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31st March 2015
METAL DISCOVERY: So, the Royal Albert Hall, that must be quite surrealÖ
DEVIN: Yeah but, you know, itís like anything I do Ė if I think about it, it gets overwhelming, but if I just take it with a grain of salt and just do it then I feel like I can do it well. You know, there are certain things that doesnít work for, like being sick on the last day of the tour with a big showÖ Iím just like, what do I do? But, ultimately, in the same way, itís the Royal Albert, itís gonna happen, so you just have to do your best and you just have to not allow your mind to play tricks on you.
(Devin Townsend on the Royal Albert Hall show)
"...thatís a type of psych-out that I donít need...I donít wanna think about the heritage and the history of it. I mean, that just doesnít help; it makes it more of a problem. Weíll look at it after!"
Devin Townsend backstage at the Academy, Manchester, UK, 31st March 2015
Photograph copyright © 2015 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)
Z≤: Sky Blue (2014)
Z≤: Dark Matters (2014)
MD: Do you think it will transpire to be one of those career-defining moments?
DEVIN: Yeah, I think so.
MD: Have you seen DVDs and whatever else, of other people playing the Albert Hall?
DEVIN: Oh yeah, since I was a kid. But thatís a type of psych-out that I donít need, either. I donít wanna think about the heritage and the history of it. I mean, that just doesnít help; it makes it more of a problem. Weíll look at it after!
MD: When you get out there on the stage and get into the zone, itíll be just like another show, Iím sure.
DEVIN: Yeah, it still is just another show so, whether or not it actually is, I choose to not think about the history of it until later.
MD: As well as the Ziltoid set, youíre playing a ďby requestĒ set as well?
DEVIN: Yes, correct.
MD: Does the whole request thing excite you as well as worry you in that people could choose loads of obscurities you havenít ever played?
DEVIN: Yeah, they did, and thereís a limited amount of time we had to learn it and practice it. But I think these are songs that people have wanted to hear for quite some time so, being able to do it in this epic environment, I think is a great way to introduce the stuff.
MD: Were you surprised it sold out as quickly as it did?
DEVIN: Very much. Iím surprised that we sell anything. Not in a self-deprecating way, itís just I donít think about it. I want to give people a good night out; I want people to be happy; I wanna contribute in some way; I wanna help in some way. But, when people are so supportive with it, itís still shocking and humbling and very much appreciated.
MD: One of the most gratifying things must be that youíve sold out the Royal Albert Hall without ďselling outĒ, if you know what I mean?
DEVIN: Yeah.
MD: Because itís on your own terms, with complete musical integrity, and youíve not had to compromise anything to get to that stage.
DEVIN: Yeah, yeah, itís awesome, man, awesome. You know, I keep pinching myself in a lot of ways because I just wanna say ďthank you so muchĒ to everybody for allowing us to do it. But, at the same time, itís not the end of the rainbow, either. Itís about really isolating what it is you wanna do; like, really coming to terms with what it is you wanna do. I wanna make music and I wanna help people in some way Ė not in a preachy, altruistic way but, I mean, give you an hour away from the bullshit; give you a soundtrack for something. Itís nothing of significance but Iíd like to contribute in some way. So, if thatís your objective, you just keep moving forward and learning from your mistakes, and working through flu or bad states of mind or whatever. And, hopefully, the outcome of it is something you can share with the audience and then, together, you make a really cool energy. Royal Albertís another example.
MD: I think itís inadvertent philanthropy, in one sense. I mean, a lot of people place so much importance on music in their lives, and it brings so much joy and catharsis to people, so I think it is a form of philanthropy, even if thatís not intended by yourself.
DEVIN: Itís not intended and I appreciate it, but I also think itís really healthy for me as much as music means everything to me in so many ways. To recognise that, to other people, itís a component, itís a part, itís something that might contribute or it might not. And I guess if thereís anything people take away from it, is that thereís other people, meaning my scenario and situation, for people who are not giving up either. So maybe that helps in some inadvertent way.
MD: Back to the integrity thing, I gather you wrote a song at the end of last year, in LA, with people responsible for Nickelback and American Idol stuff?
DEVIN: Yeah.
MD: From what I read, you opted not to release it as you didnít want to sacrifice your integrity for a quick buck, but do you think that process was still necessary for you to go through to reassure yourself thatís what you didnít want to do?
DEVIN: Yeah, a hundred per cent that, but the other thing I learnt is that Iíve got a big fucking mouth and I ended up doing interviews after I had that experience, and just being, like, ďoh, itís bullshit, itís bullshit, I fucking hated it.Ē But I neglected to mention that I asked these people to do this with me. And, so, they got really upset, you know. Some might say too upset. But, that aside, I shouldíve watched myself a little more.
MD: I guess those kind of people donít live in a world defined by integrity in the first place, but more by commercialism, to make a lot of money.
DEVIN: I wonder. Well, maybe not, though, because, when I was down there, all I know is I thought I understood that world and that scene, but I donít. So maybe there is an integrity there that is separate from what I view as such. But, ultimately, the thing that happened from that is they got super pissed off with me and I remember thinking to myself: ďOh, okay, I donít take anything that I said back, but I certainly donít wanna upset you guys; thatís not my intention. I donít want it to be like a me against you type of thing because youíre obviously incredibly successful and financially successful and I donít want, for a second, to try and make it like Iíve got some crusade against what you do because I asked you to do this with me. And itís not the only thing you can do, of course, youíre very talented.Ē But I learnt, at the end, well, that is another example, the fact they were as upset at me about it as they were. Thatís another example of the fact that I just donít understand that scene.
MD: It would be nice to think, also, that they learnt something from you Ė a guy coming from a place of total, hundred percent, integrity, and hopefully they learnt something from that experience as well.
DEVIN: Yeah, I guess. I donít think they care, to be honest. I think they donít need to care. I think, again, my end result on that is that I couldíve handled that better, but I also get pissed off really easily, right, and I was pissed off about this scenario. So it was one of these things where I know for the future that, sometimes, itís just better to hold your tongue as opposed to wagging it around, because that just causes me, personally, more grief in the long run, if you have to, all of a sudden, coordinate other peopleís feelings and all that shit. You know, it was a great learning experience, man.
MD: The phrase you used in one interview that made me smile is ďhonesty TouretteísĒ.
DEVIN: Honesty Touretteís. Thatís it.
MD: Thatís a great way to be.
DEVIN: Yeah, it is in a way, but itís also, unless youíre tinging that with a sense of compassion, you can just say things that donít need to be said. And then people get hurt as a result of you just saying, ďwell, it was honest.Ē I think thereís a fine line between saying what it is you feel you need to say versus saying things just because theyíre the truth, and then other people having to suffer through that as a result. I mean, again, my goals, musically and creatively, are to help. I certainly donít want to be ďhonestĒ and then, as a result, end up hurting people. So itís a fine line. Ultimately, that whole LA situation with those producers, was something I learned a great deal from. And I stand by everything I said; I really, really disliked it. But, it was my choice to do it; I asked them to do it.
MD: So itís your prerogative to release it or not release it at the end of the day.
DEVIN: Itís my prerogative, yeah. And Iíll say, just to close it off, as Iíve said in every interview, the people that I worked with are incredibly talented and thatís not the only thing they can do. And, hey, if youíre in a hard rock band, go to them and Iím sure theyíll make you a really good record.
MD: My final thing to ask, then Ė based on the current rate of your popularity growth, Iíve done a rough calculation that you should be headlining Wembley Stadium by 2022Ö
DEVIN: [Laughs]
MD: So can you see yourself performing at that level in a few yearsí time?
DEVIN: [Laughs] Well, like I said earlier, if I donít think about it, yeah, because, ultimately, I donít consider what I do to be me; I consider it to be the people involved with my work. I mean, I write the music and I have the vision and I have the themes which defines this but, ultimately, I canít do it on my own. Iíve got a ton of people that articulate this stuff for me in ways that I could never do, and a lot of that is the audience. We were in Glasgow last night and the audience propped us up in such a way that the energy of the show became euphoric. And itís not because of what I was doing, it was because of what we were all doing. And as hippy as that sounds, in a sense, itís really true. And I think that if I can keep my shit together, if I can learn to foster some sort of self-respect or decrease self-loathing, and accept the fact that people want this to be a cool thingÖ because I battle with myself in such a way, which was the theme of ĎZ≤í, that if I can accept that, then I think that if we ever got to that level Ė Wembley or whatever Ė it would be something that the audience would want it to be there and we could do it together.
MD: Iím sure it will happen soon.
DEVIN: Weíll see. Iíve got a lot of work to do on my own front so I appreciate the vote of confidence, brother.
MD: Well, thank you so much for your time.
DEVIN: Sorry Iím a littleÖ
MD: No need to apologise!
DEVIN: Iím Canadian, man, thatís what I do!