Devin Townsend: My Top Five Guitarists

(Image credit: Will Ireland)

You could never accuse Devin Townsend of playing it safe: industrial metal, space country, ambient electronica and gospel-tinged power pop (yes, really) have all found a place in the Canadian workaholic’s illustrious back catalogue. So, in equally eclectic fashion, his favourite guitarists come from all manner of genres.

Here are his top five, in his own words.

James Plotkin

“So, in no particular order, we’ll start with James Plotkin. He was the guitar player in Old Lady Drivers and Scorn. Old Lady Drivers released an album on Earache in about ’92, maybe a little later. 1995, maybe? [Spot on, Dev] Anyway, it was called Formula, and his connection to tonalities and looping was just so beautiful and so alien, that I just drew an absolute ton of inspiration from him.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan

“Even though I’m not necessarily a blues fan, he came on the radio the other day and I remember just listening to it and just being like: God, he just has one sound that he uses, no effects really – maybe some wah and a bit of reverb – but he’s one of those guitar players who was just a player. He doesn’t just know what to do on it, it’s like he’s connected to it in a way that… it’s just… he was just amazing, He was just such a legitimately talented guitar player… And that’ll lead into my next one!”

Jeff Beck

“As well, in his best moments, he’s the most connected guitar player I think I’ve ever witnessed. He does a version of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat in Japan – YouTube that! – and I remember watching that years ago. I was so stoned when I was watching it, and I just remember thinking: ‘Oh my god, he’s the best!’”

James Hetfield

“Let’s go with James Hetfield because he started a lot of this [metal] stuff. It was the precise way he held his pick and where he muted notes – it was just really… right. I remember when we were growing up and I was learning and cutting my teeth in bands, to sound like James Hetfield or The 81s and to have those sorts of mutes and have just that right amount of gain and that kind of mid stoop and everything just seemed so legitimate, and I sort of modelled my rhythm playing on the parts of his style that I really liked.”

Steve Vai

“Just because I worked with him, let’s go with Steve Vai as well. I mean, Steve is a great friend and we’ve known each other for many years, we’ve worked with each other and we’ve been through various ups and downs together. But, y’know, I got his re-issue of Passion And Warfare when that came out and he’s a completely different guitar player to the Stevie Ray Vaughans of the world, where it’s all this straight up improvisation, and the connection is felt that way with those players. But what Steve really brings is an orchestrator’s mentality. I mean, that has inspired me in every single aspect of my own playing.”

Alec Chillingworth

Alec is a longtime contributor with first-class BA Honours in English with Creative Writing, and has worked for Metal Hammer since 2014. Over the years, he's written for Noisey, Stereoboard, uDiscoverMusic, and the good ship Hammer, interviewing major bands like Slipknot, Rammstein, and Tenacious D (plus some black metal bands your cool uncle might know). He's read Ulysses thrice, and it got worse each time.