Acclaimed Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend (STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, STEVE VAI, LAMB OF GOD, DARKEST HOUR, GWAR) will release "Ki", the first in a series of albums to be made available under the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT moniker, sometime in the summer.
Devin Townsend recently answered several questions about the new project and the upcoming CD. Read on.
Q: Who are the musicians in "Ki", where did you find them and what did they do before?
Devin: "Ki" is the first of four albums in a series of albums under the moniker "DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT." Each album is essentially a different "band" (or collection of session musicians) playing my music. They were chosen based on what the theme of the album is, and the vibe that the album is trying to project. The album "Ki" is very specific in this quartet of albums in that 1) It controls its anger throughout the album barring one song ("Heaven Send"), and really is an exercise in having little to prove.
For drums, I went to a blues club way up in the North of Canada and saw Duris play, I am very conscious of drummers and the energy they bring to the bands, so I watched him to see what he was going to play for the drums fill in the song. He kept staring the tom down throughout the song, sizing it up... when the opportunity came, he just went "BANG." One big hit in a two-bar spot — perfect. Then he looked at the drum like, "What are you gonna do about it?" That's the vibe I wanted for the drums here. Nothing to prove, but strong and a bit angry. Duris has played with many, many people. Off the top of my head, HEART, JEFFERSON STARSHIP, THE POWDER BLUES, TOMMY CHONG, THE TEMPTATIONS he even jammed with Hendrix. The list is endless, he is an older cat (62) but he's heavy.
Jean, the bass player, is the department manager of the bass department of the biggest music store in town. He plays in a BEATLES cover band, and spent years playing in cruise ships all over the world. Name a style and he can jam it for hours. When I went to the store for the first time, we had no idea who each other was, and he treated me like someone who I would want to be friends with — a solid, good soul who truly loves bass. His technique is accomplished and the fact that he had never played heavy music made him and Duris perfect for the project. An objective perspective on the music is what it needed. Younger metal heads playing this music would have made it a much different beast, so finding folks who were older and more settled was the whole goal when searching players out.
Dave Young is the keyboard player for THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND, and I have been playing with him for years. He is the most schooled musician out of all of us and can play any instrument. He knows theory and can read. Keyboard players typically annoy the hell out of me but Dave is more of an ambient musician. He fills the spaces with fitting but unusual note choices simply by watching where I am on my fret-board. He is intelligent and centred and the most obvious choice for this. Dave co-wrote "Terminal" with me.
Q: Is "Ki" a band, a project? How do you see yourself?
Devin: "Ki" is a project, one of four. The next record in the quartet is an entirely different cast of characters. The whole point is to have the RIGHT people for the job, no square pegs into round holes. At the end of the "DTP" (DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT) when it gets played live, (which it will) I will choose one group of people to represent it all. But, for the albums, the aesthetic of each record partially depends on the folks involved. So yes, "Ki" is a "project band." :)
Q: What was the reason for forming "Ki"? When did you start working on that idea?
Devin: I quit many bad habits in my life after STRAPPING YOUNG LAD ended. I felt depressed, angry and unhealthy and was not satisfied with living the rest of my life that way. I quit all drugs, alcohol and a host of other "addictions" that were controlling me and my world. It took three years to formulate the DTP and to write "Ki". I had to re-learn how to create without drugs and through that personal transformation, I learnt a great deal of things. "Ki" was very hard to do, to break the musical constipation so to speak, but now that it's here... watch out... I have lots to say that now I'm in control of myself.
Q: Who wrote the songs, who produced and who mixed the record?
Devin: I wrote everything on "Ki", except for "Terminal", in which Dave Young had a hand, and "Ain't Never Gonna Win", which was a live jam in the studio. We jammed A LOT of things, and when the box set comes out next year, we will include many of those spur of the moment, magic jams. I produced, mixed and engineered the record. The drums were recorded at The Factory Studios with the engineer there, Sheldon Zaharko. I spent the last three years — while figuring out my world — producing many bands and learning how to mix and engineer. I'm happy to say I've learned a lot.
Q: Please put the music in your own words? What is the common ground to your previous releases, and what is the major difference?
Devin: "Ki" is a subtle, severe album. A challenge in some ways. As the "intro" to the story (the story being the four records) it needs to set the stage. The point to the music is that the whisper is louder than the roar in many ways. "Ki" is (on the surface) quiet and unassuming. Whenever it begins to lose its temper, it stops. It does not let it go, it is avoiding that temptation, as that sort of anger is really gratifying but ultimately just leaves me unhappy. "Ki" is about control, and although it is not an overtly "heavy" album, it is heavy thematically. On these four records, it starts with "Ki", which is essentially a cross section of all the albums, but the idea is that it is not here to impose itself. It just does it's thing. Like a little a.m radio playing in the corner. Many folks have been waiting to see what I do next after SYL and "Ziltoid", so after careful consideration, I wanted the first record to be quiet and subtle, however fear not chaos fans... the next two records in the quartet are progressively heavier, and the third album, "Deconstruction", is the heaviest music I've ever created. So with "Ki", I wanted to make it a bit of an appetizer. I know myself, that as I get older, a steady diet of chaotic music does little more than give me a headache. So with "Ki", I wanted to re-introduce myself in a way that says, "I can make chaos like you've never heard, but for starters, please get comfortable." The common ground to my previous releases would be my voice, but even my guitar playing has changed. I use primarily a clean tone now (no distortion) and in terms of the sonics, I have used very little compression and it is not mastered very loud. The term "Ki" loosely means "life force" and, therefore, in almost the antithesis to my previous albums, there is no real editing or triggers on the drums. Much of the music was recorded "live off the floor." I wanted to preserve the energy flow without worrying so much about mistakes.
Q: How would you describe the philosophy behind "Ki", musically, lyrically, artistically?
Devin: "Ki" appeared after I quit drugs. I found myself angry at drugs, in all honesty. I spent many, many years stoned out of my mind, making music that although clever, was a misrepresentation of what I truly feel I wanted to say. Once I started "clearing up," I found that reality in many ways is much HEAVIER than the drug world. It has sharper edges and less release, but the point with "Ki" is that I feel I needed to clarify a lot of things I've said in the past musically. I believe in spirituality, and that life force is much more intense when I participate in it with a sober mind. Although "Ki" is a relatively quiet and unassuming album in and of itself, when folks hear "Addicted" (record 2) and especially "Deconstruction" (record 3), I have a feeling there will be a percentage of folks who will appreciate "Ki" even more than they do from the get go. The whole idea is to listen to "Ki" for what it IS rather than what it is NOT. There are leagues of people in my world that refuse to accept music from me that isn't destructive and chaotic. For them I am writing "Deconstruction", but for myself, and many people my age, that element of chaos becomes very tiresome if it is not juxtaposed by some sonic "space." So "Ki" is a sober introduction to an (admittedly) epic musical undertaking and as such demonstrates some highs and lows without going to extreme in either direction. I assume that fans of my heavy heavy output will be far from "blown away" by this album, but in a way, that's the point. I appreciate "Ki" almost more than any of the records, and am very proud of what it stands for.
Q: Is the album a concept work? Are the songs lyrically connected? What are the lyrics dealing with?
Devin: It is part of a larger concept, and I think once the four albums are all completed, not only will "Ki" be the introduction, it will also be the moral. Everything I do is connected, lyrically, musically and otherwise. I have a hard time writing without metaphor. The theme of aliens is present on the record, but again, as a metaphor. An obvious image that implies those thoughts that haunt us that ARE us, but we have a hard time dragging into the light. Elsewhere, the lyrics are pointed towards my new-found ability to say NO. In the past, I have been so insecure about myself and my music that I found myself agreeing to things for the sake of acceptance or whatnot. As a new father, and as a sober adult, the answer to many things now is "no," and not loudly either. I feel that although the person I am today is shaped by my past (including my past music and drugs etc) what I need to do with my talent now is to represent exactly who I am in a clear world. I am not "pure" and I am not "evil," I am just me, and I'm absolutely fine with that.
Q: Could you please take two or three songs and describe them in details — maybe the most important and the most unusual ones?
Devin: "Coast" is the intro to the story, quiet, dark, haunted and unsure... it builds at the end with "the voices" and then seemingly stops, but the story progresses through "Disruptr and Gato", slowly becoming more aware of the mistakes and consequences. Again, it doesn't really 'let it go' throughout these though. Right when it feels like it's going to explode, it just stops and takes a deep breath, but indeed, under the surface, it is furious and murderous. When "Heaven Send" comes though, it does indeed LOSE IT at the end, in a way, burning the past. The last chorus finalizes that tentative nature of the past, yelling BURN, and "Face your chaos, know who you are." Then, as is the case with the rest of the record, every time it presents us a crushing moment, it is followed by something relaxing. The tension and release in life is integral to music, and in my past, there has not been much release. If everything is "suspended," then you are always on eggshells. The end of the record is special to me The song "Ki" is a big build up to a climax that in some ways represents a personal breakthrough, cresting in "Quiet Riot", which basically sums up the idea that, although I am "damaged," I'm fine, and have chosen to make my life better.
Q: Please make one sentence about the unusual cover artwork.
Devin: The entire artwork is 3D, and comes with a little pair of 3D glasses. I live in the South Coast of Canada, and I believe in terms of spirituality, the native cultures of the world have it really down. Nature is "God," in all its subtlety and terror...and we are all a part of it, whether or not we want to be. The mask on the cover is based on native north American and Chinese paintings. It is not authentic, and is just meant to be two faces in one.
Q: Will you play live with "Ki"? Are there any concrete touring plans right now? What is the plan for the future?
Devin: When all four records in the DTP series are done, and the box set is released at the end (eight records, including a DVD), I will play selected shows throughout the world. I will not be climbing into a van and playing clubs in the middle of nowhere, though. I am going to assemble a sober team of incredible musicians to play ALL the records, perfectly, to many people. You will see me soon, and get ready for the next three records in the series. "Ki" is a subtle introduction to a sprawling theme. Please enjoy. It's good to be back.
(Thanks: Ray Myers)