There’s been a great deal of confusion regarding the true identity of the Heathen, who fronts thrashy speed-metallers Zimmers Hole. Some think the Heathen is actually Devin Townsend, one of metal’s most sought-after producers and the man who fronts Strapping Young Lad.
Considering that the band is rounded out by Strapping’s drummer Gene Hoglan, guitarist Jed Simon and bassist Byron Stroud, and that Townsend produced Zimmers’ new LP, While You Were Shouting at the Devil, We Were in League With Satan (in stores now), it’s understandable how some fans might make that assumption. And then, on top of all that, Devin and the Heathen have uncannily similar voices, which hasn’t helped matters.
But the Heathen — who dons devil horns when the band takes the stage — wants you to know he’s not Devin Townsend, although he does credit the crazed Canadian with helping him hone his pipes.
“We’re not one and the same person,” he said, pointing out that Zimmers Hole was formed well before Strapping came on the scene. “Our voices have similarities, and I’ve known Devin forever. Where his voice has holes, that’s where I’m strong. So I’ve basically been his studio whore the last three years. He knows my voice really well, and he basically pimps it out. I’m pretty much the mystery background vocalist for Strapping, and I think we’ve influenced each other a whole lot, vocally.”
The Heathen (born Chris Valagao) doesn’t mind people mistaking him for his longtime pal, who he claims rules the studio with an iron first. “He’s a slave driver,” said the Heathen. “He just pushes and pushes and pushes, until he gets the take he wants. That’s why the stuff he produces is the way it is. Dude’s got skills, man.”
And so does the Heathen. When he takes the stage, he goes into full-on demonic possession mode and becomes hell-bent on corrupting the innocent with pure debauchery and malevolence — which is why the possibility of Zimmers Hole playing Ozzfest (yep, we’ve heard rumors) seems so inviting.
“We’d look forward to playing Ozzfest, just to f— with people,” he said. “Basically, they’re going to get it — they have no choice when they come see us. We’re going to ram it down their f—ing throats, because live, I take no prisoners. You simply have no choice.”
For the most part, Zimmers Hole — who will be touring the States in the fall with Sigh — thrive on humor. Their lyrics poke fun at the metal genre and the album’s title, for instance, is something of an inside joke the lads share. “But at the same time, we’re celebrating metal,” he defended, before launching into the story behind While You Were Shouting at the Devil, We Were in League With Satan.
“It came from a quote. … I believe David Vincent of Morbid Angel was having a conversation with one of the guys from Forbidden,” he recalled. “They were drinking and f—ing around, and they got into this argument over who’s more metal. The dude from Forbidden, at one point, turned to Dave and said, ’Dude, when you were shouting at the devil [an obvious reference to Mötley Crüe], I was in league with Satan [a reference to Venom],’ and Jed was in the room and picked up on that. So we started saying it as a joke. That little statement applies to a whole bunch of sh–. Basically, ’When you were a poseur, I was the real deal.’ ”
Even Zimmers Hole’s formation is something of a humorous yarn. According to the Heathen, he’d once been in a band called the Kill with late bassist Dean Robert Zimmer, a 6-foot-6 gentleman with a huge green mohawk. “He was missing a few teeth and was a pretty imposing figure,” the Heathen said. “That band disbanded, and Dean went on and formed a band call the Process. They were doing some big shows, and at the time, me and Byron were roommates, and Dean calls us up [and] tells Byron, ’We have this show, and the opener canceled. Do you want the opening slot?’ He hangs up the phone and turns to me and goes, ’We have five days to start a band.’ ”
After four days holed up in a practice space with just the right amount of booze, Zimmers wrote several tracks, which would eventually become the core of 1997’s Bound by Fire.
“This gentleman, Dean Zimmer, we go out drinking with him to a few parties, and he would proclaim it ’Clothing Optional Hour,’ and so you’d have this big guy, taking all his clothes off in the middle of the party,” the Heathen remembered. “He’d look around the room for the beautiful people and proceed to spread his ass cheeks wide open and run backwards at them, just to f— with them. So when we got this first gig, we decided to call the band Zimmers Hole, just to roast the big guy.”
The music they’d written was insane, and sounded very Mr. Bungle-esque. “I was listening to a lot of Brutal Truth at the time, and it was like this grindcore-spazz-jazz thing,” the Heathen said. “The place went ape-sh– for it, and the rest is history. Since then, Zimmers has been like a gentlemen’s club — it’s what we do to hide from the girlfriends and our responsibilities. We think the songs are awesome to play, and they make us laugh. Really, we don’t care if anybody else likes it.”
The Heathen said that already, Zimmers Hole have started scratching out ideas for their next studio effort. He’s even named two songs: “Ride the Spider” and “Breath of a Thousand Co–s.” And the Heathen said he’d like to work with Dev again, if only to make him another decorative artifact.
“In the studio, I tend to hack up a lot of lung when I am pushing to get a performance, so Devin provided me with this vase to spit in, and over the passage of the recording, I probably collected about a liter-and-a-half of spit,” the Heathen confessed. “Devin refused to throw it out. He still has it in his studio. He actually sealed it, put a lid on it and made some weirdo papier-mâché face thing, and now it’s some sort of sacred idol. It’s been there six months, so I don’t know what form of life has grown inside. There’s probably a baby Heathen in the vase.”
The rest of the week’s metal news:
It won’t be long before we start hearing new music from Slipknot, but for now, we’ll just have to make due with the photos the band has been posting over at its MySpace page. Some of the photos display the new masks the band will be sporting on the upcoming RockStar Energy Mayhem festival , which is set to kick off July 9 in Seattle. …
Could it be true? Could Guns N’ Roses be done with Chinese Democracy, an album it has taken more than a decade to complete? Well, according to NME, Axl Rose has turned in the effort to his label, Geffen Records. … DragonForce are reportedly in the studio, working on the yet-untitled follow-up to 2006’s Inhuman Rampage, which has already been slated for an August 26 release date. Metal File will have more on the effort in the coming weeks. …
Hatebreed have entered into a new agreement with Koch Records. As part of the deal, Koch will issue three Hatebreed releases, the first being the band’s first live DVD, which will be in stores in the fall. At some point after that, Hatebreed is expected to begin work on their next LP. We’ll keep you posted. … All That Remains will start recording their next record May 1 in Florida, with producer Jason Suecof (Bury Your Dead, Chimaira). “We are wicked pumped to be working with Jason,” frontman Phil Labonte said. “He’s been a friend for a long time, and we are super-excited to hear how he will bend [our] sound and help squeeze new and badass metal out of our collective brains.” …
I guess a peace pipe has been smoked between now and three weeks ago, as Brain Drill seem to have mended fences. “Brain Drill will be carrying on despite all the recent rumors of breakups,” the band said in a statement. “The band is currently looking for a new drummer, and more information will be made available shortly for those interested in trying out for the spot.” The guys had announced on their MySpace page not too long ago that they were done (which makes us question their using the word “rumors” in the statement, but whatever), citing internal strife sparked by some of the bandmembers’ chronic marijuana intake. … Dark Tranquillity, Divine Heresy and Firewind will all be teaming up for a brief U.S. run next month. Things will get under way May 31 in Tempe, Arizona, and shows are booked through June 10 in Raleigh, North Carolina. …
The date has been set for this year’s Virginia Death Fest — the event is scheduled for May 10 and 11 and will feature Death Angel, God Forbid, Soilent Green, Dying Fetus, Origin, Sworn Enemy, Thy Will Be Done and Plague the Suffering, among others. … Disturbed, In Flames, Testament and Children of Bodom will be performing at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods 2008 ceremony, set for June 16 in London. The event will be hosted by Gwar’s Oderus Urungus and will be aired on MTV2 at a later date. Machine Head, Arch Enemy and Megadeth are up for the Best Live Band award, while Every Time I Die, Bloodsimple and DevilDriver are nominated for Breakthrough Artist honors. … Celtic Frost singer and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer has apparently left the band, “due to the irresolvable, severe erosion of the personal basis so urgently required to collaborate within a band so unique, volatile and ambitious,” a statement reads.