Devin Townsend Names the Guitarist Who Made Him Give Up Shredding
Devin Townsend has evolved as a musician over the years and during a recent chat with Ultimate-Guitar.com, the singer-guitarist revealed that there was actually a pretty prominent guitarist that influenced his decision to give up the more technical elements of shredding in his playing. That guitarist would be Steve Vai.
It wasn't anything that Vai said to him, but came about more from working with the guitar great and coming the realization of what he wanted to do on his own. When asked why he gave up his pursuit of shredding, Townsend summed it up succinctly, "I got a gig singing for Steve Vai."
He then added, "I was watching him play and I was like, 'Nah, I'm good. I'll play rhythm.' [laughs] I mean, my style has developed and I really like how I play now. It's kind of a combination of fingers and pick and there's a lot of echo and a lot of chords. And I really like it."
"But when I was a kid, I remember learning how to sweep and tap and all this. Then I moved to LA, I was 19 years old, 20 years old, and I was sitting beside Steve Vai in his studio. I was so fortunate. And I was watching him play and I was like, you know, it's like you're in a wrestling match and you have to tap out I was like, 'You know what? I think I'm gonna write my songs. He can be the guitar God.' Because he is."
Townsend then added, "By watching him and seeing the level of discipline that he had to put into being that guitar player, I realized that wasn't my goal. And it took being with him for me to recognize that. When I was a kid, I was like, that's all I wanted to do. I wanted to be on Shrapnel Records and, you know, play like Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine, Yngwie, Steve and Van Halen. But then, as I got older, I started realizing that my way of writing, you know, writing with the weather, writing with the environment, is much more in line with my truth, than woodshedding and being faster than everybody else."
The singer-guitarist says he would have been impressed by some of today's players if he'd seen them in his youth, but adds that it doesn't necessarily interest him musically as a player now. "Some of it does, but musically, it doesn't speak to me. I've got a certain amount of capacity for technique, and I think I'm a good guitar player. But I'm happy to say that my style sounds like me. And that's, I guess, what I needed to learn through all these experiences," revealed Townsend.
The shift in playing certainly hasn't hindered Townsend over the years, as he's been one of the more prolific artists in metal since appearing on Vai's 1993 effort, Sex & Religion. He went on to play in Strapping Young Lad, front his self-titled band projects and is now settled into a solo career. His most recent album, Lightwork, came out last November. The singer-guitarist is currently on tour in Europe with dates booked into early April.