Sevenstring.org Interview - Devin Townsend
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<strong>Sevenstring.org Interview - Devin Townsend</strong>
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<div id="post_message_89657" align="justify"><!-- google_ad_section_start --><div align="right"><img src="http://img37.imageshack.us/img37/7826/townsendheader.jpg" alt="Fellsilent" /><br />
<b>Interview: Devin Townsend</b><br />
<font size="1"><i>Interviewed by: DDDorian</i></font><br />
"“With “Ki”, I kind of strode out in uncharted territories for myself musically, and loved the experience. However, during the course of writing this four record project, it was inevitable that I would end up writing a selection of tunes that were very much in line with my back catalogue. This group of songs is the second record in the series, and it is called “Addicted” Musically, “Addicted” is along the lines of the big, wall of sound hard rock/heavy metal of Ocean Machine and Accelerated Evolution, even Physicist at points. It is a very direct and 'to the point' album with an emphasis on groove and the chorus. In the past, lots of my records end up taking a kind of Pink Floyd-ish route (between-song-meandering etc.). “Addicted” is really simple: 10 rocking songs and no bullshit. " -official biography
<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://img20.imageshack.us/img20/4831/townsendhori.jpg" alt="Tymon (left) and Paul (right)" /><br />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">Sevenstring.org:</span> The new album, Addicted, has been out for a couple of weeks now and the reviews have been pretty good, I'd say..
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">Devin Townsend:</span> Yeah, I'd agree, actually.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> I mean, the reaction to Ki was kinda mixed. Even though you'd been doing a lot of interviews up until that point and people had a vague idea of what was coming, a lot of people still didn't seem to really "get it" when it was released...
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Well, you know, basically that was... I mean in hindsight it sounds like I'm making excuses but it's true; my whole intention with releasing Ki first was to kinda separate the wheat from the chaff in a lot of ways. For so many years my identity was so heavily invested in, like, the heavier stuff and the chaotic kinda wall of sound production and all that. Basically this whole four-record Devin Townsend Project is essentially a very complete representation of a period of my life that was full of personal change and a lot of how that personal change kinda came around was it started it a very subtle place, yknow. It began in a very unassuming place.
My intention of releasing Ki at the time was to say to the audience, "This is gonna confuse a lot of you" as opposed to the tried-and-true method of, say, releasing the third record that I'm gonna be doing first and claiming that audience that had been so loyal for so long. I was just like, this whole four-record project is supposed to work as a whole, yknow, and Ki is exactly how it should start and by the time the fourth record's release I have a feeling that people will hear Ki again and go, "Oh, okay. That's how it relates," yknow. Each record is attached to each other lyrically, musically and otherwise, and I think the intention is one of the main principles with this, yknow, the idea of going against my own grain and releasing Ki first is part of the whole project. right?
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> I can tell now with the release of Addicted that a lot of people are coming back to Ki and saying, "Now that I've heard Addicted and I have an indication of just how disparate the elements making up each album are gonna be I can see where it all starts to fit in the grand sceme of things."
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Absolutely, and I think that it's going to continue along that kind of line when people hear Deconstruction and Ghost because those records, Deconstruction in particular, is a record that I think will not only appease the Strapping Young Lad fans and the fans of my work that's a little more chaotic or whatever, I think that that record is going to redefine me and redefine what I choose to do in the future. There are some themes that Ki demonstrated that in hindsight I maybe didn't even realise at the time that it's what I wanted. I know for myself that with Ki, when I was first doing it, it was very much my frame of mind, and so when people would comment that, y'know, "Ki is a weak record" or "Ki is not a very good record" I'm thinking to myself - and actually, I've been verbal about it - I'm like, "It's actually an excellent record in my opinion but you have to be in a certain frame of mind to let it speak to you, because life is too loud for that record in general, so..."
The point of Deconstruction, the point of this Devin Townsend Project is to in a way hammer home that humans in general and music fans in general are so confronted with information in all walks of life; there's the idea that there's a stimulus addiction where the idea of being quiet and the idea of subtle things is lost because we're in such dire need of constant information all the time. By the time Deconstruction comes along, which is a record full of constant information lyrically and thematically, it will relate back to Ki and make Ki very special, in my mind.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> In a lot of ways it kinda reminds me of the reaction you got to the Ziltoid album.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Y'know, it's funny, because with Accelerated Evolution... a lot of my records seem to be the opposite of what people want or expect so the first reaction is "Well, it's not a good record," "Don't enjoy this," but then a year down the line they're like "Oh, now I see why it was supposed to be the way it is. I get asked quite often, "What's your favourite record that you've done?" and I'm like "They're all the same." In a lot of ways they're a direct correlation to what I'm doing either emotionally or spiritually or musically or life-wise, and so each one of 'em is just as honest. In it's own way, Alien reflects the exact same kind of purpose in my life as Ki does, or The Hummer does, or Ziltoid does - that's where I was and that's the honest representation of what musically came out of those periods of my life.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> With the Ziltoid album in particular... don't take this the wrong way or anything but around that period of Strapping's career and your career there seemed to be a little bit of what in my opinion was an emperor's new clothes thing going on - people seemed to think "Wow, I can't wait for another wacky album from that crazy professor Devin Townsend" and generally be completely caught up in that whole persona.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> That's the exact intention of Ziltoid. Ziltoid was supposed to objectify that persona. When I quit doing drugs and quit drinking and everything else I realised that what I was putting out into the music world was was very much an image that was a construct of a lot of things. Between the hair and doing a bunch of interviews on acid and that whole trip, eventually you start to paint yourself into a corner, as you say, as some kind of nutty professor. When I stood away from drugs and stood away from booze and all that that that was very much a projection, that was very much a part of my personality that exists but was becoming not me but moreso like a puppet, so Ziltoid the character is supposed to personify that character, that kinda wacky, crazy element of my personality while taking it away from me. Ziltoid the character is where I've channeled all that energy into. In all honesty, when I cut my hair off I kept it; we're doing a big Ziltoid concert and a bunch of live stuff for our visuals and everything and the new Ziltoid actually inherited that hair, so he's very much that character that I was in Strapping Young Lad. When I realised that that character was either a construct of my psyche in need of power or of some incredible insecurity that makes you need to perceive itself as being from another dimension or an alien or whatever - something that you're very obviously not - Ziltoid became a great outlet for me.
Even at the end of the Ziltoid record, the moral of that record is that the person at the end realises that it's all a daydream, that in all honesty he's just a human being who's trying to get by just like everybody else but because he's so powerless in his own life he's got some fantasy of him being something other than that. So, I think when I released Ziltoid initially a lot of people were like "it's the wacky professor guy making another record about a coffee-drinking alien," right? But, the reason I did Ziltoid was very much that record; it was very much me separating that side of myself into something that became a character, so when I choose to do the Ziltoid character from now on I can choose to put a whole bunch of things into that musical scope that maybe I'm either unwilling or unable to say anymore.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Personally, the Ziltoid album was the one that really made me get the whole Devin Townsend thing - I mean, I'd been following Strapping since the first album and while I thought it was good, to me it was just kinda "there", and the devotion of some of your fans and Strapping's fans was something I just didn't understand, but when I heard the Ziltoid album I thought "This guy is really aware of how some people perceive him and this is his way of saying 'I'm actually a human being, ya know'."
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) I really appreciate that, man. It's like, I've been doing so many interviews and I apologise if I sound like I'm on autopilot but honestly,. I've been lifting gear all day and it's freezing here and I'm like, "Oh shit! Interview!" but I have to say man, really, what makes music so important to me, and this three-year "hiatus" that ended with Ki, what I'm trying to say with this project is that I'm a musician not by choice but just by nature. There's some folks that are just like "When I grow up I wanna be in a band and I wanna play on a stage and I wanna make records" but for me, I've always had a creative side and always been an emotional-type person since a very young age and it seems that the most natural extension of my being that represents these emotions and periods of my life cathartically through music, right? So there are some years... for example, my mother-in-law moved in with me, right, and we had a flood in the house and we had no money and I was freaking out and so what came out of me at that point was Alien; like, this record full of release, right? And then on the other end of it there was a period of my life where I felt like I was reacting to that kind of kathartic output and I released a record called The Hummer which was very much the opposite; it was with flutes and low frequencies and no UPC code on it, you couldn't get it at a store, that was a very determined record for me to be able to say "Well look, of course I'm this character", but at the same time, the reason that character exists is strictly as a metaphor for where I've ended up going in life.
In terms of being a human... y'know, we have a kid, you quit your drugs, you kinda get it together, I'm heading towards 38 years old and all of a sudden you realise, of course you're not an alien, of course you're not from another dimension, and in a way the point of Addicted which, again, some people think Addicted is a great record and some people are just saying "It's too simple," "It's not what we were expecting, that self-destructive nature" and I emphasise that it's one of four records that together make a statement and individually they're supposed to be taken for what they are. A lot of the philosophical outlook on Addicted says that maybe there is no god, maybe there is no afterlife. I don't know, maybe there is, but under the assumption that we have no idea and human's quest to understand things that are beyond us to the point of insanity or discontent in the simple things in life... basically, at the end of that you start realising that the only thing we do have that connects us is each other. Y'know, you've got your friends and foes and lovers and kids and people die and people are born and there's war and there's tragedy and there's beautiful things and there's horrible things but ultimately it's all part of this experience. For me, it's about being able to say "Look, I'm participating in the experience now". I'm not incredibly intelligent and I'm not incredibly stupid, I'm just me. This is what I do musically and for me not to do this at this point, for me not to go from zero to a thousand in terms of energies on the record is a slap in the face to what I feel I'm put here to do, which is be the best Devin I can be. (laughs)
<img style="padding:20px;" align="right" src="http://img641.imageshack.us/img641/4121/townsendaddictedcover.jpg" alt="Tymon (left) and Paul (right)" /><br />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> I daresay you haven't disappointed any fans in that regard as most seem to be quite happy with Addicted. Something I did notice about the album is how accessible it sounds; it's kinda ironic that Strapping Young Lad collapsed in part due to the outside pressure to take a more commercial tact and now you've put out the sort of album that the label would have begged for back then (laughs) I mean, you could slap the Lacuna Coil name on the album cover and it'd sell half a million copies.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> The thing with that is that I'd feel embarassed about that if it didn't come naturally. During this process, while I was finding these different points of view in my own world, I was finding that that's very much a part of me. When I was a kid, a fifteen-year-old, on my playlist was Motorhead, Venom, Judas Priest, Def Leppard and Enya and a bunch of, like, new-age native flute music. Between that and the musicals from the Seventies it was a very comprehensive musical scope. That wasn't intentional, it was just a product of my life and my parents and whatever else. For a while there I was like "Ya gotta be heavy, ya gotta be brutal" and then I started wondering, especially with Strapping, "Am I just a ....ing poser?" I mean, we were hanging around with really tough people who would do things that I would never do, yet on some level it's a self-defense mechanism to be able to say "Yeah, I'm tough, I'm scaring everybody. Look at me, I'm a terrifying entity!" but when you realise that... For me, I realised, Y'know what? I like pop music and I'm good at it. Whether or not a Devin Townsend record will ever sell half a million copies, let's just say I'm not holding my breath but that shouldn't be my motivation to not do it as part of this project just as the idea that will sell a million copies is also not the motivation to do it - the motivation is: here's a bunch of songs that I think are great. Part two of four. Next.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> It's funny that you should mention the whole image thing as there are a lot of bands in the metal scene today that write very poppy music but all it takes is some veneer of "brutality" and all of a sudden they're the most hardcore kids on the block. It's kinda hard to understand how these things work at times.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Well I think the thing that really connected me to heavy music in the first place was the fact that it was real, it was from the heart, so when all of a sudden music that is generally an ugly style in terms of intent becomes a fashion statement and are not doing metal because they really understand it and moreso because they want to be part of some sort of clique, I'm just like, Do you really understand what you're doing? Like, there's this band that's getting the audience to yell "Decimate the weak!" and I'm thinking, Is that retarded kids? Is that your grandparents? Do you really understand what you're saying, and if you don't then you should really give it some thought because everything you ultimately put out into the world, whether it be musically, spiritually or personally, is something you're accountable for on some level.
I think for me I definitely walked the tightrope on a couple of my earlier records in terms of that because my scope of what I was able to control was unfortunately widened by a heavy use of drugs; I realised after the fact that it's hard enough for me to keep control over my limited frame of mind, let alone the whole scope of things that gets widened with drugs. I finally realised he reason that I could hang onto what I did in terms of why I did what I did was because I was being perfectly ....ing honest. Some days I felt wonderful and some days I felt like shit but at least I was honest about it. Now that I'm clear and ready to rock I've realised that not only am I still honest about it but I've got a hell of an opportunity to do what I was always too afraid to do, which is to take it to the moon, right? Man, I've got Floyd-ian aspirations in terms of the live show. I want it to be the biggest, coolest, funnest, heaviest thing ever.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> We're all definitely anticipating that one, for sure.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> The Australian tour that we're doing, that's like two hours plus of music and visuals and... it's awesome, man.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Since you brought that up... Between the Devin Townsend Band and SYL you must have been to Australia at least ten times over the last decade. That might not seem like a big deal to some people these days, as we're finally starting to get regular tours by international bands, but you've been doing it since long before it was common or even profitable. I gotta ask - what's the appeal?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Basically, when I was very young, my grandparents had a book of Aboriginal art that was a really psychedelic view of the land of Australia. Also, there's something about the size, the sheer geography of Australia that I've always related to. Canada's similar in a lot of ways in that there's not a lot of people and a lot of geography - obviously it's different here, Vancouver's a rainforest, there's a lot of mountains, plus a real coastal look - but I'm just so connected to nature; whenever I'm having a moment and I lose it, as long as I'm in nature I can go to the beach, I can go to the forest, I can go to the desert and I'm good. It grounds me. Plus, I'm obsessed with the size of music because the reason I do music has always been way bigger than anything I can possibly represent. I've always been interested in size and ever since I was a kid that art, that look, that vibe always implied a size that I really related to on an artistic level. Plus, I think because Canada and Australia have a similar political outlook - I don't know what the name of it is, but in terms of the people that I've met in Australia there's a real similarity at times between Canadians and Australians. There's really no reason other than that - I love the people. I love the size, I love the look, right?
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Well we definitely appreciate the affection. Then again, we've got the Queen on our money, you've got the Queen on your money so we're practically the same country, right?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) Your money's way cooler than ours. It doesn't rip, right?
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Right, so until Prince Charles takes the throne we should be fine.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) We've been there so many times and I relate it back to... there's people that you meet over the course of your life, either with friendships or musically or whatever, and there's a lot of people you meet and you're just like, wow, I've got zerio in common with you and this might be the only time we ever hang out, right? But there's other people that make you think, this is great, I've had a great conversation with you, we're in a similar place spiritually and our sense of humour just meshes, and those are the sorts of people I end up following. If I can use that as an analogy then Australia is a place where I'm always like "Hey, you guys wanna hang out?" (laughs)
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Works for me! Back to the new album, I believe you had this one mixed by Randy Staub...
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> I mixed it, actually. I couldn't afford Randy Staub.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Really? Well, there goes that part of the interview. I mean, Randy's done Metallica's black album, he did the new Alice In Chains record, a bunch of radio-grunge stuff, and I was gonna talk about what a huge difference a guy like that has made to the final product, but since you were apparently the one twiddling all the knobs on the album... congratulations! You've done an awesome job. (laughs)
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) Thanks, man. It's funny; I've always had a DIY sort of ethic, almost by necessity through what I do, but it's really started to come to the forefront as I quit smoking and drinking and everything. It's not a moral judgement, I'm not on a mission. It works for me and it doesn't work for other people. I don't care; the rest of the guys in my band drink and smoke, for me it's just self-preservation. However, what I found from not doing those things is that I've got like eight extra hours a day to try and fill. (laughs) So, with that, I found that there's just so much extra shit to learn. In terms of the Randy Staub thing, I was thinking in terms of, he does something that no-one else can do. But then start coming to the conclusion that he's just a human; he's just got gear. Sure, intuition and musical knowledge play into it, but ultimately it's all technique, so investigate and learn those techniques.
Eventually, whether or not it's this record or the next one or ten records down the line, if you're commited to learning something you'll learn it. It's like taekwondo or learning how to make a decent gravy or whatever. Eventually if you put your mind to it, you can do it. Some folks come up to me and ask me to produce their album and I tell them they don't need me. I didn't go to school for it, I just learned it because I had to. I learnt it because either there was no money or the people I wanted to use didn't like my music or whatever, so I was like, .... it, I'm gonna learn to do it. With this record, Addicted, it was another experience. I tried to get Randy Staub to do it but the budget for Addicted isn't a big budget and Randy Staub's like five grand a song, so I'm going, wow, I can basically mix one song and then I'm tapped, right? So I just took that as a reason to learn how to do it and I think it turned out pretty good.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Honestly, that's an inspiring thing to hear for DIY guys like us. I mean, just compare the original version of "Hyperdrive" from the Ziltoid album to the new version on Addicted - the difference sonically is like night and day.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> That's the thing, each record I do is done with a very deliberate production style. With Ziltoid, although it's not the best record sonically, the reason Ziltoid sound the way it does is because... it's kinda shooting myself in the foot for future listening, but at the time... I remember doing a clinic in Vancouver and there was a very high-ranking producer and myself that did this clinic at this music store, and he basically was on his podium and said "You can't do a record for under a hundred grand, you just cannot do a professional record for under a hundred grand," and he was scoffing at it, right? And I was like, you know what? Let's put that to the test. I got, like, a $300 Pod XT Live, I got myself an iMac and an external drive, I got myself a Digidrive 002 ProTools LE system - not the good one, the LE - and I got a $99 drum machine and I got a $200 orchestra program. So basically the whole rig - not including my guitars, but including everything was just under five-and-a-half grand. I did the entire Ziltoid album by myself on automatic gear - no engineer, no elaborate sushi breaks with a bunch of people wiping my nose, I was just like, .... it, I'm gonna make a statement here on the fact that I'm gonna do a record from beginning to end for basically just the price of the gear which I still use today and learn the tricks through trial by fire.
Ziltoid - yeah, of course the drums sound like a drum machine and it doesn't have the best sonic characteristics but I'll tell ya what, man - for that amount of money I really proved to myself that if you wanna do it you can do it. So when I got to Addicted I took all that knowledge from Ziltoid and the more analogue knowledge I learn with Ki and I applied it to Addicted; by that time I'd managed to get an HD system and different pre-amps, y'know, so what Addicted is is heads and tails above Ziltoid and the future will be heads and tails above Addicted because each record is a reaction to the one before. Sometimes online people say "Well, it's not a perfect record," and I think, there's no such thing as a perfect record! It's all subjective; I'm a work in process and the moment I finish a record I'm like: this is a problem, that's ....ed up, I don't like this one frequency this one piece of gear often gives off, and then down the line I'll be able to slowly perfect it.
<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://img10.imageshack.us/img10/3875/townsendsix.jpg" alt="Tymon (left) and Paul (right)" /><br />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> There's an element of enjoyment on our part too, listening to your skills progress from album to album. I mean, there's another level of appreciation for albums like Ziltiod that show of what can be done with affordable gear that anyone can buy.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Totally. It's not just that it's affordable gear, either - it's not like an investment of five grand's worth of studio time and at the end of it you have a record, it's an investment of five grand's worth of gear and not only do I have the gear at the end but I also got a record out of it and a tenure of learning how to use the programs and learning how to do the automation in ProTools and learning how to, like, work MIDI outs or working around memory allocation issues on the iMac by doing it in different sessions... so, not only do I have the gear and the record but I've gained the knowledge to troubleshoot for when the time comes that I can perhaps afford some serious gear. Now with AddictedI've got so many amps and pre-amps and... I've got some pretty cool gear now, man.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Speaking of cool gear, we're all very excited to try out your new signature seven-string guitar from Peavey. You've been spotted with a few other companies over the years - ESP, Blackmachine, etc - so what is it that made you want to take an endorsement with Peavey?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Peavey first approached me at NAMM a couple of years ago and told me they enjoyed what I do and that they'd like to work with me on a guitar or something if I was open to that sorta thing. Their reputation has always been that they make good, solid, workman-like guitars, but you never hear anyone say "Wow, have you seen that awesome new Peavey?" y'know? Anyway, I decided to go down there and just check the place out and after speaking to the people there, especially Hartley Peavey, the owner... man, he just does not give a .... about what Fender or Ibanez or anyone else is doing, he just sits in his basement making what he wants to make and doing what he wants to do. In fact, everyone at Peavey was very respectful and understanding of the way that I currently work in regards to touring and recording and soforth and I really relate to their whole business ethic.
We started working on the prototype V which became the basis for the signature guitar and I'm really excited about it - it's got a 28" inch baritone scale neck to better handle the tunings, two EMG active pickups, including the the very first seven-string EMG single-coil neck pickup that the guys made for me, an awesome gun-metal grey finish with black highlights, it's super slick. It also has huge upper and lower horns that go right down you're leg so it doesn't look gay when you're sitting down with it or whatever. It's a totally awesome instrument and that one prototype led to us working on the six-string signature guitar and now a whole bunch of other stuff, like this crazy white semi-hollow V with a seven-string Bigsby-style trem that sticks off the ass-end like a ....in' spaceship, plus some other shit. Man, between the guys at Peavey and everyone working on the tour I want to take this shit into the stratosphere. 700-foot Ziltoid that walks the stage, the works.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> (laughs) You might have trouble finding hair for that one.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Yeah, I might have to take donations or something (laughs) Basically, I wanted to make something cool and bad-ass and unique that I could use in a whole bunch of musical situations. I mean, everyone knows the best guitar in the world for clean tones is a Fender Stratocaster, right? And the best guitar for heavy tones is a Gibson Les Paul, so... I didn't wannna come out with a shitty version of a Strat or a Gibson, or some pretentious guitar made out of uranium with inlays forged in a cougar's ass or whatever, I wanted to come out with something versatile and interesting that would help me achieve what I need to achieve with such a broad back catalogue and the folks at Peavey are with me every step of the way.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> It's cool to hear that you and the people at Peavey are so willing to experiment. I remember the reaction when it was first announced that you were getting a signature guitar with Peavey and the first pics of the prototype V emerged - most of us were postive, but being a seven-string community, some of us tend to get frustrated with the lack of variety at times, so seeing another full-on metal guitar made a few people ask, "What about a seven-string Strat?" or something similarly traditional, or something even more radical and out there. From the sounds of things those people have nothing to worry about - nothing's off the table, you have the means to do whatever you like.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Again, the same thing applies to the design of the guitar as it does to my musical proclivities. I'm doing it first and foremost because it's what I need and what I enjoy playing and what I wanna see at this point. The first version, like I said, it's a big, grey V, right - straight up in a lot of ways, but versatile. It's also huge. But, the third one that we're doing... you know the Gretsch White Falcon? Like, that huge semi-hollow guitar? We're doing a version of this V similar to that - semi-hollow wings, a real gjiroejg and the same sort of nice finish as a White Falcon and a crazy Bigsby that comes off the ass-end of it with gold accents; it's almost like a White Falcon from the perspective of a spacecraft or something. Single-coil pickups, the whole works. Basically, I need seven strings in order to do what I do and I need the option to be able to play really technical material, which I always find myself flailing with when the guitar's actually in a position that looks cool. (laughs)
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Yeah, you either strap it at chest height or have it hanging at your ankles...
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Totally, and if it's up high you sound great but you look like a dork and if it's down low you can strike poses one through fortynine but your playing sounds like shit, right? I figured if it was a huge V then the fretboard would sit where it is in the wank position and the bottom fin is where is in the rock position. Maybe we should have called it the Biz-Rock, right?
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> (laughs) Right. As far as I know you're also working on an amp with Peavey. How's that coming along?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> I did a single-channel clean amp with Budda that I recorded Ki with and I'm very proud of that; we used some very cool old tubes and some very simple sounds with nothing in the way of the tone and I loved it, but in all honesty I've been working with digital gear. I recorded a lot of Addicted with Revalver, but I've been working with Fractal too. Y'know the Axe-FX?
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Oh yeah, you're preaching to the choir here. We're total zealots for that thing.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) Man, that thing is the future as far as I'm concerned. Patience rewards persistence, and even though the digital gear is still in its infancy to a certain extent, dude, you can do anything you want, you just have to have the patience and the know-how. My whole view of the Floyd-ian supershow requires me to have, like, forty tones and tons of different echoes and spillover, direct to the board for the perfect sound even with a shitty soundman so I have a great on-stage sound and everything. I've got these Peavey cabs that they made - Vintage 30's and really solid construction, all black and super-slick, four 4x12's and two 2x12's - and then I have my old GP100 that I've used since the first record I ever did for my big washy echo going through the 2x12's, and then I run the Fractal through a tube power-amp. I've got a ten-space rack, and it's wireless and man, it's ....ing awesome (laughs) Between my spaceship guitars and my spaceship rig it's like the proof is in the pudding, right? When we get down there I hope people will get to hear it and be like ".... yeah, dude."
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Man, as I look over at the one guitar I own and the space where my one amp used to be I can't help but feel just a little bit jealous (laughs)
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) I can definitely appreciate that, but I'll also say that the reason that I'm doing this is that I think I've got a somewhat unique ability to; I'm definitely not hoarding over this gear, so when you do come see the show people will hopefully be inspired and eventually have more guitars and amps than I'd ever dream of (laughs) There were years there where I felt self-conscious about it, but now I'm like, if I spend too much time feeling self-conscious about the good things that are happening and the fact that there are people making amps and things for me I'm not gonna end up projecting the confidence that the music requires. I'm doing this because I'm good at it, man, and all this gear is there because people want it to be, so I wouldn't feel jealous. Let's just rock together.
<img style="padding:20px;" align="right" src="http://img638.imageshack.us/img638/8403/townsendvvert.jpg" alt="Tymon (left) and Paul (right)" /><br />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Well you've surely paid your dues so you've earned all that stuff, if you ask me.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) Oh, I've definitely paid my dues, man. On the negative side - yeah, I got guitars and deals and all that shit but I can't figure out some of the most basic things in life. I've been married for twenty years, so getting laid is much harder than getting a guitar amp at this point.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> (laughs) Yeah, I can't see you getting any endorsee discouts there.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> (laughs) Tell me about it! She knows all my bullshit.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Now, you're still using the open-C tuning, yeah?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Yeah, with the dropped G. I've got three different tunings: open-C with a dropped G, open B with a dropped F# and open Bb with a dropped F. There's a mess of songs written in each tuning; to a certain extent that's unfortunate but I've got those three tunings always kicking around the house, so if I happen to pick up one that's tuned to Bb and a song comes then that song's officially in Bb. (laughs) I need a guitar to facilitate that, so I take three guitars out on the road and a back-up for each in case I break a string or something. Again, this is the first guitar that I've worked with with Peavey - we're contemplating this kinda "seasick" Tele, not only the semi-hollow V but a regular semi-hollow guitar... a bunch of things. I'm basically aesthetically driven in the same way that I am tonally driven. What I'm trying to put across live is a show. I don't want it to just be like, "Well, here I am playing complicated music with a lot of dynamics, bring your pillows!" - I want it to be a ton of fun for everyone, so the look of that guitar works for me because it's such a show.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> I guess your approach will be a little different to the other bands on the tour, who go out there with the intent to beat their audience over the head with time signatures for an hour-and-a-half. (laughs)
(<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> laughs) That's why it's perfect for us - we'll be the fart in church, right? The tour's gonna be like, a bunch of technically great bands - and they're really killer bands, of course - but then there's us and this really focused freakshow in the middle of it. I'm speaking strictly from my own tastes - I've never seen anyone on this tour like Between The Buried And Me, they put on a hell of a show - but for me, I didn't wanna play live unless it was gonna be something that would make people say "Wow, that was killer, it was fun, I remember this part where this happened..." I've always been about the performance, so to have the opportunity with the back catalogue that we do, to be able to have those dynamics of performance illustrated musically gives us a ton of options. We've got a guy named Conrad, who did the video for "Bend It Like Bender", "Almost Again", "Coast"... he's an incredible CGI artist and he's doing two-and-a-half hours of visuals for us specifically for the Australian tour, son in a way we can illustrate dynamically exactly what I'm trying to put across with the ups and downs of the tempos, the dichotomy between heavy and mellow, but at the same time we can lead the audience along that path with a visual counterpart. I'm just incredibly excited about the opportunities for the future.
In a similar way to what we discussed earlier with the Ziltoid album, it's exactly the way it is with live performance now; it's my first foray back into playing live in years and the first one that I've been able to be in full control of, so of course there's budget limitations to how that 700-foot inflatable Ziltiod is or is not gonna be presented (laughs) but at the same time, if we've got the opportunity to play to people that enjoy it and if we've got the opportunity to make x amount of dollars, why don't we invest that into something that's gonna give people something to talk about as opposed to some sort of cash grab? "There's the eleventh tour that that guy did and, it was... okay." I'm like, no way, let's blow the roof off of it.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> I'm glad you're going into it with so much enthusiasm because the more I'm hearing about it the more exciting it sounds.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> The funny thing is that the enthusiasm really comes back to the fact that these three years I've had off have given me the chance to reflect on the reasons that I've done it and why things went south in the past and the conclusions I came to honestly surprised me, because the main one was, you are goddamned lucky to be doing this; there are so many musicians out there that would love to be able to do what we have the opportunity to do. It's never too late to embrace that, so not only am I stoked to be able to do this but thanks for coming to the show! It's an honour.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> I'll just go back to the US tour for a moment, as it just so happens that a couple of guys from Cynic and Scale The Summit hang out on our website so they'd probably appreciate the plug (laughs) That's with Between The Buried And Me headlining, and you're... opening, right?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Nah, we're second.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> Oh, okay. So will this be more stripped-down in comparison to the Australian tour, or will the show feature a condensed version of the full production? How's that gonna work?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Exactly the same concept, but condensed. Basically, when they came to us they said, this is the package and we'd love to have you along, but we realise that second of four is an awkward position for you to be able to represent what you need to represent. However, my whole point is that I've been away for three years so I've got a lot to prove, and I'm using this first tour - before Australia, before New Zealand, before Europe - as an advertisement, a half-hour taste of what we can offer. Also, considering it's the first tour I've done where I've been completely sober and the first tour I've done in three years and the first one off the heels of the success of SYL, it's an opportunity to get my feet wet and I don't think I'd have it any other way. I think if we jumped straight into a headlining tour it would pose a lot of problems that could be solved by just getting out there and finding our troubleshooting methods in a forced situation; by the time we get to Australia we'll have reached a kinda of accelerated evolution, y'know, really hit our stride. As far as the US tour goes, I can't think of any better bands to do it with; I've spent a bunch of time with Paul from Cynic down in LA and he's a great guy and we'll be sharing a tour bus with them. It's definitely the ideal situation for us to get our feet wet.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> It's definitely ideal for us too! So, who actually makes up the Devin Townsend Band/Project this time round?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Well we've got a drummer named Ryan van Poederooyen who was in the Devin Townsend Band... in fact, the guys who make up the Devin Townsend Project are a re-organisation of the Devin Townsend band. We've got the keyboard player who played on Ki and in the Band and he's actually one of the best guitar players I know. He's a complete perfectionist and that was essential for me for this project - I don't want the best night to rate a seven out of ten, if any of the members has a particularly bad night it should still rate at least a seven out of ten, so what that requires is an uber-appreciation and understanding of the intricacies of all these records because there are so many different styles. I chose Dave on guitar because he's that type of character who beats himself up if it's not perfect and that's exactly what I needed. The bass player's name is Brian (Waddell)- he used to play guitar in the Band, actually, and we literally grew up together; I met him like twenty-five, thirty years ago and he's been my confidante for years. He's an excellent guitarist and an even better bass player. Ryan, he played on Addicted and, again, he's a very technically knowledgable drummer, so between him and Dave they can sit down and dissect the music and be like, "This hit here is at this velocity on the three-and-a-half in 7/8 time..."
Essentially, what I needed was session musicians to deconstruct fifteen albums' worth of shit and be able to put them back together in a way that lets me look at them and say, exactly! (laughs) It's been very important to make sure everything is represented well. We have samples, of course, but my ultimate goal - and I don't know if we're gonna be able to do this in Australia or not - but our ultimate goal is to have a choir play with us, have all those vocal parts performed by six women. Again, my goals are really out there, but I'm just gonna throw it out into the universe. Whether or not it'll ever happen... well, it's still my goal, so if it's even close to the mark it's still gonna be awesome.
<img style="padding:20px;" align="left" src="http://img696.imageshack.us/img696/3796/townsendbandhori.jpg" alt="Tymon (left) and Paul (right)" /><br />
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> That sounds fantastic, but that sort of thing must be hell for you, logistically-speaking.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> Well I've got a really good team right now - with Century Media, with management, with my lawyer, with Peavey, with Alvarez, with everyone supporting the band and the crew - it's hardly just me. I get the awesome job of saying, we need a 700-foot Ziltoid and a six-person choir! and getting back an "Okay Dev, we'll have to do this and this..." (laughs) We're throwing it out long-term and doing as much as we can.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> I was actually going to ask about Century Media in regards to the four-album plan - they must be really confident in your abilities if they're willing to release four albums despite the fact that you haven't toured in so long.
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> I'd signed a two-album deal that was originally supposed to be two albums over the course of five years, but I approached them and said, let's just do four albums for the same price and get them all out in eighteen months, and they were like "Sure, fill your boots man" (laughs) Again, these four albums are a statement that define a certain period of my life; this music has been written for years now, so more than anything I need to get it out so I can move on. In terms of the confidence the label has in me, it's a two-way street. I mean, I work my sack off - it doesn't matter if there's interviews to do, there's album covers to sign or if there's gear to lift, it's all the same job to me. If you get to play a huge show but have to pack your huge cabs into the back of the van afterwards then ultimately that's what I'm commited to do. I think in this age of downloading and a general lack of consumer confidence the label sees that, yeah, I'm pro-active online, we make our own shirts, we do our own graphics... In terms of the video, it's not like Century Media was like "We're gonna get this kick-ass animator for ya", I was just like, look, I've got a buddy, he's incredible and he'll do it for the budget, so I know that you didn't really have that planned but it's gonna be awesome, so if you give me a deadline I'll deliver something way better than we could have had. I think between the power of the label and the pro-active nature of not only myself but the group of people around me we're able to take it to a level that is maybe surprising for everybody. Again, it goes back to the opportunity that I have to do this stuff, so to not grab it by the balls at this point wouldn't make any sense. We're all kinda just pickin' a ball and grabbin'.
<span style="color:red;font-weight:bold;">SS:</span> (laughs) Well that's about it from me. Any last words for the readers and fans of ss.org?
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">DT:</span> I can't wait to come to Australia, for reasons I've explained earlier; I can't wait to come down there and celebrate this new era of my musical development with people that have been so supportive and so cool for so long. It came through today that we're also playing a show in New Zealand - I've never played in New Zealand before so I'm very much looking forward to playing in Auckland. I really hope the people that come to see this want to have a good time because we're not coming down there to be martyrs, right? We're coming down there to party. Of course, it'll be a very sober party from my end, but I don't drink so you can (laughs).
<div align="center"><br />
<span style="color:orange;font-weight:bold;">For more information on Devin Townsend:</span><br />
<span style="color:white;font-weight:bold;"><a href="http://www.devintownsend.com target="_BLANK">Official Devin Townsend website</a></span><br />
<span style="color:white;font-weight:bold;"><a href="http://www.myspace.com/devintownsenddtb" target="_BLANK">Devin Townsend on Myspace</a></span><br />
<span style="color:white;font-weight:bold;"><a href="http://twitter.com/dvntownsend target="_BLANK">Devin Townsend on Twitter</a></span><br />
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