Enda Mullen of the Birmingham Post reports:
Former Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing has unveiled plans to re-establish the Midlands as the center of the heavy metal universe by becoming a promoter.
The acclaimed axeman has kicked off his new career with the launch of The Future of Heavy Metal, a venture which he hopes will help young hard rock bands follow in the footsteps of legends like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.
The initiative, a new business venture in partnership with experienced promoter Dave Coleman, aims to offer a live music platform to showcase the heavy metal stars of tomorrow.
With Midland gigs in Birmingham and Wolverhampton already under their belt Mr. Downing and Mr. Coleman now plan to roll the idea out further afield with tours around the country.
The first crop of bands being showcased include Midland acts Hostile, Under Blackened Skies and Fury, along with French band Moray Firth.
Mr. Downing said becoming involved with the local rock scene, which included writing a song for Wednesbury outfit Hostile, brought a realization of just how difficult it is for raw talent to progress.
“This is a new venture for us, but we hope to roll it out around the UK, I felt that I wanted to give something back and this seems like an ideal way,” he said.
“I think the way the industry is now it is exceptionally tough for young bands as there is no one around any more who is willing to back and support them. In the past when you had some interest from managers or record companies you could get advances. Record companies would give an advance to buy instruments or make a record. That’s not happening any more. It’s going from bad to worse too and bands are actually being asked to pay to buy onto a tour which goes against the grain. Young bands can’t afford that. Some would be prepared to play for no fee and are willing to sleep in the van as we did in the old days..But to find the money to pay as a guest is not do-able unless they have got rich parents.”
Mr Downing, who owns the championship golf course Astbury Hall near Bridgnorth, said the idea of a mini-tour with a selection of bands seemed like the ideal way to help younger bands get exposure and playing experience.
Reflecting on his own experiences he said Judas Priest stepped up to a different level after securing a tour with Budgie.
“We did 50-odd concerts and the experience of playing five or six times a week was invaluable,” he said. “Bands today are never going to get their act together until they get out there playing with other bands and getting some touring experience. That’s where you find out your weaknesses as you are being put out there with major acts. We would tour with Kiss, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. You get out there and see the audience reaction. If you are not getting it you have to ask yourself what have these guys got that you haven’t and you learn so much from people who have honed their skills to perfection – it rubs off on you..This is what these guys need – it will help give them confidence and that is what The Future of Metal is aiming to do.”
With Birmingham and the Black Country universally acknowledged as the home of heavy metal, Mr. Downing believes the talent is still there to put the region back on the musical map.
“We had Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and before that other acts like The Move and the Moody Blues,” he added.
“There was a lot of talent from the Midlands but it’s been a long time since anyone new has come through to make an impact nationally or internationally. On my travels all over the world wherever I have been, Japan the US or wherever, the home of metal has always been Birmingham and the Black Country and I would like to see it continue. I’d like to think there is a future of heavy metal and that this area is going to be at the forefront, leading and paving the way for others.”