DEVIN TOWNSEND Explains Why He Turned Down Chance To Audition For JUDAS PRIEST

January 5, 2023

Devin Townsend has confirmed that he was on the list of candidates when JUDAS PRIEST was looking for a new vocalist to fill the massive shoes of Rob Halford in the early 1990s.

The 50-year-old Canadian musician/producer discussed the hypothetical pairing during an appearance on the latest episode of "The SDR Show".

Asked if it it's true that he was approached to audition for PRIEST nearly 30 years ago, Devin said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Technically, yes, that happened, but it wasn't like they were knocking down my door. Basically, they threw out a blanket thing to a bunch of singers — Warrel [Dane] from NEVERMORE, myself, a couple of other people. It [came in the form of] a letter with the [JUDAS PRIEST logo].

"'Unleashed In The East' was the shit for me, and so to have that was… But I also remember thinking that singing was this thing that happened to me because of my involvement with Steve [Vai], because I never really set out to be a singer. I learned to sing because I was a guitar player and most of the singers I auditioned, I didn't relate to. So I thought, 'Okay, I'm gonna learn to sing until I don't have to fucking sing anymore. And then, here we are, so many years later, where it's kind of my deal. But, as a result of that, the technique that I had was so shoddy that had I gotten to a situation with that level of expectation, to sing like Rob Halford — dude, I'd be crucified."

Townsend previously spoke about his love for PRIEST in a 2012 interview with The Quietus where he was asked to pick some of his favorite albums. At the time, he said: "I guess if I was to choose a studio record [from PRIEST], I'd choose 'Defenders Of The Faith', just because that was the one I first heard when I was a kid, but I chose 'Unleashed In The East' because it was the first real heavy metal record that really caught my ear, it was that and the song 'Motörhead' by MOTÖRHEAD, it was sort of a one-two punch."

He continued: "'Unleashed' just had a vibe to it, you know, I think the thing that current metal sort of lacks for me — and I'm not saying it totally lacks it, just for me — is the blues element of it. I mean, I love the blues element of metal; that's what made [BLACK] SABBATH and [LED] ZEPPELIN and all of those guys so significant to me, that connection to those sort of microtones. And 'Unleashed' in general is cool — well, fucking 'Diamonds & Rust' or 'Green Manalishi', I always hated those fucking songs — but the thing is that there are two songs on 'Unleashed' that, again, I can decide in my mind that a record is one of the greatest records ever based on one or two songs, and the versions of 'Victim Of Changes' and 'Sinner', those two songs are huge to me, and I think a lot of it had to do with K.K. Downing. He was pretty much my first guitar hero, because he was microtonal as well — like, out of tune with tons of echo on it. I loved that; I loved the idea that someone plays a wrong note and then puts 20 seconds of echo on it, so not only is it a wrong note but it's a wrong note that's, like, 'Yeah, I meant to play it that way.' And, like, Glenn Tipton would always be playing these noodley little notey things. And, you know, technically I think Glenn Tipton was probably a better guitar player, but I love the fact that K.K. Downing was, like, 'I'm just gonna do this and it's gonna beef out over everything else and it's going to sound really, really evil or eerie,' but it was conscious. Even Rob Halford had tons of echo on his voice at the time too, and — I don't know — it just had a very quiet, bluesy yet dark sort of vibe to it. That record really drew me into heavy metal."

Townsend covered PRIEST's "Sinner" for "A Tribute To Judas Priest Legends Of Metal", which was released in 1996 via Century Media. You can listen to his version below.

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