It’s hard to put words together when describing the versatility and perspicacity of Devin Townsend. Having spent twenty-five years creating some of the most diverse and unique compositions in metal, Townsend is one of the most iconic and creative figures in the scene.
“I’m thirty records into this career at this point. I think just more on a realistic level, I think it’s a step up from some of the stuff that I’ve done recently”, reflects Townsend. “I think it’s a really excelled and authentic addition to its analogue where I have no right to be authentic or anything with it at this point, so I’m stoked with it.”
Devy is known to have particular themes tattooed on a number of his albums, most notably on Ziltoid the Omniscient. On Transcendence, dealing with a number of negative emotions informed the album conceptually.
“I think it’s all about getting over myself. I’ve spent so many years being so hyper-insecure about everything”, he admits. “I think that’s a lot of what’s propelled me into doing this for a living. You know a need for validation and for attention and those sort of things. And that ultimately flies into the face of what I think life is about. What life is about is taking those fifteen or twenty minutes that are great and are wonderful with friends and family or whatever and to really be present for that and enjoy it.”
Those familiar with Devin Townsend will be aware of two very different personas. When fronting Strapping Young Lad, an abrasive and often enraged Townsend could be found. Since launching his eponymous project, Townsend’s music often veers toward the uplifting while maintaining an aggressive tinge. That said, happiness isn’t everything to Townsend.
“The idea of what I think the media sells us, where we’re all entitled to perfect happiness, and the perfect body with all this money and rich stuff is all bullshit”, suggests Townsend. “I think the quest for that leads us to feel the need to control everything and everybody and [to] try and dominate with the power that goes along with it. I think in just a matter of time, as well as if you’re a complete narcissist, you just get bored of yourself.”
Ultimately, sobriety played a significant role in Townsend’s quest for happiness. “I’ve been sober for so many years, and I started noticing these patterns starting to form and it just started to become clear to me that if you really want to become a better version of yourself, and you want to become happy and enjoy those moments, it’s gonna require that self-analysis and life work that’s gonna change these things.”
“I was fortunate enough as a kid to recognise that I had the ability to put the emotional things into music”, Townsend recalls. “And that provided a cathartic outlet for me for twenty-five years of being able to express myself to things I didn’t think I was capable of in real life. So, in my whole life and work, I would say it’s just me being exhausted and getting my shit together.”
While in the midst of putting the pieces of Transcendence together, Devin had another epiphany. Revisiting the same process he did with Epicloud and Addicted, he re-recorded some of his old classics. On Transcendence, Devin revised Truth.
“I had a realisation a while back that really made a lightbulb turned on, and that is that I have this complete perception where I have to have things perfect”, Townsend confides. “However, I’m not perfect. So, it’s a constant underlying stream of irritation. As a result of that, on the plus side, it gives me tonnes of fuel to keep writing because I just always feel like it’s fucked up and it’s not right.”
On the other hand, such an approach has its downside.
“On the negative side, it makes the music for me, a constantly, evolving thing. It’s all part of the same trip like everything I’ve done, musically. It’s all about the same thing; it’s all about one thing that I can’t really define. And so, I always take another stab at it and attempt to make any of the songs closer to that original goal.”
To an extent, Townsend feels his perfectionism is a natural outcome of the world around him. “It’s intentional, almost like when you turn on the TV, except, when you turn it on, it’s just misery”, he points out. “There are billions of people on the planet, and it seems that the current trains of mind and the current media agenda, at least from my interpretation, is that you’re not good enough. You’re not worthy enough and you deserve more.”
Being more specific, Townsend catalogues the all the elements contributing to an ‘imperfect’ society. “Your teeth aren’t right, your breasts or your abdominal muscles aren’t big enough. You know, all of these things that are beating into us in such a way that are presented politically or economically, have this really toxic sense of fear and hostility. I think the only thing you can do in the face of that is to write songs about how unhappy you are and how shit you think everything is.”
“And it sucks to think that in order to be at peace, is that you have to fight for it. I try and make something that’s beautiful, heavy and positive. Plus, why wouldn’t you wanna do that?”