I first heard Devin Townsend in 2001, on an InsideOut sampler CD. The first song on the sampler album was “The Fluke”. It was love at first listen. I was entranced by the punk energy, the heaviness, the complexity, and the wall of sound production. I soon bought Terria, which remains to this day one of my favorite albums. That summer, I probably listened to Terria a thousand times. And the most beautiful thing about falling in love with Terria– that album is more dense than a neutron star. Each listen revealed a new layer, whether it was something buried in the mix that popped out, or a lyrical theme or phrase that hit home, or whatever else. Devin’s music spoke to me in a powerful and enduring way. This was, mind you, the Devin of 2001- the unpredictable, skulleted, manic genius.
Over the last 17 years or so, Devin’s music has followed me and provided a consistent soundtrack of my life. Accelerated Evolution defined my late teens, Synchestra was on repeat for my first year of college (along with Strapping Young Lad’s The New Black), Ki and Addicted were my go-to albums when I was dating the person I would eventually marry. I could go on. Other artists have come and gone in my musical life, but Devin is the artist that has maintained the most consistent presence in my playlist over the last 20 years.
When I first found Devin’s music, it was clear in both the interviews and the lyrics he was battling with serious depressive episodes, numerous addictions, and just a general malaise. This was attractive to me, as someone who has always tended towards melancholy things /struggled with anxiety and depressive episodes. But, over time, and with each album, I’ve been able to see a really inspiring trajectory for Devin, as he has become increasingly self aware about his artistic process, as well as his own health and mental wellness. The Devin of 2018 is almost a completely different person in many ways; contemplative, jovial, sober, hilarious, and skullet free,- a contrast to the wild, interesting, but unstable Devin that I first was drawn to. To see Devin in a better place has been a really inspiring journey for fans like myself, as I’ve grown and matured and found happiness in similar ways.
Recently, Devin made some major life decisions. Perhaps most shockingly, he decided to disband his touring band, The Devin Townsend Project, despite the fact that it was doing quite well. He left the biggest progressive rock label, InsideOut. He’s made headlines for a massive symphonic project about life, sex, and death called The Moth. From the outside looking in, these decisions might seem erratic. But, one of the most attractive things about Devin for me as a listener and fan is that he intimately understands his artistic process. Devin’s unbridled genius lies in the fact that he has refined his ability to bring his ideas to pass, as the music is an honest extension of himself and his headspace.
Devin Townsend’s Facebook page is currently promoting an eBook, written by Devin Townsend, that talks about being an artist in the 21st century. It’s about 30 pages, and is a relatively easy read. I would recommend that you follow this link to not only sign up and receive his eBook (which was a really fantastic summary of his lecture notes from the Devin Townsend Creative Academy lectures that he did a few months ago), but that you also sign up for his newsletter. After subscribing, I received a very heartfelt letter penned by Devin to his fans, which describes his current space in greater detail and talks about his coming projects. His decisions moving forward make a lot more sense. And while I’ll miss the Devin Townsend Project, I very much look forward to hearing the brilliant music that is currently in the pipeline.
Devin talks a lot about how art is more about the process than the product. As a lifelong fan, that’s how I’ve begun to view his artistic life as well. His music outlines different chapters in his and my life. While I will say that my love for each album varies, sometimes significantly, my appreciation for risk-taking artist such as Devin has been unwavering. And thanks to musicians like Devin Townsend, progressive music continues to progress.