I finished work on the new issue of Unrestrained! last week. I still feel like I'm coming up for air, as the last few days of every issue get pretty intense. I talked to Norway's Green Carnation, Toronto's Martin Popoff, and Maple Ridge's Devin Townsend for this edition, so I'll try to post some interview leftovers in the coming weeks.
I'll start with Devin Townsend, who's just released one of his finest albums ever, Synchestra, with the Devin Townsend Band. It's a homespun yet epic record, full of surprises and nonchalant genius. He's a great guy to talk to, and I regret that I couldn't include the full scope of our conversation in my U! piece, which ended up being a sort of guided tour through the songs on the new album.
I asked Devin about the guests he had on Synchestra—guests like Steve Vai, who gave Townsend one of his first big breaks as vocalist on Vai's Sex and Religion album in 1993.
You’ve got Steve Vai playing a solo on the song "Triumph." You've mentioned before that it was sort of a renewal of your creative relationship.
"Yeah, and also closing the door on a 12-year cycle. It was 12 years ago that I did that Vai thing, which kind of launched me in some peculiar directions personally and professionally. I think I spent quite a few of those years in a combination of ruing it and blaming him. I think it took me 12 years to get past that and realize the opportunity that it actually was and realizing the friend that I’ve actually got in that guy. While a lot of people had the opportunity to go to music university to learn their craft, I had the opportunity to go to 'Steve School' and learn lots about the practical application of the music, like the touring and the management end of it and the production and obviously guitar and vocals...as far into it as videos and band dynamic and all this kind of shit. Being able to apply that to my own works has shaped me in a way that it’s hard to picture myself without [all that] at this point. So having Steve perform on a song lke 'Triumph' I think lets bygones be bygones. I mean, personally Steve and I have been fine since the second year after that, but professionally I’ve just been going down so many weird paths for so long that to get out of that cycle by having him appear on the record is really therapeutic."
Did you have any specific instructions for him on the song or did you just say "Go ahead and do your thing"?
"Yeah, the only specific instruction I had was 'Here’s the file—rock it.'"
There’s a female vocalist on the album too. Who is that?
"Well, Nick Tyzio is our sound man. He’s been our sound guy for Strapping Young Lad for a while now, and he’s a really good sound man and a really good guy. Because Synchestra has a pretty family-oriented theme to it I tried to find people who were within our circle, and Deborah is Nick’s wife. She’s got a really good voice and she’s got a lot of things that she’ll be doing in the future. She’s really talented, so it was good to be able to utilize her voice for this."