Sam K of An Assortment Of Reviews 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.
An Assortment Of Reviews: Right now, you're nearing the end of your four-album DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT. Am I right in thinking that you've just finished recording "Deconstruction" ["Deconstruction" is set to be album number three in the project, but the last to be recorded.]?
Devin: Yeah, the final uploads are happening right now. I'm just getting all my extra beeps and boops in and sending it off to the mixing engineer, then I head to Sweden on Monday. The engineer is sending me mixes and it sounds good but I'm like, "Dude, you gotta just crank up all the chaos!" and he says, "But it's just gonna get messy…" That's how I roll, brother!
An Assortment Of Reviews: So is "chaos" the ethos of the album?
Devin: Organized chaos. There's chaos or just things exploding with no relevance to anything else but then there's the type of chaos where's there's eighteen odd melodies happening at the same time and I like that. Well, in its place. I have to admit, I listen to "Deconstruction" from beginning to end and dude, I'm white knuckle by the end of it — it's fucking intense. However, when it's over, I don't want to listen to it again. [laughs] It's so much work just to wrap your head around all these elements. That's why "Ghost" exists in my mind, because as soon as "Deconstruction"'s over I'm like, "Ahhh, that's better!" People a few years younger than me will probably be fine to listen to "Deconstruction" on repeat, but for me… dude, I'm heading towards 40 and I've only got a certain amount of energy for that "type" of sound. But I guess what I was trying to do with that four-record thing is say, "Well, look, I only have a certain amount of energy — but I do have that energy." So the reason I'm releasing "Deconstruction" and "Ghost" at the same time is because one doesn't exist without the other — there's no preference. On some level, "Deconstruction" is an absolute mind-fuck because it's such intense music and there's so many guests and orchestras and choirs and it sounds really good and it's emotionally really overwhelming and all that shit. In its place, that's great and I think for that that compartment, "Deconstruction" is ideal. But that's only an element of it and I wanted to take that element to the extreme, I wanted it to be "right." But at the same time, that exists for only a part of my day. The reason I'm releasing these two together is to be able to make the statement "that unto itself is incomplete."
An Assortment Of Reviews: There are few rumors floating about regarding special guests on the album, can you tell us a bit about that?
Devin: There's a ton of guests on it. The parts aren't huge, a chorus here, a verse there. I definitely don't want to make that a selling point out of respect of the guys who have done it. A lot of the people who have been kind enough to participate have done so because we've been friends for a long time and I think it'll be really gauche for me to slap it on the cover, y'know? "Mid-range-selling artist includes tons of better-selling artists on his disc. Please buy!" More so than a business move… it's taken me so long to get back in to heavy music because I really thought on some level I had a self-destructive tendency within my artistic mind that would always lead me to make poor decisions thematically when it came to writing heavy music because writing heavy music inspires certain emotions. In the past, that's led me to writing records like "Alien"… I'm very proud of that record, but it's very hard for me to wrap my head around because there's just so much paranoia in the lyrics… there's so much fear. It was a cool effect, but shit, dude. Having to go out and play that stuff every night sucked, to be honest. So now, I really have to say if you're going to do heavy music, make sure you got a clear head so you can back what you're saying. If you have to tour for several years on this record, then it means when you're out there, every word you say can be explained. Not "Oh, well, I was stoned," or "It just came out of me." Honestly, I realized — having a kid, life in general as you get older — you're fucking accountable for everything, y'know? And so to not clarify that shit in the past or to not be completely in control of your artistic visions at this stage in the game makes your life difficult. So with guests coming on here, I basically wanted to say — look, I want to make this statement again, after years of being afraid of it and I'm going to cannonball. I'm not going to dip my big toe in to it and say that I did it, I'm going to do it. So let's get everybody who's cool that we know to back it, and then let's put an orchestra on it and let's put a choir on it and let's make the point by the end of "Deconstruction" completely clear. When it's out, people will know who's on it and I've mentioned it here and there on forums but, out of respect for the people who are involved with it, I really don't want to make it "Buy Devin's new record because, even though we know you don't like Devin, you like this guy!" [laughter]
An Assortment Of Reviews: On a different note and going back a bit, you recorded a few things with Jason Newsted of METALLICA. As of yet, the TREE OF THE SUN recordings have yet to see the light of day. Any chance of that ever happening?
Devin: Haha, God I don't even remember that recording. I remember a riff from the first song but… this is my problem with quote unquote supergroups, not that that was one, but in general. It's like… to make a good record, I don't care who you are, it takes a long time and a lot of passion and a lot of attention to detail, right? I get offered a lot of times — dude, in the last week I got two or three supergroup offers — and I'm like, "Okay, so what do we do?" "We'll get together for a week and we'll write a record and we'll record it…" and I'm like, "Dude. The record is going to suck, man." I don't care who you are, the reason these bands are successful is because the record they made that people liked was slaved over for a long time. Whether or not the records came out really quick, there's an element of inspiration or attention to detail that makes it. The audience isn't stupid, you put on one a bad supergroup record and they'll be like, "Yeah, they slapped this together because they wanted to make a bunch of money based off the fact its Joe Bozo and Joe Knob-Gobbler in the same band together." I honestly think that every time I get offered one of these gigs, I put so much time and energy in to making my music rock, to blow that away by making an average record with some dudes doesn't make sense. And the TREE OF THE SUN thing, it was cool but it was never records. It was demos, people getting together and jamming. But there was so much attention paid to it because it was Jason, Scott [Reeder of KYUSS], Dale [Crover of the MELVINS] and me. People had this sense that it was going to be a combination of all the best parts of all those bands in one place. Haha, it isn't. It's a bunch of people who don't know each other getting in a room and trying to make it work and that's what it sounds like a lot of the time.
Read the entire interview from An Assortment Of Reviews.