Strapping Young Lad, the Devin Townsend Project, Synchestra and many more – most all things Devin Townsend touches turn into some sort of freaky gold. He has a musical Midas touch and while it hasn’t been an easy journey for himself, his collaborators or his audience, rehab, reinvention and emotional instability has never got in the way of Townsend delivering the goods. He’s been working on the almost mythical album Casualties Of Cool – it’s been a long time in the making, with chatter around the album beginning in 2011 – but it is still yet to appear.
When I speak with Townsend, and knowing he’s in a studio, I safely assume he’s continuing work on Casualties. Any ‘safe’ assumptions are futile. “We are in a studio in Vancouver and we’re filming a pilot episode for our proposed TV show; it’s gonna have puppets and guests and news,” Townsend says with an explosion of excitement. “It’s an unbelievably awkward and strange heavy metal/sci-fi/puppet show. Today was the first day we were filming it and it’s been so rewarding. Apart from music this is another creation that feels creatively limitless.”
For a man so used to being in complete control – a master of his creations – entering into the world of TV is a stimulating challenge. “I’ve got a lot of people here who are far more skilled in this than what I am,” he says. “We’ve got people experienced in directing and artwork and puppeteering and my role in all of this is more of a creative direction. I don’t really wanna be hands-on; I don’t want to learn 3D animation, I just want it to look a certain way and have other people bring that together.”
While Townsend has a control freak reputation, it appears unfounded. In a way, taking control has been the result of needing rather than wanting to. “Typically in my career it’s been that I have a vision and then I try and rally the troops in to make it come together. I’m finding now I’m surrounded by people who have actually the same levels of motivation, so now I can come in with an idea and everyone gets going without having to crack a whip.”
TV shows aside, it’s time to steer Townsend back into the medium he’s most known and loved for – and the obvious question of when Casualties Of Cool might finally be released. “Here’s the thing; Casualties is something that I’ve been working on for a number of years, and if I’m honest, it’s a record that I love almost more than anything I’ve done, in some ways. But it’s also a record that I feel could ostracise a lot of the fan base if I’m not careful with it. I can’t compare it to the last record, which was really loud and boisterous and joyful and layered … Music is a reaction – not only to my life but also a reaction to what came before – so if I’ve done an album that’s commercial and boisterous and loud then the chances are what will come after that will be dark and complex and quiet and subtle. That’s exactly what’s happened with Casualities. It’s self-funded, it’s not on a label and it’s hard because without those things, how do you get it heard? If you do get it heard, how do you ensure that it doesn’t interfere with the momentum you’ve established with the rest of your stuff? So I’m kind of juggling it now – but on a technical level it’s almost done, I have three more days of mixing then the artwork. We’re starting a video for it next week so I suspect it will be available around next April.”
BY KRISSI WEISS