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‘I took mushrooms and thought I was God’: inside the brain of Devin Townsend

From confronting mental health issues to giving up drugs, the path to enlightenment hasn’t been smooth for Devin Townsend. With his new record he’s realising it’s OK not to reach nirvana

Universal enlightenment seems like an implausible goal right now. We live in scary times, where even the most pragmatic of artists must be struggling to find positive things to write about, and yet the new Devin Townsend Project album appears – superficially, at least – to offer the great man’s fans some sort of path to a higher state of consciousness and a better way of life. It’s called Transcendence, implying that Devin is on the way to exceeding his expectations as a human being and gliding majestically past life’s struggles on the way to a more meaningful existence (even if the title of the lead-off track is Failure).

Of course, this is Devin we’re talking about, and fans of his work will already be itching to scratch the surface of the new album to find out what he’s really banging on about this time. The record’s dazzling artwork certainly hints at some kind of holistic reconciliation with notions of spirituality, and the gorgeous, uplifting music contained within may send many of us into a state of frothing rapture. But as we speak to Devin, it is obvious that he has anticipated – and, perhaps, deliberately elicited – such well-meant misinterpretations.

“Ultimately, I have to point out that I have transcended nothing!” he laughs. “I know less now than I did 10 minutes ago. The true nature of life is fucking astounding, and none of us know shit. I get so frustrated when people claim to know anything! My favourite quote I ever heard was, ‘If you really think you’re enlightened, go and spend a week with your family!’ Ha ha ha!”

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