Blistering.com: I have the album on my iPod and the parts that always get me is the “Effervescent” sequence that pops up a few times throughout the album. Is that you doing all the vocals, or is it a choir?
Townsend: It’s me, and Anneke, and a choir. I hired a gospel choir for this thing. It’s this 20-person, Vancouver-based gospel choir who were really cool. They were very liberal [laughs]. I tried to be conscious of the lyrical contributions because I didn’t want to offend them. I have no interest in religion at all. I think there are some good things in spiritual nature that no one has any knowledge of, but that sound, I really like. After a little while, they asked what it was about, I told them it was how I think humans can be really cool to each other and every song is a love song, so if you’re down, you’re down. And they were. They were super into it. By the last song, “Liberation,” there’s a line that says “It’s time to forget all the bullshit and rock!” I didn’t want them to say it, right? But you could see them chomping at the bit. It was the greatest part of the record.
Blistering.com: In terms of using Anneke again, did you fly her up for this album like you did for Addicted?
Townsend: Yes. We have a good relationship. We’ve tried to foster this heavy metal Sonny and Cher [laughs]. She’s the same age as me and she has kids too, so our relationship is based on trying to represent this male/female dichotomy and the drama that comes with it. A lot of times if you’re working with a female vocalist, singing is an intimate thing. That gets clouded if your lives aren’t set. She knows my wife, I know her husband, she has great kids, I have great kids, so our relationship is based on like, “Let’s use these two sounds that we have an emotional connection with.” I think that lack of drama is awesome.
Blistering.com: You brought “Kingdom” back, which was originally on Physicist. Is there any process for bringing back old songs?
Townsend: There are a lot of things from Physicist that I’m working on bringing back. I want to do “Victim,” I want to do “Namaste,” there’s a bunch of things. I just hate the sound of that record. From the minute it came out, I thought it sounded bad. I slowly want to re-do certain songs on it because there’s a lot of good stuff on it. With “Kingdom,” it seemed to fit into this record because when I wrote Physicist, I went through a time in my life where I made a bunch of stupid mistakes and I was really morose and apologetic about it. In hindsight, being able to look at it differently and see what my decision making process was at the time, I’m able to see it with a much different frame of mind. It comes across as an affirmation of that process, as an opposed to an apology.
Blistering.com: Let’s not forget you brought back “Hyperdrive” on Addicted, so you’re two-for-two in that department.
Townsend: With my music, it’s all a work in progress. There’s some bands and artists and I hear what they do, and it’s like “This is it. This is set in stone, this is our monument.” And for me, it’s a by-product of life. It has very little to do with the music or record. If something is not right, I’m going to make it right. If that means redoing songs or scrapping albums, I’m going to do. Ultimately, the music is there for me to sort out my process, so shit, who knows what will get scrapped in the future [laughs].
Blistering.com: I’ve stuck with the comment you made regarding how you had Def Leppard in mind when writing Epicloud. How much does it ring true?
Townsend: That’s what I wanted to do. I’ve always loved that vibe. A lot of it comes down to, ever since I got into heavier music, any inclination toward that stuff is met with, “That’s cheesy.” Through Strapping and Deconstruction and the proggy things I do, you get stuck in what I call “The Heavy Metal Chess Club.” Unless you’re doing things that are pushing certain envelopes…I get so sick of that elitist mentality. “I only listen to challenging music.” I like challenging music, but not all the time. In fact, a lot of times, I think of it as pretentious muck. And I’m down with that. Sometimes I don’t have the mind for it. It took me a little while to get around to it, like, maybe I’m not as smart as those guys. Well, fuck it. If that eliminates me from being a part of that crowd, better to do it now than in five years.
Blistering.com: It doesn’t take much to get into both Addicted and Epicloud. You don’t need that sort of complexity, you know?
Townsend: I’m surrounded by kids. My kids are playing with other kids, my sister has kids…kids are everywhere. And I think there’s something to be said for that direct, “I like it or I don’t.”
Blistering.com: There’s no beating around the bush.
Towsend: If all relationships were that easy, it’d be a lot easier to get through [it]. I think there’s a time and place for complication. I have a proclivity for it, to a certain extent. But I also think if you just focus solely [on that] for a certain amount of time, you’re going to get sick of it, and that’s what happened to me. I did all of this soul-searching, existential BS and that’s what I had to go through with those four records…with the intention being stated from the beginning that I’m trying to work through certain artistic hang-ups to achieve clarity. That was the intention. So to release a record after that, still doing that, it’s like you didn’t do anything. With Epicloud, it’s inevitable. If those four records are about getting over it, then Epicloud is like “I’m over it, what’s next?”