DEVIN TOWNSEND On DAVID BOWIE: 'There Was An Aspect Of Grace To The Way He Approached His Death'

January 12, 2016

While Canadian multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer Devin Townsend doesn't consider David Bowie a direct influence on his music, he told CBC in a new interview that he does feel influenced by the British art-rock icon's imagination, creativity and desire to explore — all qualities that have helped him as as an internationally successful musician who, like Bowie, is known for creating a few colorful stage personas himself. You can now listen to the chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On how he felt when he first heard about David Bowie's passing:

Devin: "Well, it was interesting. I think, with the sort of glut of celebrity deaths that have come up recently, a lot of them seemed to leave me a little more unfazed than I would have anticipated. But this one was a little different. When I woke up this morning, I felt this one to be really moving in ways that the other ones just didn't affect me.

Devin: "I think there was an aspect of grace to the way that he approached his death, in that he didn't trumpet the cancer as being a way to bring more attention to him. But the downside of that, of course, is that it comes as such a shock to everybody.

"This last week has been very David Bowie-centric, when you think of it. It was his birthday, and then [came] the release of his newest and most ambitious record in recent history, and then he died. So there's a surreal aspect to all of this that, in a sense, almost echoes the artistry of how he chose to present his music."

On what it was about Bowie's career and artistry that inspired him so much:

Devin: "I think that there is, in popular music and popular culture, the idea of following the muse in the ways that it compels you to go is, strangely, discouraged. But when you think about the true nature of art in general, to not do that seems to be absurd. So when you see someone like him, who spent his entire career spanning upwards of six decades not only following it where it leads, but also making such distinct versions of each incarnation of that. I think for someone like myself, regardless of whether or not the music resonates completely, that process is incredibly inspiring."

On why it mattered so much to so many people that some guy was following his muse:

Devin: "Well, that's a good question. I think that perhaps there's an aspect of that being the ideal. I think that if you're working day in, day out — whatever your job is; it doesn't really make a difference — the idea of seeing somebody in a position of prominence that is spearheading that kind of creative liberation, I think it's essentially what, kind of, makes the world go around in terms of progress, artistically and otherwise."

On what he picked up from the fact that David Bowie was one of the first artists to be able to move very fluidly through various genres and styles of music:

Devin: "I think that there's an aspect of fearlessness that comes with that that is inspiring regardless of the genre, again, because it demonstrates that it is possible. When things such as the 'American Idol' and 'The Voice' and all these sorts of prefabricated creative outlets seem to point in the opposite direction — like, that is not something that is possible anymore; it's not something to even wanna pursue, because there's no future there or whatever. So to have somebody do that diligently for so long, I guess, just underlines that thing that I felt when I was a kid, and I know many other people felt as children, [which was], 'Let's follow this because it's emotionally significant.'"

On David Bowie being "brave enough to fail":

Devin: "I think that is one of the, if not the most important lesson for those of us that are wanting to do things creatively as a vocation. Learning how to fail, and learning how to fail efficiently and get back up, I think, allows you to finetune your process and those visions that come along with that process in ways that, without it, there'd be no sense of resilience to the music. And I hear that in his; I've always heard it in his music — that sort of idea that he has gotten back up, and he'll continue to get back up. And as opposed to resting on the laurels of being a legitimate pop-music sensation in the '80s, towards the latter part of his life, he was experimenting with things that were just far removed from that, that it's, again, inspiring in a lot of ways that are separate from his actual musical output. And I also think that there's an attitude that comes with the way that he did that that wasn't being provocative about that. And I think there, within that, is when he died, and when I heard about it this morning, the sense wasn't a total shock as much as, 'Oh, man, I wish he hadn't died.' It's not like when the singer of STONE TEMPLE PILOTS died, or Lemmy died. There was just an aspect with David Bowie where you're just, like, 'Oh, man. That's a real shame.' Because he had a beautiful way about him."

Bowie died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.

He passed away just three days after releasing his 25th studio album, "Blackstar".

The singer, songwriter, actor and fashion icon reportedly kept his 18-month battle with cancer so private that even close friends weren't aware of his struggle.

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