Comprised of Devin Townsend (vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming), Ryan Van Poederooyen (drums), Dave Young (guitar, keyboards), Brian ‘Beav’ Waddell (bass) and Mike St-Jean (keyboards, synths, programming), the Devin Townsend Project is gearing up for shows with Clutch as part of their “Psychic Warfare” tour, along with The Obsessed, in support of his 17th studio album and the band’s seventh studio album, “Transcendence“. The trek, which also includes a few headlining shows, starts November 29 in Greensboro, NC at The Cone Denim Entertainment Center and concludes December 31 in Columbus, OH at Express Live. Heading into this tour, Townsend took the time to chat about how music and travel intersects, as well as a few other things that may not be known about the famed rocker.
Devin Townsend: I’m more in Coquitlam now, less in New Westminster, but similar things apply. I’ve been here for most of my life. I spent a couple years in [Los Angeles] – a couple years in London. I’ve had different places that I’ve experienced extended periods of time in, as well. I always come back here. I think my personality is such that I’m a homebody, because I was raised with this amount of rain, seven months out of the year typically. That’s why I moved away from LA. Even though work is more efficient there in some ways, I just couldn’t dig the weather. It seems crazy to people, but I don’t like 85-degree weather all the time. I want seasons. And, that’s how I write music, in relationship to my environment.
I think for somebody who is here for the first time, I would suggest, more than anything else, taking in the nature. Vancouver itself is a coniferous rainforest – temperate. There’s the mountains. A couple hours east there’s desert. There’s the water. There’s snow. There’s a ton of parks and natural beauty.
SR: I understand that. I’m from north New Jersey and I know exactly what it’s like to have the four seasons.
DT: Yeah, and LA just seems like the “Truman Show” or something.
SR: Yeah, it’s definitely nice, but something about having the leaves change in the fall and snow in the winter that’s appealing. Tying it into your music a little bit, what was your first main introduction to music? How did you become inspired to create your own and eventually pursue it as a career?
DT: Totally! My first exposure was through my family. We had a musical family, particularly at holiday times. There was always a piano in the living room of my grandfather’s house, or an organ in my grandmother’s house on the other side. Everybody would sing Irish folk songs. I was raised with that to the point that I never really thought about it. It was just a thing that happened with my family. I don’t know if I ever consciously made a decision to get into music. There was no light switch that turned. I think it was always on. Classical and 70’s music was a big influence. Then getting into pop migrated into heavy metal and the social scene that went with that. I really find [all music] an intrinsic part of my personality.
SR: That’s awesome to hear. I’m sure having it come so naturally brings more passion. As a fan, you can really sense that.
DT: That’s the only way I feel it’s of any value to me at least.
SR: To create music, and traveling to promote it is such a feeling, but what’s the most impactful or meaningful part you cherish about it? I know you mentioned that the environment you’re in gets reflected into your music, so does the traveling help inspirationally?
DT: Yeah, because I think if I was left to my own devices I would never leave my couch. Maybe not my couch, but my immediate environment. I could probably do just fine taking care of the homestead, so to speak. Or, going to the store to get bread. But, that’s kind of how my personality is if I don’t have anything to push me. The fact that I fell into this career [is crazy]. I mean we did 200 shows this year in Russia, Israel, China, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and all over Europe. That’s so far this year. The whole process of traveling forces me out of my comfort zone. It really forces me, because typically we fly coach.
I think it impacts my music, because those are things that I never actually planned on. I never really craved these things, well maybe I did. Having had them, my perspective is such that although I was born and live in Canada, I don’t really identify myself as Canadian as much as I am just a human at this point. That has directly affected my music, and without that my sphere of experience would have been really limited.
SR: Nailed it! One of the best quotes I’ve heard. Tying it into your recent music, you released the seventh Devin Townsend Project studio album “Transcendence” in September last year. What was your thought process behind that release? How has it been received since it’s been out?
DT: It’s been received really well. I think we’re at 10-million streams, which is, I guess, how they quantify online success of some sort. I’ve done so many records personally since 1994 – in the 20’s, closing in on 30’s. And, to keep coming up with something that is important, sometimes becomes increasingly more difficult. More than anything else, when you’re younger the amount of things that you have to write about are basically endless. You’ve not written about love, and you can mine that vain for years. Or, hate and sadness. But, after a certain amount of time, those themes don’t hold the same amount of intrigue. There’s nothing in there that’s novel anymore. There’s only so much time before you’re like, “I’ve done that.”
With “Transcendence”, as with a bunch of these recent releases, I really had to do a lot of soul searching, for lack of a better term, to figure out what it is I want to say. I think “Transcendence”, as the name would imply, is about getting over a lot of things. I’m 45 now, and there’s a lot of things about being [this age], that I didn’t anticipate. But, I’m in the best shape now than I ever was. I’m more mentally focused now than I’ve ever been. With that, the theme became getting over a lot of things. The album is about what the name implies.
SR: That’s really cool to hear. I had a chance to listen to it, and to now understand the meaning behind it from your mouth is really interesting. You’re about to go on a run of shows at the end of the month with Clutch on their Psychic Warfare World Tour. Talk about your excitement for that.
DT: Thank you! I’ve loved Clutch since their first record. In some frames of mind, I’ve heard Clutch. I was once driving down and doing an acoustic tour in the [United Kingdom], the sound guy and I were in a car for like two weeks. And, there was one day I turned on a clutch record, not sure which one it was, but I remember thinking, “In this frame of mind, there’s no better band.” There’s a great dichotomy between standard-sounding, blues rock that maybe would be adhered to that wasn’t particularly forward thinking. But, they play it so well. Not only did they play it so well, but it was quirky enough to let you in on the fact that lying underneath that was a sensitive spirit and intellect, that it was such forward thinking. They present it in a way that you could move to it.
I love that type of dichotomy with any music. I love two things happening at one time. Some people are saying, “It seems like an odd tour.” But, Clutch was in Ireland and after a show, I ended up spending some time with Neil [Fallon] and I really liked him. And, we had a fair amount in common. It just underlines the point that no matter what form your music takes, as long as you’re sort of pointed in the same direction then you should be doing things together. That’s what’s happening here.
SR: Great to hear the comradery between you both. To bring it into your personal travels, when you do have some down time and are looking to get away, are you searching for a beach? A mountain somewhere? Or, the center of a city?
DT: [Not] the city! Beach and mountain for the win! It’s weird, when I do have to go to them, how much the energy kind of just bums me out. Although, when I’m traveling I dig it. Tokyo is great. [Cities] in China are great. But, I wouldn’t want to live there. I want to be away from the chaos, because I think my mental process is pretty complicated and I don’t want to compound that with more noise. I want to have that process kind of carry itself in an environment that’s more serene for sure.
SR: I can relate to that too, just living outside of New York City growing up I always wanted to live there. And, while I still do, I’ve learned to appreciate being removed from the craziness.
DT: Yeah, for sure. And, it’s getting worse too. But, there are things about cities that I do miss if I’m away in the country somewhere. Like, you might not be able to find a place where you can buy underwear. So, it’s a give and take.
SR: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling. I feel there’s a big correlation there between that and music itself, because you’re constantly bring people from all walks of life together under one roof. People from all different backgrounds. Talk about how special it is to have that power to bring people together. How important is it in this crazy world we live in to unite people in that way?
DT: I think it’s more important than I used to give it credit for. Now, more than ever, you have to really think about what it is that you’re saying. I firmly believe that. For many years I didn’t think it made a difference. I thought you vent, throw it out there, and whatever people do with it is their call. It’s got nothing to do with me. But, through a combination of circumstance and certain situations, I started recognizing this. The more popular I get, the more influence I have in a sense. What I do isn’t even popular, particularly, but that kind of underlines this whole thing. If you get a loud speaker, what are you going to say? I think that if you can get people to come together is a huge service. I want to give people a release from the outside world. It can’t hurt to try and say decent things.
SR: Lastly, I love asking well-traveled people if there are any places that they haven’t been to, but still want to hit. Do you have a few on your list?
DT: Yeah, we’ve been offered tours in India now four times, but it never came through. So, I’m looking forward to getting to India. I’d like to see Turkey. I’d like to see the Philippines and Thailand. Other than that, I think we’ve done pretty good.