Devin Townsend – ‘The Brass Tax Of Playing Live Again’

Devin Townsend’s Melbourne show at the Thornbury Theatre sold out in under 48 hours back in May this year. Due to popular demand, the Canadian progressive musical genius added a 2nd Melbourne show to his Australian ‘An Evening With’ solo acoustic tour on Sunday 8 September (hey that’s today!). Unsurprisingly, tickets were snapped up almost as quickly as the first show. The tour is here and very few tickets remain, so I sat down and had a chat with Devin to shoot the shit.

His loyal Australian fans are usually very quick to grab tickets whenever the man heads down under, but he says it’s always a nice surprise when tickets sell so fast, especially when he is doing something so different this time around. 

Last time I saw Dev he was fronting his truly epic 5 piece, The Devin Townsend Project, in the recently, fire damaged 170 Russell Club in Melbourne’s CBD. This tour will see him turn things on their head, stepping away from programmed light shows, backing tracks and exploding CO2 cannons. The Thornbury Theatre is almost 100 years old and is covered with ornate art deco touches, and in my opinion, the perfect setting for gorgeous acoustic melodies, soaring operatic vocals and fart jokes.

I spoke to Devin about the response to his latest record Empath (our review here), and how it’s a contrast but also a culmination of his past. It has been described as the “Most Devin album Devin has ever produced.” It really says something for such an out there prog-metal album to hit #10 on the ARIA charts. There is something for everyone on Empath and in saying that, a lot of people weren’t ready for it. 

If you don’t already know, he enlisted some huge names to achieve his ambitious vision including Steve Vai, Chad Kroeger of Nickleback, Mike Keneally who’s played with Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani and Dethklok, Anup Sastry (ex-Intervals), Periphery and Monuments, even kittens! I mean the list goes on. Such extreme swings in music styles call for different types of talent. “It’s a confusing, super chaotic and really complicated album. Empath is challenging to listen to in many ways, it’s exhausting really.” he describes while laughing. 

I had a few readers reach out and ask me to see what he is doing next, when is the next album coming out and what he is working on now. I thought surely that would be a silly question, Empath only came out 6 months ago and we haven’t even seen the tour for it yet. I was a little wrong. “I write every day, I have tonnes of music. It’s a little early to tell but I don’t think I’m quite compelled to release another record just yet.. who knows.” He did let me know it will be a little more laid back though. “It will probably be more like a stopgap between complicated albums. I’ve been working on a musical called The Moth for a while and that’s yet again another super complicated, super heavy, super strange project and I don’t know if that is what I feel like doing next. I think that I might make something in between that’s like drinking a cool glass of water on a hot summer’s day. Rather than keep relentlessly pounding out weird music.” 

Devin did confirm that the full stage production of Empath will definitely arrive in Australia 2021, with the full choir, all 3 drummers and orchestra. A little wee came out as those words struck my eardrum. I wondered how on earth he is going to pull off this live show. “Well, this is why I’m starting with acoustic man. To dive straight into that is just something I’m not ready for. On a technical level, on an emotional level, on a financial level, on a musician level. It’s like, all it could do is fail.” So rather than phoning it in, getting people he doesn’t think are capable of pulling it off or even using backing tracks like he has done in the past, he wants to get it right. “Let’s just strip it back to me and an acoustic guitar. By doing this it then allows me as a musician to really participate in the brass tax of playing live again.” For the past few years playing live with DTP, Devin has used a lot of backing tracks and relied heavily on computers. “Although it was cool, it started to feel like karaoke. I love playing music, not replicating music.” It seems like he just wants to get back into the swing of playing live again.

Devin said he has been pleasantly surprised by punters attending this live shows, particularly those who have attended on a whim thinking it’s going to be some folk music jam. “Oh wow, you’re doing Strapping Young Lad songs and DTP songs on an acoustic guitar… but the emotional impact of the songs are there regardless of how it’s decorated. So that’s how I plan on doing it, start from scratch, build it up and by 2021 I’ll have it. I can’t wait.” Neither can we Dev.

He also mentioned he is open to playing Download Festival here in Australia. “I’m always open for that, had it been offered I doubt I would have turned it down!” he laughs. Give Devin a call Download Festival… now. 

I reached out to Devin fans on the internet to see if they had any burning questions for him. It went about as well as you would imagine.

Sam wanted Dev to quantify exactly how much he ‘fucken’ sucks’ – apparently it simply depends on how much coffee and sleep he has had. He sorta sucked today because he slept like shit.

Many people were asking exactly what comes in the Ultimate Edition of Empath in 5.1 and when it will be released – Dev says they are trying very hard to get it out this year and he is currently mixing it. It comes with a filmed acoustic set from Leeds, 5.1 version of Empath in surround with visuals, the original album and bonus disk, the entire 7 episodes of the Empath documentary, 1.5 hour long mixing seminar, a video of Dev doing an album commentary and a 32 page book too. 

Finally Ben wanted to know if Devin prefers beetroot or ham. He said he isn’t a vegan, but he doesn’t eat meat very much. Every time he eats ham he thinks about his little French bulldog Emily. “She is so much like a pig it’s stupid… but also beetroot is too sweet.” Sorry Ben.

Catch the smooth voice and head of Devin Townsend, touring Australia and New Zealand starting tonight. If you aren’t coming along you’re gonna miss one hell of a night. Even my mum’s going.

Interview by Clinton Hatfield.


devin townsend tour 19

An Evening With Devin Townsend – Acoustic Australian Tour







Tickets Here


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