Enlarge Photo Credit: Miikka Skaffari

Devin Towsend Opens Up About New Record Empath, Release Planned for March 2019


Devin Townsend has been working on four new albums since disbanding The Devin Townsend Project, and he’s currently deep in writing mode for the first of those releases, titled Empath (he also recently revealed he’s working on a new Ziltoid album and video game, although it seems as if that’s not included in the “four albums” thing and it’s unclear where it fits into the release timeline).

In a new interview with Metal Wani [transcribed by Ultimate Guitar] Devin has gone quite a bit more in depth about Empath. While he’s currently focused on writing, some ideas have begun to percolate regarding its eventual release (as well as the other three records he’s currently working on), including the possibility of putting it out as a double album. When asked how he’ll release it, he answered (in Devin’s typical psychotherapy session-like style):

“[Laughs] God, I don’t know man. Maybe you can help me with that because I’m struggling with that every day. I just write. At this point, what I’ve done is I’ve scheduled my time that I’ve got ‘off’ into parcels of productivity.

“And currently I’m not thinking about how I’m gonna do it live, I’m not thinking about what comes out on what record. All I’m doing is just writing, and I’m writing constantly.

“That material has come out in a lot of different ways. There’s a real healthy orchestral element, there’s a surprisingly heavy element, throwback to Strapping [Young Lad] in a certain way, there’s a really melodic and commercial aspect that’s come out, there’s a really avant-garde super super proggy part, and there’s a really mellow part.

“Technically, if I was following the same trajectory as what I had done with DTP, I could put these all out as different albums and release them concurrently. But I think it’s important for me to recognize the reason I did that during the beginning of DTP is because that’s what was important for me to do.

“That process of putting out different music consecutively was a real fundamental part of that period and growth. And I don’t know if that’s the case right now.

“So what may be the alternative is to make an album, at least this first one, ‘Empath,’ that includes all of that in some ways. At first I was trying to fit it all into a single record, but I think in my mind I was trying to compete or at least be cognizant of the fact that ‘Transcendence’ came prior and that was a very concise statement.

“And there’s a certain amount of people I think are gonna be expecting the follow-up to that should be similar. But the more I think about it, I’m just like, ‘Man, this is not ‘Transcendence.’ This is a really disparate collection of songs.’

“And so even the title ‘Empath,’ the idea with it is… The older I get, the more I recognize my emotional immaturity. For example, I look back at Strapping and I was trying to understand anger, I was trying to understand fear. I look back at [2003 solo album] ‘Accelerated Evolution’ – I’m trying to understand love, I’m trying to understand depression.

“All these things are clear to me – that my music has been a convenient way for me to figure myself out emotionally. So when it has come now to this ‘Empath’ thing, and because I’ve written tons of angry stuff, tons of happy stuff, tons of crazy stuff, perhaps what this period is is an opportunity for all that sort of that to sort of exist together in one place.

“And then when the record comes out – as the title ‘Empath’ would suggest – you’re feeling these emotions – you just go between all these different emotions in one place.

“But this period is really just about me writing. And even subconsciously, I’m kind of making mental notes as to perhaps we’ll do it that way, perhaps we won’t do it that way… I’m gonna wait until the end of this month to look at what I’ve done and then really decide.

“The bottom line is: it’s the same as I’ve always done, but it’s a different period so it has to come out differently.”

If you’re a Devin fanboy/fangirl, you can keep reading:

“When I do demos, I get songs to like 80% finished. They’re not like sketches for the most part. If an idea is good enough for me to pursue, the demos are really complete. So when the decision has been made as to which songs go on and which songs don’t go on, the rest of the stuff could come out at any point.

“Now, one of the couple of things could happen. At first I thought ‘Empath’ should be a single record for a couple of reasons. Number one: I always thought that double records just suck. I always thought it was too much material. My impression was always, ‘Couldn’t they have just like cut it down a bit?’

“But the more I start listening to this, the more I’m trying to get all these emotions into one place. There’s a part of me that really thinks maybe this is just one of those records. Maybe this is a double record that includes all the best parts of what I’ve done recently.

“And then, all the stuff that doesn’t make it– I mean, it will always come out. It will find a way wether or not it’s bonus tracks or Germany needs an extra song or Japan needs an extra song or India needs an extra song… There’s always a call for a lot of extra material, so that’s never an issue.

“But unfortunately for my pride on some level, I think the record I’m making now is a super-bloated, super-progressive, chaotic, beautiful thing that I just think I need to purge. I think I just need to make it – it is what it is and it acts as a stop gap between what I’ve been doing with DTP and maybe what I’ll do next with the ‘Moth.’”

Asked when Empath will come out, Devin replied:

“Well, I’ve been working on ‘Empath’ music for about a year and a half now. So that’s really great. I’m so fortunate to have been able to do that. But I have to deliver the record by the end of November. And the release is March of next year.”

Something that far off should be treated more as a rough sketch than a firm release date, but still, hey, something to look forward to in the first half of 2019, conservatively. And it sounds like we may get a Ziltoid album in between. Hooray Devin!

Townsend will release Ocean Machine – Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv on July 6th, a live set featuring a full performance of his classic album Ocean Machine and set of greatest hits with the Orchestra of Plovdiv State Opera. Check out “Regulator” from that release below, and pre-order here.

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