Devin Townsend

  • Interview by: Ananth Bevinahally
  • Date: February 17, 2013

This has been long overdue, considering that I interviewed Devin back in 2011. This is part 1 of 2, and I shall upload the second part at a later date. Devin is one of my favourite artists of all time and this was one of the best conversations that I’ve ever had!

Headbangers India: I remember when you released Addicted; you mentioned what we should expect with Deconstruction and Ghost. Did it turn out the way you envisioned it?

Devin Townsend: Yeah, yeah… The music has sort of been rolling around my head for so long now that and it’s absolutely completed now. It has circumnavigated the press and people’s perceptions of it and what I was ultimately hoping it to lead me to as a musician. Yeah, it’s pretty much exactly what I thought it would be.


HB: What could we expect from Ghost 2?

DT: Ghost 2 is darker, more blues based and it’s more of a night-time album. I’m working on a lot of music, a lot of music and the next direction is undefined as to which way it should go. In one way I want it to go like a pop record – basically very epic, sorta heavy lullaby.


HB: Epicloud?

DT: Yeah, With Anneke and I singing. It’s very commercial, anthem-like love songs, right? I really like clean guitar, with a lot of echo and a new-agey sound. I’ve also got some complicated orchestral stuff that’ll probably end up with Ziltoid [Z2], but I guess the next step’s still vying for pole position. I’ve got a lot of em [projects] that are sort of presenting themselves, however I got this new guitar yesterday and it’s bringing out something that I wasn’t expecting.


HB: Could you tell us more about it, now that you mentioned it?

DT: It’s the best guitar that I’ve ever played in my life.


HB: Oh really?!

DT: I’m doing this signature line with Peavey and for a heavy metal guitar, it’s just awesome. It’s a heavy metal guitar, with the flying V and seven strings. I play heavy metal on Deconstruction, but other than that I’ve been playing clean guitar for so long and hadn’t found the perfect clean guitar. This company from New York made that for me, without me asking for it!


HB: So they just said, “here, try it out?!”

DT: Well, I’ve been playing their basses and they are the best basses I’ve ever played. They said that they make good guitars and I tried it out, with a clean amp and then they told me that they’d make me one, no strings attached. So they gave it to me yesterday [Devin had performed in NYC the previous night] and I was like “holy shit!”  I mean, it doesn’t do heavy metal.


HB: We could hear it on a Ki-esque album then.

DT: I think the direction that Ki went is intriguing for me. Somewhere between Ki and Ghost is where it’s likely to be. More space. I like a lot of air between the notes. The more space that’s in there, then you choose what note you put in there and if there’s a lot of echo in it, you’ve got to live with it.


HB: How does the “Devin Townsend” process go like?

DT: Autopilot!


HB: It just goes?!

DT: A lot of times when I write, I watch movies or read books. I just keep playing on the side. Any time I try and analyse it or second-guess it, it’s never honest for me. But if I just start and finish it, it surprises me often. Illustrating my current frame of mind with certain notes seems to be like second-nature to me. If you’re in a good frame of mind, the notes are descriptive of what your life is like. A lot of work goes into the albums, of course, but I don’t particularly think about the music and lyrics while I write.


HB: I find it rather disconcerting that a lot of people take artists’ works at face value. With that in mind, what is your music about?

DT: It’s about pure energy, I’m hoping. I think that as a human, I feel very honoured to be a part of the infinite. So everything I write is about how awesome I think it is. I think the point is to try to evolve and be a strong and good person, and heavy music is a way to do that. Peace is portrayed as weak, but it takes a lot more strength to have that as your focus rather than be a shark and destroy, our true animal nature and all that shit. Whether or not it (destructive animal nature) is, the choice to be peaceful is the source of the energy and that’s what I end up singing about.


HB:  Most people reading this will want to know about this question. Wall of Sound; tell me the story.

DT: There was an artist in the late eighties, Enya. Wait, you know Enya, right?


HB: Of course, she is incredible.

DT: She had an immense influence on me. Watermark changed my life entirely. I always thought that it would be cool to do the same thing with heavy music. It just ended up happening because of that.


HB: There are many guest artists on “Deconstruction”. Does it add to the chaos?

DT: It definitely does. Deconstruction is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s not supposed to be pleasant. It’s supposed to be an exorcism of the thought process of you know…. In the past, I used to do drugs, marijuana and acid. I quit quite a few years ago, but the process of getting to reality is a lot of work. Artistically, I was afraid of the fact that perhaps the fear and anger that I was easily able to represent was an innate part of my personality, that it wasn’t a choice and that I was a bad person, so I had to confront it in a way, and Deconstruction is supposed to be the passage through that process. It’s sort of theatrical and the other people are more for texture, but also to hammer home that it’s an exorcism of some form for ….


HB: Letting go?

DT: Yeah. The other people were basically there to make it more theatrical.


HB: Was it cathartic?

DT: Absolutely! At the end I realized that the fearful part of my personality was more of an element of the stuff that I was putting into my body, into my mind, rather than who I am. Who I actually am is not afraid or angry. So at the end of the record I’ve made it completely clear that I can control this. I don’t choose it, I choose “Ghost”.


HB: Yeah, I was reading that there was something very positive in the record despite the chaos.

DT: Oh yeah, definitely. What I’m trying to say is that through these four records, the story creates a path and I want the audience to understand what I’m trying to do with these four albums. Ki is the life force, you are born and then there is the fear of the unknown. Our true nature I think is that we’re a singularity; we’re all the same thing. With Addicted, I think that you and I, or Devin and you (me), it doesn’t really exist and it is a by-product of our addictions, fears and the horrors. Deconstruction is supposed to be taking all that away. What’s behind your need for success and money or whatever? Take that apart and get to your true nature. The character in Deconstruction is supposed to be so arrogant that he assumed that he could control the universe. When he’s finally presented the secret of the universe, he stands back and realizes that he has been focusing all his attention on something absurd; a cheeseburger, and he’s a vegetarian (Devin’s a vegetarian). Your personality is like the “Ghost” of your addictions and Deconstruction and the point at the end is to find peace and quiet, right? And to get to that place, you need to go through that process first.


HB: It just hit me that Deconstruction most definitely is about yourself, because you told me that you were vegetarian.

DT: Absolutely, totally. Ziltoid’s a metaphor for myself too. The whole thing with the cheeseburger, the metaphor, though I know that I don’t need to explain it to you. While you focus on something during your whole life, you feel like you will never find peace, you’ll never find happiness and your true meaning.  When you stand back, you’ll realize that you were looking at something that was not important or relevant to your life. So you’ve wasted all this energy, and it’s not like it’s a bad thing. I think that it’s good to know that. That’s why in the last song of Deconstruction, “Poltergeist”, now that we’re clear that we’ve been through that and we’re clear and controlled it and I didn’t do drugs or do these things that led me to bad decisions before. At that point, you’re vulnerable. The fear exposes you, but now you can kill it. But instead of killing it, you should embrace it. Whether or not the Ghost of your personality is vulnerable or weak or whatever, it is you, and you’ve got to love it. That’s the point of “Poltergeist”.


Watch out for part 2!