DEVIN TOWNSEND Says He Was 'Afraid' His Music Would Get Popular

February 10, 2019

Make Weird Music recently conducted an interview with Canadian heavy music artist Devin Townsend about his forthcoming "Empath" studio album. You can watch the three-part chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On "Empath":

Devin: "What I feel about it, I don't wanna say. I feel like it's brilliant. I feel like it represents me taking my life apart, laying it out, analyzing it, letting it go."

On receiving praise from the musicians who appeared on "Empath":

Devin: "I think my biggest problem with it is I don't like being the focus of that, because I feel that all I'm doing is trying to honor something. So, when they say these things about the record, when people say these things about the record, my hope is that people ultimately know that it's not me; it's the process. And the process is perfect, but I'm not perfect, and the record's not perfect. But what we're trying to achieve is something that is perfect. And maybe that's why art exists — 'cause it'll never be perfect. So there's always things to write about. And I work super-fast, but I also feel that it's because when you're listening for it, it's an immense amount of information, and unless you're focused, you're gonna miss it. So it's just about your process has to be super-fast and super-efficient, and you have to exercise, and you have to meditate, and you have to do these things, because otherwise, you end up internalizing it that, 'This is you,' as opposed to the collective unconscious where you are just dipping your ladle into it. And again, I think the intention of it is like you're dipping your ladle into it because you think it's beautiful and you think that it can ultimately help. And I really appreciate that Mike [Kennelly, guitar] says that. And I really appreciate Morgan [Ågren, drums] says these things, but I'm super-uncomfortable with it. And it's not that I don't have an ego, 'cause clearly my ego is enormous. When I sent the record out to the label, they used all these superlatives about it. And I just didn't know what to do. I was, like, 'I don't wanna respond. I don't wanna hear it.' At first, I was, like, 'I hope they like it.' But then when they really liked it, I was, like, 'Oh my God! I don't wanna think about it.' So, clearly, just by this interview, you can see that my hang-ups as a dude are what makes the whole thing such a gong show, right?

"What I was always afraid of was that it was gonna get popular and I was gonna become a representative for this sort of thing that I don't understand. So I'm trying to surround myself with people that understand and respect me and respect the process and wanna watch 'Rick And Morty' with me or whatever. In that way, I can do this. I can totally function. If there's not a huge amount of importance placed on it… Sometimes I'll have people listen to the stuff and they feel something about it that is over the top, and I'm just, like, 'Oh my God! I don't wanna be here for that.'"

On what makes his music unique and different:

Devin: "The record label [HevyDevy Records] started inadvertently, as I couldn't convince the labels at the time that what I was doing was viable. Commercially, for one, but also for the level of capital that I would need to pull it off. So, because the Steve Vai record [1993's 'Sex & Religion'] had done well in Japan, Sony Japan suggested that if I just incorporate the name of whatever the name was, and, dubiously, it ended up being HevyDevy Records, then they would license the work. And that's how it started. And when I put together STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and that ended up on Century Media, if I could make any claim to business acumen, it was that I insisted that the only thing they had rights to was STRAPPING, and everything else that I did — whether it was ambient or country or rock or orchestral, anything — I would have the rights to do that on HevyDevy Records. Why do I think it's weird? I don't think it's weird. I just think that… I'm told it's weird. So I preface most conversations with preemptively telling people that, You may not dig this,' or, 'People are typically confused about this,' or what have you. But I think, for me, musically, I don't think about what I do, I guess. I've never really thought about it. I go by what I'm compelled to do, and those compulsions tend to be very vision-based and super-specific. So I'll do things because that year seems to have certain aesthetics that play into it. Now, my interests, I'm interested in green, and I'm interested in this particular font, I'm interested in this particular sound and frequency and a particular guitar sound, which leads me to another guitar pickup. And by the end of the year, all these subliminal clues tend to triangle to the point where there's a really specific vibe that a name typically happens in the formative stages of those clues coming together. And by the end, I'm, like, 'Oh, I guess it's 'Ki',' or, 'I guess it's 'Ziltod',' or, 'I guess it's 'Empath',' or whatever. And sometimes I'm just, like, 'That's weird.' But I knew it had to be that way and I know it has to sound that way. But I'd be first in line to suggest that it's strange."

"Empath" will be released on March 29 via InsideOut Music. Joining Devin on this 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 jewel case, gatefold 180-gram 2LP vinyl + CD + LP-booklet and as digital album.

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