By Thomas S, Orwat Jr.
KK Downing, former guitarist of Judas Priest, chats with RockMusicStar.com about his new autobiography, “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest.” In addition, we discuss his future music plans, his relationship with his ex-band mates and much more. So, sit back, and take a listen to one of the most innovative guitarist in metal- KK Downing.
For more on KK Downing, please click here.
Here are some highlights of the interview.
On why he wasn’t invited to rejoin JUDAS PRIEST following Glenn Tipton’s decision to retire from the road due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease:
Downing: “It just seemed a bit strange that the opportunity wasn’t handed over recently when Glenn announced his retirement from touring. That’s why I said I was shocked and stunned, really, because not just by my own part; it was just the fact that I thought that, really, a band like JUDAS PRIEST must surely consider the fans and what the majority of the masses of people would want. I don’t wanna sound egotistical at all, but I was in the band for 40 years or so and people got used to seeing me as a part of the whole thing. And it gets to a point, surely, where the fans actually become a member of the band as well, really. In so many ways, really, the consideration has to be given not just to what the band members want, but also that ancillary member, which is the fan.”
Were you on “talking terms” with any of the JUDAS PRIEST members before Glenn made his retirement announcement?
Downing: “Yeah, I think I was, yeah, on talking terms with the guys. And then, obviously, I made the announcement that I was shocked and stunned not to be asked back. But basically, I did that press release because people asked me to, and I though it was a good honest… yeah, I was shocked, but it hasn’t happened. I said that if that’s the way it’s gonna be, any PRIEST is better than no PRIEST and wish everyone well. But I did say, you know, commented on Andy Sneap, who I know and like and consider him a mate — we do e-mail. And I had been to Andy’s studio here in the U.K. with some younger bands, working with him. And I had nothing but good, positive things to say about Andy in that press release. But I did say that — I can’t remember the exact words — that I was sure Andy would be a great contribution and contribute potentially more than an average producer would to the record.
But they misconstrued what I said, and they said that I was insinuating that Glenn didn’t play on the record. Well, how the hell do I know? I wasn’t there. [Laughs] I mean, I don’t know. And to be honest, I didn’t really care. [Laughs] ‘Cause I was a bit miffed about not having the opportunity to rejoin the band, I didn’t really care who played what. I thought I might have been doing the band a favor by telling the fans that Andy is doing the gig and Andy is really proficient at what he does — he’s a good guitar player and songwriter, and he’s a great producer. And it was kind of me letting everybody know that, hey, Andy is a good guy. I mean, they could have chosen somebody that I particularly didn’t like and I didn’t think that was any good at anything, but that wasn’t the case.
Andy is a real, real top man, and he will go out there every single night and play his heart out and do everything he can to bring a good show, and I’m sure that that’s what happens. But at the end of the day, Andy hasn’t been in the band for 40 years; I was. So I just think that there was just absolutely no consideration given to what people might have wanted and expected. For example, if they had put a poll on the Internet and said, ‘Hey, guys, Glenn, unfortunately, can’t continue. What do you think we should do?’ I just wonder what the poll would have said. [Laughs]”
On why he thinks Glenn’s playing during JUDAS PRIEST’s live concerts had deteriorated toward the end of his tenure with the band:
Downing: “Glenn, bless him, obviously. Not as though people would particularly notice, but there were times when it was noticeable. I do say in the book, I think there were times in the ’80s Glenn would — I don’t know — party too hard. But that’s his choice. It’s rock and roll, and I’m not one to actually condone how people do it, how they do their show. I mean, it’s rock and roll — lots of people go out there with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s in their hands, or whatever they do. But there were times before — many times — and it made us all feel nervous, that Glenn was just more of a rock and roll party guy where the rest of us were… I would get nervous about my performance ability. I would wanna play perfectly every single night, and that was me — that was how I do it.
Obviously, later on, Glenn [would enjoy his] beers, and that’s harmless enough, but, after a point, it starts to affect the show a little bit. And I was getting nervous, the other guys were nervous. When Ripper [singer Tim Owens] was in the band, he was nervous. It’s no different… I mean, if you’re in a car with a couple of mates, and the driver is the only one that’s been drinking, and he’s still having a few swigs in the car, do you prefer it not to be happening if he’s got your life in his hands? Well, if someone’s got the gig in their hands, that’s kind of how it feels — [it made us] a bit insecure; that’s all. And it just wasn’t for me. That was the main thing. And it just didn’t help me enjoy the shows. If I’m nervous, it doesn’t help me enjoy the show. I wanna listen to the music being absolutely precision — everybody locked into those kick drums and snare — and that’s how I liked it…
Everybody makes mistakes and everybody can be a bit sloppy at times if they’re a bit tired and they’re not feeling great. But if it’s self-induced, then that’s not right — it’s what I think. It’s a little bit selfish and inconsiderate, and I will say that now. But it’s not to say that rock and roll is not rock and roll; it’s a difficult one for me. But that, with a lot of other things that were going on, tipped me over the edge. If I had rode through that storm, I would probably still be on stage now. But who knows? It is what it is. If you fall out with your girlfriend, or if she falls out with you, if it’s not reconciled fairly quickly, somebody could find a different partner and they get used to that different partner, and that’s what happened. So, [it’s] sad, really, in a way. I was the one guy… I’d never done a solo career — I never wanted do. I never wanted to have my own web site; never wanted to sell my own merchandise on the back of PRIEST. I was totally dedicated.”
On JUDAS PRIEST’s upcoming 50th-anniversary celebration:
Downing: “I have no idea what they mean by [saying that they will have] a big event — I don’t know — but it’s gonna be 2019, 50 years exactly from 1969. But in 1969, I was in the band, and Ian [Hill, bass] was in the band. I think Rob [Halford, vocals] and Glenn joined in the early ’70s. So, really, for it to be justified… It can’t be a 50-years celebration — can it? I suppose it could be a 50-years celebration that the band was, obviously, started from, when me and Ian was there.
But I don’t know… It’s a bit weird. I think it’s a good song to sing in order to get bums on seats. It is quite commemorative — 50 years is a long time. But we’ll see what happens there. I don’t know what Rob’s got on his mind. I’ve heard him talk about it [in interviews], but he hasn’t said anything to me about it. So I have absolutely no idea. And I’ve got no reason to believe that I would be included whatsoever.”