Devin Townsend



all right well first things first can we talk about Nickelback yeah so there's this story kicking around of you and Chad Kroeger totally and they he he makes a cameo on the new record and you talked about meeting him and correct me if I've got this wrong but initially you had your of the camp if you didn't like some of their stuff maybe talked a little shit on him you might attack the little shit on you and an overarching theme I'm hoping we can talk about here is something that Carl Jung said one time he said that you know everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves yeah I could totally appreciate that and that's something I've seen in the Nickelback phenomena and I've seen it in your record too sure so I want to get to that but tell me a little bit about meeting Chad and and why he became so important to you well I mean I would first say that were more acquaintances than friends okay you know like um it's a hard thing for me to put into words but I'll do my best I mean I had heard a Nickelback song I'd seen them play live and I heard them I heard a song off their most recent record yeah and I wrote up on Twitter I like the new Nickelback song and the ensuing shitstorm was like crazy you know I've never had listened to your music again because I like something that I don't like but and it's so cool to hate them I guess right it is but then you know I we grew up in the same sort of scene and we have some mutual friends so I got a text from him the next day saying hey thanks for not thanks for saying nice things about my band and I said well to be clear I haven't always right right but we talked for a little bit and I said well you know maybe when I get back to Vancouver we can get together just have a coffee or something and and long story short I got back to Vancouver and he invited me over and I went over and I spent several days there and why was it so important to me well number one I recognized through participation with him that his process that results in music that has sold as many albums as as he has ran is fundamentally very similar to the way that I do things I think prior to that I had assumed that because the music was something so commercial sure in accordance to how I would write that clearly it's premeditated in a way that is devoid of of you know the things that I hold so dear to the creative process right well then once I was there and once I talked to him and once I saw him write and listen to demos I realized that it's the same thing it's just the person that he is results in the music that he writes and to that end he was being honest with himself in a way that I think I was flirting with not being because you did mention like flirting with the idea of doing another maybe like another papi three and a half minute yeah DTP style record and would say which I still enjoy and I still would like to do sure but only if it's like a compulsion to do so yeah and watching him function I was like wow this guy's clearly very intelligent and he's clearly very connected to what he does and the amount of shift that he's taken for being who he is was something that I guess I found really eye-opening i I just said maybe had assumed that he was disingenuous artistically right but then when I recognized that he wasn't it's just different than than Who I am I also realized that the pursuit of material gained through through art that I think a lot of us who you know at least in the genre that I'm in and maybe we're not like I'm struggling financially but you're certainly below the millionaire line right yeah so so I think there's a lot of times you think well if only I got to that level of success then all these problems would disappear and I think another thing that I recognized through that meeting and this is kind of unbeknownst to him I would imagine but he's just such a type-a hmm alpha dog type of personality yeah just you know like the guy's a rock star yeah and I thought well that's why he has all that stuff it's not it wasn't like a pursuit of that necessarily it's just that the combination of who he is what his biases are and his personality type have resulted in something that upon seeing I was like what would be foolish for me to try and pursue that it's like ridiculous this isn't a pursuit that's a byproduct you know I love that this guy that's demonized for being insincere or people think he is anyway you know inspired you away from that path and into making this record that is so quintessentially you yeah well I think had I not had that experience it would have certainly manifested itself differently and again this is why I preface this by saying it's you know we're acquaintances more than then friends sure because it's just I I find that that level of intensity and that level of activity that he has in his life and the houses in the and the money in and all this sort of and the the hatred and all this sort of thing is just fucking exhausting man and but because he's very much you know type a he seems to be able to surf it in a way that I think okay well clearly that's why you're able to have all these things right right you know so it was really good for me to realize I'm like well not only is this not something that I feel like I should be pursuing but I feel that if I ever got it it would be the end of me you know what I mean how so in order to I feel that in order to be in a certain tax bracket unless you've fallen into it you've got to make decisions that are really you know I don't wanna I don't want to by any stretch of the imagination say that anybody in this certain high tax bracket that you have to be a sociopath to do that but I guess what I'm saying is CEOs and companies people who are responsible for vast amounts of wealth every decision they make basically in order to proceeded along that trajectory of furthering that wealth is gonna like fuck over a whole bunch of other people and you have to be psychologically prepared to make those decisions so speaking of a decision like that yeah you know you ended the Devin Townsend Project are there hard feelings there yeah and but you know another I'm glad that you brought that up because I got everybody three months of severance pay you know and I mean yeah it's like whatever that was and you know a bunch of gear and I gave the other guys a bunch of gear so it's like my nature I know it was difficult for them but I also know I had to do it and that decision is very much in line with my meeting with Chad as well because I hadn't ended the band prior to seeing him but I recognize that there's also a fine line between making decisions that promote and further your career and fucking people over versus knowing you have to make certain decisions for your own mental health what's the least destructive way of doing that right so in the ways that I could I made DTP the least destructive that I could upon ending it but I had to and if I had not it wouldn't have been particularly healthy for me right yeah you still friends with everybody but it was difficult I can only imagine mm-hmm-hmm so do you you're obviously a pretty sensitive guy the name of the record I hope this isn't too obvious a question but do you believe in this construct of being an empath or people who call themselves that well let me think I think that I guess it depends on the definition I think that another way of looking at empath as a title would just be highly sensitive right right and I very much believe in that and to varying degrees like I would put myself somewhere in the middle of that spectrum but even where I am I have a very hard time I have a very hard time bring energy and and not absorbing energy right like if there's if somebody's depressed or so he's angry or somebody's sad or what-have-you it I have a hard time not reflecting that in some way and and whether or not that is empathy or narcissism where I just feel like everything is ultimately about me on some level I mean I'm not sure but whatever it is it has been something that up until real recently I hadn't recognized was as much of a liability as it has been uh-huh so prior to the record starting I investigated I guess what is what would you look up online empathy training which sounds pretty hippie but I think the gist of it is how do you how do you interact with other entities and not allow their frame of mind their personality their toxicity or whatever to infiltrate you to the point where you are constantly being bombarded by these things and there's a lot of places that one can can look online to help you know sort of work on techniques to do so and so that's where it started but as is the case with everything that I do creatively it's each piece of work that I end up completing is ultimately a thesis on a certain period of time sure so it was inevitable that once I started to pinpoint the fact that that hypersensitivity to others was something that was of very problematic for what I've chosen to do for a career right and once I recognized that my idea was to like okay well how do we how do we find a solution to this yeah and sort of rambled but as the as the process unfolded as a result of of that being early on in this process I think creatively I started to explore a lot of repressed parts of my nature right I can see that like the album art itself just like speaks that super clearly yeah the and I'll post this on the show notes for those of you that are listening to it definitely look at the show notes it's beautiful beautiful art and just to describe it briefly there's a water line and underneath the water line there are all these just this incredibly vibrant sea life and just all these crazy creatures swimming around and it's tumultuous and then above you have this big sky and I like a volcano and and again um you know Devin as I was getting ready I stumbled across some some stuff from Carl Jung and so much but just jumped out at me another thing he said that reminded me of your album art was man's task is become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious mm-hm and I agree with that and he he said your vision will become clear only when you can look in your own heart and who looks outside dreams who looks inside awakes and and very much yeah yeah this record I I see you wrestling with that that duality mm-hmm well I think it's a wrestle in terms of the actualization in it of it but I think if I may I think that almost the the whole point of the record was to observe the the wrestle yeah more so than be it okay and so as a result of that my emotional connection to the lyrics my emotional connection to the aesthetic of each one of these pieces of music that are dynamically different from each other yeah was more about I think in the past I had considered that certain parts of my creative identity that I couldn't quantify for whatever reason were in fact an aberration rather than just a part of me that I was unwilling or unable to face so that resulted in years of me consciously not wanting to make any music that was really heavy or not wanting to make any music that was really lyrically provocative in ways that would leave me vulnerable but I think that in hindsight as all these records proceeded and as these essays get written a new reader and retrospect I realized that perhaps when we had children I became more aware of how vulnerable we are as people as species as artists as entities or what have you and so I think that I started to cloak a lot of my true emotional connection in metaphor and it wasn't until I did the ocean machine show that I recognized that I'd sort of lost that path mm-hmm but in order to reconnect with the past and look at each one of these aesthetics that ended up on empath in reference to how they were manifested in my in you know the history of what I've done required me not participating in them like in a real visceral way it was more about okay we'll just let it have its voice right you know and in that way you have to be of two minds because you have to really participate in it to sing it or produce it but the overarching theme of it of the empath record is like just like observe it let it be its thing but just don't like let it define you it's very yin and Yan yeah for sure yeah there's the there's the track I've looked at the track listing it's the one that that it's mostly you singing and you know they almost your record label didn't want you to know why yeah yeah yeah why which is right after the really heavy one ask your dad on it that it's that whole thing is so yin and yang and like when I heard why for the first time I thought well of course this is on you sure yeah it's just the flipping to the other side there's a I'm curious if I'm reading too much into these lyrics but there's in in the the last part of the last track on singularity part 4 curious gods yeah yeah I see some some things pointing it like the the myth of the Garden of Eden is that was that on your mind at all when you wrote that well the whole prior to when I started I was I made a map of the album yeah and I really liked the the hero's quest I really liked the Joseph Campbell just awesome yeah so that was certainly an overarching concept on the whole album okay that particular part consciously no it wasn't okay yeah like when you say try the papaya you know oh yeah well so yeah I mean I mean I what's funny a lot of times is is lyrically people will hear what I write and that sure and think that it means something deeper than it does yeah but what's really interesting to me at least as the lyrics are so literal and I'll give you a practical example institution for a lot of things which was just so I was in these psychiatric institutions and then they put me on all these antipsychotic medications and remember blah and I had this dog that we had adopted but it was the prior owners were Cantonese so it didn't know any English and it was this belligerence yep and so on the terrier song mountain there's uh there's I was just depressed but I was really numb because of the medication so there's lyrics –is so far I've logged so many hours therefore therefore China the piloting part of the entire project big part of it was me sir going back and making I'm not even making peace but allowing the part of my creative identity that I had viewed as being flawed hmm recognize that no you just got a lot of anger in you you've got a lot of this that and the other thing and until you allow it to have a voice you're not gonna know you're just gonna be afraid of it so a lot of that particular part of the song in my mind's eye the the demons come but they're you and they're your trip and at the end there they're walking by and they're sulking because you didn't go with them yeah and then they're saying you know selfish Messiah selfish Messiah and then in my mind's eye I'm sitting in a lawn chair you know with a drink yeah and as they walk by the way my like I don't worry about them try to provide it you know it's like so it was really I don't think it was really much deeper than that I love that I like the idea as well that you can watch him go and it's just like it's like yeah no that's that's a party yeah like and I think that empath was really important to me because up to empath I think I had feared it you know are you fan of Jordan Peterson by any chance I am yeah what do you think of his work I like his accent he's got a real thick Canadian accent I think my only problem with Jordan Peterson is not a problem is because he's been the subject of so much antagonistic like like with the whole with the whole pronouns and oh yeah you know and like the amount of shit that he's gotten for that yeah has put him on the defensive in such a way that whenever I see interviews with him now he always seems like he's angry mm-hmm in a way that I think doesn't do credit to what he's saying but I think his best outfit yeah it isn't because he's so well-spoken he's so clever and he's so uh pragmatic with his thoughts that you know if he hadn't have been just ruthlessly like interrogated in some really dumb ways huh I think it would be easier now to sort of participate with them you know did you read his book 12 rules I haven't I haven't but I've heard it's really good excellent yeah he he deconstructs I mean being a fan of Joseph Campbell's stuff as you are I mean you'd really appreciate the way he goes through Oh check it out look at these old myths and and translates them into into modern now oh that's cool I'll try it I'll check it out yeah it's really cool stuff speaking of particulars of songs I have a kind of a weird question for you digging back into your catalogue there is let's see what's the song I'll just ask you this as H John Benjamin ever made a cameo on any of your records I don't know who it is okay he's the guy that voices Archer when the the omniscient is speaking yeah yeah that's my buddy I get it sounds just like you know what it's like I never got into Archer but I really liked frisky dingo I thought that was I never saw that was the ones that it was the same basic art style but oh yeah before I say you know what I mean but it's the watch I like Sealab 2020 same thing height same style I'm limited with my the only shows that I've seen recently that I really I really like check it out with dr. Steve Brule I thought that was amazing because that's was it see Riley I said his name the guy that was in stepbrothers and oh oh yeah john c reilly on c reilly yes honey so he's got this thing called check it out which is pretty amazing but other than that I'm pretty limited with my uh we got rid of cable years ago man nice yeah what what inspires you these days well actually let me ask that question what what I thought was interesting something I read I've kind of followed you on Twitter talking about this journey with empath where like right after it came out you seemed to be in a pretty dark place where like guys if this doesn't sell well I might have to quit music sure you know and and then here you are out on the road doing the acoustic shows and I saw you post something like oh my gosh I've got this new flood of ideas I'm writing like crazy sure what was that tell me about that journey from that dark spot of oh my god I might have to quit – just wait till you hear what I'm doing now well I mean I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my life is public and like you and I and everybody I mean I have moods I go up and down there it's just that on the the lower middle class level that I function at in the music industry my thoughts are preposterous Lee public and when I went out after I finished the record we just kicked my ass and it's what it was it was like and even the the the quote about having to quit music I mean that's what it ended up becoming paraphrased as davon Townsend says I spent a bunch of money on this record and if I don't recoup but I have to quit music I don't know if I ever actually said that I that was the vibe of it perhaps yeah but I think but I think I'd be interested to see what I what I actually wrote uh-huh because I think the vibe was compounded by the fact that the label was pissed off of me so I like I kind of panicked and I was like oh my god if I don't do this right okay but I think I guess my point with this answer is it's my life has been years ago you know during the time I was like into psychedelics and whatever sock dude I was doing interviews during all that time too you know I mean I was like viewed literally in some circles in European presses like that guys fucking crazy right it's like the strapping lad eh no it was after it was with physicist okay and and so I think there's two parts to the answer one is that it's like my life is just it's like I'm emotional guy I go up and down I try and I try and suppress it to the point where I don't make it as big a deal but I finally the more popular things have become for me much of what I say gets turned into a much bigger deal than I intended it to be sure that's a good example of it and then the other part of it is I forget well what I was curious about is that the the process you went from being in that really dark spot of being really just seemingly worried about it to the being full of ideas and it's you know you posted about you know you've got all this great new stuff that you've been conjuring up now that the records out and you know doing these acoustic shows probably just got laid I think a lot of what what I mean a lot of the the perceived drama that that gets put into this stuff I mean I have to put my head in my hands over a lot of the things that happen in my career because it's not a big deal I mean um since that time I just maybe got a good night's sleep and write you know maybe things and what I also find really interesting with my career in general is um I write and function on such an automatic level like I don't think about it if I think about it it's it's never as good as if I'm just like just vomiting right yet the nature of my career has been that I've been interviewed during the whole process and I say absurd things and I do absurd things with music that I don't think are an indicator of like a rational mind but I'm just like wouldn't it be funny if we had a talking puppet or if we empath or ziltoid or anything sure yet those whims you're almost put to task for on a certain level because then you do four months of worth of interviews like well why did you do that why the fart jokes why why yeah why and I'm like the easiest answer would be like I don't know like I have no idea it's you know right at the time yet that doesn't really work so as a result of that I've had to learn how to articulate things in my own creative process that I would never have chosen to is that kind of a drag though oh my god totally but let's not even do that no no I think it's okay I think it's okay because the byproduct of that is I've learned shitload about myself yeah right like what my motivations were or are and and I think there's a certain value to that but but you know like I just do like a lot of times I just do things because I think it's funny right no no there and but I just that's as far as it goes right and I was like and then you know I'll have so many yeah I do like I did a bunch of interviews in Europe directly after hand path and there's people that take these absurd things so seriously yeah that they just they're just won't take no for an answer yeah but there must be some underlying reason why you did that I was like I just thought it was funny like no but it's got to be an indicator of something else that's like alright maybe it is maybe it's an indie but you don't have an it's like so you end up deconstructing your own improv yeah to the point where as a byproduct you've got maybe some sort of interesting insight uh-huh but ultimately it even that doesn't matter right sounds like that would kind of suck honestly it does but I also feel that it's a job that I have chosen right and and the interview process is such a big part of it sure so you know going back to the last question I've said so many things over the years man like so many things that that if I was held to you know I would be impeached a million times over right in the in the offices of creative freedom like everything like oh I'm vegan oh I'm not vegan oh I'm sober all I'm not sober oh I never do drugs again oh I'm high as fuck I mean it's like it's like you know so what I find for myself now that it's just easier for me just to write uh-huh and make sure that it gives me that visceral reaction that resonates on some level with the truth so that hopefully when other people hear it through the bias that I present you know that you either take or leave there may be something that other people can say oh I recognize the truth in that sure that ultimately is all that matters but all the rest that like me is a person I'm a fucking gong show man you know like the fact that there's there's and this is almost something that has been troublesome to me for many years is that another Karl young thing that I really appreciate is a collective unconscious yeah I like the idea that as artists our role is to have an experience that strikes a primal nerve that allows us to be in the presence of something that is beyond us something that resonates with the truth and then through who we are what we've learned what we play what we don't play where we're from what our gender is whatever you say here's my interpretation of that experience yeah and the hope is that other people who have a sensitivity to your bias don't hear all that shit they don't hear the notes and songs and chords never that they hear the experience and from that point of view what you're resonating with as an artist is something that is universal it's got nothing to do with you right so a lot of times that sort of the cult of personality where people project their feelings you know you've had an emotional reaction to a piece of work whether or not it's art or film or whatever and they think well clearly it's that person that did that and ultimately I like to think that all artists that are worth their salt are just conduits to something that are hmm you know that is larger than us so if Gilbert said some interesting things about the muse being kind of like an entity that comes to artists and she really like talked about this about how literally we are just conduits well total earth ideas so you you buy into that totally yeah my friend won't let me though he's like you know I've known this guy for years I he's just like no it's like cuz you got low self-esteem you're just not willing to accept one of those friends – yeah is that you're not willing to accept the fact that that it's you right and I'm like no I'll tell you it's it is me like what you hear is me yeah but what the impetus for it was is something that is beyond me sure and I'll stick to that absolutely so what have you learned about friendship when you have like this friend that sounds like he's like very rational I don't know like hold your feet to the fire of rationality while you yourself for swimming around in the in the sea of of Carl Jung's collective unconscious your spirituality or whatever you want to call it sure how do you what what's that friendship like how do you navigate that well I think if your objectives in life are to actualize yourself as an entity the absence of people who hold your feet to the fire is not a great way to go you know the courrier that I found myself in when you start generating money for people a lot of times they'll tell you whatever you want to hear oh yeah you know like if the organization that I'm spearheading or writing for is profitable then you just get a lot of people that that don't wanna lose their job and you'll find as it becomes more profitable there'll be people that are like oh I'll wash your clothes for you oh don't worry man I know it's not part of my job description I got you or like or I'll organize all the pots and planted the pots and pans and the bus thing I know it's not my job but and a lot of times in the past everybody they're just really nice but and not to say that they're not sure but people's reasons for for doing these things it's just like most of our reasons we've got friends and family that you want to feed and you trying to be successful and and all these sorts of things and so having people in my life that are completely disconnected from what I do professionally mm-hmm you know I've got a lot of people my life I've known for 30 plus years they're like my closest friends right and they know me independent of any of this stuff most of them don't listen to what I do right interesting yeah so I mean they hear it yeah but it's not like the same level of interest as somebody who maybe either has a vested interest in even financially or somebody's a fan right or whatever right you're just Devin the guy that throws out records totally and so my relationship with them is such that if this all ended tomorrow I got a whole bunch of people that would help me move I've got a lot of people that have got my back man you know what I mean yeah and I got a lot of other people's bags too right and I think that if there's anything I've learned to build my career over the past couple of decades is that if what you do professionally you invest so much of your identity in that in an absence of it you cease to exist man you're gonna be going around the block you know for a long time so take away the guitar and the music and all that yeah who's Devin I mean I mean I I think it's again I think in line with being asked so much but my creative process for so long I spent huge amounts of time buried in this kind of self analysis sure but um Who am I I mean I'm 47 yeah I'm basic psychologically but I'm complicated artistically I've got a high level of weird internal morality that seems to limit my ability to do things that my self-destructive hedonism side would gladly do the idea of spirituality not religion but spirituality in general is maybe the most important thing in my life certainly the most important thing in my music I'm a dad I'm a son I'm a father I'm I'm a husband I'm a friend I'm self-deprecating I've got hang-ups about a lot of things I'm fundamentally happy yeah men endless I'm a brown cow but from outer space I love that I think that's a perfect place to end it yeah thank you brother thanks again I really appreciate you my friend thank you very much




Comments
  1. Great interview. Devin seemed very comfortable talking with you…probably because you were actually listening and interested in what he was saying 😉

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