"Marillion and Yes? Nah, I liked Motörhead": Inside the world of Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend against a black background

Where’s home?

I live in Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Earliest prog memory?

I had a guitar teacher who gave me Marillion and Yes records, but I didn’t like ’em! I really liked Motörhead, you know?

First prog record bought?

Kilroy Was Here by Styx! I bought it from Discus Records at the Guildford Mall.

First prog gig you attended?

I guess it was Mr Bungle, but I preferred the support band, Grotus. They blew my mind!

Favourite piece of technology?

I’ve got a Vitamixer. It kicks ass. You can grind up anything. Aside from that, it has to be Pro-Tools.

What would your prog Mastermind subject be?

I don’t know anything! (laughs)

Your biggest prog extravagance?

Well, the Retinal Circus and Royal Albert Hall shows are up there in terms of prog nerdery. I got given a double-neck guitar once, but it was a piece of shit!

Favourite prog venue?

I think I like outdoor festivals most, especially when it’s raining!

Outside of prog, what are you into?

I’m into woodwork. I go down to the beach, collect driftwood and make shitty furniture out of it. I also like sitting, drinking coffee and doing fuck all.

Any guilty musical pleasures?

I like some pop and country music, but I don’t feel guilty about it.

Tell us a surprising fact about you that nobody knows.

When I’m on my own, I don’t talk much. That’s surprising, right? The inner monologue continues, though.

Your all-time prog hero?

Captain Beefheart. He was trying to write pop songs but it just sounded like he was randomly hitting things, and I love that obliviousness to everything. He was out of his mind and he didn’t know!

What do you collect?

I’ve got a bunch of cool rocks on my window sill. I’ve got four of them. I like sticks and rocks!

What was the last prog album you bought?

The Interstellar soundtrack, by Hans Zimmer. It gives me goosebumps.

What was the last prog gig you saw?

It could have been Opeth or Steven Wilson or maybe Between The Buried & Me… I can’t remember which!

Who in the prog fraternity do you call for a good night out?

Mikael Åkerfeldt and I were close for a while, but then we wound up with the same management and drifted apart! (laughs)

What’s the most important prog song for you personally?

This could be controversial, but Sky Babies by The Wildhearts is as prog as it gets! Such a great song.

Which prog musician would you most like to work with?

I’d love to work with Nomeansno. They’re from where I grew up. They were totally prog. I love ugly old guys playing loud music.

What prog song or album would you play to get you in a good mood?

Anything from Sing To God by Cardiacs. It’s uplifting and intense. Some of those chord changes are so unconventional and hilarious.

Who’s the best prog artist you’ve ever seen live?

I saw Steve Morse when I was a teenager. He was so great.

What is your favourite prog rock album cover?

Oh, definitely the Blue Öyster Cult album, Cultösaurus Erectus.

What are you up to at the moment?

I’m sitting in my car! I don’t want to go inside because the dogs will go apeshit. I have to go to the thrift store to get rid of another bunch of shit from the garage. I’m not here to party! (laughs)

The Devin Townsend Project’s new album Transcendence is out September 9 on InsideOut. See Devin’s website for more information.

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Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.