Look, we get it. Quarantine sucks. It’s especially bad for creative people who suddenly have lost an outlet that’s been there all their lives. Devin Townsend gets it. He calls the global lockdown “completely uninspiring”. But with his home studio at his disposal, Devin has crafted something that should inspire plenty. His quarantine project, a jumble of new songs, remasters, live charity performances and a very in-depth podcast (more on that later), shows why he is known as one of heavy metal’s most unique minds.
“I follow my subconscious, rather than any conscious decisions,” he says about his creative process, “What happens is that I find a song among the shrapnel I constantly churn out. Subconscious tend to act retroactively. It’s kind of a clue, you know, like ‘okay, that’s what my subconscious wanted…”
Devin Townsend’s first quarantine song, a chillout earth-child track with Kat Eppele, came out one day into the lockdown. Within three days he was remixing the Vengaboys “We Like To Party”. By day 10 he had released six new tracks, including “Heavy Factions”, an absolute rage that would take most bands their entire career to write.
It seemed like Devin’s creativity was running at full force. But he says it wasn’t, that the events happening around the globe did have an effect. “There’s this undercurrent of bizarrity and anxiety and uncertainty,” he says, “The logistics of it…I start work at 7:30 and end at 11:00. As nice as it seems…there’s almost no time for creativity.”
“I find that my frame of mind during this period goes in three-day cycles. I have the energy to motivate myself and my kids, my family, then it goes downhill. Then I really have to pull myself into work, even out of bed. And when it crests, it can be really brutal…but what pulls me out of those three days is seeing other people, whether its other musicians or at the coffee store. They’re clearly dealing with this, we all are, working to keep our heads above water. And that’s where the inspiration comes from.”
“Some people have asked if I want to write songs about coronavirus and I’m like “No!” That’s the last thing in the world I want to write about.”
Pretty soon, Devin was doing charity livestream concerts, which he calls “a lot of fun.” He also mixed and released a live performance from his ambient folk side-project Casualties of Cool. Around this time, Devin started his Devin Townsend Podcast. Musician podcasts are almost cliche at this point (“rambling into a microphone for hours,” Devin calls it), but in his case, they offer a glimpse into his outlandish mind.
Devin is not your average musician. His albums, from Synchestra to City to Ghost to Empath are so different it can be hard to remind yourself it’s the same guy. One moment he’s Dimmu Borgir, the next he’s playing “Enya-core”, as he describes it. On his podcast, he doesn’t discuss albums, but rather the stages that his life was at during each of them. Devin says he “hopes others can find some inspiration for their own creativity” in what he’s doing. Failing that, he says just be for when “my new Luau Polka album” comes out.
The metal world is lucky to have Devin Townsend. He gets it, humble guy that he is. But between his podcast, his new songs and his charity concerts, he’s what many musicians should aspire to be. It’s hard to be inspirational. It’s even harder during a deeply uninspirational time.
Order of Magnitude: Empath Live Volume 1 is out Oct. 9th