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I Am Such A Shit Storyteller: Devin Townsend Interview

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 7:20 PM

The prog metal maestro discuesses all manner of things with Manchester Rocks




Inspired genius or complete and utter lunatic, whichever way you look at it, Devin Townsend is a truly ingenuitive musician and extrovert. He's the kind of character which the music world, in terms of 'next generation' artists, following on from Lemmy and co., seems to be in short supply of in many respects. He hits Manchester on the 31st March along with fellow mould-breakers Periphery and Shining in what promises to be a crazy little evening. Devin sits down with Manchester Rocks to talk creativity, War Of The Worlds, stealing ideas from sci-fi stories, signing bombs and babies and more. 

Interview: Phil Weller, Ben Armstrong and Mike Lewis

Hi Devin, thanks for taking the time to speak to us, we really appreciate it. You’ve got questions from both myself, Ben Armstrong and Mike Lewis: You’re being tag teamed!


Sure! I mean...ewww.


Phil: So you’re headed for our fine city on March 31st with the excellent Periphery – a really cutting edge band in terms of bringing metal forward to the modern age – and Shining who are a wonderfully baffling blend of black metal and jazz. So we have three ingenious artists in one night, this must be a tour you’re desperate to begin?

Desperate may be a strong word, but 'really happy to' works well. I think both those bands are pretty astounding and the opportunity to be along for the ride with them is pretty exciting. If you haven't seen any one of these bands, I highly suggest seeing us all, I believe we all bring something unique to the bill.


Phil: How important is it for you to have not only strong support acts on your tours but bands that really compliment your style without being too similar?

Very, and more so as time goes on. It's hard to negotiate great packages as well, so the fact this one is happening should be a treat for the bands and audiences alike.


Phil: With your back catalogue with DTP being so diverse, creating a set list must be a paradox between it being a delight because of how much material you can draw from and a nightmare all the same?

Totally. If I add up all my material in terms of time, it's huge amounts...and to choose a set that encapsulates that, as well as representing what is new, what the audience likes, what works live, and what is technically possible is a hurdle every time. I believe this set coming up works really well though.



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Phil: What was the most interesting album to work on with the z2 project? You’ve said that the stricter constraints of what the label wanted with Sky Blue almost should have been a hindrance on your creative process but that in the end you delivered an album you were thoroughly proud of, so was that the more interesting out of the two albums or did developing and building on the legacy of Ziltoid more interesting because of the different avenues you could have gone down?

The whole z2 creative process was mired in overwork and personal obstacles, and as such, both records were rewarding and challenging in equal measure. However, I'd say creatively, Sky Blue was more difficult and technically, Dark Matters.


Mike: In that respect, do you prefer creating more humorous or serious pieces of music, or is more of a case of the diversity being the key to fresh creativity?

It's what I'm least tired of, really. Everything tends to be a reaction to everything else, and creativity lies in being interested in something.

Phil: There were elements of Dark Matters that, to me at least, remind me of Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds. That is a show that is now toured across the world with 30ft, fire breathing Martians. Would that be something you’d like to one day do with Ziltoid’s story: An extravagant musical with enormous Poozers attacking the crowd?

 

I didn't even know that was a thing! Obviously, War of the Worlds, the story, was an inspiration. I could see us playing Dark Matters more than just at the Royal Albert show, but I suspect our walking machines would be a little more D.I.Y :)


Ben: Going on from Phil’s question, if you were to play one record of yours live in its entirety with a large budget, which would you choose? I think hearing something like Terria with large displays, explosions, confetti etc would be incredible.

Any of them, really. They're all written with a visual style in mind, and I think given the opportunity, they could all shine like that.


Phil: With regards to War Of The Worlds, was that influential to your work on Dark Matters? There’s definitely the spirit of Richard Burton in your dialogue passages that sew the songs and story together.

 

I am such a shit storyteller, that in order to achieve even the loose sense of connection Dark has, I went through many classic sci fi stories and movies and used things that seemed cool in the Dark Matters concept. It's all pretty cliche and overblown, but it gave me a framework to illustrate musically.






Ben: Moving on, you signed the Canada stamp in my passport back at Bloodstock 2010, thanks for that! What’s the strangest thing (apart from my passport) that you’ve signed?

I don't know really. I tend to not retain much of that stuff... Bodies, babies, bombs, you name it :)


Ben: I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Royal Albert Hall show, and was happy to hear that you’re taking a ‘by request’ approach for the second half of the set. What made you decide to take this on?

As discussed earlier, set list creation is difficult, so it was two things: I really appreciate the audience being directly involved in the show, and two...it helped sort out the set in a really fundamental way. The only thing is: We had to learn a bunch of stuff I never expected to play :)


Phil: Can I suggest an ABBA cover please?

Noted.


Ben: If there was an overwhelming demand for SYL material, would you play it at the Royal Albert Hall? I think Love? and Detox worked well at the Retinal Circus, but I can see why you’d be less interesting in playing that stuff live these days.

Nah. I love Strapping, it's got nothing to do with that, it's just a different band that doesn't necessarily capture the spirit. Not taking away anything from the DTP, it's just a different animal, and one that I'm not up to at this point.


Ben: For the people with tickets, will you be playing both halves of Z2 live, or just ‘Dark Matters’?

Dark Matters, and a by request show.

Ben: The DTP was planned as four records but kinda stuck around. Do you think you’ll keep this as your main moniker going forward and use Casualties of Cool for future, more-ambient works?

Ah who knows? I just do what seems to fit. I'm such a mess when it comes to direction that I'm more surprised than anybody :)


Thank you Devin!

You too guys, cheers. Dev


www.hevydevy.com

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