Hey y'know that whole thing about Joaquin Phoenix quitting movies to be an MC or whatever? But it's supposed to be a hoax, an inside joke? For now, let's file Devin Townsend's new sober lifestyle and freaky overtalking in that same drawer. I mean, anybody with at least one functioning ear knows that Townsend is a fucking genius. From the screaming Metal of Strapping Young Lad to his more pensive, expansive solo stuff (like 2007's Ziltoid The Omniscient), his records KILL, a fact made remarkabler by the scant downtime between them. He's the Steve Marriott of Metal, the guy that all singers and guitarists and producers secretly admit is the real shit, the best voice, the keenest ear, the most soul.
So it's alarming and scary that in 2009 Townsend sounds like a changed man with a different approach to music. It's always sad to see a superstar ambassador of our drug community change sides, but it's not about that. Not exactly. Townsend describes his upcoming record Ki (teaser here), the first in a four-volume project (via Blabbermouth):
Many folks have been waiting to see what I do next after SYL and Ziltoid, so after careful consideration, I wanted the first record to be quiet and subtle. However, fear not chaos fans... the next two records in the quartet are progressively heavier; the third volume, Deconstruction, is the heaviest music I've ever created. I know as I get older, a steady diet of chaotic music does little more than give me a headache. So with Ki, I wanted to re-introduce myself in a way that says, "I can make chaos like you've never heard. But for starters, please get comfortable."The common ground to my previous releases would be my voice, but even my guitar playing has changed. I use primarily a clean tone now (no distortion) and in terms of the sonics, I have used very little compression and it is not mastered very loud. The term Ki loosely means "life force" and, therefore, in almost the antithesis to my previous albums, there is no real editing or triggers on the drums. Much of the music was recorded "live off the floor." I wanted to preserve the energy flow without worrying so much about mistakes.Ki appeared after I quit drugs. I found myself angry at drugs, in all honesty. I spent many, many years stoned out of my mind, making music that although clever, was a misrepresentation of what I truly feel I wanted to say. Once I started "clearing up," I found that reality in many ways is much HEAVIER than the drug world. It has sharper edges and less release, but the point with Ki is that I need to clarify a lot of things I've said in the past musically. I believe in spirituality, and that life force is much more intense when I participate in it with a sober mind.
Huh. News of four (!) new Devy records should make my wang scream, but it's totally disturbing when a lifestyle change causes musicians to drastically alter their perfectly sound approach to being awesome. I get it that drugs are wrong for Townsend now, but it's specious (at least) for him to conclude that his drug years (and their fruits) require a total reversal. What parts of transcendent records like Terria or Physicist could be wrong or dishonest? Does he truly intend to distance himself from life-saving perfection of Infinity? From sonics to performance to content, Townsend is negating and reversing. He claims he wants to clarify his past sentiments, but his words tell a different story. He's becoming an anti-Devin.
It's just as likely that Townsend is fully aligned with himself now, and that Strapping Young Lad and his classic Devin Townsend albums, brilliant as they are, represent but a fraction of his potential. Ki, and Destruction and Addiction and Whatever may be the best, purest Devin music ever, an unfiltered expression of a profound musical mind. For now, all we have is (a shitload) of explanations and a very disheartening five minutes of clips. Or it's joke.