Devin Townsend: "KK Downing was probably the biggest influence for me because it was all out of tune"

(Image credit: Future)

There are a number of known things in the universe and one is that there is no such thing as a bad Devin Townsend interview. And he's on particularly excellent form in a new chat with our friends over on Guitar World – including his reflections on the mighty Judas Priest, namely the influence of their former guitarist KK Downing on Priest's classic 1979 Unleashed In The East live album.

“I was just on the treadmill a couple of minutes back, and decided to listen to old Judas Priest," he tells MusicRadar contributor Jonathan Horsley. "It’s been years. When I was a kid I just loved that band. I mean the really old ‘70s version of the band.

"And I realized when I was listening – I was listening to Unleashed in the East – and KK Downing was probably the biggest influence for me because it was all out of tune. And I don’t mean out of tune in that his chords were out of tune; it was the random guitar solos with the whammy bar that was totally out of tune."

And Devin specified how that had impacted his own playing approach… 

Metal guitar icon KK Downing 

Metal guitar icon KK Downing  (Image credit: Future)

“It was microtonal, whammy bar oddness, and I realise as I am playing now, I love that microtonal thing, even though in my world, and in my work, it’s gotten more progressive or orchestral, but that out-of-the-box tonality is something that I just love, and so, when I solo now I always go to that.

"I’ll be in the box for a couple of seconds and then I just wanna find those notes that are messed up, and then make them more messed up... And then put a ton of echo on them so it sounds deliberate! [Laughs]”

You can read more of Devin's musings on Unleashed In The East and his forthcoming Empath tour over on Guitar World.

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.