Devin Townsend's new album Lightwork is about hope and strength: "Don't give up!"

Devin Townsend squatting in a hat and colourful shirt
(Image credit: Tanya Ghosh)

Devin Townsend isn’t about to relinquish his title as The Hardest Working Person In Metal any time soon. After the recent surprise-released The Puzzle and Snuggles albums, he’s back working on the follow-up proper to 2019’s kaleidoscopic Empath. Titled Lightwork, it sees Devin working with an outside producer – Garth Richardson (RATM/Mudvayne) – for the first time ever, just to see what would happen…

Metal Hammer line break

You’ve said that you’ve challenged yourself with Lightwork. How so?

“Every record that I’ve ever done, I’ve produced myself. It’s kind of a vacuum, without anyone saying, ‘Hey, you might want to reconsider that’ or ‘Maybe that’s a little bit too far up your own ass.’ So, I’ve wanted to work with a producer for a long time, if for no other reason than to see what’d happen. It’s been intense, because the person I’ve chosen to work with is a good friend of mine; he’s an incredible producer with a long history.”

Did you pick Garth because he’s a good mate, or was there more to it than that?

“I’ve tried working with other producers and it didn’t end well. Their way of producing was to put me into a mould, and it doesn’t work. It just ends up being a version of me that I’m embarrassed of. But, because I’ve known Garth for so long, his method of production became more like one of those retractable leashes that you have dogs on. You can run and run, but, after you get to a certain point, he’s like, ‘No! Hold back there!’”

Empath was the Devin Townsend-iest Devin Townsend album. When you started work on Lightwork, were there thoughts of, “What do I do now?!”?

“No, musical constipation is rarely a problem for me. I just wrote 50 or 60 songs and kept showing them to Garth: ‘What about this one?’ ‘Nope!’ ‘This one?’ ‘Nope!’ ‘What about this one?’ ‘I really like the chorus, but not the verse.’ So, it’s a really strong record.”

You’ve said that Lightwork will be a “weird” album…

“No, it’s not weird. Lightwork is clear and direct.”

So it’s more streamlined than Empath?

“Totally. If I do something eclectic, the next thing tends to be more straightforward, then, after something more straightforward, it gets weird again. Garth was also very conscious of making sure it wasn’t just one thing. He wanted to get a heavy song in there; he wanted to get a couple of melodic songs in there; he wanted to get a weird couple of songs in there. So, it’s a pretty comprehensive thing.”

So it’s both streamlined and eclectic?

“Yeah, but it’s also really great to hear. There have been some things that the audience have been asking me for, for years that, for whatever reason, I have denied them. I did a Twitch stream and asked, ‘Is there anything you’d like to request of Garth for this record?’ Everyone was like, ‘Turn up the vocals!’ So, for Lightwork, I was like, ‘As long as I can get behind what I’m saying, then sure! Turn them up!’”

So what are you saying on this album?

“I don’t know! Ha ha ha! I think I’m looking around at all the chaos and depression and suicides and all these sorts of things. I’ve always been of the mindset that music doesn’t come from musicians; it exists in the aether, and you try and drag it out. I just hope that there’s some inspiration or strength that can be taken from it. Don’t give up, I guess that’s the whole point.”

So will this be the best Devin Townsend album?

“I think they’re all kind of shit, depending on my mood. It’s the best version of Devin Townsend that I can be right now. It’s marginally better than it was a couple years ago, but it’s also more tired.” 

Lightwork will be out in the second half of 2022 via InsideOut

Devin Townsend Studio

(Image credit: InsideOut)
Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.