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DEVIN TOWNSEND Talks About Almost Selling Out

A small excerpt from a long chat with Devin Townsend.

A small excerpt from a long chat with Devin Townsend.

Las September, I had the privilege of meeting up with the Devin Townsend Project while on tour in Orlando, FL. Devin and I sat down for an hour to discuss where he's at in life, why he's still involved in DTP, and if he's ever tempted to sell out. Here's a little of what he had to say:

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Who is Devin Townsend today? 

I think I’m at a transition…Who am I now? I’m in my mid-40s and I’m super confused because I’ve done 30 records full of shit and I…up to this point, it’s been…everything that I’ve done has been of utmost sort of vitality to me. For whatever reason it’s like, when you’re young and you’re singing about love or you’re singing about hate, you’re singing about any of these things it’s very easy to sink your teeth into it because it’s fresh and a part of your emotional growth. And then all of a sudden, you know, I quit doing drugs and everything years ago at the end of Strapping and we had kids and sobriety and all that provided a whole other wealth of creative inspiration for me because it’s a lot of changes. But now, now my son’s 10 and getting older, and I’ve been sober for so many years. This band, it’s a healthy group of people and they’re good friends and everything about it is really not a toxic environment. So…I don’t know. I mean, I’ve got this idea for this symphony that’s…but it’s almost like the theme of the symphony is more meant to summarize the whole thing in a way. And the punchline of it, of the symphony, as well is also surprisingly to me because I think it underlines what my goals have been since the beginning and that is, the goal of any artist should be to have nothing to write about. Get rid of it.  

Do you ever get to a point where you looked at it realistically and thought, “Man, I could sell out right now”?  

Every time.

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What stops you from doing that?

That’s a good question. I think I’m emotionally really stunted and I don’t know why. Ever since I was a kid it’s like I’m always really…my grandparents all died and I didn’t react. And I’m thinking like, what the fuck? Or like a baby’s born and as opposed to tears or a choir of angels and everything, I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s how humans are made’. I know that it’s affecting me, but for whatever reason it’s like I haven’t been able to articulate these things as a person but ever since the beginning, musically, it’s been an avenue. When I’m writing, dude the flood gates are open. Whether or not it’s Strapping and I’m pissed or it’s Sky Blue and it’s about death, it’s so raw when it comes to writing. And so as a result of that, it’s a very necessary place for me to exist. Because without that I don’t know if I would be healthy emotionally. So when it comes to selling out…I went to LA and I worked with a dude and I really fuckin made a mess of it because it was: here’s your opportunity to do a pop song or pop metal or whatever and sell out and here’s the structure and all this shit. And dude, I reacted in such a way that it’s like…last night, we did the ProgPower show and I was just like a little kid. I was just like, ‘I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.’ And I started being super petulant, like just this shitty kid and that’s exactly what I did with the LA thing. And I think it’s telling of the fact that I’m emotionally retarded in so many ways, but to sell out, dude, it’s like, I don’t know man. Every time I get near it, everything in my trip is like, “No no no you can’t do this." 

Even with this band…I’m doing Casualties of Cool. I love that. I want to play bass with a bunch of people, I love that. I want to write a symphony, I love that. DTP? I’m over it and have been over it for so many years BUT it’s a good group of people and people like the sound and the band’s getting bigger. So practically, it doesn’t make sense for me to stop. Going back to how can I not sell out? Unless I’m participating in it in some sort of authentic way, doing another DTP record is as much of a sellout as me doing a Tiffany’s song or whatever. So, by looking at these patterns that have been formed by writing the book, one of the things is: You’ve got a good group of people around you, that have supported you and that have done it for peanuts for so many years, that perhaps an angle you can take with this new thing is to maybe not confront, that sounds too dramatic, but more recognize the fact that your need to control this group of guys has resulted in certain amounts of resentment and certain amounts of things that practically are of no use. So the angle for the new record became, how about you let it go with this? That doesn’t mean you need to let it go with the symphony or any of this other stuff. But with this, with your friends. That became an angle that I could really get some emotional authenticity, as a result there’s another DTP record. One that is really good and I didn’t phone it in.

It was a lot of work for me to do Sky Blue and Z2 and Transcendence because it was not the thing that was coming naturally. But what affords me the opportunity to do the symphony, what affords me the opportunity to Casualties of Cool or any of these other things while we are participating in DTP style music, is that I’m doing it with the full intention of doing it well. And doing it in a way that resonates with me as a person no matter where I’m at in life.

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Anything you want to say to the fans about the album, the tour, in general?

As much as I pontificate about all this shit…I’ve got an amazing job, I’ve got an amazing life, and it’s because the audience has allowed me to do this. So, when I try and do things that I think the audiences like, it’s not because I’m trying to pander to them. This is because I want the audience to know that I do care about the fact that they allow me to do this. So the fact that I really put energy into DTP at a time when I’d rather do The Moth or I’d rather do bass or something is not because I’m trying to sell out. It’s because I recognize the amount of support that I’ve been given to do this and I want to make sure we’re all doing our part. So DTP for me, even with the guys in the band, it’s about trying to, in a sense, trying to pay it forward so I’m allowed to do these other things. So thank you.

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