Prog-metaller Devin Townsend has opened up about his time in Steve Vai’s band, describing how he didn’t quite know the best way to express how he felt about the pressures of the road – to the point where he defecated in Steve Vai’s guitar case.
Speaking to Kerrang!, Townsend described how he got his breakout gig singing on Vai’s 1993 album Sex And Religion, as well as the subsequent world tour, explaining: “It seems like yesterday, but at that point I was actually 19 years of age. I’d sent a demo tape off to Relativity Records, and I got signed. On the same label was Steve Vai, who had just put out a solo record and was looking for a singer. The A&R guy passed on my demo to Steve and he asked me to participate. I joined his fold and we recorded an album in 1991 or 1992, and we did two years of touring on that.”
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For the young musician, it was “in at the deep end … pretty over-the-top for someone who had never had that kind of experience. I had never played in arenas before, for one thing. I’ve always been very idealistic about music, and when I moved to LA, which I did at this time, I assumed that all musicians felt that way.”
The experience quickly soured his view of the world of music, as he explained: “I pictured an empathetic and nurturing industry. But, the music industry is, overall, a disingenuous place. It’s a hustle. So when I went down there I was deflowered pretty quickly. And I felt at that point that I wanted to take and make things explode.”
While Townsend felt disappointed by the realities of touring, he noted how: “at the time, I didn’t have many ways that I felt I was able to articulate my discontent, so I tended to act up. I took a shit in his guitar case, for one thing…”
Despite this, Townsend and Vai’s friendship “has taken a good turn and we’re close.” And, elsewhere, he explained how – just two years later, while Townsend was a member of rock band The Wildhearts, he abstained from their visit to the Kerrang! offices, where they took baseball bats to a desk, a computer monitor and a keyboard. “When the band were going to the Kerrang! office to smash it up I said, ‘How come?’ And they said, ‘Well, they gave us a bad review,’” Townsend explained. “And I said, ‘Okay, erm, I’m just gonna stay here, if that’s okay.’”
Townsend has spoken about his confrontational past self before, saying that he regretted the incident, chalking it up to being a frustrated young musician. “I was a cunt,” he told Classic Rock in 2017. “Way too young to articulate my discontent with the world. I should never have taken a shit in his guitar case.”
While it’s clear that Townsend is no longer that person, perhaps the most important detail has been left out of his telling of the story: whether the case had a guitar in it at the time.
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