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We chat to The Devin Townsend Project ahead of their Melbourne shows

Metal luminary Devin Townsend is in great spirits. "I've been to Australia so many times now, and I just love it," he says.

"In fact, we recorded the drums for Epicloud in Perth. I've got a long history of being in Australia, and the first tour that I ever did was in 1997 with (Strapping Young Lad's) City. We stayed at hostels – all of us in one room – and we drove from city to city in a van.
 
“Thirty hour drives in the summer, sleeping on the floor, and we played Wagga, of all places. I've had some pretty heady experiences in Australia. It's a lot like Canada in a lot of ways. I like the humour too, because it seems to be to the point, and I dig that."
 
The unfathomably talented Townsend lives for his art. He's developed a distinctive sound, a loyal following and an incredibly prolific career by delving into the diverse likes of prog-rock, symphony, thrash, jazz fusion, country rock, blues, and has even created sci-fi comedy concept albums about coffee-loving alien warlords named Ziltoid. His latest work, 2016's Transcendence, is a theatrical foray into spirituality and human progression.
 
"A lot of times, what I do is in reaction to what came before," Townsend says. "I had a sense when Transcendence was being written and recorded that it was a bridge to another frame of mind.
 
“Even though I'm not in a position yet where I've got solid ideas as to what albums are going to be next, I've got a vision for what I want it to feel like, and it's very much in reaction to Transcendence. It's interesting to see how it's going to manifest."
 
Since disbanding his seminal extreme metal group Strapping Young Lad in 2007, Townsend has created an overwhelming catalogue of music as both a solo artist and with projects such as Casualties Of Cool, with works spanning a wide range of genres and styles. Usually finding himself with several projects at once, he never quite knows where he'll go next with his creative ventures until he's get there – and that's half the fun.
 
"I've got three or four different directions that I'm toying with, trying to figure out which one is going to light the spark more than the others," Townsend says. "One of them is a symphonic thing, and another one is this really varied and odd stylistic album. I can't get enough of an idea of what it's going to end up as, but I have a feeling that it's going to be a lot of dynamic things – some really dark stuff and some really light stuff."
 
As great as his albums are, the varied manifestations of Townsend's live shows must be seen to be believed. Whether an intimate acoustic performance or a theatrical spectacle with puppets and performers, he knows how to create a core-shaking experience.
 
"There are a lot of things that go into the decisions as to what is going to be a live show, but I prefer to think of them as separate entities," Townsend says. "That allows me to not worry too much about the practical reality of what's to be acceptable in live format. If I don't allow myself that freedom in the studio, there's a good chance that it will – at least up until this point – end in a compromised position."
 
Townsend assures that there's no distinct methodology to putting on a great show. With so many paths to take, he wants to try what feels right in the moment, for the most natural vibes possible.
"It depends on where I'm at personally as to where the show is going to go," Townsend says. "A lot of work while I'm on tour goes into keeping my frame of mind balanced, so that when I get up there, I'm not reacting to things in an unhealthy way. The result of that is a different show every night.
 
"I think a lot of the time what I'm trying to do and establish with the live show is a type of emotional momentum that leads people to a conclusion at the end. There're some songs that you think are going to go over great live and then don't, and then conversely, there's some songs that you would never think would go over well and they go over great.”
 
By Jacob Colliver

Devin Townsend Project will perform at 170 Russell on Tuesday May 23 and Wednesday May 24 (sold out) with sleepmakeswaves.