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Baker's Dozen

Really Heavy Things: Devin Townsend's Favourite Albums
Toby Cook , December 18th, 2012 13:18

…well, apart from Enya. The Strapping Young Lad man offers up his top albums

Genius, maverick, visionary, lunatic, enigma; how best to introduce to a man who once infamously took a shit in Steve Vai’s guitar case, helped define the industrial metal subgenre with Strapping Young Lad, wrote a concept album about a coffee addicted alien puppet that looks like Kermit’s foreskin and recently performed The Retinal Circus at London’s Camden Roundhouse, a show that was as much rock concert and artistic celebration as it was the vision of an acid casualty who’s spent too much of his youth at Zippos Circus, is as difficult and ultimately futile a task as you’re likely to undertake. For many of us though, our record collections probably say more about who we really are than our flawed personalities ever could, and the great and complex man that is Devin Townsend is no different – over the course of our hour and a quarter conversation his 13 choices elicit all manner of stories, opinions and revelations, many of which are too contorted or off topic to print here, that give a deep insight into one of the most prolific and widely loved artists working in metal today. And that’s not including all the records he left out!

“I just did the first 13 that came into my head actually,” he tells us. “To be fair there would probably be double that amount if I was to be totally accurate; the Star Wars soundtrack or Hysteria by Def Leppard or the soundtracks for The Dark Crystal, Blade Runner or Jesus Christ Superstar – any of that shit could easily have made the list. “I’d say it’s extensive in terms of records that define who I am today,” he adds. “I think that as an adolescent and a young adult, that was the period of my life when I discovered albums that really affectedly me deeply because that’s when I was going through those heavy emotional transitions like puberty or what have you.”

Townsend is, quite frankly, an interviewer's dream and although he may frequently veer off topic and reveal personal habits you can never un-hear, his often hilarious, stream of consciousness responses are rarely less than insightful, and it’s at this point in our conversation, before we’ve even begun discussing his chosen albums, that he touches on a issue that surely says a lot about the rationale behind why certain albums or songs are so significant to those who love them. “As you get older, music plays less and less of an emotionally significant role in your life, to the point that when you reach your mid-40s and early 50s and you’re finding yourself just wanting quiet more than any music,” he explains. “I read a study recently actually, where they were referring to how, chemically, your brain registers new moments of emotional significance in very biological ways – like the first time you get laid or the first time you encounter death; the first time you were mortally embarrassed or the first time you fall in love and break up – all these things, your first times, it’s like the human brain has this reservoir of these sort of neuron impulses that are reserved for these experiences and as a result of that whatever music is the soundtrack to that becomes of utmost significance, right?

“I remember the first sexual experience I ever had was to Def Leppard’s Hysteria, so, y’know whenever I hear Hysteria I get a little misty eyed and throw myself in to a fit of traumatic masturbation because it resonates with that part of me. It’s the same with all of these records, like ‘why’ they are of importance is down to how they interacted with my life at the time. “So these 13 records, I preface it by saying yes these are records that have had a profound effect on me but I can’t say that they’re the only ones – they’re just the first ones that I jotted down and before I knew it I was at 13.”

Click on Townsend's picture below to begin scrolling through his choices.

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