Interview: Devin Townsend

Posted by NichTheHair on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 12:18 PM (PST)


“If I have anything to contribute to the musical world is that people can learn from my failures and successes. That’s what I’m interested in, contributing something healthy to the species.”


Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Devin Townsend.

Click here for the interview.

I just came out of a job interview. I don’t think I’ll get it. Any suggestions for the next one?

I think learning to fail efficiently is one of the best ways to succeed. If you don’t get it, I think the best thing to do would actually be go to another interview, as opposed to letting it crush your spirit. I have some friends that have never failed, their bands have always been successful. As a result of that, they’re having problems now improvising and writing because they are wanting everything to be perfect. That is what they are used to. I think that is a real liability in the long run because if you failed, and you know the feeling of saying “fuck it, let’s do it again,” that’s the best way to learn to improvise. You can’t be afraid of making the wrong note.

The last time I was here at Webster I saw your recent tourmates, black jazz rebels Shining, put on a brave and exciting show.

Yeah! We share a bus with them every time we’re out that way. I like the fact that they have committed so entirely to their freakdom. There’s no compromises.


I made some new friends. Steven and Mark Cimino.

Ha. Mark just dropped me off.

Tell me a little bit about Shelter Dogs and your involvement.

I played bass and some backing vocals for Mark. I certainly didn’t initiate it, but definitely told him to do it. He put it all together and I helped out where I could. The guy’s brilliant.

My mother is a country singer and she is loving Casualties of Cool. She really appreciates that you can step away from your genre reputation and do something completely different. 

Tell her thank you. I think being a fan of music, it’s not out of the question to be able to do more than one thing. Heavy metal is just one of the things I’m a fan of. If you come at it like a conquest, it might lead to a different result. If you legitimately like a style, than I think you can adhere to it in some way.


How would you advise a band if they are considering crowd funding as an option?

It is a business. You have to be prepared for it as such. There’s elements of our preparation for it that were ill thought out and as a result, we have had to do a substantial amount of damage control in terms of certain productions of certain things that we assumed to be effortless, that ended up falling through. I think another thing to be aware of is that by doing a crowd sourced funding,  you will be thrust into the acknowledgment that people are participating in it. My creative process  functioned as a result of me willingly being ignorant of the fact that other people are participating. It helped my creative process. It allowed me to be very true to myself without having to give too much credence to what other people are feeling. Then by doing it, you realize theres six thousand people saying “do it.” Which should have been empowering, but for me I was like “What the fuck?” Now I’m thinking about people. I have never thought about people while I was writing. It was a struggle for me to write Z2, as a result. “What are people thinking? What are people’s expectations?” Be prepared for a real, tangible connection with your audience that will maybe throw you off.

Is it an option in the future?

I don’t know. My initial, knee-jerk reactions say no because people were so generous. I don’t make a lot of money, but I don’t need a lot of money. The whole more more more attitude is incredibly fucking unhealthy and incredibly counterproductive to a musical creative process if what you’re trying to do is be honest. That’s what I want to do and that honesty has come out in ways that recently say “I’m bored.” That’s where I’m at right now. The last time we were in New York was a totally different mindset. I wanted to start it with a bunch of different comedy stuff and this is what I want the goal to be. That’s not where I’m at right now, I don’t know who I’m trying to be live. I’m uncomfortable. So what’s the show going to be? Me, uncomfortable. It still works though because it’s not full of shit. I have no interested in going out there and being being like “I’m a a comedian, I’m a professional entertainer.” If I have anything to contribute to the musical world is that people can learn from my failures and successes. That’s what I’m interested in, contributing something healthy to the species. I’m not looking to be the man, I’m not looking to be anything. It’s a work in progress and just hope I can help in some way.


I feel movie scores and soundtracks are not only an extension of the film, but also an enhancement. What are some scores and soundtracks you enjoy?

I’m not a fan of movies. When I was a kid, Trevor Jones for the Dark Crystal, John Williams. It was more musicals, Leonard Bernstein and all that, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof. It has been a long time since something’s really moved me. I don’t watch movies. I like documentaries now, sometimes I’ll hear something in those I like. I don’t really find myself participating in theater.

Why is that?

It imposes emotions on me that unless I’m in a reciprocal mood for, it’s too much effort. I don’t want to watch Breaking Bad, I don’t want to watch Walking Dead. It’s too heavy, not that I can’t take it, I choose not to. At the end of the day, life and kids and work and drama and death, I’m full, you know?

Since you’re here, I feel obligated to ask about your rendition of “New York, New York”.

I never met the guy, but my reaction to that was the same reaction when anyone convinces me to sing is, “Dude, you’re going to regret it.” [Mike] Portnoy was convinced that I should sing a Dream Theater song on Progressive Nation and I told him the same thing. I’m not a fan of Dream Theater. All the Dream Theater fans were pissed off. I did “New York, New York” how I would do it and all the Sinatra fans or whatever, metal fans were pissed off that I did it. It wasn’t my decision. The result is how I would do it, not one I was clamoring over to do.

It’s my anthem while walking down the street.IMG_9312









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