Devin Townsend – Sacred Serenity

Friday, 29th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on

Back in the saddle, metal’s certified mad scientist Devin Townsend appears to have finally settled into life post-Strapping Young Lad. Some may be put off by a more cerebral, less-zany Townsend, but as the man would go onto tell us, being that person/character/image just wasn’t cutting it for him anymore. Think about it: would you want to be off your rocker for the sake of your art 24/7? Yeah, thought so.

The year of 2009 saw two releases from Townsend in the form of Ki (our own Darren Cowan chatted with DT around its release – read it here) and his latest Addicted. The latter is pop-friendly, arena metal, Townsend-style. DT’s imitable production skills are still the primary point of focus, but the ying-yang vocal battle between Townsend and ex-The Gathering siren Anneke van Giersbergen is what makes Addicted so…addicting. Try to deny songs like “Bend It Like Bender!” “Hyperdrive!” or “Resolve!” – they’re so catchy it’s not even funny.

Townsend phoned Blistering on a cold fall night with a clear head, straightened sense of self and litany of down-to-earth rhetoric that seemingly emanated from every angle. The man is one-of-a-kind, that’s for sure… Are you still into the whole “process?” Meaning, do you get excited about writing an album, recording it and doing promo?

Devin Townsend: Here’s the thing with that: that’s essentially the question that drew me away from it for a couple of years. As a musician, an artist in general, especially in the economic climate we’re in, if you find yourself in the position to do what it is I do: make music, etc., it’s a lot of work. To have the opportunity to be creative and clarify the nature of that creativity, there are definitely some long days. Some 18-20 hour days with interviews or computer work, but I have a friend who is every bit as intelligent and creative as me who works at the mill. He wakes up day and day and does that. And not that it’s a bad job or not a noble job…for me, the opportunity to express myself in this way is something I don’t take for granted. To that end, what invigorated you?

Townsend: There was a certain element of me that began feeling like this thing that I’m very lucky to be doing, became a burden. At that point, I think the thing that makes my music resonate with people is the fact that it’s honest and passionate. And so, your intentions behind the music change from that, so no longer it’s an honest representation, you’re putting in the hours to play the role, then the passion goes with that. I think with certain styles of music that’s essential – the factories that churn out American Idol. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the intention behind it is more of a fiscally-based kind of standpoint than a cathartic, extension of the emotionally development.

At the end of Strapping, not only was it becoming a burden, but what started as a middle-finger toward the industry, became steeped in paranoia. It took me three years to realize that a lot of paranoia was based in marijuana. It became so intrinsically linked with my music that I was giving into the side-effects. And with some people, there are no side-effects. For me, for a self-preservation, artistic point of view, it was making the way I perceived things steeped in paranoia. It became more about that, then “Hey, here I am, here’s my filter.” It became these questions and silly metaphoric games. When I stopped doing that and stopped drinking for self-preservation, I found that I re-connected with what I love do in the first place. I love entertaining, I love making music. But also, couldn’t you make the argument that some of your best work like City or Terria or even recently, Alien was a result of you being on those substances?

Townsend: I agree. But I have also have to say is that the process in which I make music, was exorcising that. And part of that exorcism included those drugs. Part of the audience might not enjoy what I do now and to their credit, if you become interested in an artist because of the process at the time was trying to figure out life and during that period included substances and self-destruction. That was an honest representation of myself as to where I wasthen. Without that level of self-destruction and paranoia in the music, some people are going to say: “The things that attracted me to that music are no longer there.” They don’t enjoy it anymore. That’s acceptable. For everyone that falls away from it, I find that in the past other people were ostracized by the same things that are now finding they can enjoy it. Back to the promotional aspect, do you feel weird having to “hawk” or sell your music?

Townsend: A lot of times labels or the gear companies are like, “Remember to tell them to buy the record!” Honestly dude, you can get everything I’ve ever done on bitTorrent. My point about me being a musician is that I want to be a musician. If my goal in life was to be more financially secure than what I am, I’d probably choose a different line of work. Ultimately, I don’t want to be accountable for someone saying, “I bought your record and I don’t like it. I spent $15 and I want my money back.” Well, then download it! Really. If you do like it, I’ll be playing. If you don’t like it, don’t bitch to me. I do it because it’s part of my nature as opposed to trying to convince people who don’t like me. I know there are people who don’t like me. Am I on a mission to get people to like me? There’s tons of music I don’t like and if it’s being shoved down my throat, they’re implying I don’t understand. It’s like religion: when people tell me I don’t understand. Well, you’re right – I don’t. Does that make me a bad person? Does make my tastes or subjective or questionable? That’s what I’m doing here: if you like it great, if not, so be it.

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