DEVIN TOWNSEND: 'I Would Rather Dig Ditches Than Be A Parody Of The Music'

David E. Gehlke of recently conducted an interview with Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend (STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, STEVE VAI, LAMB OF GOD, DARKEST HOUR, GWAR). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. 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 than "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 was then. 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. 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 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. 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-20s. 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.

Read the entire interview at


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