The early years discussion: IR8, Wildhearts, Steve Vai, Noisescapes, etc

#85674 by gargendie
Sat Aug 20, 2005 4:31 pm
Is This the one?

- Guitar World, September 1993

He may not like the guitar, but precocious singer Devin Townsend thinks working with Steve Vai is a scream. By Alan Diperna

"So here I am, whacking off on Steve Vai's couch and getting to do my own music too. How many other 20-year-olds today can make that claim?"

Meet Devin Townsend, a fully-accredited member of the slacker generation and the man Steve Vai selected to be his new lead singer/second guitarist. Nobody was more suprised at the appointment than Townsend himself. "To be real honest," he owns up, "I'd heard Steve's name before, but I'd never heard any of his music."

It all happened because of a demo Devin sent to Relativity Records. The hyperactive native of Vancouver, British Columbia, was seeking a deal for his own music. And he got it - Promise, the album by Townsend's band, Noisescape, is due out in early 1994. But since Vai, who is one of Relativity's top artists, happened to be looking around for a singer, one thing naturally led to another. An initial pow wow at Vai's Lake Tahoe place went well. Vai was impressed with Devin's lickety-split guitar prowess. And Devin found a unique was to "break the ice":

"Steve turned out to be a really nice guy. But like I said, I didn't really know all that much about him. I looked through all these guitar magazines, and they were all like, [in pompous voice] 'STEVE VAI, GOD OF THE GUITAR....' So it struck me that, even if nothing else came out of this deal, it would be great if I could just go back to Vancouver and tell my friends something like, 'Dudes, I got Steve Vai naked and jumped in the snow with him.' It was just a mental thing, like, 'Can I get past this guy's reputation and just turf him into a snow-bank?' And it worked. I finally persuaded him to get into a pair of shorts, and we jumped into the snow."

Scandalous though it may seem, Townsend's lack of reverence for Vai was a big factor in making the Sex And Religion sessions a success. "The fact that I'm not in awe of him in any other way except as a person - that really took the pressure off," says Devin. "To me, he's just a cool guy with a studio in his house."

Communication over vocal arrangements was usually quite simple, according to Devin: "Mostly I'd just say, 'How about if I just scream my balls off on this part, Steve?' If you listen to the record, there's quite a bit of screaming. In all honesty, singing is a new thing to me. On my own stuff, as long as I can get it to sound like my larynx is shooting across the room, it's usually fine."

Townsend frowns on describing his own music with the played out "industrial" tag. He prefers to simply say, "It sounds like a dumptruck being driven over arctic tundra, with a beat underneath it. It isn't noisy just for the sake of being noisy. It's legitimately aggressive."

Sounds like a far cry from Vai's carefully crafted guitar compositions. But during the making of Sex And Religion, Vai got turned on to some of Devin's favourite groups, including Fudge Tunnel, Napalm Death, Godflesh and the German band Einstruzende Neubauten: "I went out and bought him like 200 bucks worth of CD's," the vocalist recalls. "He was always saying, 'Oh man, I think the stuff we're doing now is really thrashy and heavy.' I said, 'Steve, man, I think your music's great, but check this out.'"

Devin was given some CD's too - an assortment of Steve Vai albums, complete with instructions from their maker detailing which guitar parts to learn in time for the upcoming Sex And Religion tour. He seems quite undaunted by the task:

"So far it's been a lot of fun. The thing that impresses me about Steve is his musicality, as opposed to his technical ability. 'Cause the one type of music in the world I can't listen to is guitar virtuoso music - all those guys with the poofadooma hairdos and albums with titles like The Seventh Pinnacle Of Doom, and where the tone is like, endorsed by Remington: all whizzywhizzywhizzy. Steve's definitely way beyond that. But the guitarist's I'm digging these days are Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Buckethead, who just sort of mutilate the guitar, which makes it more interesting."

Despite winning Vai's stamp of approval, Townsend tends to downplay his own six-string prowess. "I don't really like the guitar," he confides. "Besides, I look like a fuckin' tool with a guitar on!"

Nonetheless, Devin will be hoisting his black ESP ("It looks like Satan!") for the tour. "I'll be playing a lot of rhythms and harmonies," he says. "And probably some Coral electric sitar stuff. Maybe he'll even let me do a solo!"
All right! Partaayyyyy!

#86092 by Goat
Thu Aug 25, 2005 4:29 am
Yep, that's the one. I have that issue of GM, and it definitely is on the press CD.
I would like those press CD articles from Japanese magazines fuckin' translated, that's what I would like. In one of them Dev's talking about his instructional video, explaining sweeps in Ants and shit and I'm not compatible with the scriptures ... :sad:

#86432 by scarred
Mon Aug 29, 2005 3:42 pm
Thanks for shooting that up, a nice read! :D

#110204 by Ike
Mon Feb 06, 2006 4:17 pm
wait a second... if i'm not retarded, this is a photo from that guitar magazine issue, isn't it? ... pic_id=184

is that real hair?!?! wtf! that's damn long, and ... black! nstuff!

i'm all surprized :shock:

#110206 by DeviousMofo
Mon Feb 06, 2006 4:29 pm
The outfit isn't something you'd expect to see nowadays, either. At least not on Devin.

#110234 by mo
Mon Feb 06, 2006 7:00 pm
yeah dude buckethead is awesome

#120254 by pixellate
Sat Apr 29, 2006 8:34 am
that article was very cool - I think Devin has changed a lot over the years .. certainly was an energetic young man when he was 20!!!

i love sex and religion, it's great - DTB and SYL still flatten anything else on the planet though

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