Canadian multi-instrumentalist Devin Townsend was recently interviewed by Decibel Magazine. Check out what he had to say about recording a pop song:
Other than playing shows, what have you been doing since you wrapped up Z2?
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…
Oh my god, dude, it’s a formula.
I’m sure it is, I just didn’t realize it was that rigid.
Neither did I. We’re talking about, well, U2 had a chord structure off The Joshua Tree that works every time. You go on active rock radio and you see what’s popular, you get the tempos and the chords, and there’s people who make millions off of that. I don’t begrudge it because I actually think it’s fascinating, and I think a lot of the people who are involved with that… it’s brilliant. But for me, music is about expressing the unexpressable, and as I get older, man, what I feel the need to express becomes less and less poignant to others. It’s a shame. When people are like, “Nothing you’ve done is as good as you did when you were younger.” And I’m like, “You may be right.” But what I’m doing now is exactly what I feel like I should be doing. So what do you do? Do you go write a fucking pop song and cash in and then spend the rest of your life thinking, “I could have stuck to my guns but instead I sucked a cock…”