Maximum Metal conducted an interview with Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend prior to his October 19, 2011 performance at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago, Illinois. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Maximum Metal: It certainly seems that so much of your output in the past was driven by this very strong creative tension. And now that there's some kind of equilibrium, what do you think will drive you? Not just to write music, but also lyrically and ideologically?
Devin: Well, because I think I am pretty left-brained — more than I gave myself credit for — I think I've managed to really dissect emotions. At least my own. And I've been able to understand what they do, how they do it, and when. So I think that writing music now, if the story (if I ever write stories) calls for this emotion, then it's very easy for me to say, "OK, how do you achieve that? How does the audience come to that so that when it hits, they'll know that it's fear, or beauty?" I understand it and I don't think I necessarily have to participate in some drama to present that. For me, I think that's really cool, because it's liberating. There's going to be a certain amount of people who are going to miss that history, saying, "You had a very personal investment in that." And I still will. But I have no desire or need.... You know, there are some artists that say, "We're going to write a song about the Arctic, so let's go sit in the Arctic in my underwear for two weeks." But I've done it. I've been through a ton of shit. And I definitely made mental notes: "Well, that's how that feels. And that's why that happened. That plus that equals that." And I think, as we talked about math, talked about emotions — it's all the same shit. Everything's the same, right? When it comes to writing music in the future, as with the music I've been writing, I can say, "Well, this goes here, and here, and here." Because I'm more on autopilot than ever before now, it's simple. I think the thing that hasn't changed is that... I do believe that I'm interested in life, and I do believe that I am passionate about certain things in ways that I never was before. Because there's no gauze in front of it — it just is what it is. So what I write in the future will be rooted in my life, you know, but I just don't think I need to worry so much about having to stick my hand in the fire to write about what burning feels like. Because I already know.
Maximum Metal: So it's less of a bewildered catharsis and more of an exploration of senses...?
Devin: I think it's even less of an exploration. I think now, it's just write music, you know? All the catharsis and all the drama — that was a product of me at that dramatic, exploring stage of my life. Now, I've got no need. I know what's going to happen if I fuck another chick on tour. I know what's going to happen if I do acid. I know. The age of, "Oh, I wonder what would happen if..." Well, you know what's going to happen, dude. In a lot of ways that's very liberating, because how much time do you waste, to be honest, going through all that "woe is me" shit when you know exactly? The last time I did mushrooms, years ago, I remember I was all high and thinking, "Well, you knew that this was going to happen." You know what I mean? "What were you expecting?" So, I think with drugs or booze or sex...there's a certain limit to where you're at the end of the road with it. You're not going to go any further, or transcend your own mind by doing a bunch of blow. You're just going to be high. So I think all the information I needed to get from those experiences in my life, I've gotten. Now it's liberating to not have to wonder.
Maximum Metal: So, then, when you say that you're on autopilot now more than ever before, it's autopilot in a good way where you're allowing yourself to be following intuition—
Devin: Shit, yeah. Totally. And instinct, and all these things. There were a lot of people who were never fortunate enough to get away from all of that; I've had a good support network and good friends. The end result of any experimentation that I do... I trust myself now. I know I'm not going to do a bunch of stupid shit. Well, I'm always going to do stupid shit, but the things I may have been tempted to do in the past — even though there's still temptation — I have no doubt that I'll make the right decision when the time comes. Making these four records was almost an exercise for me of learning to forgive and consequently trust my instincts. In the past, in trusting my instincts when I was drunk or high or whatever, I made a series of really stupid mistakes. At the time, I was like, "Oh, no, that was some mechanism in you. It's got nothing to do with your activities, you're just a bad person." And once you get rid of those things, you're like, "Nah, you're not a bad person; you're just high and being an idiot," right? The consequences of your past are always there. But now I think it's kind of funny when people are like, "Oh, you're the crazy guy," and I'm like [waves hand], "Yeah, OK...you got it, man." I think that you take the past and just run with it. But now when I write, I can say, "Oh, I guess we're going...there. Cool." I know what to do when we go there. And lyrics are doing...this. OK. If that's the part of the song going to these depths, or whatever, then I've got tons of things to draw on from that.
Read the entire interview from Maximum Metal.