Devin Townsend once “took a shit” in Steve Vai’s guitar case

Devin Townsend of The Devin Townsend Project performing live on stage at Download Festival on June 7, 2012
(Image credit: Will Ireland/Prog Magazine/Future via Getty Images/Future via Getty Images)

Devin Townsend’s signature acoustic guitar model (as well as his latest album) is named the Empath, and clearly the singer, songwriter and guitarist, despite unleashing plenty of exceedingly heavy music over the past few decades, has a sensitive side.

So much so, in fact, that he once “took a shit” in Steve Vai’s guitar case.

At the time, Townsend was fronting Vai’s solo band – he appears on the guitar great’s 1993 album, Sex & Religion – and was struggling with being thrown into the deep end of the music world.

“At that point I was actually 19 years of age,” Townsend recalls in a new interview with Kerrang! “ 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."

He continues, "We did things like play with Aerosmith and appear on The Tonight Show, so it really was in at the deep end. It was 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. 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.”

When the interviewer points out that Vai, in fact, “seems like a very nice person,” Townsend replies, “Yeah. But he was coming off the Whitesnake thing so he really was a rock star at this point. Thirty years on, our relationship has taken a good turn and we’re close. But I think 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.”

Regarding defecating in Vai’s guitar case, Townsend remarks that it was probably “confusing for him. I think that I felt that unequivocally that would express my discontent with how I was feeling about things.”

We’d reckon Townsend got his point across.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.