Devin Townsend interview (10/2003)

With: Devin Townsend [vocals, guitars, programming]
Conducted by: Justin
Published: 02.10.2003

Band profile:

Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend is an artist that needs little introduction to metal listeners.
His varying projects continue to bewilder and fascinate fans of the Canadian, and his latest project, and surprisingly straight forwardly named, The Devin Townsend Band is no exception. The line up was a collection of newcomers, including brothers Mike [Bass] and Dave Young [Keyboards], Ryan Van Poederooyen [Drums], Brian Waddell [Guitar] and Devin himself, and continued the sound that could easily be compared to his other works such as Terria and Ocean Machine [Or as Devin describes as 'Devy Metal'].
Their debut album 'Accelerated Evolution' was written along side the new Strapping Young Lad album within a three-month period, and released in April [A mere couple of months after Strapping Young Lad's 'SYL'] to great reviews.

I caught up with Devin while on break from the Strapping Young Lad tour to talk all things 'Accelerated Evolution'.

- While reviews for 'Accelerated Evolution' have been favourable, there seems to be a contingent of writers out there that seem to view many of Devin's work outside Strapping Young Lad as inferior.

There are a lot of new fans that seem to like it more than the old fans. Gosh, some people think it's the best, some people think it's the weakest. It's the same shit as usual man! [Laughs] I was actually anticipating that exact reaction. What usually happens is people discredit it at first, but by the time the next record comes out, they want the new one to sound just like the one they previously discredited.

- While many images can be associated with the name 'Accelerated Evolution', the actual meaning does make perfect sense.

The whole idea of the project was to start from zero and put a band together and try and get a good sound happening with a bunch of people, who other than myself, previously had very little experience doing music on a professional level. That means in terms of touring and recording. So I basically took pretty much the first people I found, and said to myself, 'Well, let's see if their good people. Then if that works out, let's see if they're good players, and see if we can evolve into something that can be a vehicle for me to do solo music through'. This first record is just that, and the first record of what I hope to be a continuation of. I'm actually already writing music for the next album.

- While most would be familiar with Devin's personnel in Strapping Young Lad [Gene Hoglan, Jed Simon, Byron Stroud], the members of The Devin Townsend Band are relatively young and largely unknown. They do have their own respective bands independent bands though [Ryan - God Awakens Petrified, Mike and Dave - Ten Ways From Sunday and Brian - Evenlight].

They were the first people that could play the parts right. They're mature people, and they can handle whatever is thrown at them. They're really good musicians. You know, let age be damned!

- A little known fact is that the original working title for 'Accelerated Evolution' was in fact 'Relationship'.

That title is still relevant to the material on the album, but it sounded kind of gay. I mean, towards the end of the making of the album, I thought it was a stupid name for a record.

[At this point Devin imitates some art house, know it all student voice - 'Have you heard that new album 'Relationship'? It's just so heavy!' I guess you had to be there…]

To some degree the title was a little too revealing of myself. 'Accelerated Evolution' is like, here this side of me, the relationship side of me. It's a place where you have to deal with things. I suppose most of us have to. But really, what else does it reveal about me? It doesn't reveal the true me…still! You spend a year polishing pictures of yourself in order to present it to the world. This is a pretty streamline version of what I want to say, as opposed to what I usually blurt out in the middle of a conversation. I usually spend the next two hours trying to get my foot out of my mouth. The lyrical content is deliberately written in an obscure way so people can read into it what they wanted. That's kind of been the goal to all my work. I like to have a theme where people can find whatever they want to relate back to. This album in particular I think would be more inclined to do that because the song arrangements are a lot simpler, and the melodies are presented in a lot more obvious way. There are things to it that make it a lot more commercial. So it's about revealing things and presenting it in a way that's open. I think helps as well as far as that because the simplicity really hammers that home.

- That commercial appeal that Devin mentions is evident throughout 'Accelerated Evolution', but in particular in track such as 'Traveller 'and 'Slow Me Down'.

Sure, they're both potential singles, but it'll never happen. I don't have the face to be a pop star. I just write that music because I like that kind of stuff. I like that sort of sing along eighties metal style. In order to have a radio hit, single sort of thing and all that sort of stuff, a network of information needs to be going between companies. It's also a strain on your personal life. If it happens, then that's grand. I haven't had a problem up to this point without it. We're successful in our own right, and we haven't had to do any of that shit, right? We haven't had our face on a video too much.

- It would seem that promotional video clips for the latest aren't exactly on the high priority list either.

Some freaky Italian kid did a video for 'Storm'. I don't even know if it's finished yet, but that's being done for it. We did a video for 'Relentless' off the last Strapping Young Lad album. I think that one video will be the extent of it because I really hate doing them. The reason is because I look like a moron when I sing. You have to agree, right? [Laughs]

- Apart from releasing the album, The Devin Townsend Band is an actual band for Devin and has hit the road in support of 'Accelerated Evolution'.

There are so many touring opportunities that are presenting themselves at the moment, but I just don't know which ones are confirmed yet. What is confirmed is Australia with Strapping Young Lad. We come down there in late October. I think it might be just Strapping Young Lad this time. The Devin Townsend Band will definitely be down there sometime in the future. We just have to work out some bugs out first. The shows so far have been going really good. You know, it's like when we're good, we're really good. And when we're bad, it looks like we need work. We're doing that work right now! [Laughs]

- Apart from the standard version of 'Accelerated Evolution', Inside Out Music also released an exclusive limited edition version of the album that came with the bonus disc containing demo tracks from Devin's more ambient side project EKO.

The name actually came from a really quick idea I had. I have these strips for each channel on my mixing board, and one of them is an echo channel. I always spell it as EKO. So I was just looking around the room looking for a name for this piece of music I was creating, and I saw EKO. I thought that would do. Actually, I'm doing a project right now that's an advanced version of what EKO was. EKO is just an idea of what I'll be doing. The way I look at it, if people don't like it, that's fine. There are two other albums I just put out, so shut the fuck up! [Laughs] If you don't like one, chances are you'll like another. If you don't like all three, there are fifteen million other bands out there. There are no plans to released EKO in its entirety in the future, but I'll be doing some more EKO stuff in the future. It might not be called EKO though. I'm doing this project at the moment where I use keyboards and computers, and I do it with a partner, and that's good. Remember when I told you last time that EKO was an experimentation with my new mixing desk, well this is much, much, much better!

- When listening to EKO, there are some distant vocal passages on the track 'Echo'. Devin however, isn't the culprit in this case.

I don't know what that is actually. I lifted a lot of samples off the T.V. In all honesty, I haven't listened to it in a long time. I recorded that about a year before 'Accelerated Evolution', so It's been sitting around for a long time. Since then, I've recorded about an albums worth of stuff that I could put out right now. The next record I put out will probably have a full album's worth of ambient stuff. I'll keep doing that stuff because I think it's really going to turn out cool in the future. EKO is very much a documentation of the very first time I tried doing this sort of stuff. As simple and stupid as it is, it's kind of cool to listen to. At least there aren't any vocals to fuck it up.

- As per usual, Devin has a long list of projects in the works. One is to once again team up with Steve Vai for a sole collaboration of one track on his album, and vice versa.

He's going to be on something. There's no concrete decision on my end yet. But I do have a bunch of ideas, so that'll be cool. I also just finished the track 'Love' for the new Strapping Young Lad E.P. [Which will also have live songs and some covers] and there'll be more of The Devin Townsend Band music. That will be real different from the stuff we just did. I also have this new ambient thing. And then there's the record company, the book I'm writing [A wealth of random thoughts under the working title of 'Temperamental'] and a T.V. show I want to do. There are a whole lot of things going on at the moment. You can also look forward to a D.V.D. for both Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Band later in the year.

I would like to personally thank Devin Townsend for his generous time.


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