In March 2014, after finishing up my music documentary about Swedish drummer Morgan Ågren, I decided to start a new project about my most listened to album of all-time: Steve Vai’s Sex & Religion.
It seemed like perfect timing to me. It was the 20th anniversary of the record’s release. It was the album that brought the world Devin Townsend, who I consider to be the greatest rock vocalist, ever. It was a totally unlikely record, with a heavy story behind it — a classic rock n’ roll fairy tale gone wrong. I felt like if there was a story out there for me to tell, Sex & Religion was it.
I spent some time researching and gathering as many materials and information as I could. I bought a ton of memorabilia from eBay. Press kits, posters. I downloaded every bit of video and even audio from that I could find from the tour, media interviews, magazine interviews from Japan. I started tracking down people who worked on the record, in any capacity. I put it all into a very large document and was ready to make it happen.
Conveniently, Devin was coming to Los Angeles to record Z2. I fired off an email, asking if he’d participate. He humbly agreed to help me.
(Technical side note: I decided to shoot the whole thing in 4K UHD with a RED Scarlett. I rented it and some Zeiss CP2 lenses a few days before the shoot and tested them. The Scarlett, which I think was not well-maintained, gave me a lot of problems, but that’s another story.)
Anyway, I showed up at the studio in Hollywood with, literally, a hundred questions for Devin. It took 2.5 hours to get through them. I asked him everything I could think of: his memories of anyone involved, locations, song lyrics, the recording process, the tour.
Devin made a few things very clear:
1.) He did not want to speak for Steve, or anyone else.
2.) It was a long time ago and he’s barely listened to the record since then.
3.) He was very thankful to have Steve as a friend.
I took the footage back to my studio and edited it into a 20-minute short “presentation.” I was so proud of it. I managed to make something I considered very fun and artistic, and I felt it relieved some of the tension of the story.
I sent it to Steve, excited to hear his reaction. I had gone into this promising that I would not continue work on or release the documentary without the permission of everyone involved. At this point in my life, I can understand that the people and their lives are more important than a movie that could be made about them.
Over the time period of almost a year, Steve and I exchanged e-mails about it. I really tried my best — but in the end, Steve decided that if there was someday going to be a Sex & Religion documentary, he’d probably want to produce it himself, but that he had no plans to do that. He was very nice about it, and kept the door open to future projects.
It was kind of a bummer for me, but it felt like a good answer.
So: I feel it’s at least fair for me to share a few screenshots and tell the story of my little project that never got released. I experienced a lot of excitement working on it… and who knows, maybe in a hundred years someone will dig up my project files and release it.