Devin Townsend says the Beatles would have used digital guitar gear: “How can you imagine for a second that they wouldn’t have utilized it?”

Devin Townsend
(Image credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns via Getty)

Devin Townsend is one of today’s chief champions of digital guitar equipment, flying the flag for technological developments through his use of various amp and effects modeling units.

In the past, he’s also launched passionate defenses of such gear, once telling Total Guitar that he’d go down the guitar amp rabbit hole only to “come back to digital because it’s clean and I can control it”.

Now, in a conversation with Line 6, the metal maestro has once again voiced his support for digital gear, and suggested it would have also been keenly utilized by pioneering players of the past. 

“I’ve got a buddy who’s extremely disparaging about technology, and his go-to line is always, ‘Well, the Beatles didn’t need that,’” Townsend noted. “And my answer is always, ‘Dude, they didn’t have that.’ 

“If they’d had this technology with the extremely forward-thinking nature of what they were doing at the time, how can you imagine for a second that they wouldn’t have utilized it?” he continued.

“It’s absurd. People often doggedly hold onto the aesthetics of gear that they love because it’s got much more to do with their memories of it than it does with any sort of practical, contemporary application.”

Rather than getting weighed down with such emotional connections to gear, Townsend is instead solely concerned with sound: “For me, what it really comes down to is do you like the sound you’re getting right now? And if you do, there you go.”

It’s a valid point. After all, the Beatles changed the sound of rock music forever with their innovative approach to the genre, and made guitar the world’s most popular instrument.

With that in mind, there’s no telling what the band would have made of the Line 6 Helix or Kemper Profiler had they had access to such gear in their prime.

Townsend’s comments are further justified by Paul McCartney’s continued use of modern technology in music to this day: earlier this month, Macca revealed the final Beatles record had been finalized with the help of artificial intelligence.

Devin Townsend

(Image credit: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns)

Townsend’s comments contribute to a wider revisionist conversation around digital gear. His discussion of the Beatles has echoes of John Mayer’s own observation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which he said would have also made use of modeling tech had it been available at the time.

“We actually used a Fractal in some places,” Mayer told Guitar World while discussing his ‘80s throwback album, Sob Rock. “Because as much as I was thinking, ‘What would I have done then?’ I was also thinking, ‘What would they have done now?’ 

“And if somebody had walked a Fractal into the Thriller sessions? You would have heard a Fractal all over that record.”

It’s been a fairly hectic week on the modeling front. On Monday (June 26), Iron Maiden’s Dave Murrary announced he’d be swapping out his Marshall JPM-1s – which he’d used for around three decades – for a Fractal Axe-Fx III Turbo.

Elsewhere in the digital gear realm, Eric Johnson – another gear traditionalist – revealed he’s been experimenting with the Neural DSP Quad Cortex, and refused to rule out the possibility it could replace his current rig in the future.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.