DEVIN TOWNSEND: 'I'm Just A Perpetually Confused And Terrified Person That Is Trying To Be Less So All The Time'
February 24, 2019
Chris Akin of "The Classic Metal Show" recently conducted an interview with Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend about his forthcoming new "Empath" studio album. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether "Empath" is an album that will take a while for listeners to "get":
Devin: "I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I'm glad that you bring it up because I think that the exhaustion that the audience feels by the time this record is over, can only hint at the exhaustion that the group who had put the record together felt upon finishing it. [Laughs] I think it's only fair that both the audience and ourselves are equally as wiped out by the end of it."
On whether "Empath" defies categorization:
Devin: "I'm 46 years old. What I started recognizing for myself which led to the fact 'Empath' is so diverse in terms of the stylistic changes between track to track, was that a lot of what has come with this kind of middle-age psychology that I find myself in at this point in my life, is I guess I felt the need to, or at least was compelled to, look at my past, look at what I've done creatively, look at who I was, who I become, and potentially where I'm going and sort of analyze each one of those components to sort of get an idea of what my relationship with my past was. Even the title 'Empath', on some level, implies the idea of, in a very basic way, absorbing energy, or absorbing emotion, or at least being privy to emotions. I think with not only that mid-life psychology, but also the theme of empathy and emotions being that the tether that holds all these things in line, the idea that all these songs are in different stylistic ways became something of a necessity, I think. I think that up to this point, the last few records that I've done with [DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT] 'Transcendence' or 'Epicloud' or 'Ghost', they've all had a certain angle that they approach the music from. By that, I mean 'Ziltoid' is very clearly a certain type of music with a very clear theme. 'Ghost' was a very clear objective with a specific type of music and theme and that's just not where I find myself now. I find that now I'm heading into my 50s and I have more of an awareness of my mortality and the people around me and all these things. It just became important for me to look back at all that I've done, and if you look at my career, 'Empath' almost acts on all of my career in one place, I guess."
On whether he felt his creativity was limited because he was trying to fit certain albums into a style:
Devin: "Yeah, and I will say as well that a lot of the reason why I was limited was just by my own self-imposed parameters, I guess. I realized, I guess, I had a number of what I might call 'epiphanies' creatively during the making of this record. One, and maybe the most dramatic of them all, was my recognition that the limits that were put on me creatively in the past were by and large put on me by myself. Maybe there's a subconscious element with musicians that we want our music to be heard — clearly there's that. Everybody kind of wants to fit in on some level, even if we claim we don't want to lose clicks and genres that grow even with the most socially inept of us, at some point, maybe we want to be involved. I think that's something else that came with this mid-life period of my creativity was just a strange an immediate lack of care. All of the sudden, I was, like, 'I don't care if I fit in.' I think up to this point, I have, for whatever reason. Maybe there's a certain aspect of making things or being presented in public in ways that were embarrassing or maybe I've made some mistakes in my career that have led to things that could be construed as a failure or what have you. I think having gone through these things were some of the most liberating creative moments that I could have had because you don't fear them now. To make the leap to feel I've done with 'Empath' put all of this in one place, if someone says, 'Yes, but what if you don't fit in?', it's no longer an issue. And, to be fair, I don't think that's something that is specific to me. I think again, you get to a certain point in your life, you're like 'Fuck it. Really? Who cares?' At that point, I was like, 'Okay, you know what? I've always liked musical theatre. I've always liked death metal. I've always liked ambient jazz. I've always liked these things. If you feel like putting it in there, go for it.' As subtle recognition as that sounds as I say it now, it was kind of a big deal to me during the making of this."
On whether he now views himself more of an "artist" instead of a "musician":
Devin: "I hesitate to call myself either sometimes. [Laughs] Maybe I think on a practical level, the process that I hear myself describing in these interviews sounds sort of like an art project, I guess, in the long run. But I would also be quick to point out that's never been an objective. I didn't start this with any feeling like I needed to prove myself as an 'artist' or musician. It's much more of a compulsion that is rooted in me. Well, on a real practical level, I don't like suffering all the time. I don't like being terrified all the time. I think that the world we live in, a lot of times, the only way to make anything that has semblance of optimism or hope to it requires you analyzing your motivations, and like I said earlier, going into your past and analyzing your relationship with your past with the express purpose of making something that you can objectively view once it's done and hopefully get past the things that are holding you up. My work in general has always been about that. If there's been any sort of artistic value in it or musical value in it, I have to say that's more of a happy accident [laughs] than anything else. I'm just a perpetually confused and terrified person that is trying to be less so all the time, and music is the byproduct of that."
"Empath" will be released on March 29 via InsideOut Music. Joining Devin on the album is Frank Zappa alumni Mike Keneally as music director, as well as Morgan Ågren (MATS AND MORGAN, FRANK ZAPPA, FREDRIK THORDENDAL),Anup Sastry (MONUMENTS, PERIPHERY),Samus Paulicelli (DECREPIT BIRTH, ABIGAIL WILLIAMS),Nathan Navarro, Elliot Desagnes, Steve Vai, Chad Kroeger, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Ché Aimee Dorval, Ryan Dhale and the Elektra Women's Choir.
"Empath" will be released on limited 2 CD digipak (including an entire disc of bonus material),standard CD jewelcase, gatefold 180-gram 2LP vinyl + CD + LP-booklet and as digital album.