Interview by SolitaryMan
This interview was something of a dream come true. What made it so much better than I
expected was how Devin answered so many of my questions without me having to ask them.
KS: I suppose we should start out with your new album. I've had a chance to listen to it
quite a bit since it's been out and I'm very impressed with it. I've been a fan for a number
of years, and I'm hearing a lot of different textures and tones to it. I guess I just wanted
to ask you first off about that, about the differences between "Ki" and what you've done in
the past. How you see it.
DT: I appreciate it, I mean, the thing I'm trying to make clear with "Ki" is that it's a
four record process. I've written so much music over the past 3 years and I just couldn't
fit it all into one disc or a double disc, and everytime I did it ended up screwing up what
it's supposed to be about. So, with "Ki", it's kind of a quiet record, it's still heavy but
it doesn't ever really let it go. A lot of people who have heard the record and have been
fans of the prior output may be a little off-put by that but I think the thing to remember
is, it's the beginning of this big musical thing. In context it makes a lot of sense. In
context it actually is intrigal to how the four records are supposed to flow.
DT: With "Ki" though, it was a really interesting process with me on this one because I've
spent so much time with that prior sound, you know, the really compressed, wall-of-sound,
super-heavy guitars, screaming and all that stuff. I still love that stuff and it's
definitely apart of the next three records but with "Ki" I really wanted to try and make
something that, right off the bat, was different. And seeing as how it's an introduction, I
didn't want to beat people over the head with things in the very first instance of this
musical endeavor, so I decided to give them something that was quiet, and not very
compressed and pretty dynamic. In a way, the invitation this record offers is "If you want
to listen, then absolutely, everything is here that I've been responsible for musically in
the past but I'm not in a position here emotionally, mentally or spiritually even to beat
people over the head with it". You know, in the past, an album like Alien by Strapping Young
Lad or Infinity by my solo project, right out of the gate it would be like "LISTEN TO ME!"
DT: And now it's kinda like, "If you wanna, it's here" and in all honesty the next albums
will make more sense if you've had a chance to digest what "Ki" is about. But again, I'm not
on a mission, I'm not making any kind of grand statement here, this is what I want to do
musically, it means a lot to me, it means a lot metaphorically to me and what-have-you. In
terms of trying to convince people and twist people's arms to get them to listen to me it's
definitely not about that, it's just what I want to do at this time.
KS: Right, and that's the biggest thing I've picked up on in comparison to your older works.
It seems like you're coming at itfrom a position where you've done so much to get people's
attention and now it's sort of turned around on you, if that makes sense.
DT: It does, yeah, and I mean I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I quit
smoking pot, right.
KS: Yeah, I've read a lot about that.
DT: Yeah, I was drinking and everything as well. My process was really heavily invested in
that, there was really this crazy sense of self-importance that I attached to it based on
whatever frame of mind I was in and a lot of times when you're in that stoned frame of mind
a lot of things seem bigger or more important than they actually are.
KS: Right, right.
DT: Not that I regret anything about my past, it's like it took me where I am and I'm happy
where I am but a lot of times I'll listen back in hindsight and think, what you're thinking
about and what you're singing about is A) really not that uncommon and B) not that
important. In the grand scheme of things it's like, you know, the first time you do acid
it's like "Oh my God, I'm the center of the universe. Oh my God, everything's just infinite
mosaic, I've got to tell everybody!" You know?
KS: [Laughs] Yeah.
DT: And then all the sudden you know, 10, 15, 20 years later you're like, everybody's been
through that, right. And I think that there's kind of a humility to music that I think was
lacking in the past because of that sense of self-importance I placed on my stuff. I can't
say all of that was equated to drinking or smoking weed, a lot of that comes directly back
to me as a person. But, even at that, I'm heading towards 40 now in terms of my age and when
I sat down to write I said "Okay, well you've got all this music" and granted, some of it is
really complicated and really heavy, but for the first record, "How do I want to present
this?" How do I want to say "Okay, it's been a few years and I'm back", how do I want to
present it? And I thought, quietly, really, because if my music is important to people
that's a byproduct of me that's putting effort into it but truly how important is it in the
grand scheme? If you're coming at your music in terms of "Well, it's the most important
thing in the world and everybody should hear it" then I think there's going to be a certain
level of delusion to the music that, I know for myself when I hear now, I think "I just
don't want to hear that" because I've got so much shit going on in my personal life now, the
last thing I need is my music to try and tell me how important it is. It's like, "Yeah but
dude, you're not", you know what I mean? What I want now is interesting music to compliment
my life. Sometimes that interesting music is really complicated, really heavy, really
screamy, and other times it's really quiet, and others it's really melodic so...with these
four records I guess the point is "Well here's a whole bunch of stuff" you know? And it's
important to me because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to invest any kind of emotional
energy into making it complete. But in terms of what it means to you, my hope is that it
just contributes to your musical world.
KS: Yeah, and I think that, at least for fans that have followed you closely over your
career, that this sort of brings about, not a new face to your music, but it's definitely
more honest and approachable and...
DT: Yeah and isn't it funny, you know, I think the thing is like I convinced myself over the
years that I needed to be high to create, you know?
KS: Yeah, I can understand that too.
DT: All the sudden when you get rid of it, it's like...a lot of the reason why I felt like I
needed to is because I spent so much time investing myself into that process so I thought no
one was going to...you know, I'm such a fucking nerd...
KS: [laughs much]
DT: ... that if I present that true face to people that no one's going to accept that. And I
guess when you do present that it's like, "Well, we always knew dude. The only person who
really wasn't in on the joke was you dude."
KS: [laughs]. I think, really, it' shown through your music in the past but like you said
it's always been in a sort of diluted manner, I don't want to say self-centered but...
DT: Oh no, 100% man, 100%. It's like the "Me Show Starring Me", right.
DT: But I mean it's like, whatever. You have a baby and people in your family die and you
get a little older and you realize, there's so many humans, people around the world, let
alone people who listen to the shit. And like, everybody's got people who die and people who
are being born and to kind of impose your, like, "Yeah but what about me?" on their
situation, as I get older it's kinda like, "I don't have time for you" you know? Make me
some music that I'd like to listen to if you don't mind because honestly it's like, all
these problems that I've got, it's like "Join the club", right?
KS: [laughs] Yeah, well, I think for me personally anyway, you've always sort of addressed
those issues one way or the other and, even in the past it's been very theraputic to listen
to some of your music.
DT: And I appreciate that, and I think the thing is that it's been very theraputic to do it
as well and that's why I say I definitely don't regret anything, absolutely not. Because
even some of the processes, some of the self-centered, diluted processes I've been through
admitidelly, have led me to a place now where I can reflect on that and say I don't want to
do that anymore, right. It's not that I regret it or that I feel the need to apologize for
it or anything but now I can listen back and...do I listen to any of my old music now?
Absolutely not. A lot of times I'll put a record on and it's like, dude it's so
claustrophobic for my head right now...
KS: Yeah, I can understand that
DT: And that being said, the third record of this four-record process is a VERY complicated
record, it's almost more complicated than Infinity or Alien but in a way I guess it's not
as, you know, paranoid I guess is the bottom line. I mean I do love listening to complicated
music like, you listen to Stravinsky or...not that I'm relating myself to him but in terms
of complicated ideas, I love it. But if it's kind of, twins with that sense of paranoia it's
like listening to the soundtrack of a nervous breakdown.
KS: [laughs] Yeah.
DT: I think, in order to do that though I really had to come to some conclusions and have
some losses and have things happen to make me say, you know, because a couple years back I
didn't even want to do music anymore but now I'm just like, of course I want to do music, I
just don't want to fucking make paranoid music because it's like, how are you supposed to do
interviews about paranoia, right? It's like you're curling up into a ball after every
interview or performance and it's obviously something that needs to be addressed. So, by
addressing it over the past few years I just came to the conclusion that, you know, don't
smoke bro, right? Some people can smoke and be totally fine and other people like myself
don't even realize when they're smoking that 90% of their confusion and paranoia is based on
the fact that...you know...maybe I'm predisposed to something that drugs just don't react
KS: Yeah and I can speak personally on that, you know, I smoked for a number of years and
just recently quit and I realized it was putting me in a place where I felt more comfortable
but at the same time it put me in a place so far outside of myself I wasn't really aware of
what I was doing.
DT: Exactly. That is the best way I've heard it explained and that's exactly what I found. I
guess that's one of the interesting things about doing interviews now, I find other people
who feel the same but I mean, it's just strange and in a weird way embarassing because, the
thing with weed and me is like, here in Vancouver it's like everybody smokes. EVERYBODY
smokes and trying to quit was brutal cuz it's like "Hey, you're gonna quit eh? Good luck
with that man."
KS: [laughs]. Yeah it's the same way here.
DT: And then when I finally quit I remember looking around going, "Wow, I wonder if everyone
in my world is playing this game based on everyone being high as fuck", you know? Because I
know when I finally quit smoking there'd be people sending me lyrics and all this metaphoric
stuff and it was like, yeah I was totally participating in all that a couple years back but
right now man, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Maybe if I took a toke it would make
sense to me but it doesn't, right? I don't know what to tell you. So, with the music I'm
making now it's like, I remember in the past people would say "Oh yeah, I listen to your
records and I do drugs" and it's like this whole other thing going on, right? And it was
this real, conscience thing that was going on because I was participating in it. But now I'm
just not. And what do I want from my music? I want music that's heavy, I want music that's
beautiful, I want it to be complicated I want music that contributes to my life and I don't
want to spend a whole bunch of time thinking about some other thing that's going on in my
music because that implies that kind of paranoid, contraversy, you know, conspiracy shit.
You know, I've got a friend who's always hung up on conspiracy shit, like "Man the
government's looking at you and there's aliens" and all this shit and it's like, until it
happens, I've got all this other shit in my life to contend with that I just don't have the
time or the patience to worry about it, you know. If the government is tapping my emails all
they're gonna get is business shit, you know, like talking about CDs and apple cobbler
recipies you know? I doubt the government is going to worry too much about that shit.
DT: So in terms of conspiracies and in terms of metaphor that implies itself to drugs, of
course it exists but I'm not participating in it. I did for years and what it ended up doing
for me is making it very difficult for me to do what I was doing, which was music, I just
stopped being able to do it because everything had this other meaning. And I realized when I
stopped doing it, it's not like those other meanings went away, but it's definitely
something that my connection to it isn't conscious. And I think you should be free to do
whatever you do, and that you're accountable for everything you do of course, and if you're
participating in it without participating in that sort of illusion, then, there you go and
if you like it you like it and if you don't you don't.
KS: Yeah, and you can take more credibility for it in that sense, because...
DT: Absolutely dude. And when people ask me a question about it in an interview and it's
like "Well this means that..." and I'm like "Okay, next question?"
DT: You know, it's not like "Wow, I never thought about that". No, it's like I didn't think
about that because that doesn't apply to why I wrote it. Maybe someone in a different frame
of mind could think this or that or the other thing but if you ask me what this is about,
THIS is what it's about. And I think in the past one reason why I had such a hard time doing
interviews is because I couldn't answer questions. People would be saying "Why did you do
that?" and I'd say "I don't know". It was like 15 different things were coming to mind at
that point and of course you're going to end up sounding like a nut-job. But without that
I'm just kinda like, but this is what it's about dude, like...the other day I had someone
say to me, well "Trainfire" or "Ki" is about this or that and...interpretation's always a
good thing but honestly, "Trainfire" is about getting away from porno.
DT: Yeah, totally. I found that while I was quitting drugs and drinking, porn is like this
crack-cocaine on the internet. I mean nobody really talks about it, nobody wants to admit
they masturbate like monkeys at night, right?
KS: [laughs] Right.
DT: So it's like, when I was trying to get rid of it I realized, it's another thing that's
hard to get rid of because you're addicted to that sort of pleasure. And you realize at the
end, the end result is that you percieve the world differently because of it. It's like, for
myself, I'd be watching porn all the time and thinking, well that beautiful woman is an
asshole, you know.
KS: Yeah, I do.
DT: So I think the whole idea of what the songs are about and all that, it's a personal
thing and interpretation is good but I have to be very clear when it comes to someone saying
"Well the song's about this or that" and I'm like, actually it doesn't. It means that to
you, but that's not what it's about, so...
KS: Yeah, I was gonna fall into that too and I had a temptation to ask you about a few
different songs and...
DT: Well go ahead, go ahead.
KS: But from what you're saying now it's like, especially with past music it might come more
clearer to you now but you know it's not something everyone is really gonna...care about
or...even if they do it's like they're gonna think "I already knew what it was about and I
don't need your opinions on it".
DT: Totally, totally. It's like, if you need to be accountable for everything you do, which
you do as an artist or a musician, then you also have to stand by what it originally means
regardless of anyone else's interpretations of it. And you need to be honest with it as
well, it's like, this is what it's about. And the only way I can create music at this point
is by honestly doing what I feel I want to do musically. And sometimes that's a little more
basic and a little more embarassing than you'd lead yourself to believe. Sometimes when
people are coming up to me and saying "The songs are about this or this" and I'm like "Well
that's fascinating, I wish I would have thought of that when I wrote it but really it's
about a peanut butter sandwich"
DT: But I think that the beauty of music lies in the fact that what the musician's
motivation in terms of writing, just takes things in different directions. And again, coming
back to music contributing to someone's world, that's what it's there for. I'm not there to
force my ideas down somebody's throat, you know...I don't even know what I stand for, you
know I'm getting better ideas as the years go by but...I'm not on a mission or anything,
like "Join the cult of Dev" or anything like that. Each record is a process of elimination
so I can progress as a human more than anything else. And some years what I've learned as a
musician is less than others and some years it' like more clear and whatever but I mean, the
nature of how I write music is that I attach lyrics and melodies to moments of emotional
signifigance and sometimes that resonates with some people and sometimes it doesnt. And I
think when people say, like, why don't you go back and do Strapping Young Lad I'm like well,
I can only do what's honest and the motivation for SYL...that band started when I was 23,
you know? And a lot of the things that made that band relevant, and made that one of my
favorite bands and something that I loved and am very proud of are things that in a way I've
already resolved, you know, by way of the nature of the music. So to go back to that I'd
have to get totally drunk and do tons of acid and smoke weed and all that shit and then what
you end up doing is that you're not doing it for yourself, you're doing it for everyone else
and as a result you become this sort of pathetic martyr, right?
DT: It's like "Well I'm doing it for the fans" and it's like, why are you doing that you
dumb shit? You got people in your life that rely on you to be a solid cat and if you're
doing it for other people it's because you're like super-obsessed and attached to people's
perception of you. People don't even know you, you know?
KS: Yeah, totally.
DT: So, I mean, in terms of music and all that, there's room for people who want to be a
martyr and all but that's not what I'm doing. Music is just about representing the years as
life goes by. And you know, there's going to be some people who only listen to what I did
when I was 24 and that's it, you know? Like there's going to be these interviews where it's
like...you know...one of my favorite quotes is "Dude, I'm your biggest fan but I haven't
liked anything you did since City."
DT: I guess that makes you a big fan of that record but I mean in terms of like, being a fan
of the music or whatever, I don't actually know if that's true, you know.
KS: [laughs throughout], Definitely.
DT: You know, I was 24 dude! I'm almost 40 now! What do you want me to do, go back and be
like "FUCK THE WORLD, FUCK THE WORLD, I'M SUPER PISSED AT EVERYTHING!" It's like "I am
super-pissed off at everything, fuck the world!" right? I also realized a few years back I
can scream and yell about shit all I want but you know what? 90% of the shit I'm pissed at
isn't going to change and honestly, I'm just fucking tired. [laughs]
KS: Yeah, yeah and you know your music has always been very evolutionairy in the way it's
grown and...even within the Strapping records...
DT: Totally, totally
KS: Like, between the first one and City, you can tell that the anger's more...I guess
potent, you'd say. It's more up front and in your face.
KS: And I think Alien is where that peaked, where the rage peaked. I know you did one after
DT: I agree, man. And it was like after that, after Alien and then for The New Black, I had
to try so hard to make those records. And the thing about City is...like...I'm proud of
Alien and The New Black, you know for what it is but...with City I didn't have to try at
ALL. That's where I was man. I was 25 years old and when I picked up the guitar, that's the
music that was there. As opposed to Alien and The New Black when I had to sit there and
write and think about it and try to take myself to these emotional places that were like
dark or whatever to try and reconnect with it and I mean, in hindsight that's the
thing...Yeah, I'm cool with it and I'm proud with it...but in hindsight it's like, "Why are
you having to do that? As an artist, what's your motivation to try and do that?" Is it
because you're trying to live up to what everyone expects from you? And I'm thinking, okay,
the thing that makes City a great album is the same thing that makes Ki a great album.
KS: Absolutely. The honesty shines through.
DT: That's where I was, that's what I felt like doing. And I have a feeling that a record
like City might resonate with more people than a record like Ki because, it's like, there
might not be as many people in the "Ki Place', you know? But, whatever man, it's like...the
options would be me doing something contrary to my nature. The last time I did something
like that I was on tour for 11 months and couldn't do interviews and I was, like, dreading
getting up on stage. And at the time I was like "Well what's wrong with me, what's wrong
with me?" And then I quit smoking weed and it was like, "Well, that's what was wrong with
KS: Yeah, that's an absolute detriment to a lifestyle like that. I mean, even if you
naturally don't want to do those things and have to kind of push yourself to do them, adding
a substance like that is only going to make it harder you know?
DT: That's the thing, but the other thing is it's like...well it's weed, weed is
just...great you know, there's nothing wrong with it, it's kind of natural and there isn't
anything wrong with it. Then it turns out that that's not the case.
KS: Yeah, totally.
DT: Well look man, I've got to get going, I've got a ton more interviews to do so...
KS: Oh I understand man, I actually lost track of time there, my apologies.
DT: No problem man. I really appreciate the interview and, I hope you have a good one and it
was great talking to you. I've got three more records this year so hopefully we can talk
KS: All this year huh?
KS: Alright man, well, I look forward to doing this again if we can.
DT: Alright, cheers man.