Throughout his career, Devin Townsend has proven himself to be one hell of a talented guitarist. But while the prog mastermind is capable of creating technically captivating compositions, at one point in his career, he gave up on the desire to shred on guitar.
Per a conversation with Ultimate Guitar, Townsend reveals that it was actually the brilliant work of another musician that motivated him to drop that desire.
Per Townsend, the musician that got him to drop that interest is none other than guitarist Steve Vai.
Here is what Townsend had to say about Vai’s impact on his own guitar playing:
“I got a gig singing for Steve Vai. 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. 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.
What do you make of Townsend’s comments regarding the impact that Steve Vai’s guitar playing had on him?