Canadian musician/producer Devin Townsend found an unlikely supporter in oft-reviled NICKELBACK frontman Chad Kroeger, who offered Townsend some key bits advice before Devin embarked on the songwriting process for his new "Empath" studio album. Opposites in many respects, Townsend originally connected with Kroeger after tweeting his fondness for NICKELBACK's recent "Feed The Machine" album, drawing the expected round of derision from his followers. When the two finally met, Kroeger 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 the "Talk Toomey" podcast (audio below at the 11-minute mark), Townsend was asked to elaborate on Kroeger's involvement on "Empath", which is primarily found on the song "Hear Me":
"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," Devin said. "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 their '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 my Twitter feed, it's like something you would reserve for great dramas. The next day because him 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 uncompromised,' 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."
"Empath" will be released on March 29 via InsideOut Music. Joining Devin on the album is Frank Zappa alumni Mike Keneally as music director, as well as Morgan Ågren (MATS AND MORGAN, FRANK ZAPPA, FREDRIK THORDENDAL), Anup Sastry (MONUMENTS, PERIPHERY), Samus Paulicelli (DECREPIT BIRTH, ABIGAIL WILLIAMS), Nathan Navarro, Elliot Desagnes, Steve Vai, Kroeger, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Ché Aimee Dorval, Ryan Dhale and the Elektra Women's Choir.