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Devin Townsend: On The Record

Devin Townsend

The inimitable metal maestro Devin Townsend kicks off his tour with prog shredders Periphery this week, so we unearthed our On The Record interview where Hevy Devy talked us through the some of the more influential albums in his collection, and why The Vengaboys’ “We Like To Party” is the ultimate good-time jam.


What was the first album or single you bought with your own money?
It was the soundtrack to Star Wars, and I probably bought it somewhere in Vancouver with my parents. I was young and those sorts of movies and soundtracks at the time were always really easy for me to understand; musically complex ideas were illustrated with things that were pretty basic.

What one album or song reminds you of your childhood?
“Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. My grandfather insisted that we sing it and he had no sense of rhythm, so the combination of the two is a strange mix of nostalgia and anger [laughs]. Then I based my career off that.

What’s your favourite album from your school years?
Music was always such a big part of my life so it’s hard to narrow it down to one, but I’d say Judas Priest when I was in grade seven: Defenders Of The Faith or Unleashed In The East because my dad hated it [laughs]. Honestly, we went on a camping trip or a trip down the coast and we stayed at a hotel, “Freewheel Burning” came on TV and my dad was just horrified by it. Then I was like, “Oh really?” [grins] So from there I think my obsession with heavy metal was in full swing, all from trying to get at my dad for some unseen thing.

Was there one album that defined teenage Dev?
I’d say Hysteria by Def Leppard. First sexual experience, I remember thinking to myself, “I get hysterical, come on!” Also King’s X, Gretchen Goes To Nebraska. After it was over, I remember feeling different for some reason; I can’t really put into words why. I was always into esoteric sort of things, meditational type of things or whatever, even though I could never really do it, and anything that sort of resonated with some sort of spiritual significance combined with heavy metal was perfect.

What one album changed your life more than any other?
Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction. I think after that I was like, “Ok, it’s time to start doing drugs now!” I like things that are a combination of energies, and Jane’s Addiction was a good combo of modern and tribal things.

When you decided to get sober, was there a particular album you were listening to through that period?
Trinity Sessions by Cowboy Junkies; it was quiet and kind of melancholy in a way. Life had changed pretty dramatically at that point; I’d stopped doing music for a while and I got a job where I had to travel on the bus every morning.

As your habits and parts of your personality changed over the years, did you notice a change in the music you were listening to?
Yeah and I think age has a lot to do with that as well, you run out of “firsts” for music to adhere to, and a lot of times that’s why music becomes important to you: it’s the first time you fall in love, the first time someone dies, and the songs surrounding those burn themselves into your synapses. As you get older you run out of that you know – the first time you realise you can’t pee standing up and the music adhering to those sorts of firsts no longer seems to be as valid. I think musically I now look for things that don’t irritate me more so than anything else [laughs].

What album instantly puts you in a good mood?
Probably Darker By Light by Rapoon; it’s more of an ambient thing. It’s not even that it puts me in a good mood it just puts me in a mood that I’m familiar with so I can rely on it. I like the music that I fill my world with to be more of a soundtrack without lyrics and without vocals, guitars, drums and whatnot, and that Rapoon record I’ve listened to so many times. You put it on and there’s a lot of negative space, sometimes you’re like, “Is it even playing?” then something floats in. It’s just an ambience that colours your world in a very specific way and I just rely on it.

What’s is the ultimate house-trashing party album, if you’re still partying these days?
Fuck, I haven’t partied in years, man [laughs]. I hate parties dude, I’m not here to party, that’s my trip; if I was ever going to get a shirt it would say, “Fuck you/me” on the back and “I’m not here to party” on the front. But if I was to put on a party record, I dunno, “We Like To Party” by The Vengaboys. I love that song, dude.

The Vengabus?
Oh it’s coming.

Devin Townsend Project / Periphery Tour Dates

Thu Oct 22nd – Max Watts, Brisbane (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Sat Oct 24th – UNSW Roundhouse, Sydney (AA)
Tix: ticketek.com.au
Sun Oct 25th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+) – SOLD OUT
Mon Oct 26th – 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au

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