This scribe has done several dumb and/or careless things over the course of his three decades on this planet, but spilling coffee on Devin Townsend could have been the capper, if not for the miracle of gravity. After exchanging friendlies with Townsend and his band in the upper regions of Mr. Smalls Theater in Pittsburgh, we proceeded to man a small table, where upon an attempt to sit down resulted in the kicking of said table (I have long legs and tend to cross them at all times...in a manly way, mind you), causing a momentary wobble and tilt of Townsend's piping hot brew. Miraculously, the coffee maintained its balance, all the while an oblivious Townsend was distracted by conversation with his tour manager. Sighs everywhere. Imagine the headline: "Devin Townsend Cancels Gig Because of Severe Burns. Idiot Journalist Shunned By Metal Community."
Epicloud is the name of Townsend's newest sonic foray, an unofficial companion piece to 2009's Addicted, an album that blended arena metal vibrations with the off-beat and infectious brand of metal only Devy can provide. Epicloud takes things a step further, though, as heard on earth-shaking, joyous "love songs" (Townsend's words) like "True North," "Save Our Now," and "Angel." With the aid of former The Gathering songstress Anekee Van Giersbergen, there’s no shortage of sugary vocal acrobatics and moments of sonic bliss. It might be Devy's most satisfying solo work to date, but don't tell him that - it will only give him impetus to do something different for the next album.
We mucked it up with Townsend during his recent run on the "Epic Kings & Idols" tour with Katatonia and Paradise Lost. And once all fears of getting scolding hot coffee on Townsend subsided, we got down to business...
Blistering.com: For this tour, on one side you have the “dark” bands, which are Katatonia and Paradise Lost, then you have you guys, which are on the opposite end. Pretty nice dichotomy, eh?
Devin Townsend: That brings up something I’m passionate about – the idea that music being not necessarily a reflection of the people who make it. I think a lot of the time people come to a show assuming that because they have an emotional investment in the type of music you do, that you’ll be that person…and you’re not. You’re able to represent parts of yourself that needs to be exaggerated, but shit, Paradise Lost and Katatonia are great people. Everyone is coming at music from the same angle – we’re just trying to get by. I think it’s healthy for people to recognize that music is coming from a place of honesty, it doesn’t matter what you do. So far with this band, we’ve done Obscura…
Blistering.com: [interrupting] You were here last year with Bodom, right.
Townsend: Yeah, and we’ve done Between the Buried and Me, and Cynic, and now there’s a talk of a bunch of bands that you wouldn’t think we’d be getting involved with, but it works. But from my point of view, I’m trying to entertain people with music that has been healthy to exercise certain things with.
Blistering.com: The album came out today, so how does it feel to have another in the books? You’re at what, 20-some odd albums?
Townsend: I’ve lost count. It feels great; I love to make music and people to turn on something that makes their day better…or worse [laughs]. I really love this one, I’m very proud of it for a number of reasons. On the surface, Epicloud is a very simple record, and it’s epic. There’s this element of the audience that has a personal investment in wanting things to be progressive or complicated, and it really seems like the scene is going in that direction. You get a bunch of 20-something year old bands…
Blistering.com: [interrupting again] Who can shred and do arpeggios.
Townsend: Right! And that’s all they’re interested in or comparing themselves to. So for me, it’s very liberating. I’m not going to do it, fuck it, good luck…I did something like that with Deconstruction. So we put something together that you could enjoy, your wife could enjoy, and your kids could enjoy.
Blistering.com: My girlfriend likes it, and she doesn’t even like female vocals.
Townsend: I think Anneke is an anomaly, too. She’s got a little pixie voice, but she’ll beat anybody down. I like that strength in her. I think it was important for me to make a statement to do something aside from the expectations. And also not throw curveballs at people with this one; I just wanted to make a good record.
Blistering.com: I think it’s a lot like Addicted, where there was no messing around.
Townsend: Yeah, but with Addicted, there were some curveballs melodically or rhythmically that I put in there because I hadn’t gotten to the point where I could be confident enough. There’s a little melody in “Resolve!” [hums melody]. I think that’s cool, but we didn’t need to crowbar that into any of this one. But I think it’s also fair to note that this one is a moment in time and what I do next will have little to do with this one.
Blistering.com: That’s how it’s always been with you, though.
Townsend: I’m hoping if we gain any momentum with Epicloud, it won’t be trumped by what comes next [laughs].
Blistering.com: There’s still this avoidance of any comfort zone.
Townsend: Which is really good for business [makes sarcastic face].
Blistering.com: The label [InsideOut Music] is going to want another Epicloud if the sales are good.
Townsend: Right, but the next one I’m doing is this country, Johnny Cash thing. Again, I’d much rather follow the things that important to me to follow than to follow what the label wants me to do. But, I have a really good relationship with the label, they roll their eyes, sigh, then work with whatever we give them.