Devin Townsend isn’t the kind of person to make things easy for himself. In fact, it sometimes seems like this maverick Canadian musician’s entire career has consisted of a series of obstacles and challenges he’s thrown in his own way, daring himself to rise over them or trip up over his own shoelaces. Whether it was his four-albums-in-four-nights By A Thread extravaganza or his fabled Retinal Circus audio-sensory blow-out, he’s always taken a perverse delight in walking a high wire where glorious triumph and epic failure sit a hair’s breadth away from each other.
Townsend states, «I guess my objectives for my work, my life, my career, is to figure things pathological risk-taking. As you progress, all these things you’ve figured out no longer hold any challenge. And without challenge, it gets boring for me. The risk of falling on my face – and sometimes not falling on my face – is where any true progress has occurred in my work».
On a strange night in December 2019, he bought his high wire act to The Roundhouse, a converted railway shed in Camden, North London. It was the penultimate show of the tour in support of his latest album, the breath-takingly intricate and ambitious Empath, which itself found the man who made it consciously throwing off the artistic shackles he’d spent the past two decades wrapping around himself.
That night at the Roundhouse was strange partly because it was the day of the British general election, and it wasn’t going the way a lot of people in the crowd and backstage wanted.
But for the man onstage – the self-professed perfectionist around which the beautiful chaos of this evening would revolve – it was strange for another reason. This was Devin Townsend without a safety net, as captured on the brand new Blu-Ray/DVD ‘Order of Magnitude – Empath Live Volume 1’.
Townsend states, «Because of the music I make, the direction of the live shows in the last couple of years has been that so much of it is on tape. You can replicate an album well if you’ve got that. Imperfections aren’t eradicated but they’re reduced. I wanted to greet those imperfections, embrace them in a way I wouldn’t normally». The track Why?
Devin Townsend’s plan for the Empath touring cycle was to divide it up into three Volume’, and this was Volume 1. The idea behind the shows was a simple one: none of the backing tapes or click tracks that had long been necessary to bring the kaleidoscopic cacophony in his head and on his records to life in the flesh. This would just be Devin Townsend and a band of genius-level musicians getting up there and trying to keep it from spinning off into outer space. Or maybe just letting it spin-off into outer space for the sheer hell of it.
«The whole objective was that I wanted to make that statement: This is by the seat our pants. Because it’s important to me to represent this hyper anal-retentive music that I’ve made over the years, but in a human way. Rather than it just being, Well, here it is, perfectly done». The track War,
«This particular band consisted of ten people onstage, all without click tracks or backing tracks, with the aim of reproducing my work in a new and creative way. A lot of what I’ve done in the past has been very structured, and the opportunity to interpret the music with high degrees of improvisation and flow was a fantastic experience».
«This song, Genesis from my latest album Empath seemed an appropriate way to introduce this concert to the audience. It’s kind of an example of musical anarchy in some ways- as the song is all over the place structurally to begin with. But to have a chaotic piece of music, played by these extraordinary musicians I had the honor of being with, in a no-holds-barred production, was really cathartic. It was about being free to do whatever we wanted in a time where rigid ideas of what is acceptable or not are stronger than ever». Devin Townsend’s Crappy Halloween Party Rarities By Request