Devin Townsend sold out, then decided not to

Posted by on January 26, 2015

Devin Townsend is one of the hardest-working and unique artists in metal. And while he’s capable of writing everything from complete ragers to albums that could be played while getting a massage, a lot of his songs are extremely hooky and commercial. For example, listen to “Sky Blue,” then compare it to Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love.” If Heavy Devy really wanted to, he could co-write songs for stars, much the way Butch Walker does, and have many more fans than the admittedly large cult following he already has. It turns out, he tried that a few months ago, and hated it so much that you’ll most likely never hear it. In an interview with Decibel, Townsend talks about it a bit:

I went to L.A. two months ago because some people in my world thought, “This [uncertainty] is dangerous for your future, so you need to go write with somebody.  So I went to L.A. and I wrote with a team who produced all the Nickelback stuff recently, Daughtry, all the American Idol people who win, and I wrote a song with them.  And I hate it in such a way that is hard for me to quantify.

Hate the song or hated the process?

Both.  I really like the guys, I think they’re really talented, but I told them yesterday or the day before that I’m not putting it out.  There’s no fucking way I’m putting it out.  I can’t spend twenty-five years sticking to my guns to try and sell people this.  It’s everything I dislike about music, with my voice on it.  It’s fucking disgusting.  It’s not their fault, but with my voice on it, it’s just not where I’m at.

So I told everybody that I’m not putting it out, and now we have to pay for it, but what are you gonna do?  To put that out, all of a sudden you have to pay fifty grand to put it on active rock [radio] and then you have to go and do interview and try and sell something you don’t like.  I have honesty Tourette’s, man, and that’s gonna cause me nothing but grief.  But I tried it.  With that whole scene, you pay to get a Number 1 song.  This is how it works:  these are the chords you can use in the summer, these are the chords you can use in the winter, here are the topics that sell…

The whole rest of the interview, which is part three of a three-part series, is pretty great, in that Townsend is honest, almost to a fault. It can be best summed up by the last line of the interview, in which he states: I’m not afraid of succeeding doing something that I love.  I’m afraid of succeeding doing something that I don’t like.” Read parts 1 and 2 here and here.

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