Devin Townsend: Addicted! is a heavy record, but the next record is the one. Deconstruction is different than people might assume. It’s got a lot of death metal elements, symphonic elements, guitar playing stuff. A lot of people assume it’s an instrumental record. But I’m fascinated by things like Jesus Christ Superstar and Paint Your Wagon and Fiddler On The Roof and how they’re able to tell a story through the dialogue in the music. One of the things I’ve learned over the last three years is that your connection to the infinite or the spirituality is always juxtaposed by religion. In a lot of ways, you are your own devil. The devil is you and me and all of us. To confront yourself is to solve a lot of these problems. You are the person that allows you to go back to drugs or drinking. Deconstruction definitely addresses that.
You had talked about recruiting some death metal musicians for Deconstruction. Were you able to do that?
Absolutely. I’m working on it now. It’s not my forte to approach people. A lot of the people I want to get involved with are in much bigger bands. I think it takes a certain level of confidence/arrogance to present that. I’m slowly working on it, and I’m finding there are a lot more people willing to do it than I expected. I’m trying to incorporate these other singers not to be characters, which reeks of cheese, but to have their voices represent things I’m not. When I try to do death metal vocals I sound like Super Grover. I’m really bad at death metal vocals.
In January you’ll be touring with Between The Buried And Me, Cynic and Scale The Summit. What about that tour made you want to get back on the road again?
I think there’s an element of safety with that tour. We get to share a bus with Cynic, and they are great guys. I’ve been a vegetarian for years, and there are a lot of vegetarian folks on the tour, so it’ll be easy to get food. The band that I’m playing with now are a collection of people I’ve known for a lot of years. And I want to play for people. I really enjoy performing, but somewhere along the line my love for performing got tied up in this paranoia stuff. If I have to go out on tour for the first time in three years, it’s great for me to be as comfortable as I can. If my first experience back is miserable, it’s going to be hard to justify continuing doing it.
In your early days as a musician you worked with Steve Vai. Are you still in contact with him these days?
I talked to him yesterday, actually. I was 19 when I joined his band, and I messed with that dude, hard. I always knew I wanted to do my own music, and when I got to L.A. I found out I was singing Steve’s lyrics and being produced. I’m not that type of guy that reacts well to being told what to do. When I met him he was 34, but I found there were things with our personalities that were very similar. But I didn’t really enjoy the experience at the time, and I made it painfully obvious to everybody that I wasn’t enjoying it, especially to Steve.
Over the years we’ve had chances to think about it. It’s been over 15 years. It’s just recently Steve has come out and said he gave me too much leeway. It’s about time! I hope he’ll come out and say that kid was a dick! Because I was. But he’s been so polite. But we’re bros. I went to L.A. last month and spent the day at his house. You’ve got to hold onto people in your life that are similar to you. Sometimes it takes trauma, or life or death to realize it. Steve and I are both musicians, we are both awkward socially, and when we hang out together, there’s this element of “there’s another one,” and I enjoy that. It’s funny that a friendship has taken 15 years to come to something that’s halfway normal.
Who do you think are the top three Canadian metal bands of all time?
It’s so weird. I just got signed in Canada after 20 years. When I went down to do the Vai thing, it was almost like I was a deserter. The Canadian scene has been so insular. It supports its own, and if you leave it’s like you’re a traitor. It’s been so hard to get any headway going in Canada. I’m Canadian, but I understand the Canadian industry far less than I understand the American or European industry. Something about the Canadian music scene never resonated with me.
In terms of Canadian metal, 3 Inches Of Blood are friends of mine. My friend Byron from Strapping Young Lad just started a band called City Of Fire. Burton from Fear Factory sings in it. But I don’t keep up with it. I’ve toured Canada three times in 20 years.