Devin Townsend Project
From his humble origins as a teenage metalhead in Vancouver, Canada, to his current status as one of the most admired and lauded figures in the rock and metal worlds, Devin Townsend has been many, many things along his long, meandering artistic road, but one thing he has never been is boring. Over the last 20 years, Devin has amassed an astonishingly diverse and deep catalogue of mind-blowing music. Perhaps best known for his days as frontman and mastermind behind sci-fi metal wrecking crew Strapping Young Lad, he has also sung with Steve Vai, played guitar in legendary UK rock mob The Wildhearts and notched up a remarkable series of solo and collaborative albums that have ranged from the crushing extreme metal of City and Physicist through to the sublime, euphoric progressive rock of Terria and Synchestra, covering all bases and all emotional realms in between.
'In the broadest sense of the term, I consider myself an artist,' he states. 'This is my outlet for perceiving my own environment and moments of emotional significance. They have always found their way out through notes or music. It's just how I'm predisposed. I'm on this ongoing selfish quest to figure out why I do the thing that I do. If it's a stressful time, I come out with stressful music, or if it's schizophrenic, I come out with schizophrenic music, or mellow music or whatever. So my catalogue has always been a very accurate representation of my emotional development or lack thereof! There's a ton of different styles, but there's a common thread between them and it's always my existential bullshit!'
Never a man to shy away from a grandiose musical statement, Devin Townsend is about to unveil the third and fourth chapters in an extravagant conceptual quadrilogy. After announcing the end of the Strapping Young Lad era in 2007 and unleashing unhinged solo opus Ziltoid The Omniscient as a very loud and obnoxious full stop, our hero quit the drink and drugs that had been his touring companions for so many years and retreated to the woods to regroup and refocus. He returned in 2009 with the epic, haunting Ki and the explosive, hook-stuffed Addicted!, two albums that added yet more colour and character to Devin's remarkable canon of artistic brilliance. And now, less than a year later, the third and final parts of this four-part are ready to be released into the ether and look certain to be among the most celebrated creations of his career.
'These four albums are the last chapter of part one of my story,' says Devin. 'This is clearing the pipes out. The end of the beginning. I quit drinking and drugs four years ago and I was able to stand back from them and go 'Oh!' You know, if you're predisposed to mental illness and you exacerbate that by doing things that you know are gonna because you problems, then ultimately what you're doing is imposing your selfishness on everybody.' So coming out of it I realised that there were four emotional components to that period of personal growth, and so I made these four records to represent that.'
While Ki was a rambling, spacious and highly melodic trip through a futuristic world of transcendental art rock and Addicted was a sparkling, sugar-drenched turbo-riff glitter bomb, the final two parts of Townsend's latest masterwork take both him and his legion of listeners on a far less expected and disorientating journey. Part three, Deconstruction, is arguably the most deranged, complex and extreme record that Devin has ever made. Fans of Strapping Young Lad will almost certainly feel at home with its bug-eyed maze of riffs and breathtaking dynamics. Fans of Devin's more mellow work will have to grit their teeth and hold on for dear life. Fortunately, part four of the quadrilogy, the blissfully laidback Ghost, will provide the perfect rest and recuperation at the end of that torrid ordeal.
'Deconstruction is a complicated album. It's got elements of Strapping without all the nihilistic, suicidal tendencies. For the people who want a heavy statement that's very complicated, I think it's gonna be the be all, end all. However, Ghost is a much more risky record on a lot of levels. It's a really beautiful, folky, acoustic record with flutes and a real peaceful sentiment. I really like subtlety. That's why I love Ghost so much. Deconstruction is about as subtle as a boner in sweatpants and that's great too!'
The full story of the meaning and motivations behind Devin's four-album odyssey will be revealed in due course, as this whole project reaches a dramatic and unforgettable conclusion with a series of unique live performances later this year, all of which will be filmed for release as part of a forthcoming box set. In the meantime, Devin has completed this latest and most convoluted part of his personal and artistic quest and is now gearing up to embark on several more inspired flights of guitar-wielding fancy. The least boring musician on Planet Earth remains an unstoppable and thoroughly fascinating force. Come along for the ride, won't you?
'Making music for me is like taking a shit. It's just part of the day. I've got goals, of course, but it's the process I really dig. I make sure everything's right and then I go and listen to someone else's music before I lose my mind. Otherwise it's like swimming upstream in a river of your own splooge! I've got so much left to say and so much more that I'm planning that it's great to get this part, the end of the beginning, wrapped up. These four records are a real good cross section of what I've done, so from here it's wide open!'