Devin Townsend began announcing the guests for his long-awaited Empath record a few months ago, and shockingly on that list was Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger. It came as a surprise to a lot of fans, but in an interview with Talk Toomey, Townsend explains that Kroeger's participation and advice was vital to Empath becoming what it is.
Townsend reveals that he felt completely burnt out on making any of the music he'd been making over the past 30 years and decided that he'd just "sell out" and make a pop record. He details his budding friendship with Kroeger, which ultimately resulted in Kroeger talking him out of making a pop record and into something that Townsend really wanted to do.
“Well Chad on a practical level exists with a vocal part that he contributed to a really heavy song called “Hear Me.” In the chorus, he sings the harmony. Really, his contribution to the record was one that can’t be understated for me, for a number of reasons.
Primarily because here’s a guy who’s had phenomenal success doing a type of music and being in a band that is clearly divisive—there’s a lot of people that hate that band and hate him.
But I think I’m fortunate in the sense that, although I was very critical of that band for years, I also; if there’s something that somebody does and I like it, I don’t have much to lose at this point for saying ‘Hey I liked it.’
You know, ‘I like that Five Finger Death Punch album that I was told isn’t cool to like’, or ‘I like the new Nickelback song, which apparently you’re not supposed to say you like’ or whatever.
So anyway I heard the first song off their “Feed The Machine” record when it came out—I don’t know the guy—but I put up a Twitter saying ‘Hey I like the new Nickelback song.’ And the shitstorm that ensued on my Twitter was like something that you would reserve for great dramas.
But the next day, because him and I have mutual friends, I got a text from him saying ‘hey this is Chad, I just want to say thanks for saying nice things about my band.’ And I was like ‘well to be clear I haven’t always said that.’ But I said ‘also to be fair, I have heard that you have been critical of what I do as well and I’m probably jealous.’
But we started this conversation and he said ‘when you get back to town, come over to my house, we can spend a day hanging out.’ And I think because of the level of success that he is at compared to mine—you can’t compare the two—so in a way there’s no competition with it. There’s not like I have anything to prove with this guy.
And conversely he has opinions on things that I haven’t had like a support network to figure out, like ‘how do I deal with this?’
So I was talking to him and I realized that we really actually got along. And I said to him, ‘Listen man, I’m 45-years-old. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Although I’m fortunate to be making a living at doing what I do, there’s a part of me that’s just exhausted. And I feel like I should just make a pop record, I should just essentially make a sellout record: 3 and a half minute long songs, start with the chorus, big kick drum…’
And he was the one, cause I ended up spending a bunch of time with him, he was the one—one of two people actually—that said ‘I think that that is the wrong move. I think that what you should do instead is go the opposite direction and make something that’s uncompromised.’
Because, the reason why he’s had success is not because he’s trying to do something. He’s just fortunate that the thing that he likes doing resonates with a lot of people.
But the point of why he does it, I realized in my interactions with him, is very much the same thing as to why I do it. It just manifested in a different style of music.
So had it not been for Chad, I think that I could have been very tempted to make a record that pissed on the whole career arc, to be honest, and I feel like I owe him a debt of gratitude to a certain extent.”
Empath is out March 29.