If there is a more prolific, consistently inspired and surprising artist in music than DEVIN “Hevy Devy” TOWNSEND, their name does not spring readily to mind. And he is smack bang in the middle of yet another busy and highly creative period in his career. 2014 has already seen the release of what must be somewhere in the region of his twenty fifth album, if you take his career in Strapping Young Lad into consideration as well, the quiet, ambient and country tinged Casualties of Cool. He is also about to release a double album, which includes part two of the ‘Ziltoid’ saga, a concept that he initiated back in 2007 on Ziltoid the Omniscient. He is also set to do a clinic based tour of Australia. By ROD WHITFIELD.
The great man’s head must be spinning. He joined us recently, out and about (or ‘oot and aboot’ as the Canadian in him puts it) in his native Vancouver, for a rather extensive, detailed chat. “Yes sir, it’s been among the busiest years, this one,” he confirms, “but now I’m getting towards the end of it, I’ve got through the Ziltoid thing, and all the rest, I feel great now, man.
“But up to this point, it’s been a bit of a struggle to keep from stabbing myself in the eye.” And now you only have 30 hours on a plane to get to Australia for your clinic tour? “Thirty hours…err…yeah,” he stutters in tongue in cheek fashion, “I was trying to make light of that, and I was like ‘no, that’s right’.”
“The funny thing about the Australian flight, it’s so fuckin’ long, you kind of submit to it in a way that you don’t with other flights. The London one, because it’s nine hours, it seems like forever because it’s not long enough to ‘give up’, but with the Australian one it’s like ‘oh well, I’m fucked’, and then, eventually, you’re there, right?” He laughs.
Devin reveals that it actually wasn’t his own idea to come out and do a clinic tour, rather than bring his band out for a full blown run of regular shows. “No, the idea was presented to me, actually,” he says, “and I jumped at it because I think it gives me a forum to experiment with, a public interaction that I’ve not had before. I’m actually really looking forward to it, I think it’s great. I’ve got a bunch of ideas about how to spin it that I think will be interesting for the folks who don’t play guitar.”
He also tells us that he will leave some of it to chance however, and he has even gained some ideas and inspiration for the clinics by talking to Australian interviewers. “Yes, definitely that, but by doing the interviews that I’ve done for Australian press over the past couple of days, it’s actually given me a whole bunch of ideas,” he reveals, “I think there’s an element of it that needs to be guitar-centric, for sure. The gear, the technique, the equipment, tunings and playing along to the music, some of the newer stuff that I’ve done.
“And then I think that there’s also an element that I could focus on, on the genesis of how the music is created, how the vocals play into it, and then the production end of it. On Youtube I’ve done some clips where I say ‘this is how I do it, this is how the production works, this is how I get these sounds’, and I think that I could schedule the clinics so that I section them off in bits, and then leave time for that interaction with people because it’s the only time I’m going to get to Australia this year, and I take a lot of inspiration from just talking to people.
“Because, in real life, I don’t talk to anybody, dude, I skulk around the side of a building to avoid talking to people!” He laughs, “being thrust into a situation where that’s what you do, it’s actually pretty therapeutic for me.”
So how far back in your career are you going to go, with regards to covering the creation of some of the music of your past? “What do you think? What would you rather see?” He shoots back. How good is your memory? “It’s okay, but it tends to get a little bit more romantic, the further back we go,” he responds, “I think the benefit of me answering these questions now, even in my own mind now, is that my techniques haven’t really changed, they’ve just evolved with technology. I think that no matter how far back we go, the songs will change but the techniques are going to be different variations, in terms of the equipment, of the exact same objectives.
“So what I might do, in talking to you here now, is I might start by explaining a certain technique, how I did it back then and how I do it now, might be a good angle to take. But again, it’s blowing me away, all these interviews I’m doing are giving me a bunch of ideas.”
The fans are sure to enjoy it if you went back in time a little more, back to your classics from the 90s and even some Strapping Young Lad stuff. “Yeah, I think it’s a good idea,” he confirms, “because my personality and my life has changed to the point where doing Strapping just doesn’t make sense for me at all. However, there’s a lot of stuff, I mean dude! It was my life! A lot of people get to the point where they disown their own music, fuck that! My reason for not doing Strapping is because I’m not 22 any more, I’m 42, holy shit! But, maybe it’d be cool, in this opportunity to go back and look at some of that stuff, and see how it fits, might be cool. And we’ll credit you for the inspiration for it!”
And of course, we also have Ziltoid mark two about to be released. “It is what it is, it’s Ziltoid,” he says expansively, “it’s big, crazy, over the top, escapist sci fi heavy metal thing, it’s completely confusing. So, good luck!” He laughs again.
Devin’s guitar/songwriting/production clinic kicks off in Brisbane on October 20th, and takes in all mainland state capitals.