I’ll set up my own club! We can wear funny pants, or look like Buddha!
Devin Townsend graciously agreed to talk to us about his new project – Casualties of Cool. What followed was an evening of septic scalps, dead radios, enlightenment, and painting with vomit… After Devin commented on this intrepid journalist’s hair…
HMA: Where has your hair gone?
Devin: I have it in a box. I put it on the new Ziltoid puppet. See Devin genuinely applying his hair to Ziltoid here if you so desire!
HMA: What made you get rid of it?
DT: It was disgusting. I’m 42 years old ya know. I think it’s interesting when I talk about the hair-style; it’s very easy for people to, I think, have the assumption of musicians that they’re the character that they represent 24 hours a day. I think that when I had a life change that required me to become sober and more accountable and all these sorts of things, a big part of that musically for me was not lying to people. And I’d be lying to you straight to your face if I said I enjoyed that (hair). There was nothing about that hairstyle that was endearing other than the photo-shoots of it.
HMA: So why did you have it for so long?
DT: When I started going bald there were some people who thought they’d get my goat by making fun of me for it; so I thought the only logical solution was to frame it. It’s like ‘oh, you don’t like the fact that I’m going bald? Here, let me put a skirt on it for ya’: but I never washed it. It was disgusting. By the end of it my pillow was translucent; it was disgusting right… it was horrible. Horrible. Everything in my wardrobe smelt like septic scalp.
HMA: Really? I keep reading on these ‘sustainable / green’ sites how ‘no, you can leave your hair, you can not wash and then you don’t smell’…
DT: You can. You’ll smell like a bag of shit…It smells horrible. Maybe the first thing to go after a certain amount of time is just, your ability to perceive how much you offend others! But I think it’s like, for me, having a hairstyle based on being petulant, after a certain age… I mean, come on, really? So when people say they like it, I appreciate it – I thought it was cool too; but my reason for getting rid of it is, I didn’t want it.
HMA: Has the loss of your hair influenced how you write music?
DT: I don’t think it has anything to do with the hair. I think the hair is a direct result of a life shift that affected everything: Sobriety; Children; it all happened at the same time. Ya know, I kept the hair for two years after Strapping ended; in 2008 I guess I cut the hair off. And the whole time that change was happening was when I was writing Ki. I had that hair while I was writing Ki and by the end of it I was like ‘this just doesn’t fit’; who I am had shifted so obviously to me that when I’m playing these riffs that are coming naturally to me and I look at myself in the mirror and I’m just like, it’s not that guy! So yeah, if you think of it as a Samson sort of thing, with a loss of hair, I would suggest that maybe there’s a bit more value placed on hair than I ever had. I’m pretty much in my own head for the most time so whatever people’s perceptions are of me, with or without hair, I was blissfully unaware of. The only time where it really got hammered home is when I tried to get a loan for a bunch of studio gear and I went to the bank and looked like crusty the clown and I remembered thinking to myself I just didn’t feel confident. I didn’t feel like the person that I was becoming. I felt like I was still trying to prove a point in the way that I did when I was 26 and grew it that way. Because the impetus for that hairstyle was to prove a point; it wasn’t like ‘Oh, I think this looks badass!’ I was like ‘Oh you think that me going bald is something that gives you leverage on me in terms of making me feel bad about myself? Fuck you; I’ll put a skirt on it. What do you think of it now? Can you see it now? Is it better?’
So when I got older and that point was no longer needing to be made I was like, this is ridiculous.
HMA: Do you think people’s perceptions of you have changed?
DT: Some have. Some have. Others will never… how someone comes into your world they’re always gonna be that way to some people… that’s the way it is for me with some musicians. They change as people do; I just no longer have interest in them because the things that drew me to them no longer sit. But I mean, for me it’s like when I ceased to feel like Strapping Young Lad was something I could do with the same authenticity that made it powerful, I just stopped doing it. It’s like I think about some bands, they still call themselves the same band but they’ve changed their style; I think why not just change it? The amount of shit that you take for leaving a band behind is less than staying with the name and then doing what you want to do anyway. Because essentially what you’re doing with that is, like the people who have supported you and have the tattoos and the shirts and all this sort of stuff, you’re like well now, I’m a Jazz band! Surprise!!
So I’d rather just say look, I’m not doing it any more. Fuck it. It is what it is. Ya like it? Great. There it was. With the hair; with everything. There. What am I doing now? This. Ya know if you don’t like it, I’m not surprised. But at least I’m not lying to ya. At least I’m not a 42 year old guy that’s like ‘I still have my hair, I’m still angry, and I’m gonna (continue to) pretend because it keeps me financially secure’. So I may be wrong. But I’d much rather do this than spend immense amounts of energy trying to convince people I’m still a kid. I didn’t even wanna be a kid when I was a kid! I’m not a fucking kid anymore – I’m a man. Grrrr. (pisstake!)
HMA: So; “Casualties of Cool”…We’ve had many discussions about the name. What’s the story?
DT: What is the story? With Casualties of Cool… I think the key people involved with it I guess were me, Morgan and Ché. I found that each one of us very specifically have things about our personality that become a liability in terms of our public work. Either you over-analyse, or you get bored with things, or you are too smart for your own good, and – that last one wasn’t me by the way – and it’s like there’s things where after a while you say I can’t do that; It’s bullshit. I know it would be good for me. I guess, and I haven’t really had to answer this before, but if I’m forced to, not that you’re forcing me, but if I was forced to, a Casualty of Cool would be somebody who would spend a whole bunch of energy and time trying to convince themselves that they are something that they’re not. Because that will be perceived as the ‘hip’ thing to do. I hate mixed martial arts (MMA). I think it’s fucking stupid. And I mean, I’m one of the only people I know – I got really close intelligent friends that love watching mixed martial arts; people punching each other in the face, and guys homoerotic poses, holding each other on the mat, smashing each other in the face. I don’t think it’s, fuck it, I think it’s stupid right… I don’t think the thing is stupid; for me, I don’t like it. I also don’t like hockey, I don’t like sports…
HMA: You don’t like hockey?
DT: Fuck no.
HMA: You’re Canadian… and they haven’t yet taken away your citizenship?
DT: Well, they tried. They took away my beaver-tail hat, and my antlers…
Being a casualty of cool is somebody that’s just like ‘I love hockey because it’s cool to like hockey. I get invited to the parties if I say I like the local sports team, or that guy who punched that other guy – he’s got way bigger forceps. Or biceps’.
HMA: I’m putting forceps! That’s being kept…
DT: Right ☺ But the amount of people that do that shit; I’m like, No! Like, when I was a kid I really loved Enya. Even my affinity for writing music that female voices suit I mean it’s like, love it, but I don’t wanna be involved in a club that won’t let me say what I do.
HMA: What you said at Sonisphere about, just because you’re heavy metal fans doesn’t mean you’ve got to be hard and tough, I think that had quite an impact on a lot of people that maybe feel the pressure to conform all the time.
DT: That’s it; a Casualty of Cool, in my opinion is someone who doesn’t do what they wanna do because it flies in the face of what they think they should do. If you’re gay, you should be gay. You should be able to say ‘I’m gay’; cos if you don’t, you are going to be tormented for your whole life.
I’m not really out to make a statement. I think that’s also important to make clear as well. I’m not on a mission; I don’t have a message – I don’t know shit and in fact every day that goes by I know less! I’ve spent most of my energies trying to function as a human adult male; all the parameters that are put on genders, I mean it’s fucking heavy. The only part of my life in my opinion that’s easy is music. Really. It’s a voice for things that I don’t feel I can express in other ways, so I feel very fortunate to play music. I guess as a by-product of my trying to figure out how to get to point B, it comes out in the music – and if that resonates with people that’s a great by-product. But ultimately that’s all it is, is a by-product. Everything’s an experiment; everything is. I’m trying to figure it out, but without having a mission and without trying to make a statement. I really want, if I can, to provide something that is helpful. I don’t want to fill the world with more shit: it’s very easy and there’s money in it too. Because you can just get up and go ‘Fuck the World’ and people are like ‘I really want to hear that because it makes it easier for me to say you’re right. I’m so close to the edge, that now I’ve got a soundtrack with an awesome logo that tells me it’s ok to fuck the world and be sadistic to people or you know condemn yourself and others to like gender shit’. Ya know everybody’s just trying to get by. So without having a message I just hope that whatever I do in my own completely ignorant way is at least siding on the side of, well hopefully this helps.
HMA: Casualties of Cool seems quite chilled; mellow even?
DT: There’s fear there though. I mean I think the thing with Epicloud, I went so far into the ‘happy, happy, happy’ thing, but I was trying to do that. I think if you neglect the fact that as a human I’ve got a lot of evil; I’ve got a lot of dark; I’ve got a lot of hate… I’ve got all these negative emotions and I’m not trying to hide them or run from them, I’m just trying to make sure that the ways that I express them are at least accountable. And that’s not like I’m trying to be a good person or whatever it’s just, you’re gonna have to deal with that shit if you think that at this age you can get away with having some crazy tantrum, throwing yourself on the ground kicking yourself round in circles and screaming I want this and I want this: I tell ya what, it’s gonna come back!
And so for me, my need to harness the negative parts of my personality, which are fucking there of course, is not me trying to be a saint, cos I’m not, but just that’s gonna fuck with me. Down the line. And I’ve got people that rely on me not being a total banana. So I’m just trying to figure it out. And the by-product of me trying to figure it out is just a ton of music. Some of it’s good and some of it’s not so good and some of it’s negative and some of it’s positive. But none of it is a statement as much as just like, well, that’s what’s happening now.
HMA: If you’re in the mood to write some negative stuff do you just go with it no matter what?
DT: Totally. I often find that there’s something under the negative that, if I had been afraid of writing, I wouldn’t have got to. I think the shadows cast by the fear of being a bad person or whatever, it turns you into somebody that does bad things, but for me, I’m like, if I feel like doing that I’m just gonna do it but I wanna do it in a way that maybe isn’t public. But I think at the same time, it’s the good things in my life I draw on: I got good family and friends, warmth, and I think I’m a pretty basic dude right, but I think the things that really centre me are being alone and being around nature. See if I’m around trees and rain, if it rains I’m good. For 7 months of the year in Vancouver it fucking rains. But without rain, I don’t write anything. But it’s like if it rains and there’s trees and mountains and there’s not a lot of humans around me, that’s where I find my peace of mind.
HMA: How would you describe the feeling of the album?
DT: I think that there’s a fear of your own negativity that can become paralysing because you run the risk of thinking that you’re just a rotten person because you’ve got this hate and this dark. And so I think that Casualties is a record that’s about exploring the shadows and the negative space – not negative sentiments – but what’s in the silence; what’s in the dark; and then seeing what comes out of it.
In order to do that I had to be alone, so a lot of it was written when it was full moon and the middle of the night and by myself. And so it ends with a song, ‘The Bridge’, which I think essentially is about going into the dark. I maybe recognise that I’m not like a shitty person at the core of it. I mean a lot of the things like the invasive thoughts where you’re like ‘well I wonder if I’m the type of person that would do that; I wonder if I’m the type of person that could do that’ or whatever; really investigating it… The end of the record is like ‘no, I wouldn’t. I’ll think about it but I wouldn’t’.
When it comes to the crunch I wouldn’t, but I don’t know if I would have been as comfortable with it had I not gone into those thoughts. It’s like what we were talking about earlier with being gay: like, ‘am I gay? I’m not gay’. But it took me, not having had gay experiences but really thinking like, ‘Devin, are you Gay’? But really at the end of it I was just like ‘I’m not gay’. And so, great. Next. But that’s when you talk about the dark because if I hadn’t gone through that… I’ve got a lot of love for men in my life. When it comes to sexually or romantically I have no interest; but until you are really able to look yourself in the face and proclaim that, the ‘what if’s’ about it are distracting. And I think it’s the same thing when you think about your racism or sexism or any of these things. It’s like, what are your true feelings on racism? Where does that stem from? And it’s just fear. It’s when you’re taught that differences are rooted in things that are to be afraid of as opposed to… just, man the amount of hurt that people have to suffer through just because they’re different is like fuck!!
HMA: Studies have suggested that metal music attracts people who are accepting of differences. What do you think about Metallers being considered generally open-minded people?
DT: In terms of creativity I think heavy metal draws a lot of very open, creative minds. But I think the parameters for heavy metal have become much more exclusionary than they once were. A lot of times people say ‘what you’re doing isn’t metal’, and I’ve got people saying ‘you’re betraying it’ and all this sort of high school shit and I’m like ‘Well then, I’m not metal. Fine.’ However, If I choose to make something that’s metal, like Thrash or Black metal whatever, I’m gonna fucking do it! But, if I can’t be part of your stupid club, then I don’t wanna be part of your club. I’ll set up my own club! I mean we can fucking, ya know, wear funny pants, or look like Buddha! But I think my whole thing with metal as I get older is, it’s a huge part of my trip and it’s something that probably always will be. But I get a little tired of people questioning others heavy metal credentials because they don’t fit into the parameters – I’m not even talking about mine… But at the same time I find it’s very risky to even talk about that because people are like ‘oh shit, what’re you doing? You pissing on the scene?’
I’ve been in the scene for my whole fucking life! What I’m saying is that it’s up to other people to decide whether or not I fit into heavy metal. And if I don’t, fine, but if I do, great, because I’ve still got tons of metal I’m gonna write!
HMA: The way this album was written I’m guessing is quite different to how you’ve worked in the past… let’s start with how you met Ché. She worked on your Ki album…
DT: Yeah, I met her through Dave, guitar player/keyboard player… I said I had written these female parts that need a darker voice, a fairy-sounding voice – I like the more alto voice. And Dave said about Ché, this singer from around town. She’s got this fucking awesome voice. So I met her and she sang and I remember thinking ‘wow, she’s good’, ya know, really good. And then after a while I wrote a bunch of music and I found people that sang well for that. But then I started writing Casualties as a reaction to Deconstruction; I’d written this Deconstruction record and it was just so visceral and complicated and annoying that by the time I was finished with it I was like ‘I don’t wanna hear that shit anymore’. So I’d play things that were more for me: I loved Johnny Cash when I was a kid, and I was always playing in my living room, at night, and it was never gonna be anything. But then I thought, ya know as I do, I would like to hear some female vocals on this to counter mine. And the first person I thought of was Ché, because she’s got this really bluesy approach.
So I contacted her and said I’ve got these demos and I’ll send them to ya and if ya like them, feel free to do something but I don’t know if it’s ever going to be anything. So we just started volleying things back and forth and then she set the vocals for ‘Daddy’ on the song, and that’s the first song on the record. The track she sent me was the demo she did. She didn’t re-do it. And I remember thinking at that time, ah this is really cool. And then the theme really started to, ya know talking about fear, talking about isolation, it really seemed to be appropriate because we didn’t interact. It’s not like I went over to her place. We didn’t even know each other, I’d send her stuff and she’d send me voices.
HMA: So you literally recorded separately in your own places and just passed it back and forth?
DT: Yeah and it was all at night too. So I’d hear it. Everybody else’d be asleep and I’d hear it on my laptop and it was this voice that was sorta like the ghost in the machine in a weird way. So the theme ended up evolving because of the distance between us. I think that what makes the record work for me is it’s two people that are, sortof at a cross-roads; that don’t have interactions; that don’t really know each other, and we’ve become friends, and our relationship evolved as relationships do. Luckily we get along, but while recording it wasn’t even at that point. It was just a voice.
Writing like this was novel, but it also took four years which is something I never imagined happening. Usually, it’s a couple of months and then I put it out, but this one no-one was asking for so it evolved naturally.
This type of music is supposed to be on in the background. It’s supposed to be this kind of – numb – thing, that doesn’t interfere. It’s like you can play it in the background and, nothing: it’s supposed to be like a little am radio that plays these kind of haunted songs right.
HMA: Is that why the radio appears in the video and on the album cover?
HMA: Did you have much interaction with Jessica Cope in the design of the (Mountaintop) video? Is that her ideas or yours or…?
DT: It was both of ours yeah… Jess is great; she’s wonderful. I work with people. I mean I can’t take full credit for anything I do really. But the genesis is usually my idea. And the radio to some degree or another was definitely my idea. But ya know Travis who did it; it was unplugged and it was haunted and Ché had a bunch of creative input on the theme and things just evolved.
HMA: Morgan is from Sweden right? How did you hook up with him?
DT: Ok, I did a bunch of work with this drum company called Comptrack. They deal with Easy Drummer, Superior Drummer…It’s a software company. They make samples with drummers of note and one of them is Morgan. And so I became friends with Mattias, who’s one of the guys at Comptrack. And I went to Sweden and stayed with him and just hung out. I was playing the demos and said I was looking for a drummer, but the problem with drummers is they’re all just… I mean I hate painting with the same brush but, just fucking, dude, Shut Up!! They’re loud; they’re not listening! I just want somebody to be sensitive to the music but anybody who’s sensitive to it doesn’t have the technical proficiency to do it in the way that I want… so he said, ‘What about Morgan? He’s the best drummer in the world – I mean he was with Frank Zappa and with all these people’. I was like, well will he be able to and will he be willing to play like Johnny cash beats?
And not only was he willing but he was awesome. I mean, you have to have somebody who’s got that level of technical proficiency that will say ‘Oh it doesn’t need crazy there’.
HMA: So, did you design most of the drumming parts and use his knowledge of where things would work and where they wouldn’t?
DT: Yeah. Here’s the demos. Here’s the shitty drum track. This is where I think the snare sounds best, where it falls. Boom tap boom tap boom tap… But I mean I think you get to a level with musicians where to try and impose your control over them is, you might as well just get somebody else!
HMA: I think of Casualties of Cool as being your project…
DT: It is.
HMA: So how much input did Ché and Morgan have?
DT: A lot. The genesis of the idea, production, the songs, the concept, for the most part, is me.
Take the concept for example; me and Ché got together enough to say like this is what I’m thinking and then we talked about it we jammed on it, we riffed on it, and it evolved into something that isn’t just me.
I mean for example with with Flight, I sent the riff over to Ché and then went back and made a demo, and she took that demo cut it up into a different arrangement, and sent the vocals back. And they were entirely hers; her lyrics, her melody, everything. So in that sense it was a total collaboration. But it’s my idea. Casualties of Cool – the name and all this sort of stuff…
HMA: Do you ever find it hard to accept other people’s ideas?
DT: If the nature of the project is that it’s not from the beginning entirely my vision then it’s much easier to accept other peoples input. If the nature of the project is like, I’ve written a bunch of songs and the way that I write is I have a vision – that’s always how I work – and if I come to somebody with that vision and they’re like ‘well what about in this part we do this?’ I’m like, well we could, but it goes like this!
So with Casualties it was a lot less about ‘here guys, it goes exactly like this’. There were a couple of instances of that but there were other moments where I’d be like, ‘Oh, I had no idea that it could go in that direction, that’d be cool. Great.’ But also it depends on the people you’re working with. There’s some people that you work with that are just so brilliant that the ideas that they bring to the table you’d be a fool not to accept just for the sake of doing it all yourself.
HMA: How did the video for Mountaintop come about?
DT: I came to Jess with the idea, but at first it was different. The guy was wearing a big ostrich feather in his hat, and he wasn’t a space man, he had a Cadillac and all this sort of stuff. But she was like why don’t we do it like he’s in a spaceship? And anyway at first it was going to be Ché and I as the characters in it but we decided against it because I think it implied a relationship between us that isn’t. I didn’t wanna make it that. I wanted to make it much more like her and I are neutral, not only as performers but, I always like the idea of when I sing with a woman, making that point of view that the voices are taking objective. Rather than like Sonny and Cher type of shit.
And I like the idea of you have a strong female voice, you have a strong male voice and it’s not like you’re interacting with their relationship. It’s like you’re on a team and you’re both representing things that the other can’t represent.
HMA: I must admit I was very sad at the robot getting left behind at the end.
DT: That’s what I said too. He died in the first version. So I changed the ending. I said to Jess he can’t die and she was like yeah but that’s life and I was like he can’t – my kid doesn’t wanna watch it.
It was fucking sad – I was like, I CAN’T let him, so in the last minute I had to get them to change and they were pissed. On the first cut of the video when I got it, he died and I fucking felt horrible! So I told Jess at the end. They were all pissed. I was like, he has to get away. So the compromise we made was, no, he gets stranded. That way in the future I can pick him up. And I will. I’m gonna bring him back.
HMA: Are there gonna be many more videos
DT: We did one for Flight. That was Konrad. But again I didn’t – with Konrad, he really liked to direct it so I said do whatever you want.
I think that came as a surprise when I then saw it. But it’s his vision and he’s done a lot for me. And I think it’s great – it’s just different than I expected.
HMA: If you had to describe Casualties of Cools music to someone as a painting what painting would it be, or which artist, and why?
DT: Hm. That’s an interesting question.
Well there’s, West Coast Native Art – like West Coast Canada, there’s paintings where they have mountains and the ocean at midnight where there’s the moon, and the moon has a face, cos it’s really native… I think the guys name is Joe Wilson; he was a native painter, from the west coast of Canada, so if anything that’s it, Native North American.
HMA: Do you consider yourself more of an artist or a musician?
DT: Neither. Confused!!
Yeah I’m a confused human being. I don’t think I’m very clever. I don’t think I’m particularly talented, but I think I’m tenacious. And I think that allows me to reach point B’s that a lot of other people wouldn’t even get near. But it’s not based on, technical acumen, or talent, more so than just like, I’m just a dumb bull! Ya know…
I think that if I have talent it’s analysis and a hypersensitivity to people. Including myself. And I think that allows me to have a perspective on human nature that is intuitive but it’s not rooted in understanding. I mean, I don’t understand anything, but I can reflect it really well. So I think THAT’s a talent, but am I an artist, am I a musician? I guess, sure, but when I think of either of those roles I don’t feel like I comfortably fit into either of them. I think that eventually I’ll probably do neither. I might plunk around with music and draw stick things later on, but my goal is not to reach some sort of artistic or musical pinnacle. I’m still just trying to figure it out and in the meantime there’s art and music as a by-product of it.
I think I’ve got my moments in terms of music and vision and things like this but I mean it’s not who I am yet. I think that at this stage in my life it’s like, music is a part of it but I see myself in the future calm, in shape, playing music for people every now and then, eating well…
I see myself as happy. I think success for me will be when I get my shit together; where I don’t have the need to make a huge deal out of my personal successes or anything. That ‘Oh by the way I managed to – conquer this – let’s write a fucking record about it’. I mean it’s still rooted in someone that’s looking and is like ‘Is that cool? Anybody?’
HMA: Hey I’m still doing that! After this I’m totally facebooking and messaging everyone with ‘I interviewed Devin!’
DT: Well you see I do the same thing, but I can’t think that my need to do that, which is like obvious, is indicative of somebody who’s together. I have a vision of what I wanna be, and I’m heading towards it and at this stage there’s a bunch of peripheral stuff that happens as a result of it but I’m still a decade away.
I don’t know if it would ever happen. However I think that the goal is worthy. I think we can talk about spiritual things too. The amount of people that are convinced that THIS is the life in which they attain whatever they wanna call it – oneness or enlightenment or whatever. I think it’s a croc of shit. I think that my chances with the life that I willingly have programmed myself to lead – the chances of me attaining those sorts of goals are fucking lifetimes away.
I think everything you do to yourself and to your mind is going to affect all that you put out. I can just do all this horrible shit… If I do all that shit, that’s what I’m gonna write about. Sure, in the past I’ve written about a bunch of horrible shit, I’ve done a bunch of stupid things; but now I have the opportunity to clarify it or to make music that is rooted in, ok I don’t know, but I do know what I think will be right for me. So I’m gonna head in that direction and regardless of how far I get, at least when I die the direction that I’m heading was one that I could back.
But did I attain enlightenment? HELL no!
HMA: You need to get yourself a big belly for that.
DT: I have one – I’m really a skinny fat guy ☺ But that’s the point: it’s, if I see myself anywhere in ten years, it’s that I’m still trying. And I think the people that I have a lot of love for, whether or not they’ve done bad things or horrible things, are the people that are trying to make themselves more functional. You’re not gonna ever be Buddha, but the fact that you’re getting back up after making mistakes or having a shit day, THAT’s the point.
It’s like religious people and atheists; I mean they’re both bananas. The only thing I think is reasonable, and again this is coming from somebody that doesn’t understand the precepts entirely of religion or atheism or Satanism or anything right, the only thing I think is reasonable is – ‘I have no idea’. But there’s shit that’s beautiful so whatever that is, I’m just happy to be a part of it.
HMA: What made you choose Union Chapel? Was that a conscious choice?
DT: I was given an option but we had done a show there before. Even though Union Chapel is secular in how it’s become, there’s crosses and there’s a real religious overtone in there but the music for Casualties is NOT religious at all. There’s certain parts of it that are like distinctly anti-religious in sentiment. But it ends in a way that is about a connection to things and I think a lot of the reason why I wanted to be at Union Chapel is because I wanted to see how it would feel to sing those things in there, to do those things, and doing it today, it really hammered home – like this is Man. This is nothing to do with anything else. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous and there really is a sense of wonder and awe when the sun comes through and there’s the big spires and all. But the only thing I got from it was; this is not God. God is just a little abstract term for something that I can’t define. I’m not religious. But I am VERY connected to the things about the universe and the infinite and if it even exists; nature or birth or death… But the Chapel is just a nice building.
HMA: Do you think it will change how it feels (in Union Chapel), having the place packed out?
DT: Maybe. I’m gonna try not to speak, which is hard for me. I tend to just talk shit, especially when I’m nervous. So when I’m on stage, I’m like blah blah blah blah blah. But I’m gonna try not to. The times when I like myself the best is when I’m not saying anything, so it’d be nice to share that for once!
HMA: How important to you is the visual art aspect of your music?
DT: Quite I guess? It’d matter for Ziltoid! Ziltoid is hand in hand DTP. There’s elements of it that are very connected to those sorts of things but there’s other things that I guess don’t need it. I haven’t thought about it to be honest. I can’t imagine that it’s necessary for everything but for the things that it is, part of it is written in conjunction with the music, so without it the music would be compromised.
HMA: Have you heard of Synaesthesia?
DT: Yeah I’ve been told I have it. But I mean it’s vomit more so than art. If I don’t get it outta me it’s gonna make me feel sick. So I get it outta me. So it’s like painting with vomit!!!
Years ago I was really convinced that what I did was of high significance but then other things happen in life – kids or death or… I’m just lucky to do this and if I didn’t get to do music from here on out, I’d be bummed out cos I love it. But, my life’s not gonna end – nor would anybody else’s, so I think perspective is a big thing and it’s not like I begrudge people for viewing music as art because it is. I totally see that but again I think I’ll leave the interpretations of what I would do up to those who find that sort-of pastime helpful. I don’t listen to what I do after it. I don’t think of what I do other than while I’m doing it. While I’m doing it, it’s like I’m obsessed with it.
HMA: Have you collected any artworks that you are particularly fond of?
DT: I collect driftwood. I mean, I make bedframes and furniture and shit, because it’s like art that you don’t do anything to. It’s like it’s had a life and it washes up and its these crazy forms… and so I just take it and dry it and it’s just a totally abstract form and… ah, it’s Free!
HMA: Royal Albert Hall next year – Z2 – what can we expect? I’m guessing it’s going to be a very different performance to what we get with Casualties?
DT: Well. I don’t know yet. There’s a bunch of ideas. I went and saw the hall today and it’s gorgeous. I’ve got a bunch of things but once I saw it today a bunch of them went out the window. I was like that’s not gonna work… and I mean one thing at a time! I gotta be thinking about the Casualties show and then I’ll think about that.
There’s an element I think, world-wise, where I think escapism seems a lot more interesting for me. I hear the radio these days and there’s always some schmuck singing about their problems. And it’s like well fuck get in line man.
There’s outrage addiction, like drama-addiction; there’s a lot of people that, and me too, I’m sure, but you put yourselves in situations that are super-dramatic so you can be a guy that’s in a dramatic situation like, ‘Oh my god, my, life is just so fucking brutal…
HMA: Ah, I could totally see you doing like Hamlet or Macbeth.
DT: When I was in grade twelve I was Hamlet!
At the end of the day I see me in these positions where people are giving me the benefit of the doubt in that I can utilise these opportunities to do things that are gonna give people an enjoyable night out, and that’s my goal.
I like the idea of ya know things inadvertently being metaphoric or having a statement or something, that’s just my own trip. But ultimately I want people to go to it and leave and go that was Fucking Awesome!!
Mr Townsend, I’m sure we will! Look for him performing at Guitar Clinics, in Australia in October.
See him live with the Devin Townsend Project, with Z2: The Return of Ziltoid. DTP will be touring Canada, USA and throughout Europe, from November 2014.
Photographer: Rebecca Blisset
Che’s portraits by: Jesse Haddock
Artwork by: Travis Smith
Interview by Sable – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.