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Devin Townsend Adapts to Sober Living

Three years ago, not long after the birth of his son, Devin Townsend resolved to quit drinking and smoking pot. But it wasn’t easy, and now, for the first time in a long time, the former Strapping Young Lad frontman is writing and recording music clean and sober. However, Townsend admits that, for the first year of his sobriety, he didn’t write a single note.

“For a year, nothing came out,” Townsend recalls. “So when I quit, all of a sudden, it took me a couple of years to analyze what I’d done musically in the past, and came to the conclusion that, well, a lot of that wasn’t me being a hard ass, or being a tough metal guy. A lot of it was me feeling terrified and paranoid and feeling the best way for me to repel that was to scream and yell, and no one would come to the conclusion that maybe what was underneath it was not nearly as hard as I wanted people to believe, and it took somebody who was much harder than me calling me out on it.”

Townsend says he was confronted by a friend, and asked, essentially, whether his heart was really in it. He wanted to know if Devin was legit, or a poser? Was the whole angry, wild-eyed, crazy-haired psycho image just a facade? And it took coming out from under a haze of marijuana smoke for the Mozart of metal to realize it.

“I was playing a role, towards the end of it, so of course, I’m going to be uncomfortable doing it,” he says. “I didn’t understand why I was doing it. But now, that I’m away from the drugs and the scene, its clear why I was doing that. I wanted to be part of this club. I was never cool when I was a kid, and all of a sudden, I’m in Strapping Young Lad, and we’re hanging out with all these cool bands, doing all these cool tours and there were girls around and everything, and I’m thinking, ‘Whoa, I’m cool, man. I can’t let that go, because if I let that go, maybe people will realize that I was that nerd who actually listened to lots of Enya when he was 15. We can’t have that happen.’”

With the Devin Townsend Project, a series of four records Townsend plans to record and release before 2009 ends, Devin says he wants to prove to his fans that he’s not insane. He’s just got a complicated mind

“In this four record process, I’ve got one, the third record, that’s going to be very much like a Strapping record — in some ways,” he says. “In other ways, its going to be more like a symphony. In other ways, its going to be more like this really bizarre kind of alien dance thing. My point with making another chaotic record is to be able to say to the audience, ‘Well, I need to clarify why I did Strapping in the beginning. I need to deconstruct my reasons for wanting to play that kind of music in the first place,’ and at the end of it, the answer that came to me was, well, a lot of the reasons why you were doing what you were doing is you were terrified and paranoid. Now that you’re not, how are you going to continue to play that type of heavy music and the answer to that was, heavy music and chaotic music is something I do very well, and I want to continue to do that, basically, for the rest of my career. But it has to be in the context of something I can get behind as a 40-year-old, and not a 24-year-old, and that will be demonstrated with that third record.”

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