Musician As Identity: Devin Townsend

Devin Garrett Townsend was born on May 5th, 1979 in New Westminster, British Columbia. Canadian born and raised, Townsend’s love for music started at age 5 when he picked up the banjo. His parents wanted him to learn piano, and so he did to please them, but always wanted to play the guitar. At age 12, Townsend finally picked up the guitar, and has never put it down since. He had always been with the guitar, constantly practicing, and improving.

Townsend started a band when he was in high school called Grey Skies. This was when Townsend’s true potential for music was finally awakened. He found his passion in music, and could not stop; he had to have more. When Townsend was 18, he was enlisted by the talented guitar player Steve Vai to sing for his band called Vai. Townsend sung lead for Vai’s band, and even toured with them for a bit before he realized that he wanted a band of his own, rather than being a part of someone else’s. Townsend did just that and thus, Strapping Young Lad was born. Strapping Young Lad was the heaviest, and most violent musical era of Townsend’s life. The lowest of lows were found during the Strapping Young Lad days. Townsend admitted in an interview with Loudwire that he would mistreat his prescribed medication he had to take for this bipolar disorder, and abuse others just to have some creative output: “I was trying to prove to myself that I was psychologically capable the kind of intensity that comes from that workload, [referring to making the violent and heavy albums] but I wasn’t mature enough to recognize that it’s not one or the other… I didn’t realize at that point that the psychological medications were actually the tether that kept me stable”. Although not proud of his past actions, Townsend owns up to them; he does not glorify them in any way.

After Townsend left Strapping Young Lad in 2007, he swore he would never resurrect it again; there were too many bad memories and experiences that were better left in the past. Devin grew and matured, both as a person and a musician; Townsend states this in an interview with “I’m not doing Strapping [Young Lad] anymore, but I can’t spend anymore energy apologizing. I feel I have progressed as an artist and have moved on from that stage in my career”. He is unapologetic, and recognizes that bringing back Strapping Young Lad would re-open some wounds that are permanently stitched shut. Townsend’s dedication to himself both as a person and an artist is truly inspiring; he does not let others pressure him into revisiting shadows of the past. He gives him reasons, and exercises his freedom to say no, both as a musical artist, and as a person.

As many likely are not aware of, Townsend struggles with social anxiety. Performances and interviews are a part of his job; he learned to work around his anxiety, and found ways to deal with it. In an acoustic performance, Townsend shares one of the ways in which he deals with the anxiety in an acoustic performance: “When I take [my glasses] off you actually don’t have to [visually] connect in the same way. My line of sight ends at this microphone, it’s sort of a defense mechanism I use”. Even in this intimate performance, Townsend chats with the audience, showing just how friendly and charismatic he truly is. Townsend chats with everyone with the same friendly manner; he extends a warm and welcoming hand. He cracks jokes with all interviewers, and laughs along with others. Rather than letting his fame get into his head, Devin remains humble and true to himself.

Devin is not only an inspiration to those to keep persevering, he is also a musical inspiration to others as well. Townsend has been a huge inspiration for Finnish vocalist, guitarist and frontman of the melodic death metal band Wintersun, Jari Maenpaa. Maenpaa oftentimes cites Townsend as a big inspiration for him. When Jari was asked about who influences him in an interview with Nuclear Blast Records; Jari automatically responds with Townsend’s name as if it was reflective. Maenpaa’s work reflects Devin’s own; they both create large symphonies with endless amounts of layering. Devin’s vast and eclectic sound has inspired Maenpaa’s music, and have shaped some of the ways that Maenpaa has built his symphonies as well. Both Devin and Jari have a similar mindset with their music, but both still maintain their creativity, thus resulting in their own unique sound.

Devin makes music because it is his passion. He does not make music for the fame nor the money by any means. had the chance to ask Devin about his salary and Devin responded “About five grand a month, before taxes. Sometimes you get a bonus, but a lot of it goes back in the pot because everybody’s on a salary.” Robert Pasbani of Metal Injection righty puts that “With a traditional job, it may only be 40 hours a week and then you go home. Devy doesn’t have such a luxury. He has to be on the road for months at a time, so he’d be constantly on the job”. Righty put, Pasbani has valid points; Devin does not have the same flexibility, nor the freedom most have from their job.

Devin Townsend’s work can only really be summed up as being unique. He has such a vast sound. He has created everything from dark, violent and angry melodies to peaceful, harmonious, nearly quiet albums. Devin’s music career is an audiobook of his life. Like most musicians, he creates what he feels. He has developed his sound over the years. His music is vast and wide, there is not a single record, nor song that Devin has not touched. Townsend not only mixes and layers musical instruments his together, he also does the same with voices. In the past, he has asked his fans to help contribute to music. Thousands of people have recorded parts of Devin’s work to be a part of the overall song when Devin was finished layering it all in together. Devin has created music videos with his avid listeners, piecing together short video clips of devoted listeners dancing to his song. In plenty of Townsend’s concerts, Devin invites the audience for their participation to truly make it grand. Devin celebrates music, and invites everyone to come along for the ride; this is what truly makes him unique, and an inspiration to many.

Author Bio: Leann Jeethan

Leann Jeethan is a recent English Literature graduate from Southern Ontario. She is a lover of all literature, and adores authors like Anthony Burguess, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. She spends most of her free time reading, writing and catching up on The Walking Dead.



Works Cited:

  • Ankeny, Jason. “Devin Townsend | Biography & History.” AllMusic. Web. 15 Aug. 2017.
  • Carioscia, Anthony. “Devin Townsend Talks 2016 Plans And Why Strapping Young Lad Will     Never Get Back Together.”, 13 Dec. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2017.
  • Devin Townsend at St James Church, London 09.10.2015. Perf. Devin Townsend. YouTube. 11  Oct. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2017.
  • Devin Townsend LUCKY ANIMALS (Lets Make a Vid Together!). Perf. Devin Townsend.       YouTube. 6 Aug. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2017.
  • DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT – Lucky Animals (OFFICIAL VIDEO). YouTube.       InsideOutMusicTV, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2017.
  • Devin Townsend – The Retinal Circus FULL HD. YouTube. 8 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2017.
  • Devin Townsend – Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction? Perf. Devin Townsend, Graham Hartmann.            YouTube. Loudwire, 5 Oct. 2016. Web. 14 Aug. 2017.
  • Pasbani, Robert. “Harsh Reality: DEVIN TOWNSEND’s Reveals His Monthly Salary and It’s      Not A Lot.” Metal Injection. 27 Feb. 2015. Web. 15 Aug. 2017.
  • WINTERSUN – TIME I – Nuclear Blast Facebook Fan Interview Part 1 (OFFICIAL        INTERVIEW). Perf. Jari Maenpaa. YouTube. Nuclear Blast Records, 9 Aug. 2012. Web.      15 Aug. 2017.