Devin Townsend – Sacred SerenityFriday, 29th March 2013
Blistering.com: You have a tour coming up and I know you have a kid at home. Are you concerned as to how this will play out?
Townsend: He’s three years old. I don’t know what to tell you – it might be a good break [laughs]. I think that again, going back to the financial reality of things – it’s what I do for a living. There are some fathers that go to war. I’m in the position that’s fortunate as to where I have a job to do where I’m creative and I have to entertain people. If somebody decides to spend $12 on a piece of plastic, in this day and age, they’re doing it as a sign of support. It’s not like there’s no other option to hear this. It’s part of the deal: here I am, I’m here to play for you. But part of the juggling act that is going on in my life. There’s a lot of professionals with families that have to travel. It can’t be exclusively one or the other – everything has to play ball with each other.
Blistering.com: You’ve stated there will be no Strapping songs on this tour, so how do you see the setlist shaping up? You’ll probably get 30-40 minutes for this tour, right?
Townsend: Yep. At the same time, we have Australian headlining tour planned where we’re high on the bill which will be a good chance to test this music in a variety of formats. This upcoming tour is me testing the waters again. Putting my feet back and seeing if not only myself, but if the audience is willing to accept this version of me. If you look at my past in North America, of course, there’s been Strapping, that’s been very visible. Also, some people look at the other thing I did, which was the Devin Townsend Band and a lot of people are thinking, “If that’s the choice, I’ll take Strapping.” This incarnation is neither. It’s not as wishy-washy as the Devin Townsend Band and it’s not as overwhelmingly visceral as Strapping Young Lad. I’ve found that I’m neither of those exclusively.
If you look at my back catalog, I have 15 solo albums. I have Ziltoid, which at some points is as heavy as Strapping or Physicist or Ocean Machine or Terria orKi. I have a dynamic that I want to express from my catalog. For this tour, we have to pick five, so I know there’s going to be people who thought it wasn’t enough and didn’t get to hear what they wanted to hear.
Blistering.com: As for Addicted, it’s a very positive, upbeat album and I think having Anneke sing on it has a lot to do with it being that way.
Townsend: The thing with the record is that thematically, the concept of addiction is not drugs or alcohol – it’s the root of itself. We have the need to connect with things that make us feel guilty that sabotage us. And honestly, that’s a human thing, not a masculine or feminine thing. It’s always on my mind to use a strong female presence on this record. Two weeks before we recorded this record, I had no idea who was going to sing on it. I had some leads, but none were right. I don’t know if it was fate and I’m not smart enough to know, but two weeks before I started tracking vocals, I get an email from Anneke. I told her I was writing a record and I was wondering if you’d be interested in contributing to the writing. She sent me a link to her performing one of my songs, “Hyperdrive.” Of course, I told her I was absolutely into her doing it, so why don’t you come to Vancouver and you can do this record? We both crossed our fingers and hoped we wouldn’t detest each other. We have similar age, backgrounds and we had a really great time. I’m thrilled with the performance. I think this record is an awesome combination of masculine and feminine.
Blistering.com: Speaking of “Hyperdrive,” how did it end up on this record?
Townsend: The way I write music is peculiar. Some bands may have a plan, like Slayer, for instance. Maybe Kerry King writes a riff and gives it to Dave Lombardo, they put lyrics to it and here’s a song. For me, because it’s so much tied to circumstance, I never know what I’m going to write.
When I wrote Ocean Machine, I had a song in there called “Life” and I remember someone telling me that I should write 10 of those and take them to the bank. And I told him I don’t even know how to write one of those; I just woke up in the morning and in the batch of the material that ultimately becameOcean Machine, there was a song called “Life.” So when I was writing Ziltoid, which was a complicated, convoluted musical approach, “Hyperdrive” was one of those songs that just appeared at the time. And I remember thinking to myself that it’s a shame that it didn’t come at a different time where I had more songs that were congruent with it because it wouldn’t be fully-realized with Ziltoid. But, I found a place within Ziltoid to make it fit and I’m satisfied with the way it came out in that context. When Anneke sent me the video of her singing it, I thought this would be a great way to represent this song. It’s the only song in my catalog that could have been done in a different format with somebody else because it’s a different key, tempo, drums.
Blistering.com: Something you haven’t addressed on the last few albums is your Canadian heritage, which was a point of focus on Terria. Will that be something you’ll revisit down the road?
Townsend: I think that patriotism is healthy. To proud of where you’re from is healthy. But patriotism to the point of annoyance is unhealthy no matter where you’re from. The thing that connects me with music is that humans are humans. The differences between Canadians and Americans on a human level are like, zero. I love nature, the rain, mountains – that’s my connection to Canada. It’s not like, “Check it out: we have the queen on our money and a bunch of shitty bands from Toronto.” That’s not really where my patriotism stems from. I love the west coast, the mountains. But, I love Seattle, I love New York, I love Birmingham, England. People are people and my connection to Canada on Terria was only because my writing was related to circumstance and we were driving through Canada in a van and I was writing.
Blistering.com: The forthcoming Deconstruction album. Where does it stand? Have you started it?
Townsend: We’re about a quarter of the way into it. We’re finished writing it, but there’s so many elements that go into making it work. It’s very ambitious. The point behind it isn’t malice; it’s trying to figure out the root and confront those parts of yourself that are sometimes better left hidden. In your mind, you don’t want to think of yourself as a primal animal, but at the same point, to deny yourself of those instincts…to act on them is one thing, but to ignore them is almost as bad. To able to relegate them to one emotional pyramid is important.
Blistering.com: Will this album have some of the same characteristics as your work with Strapping?
Townsend: The reason Strapping came to an end is because I’m no longer in my mid-20’s. The reason Strapping resonated with people is because it was passionate and honest about my circumstance that I’m no longer engaged in. And it’s not because of a choice. The things that made me artisically satisfied when I was 27 years old have been resolved. So if we talk about being untrue or false in terms of what you’re doing, it would have been easy on a financial level to continue with Strapping. I could go out there and be pissed off and telling everyone to “fuck off.” Sure, we’ll market that and put it on shirts. It wasn’t pre-conceived; it is what I felt like doing. People don’t understand why I can’t do it is because the reason you like it, is the reason I can’t do it. If I was to be untrue to something that meant so much to you, it would be this parody. I would rather dig ditches than be a parody of the music.
Blistering.com: So something like “Underneath the Waves” off of City, can you resonate with a song like that or even remember what it was like writing it?
Townsend: Of course. “Underneath the Waves” is ultimately the idea of addiction. There are these human impulses to be furious or self-destructive. There’s something underneath that’s hidden. It’s clouded by your own circumstance or inability to confront your own feelings. So basically, since the first record, I’ve been singing about the same thing. Since the beginning I’ve been trying to figure myself out. Is that narcissistic? Absolutely, but you play the cards you’ve been dealt. If people aren’t interested in that as a concept, then don’t listen. If you think about a song like “Underneath the Waves,” that song existed so I can get to where I am now.
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