Devin Townsend: ‘Heavy Music Is A Defence Mechanism’

Devin Townsend 

Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend is seemingly incapable of giving a bad interview and a recent conversation with website Stream of Consciousness keeps the form. Devin made an interesting suggestion, that many people use heavy music as a ‘defence mechanism’. When asked about the heavier edge for forthcoming record Deconstruction he explained some fans reacted negatively to the mellow tones in Ki, his most recent album. That they only liked Devin’s heavier output caused him to question why some people choose to like only heavy music.


Honestly, at the root of it, I think humans are really terrified and I think a lot of people who really love heavy music love it because it’s a way for them to protect themselves. If you put this thing forward and are like “I’m going to scare people with my music”, then no one’s going to get to the root of the fact that maybe it’s just you that are terrified and that’s your way of protecting yourself, that’s your defense mechanism. It’s one thing to say, “Oh I’m mad at God”, but maybe you’re really just mad at your father, you know? And I think that all these themes… that’s the thing that’s really interesting to me about heavy music now it’s like yes I love heavy music absolutely, but man to think that’s the only thing that I’m able to offer and that’s the only thing that certain people are willing to accept from me?  You know, it’s not like I’m pissed off about it, but it’s kind of like are you sure you really want to know why you really like this with the exclusion of everything else?

Devin raises a pertinent point and it’s interesting that it is being discussed. It’s worth outlining that he’s not claiming all metal fans like the music due to misplaced anger, only that the more narrow minded elitist may be using it as a barrier and unnecessarily blocking out other music. He explains further:

I just get tons of emails from people saying, “Fuck that shit man play Strapping, play crushing music” and I’m like yeah man I can do that for sure, but that’s one spoke in the emotional reel and to focus on that… it’s like waking up in the morning and having steak with steak for lunch and steak for afternoon snack and steak for dinner and then soon you say, you know what man?  For breakfast this morning I’d just love a bowl of cereal and they respond, “You’re a fag aren’t you.” [laugh] You know?  It’s like no dude I really don’t feel like steak right now, I don’t know what to tell you.  Don’t get me wrong I love a good meal, but it just seems ridiculous to me that that’s all you eat.

While it would be the wrong platform to jump in a debate on the psychology of metal right now, this sort of close minded attitude to other forms of music is rife within the metal world. For fans of metal not to embrace Devin Townsend’s work just because it’s not exactly like the heaviness of Strapping Young Lad is just counterproductive to their own enjoyment. That they’re so juiced on their own metallic machismo to not be able to appreciate other music, even that produced by an immensely talented metal musician, is ridiculous. When people can accept that it’s possible to enjoy melody and harmony for exactly what it is, without thinking it then has to almost affect who they have created themselves to be, the metal community would be an even better place to inhabit.

Devin continues to say that Deconstruction will be heavier fair and will take an examination of why people have such an undiluted thirst for brutal music:

You can say, “Oh it’s just what I like.”  Yeah sure, I appreciate that, but why do you like it?  It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just tell me why you like it.  And “I don’t know” is not a good enough answer as far as I’m concerned because apparently I have to be held accountable for everything I say. [laugh] So at this point I’m like I’ll do it for you, sure.  And it’s funny because I start writing the Deconstruction stuff and I get these people around me that are just like, “Yeah yeah yeah!  Yeah yeah yeah!  Yeah yeah yeah!”  And it’s so funny. I just think to myself I’m like, “Fuck, it’s like I’m surrounded by a bunch of kids,” you know?  And it’s like sure, I like it too, but the whole point of Deconstruction is not “right on man, fuck the world,” it’s more like tear it down man, tear it down why do you want to hear this chaos?

It will be very intriguing to see what sort of conclusions Devin picks up when Deconstruction is released. As is evident from this and many other interviews, he’s a very astute man and while this kind of dissection might not be to some people’s liking it’s certainly interesting to think about why heavy music is so appealing. For some it might be the anger metal appears to possess on the surface but for most it’s likely just to be an enjoyment of extremities, a greater sympathy to heavier sounds or more interest in the substance of ability and lyrical topic that metal has when compared to the melodic and romance-focused mainstream. There could be a multitude of reasons, good or bad, and it will be compelling to see what Devin suggests when Deconstruction is released.


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