"I always gravitate towards the bigger questions..." - hmv.com talks to Devin Townsend
As he returns with new album Transcendence, we talk to musical polymath Devin Townsend about making the album and his nightmare putting together a live set...
When did you start work on Transcendence?
"I'd say I started seriously thinking about it in October of 2015, we started recording in mid April, and the process of creation was very intensive and quite time consuming."
How did you want this album to move on from Z2?
"Z2 was a very tiring experience. It came at a point where I had just finished the Casualties Of Cool album and had serious concerns about working so quickly. I battled through Z2, but it wasnt a pleasant experience. This time, I wanted to make sure we had enough time, manpower, and thought put into the record that it would avoid that type of drama. Transcendence, though difficult, it was fairly smooth in comparison."
You worked more with the other members of your band on the writing of this album, why did you decide on that approach and how did you find working in that way?
"I have several different projects and things on the go, but the Devin Townsend Project has been together for nearly 10 years and I figured it was simply the right thing to do. The guys have earned it, and as well, they know what I want, so there was an aspect of their involvement that made the creation easier. I didnt have to 'spell out' everything. It was a good decision for the band, and it many ways, it was a good decision for my creative process as well."
Can you sum up the album lyrically? Is there a common theme or do the songs sit apart from each other?
"I think, like all my work, the lyrics are simply me 'talking in tune' about whats on my mind. I suppose the concept of 'letting go of control' plays into the lyrics, for sure, but other than that, it's basically more of the type of thing I always gravitate towards, the bigger questions, the mystery of it all..."
When did you settle on the title of Transcendence? And why?
"I think it was a title that came somewhere along the line subconsciously that ended up conveniently illustrating the cover and the theme. I think the idea of 'getting over it' is summarized in some way by this title."
Were there any other titles discussed?
"Not that I can recall. I quite liked Devin Townsend Fails Again!, but decided it wasnt fitting in the end..."
Tell us about the cover, it’s quite something...
"It was an image presented by the artist, Anthony Clarkson. Like any good art, I imagine the interpreation of it is subjective and although I cannot speak for Anthony, to me it represents religion as a kind of 'product' and that the idea of transcendence includes going past the metaphors of it all..."
What was the song on the album that took the longest to get right?
"'Higher'. That one was meant to move in different sections to create a whole, but making the transitions seamless took a fair amount of massaging."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Stormbending'. It was written very quickly and is also one of my favorites."
What are your plans to take the album out live? What kind of show are you bringing out?
"Well, we have just began to rehearse so I'm afraid its too early to give an accurate description of the show, but we always try to do something cool and different, so this will hopefully be no exception..."
You’ve got an awful lot of songs now, how do you go about picking out a live set?
"I guess thats better than a lot of awful songs! Again, this is something we just started and I can assure you its a total nightmare. It takes a lot of give and take between what we want, and what may be expected. We are working on it though and hope you like it..."