Devin Townsend Reveals How He Formed a Band With Jason Newsted, Recalls How He Started His Music Career

While recently appearing in an interview for the “Monsters, Madness and Magic” podcast, Devin Townsend looked back at how he ended up working on a project with bassist Jason Newsted who was a member of Metallica at the time. Along with Newsted and Townsend, it also featured drummer Tom Hunting of Exodus. Although they did record a demo, it only saw the light of day in the early 2000s.

Asked about how he ended up meeting Jason Newsted in the first place, Townsend recalled the early 1990s and said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I was on tour with Steve. We did a tour in Europe, and we were opening for Aerosmith. It was arenas, and the sound man that we had wasn’t cutting it.”

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“And at one of the shows in the UK, after the show, a guy came backstage and said, ‘Hello, my name is Big Mick, and I am the sound man for Metallica. Your sound man sucks. And I’m not doing anything. So I will come out and do sound for you guys if you take the band that I manage on tour with you as the opening band. That’s the stipulation.’”

That famous gig with Steve Vai ended up getting him another gig at the time. As he recalled:

“And that band was a band from the UK called The Wildhearts. And after Steve Vai and I had a big blowout on tour, I ended up doing a bunch of stupid shit, and the stupid shit that I did really made The Wildhearts think that I would be great for them. So they asked me to join the band, and then I moved to the UK in 1992 or 1993, lived there for a year and worked with them.”

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“Big Mick from Metallica was one of the two managers, and while we were on tour with The Wildhearts, we went out with Suicidal Tendencies for two months in Europe.”

Things then kind of went south. However, this was exactly what Devin needed in order to get in touch with Metallica’s Jason Newsted. He continued:

“And Big Mick and the singer from The Wildhearts had a fist fight on tour, and as Mick was leaving, he came up to me and says, ‘Listen, the guy from Metallica, Jason, does all these side projects. I think you and him would be really cool together. Do you mind if I put you in contact?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely, that’s amazing!’”

Steve Vai / Devin Townsend 1993 Headbangers Ball @Rock-Music-VHS-Archive

And, as it turns out, Big Mick was right. The two of them got along pretty well:

“And so Jason contacted me, and we ended up doing a whole lot of things together and having a lot of fun. One of those things that we did together was called IR8.”

“It was me, Jason, and Tom Hunting from Exodus, and then I did three or four other projects: one with Dale from The Melvins and Scott [Reeder] from Kyuss, and another one with me and the drummer from a band called Pansy Division — we did a bunch of ambient stuff.”

“And it was great. It was really great. But I was also just new to a bunch of lifestyle choices that I chose to make at that time, and I don’t know if that was particularly the best thing for Jason, I, and our relationship, but… [Laughs] Here we are!”

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These issues that Devin mentioned here are most likely due to Jason Newsted getting in trouble with the leading duo of Metallica, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield. As Jason claims to this day, doing the IR8 project with Townsend is where all his troubles in Metallica started. You can read more about that here.  

Elsewhere in the interview, Devin was also asked about the exact moment when he decided to take music seriously and consider it as his main career path. He replied:

“I started at about 15, I’d been playing guitar for a few years, and in the ’80s, guitar was a competitive sport more so than a musical venture. So it became what I would imagine online gaming, or things like that, to be the equivalent of now, to a certain degree. So we all were fetishizing technique and I just started to really get into the acrobatics of guitar.”

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“I’d always been musically minded, and at that point, as much as I was into instrumental guitar stuff, I also liked pop music and Metallica and Enya and Def Leppard, ambient, new age, whatever — it was a pretty wide swath.”

“But when I was about 15, I started getting into it, and I started sending out demos to Guitar Player magazine, because they had this monthly thing where you send in a demo, it had an address, and then if the guy who was reviewing the demo, Mike Varney, liked it, then you could be in the magazine and that particular page that these unknown guitar players were featured on, ended up being where Yngwie Malmsteen, and Paul Gilbert, and all these cats started their careers.”

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But although it turned out that sending so many demos wasn’t a guaranteed path to success, Devin admits that doing this over and over again helped him hone his craft and make some pretty decent recordings:

“So I kept sending demos and photos of myself to this poor dude, whom I met later on. It never amounted to anything, but the process of learning how to record myself ended up — when I was 18 years old, or 17 — becoming a way for me to construct a couple of demo tapes that ultimately led to me working with Steve Vai and getting signed to a label.”

Photos: Florian Stangl (Devin Townsend Project – Rock Harz 2013 – 11-07-2013 (9351037930)), Achim Raschka (13-06-09 RaR Newsted 17)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.