Interview with Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend Project is returning to Australia and New Zealand in 2017 along with Aussie prog/post-rock/instrumental sensations sleepmakeswaves who are accompanying Hevy Devy on the entire tour. Townsend’s loyal fans haven’t been waiting very long for Devin to return, only since 2015, but they will get the show of a lifetime with DTP playing the new tracks from Transcendence as well as songs from their extensive back catalogue, despite the project only dating back to 2009. We caught up with the creative genius himself and spoke to him about his return to Australia, his song-writing process, and keeping on top of things, plus much more.
How are you doing today?
I’m good man, it’s a really nice day here, kids are out of school. It’s a good day overall. I’m feeling ok.
Terrific. So first of all, are you excited to come back to Australia again for the first time in nearly 2 years?
Absolutely. I love going to Australia, it’s just such a great thing. It’s almost like the beauty of the country is the reward for the hellaciousness of the flight. It’s like you get there and you go ok, at least we’re here, it’s not like we’re ending up in the middle of some god forsaken place. It’s always great to get there.
Is there anything particularly different for you when playing shows here compared to back home, or Europe?
Well, I have a lot of friends there. It’s very similar in terms of politically and personality wise to Canada, so there’s a sense of familiarity there. After going there for so many years and having some really great moments there, I think that we’ve got a good following there that has resulted in some really awesome shows and I hope for that to continue.
Definitely. So after doing this for 25 years now, what are some key components that keep you creatively motivated still?
I have to really keep myself in check, that’s the biggest thing. I mean, it’s very easy to sort of assume that you can coast after a certain amount of time. You know, after you’ve had any kind of success you think ok, now I’m good to go, I’ll just keep repeating this until I’m old and grey. But ultimately, in order for what I do to remain relevant, not only to the audience, but to me, I have to keep checking to see where I’m at, I have to keep seeing what I learnt from the last record that I did and that inevitably, the new music is something that’s a surprise to me, that I had no idea that it’s going to go in the direction that it goes. But by following it and by being diligent with who I am in the face of it, I find that it remains emotionally authentic. Without that, I might as well not do it at all. If it doesn’t mean anything to me, I might as well not do it at all. I could make a great living, phoning it in and doing a bunch of other stuff, perhaps, but ultimately the purpose that music serves to me is really a cathartic part of my life, and it’s a way for me to represent things that in almost every other part of my life I don’t have the opportunity to express. So I have to keep it accurate, and I have to keep it authentic, and that’s a full time job my friend.
Your latest release, Transcendence is a beautiful album, and I personally love it. It’s a great representation of what your sound has evolved to now, what went into that album personally from you? Where was your mind at?
Well, I didn’t want to make another DTP album, and I think that is the most important thing for me to express about it. I’ve been doing this basic sound for so many years now and it’s really easy to, in the midst of trying to keep accurate emotionally, to keep changing what I do sonically, and I have done that between Casualties or Ghost or Deconstruction or Strapping Young Lad or Ziltoid, it’s all kind of different. But there’s a thread that has remained throughout that has kind of become this DTP sound. But in order to do it without feeling like I was just phoning it in. I had to find an emotional angle that meant something to me and I started recognising that a lot of what my current hurdles are in terms of my creative freedom, are kind of rooted in control and rooted in my need to keep everything under control. Whether or not it’s my environment or people that are with me, everything. It’s ultimately such a fear, so I consciously kind of stepped out of my comfort zones to do this, because I thought well, for every symphony or Casualties that I do, it’s good for me to do a version of what people are familiar with, a DTP sound, but I have to have it as something that’s authentic to me. So by changing my lifestyle a bit more and I started exercising, I started taking up martial arts, and just things out of my comfort zone. It inspired me to sort of confront that need to control everybody. As a result of that, although the record was written in a very similar way to my past records, the way that the band participated in it was challenging for me, to be able to do that. But it allowed them to have a perspective on the album and to offer their opinion, which was really helpful to me. To have people that really wanted to make the best DTP record that we were able to offer these opinions. It really changed the dynamic of it a bit.
You’re always a busy man, creating new projects and shows that are highly entertaining, different spectacles and styles of music for people. Is there anything that hasn’t really been announced yet that you’re working on?
Well, I’m working on a lot of things. There’s a symphony that I’m working on, there’s a tonne of DTP style stuff, there’s a bass thing that I’m working on, there’s this sort of, almost soft rock kind of beautiful thing, and all of this electronic stuff that I’m working on. But to be honest, I haven’t got a direction yet. I’m just trying to bash out ideas just hoping that one of them has the spark. I know that I want to call the next record Empath, I know what the art would look like too, but how it would end up sounding, I’m just not sure yet. So, amidst all of these potential things that could happen in the future, is the new sort of thing where I’m not stressing about it as much. I’m just waiting for it to appear. And in that time I’m just trying to get my shit together life wise, so when it does coagulate into an album, I’m ready to go.
Cool. Here’s a bit of a different one. If you could create your own supergroup with you as the frontman, who would you choose to back you up in the band?
I think I might want to play bass. My buddy Fred, who’s in Meshuggah, he would be good, we jam quite frequently and we have a good thing together. Maybe on the other guitar we could have Mike Keneally and get Danny Carey on the drums because he’s a monster. Somebody that can do some electronic stuff really well. And a lady singing, probably Annie. I think that would be a really cool thing.
Definitely, sounds like a good thing to me. Do you have any final words for the Australian fans in preparation for your shows in May?
Can’t wait to get there. I think the bands at a great place and I had a feeling that after Transcendence, things are going to change a lot for me. The effort put into making Transcendence as good as it is, is not something I think I can repeat right now, or ever. I think I really am looking for a big change for me. So, I really look forward to playing this one down there, because who knows where it’s going to go from here.
It’s very exciting, we can’t wait either. Thanks very much Devin for talking and we’ll see you in May.
Thank you so much Steve, have a great night buddy.
You can catch Devin on his upcoming tour national Devin Townsend Project tour at the below cities with support from sleepmakeswaves.
May 18 - Powerstation, Auckland NZ
May 20 - The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
May 22 -Enmore Theatre, Sydney VIC
May 23 - 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
May 24 - 170 Russell, Melbourne NSW - SOLD OUT
May 26 - Capitol, Perth WA
Tickets available at mjrpresents.com
Transcendence is available now
Check out the video for 'Stormbending' below: