Devin Townsend: "I should never have taken a shit in Steve Vai’s guitar case"

A press shot of Devin Townsend and his band

Devin Townsend burst onto the scene in 1993 as lead singer on guitar wizard Steve Vai’s Sex And Religion album and world tour. The madcap Canadian has gone on to carve out a remarkable career that led to him selling out London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2015. His latest album has just been released, and he plays UK shows in March.

In these challenging times we live in, your new album, Transcendence, is surprisingly upbeat. Was that intentional?

Yeah. After twenty years, trying to find an angle can be a bitch. What am I going to do, write about love? I’ve no political agenda, but if in any small way my music can facilitate a reaction, right now I want it to be positive.

You’ve released twenty-four studio albums in the last twenty-one years. How do you maintain that work rate?

I’m really good at compartmentalising. I get up early, exercise, take the kids to school, read my emails, visit my folks – that takes me to midday. Afterwards I’m creative for three hours. My kids come home, everybody eats and I go back to work for two more hours.

Even two years later, is there still some disbelief that the Devin Townsend Project sold out the Royal Albert Hall?

I definitely believe it happened, and that it was a good show. I’m able to watch the DVD and think: “Wow, we got to do that.” I hope it inspires people who are now learning an instrument that they can do it as well.

It was almost certainly the first time that an Albert Hall audience had been greeted with the words: “Good evening, dorks. Take your hands off your peckers. What will be revealed over the next fifty minutes will make you crap your pants.”

[Laughs] Yeah. And we had to get clearance for the huge farting testicles that ran across the stage. Filling out the forms was hilarious.

That show’s mix of metal, opera and sci-fi fantasy was, frankly, preposterous. What response did you receive from those in charge of the venue?

They loved it. I even got to sign their guest book, and that’s something that not everybody is allowed to do.

How do you look back on touring with Steve Vai?

I was a c**t. Way too young to articulate my discontent with the world. I should never have taken a shit in his guitar case.

What remaining ambitions do you have?

A full-on symphonic project I’m calling The Moth. Tonight I’ve a meeting with my label to request a budget of ten million dollars. I’m aiming high – getting sixty grand would be cool. I want it to be a completely over-the-top spectacle because… why not? We’re all going to die soon.


Devin Townsend’s UK tour ends in Nottingham on March 18.

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"I have no desire to sign some guy's cock": the confessions of Devin Townsend

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Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.