By Carl Begai
During his latest interview for BraveWords (found here), Canadian vocalist / guitarist / producer and master puppeteer Devin Townsend discussed his new Z² album. It’s another Devin Townsend Project epic, this one divided into two very different parts. Sky Blue (Part 1) is a somewhat melancholy offshoot of the DTP Epicloud record from 2012, while Dark Matters (Part 2) is the highly anticipated and over-the-top continuation of his Ziltoid The Omniscient record from 2007. As a whole, Townsend sees Z2 as a marker for another transition of his creative process, the previous one having been Ziltoid’s debut.
In the interest of not breaking the internet, this portion of the interview featuring Townsend’s take on his current focus was cut from the BraveWords story….
“I was recently in LA for a week. I was down there for an experiment on behalf of myself, the record label and a bunch of people. There’s a producer in LA who has sold 20 million records in the past 10 years and he offered to write a song with me. I went down there and recorded this song, and dude, I fucking hated the experience. I don’t have to put the song out, but this has been learning experience after learning experience. ‘What’s your motivation? What do you need?’ When we first started talking (back in 1995) I did this completely on my own. I was oblivious to the fact people were listening. Now there’s crowd sourcing and all this stuff; every step of the way carries ramifications for whatever decisions I make that are the majority of the job.”
“It’s not that it’s difficult,” Townsend continues. “It’s just that the process of trying to figure out where I am in the world is being helped in large part by me becoming addicted to making records, or whatever the hell happened in the last seven years. You get to a point where your quality of life is shot because you’re doing this inhuman amount of work. In a lot of ways I’m really glad that it happened and that I’ve made too much music for too long because it’s put me in a position where I have to analyze it. I’m not a total idiot, and as I get older the things that keep rearing their head in terms of problems in my life, I have to take notice of them or they just continue. One of them for me is this fascination with productivity that I’ve had for so long. It’s resulted in a type of exhaustion that’s avoidable.”
“I’ve really wanted to do a new Ziltoid record, make all these stupid puppets and stuff, and this seemed like the right time. I went into it knowing it was going to be a pain in the ass, and that the next step for me after the touring cycle has to be different. I just don’t know what it is yet.”
One thing is certain; Townsend will be looking very seriously into sharing vocal duties like he did with Anneke van Giersbergen on the Addicted record and Ché Aimee Dorval for Casualties Of Cool.
“Fuck yeah (laughs). Specifically, every time I do a good vocal performance it sets a precedent that I can’t maintain. I went down to EMG TV and they took me out for a foot massage and three amazing meals, had some wood nymph rub my head, so I went into their studio and just wailed it. People are like ‘Oh, that’s what you sound like.’ Then I get up on stage and sound like Super Grover and everybody’s asking what the fuck happened (laughs). I can make my voice do what I need it to do, but I really just want to play bass or weird clean guitar.”
There’s no getting away from the fans wanting to hear Townsend up front in the mix, many of them hoping for some his trademark violent Strapping Young Lad screams.
“When I was working with that LA producer he was like, ‘Okay, give me some Strapping!’ because that’s heavy metal, right? I went to do it and got such a fucking headache. Oh my god; I was sweating and my head was fucking pounding. It sounded like my balls were stuck in a taffy puller. When I was 25 that stuff was propelled by an energy that made it easy. Now, to get up to that level of intensity… I couldn’t maintain it.”
Which makes the new tracks ‘Death Ray’ and ‘Ziltoid Goes Home’ something of a welscome tease for SYL fans…
“It’s much more tame than Strapping, but the thing people don’t see is me not doing that in one take (laughs). That sound of my voice that I really like and it’s probably something I’ll be able to do for the majority of my life, but it doesn’t come naturally or easily anymore. I have to get myself psyched up for it because it’s not me standing on top of a mountain somewhere hurling those screams into the ether; it’s me sweating and taking 15 Advils and feeling like shit afterwards. The question is, do you set the precedent by doing it and having people assume you can go ahead and do it effortlessly, or do you not do it in fear that people think you can’t do it?”
Check out EMG TV footage of Townsend performing ‘More’ from Epicloud here. ‘Deathray’ from Dark Matters can be heard here.
And for those that want to experience the awesome sonic hell of Strapping Young Lad for old time’s sake, here ya go.