Devin Townsend Says He No Longer Practices Guitar, Claims Working With Steve Vai Made Him Not Want to Be a Shredder

Recently, Ultimate Guitar published their interview with Devin Townsend, discussing the musician’s career and his latest album “Lightwork.” During the chat, Devin was asked about how much he practices at this point in his career, to which he replied:

“I don’t practice, I just play. I never practice, but I always play. I love playing guitar. But no, the days of me practicing are long gone, unless I have to tour and have to learn the shit, right?

During the interview, Devin also discussed his current approach to playing and how, even though he’s a big figure in the world of prog rock and prog metal, he’s not really into virtuosic shredder-type guitar playing. When asked about why he decided to go down this path, Devin responded:

“I got a gig singing for Steve Vai.”

He also 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.

Steve Vai (feat. Devin Townsend) - Still My Bleeding Heart (Live)

“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.

“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.

Devin Townsend performs 'Kingdom' for EMGtv

“When I was a kid, if I’d seen some of these dudes that are playing now, I would’ve been like, ‘Holy shit, man.’ But that being said, I don’t want to play like that. It doesn’t interest me musically.

“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.”

Another thing Devin touched upon during the interview was how he changed over the years as a musician. When asked about “two Devin Townsends” and how this artistic change came over the years, he responded:

“Yeah, I was 20, and now I’m 50. It’s funny, I think, because musicians have these statements that they make throughout their life. And people become emotionally connected to them, as do I, of course.

DEVIN TOWNSEND - Spirits Will Collide (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

“But it’s almost like they get frozen at that time. And so when you meet the person that they are now, you think, ‘This doesn’t make sense,’ because I’m connected to this other person.

“But when you think of how long 30 years is. Kids, pandemics, disease, death, birth, all these things. I have a hard time when people make a distinction between being a human and being an artist. It’s like, it’s the same fucking thing, man. They are hand in hand.

“And to be somebody who goes through all these experiences and stays the same, it’s insane to me. And not only from the point of view of me not being able to understand, but how could that even happen? How could somebody go through all those experiences and still write the same way they did when they were a kid?

"Lightworker" - Official Promo Video

To Mr. Townsend, change is crucial for artistic endeavor. He continued by saying:

“And so, when people say ‘You’ve changed.’ I’m like, ‘Damn, right, I have changed, of course. Have you not?’ [laughs] And I do appreciate the fact that when people think, ‘Because I care about the music that you wrote when you were a kid, it’s upsetting that you no longer do that.’

“But a well runs out of water, and you’re yelling at the well. There’s no more water in there, man. But I do understand, I really do understand. And I really take it as a compliment that people like what I did when I was a kid, too. I really do.

“But all I can do now is be true to who I am now. And that’s it, man. And if that doesn’t work for some people — I totally get it. And thank you for the support, and I’m sure there’s music out there that you’ll like. The ways that I wrote that music is the same way that I wrote ‘Lightwork.’ And the reason I wrote it at that time is because I had shit that I was trying to get past.

"Moonpeople" - Official Promo Video

“And thankfully, it worked. So that’s great, hurray! The catalyst for that music was youth, being broke and hungry, being full of rage. And they’re like, ‘Why aren’t you broken, hungry and full of rage now?’ I’m making a living. I get to eat. I’ve learned how my connection to anger works. And I know that on some level, it wasn’t anger that I was participating in.

“It was like a fear of anger, because I wasn’t allowed to get mad when I was a kid, you know? And I’m not young. So all the ingredients that went into making that music so vital back then have changed. So now I do what’s appropriate now. And I can do nothing except for stand by that. And I do.

Photo: Florian Stangl (Devin Townsend Project – Rock Harz 2013 – 11-07-2013 (9351037914)), Toglenn (Steve Vai Zepparella 2017)

  • 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 Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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