Hey folks! Just interviewed Devin and took the opportunity to ask him some guitar-nerd stuff. Full interview is here: INTERVIEW: Devin Townsend | I Heart Guitar
But here's the real guitarry stuff:
How do you see the guitar? Do you conceptualise it as a bunch of lines and shapes? Or as a more abstract thing?
Thatís a good question. Iíll start by saying this: all I do right now is play bass. I donít play guitar at all. All I do is play bass, all day! Like, really, my fingers are shot. I play bass all day. And I think that leads me to, what do I see guitar as? Well I see it as a bunch of things. I see it as a tool. I see it as a weapon. I see it as a bunch of blocks. I see it as a bunch of patterns. I see it as a bunch of baggage as well. And because Iíve been in this weird tuning for so long (CGCGCE), I see it as almost exclusively a writing tool as opposed to anything else. Inevitably someone will put a guitar in your hands and be like, ďWell, play something.Ē But I use it to write songs, yíknow? Iím a guitar player, of course. I saw an interview with Steven Wilson where heís like, ďIím not a guitar player,í but I mean, he is a guitar player! Iím a guitar player. I love the guitar. But I agree with him in the sense that Iím not a guitar player in the way of my identity being invested in my ability to do things on it. Iíve got a certain capacity for technique that allows me to articulate pretty much anything that comes into my head, and a lot of the things that come into my head are rarely the types of things that require acrobatics. But when people put a guitar in my hand and theyíre like, ďSolo!,Ē what am I supposed to do? So Iíve got a reservoir of ten or twelve shapes that Iíve been playing for 30 years that Iíll pull out. But the reason why I have those in a place technically that allows me to perform them marginally well is that those shapes I can apply to almost any idea that I have, whether itís the sweeping or the tapping or the string skipping or the riffing, those shapes allow me to play any thought that I have. And thatís what I do! So when I sit down to record Iím always in shape, guitar-wise. Whether Iím playing bass or guitar, regardless, Iím in shape. Itís been years since Iíve not played. So in that sense, yeah, Iím a guitar player in the same way that Steven Wilson or anybody is. But it is truly a vehicle for me to articulate my emotional or artistic process, and thatís where it ends.
So for me, bass is much more interesting because thereís something about it thatís just really, really soul-satisfying to me. The lack of need for it to be in the spotlight, and thereís a certain zen in being able to be disciplined enough to play the same thing for five minutes. Iím into Massive Attack, yíknow, being able to play an awesome riff without it deviating for five minutes, I love that! And now, guitarsÖ Iím infatuated with the actual physicality of it. And Iíve been fortunate to work with these brilliant companies recently, like Framus and Sadowsky in particular. Unbelievable instruments, right? And because Iíve got that opportunity Iím like, ďDude, letís just put lights on Ďem!Ē Like, Iíve got a Tele Ė Iíve got my writing guitars, a Tele and a Strat and a Les Paul and Iím good to go, so my stage guitars? Dude, letís just make these things audacious!
So what is it about the Framus that youíre digging? A semi-hollowbody wouldnít be the first thing youíd think of for the kind of music you make, but hell, it works!
Well I think the thing for me is it took the Peavey experience and everything else to really come to terms with what it is that I like about guitars. And one thing that I hadnít given enough credit to is my love of vintage stuff. Casualities of Cool is really vintage guitar tone: í57 Champ, these old brown face Princetons, these little Gibson amps, old Teles and old Gibson 335s Ė the old shit, because I love the vibe of the 50s. I love it, dude. Itís just so tough to me. Itís like, my grandparents, they lived through the depression and all that stuff, and thatís way harder to function as a human than a lot of what weíve been posed now. Granted there are a lot of challenges now that would leave my grandparents stunned, but really, that depression-era shit was heavy. And I think the instruments were made as a reflection of that. So itís simple, but itís tough, and I find myself really inspired by a lack of options. So after fucking around with the digital stuff for so long Ė which I love, itís got its place and I love it: AxeFX, brilliant. ReValver, brilliant, right? But I just get hung up on the options, and I donít like options. In my ProTools rig Iíve got two plug-ins that I use. I donít have tonnes of delays and tonnes of reverbs. Iíve got one delay. Iíve got one reverb. And so writing, for me, has been great with just having one knob on an amp, one pickup to work with. Then you have to focus on the music.
So with the Framus stuff, I really like the idea of taking that aesthetic, that 50s old-school vibe and just turning it into Ziltoid shit. Turning it into aliens. And I love that dichotomy. That mixture of worlds is something that really appeals to me. And Framus, I gotta say, man, they can do anything. I love working with people that when you say to them ďCan you do this?Ē the answer is not like ďOh I donít know, manÖĒ Framus is like ďWeíll give it a shot!Ē I love that! People who are willing to try! Because if you fail, at least you tried. And itís very rare that I meet a company or musician in general that are willing to put themselves in a position of failure. I just find that really endearing.
Great interview! I wanna be Devin Townsend when I grow up.