Hooked: Devin Townsend on Judas Priest's "The Sentinel"
The once Strapping Young Lad chronicles the "pinnacle moment" with the Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing riff that helped him earn "social collateral" and he became "moderately accepted" with schoolmates.
Warning: Devin Townsend says he hasn’t played the riff in Judas Priest’s “The Sentinel” “for enough years that it may be dubious.” But that’s hard to believe when he delivers the soaring line that’s the hook from this Defenders of the Faith (1984) track. Townsend describes his initial discovery of the song as “one of those pinnacle moments.” He also opens up about being a misfit kid, and tells a great story about overhearing older kids in band class talking about guitar—and how that riff suddenly made him one of those “cool kids” … almost.
It’s the guitar, he says, “that made me at least moderately accepted, and that still holds true to this day.” He also takes a lick at Fastway’s “Say What You Will,” a hard-strutting blues-based riff, and Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” But perhaps the biggest revelation is that the first riff he fell in love with was from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” And yes, he does play it, plus the galloping rhythm. His next biggie was Motörhead’s “Motörhead.” “But none of that, my friends,” he adds, “compared to the social collateral or being able to impress a bunch of goofy 16-year-old with a Judas Priest riff, so I will be eternally indebted to this riff.”
And more news for Townsend’s fans: the Canadian prog-rocker will be mounting an extensive European tour in the spring, behind his 2022 album Lightwork, a compendium of tunes he wrote and recorded under pandemic lockdown—which also has a counterpart in the demos and B-sides release Nightwork. Townsend notes that Lightwork was consciously written about taking a hard look at where we are as people after a profound time in history and then taking real care to focus our future energies on what is truly important to us in light of that. Friends, health, family, creativity, time off, not running from the fear, not allowing other people’s expectations to define us, creative freedom and self-care. “Doing the difficult work to begin to know who we truly are, makes it so that during periods of unrest, we can maintain a certain degree of peace,” he relates.