"The hyperactive Canadian is back alone with "Empath", the opportunity for Music Waves to meet the one who had marked the site with his touching revelations..."
DARIALYS - 08.03.2019 -
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We no longer introduce Devin Townsend. After playing in many bands, the Canadian chose to return to his solo career at the beginning of 2019. At 46 years of age, the musician came back to the improvement of his state of health and his old demons during an intimate interview

We're meeting again ten years after our last interview! We met in 2007 for the promotion of "Ziltoid The Omniscient". You seemed tired and not at peace with yourself. When we found you in 2009 for the release of "Addicted", you looked better. How do you feel today?

Devin Townsend: I think I'm fine! I think I'm at a stage in my life where I no longer have the ups and downs I used to have. In my case, I think it's an indicator of good health!


On the last album, "Transcendance", the whole group was included in the writing of the album. But with this new album, "Empath", you take a break from Devin Townsend Project to focus on this album. It's a way for you to stay inspired as you did in the past with Strapping Young Lad until 2007, before moving on to Devin Towsend Project for ten years, or with your first solo albums. Is it a conscious thing for you to diversify in this way?

It's not conscious, but I think I did something really necessary for me. I'm not consciously trying to start over. It's just that my goal as a musician is always to be motivated by what I do, just as my goal as a person is to be healthy. Sometimes you realize that you don't perceive things as they actually happen.

Isn't that also a way out of your comfort zone?

Apparently, it is! (Laughs)

What I mean by that is that it may be a way for you not to repeat yourself.

There is that, yes, but it's not a very noble thing. It allows me to get out of my questions such as life, children, death, traumas...

On our side, it seemed important to us that it was important for you to return to your solo career after putting it in brackets to feel free and out of the Devin Townsend Project. Can we say that "Empath" is the project of a free musician and a free man? A man free from the demons he had inside?

Not completely free, but freer than before.

What are you not yet completely free of?

By writing "Empath", I think I have realized my tendency to be demanding of myself and very critical of my work. If I were someone else's boss, I probably would have been put in jail! (Laughs). If I were completely free, I would have nothing to write about. I think I'm more free, but if I were more free, I would have nothing more to say. I'd do gardening!

So actually, it's good for your fans but not for you!

I'm still happy, I'm happier than before.

Do you think you have found the right balance between your life as a musician and your private life? When I saw you for the promotion of "Ziltoid The Omniscient"....

I had just had a child. Do you have any too?

Yes, of course.

Then you understand! (Laughs). Now he's almost twelve so I sleep better! (Laughs).

On the song'Borderlands', you sing: "I desire a good life", (in French: "je souhaite avoir une bonne vie", editor's note). Is the reggae intro of the song a nod to your drug addiction?

No, not at all! In fact, it was a reference to a cruise I was on with my family when we went to the Caribbean. It was a very good time. I'm no longer so disturbed by my past. Cannabis, anger... At one point in my life, it was very difficult to think about it. Now I don't really care anymore.

Are you at peace with your past?

Yes. And I think that's why I couldn't make heavy music like I used to.

Do you think you're on the right track now? Are you touching that beautiful life you're talking about with your fingertips?

Yes, every day! But I also realized what made it good and that there is an opposite life. Without thinking about an opposite life, you have no point of reference. I'm not just saying that everything is fine. Sometimes everything is fine, sometimes not. And I think it's important because I didn't say that for several years, for fear of myself I guess.

There is a certain spirituality in your music, and especially in this album. On the track "Spirits Will Collide", there is a message close to Buddhism and Hinduism, with a rather new age Zen side. The same could be said of the album "Transcendence". Is this spiritual side necessary to understand your music?

I don't understand my music myself! (Laughs). I wouldn't know the answer to that. Music, for me, and for artists in general, happens when you are in the presence of something that is beyond you. As if you were looking at yourself with wonder at night, your son or daughter is born, a loved one dies, or you are watching the news and something serious has happened. There's an inspiration that doesn't come from you. As an artist, all I try to do is to represent this feeling that I have and that comes from my life, these moments when I am well, my fears, my hopes... If people love my music, it is because it speaks to them. I think the spiritual side of my work comes from the moments when I felt things like the ones I was talking about just before.

"Empath" is your first solo album since "Ziltoid 2", released in 2014, which was itself a follow-up to "Ziltoid The Omniscient", released in 2007. Is "Empath" the continuation of these two albums?

Well... "Transcendence" was actually the last one. Even if I release albums under different names. I'm learning slowly. It takes me several years to realize what I'm doing. Everything I've done since Strapping Young Lad, "Punky Brüster", "Transcendence", "The Hummer", "Ziltoid The Omniscient", "Empath"... It's all the same thing. It's just the name changing. For me, all this is Devin Townsend (laughs).

The song'Why?' impresses with its operatic side. It is a mixture of Luciano Pavarotti and Meat Loaf. Do you agree?

(Laughs). That sounds good! I did some things I wasn't allowed to do. I'm talking about heavy metal.



But thanks to artists like you, we can mix a lot of things with metal! For example, when Steve Vai released "Sex & Religion", a lot of things didn't like it because we weren't supposed to mix these two things. And you can be proud of the fact that you have opened the closed mind of metal fans!

It's nice that you say that, but I don't know if I really feel proud of it. I never really thought about it. What I can say is that I no longer allowed myself to try things because I didn't love myself. But this time, I did what I wanted to do. And it's been great. All that time I didn't do what I wanted to do was because I was afraid to do it. People have told me in interviews: "Why?" is something brand new for you! But in reality, I used to write songs like that when I was young!

The writing and recording of the album took 18 months, and this album is incredible. Did you have a period of doubt at any point in the process?

Every day. Every minute of every day.

And how do you feel now that the album is out?

Relieved. It took a lot of courage to get it out, but I was also very well helped. Some people would just pat me on the back and say, "Keep going, do what you have to do!" I would say that courage is not an absence of fear, it is to be terrified but to still do what you have to do.

And being afraid doesn't take away the danger.

In my case, I was terrified at every moment.


Fear could also have made the album not a success.

That's for sure. What I realized with this album is that I was not only afraid of failure, but also of success. Because if you prove to yourself that you are capable of doing something, your internal dialogue must change. You shouldn't fall into a routine where you're going to be negative towards yourself.

Aren't you afraid to release another album after releasing "Empath" which is excellent?

I think I'm fine. I even think it will be easier, because if I can look at myself and have more compassion for myself, then the future will be less about fear than about opportunities.

Musically speaking, you've never mixed so many styles as in this album, and even within the same song! There is progressive metal, symphonic metal, pop, electro on'Sprite', even reggae as mentioned in the introduction to'Borderlands'. Despite all this, "Empath" is a coherent album. How do you manage to mix all this up?

There are two reasons. The first is intention. I was afraid all through the writing process. Life is made up of ups and downs, and I wanted to represent it in my music. But in the end, you always have a choice. Whether you are affected by good or evil, you can always choose which side you belong to. The second thing is that as people, we absorb energy. If someone is sad, I feel sad. If someone is angry, I feel angry. Our emotional state is changing.

"Singularity" represents the climax of the album, from the top of its 23 minutes. I had the impression that you kept this song in you for a long time and that it was difficult to finish it. Do you agree with that? And can we say that this song sums up the whole life?

The difficult part is not writing. Inspiration comes quickly. The hard part is recording it. Often I prefer when people compliment the sound quality of the song rather than the writing itself. Trying to get the right frequency on the bass drum so it doesn't interfere with the bass, having a mix that changes every minute for 23 minutes, that's hard. But writing music is not hard. If you have reasons to write, it's because you want to honor life. Then you have to work on yourself. It was the recording of the album that was very hard! (Laughs). Writing is fun.

Steve Vai and Morgan Ågren play in this album. Mike Keneally was the producer. Do you consider yourself Frank Zappa's heir?

No. Frank Zappa is someone I could never be. Frank Zappa was a scientist I could never be.

You said your goal was to find the truth. What truth did you encounter when you wrote "Empath"?

Releasing this album was really liberating. I don't think I've ever held any truth in my life. Maybe there's nothing else to know, except that I love food, I love my family, sex is cool, you know what I mean? Other than that, I don't know anything. I started meditating 18 months ago. I think we can progress with meditation.

What do you expect from this album? Can we still have expectations when we are called Devin Townsend and have had such a career?

Nothing. I just hope people will understand that I wanted to write this album. I have a lot of friends who are depressed. I was too. I have friends who have committed suicide. Rather than having expectations for this album, I hope people will understand that suicide leads to nothing.

Thank you very much!

Thank you very much, it was good to see you again!

Thanks to Newf and Noise for their work...

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