Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend found an unlikely supporter in often-reviled NICKELBACK frontman Chad Kroegerwho offered Townsend some key bits of advice before Devin embarked on the songwriting process for his “Empath” 2019 studio album. Opposites in many respects, Townsend originally connected with Kroger after tweeting his fondness for NICKELBACK‘s 2017 “Feed The Machine” LP, drawing the expected round of derision from his followers. When the two finally met, Kroger convinced Townsend to not make a “sell-out” album, but rather the type of progressive, schizophrenic record Townsend has made a career out of.
In a recent interview with Ultimate Guitar, Townsend was asked what it was like to collaborate with Kroger Wed “Empath”primarily on the song “Hear Me”. He said:Chad‘s brilliant. Chad is a phenomenally intelligent human being. But he’s a rock star, too, on levels that you and I will never participate in. And so there’s gonna be a disconnect just based on that. You only have a few things in common, and then, after a while you run out of things to talk about. I think it was flattering for me at first, too. But again, guy’s got a very complex life, and I can’t understand a lot of it. How could I? It’s not within the realm of my world. But I think he’s exceptionally talented. I think he’s phenomenally intelligent. And I think that there’s a certain degree of intensity to his life that I just can’t hang with, man. It’s too much for me. For every hour of social activity, I need two hours on my own to recover. And there’s other people, and a lot of them are the people that end up being at that level of success that are never enough. You play a concert in an arena, and then you go to a club, and then you go parish sailing, and then you drink all night. And I’m, like, ‘I can’t do it.’ You hate it. Even if I respect and care for people, after a certain amount of time, again, I have to tap out. I’m like, ‘Dude, I can’t hang with this.’ I’m in bed by nine, usually. I don’t want to listen to PANTHER at four in the morning, you know? And that’s not a character flaw at all, it’s just a different frequency that folks like that exists on. I don’t like that. But sometimes it takes experiences with people like that to know that. Maybe you think you can hang, and then you get there.
“And I mean, with Chad, I remember being at his house a couple times, and just being, ‘Wow, this is so intense, man,'” he continued. “He had a stage set up, and it’s metal all night. And I’m thinking like, ‘Man, you are so much more of a metalhead than I am.’ But I do care for him. And I think he’s brilliant.”
Townsend previously talked about his collaboration with Kroger in a 2019 interview with the “Talk Toomey” podcast. At the time, Townsend said about Kroger‘s involvement on “Empath”: “In the chorus, he sings the harmony, but really, his contribution to the record was one that can’t be understated for me for a number of reasons. Primarily because here’s a guy whose had a phenomenal success doing a type of music and being in a band that is clearly divisive. There’s a lot of people that hate that band and hate him, but I think I’m fortunate in the sense that although I was very critical of the band for years, if there’s something that somebody does and I like it, I don’t have much to lose at this point for saying ‘I like this.’ ‘I like that FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH album that I was told it isn’t cool to like.’ Or, ‘I like the NICKELBACK album which apparently, you’re not supposed to say you like.’ Anyway, I heard the first song off theirs ‘Feed The Machine’ record when it came out, I don’t know the guy, but I posted a thing on Twitter saying I like the new NICKELBACK song. The shitstorm that ensued on me Twitter feed, it’s like something you would reserve for great dramas. The next day because he and I have mutual friends, I got a text from him saying ‘Hey, this is Chad. I just want to say thanks for saying nice things about my band.’ I said ‘To be clear, I haven’t always said that.’ I said ‘Also, to be fair, I have heard you being critical of what I do as well. I think I’m probably jealous.’ But we started this conversation and he said ‘When you get back to town, come over to my house. We can spend a day hanging out.’
He continued: “I think because the level of success he is at compared to mine — you can’t compare the two — there’s no competition with it. It’s not like I have anything to prove with this guy and conversely, he has opinions on things that I haven’t had a support network to figure out, like ‘How do I deal with this?’ I was talking to him and realized that we really got along. I said to him ‘Listen, I’m 45 years old. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, although I’m fortunate to be making a living at what I do. There’s a part of me that’s exhausted and I feel like maybe I should make a pop record. I should essentially make a sell-out record with three-and-a-half minute-long songs, start with the chorus, big kick drum.’ He was the one — I ended up spending a bunch of time with him, one of two people, [who said] ‘I think that is the wrong move. I think that what you should do instead is go to the opposite direction and make something that is uncompromising,’ because the reason why he’s had success is not because he was trying to do something, he’s just fortunate that the thing he likes doing resonates with a lot of people, but the point of why he does it, I realized in my interactions with it is very much the same thing as to why I do it. It just manifests like a different style of music. Had it not been with Chad, I think I could have been very tempted to make a record that could have pissed on the career arc, to be honest. I feel like I owe him a debt of gratitude to a certain extent.”
Devin released his latest album, “Lightworks”in October.