Devin Townsend Project - 19/06/2011

After removing himself from the music industry in2008, Devin Townsend cut his trademark hair off and gave up drinking and smoking cannabis. Townsend found it "disconcerting" that he had difficulty writing music without drugs, and that he had trouble identifying his purpose as a musician. He spent a year producing albums in absence of writing, but found it unrewarding and decided to "pick up the guitar and just write". This was the beginning of a period of "self discovery" where he learned "how to create without drugs".

 

In two years’ time, Townsend wrote over 60 songs, and found that they fit into "four distinct styles". In March 2009, Townsend announced his plans for a four-album series called THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, with the goal of clarifying his musical identity and being "accountable" for the persona he projects to the public. The project's concept includes a different "theme" and a different group of musicians on each album.

 

‘Ki’, the first album of THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, was written to "set the stage" for the subsequent albums. Townsend channeled his newfound control and sobriety into ‘Ki’, a tense, quiet album that contrasts with much of the music he had been known for. ‘Ki’ was released in May 2009. After ‘Ki’, Townsend released a "commercial, yet heavy" album called ‘Addicted’, which was released in November 2009.

 

The remarkable four album series will be completed with the release of 'Deconstruction' and 'Ghost' on June 21st via InsideOut Music. Both efforts were written, engineered and produced by Devin Townsend himself with 'Deconstruction' also benefitting by having the iconic Jens Bogren (alongside Devin) handle mixing duties. Part three, ‘Deconstruction’, is arguably the most deranged, complex and extreme record that Devin has ever made. Fans of Strapping Young Lad will almost certainly feel at home with its bug-eyed maze of riffs and breathtaking dynamics. Fortunately, part four of the quadrilogy, the blissfully laidback ‘Ghost’, will provide the perfect rest and recuperation at the end of that torrid ordeal.

 

 

Recently THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT toured Europe. Prior to the show in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands we had the chance to talk to Devin Townsend in person. Of course there was much to talk about, here you can read what Devin had to say to us.  

 

First of all, how are you doing and how’s the tour going so far?

 

Devin: I’m great. The tour has been very good. It has been really great. A lot of shows were sold out, that is the first time that has ever happened. The vibes were very positive, we’ve had no problems, except for Dave hahaha. We had a good time.

 

In 2009 we talked about the first album (‘Ki’) of the 4 album project. Later that year you released the second album ‘Addicted’, can you give us a little update of what’s been happening since that release?

 

Devin: We toured last year for a good number of months. I just finished two more records: ‘Deconstructed’ and ‘Ghost’, they took three months each in between touring. ‘Ghost' is the mellowest and prettiest record I've done so far with a very wonderful vibe. It will be released with the shitstorm that is 'Deconstruction', simultaneously. Now the four record thing is done, I feel really good. It’s like a monkey off your back, we are able to make that statement and show what we are capable off.

 

After listening to ‘Deconstructed’, one thing becomes very clear: this is the most brutal album in this series of four and I think it has a numbers similarities with Strapping Young Lad (except for the orchestra parts). Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

 

Devin: Absolutely. Lyrically it was like an exorcism too. I wanted to make something where I could get to the point to say about SYL what I wanted. I wanted to quit and do something new. I needed a change. My life changed and my mind changed. I got a little older, it just didn’t fit me anymore. It didn’t feel natural to me. I needed to make the lyrics about that. It is a record without drugs and booze, I was able to get past all the old stuff and do something new. It’s lyrically about the whole process, it’s about the chaos. We were exorcising it.

 

You keep answering my questions before I get a chance to ask them!

 

Devin: Hahaha, yes I know, I have verbal diarrhoea hahaha.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Deconstructed’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?

 

Devin: I just followed my interests. I’m now into pop and use stuff that makes me feel good. Whatever comes naturally. And the interests or the lack of it, all come together as an album. I really love music. It’s not that I pick up my guitar or bass, thinking that I’m going to work. NO I play because it’s in my blood. As life changes, the notes also change. Whatever happens next, I don’t know. I never expected this all to happen a few years ago. We will see what comes next.

 

 

Isn’t it hard to challenge yourself and develop new ways of creating music after having written so many albums already?

 

Devin: No I play because it’s in my blood. I follow interests, which pass by in my life. These four albums are the last chapter of part one of my story. This is clearing the pipes out. The end of the beginning. I quit drinking and drugs four years ago and I was able to stand back from them and go ‘Oh!’ You know, if you’re predisposed to mental illness and you exacerbate that by doing things that you know are gonna cause you problems, then ultimately what you’re doing is imposing your selfishness on everybody.’ So coming out of it I realised that there were four emotional components to that period of personal growth, and so I made these four records to represent this.

 

On ‘Deconstructed’ I feel a lot of energy and power coming back, is this something you felt as well during the recording process?

 

Devin: Absolutely. When I started this record, I didn’t go on autopilot. Although it’s the easy way to write. I  used to go a little into the dark direction. Now with no drugs and alcohol and kids to raise, I took a different direction. I used to do things that were kind off bad for my brain. But now I feel ok and I allow myself to create and feel…. I’m not a bad person and I can do what I feel is right. The dark edge is gone. But we all grow older and most of us grow smarter.

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?

 

Devin: As long as you’re honest and not lying to people, they will like it. Don’t do what goes against your feelings. Listeners will notice.

 

How did the recording process proceed for ‘Ghost’, did you work differently than you did with the other albums?

 

Devin: I have no idea...  I poked around on my desk and we picked a few songs, some good, some shitty, so we picked the right songs. All this stuff was written from about four years ago until now. I wrote about 60 songs, and some didn’t make it and others did. They seemed to fit on the four albums.

 

About the recording process, even though ‘Ghost’ is the fourth album to be made available under The Devin Townsend Project moniker, I recorded it third, because ‘Deconstruction’ (the third album) is a nightmare technically and I wanted to make something lovely before diving into that.

 

 

Your previous album featured a number of guest musicians, is this also the case on the last two albums? Who were they and what was it like working with them?

 

Devin: On ‘Deconstructed’ there is a whole bunch of musicians playing along, but it also features the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. I don’t want to tell their names yet, because people will think that I need them to make my album more interesting. I didn’t ask them so I could sell more albums. They are really cool people who I wanted to play with. And they are all friends.

 

On ‘Ghost’ it was Dave Young (keyboards, mandolin), Mike St. Jean (drums) and a lady named Kat Epple (flute) who is around her 60’s now. She does new age meditation music and I always loved the flute. I looked her up on-line and I asked her. She is a really cool and open minded person and she said yes. Before she said yes I made her listen to the worst and darkest music I made and said that she could play on better songs…ha ha

 

Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘Ghost’? What does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind them?

 

Devin: It’s Like the ghost from your past. Earlier, I used to be almost scared of the audience and didn’t want to interact with people. But now I know that 1 or 2% of the people are bananas and the rest is fine… Ghost, poltergeist, kill the past…. Get over it and go on. That’s what it means.

 

How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

 

Devin: Not at all. It’s a concept, but it’s not Queensryche’s ‘Operation Mindcrime’, you know. It means something to me. But I don’t mind if people pay attention to the lyrics. I don’t want to send any special messages to the people or something.

 

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of these four albums or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective? Which element of these albums are you the most proud of?

 

Devin: No changes. It’s awesome. I’m pleased.

 

How would you describe these four albums to someone that has never listened to the Devin Townsend Project before?

 

Devin: Bald 40 year old desperately seeking validation... ;-)

 

Finally: what does the future hold for you, and where do you see your musical direction going after finishing these four albums?

 

Devin: I have got tons of things planned. I want to do some pop things and fretless bassguitar thing. Then more Ziltoid, and some work at home, like building a deck in the backyard. Making music for me is like taking a shit. It’s just part of the day. I’ve got goals, of course, but it’s the process I really dig. I make sure everything’s right and then I go and listen to someone else’s music before I lose my mind. I’ve got so much left to say and so much more that I’m planning that it’s great to get this part, the end of the beginning, wrapped up. These four records are a real good cross section of what I’ve done, so from here it’s wide open!

 

A last statement?

 

Devin: Worse shit has happened to better people……

 

Thanks for the interview!

Talitha Martijn

 

 

 

Albums:

 

Devin Townsend Project

 

2009 – Ki

2009 - Addicted

2011 - Ghost

2011 - Deconstruction

 

Devin Townsend

1995 - Punky Brüster - Cooked On Phonics

1997 - Ocean Machine - Biomech

1998 - Infinity

2000 - Physicist

2001 - Terria

2004 - Devlab

2006 - The Hummer

2007 - Ziltoid The Omniscient

 

Devin Townsend Band

2003 - Accelerated Evolution

2006 - Synchestra

 

Strapping Young Lad

1995 - Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing

1997 - City

1998 - No Sleep 'Til Bedtime (Live in Melbourne)

2003 - Strapping Young Lad

2005 - Alien

2006 - The New Black