Alternative Matter 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.
Alternative Matter: The last time we did an interview we talked about how much you missed your family while being on the road and you kept on going essentially against your will.
Devin: I’m still missing them while I’m out there touring, but I came to the conclusion that with drugs and alcohol there was nothing to look forward to. I used to be like, “Let’s get the show over with, so we can smoke that bag of weed,” but without those influences, the best part of the day is the show itself. It took me a couple of years to analyze why I did the things I was doing and the type of music I created and I came to the conclusion that I’m very fortunate that I’m able to do the things I want to do and that I’ve managed to establish some kind of a fanbase. After years of sort of neglecting that, I came to realize it’s an honor to have such a thing. There are a lot of people who would love to be in the situation we’re in, so not making the most of that at this point wouldn’t only be a slap in their face but also a slap in the face to the people who supported us for the past twenty years.
Alternative Matter: I think many people appreciate your music, because it’s sincere and genuine. How important is it for you to be honest in the music you create?
Devin: It’s the only thing that is important, even though it’s bad for business. The way I write is I pick up a guitar, let it all out and make it as good as it can possibly be. But I remember when I was doing “Ki”, “Ghost” or even “Deconstruction”, it came out exactly as I wanted, but I knew for a fact it would bother people. I was concerned that some parts of my audience would see it as an insult if I wouldn’t deliver the kind of music they wished me to create or that they would see it as a deliberate attempt to make them angry, because I’m doing something different. That’s absolutely not the case. To be completely straight-up with you, I write what I write and it’s coming out the way it’s coming out and I’m trying to capture that the best I can. Sometimes it comes better out than other times, but it’s always completely honest.
Alternative Matter: You’ve expressed yourself musically in many different ways and you’ve been doing this for at least twenty years. Don’t you think you’ve earned the right to create the music you feel like creating?
Devin: I certainly hope so, or at least I’m hoping I’m getting to that point soon. When I go out there playing, it’s so far from what I really want to do. I want it to be theatrical and to play big shows, but I want to have acoustic moments, too, where it’s like one person and a guitar with no production and then to have a massive production with choirs and all. At this moment we’re back in a van again, making enough money to keep us on the road. As awkward as those moments seem to be, it’s a good opportunity to experiment with some things. On the last tour, I was really afraid to change the setlist. I had this sequence of songs that really did something towards the end of the show and I love that. The problem is that I have so many records under my belt, and if I keep repeating myself; people who want to hear a lot of that get bored, you know? So for tonight’s show I decided to change the setlist completely, so the flow was completely wrong, but it gives me the chance to see how certain songs work together. For instance, the “Deconstruction” stuff is dark, but it’s theatrical dark, but not nihilistic like the stuff I did with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. What I hope to do is to go on stage and tell some kind of story and lead it to a dark place and have the music illustrate that. When that story comes to a happy part, we’ll have happy music to back that up and mellow stuff for the mellower moments and so on. It’s like some kind of epiphany, right?
Alternative Matter: I’m still kind of baffled by the change from your larger-than-life STRAPPING YOUNG LAD onstage persona and black humor to your current down-to-earth attitude and your positive outlook on things.
Devin: Remember you saying that honesty was the thing you like about my records? When I started to realize that STRAPPING YOUNG LAD was more becoming an act that I was getting better and better at doing, it became very difficult for me to have normal interactions with people because there was an expectation of how I would behave, but as of now, when I perform, it’s a blown-up version of who I am, but there’s no big difference between the person that’s talking to you now and the guy that’s playing the music on stage. Nothing that I would say on stage I wouldn’t say in normal life, you know? That’s the main difference. With STRAPPING, the way I was raised, sarcasm was a very important part of the family dynamic and after I got older, I started to realize that if you’re trained from a young age not to be angry, sarcasm and humor are good outlets to vent your anger. For me, it was important to acknowledge that was very gratifying to be that vicious to the audience. Doing drugs, eating spicy food or sexual misconduct, it’s the same impulse of instant satisfaction. That was the image people got from me in my STRAPPING days and the interaction with people after the show was based on that image. Nowadays, it’s more like what you see is what you get, like the normal informal dude I am right now.
Read the entire interview from Alternative Matter.