STRAPPING YOUNG LAD
Okay. I started SYL in 1993 after hearing Soul Of A New Machine. I saw Fear Factory open for Sepultura with Clutch, and I remember running around the venue telling everyone: “THAT is what I want to do, except with extra chaos…”
My creative process is directly tied to my emotional development. There are some folks that make music by picking up a guitar until they have a riff that is defined by the musical roads they choose to hone. They then sculpt it into that framework and voila, Metallica, Slayer, Priest etc. I think that’s awesome, and in some ways I’m envious of that. In many cases, if you mix that with tenacity and a certain amount of talent and luck, you can sustain a decent career.
That’s not how I create, again… as it is tied to life and circumstance, my music has generally been cathartic observations of what life presents, and each new record in many ways is a reaction to the one before. So in the most blunt of terms, I make music to better understand myself as I change.
When I was twenty-three, Strapping Young Lad was a DIRECT reflection of my state of mind. As honest as I could possibly be. I think one of the reasons people responded well to the music is because it was from the heart. A middle finger defined by a cathartic need to get through it all… (My twenties in hindsight…)
I signed a five record deal, and when I came to the second record, City, it was completely written in my bedroom… in the same ways as Ocean Machine, Infinity or Ki have been written, again, as an honest reflection of that state of mind (early twenties). And as I continue to do to this day, when I was putting the album City together, I looked for people to participate in the recording to bring life and energy that was congruent with the music.
I had cut my teeth in bands with Byron. My first tour was in his band, Caustic Thought. Strangely, I was Jed’s replacement in the band and I just played guitar… but Byron was THE MAN in our scene (and still is)… big thundering bass tone and a great confident mind for organization and business. Jed was older than us, but had that kind of aura that people gravitate to. A cool guy who everybody wanted to be with.
Gene I met in LA at an Iron Maiden show, and while we were both loaded, I convinced him to do the session for City. In fact, he didn’t remember the conversation the next day.
So to make a long story longer, we slowly became a band over the years, and the single greatest musical moments in my career to date were with those guys. I consider them brothers for life.
So I DID NOT quit SYL because of any drama bullshit. As a result of my creative process, the things that drew me to that style of music as catharsis had been resolved, in fact… it was resolved after City, and the lure of being in a kick-ass band propelled me towards reconnecting with that honest intention in increasingly self-destructive ways out of the idea of honoring the SYL muse. What ended up happening were some great albums and tours, but my original, fearless metal vibe ended up getting steeped in a kind of bizarre irony, and through excessive drug use, the intention behind the music began to be more about paranoia rather than strength.
Being a martyr for anybody reeks of cults, religion, and Kurt Cobain. So after completing the contract (and not before), I bowed out as gracefully as I could and I think we’ve left a fucking awesome legacy.
I’m incredibly proud of everything we did, and our fans, and I am honored beyond measure to have played not only with some of my oldest and most talented friends, but to have connected with one of the single most intense musical minds in metal with Gene.
I have many things I want to do in the future that I need to honor now. I want to write symphonies and I’m a total control freak (i.e., shitty to be in a band with…). You know, LSD… Lead Singer Disease.
All hail the new flesh, times change, and what I found important to sing about at twenty-three is different than at thirty-seven. Strapping Young Lad was one of the best in my opinion, and it sucks that I don’t write like a typical metal band. But I think that, in lots of ways, that’s what made SYL unique.
Be true to the muse folks, wherever it leads you… there are no original ideas, we all draw from the collective unconscious.
Here is my favorite song we ever did, “Skeksis,” from Alien.