attention, for example if you get off stage and you have to entertain people and all this shit, then eventually I start to resent playing live just because there is no respite from it.
But on the other end, if I am always at home keeping things quiet and I am always able to go for a walk and be in nature, after a while I just get bored!
At this age I am also luckily getting to a point of where I can be more aware of what my needs are. Whether or not those needs are things that when I was younger I would think were reasonable or rational. I mean shit I’ve been married for so long but I remember in the beginning of relationships I always used to think that I was gonna pretend I was just like them, I’m gonna pretend I’m just like a woman or whatever. But as I’d get half way through it I’d realize that a big part of me is a Neanderthal, that’s how I am wired. That’s how I am.
So for me to pretend I’m not, just ends in dissatisfaction. I think I have empathy and I think I am intelligent and all these sorts of things, but to pretend that I am not a man, to pretend that I am not just as single minded and Neanderthal with the base elements of my life as I actually am, just ends up in frustration. So its great to be able to get to the point of my life where I’m like “you know what? I need quiet” or “I need this” or “I need that” and I don’t give a fuck if people think I am not intelligent or not clever or not in line with what peoples projections of what the music is.
You know what?
You are what you are, and the sooner you can make peace with that, the sooner you can be creatively free.
Photos and interview by Melissa Donato