Devin Townsend Talks Music Industry Disillusionment: “The Illusion Was Shattered So Quickly”
When he moved to Los Angeles to work with Steve Vai on 1993’s Sex & Religion, a young Devin Townsend still had a lot of ideas about the music industry and the ways in which it worked. Like many musicians, Townsend said he was very into the idea of moving there, knowing famous people, playing nice gear and ultimately just living the rockstar dream. Of course, reality is less exciting than your head sometimes, as he discussed in a new interview.
“You try to play it off nonchalantly, but it was crazy, man… This sounds weird — but it was actually simultaneously disheartening…
“I had fetishized the whole idea of moving to Los Angeles, having an Ibanez guitar, knowing and going to functions with these people you might only see in magazines, without any expectation of it ever happening.
“And so, when it did, it was like, ‘Oh, [this famous person] just a dude. And that guy’s really short, and this guitar that I always wanted actually sort of sucks to play.’ And there’s all this stuff about it that just seems like the illusion was shattered so quickly.”
Townsend was quick to clarify that Vai treated him well and that none of his criticisms relate to the guitarist, who is grateful to.
“It had very little to do with Steve. He’s offered me an incredible opportunity, it changed my life, and has set me up in a scenario here where we’re talking today. So before I answer that further, it’s important that that’s a foregone conclusion there.
“But I wasn’t happy because since the very beginning — well, at least since I started putting together my own musical thoughts — I had always perceived the nature of music to be rooted in something beyond people, divine in a way.
“And then when I was in LA all of a sudden, it’s a wake-up call. And again, it’s not Steve, it’s not any of the people around him, but it’s Los Angeles, man. It’s the music industry and the acting industry.
“These are infamous for being populated with people that are trying, and maybe their connection to their work. There are people that have that [grounded air] — Steve, of course, being one of them — but there’s a lot of people that are just… It’s a vehicle for validation, or it’s a vehicle for fame.”
Anyone who’s read an interview with Townsend before—or heard some of his wacky projects—knows that the musician takes the process of creation very seriously, so no surprises that Townsend’s style and the corporate musical world didn’t jive. He’s done just fine sticking to his guns anyway.