Devin Townsend Talks Upcoming Projects, Playing Music Cruises + More
Devin Townsend was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. He spoke with Jackie about the art versus life debate when it comes to recording, the mixing process of a record and he also offered some insight on adapting to the environment of playing music cruises. If you missed the chat, here’s Jackie’s full interview with Devin Townsend.
It’s Full Metal Jackie coming at you with two full hours of metal each and every week. On the show with us, we’ve got the one and only Devin Townsend.
Hi Jackie, I’m great! Thanks for having me!
Happy to have you on the show.
Right back at you, right back at you! We’ve known each other for twenty years.
Feels like 50 years!
Yeah, no, that belies at least my age.
I have seen you perform longer than I’ve been of legal drinking age.
Yeah and I’ve been performing longer than I’d like to admit so… onward!
Your latest release, ‘The Retinal Circus’ is an ambitious stage for life. For you, which influences the other more, life or art?
Well, I mean art's the easy part. Life is the bitch usually, so I would say they influence each other pretty much equally, but I guess as far as conceptually, I draw most of my inspiration from life, because really I don’t watch a lot of movies, so that’s what I have to work with.
Devin, you did that Progressive Nation at Sea Cruise. A much different setting for performing than you’re used to. How does where you perform, affect your mindset?
How does it affect my mindset … I mean, I think it comes down to the audience. I think it comes down to the environment itself. I mean, I find myself often really responsive to it if it’s outside, particularly if it’s rainy, if it’s sunny. Those sorts of environmental changes definitely affect how you go about choosing a set for example or play songs. In terms of a boat or in terms of any number of odd venues that we have found ourselves in, it really is just another gig and not to be condescending towards it, but it really comes down to, I don’t wear my glasses when I play and I can’t see s--- when I’m up there so, as long as I’ve got some kind of vague idea of what the venue looks like beforehand, I just roll with that. Outdoor gigs change my perception and indoor gigs it’s pretty much just on with the show.
Music cruises are becoming more popular events and the big part of the appeal is fans getting to interact closely with the musicians. What do you most enjoy about that interaction? Has it directly affected the way you think about music?
Yeah, I think it has in surprising ways; I’ve been so insular for so long in the way that I chose to participate in life in a lot of ways, you know? I like being a hermit. I like being under the radar and things like this. For a long time I was a lot more hesitant to interact with the audience for whatever internalized reason, I was either afraid of it, or it just weirded me out, or I felt insecure about my own place in it, or whatever, but I think over the past decade, there’s been a lot of credence for me, just given to the fact that it’s people.
You know, some people are as smart as you; some people are not as smart as you. Some people are more talented, less talented. It’s not really that distinction between artist, and I hate it when people call their audience fans, you know like my fans, it sort of instills a hierarchy that I just think is pretty '80s to be honest. So, getting together with people and hanging out with the audience is great for me as long as it doesn’t end up being super weird. Like some people will project things on you. They’ll want to think that you are more than you are based on your ability to meticulously sculpt something in Pro-Tools, then come out and be like listen to me I’m this big he-man, when actually you’re not.
You just spend three weeks making yourself sound like he-man, right, so I think if the audience ends up being too over the top those sorts of interactions I find taxing, but for the most part I’ll tell you it’s people and if I am in the right frame of mind, I love talking with people. I love being able to interact with people on a one-to-one level, and if it doesn’t get too peculiar, then I think it’s great and those sorts of boat cruises offer a great opportunity to do that.
‘Casualties of Cool’ is expected to release sometime in the near future. There’s also the Z2 project in the works, both long running in development. Dedication to craftsmanship? Perfectionism? What makes spending so much time on a project such a valuable asset?
I’ve never thought of that. I don’t know if an asset is the best way to describe it in my opinion. It’s just necessary. My connection to music is a lot less about trying to make a point, artistically and more just about an obsession. As we discussed earlier, my influences coming from a life point of view, sometimes it’s the only way I can accurately articulate myself, is through some sort of musical expression. It often surprises me what the hell is coming out -- I guess this is what we’re writing now. I guess we’re writing thrash, or country, or uplifting stuff or writing super mellow stuff. It’s often surprising to me. And to be honest I don’t try to channel that in any ways that aren’t honest. So, when it comes to making things perfect, I do have a certain amount of obsessive qualities in my nature. It’s not debilitating, that’s what it’s suppose to sound like.
Someone asked me the other day, ‘What’s it like mixing?’ It’s weeks and weeks of being irritated that it’s not right. And not knowing why it’s not right. You just pick away at it, until finally, there; done. OK -- next. It forces me, just by nature of the music as being something very important to me. To make it right. That’s all there is to it.
I know you’ll be recording your new record in a few months. You always have so many things going on that are amazing, bizarre and cool. I dig it.
Even if you weren’t and it made one of us that were a fan, I just annoy the s--- out of myself all day every day. The only times is when I don’t is when I’m on my own, strangely. That’s what I’ll do for the rest of the day. Someone sent me a download and I’ve got 40 tracks of crap I’ve got to add to a B-side and it’s not that great of a song and I’m going to try and polish it up. Jackie, it’s always a pleasure. You’ve got to come down and watch us make yet another platter of incredibly awkward music, you’re invited.
I will be there.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Jeff Walker of Carcass on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.