DEVIN TOWNSEND's Advice To Younger Musicians: 'You Need To Learn How To Fail Efficiently'
December 29, 2020
Canadian singer, songwriter and producer Devin Townsend was recently interviewed by Rob's School Of Music. You can now watch the chat below.
Speaking about what advice he would give to younger or more inexperienced musicians, Devin said: "You need to learn how to fail efficiently. Because the people who I know who are fantastic improvisers are the ones that don't fear playing a wrong note. And the ones that are terrified to jam are often the ones that have had a lot of success — in my experience, at least. And to explain that further, it's almost like they never had the chance of fucking up so much that people thought they were idiots. Or that publicly, they never did something that everybody was just, like, 'Dude, that guys sucks, man.'
"I remember years ago, I've got the song 'Kingdom' that I've been playing for years, and it's not the hardest one I've got to sing, but it sucks to sing, because it's high and lots of vibrato and whatever," he continued. "We did this festival in France — it was, like, 80 thousand people — and the one song they chose [to post online] was 'Kingdom', and I shit the bed so hard on it, man, it just sounds like I had my balls stuck in a taffy pullers. And I remember thinking, there's all these people that see maybe some of the stuff I do online — like, there's an EMG version, and there's all these other versions of 'Kingdom' that are pretty good. But those are not the same situation — it's not like you had no sleep and it was dusty and you're nervous and everything. It's, like, no, they fed you and then they give you three takes and you get to do it right and mix it yourself. And this wasn't that. And I remember thinking after that, 'Oh, God. How can I ever live this down? No one's ever gonna give me an opportunity like that again, because I sucked so hard.' But that becomes this weird trap as well. We get so used to residing in our insecurity and in our self-pity and our pain and anger and judgmental nature that, in absence of it, it's like our identity goes away and we're super uncomfortable with it. So it becomes this devil that we know, to sit there after you've screwed something up and be, like, 'Oh, I suck. I can't believe I did that. Oh, I suck.' As opposed to, 'Yeah, dude, it sucked, for sure. But next.'"
Devin added: "If you can learn to do that, there's a huge amount of growth that comes from that — huge amount. In fact, a lot of the people that I continue to work with — because I've worked with so many musicians, and lot of 'em go by the wayside, for a number of reasons; not just this — either personality or you just outgrow each other or whatever. But the people that I stick with typically are the ones that have fucked up colossally, but keep going. [They've] recognized that that was a mistake and [they've] either apologized for it or figured out a way for it not to happen again. And just try again — try again. No one who's achieved any level of success hasn't done that. And I think a lot of times, you're so afraid of looking like an idiot — specifically with the Internet and all this stuff now — that people are terrified to fail. But if you can learn to do it — that's the biggest piece of advice I can give you."
Devin recently completed work on a new album, "The Puzzle", for an early 2021 release. The LP will be accompanied by an hour-long film that he is currently trying to get on Netflix.
Unlike most of Devin's recent musical output, which has been made available via Sony's leading progressive music label imprint InsideOut Music, "The Puzzle" will be released through Devin's own label.
Devin's latest release was "Order Of Magnitude - Empath Live Volume 1", which came out in October. The set has been described in a press release as "a document of [Devin's] winter 2019 European tour that saw [Townsend] taking on possibly his most ambitious live show to date."