By Rod Whitfield
“The music industry is done!”
One of the world’s greatest ever musical geniuses, Canadian maestro Devin Townsend, appeared on well known podcast ‘Music Business Facts’ earlier this year, and candidly told the world exactly how much he earns from making music today. For a bloke who has been penning some of the most incredible heavy rock and metal music for over twenty years, is renowned across the planet, releases amazing albums relentlessly and tours the globe on a regular basis, to say his income is actually surprisingly small is an overwhelming understatement. He stated that his income was around $60,000 per annum, before tax. About what an average Canadian accountant makes.
When you consider that someone like Sting would probably make close to that in the time it takes for him to sing Every Breath You Take in a single concert, it’s an alarmingly small amount for one so gifted.
It illustrates the point that the man was born in the wrong era. If he had kicked off his career in a big way in 1973 instead of 1993, you probably add two zeros to that yearly figure, at the very least, and he would quite possibly be a musical household name in a similar manner to someone like Ozzy Osbourne or Robert Plant. He literally missed the ‘70s and ‘80s boom period, and has released virtually all of his music during the period when income generated from recorded music has been on a rapid decline.
When quizzed on this point, the man himself, ever humble, laughed in a self-deprecating way and was reluctant to agree.
“That’s very kind, the only way I can respond to that is to say ‘if my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle!’” He laughs again, “I didn’t start in ’73, I wonder if the way I had gone about music would have even had legs at that point. My trip is pretty specific, and I prefer to let the music talk, because I have a lot of confidence in the music. But man, I do so many interviews and talking, and doing this DVD that I’m doing and hearing myself speak, I annoy the hell out of myself!
“I don’t know if I had the poise to be a rock God, even if it was ’73. Hey man, who knows, but I appreciate the vote of confidence. Maybe I’d be buying a house down in Melbourne there!”
He takes it one step further, stating that he is actually very grateful to be in the position that he is in, “I try really hard not to complain,” he goes on, “if I do sound like I complain, it’s only because I am analytical in nature, and I tend to dissect everything in my world, and that often sounds more like a complaint than it actually is. It’s just more of an observation.
“I thank the circumstances every day that I am allowed to do this. I still stress about money, we all do. But I get to do this, and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. So it’s no spilled milk at all man, I’m into it.”
Deep down would you actually want to be a world famous rock star, have 10 cars and houses all over the world? “No, no, no. God no. I just want to have to not have to think about saying yes to the guacamole!” He laughs again, “I don’t need 10 cars man, I need one car. If I could have a car, I’d keep my pickup truck, and then I’d have a car and a pickup truck.
“I think that level of excess is just gross, in so many ways. I would love to never think about money again. That’s a dream. But at the same time, what are you willing to do, to get there? The parameters of what I’m willing to do are pretty narrow. And I think that those parameters, which I choose over those things, will probably keep me in this tax bracket for the foreseeable future.”
The man has yet another Aussie tour coming up in October, when he plays the eastern seaboard with the mighty American progressive metal act Periphery. It seems that he can’t get enough of our country, and we can’t get enough of him. So much so that he, jokingly, is thinking of setting up dual citizenship in our country. And possibly a couple of others.
“Yeah, it would save the flight!” He says, “between Australia and the UK, and Sweden, there’s three places that I could probably use citizenship.”
So what do you have in store for us on this tour? “There’s reams of stuff that hasn’t been played down there, but it also depends on what makes a good show,” he states, “there’s one frame of mind that says to just play a whole bunch of stuff you’ve never played before, but then there’s people who want to heap certain things, and sometimes if you’re just experimenting with all new material, the show isn’t as entertaining.”
As usual, the man’s fertile mind is constantly ticking over, writing music and planning his next moves. He is currently working on his autobiography, and as far as his next musical endeavours are concerned, in typical style he has massive ambitions, which no doubt he will bring to reality in the not too distant future.
“The next big thing I’m doing is I’m writing a symphony,” he reveals, “I was in Europe last week, setting it up. I’m doing it in Belgium with the Belgium Symphony and choir. It’s a real bucket list thing for me, I’ve always wanted to write a symphony…it’s going to be a massive project, man, probably the biggest thing I’ve ever attempted.
“DTP as well,” he continues. “I’ve got a ton of music for that. I’m kinda holding off on that for now, because I don’t want to just keep ralphing out music, I want it to ferment a little more. Same with ‘Casualties of Cool’, I’ve been writing a bit for that, but man I always write. The book is going to be accompanied with an EP of acoustic stuff too. The Royal Albert Hall show is coming out on DVD at Christmas. So I’m busy, but it’s not actually psychosis inducing any more!”
Tour Dates with Periphery
Thursday 22 October – Brisbane, Max Watts – 18+
Saturday 24 October – Sydney, Roundhouse – Licensed All ages
Sunday 25 October – Melbourne, 170 Russell – 18+