Devin Townsend Interview – 1998

This article was originally published by INK19 in April 1998.

by Carl King

The first time I saw Devin Townsend was at Jannus Landing in 1994. He was a hyperactive, skinny, dorky-looking, half-grown-in mohawk wearing kid with vocal abilities ranging from a deep, thunderous, Armageddonous growl, to beautifully open and operatic, to a familiar shriek that would make Ripley wet her pants (all within 3 seconds). He did a lot of funny things on stage that night: picked his nose, jerked off, drooled, banged himself on the head, ran around sucking his thumb while wearing pajamas and toting a teddy bear, and all the while managing to outplay Steve Vai. VERY inspiring.

The next time I saw him was in Atlanta in 1997. He did a lot of “interesting” things that night, as well. Encountering almost complete opposition from the audience, he basically invited them to put up their dukes. Showing them his favorite middle-finger, he also mentioned something along the lines of: “you fucking inbred, homophobic, piece of shit, Adidas-wearing, Korn-worshipping pussies, fuck you, we’re from Canada, fuck you!” No one in the audience seemed to have any problem with his allegations, and the show ended after he rudely shook his butt in their faces during a rocking, cheesy metal song called “Far Beyond Metal.” Ah, enough of this…

Devin Townsend is a 25 year-old Canadian multi-instrumentalist/vocalist (he can sing anything, perfectly) and creator of the bands “Strapping Young Lad,” “Ocean Machine,” and “Punky Bruster.” He is now hard at work in a Vancouver Studio on his current album, which is called Infinity. It is basically a 78-minute song called “The Death of Music,” and features a choir, an orchestra, and a lot of crazy shit (what else could you expect?). Anyway, I asked him a few questions.

Q: Briefly describe the contents of the Infinity project.

A: 80 tracks of vocals, chaos, tip o’ the hat to JCSuperstar, 8 tracks o’ guitar, Gene (Hoglan) on drums, 1 yam, 1 trip to fun-ville hospital, 400 happy pills, 8000 strands of hair — in toilet, 300 cups of high-grade jasmine tea, 15,000 Canadian dollars ($174.63 American).

Q: What’s with this “Seventh Wave” (song from Ocean Machine) stuff? Is it really true that in the ocean every seventh wave is a biggie?

A: So I’ve been told… I hope so or else the song loses some weight…

Q: What are the most comfortable shoes you’ve ever worn?

A: Anything other than those of a sideman.

Q: Have you considered getting into film making or acting?

A: Acting strikes me like living life in reverse… forward is hard enough. Film making? Eventually. I’d make a film about the guy who put fingerprints all over Darth Vader’s mask in the first Star Wars movie.

Q: Who dared to put fingerprints all over Darth Vader’s mask in the first Star Wars movie?

A: … Wait for the film.

Q: What music have you been listening to recently besides your own? Any new inspiring discoveries?

A: Stravinsky, the Wildhearts. Discoveries? What I already knew now makes sense… (kinda) … That I’m very impressionable, and that I am an obsessive narcissist. (Truly!)

Q: Are you good at Geometry? If so, do you think it’s possible to trisect an angle using only a compass and a straight-edge? (Regardless of what Algebra and Alan Watts say… )?

A: Poor at the execution, diggit in the theory stage… I like to seem smarter than I am, so I grasp onto someone else’s theory that seems to be commonly accepted as thought-provoking, yet obscure enough to make me elitist and then make it my own… unfortunately, I have no instance where I have encountered an argument to this one, so I’ll just have to say, “orange.”

Q: How many hours per day/week/song do you usually invest in “The composition of music”?

A: From 0 to 180. It just comes when it feels like it. Pushing it is for jingle musicians and bands like (put current B-circuit gold-selling band name here). I never applied for this job, I just inherited the family business.

Q: What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done on a stage? Ever completely regretted a performance?

A: When I was with Vai, we played a show in Germany where MTV and all these TV shows were filming and tons of press were in the front row. To make an impression, I had rigged it with the keyboard player that he would play all these fart samples in the middle of the set and I would hold the mic up to my bum and pretend to be really farting, and in the half-time break I spotted a fire-extinguisher and thought: *bing!!!* … when the time came, I put the hose between my legs and the fart samples went with about six blasts of chemicals, NOT the non-toxic stuff, but the hard-core sixties shit… 2000 people were throwing up and passing out because of the chemicals in such a small space… medical crews came, police, the whole works… the monitor man threw up and was looking for me after the show to beat the crap out of me. Everybody had to leave early. It was scary. I have done a few ultimately stupid things like this. Regrets? I’ve had a few…

Q: How many pushups can you do?

A: Depends on what’s underneath me… Gonch: 20, Carpet: 4, Wife: 4, Eternal Damnation: say when…