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3rd July 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: When ‘Epicloud’ came out in 2012, I wrote in my review, to quote myself: “The stupendously talented musician and songwriter that is Devin Townsend has such a profoundly loyal fanbase that the man could release an album of sampled farts and sonics derived from other bodily emissions and I'm certain Devy devotees would still lap it up en masse.”
DEVIN: [Laughs]
(Devin Townsend on life on the road)
"My touring life is just incredibly boring in terms of rock ‘n’ roll shenanigans. I go to bed early and I like having baths...I have coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. You know, I try not to watch much porn."
Devin Townsend backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 3rd July 2014
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Devin Townsend Official Website:
Ocean Machine: Biomech (1997)
Thanks to Freddy Palmer for arranging the interview
Infinity (1998)
Physicist (2000)
Accelerated Evolution (2003)
Devlab (2004)
Synchestra (2006)
Ziltoid the Omniscient (2007)
Ki (2009)
Addicted (2009)
Devin Townsend Official Twitter:
Terria (2001)
The Hummer (2006)
Devin Townsend Official Facebook:
Deconstruction (2011)
Ghost (2011)
Epicloud (2012)
Casualties of Cool (2014)
The Retinal Circus (2013)
MD: You kind of went on to do that later in the year with a compilation of DTP and Fear Factory farts…
DEVIN: Yeah, yeah.
MD: And people seemed to lap it up.
DEVIN: Yeah, I guess so.
MD: That went down well, so are there going to be more fart-based pieces in the future?
DEVIN: Well, of course, one of the main characters in the Ziltoid record and show is called The Pooser, a little farting creature. I think the thing is, the more my stock kind of rises, there’s more analysis of the motivations for it rather than just off-the-cuff. And I’m still, thankfully, very off-the-cuff with my creative output but I’m just shocked, recently, how much credence gets put into it. You know, I’m like, “holy fuck, I was just kind of like riffing”, but then we’ve got enough people, like, “well, here’s this crazy thing, can we do this?”; people are, “yeah, we’ll get this and we’ll get this”, and then, all of a sudden, it’s happening… I’m like, “holy fuck, what are we gonna do?!” And then the Ziltoid thing, dude… I mean, the puppets, I always wanted aliens; I didn’t want it to be, like, sock puppets. I wanted it to be the shit so I got these people that do that, and I spent all sorts of money making these crazy aliens.
MD: Like animatronics?
DEVIN: Oh yeah, it’s fucking awesome; it’s ‘Dark Crystal’ shit.
MD: Oh, good stuff.
DEVIN: That was it, and that’s what I wanted to do. But it’s so weird in your head - you see it in a certain way, like I want it to sound like a commercial mix. I don’t want it to be a commercial record but I want to sound like that, but with just fucked up, orchestral, sort of Andrew Lloyd Webber shit, but I want it to have real childish humour, and aliens. And, in my head, I see it in a certain way but, then, when it starts coming together, it’s like, “holy shit, what are we doing?!”
MD: In my ‘Casualties of Cool’ review, I wrote: “…it's as if Devin has nothing but awesome music running through his veins. Such is his creative fertility, if you were able to connect him to a streaming device via bio-port à la Cronenberg's 'Existenz', there'd undoubtedly be an instant effluence of stupendously great new tunes.”
DEVIN: [Laughs] Thank you, brother.
MD: Do you feel like that? Like there is so much good music in you?
DEVIN: Oh yeah. I mean, the hardest part of it is the actualisation of it. The writing of it, I spend five per cent of the project being creative and the rest of it is just the nuts and bolts of it. I wrote sixty songs for Ziltoid but the work is not writing it, it’s deciding which ones, and why, and why does this one go and this one stay? And then, all of a sudden, it’s mixing it. Dude, every song I write is a nightmare to mix.
MD: I guess it’s still part of the creative process, though…
DEVIN: In a sense, but it’s a lot less free; there’s parameters to it and it can go wrong. You know, the creative process, there’s not a lot that can go wrong. I mean, you can take it any direction and it’ll just be different versions of something. There are things about it that’ll be irritating and then you massage it until it isn’t, but that part of it is stream of consciousness. But the mixing, there’s so many ways… “that kick sounds bad”, you know, “that compression is too much”; there’s limits to it and, so, it’s actually work. There’s creative elements of it, but I think I’ve got such a strong vision for things that there’s not a lot of room for interpretation so it just irritates me until it doesn’t. And that process is fucking crazy. I go to bed going, “it’s wrong… what’s wrong about it?... I don’t know, you’re just gonna have to get in there tomorrow and keep fucking with it until it doesn’t piss you off anymore.” So writing music isn’t that… there’s tons of it.
MD: Have you ever considered doing a spoken word tour?
DEVIN: Yeah, I’d love to.
MD: It seems like you have an abundance of stories to tell.
DEVIN: I do and I think I’ve got things that can help people do this, because I enjoy this a great deal but won’t for much longer, the performing part of it. My voice is changing. It’s just shocking to me how quickly it’s changing. You know, a lot of the things that I could do effortlessly, it’s no longer effortless, and I see the writing on the wall for that. And hearing as well – my hearing is progressively getting worse. And there’s lots of things that make me feel… like, when I’m on stage doing soundcheck, I’m just exhausted, and it’s too loud. But I do want to connect with people, and I do want to be able to share things. I mean, I don’t have any secrets about it, I want people to take what I do and make it better.
MD: I think that’d be a big hit as well, if you did a spoken word tour. You’re a role model for so many young people as well, as your fanbase seems to be quite diverse in terms of demographics.
DEVIN: I’d like to be. I mean, I think that’s the thing that I pride myself on more than the music. I mean, the music I never consider, it’s just what happens. I don’t listen to it, it’s just what I do. But I’ve been sober for so long and I don’t know if morality’s the right word, but I’m trying to make myself a more functional human. And it’s not the easiest thing in the world, but I see progress. You know, you keep putting drops in the bucket and, eventually, there’s water in it. There’s water in it now; it’s certainly not half full or anything but I see progress. And I know there’s a lot of people interested in doing music, and doing all these things, and perhaps there’s ways I can offer some instruction as to the pitfalls or, you know, “how do I do this, Dev?”; “I do it like this.” You know what I mean? There’s no magic to it, necessarily. I mean, I’ve got proclivity to do what I do, but there’s a lot of technique to it, and I’m more than happy to share that, and I’d love to have an opportunity to.
MD: So you’d turn into some guru in your later years…
DEVIN: Yeah, I mean, I don’t wanna just be like, “mine, mine, mine”. I couldn’t give a fuck, man. My aspirations in life are not to be the richest or the best or anything, I just wanna be happy.
MD: On the subject of stories, the Steve Vai incident with the fire extinguisher I’ve heard you tell before, where you inadvertently trashed his stuff too, is one of the funniest I’ve heard. Are there any stories to top that?
DEVIN: Probably. My touring life is just incredibly boring in terms of rock ‘n’ roll shenanigans. I go to bed early and I like having baths, you know…
DEVIN: I have coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. You know, I try not to watch much porn.
MD: So if you did a spoken word tour, you’d be telling stories from your early years…
DEVIN: It wouldn’t even be stories. I think that my contribution to people would be better spent giving an observation on the things that I’ve encountered, rather than rock ‘n’ roll stories. I think if Nikki Sixx did a spoken word tour, you’d probably find awesome things from him. But, you know what I mean, it’s like, “what happened, what’s the craziest tour story from last month?”, and I was like, “I couldn’t poop for three days!”
MD: The final thing, I wanted to finish with a couple of true or false questions, and you can expand if you want to…
DEVIN: Sure, yeah, yeah.
MD: As the great proverb states, “life begins at forty”. Is this true in your experience?
DEVIN: Well, part of me died at forty but a good part. You know, a part that was looking for a reason. It’s still hanging on, I think, but there’s an element of vanity that you have to let go. Your face changes, your skin changes, your tummy changes if you’re a person who sits in a chair for twelve hours a day. And, a lot of what I do, I still see myself Photoshopped in magazines and all that sort of stuff and I felt there was a lot of self-loathing that happened when you see yourself in the mirror, and you’re just like, “oh, that fucking guy”. You know, every time I see magazines or something, it’s me, it’s that guy, but it’s not me; it’s not the guy that is forty and is trying to be with his folks or his cat just died, or something like that. It’s not that guy. But it forced me to confront an element of me that… I’m not old yet, but I’m also not young, which is a very precarious place to be in when you do what I do. Not in terms of other people but in terms of your own connection to it. It’s very easy to be lost. But I think that process had begun when I was forty when, all of a sudden, “oh, you’re forty”. It’s been really therapeutic for me because I’m just like, “look, you’re not a kid, let it go.” You know, “don’t dress like a kid, dress like an adult.” And “don’t be older than your years, but just grow up.”
MD: So life beginning at forty is true in your experience, in terms of changing perspective…
DEVIN: Yeah, that was a very long answer, I’m sorry about that!
MD: That’s fine! Okay, the final one, and this is something that Andy Sneap told me a while ago - you once rang him and said to him, “I hear you’ve got a huge cock!”… true or false?
DEVIN: Did I do that?!
MD: Apparently so. I think there’s a Stuck Mojo element to that story; I think you were working with them at the time…
DEVIN: Does he have a huge cock?
MD: I did tell that story to someone who knows him, and apparently not! I think Andy said maybe it was Rich Ward who put you up to it?
DEVIN: Maybe, yeah, yeah.
MD: I interviewed him about the Hell album three years ago and your name came up in conversation about producing, and he said you rang him once and said, “I hear you’ve got a huge cock!”
DEVIN: I don’t remember doing that but, if it was during that period, I certainly wouldn’t doubt it! I also certainly wouldn’t doubt that Andy has a huge cock. I met him in person recently and he was very nice. He had a very huge cock sort of way about him!
MD: So if he doesn’t, he’s giving off that impression well!
DEVIN: He’s very skilled in that type of big cockness!
MD: I just realised, we started and ended the interview talking about cocks!
DEVIN: That’s the thing is that I’m now at a point in my career where that becomes analysed sometimes… it’s like, “oh, he started with a cock”… I can assure you I’m not gay!
MD: Well, thank you so much.
DEVIN: Of course, thank you too, man.