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kkdowning Former Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing spoke with Dean Pedley of The Midlands Rocks about why he left Judas Priest and how the music industry has changed over the years. Highlights from the article appear below.

Discussing British Steel:

“It’s always the hardest thing in the world to follow success, if I had a pound for every time someone has said to me why don’t you write another album like British Steel but the thing is you can’t – those songs have already been written. If the people that wrote it tried to sit down and write another one you would end up with a watered down version; you wouldn’t better it because it’s already out there, it would just sound like a poor copy.”

On why he left Judas Priest:

“I’ll never get away from this retirement thing, but what happened was that I quit, retired implies that I am not physically able to do it. I am able to do it but I didn’t want to do it; I just wasn’t enjoying it any more, a lot of things had changed. I think I counted about thirty reasons why I didn’t want to do it at the time and that is an awful lot of reasons. In all honesty, I think that in so many respects it had run its course. If you’re part of a songwriting team you get the recognition and reward for creating something, but for me Priest became about going out and playing live and replicating exactly what people had enjoyed ten, twenty or thirty years ago. The fans would be just as happy if they could see us bin all of the modern guitars we now play and take them on a walk down memory lane because I think that’s what people enjoy most. And I understand that because if I could go out now and see Eric Clapton with Cream then I would be the happiest person in the world.

One of the beautiful things about being in the industry was the ability to continue to invent and create, constructing songs and making good records. You do feel the need to be creative and that was taken away with the downloading thing and as you get older the balance of the scales starts to tip. So if you can’t be creative why would you want to continue to dedicate the time into something. I suppose if the industry was still healthy and people still had to spend their hard earned money buying a record it would be different, but if you give something away then it has no value. We used to buy an album and think well it’s not that good but I’ll play it a million times I’m sure I’ll get into it and now it doesn’t really get a second chance. In the past there was always the opportunity to create a record like Dark Side of the Moon or British Steel or Back In Black that would be one of those albums that would be indelible and people will always come back to. And I think that opportunity has gone now and I think it would take a miracle for one of those to happen again. If you consider an album like Nostradamus then if that had been released in 1978 then it would have been another Dark Side of the Moon but it is all about the timing. When you think about it in the early days we had the opportunity to write great songs, play great solos and have great vocal performances but people get used to it and it is hard now to get the reaction of “Wow, have you heard the new Priest album.” The industry has changed so much… I see companies that are repackaging and rehashing and that started happening to us and that was not a pretty thing to be a part of. It’s kind of duping the fans a bit because there are fans around the world that have got to have everything to complete their collection so even if there are only a few thousand of them if you put out a box collection it might be $100, which is a lot of dollars, and so for me that is something that I didn’t get into music for.”

Read the entire article at The Midlands Rocks.

source: themidlandsrocks.com


    1. He has some points but there are 2 things he is wrong about. 1) The music business had to change operations and the downloading had to happen cause for decades and decades who was making the big bucks and ripping off musicians in the studios and fans at the stores??? The record companies. A record, cassette or cd that sold for $15 on average the musicians were lucky if they got max $1.50 per each one and I’m only going as far back as 20 years ago. Since then in most music genres there have been very rare ultimate classic standout awesome production albums released and with the downloading going on it was like a chance to preview an album before getting stuck after you buy it and really don’t like it. Today in 2014 since years record, film and etc companies have closed down cd/dvd manufacturing locations, store music/films online on their servers across the world cutting hundreds of thousands of job from labor to transport only to still charge $15 on average for just electronic authorized downloads………………………………..ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME??? Hell no way and until they lower their prices by 75% and give more to the artists downloading will only become a bigger unstoppable problem for them.

  1. So sad. He sounds just completely beaten down by the industry – very bitter. Almost the rock equivalent of the old man yelling at his grandkids “Back in MY day, we didn’t have all this fancy DOWNLOADING nonsense!!” Can’t blame him one bit though. He’s a legend and deserved better.

  2. Without a doubt as far as I’m concerned the ‘downloading thing’ as K.K. calls it has taken all of the fun and pleasure out of collecting albums. I love the whole physical package of an album: from the cover and artwork to the lyrics and other details that are often included. For me a music collection is all about enjoying the entire experience of ‘collecting’, plus you can reference and look back on the physical product. Certainly you can’t fault K.K. for his reasons on leaving the industry; there’s way to many artists out there who just follow the flow and pretend nothing is happening; smiling all of the time and plugging their rehashed versions of past albums or these best of collections with an extra track thrown in. Another thing that sucks about albums now is the continuous extra tracks scenario on the ‘deluxe versions’, give me a good old fashioned ‘proper’ album anytime, one that has 10 -12 tracks that were put together with some sense of integrity, and not all of these ‘extra track’ cons that artists and record labels keep on coming out with. Lets face it, how many of these so called extra tracks are actually worth listening to anyway? A lot of them would be hard pushed making it onto the B side of those old 45s!

    1. Completely agree with you about the Deluxe Versions.
      Why do we have to pay an extra $3-$5 for a couple extra songs?
      Put out ONE complete full lenght album.
      Now I don’t mind paying more for including a DVD, but it better have decent content. Give me some music videos and concert performance, not just 30 minutes of talking about it.

    2. What’s more important, the actual music getting into your blood in a rockin way or the media form it’s been recorded on?? What’s more important, having records, cassettes and cd’s to be produced causing more plastic and gas pollution from the manufacturing plant to the transport to the store or simply downloading that does not cause any pollution at all on any scale that can and does deliver cd quality?? I think of the future so the best wise option is the no pollution option.

  3. I give KK a lot of credit. How many musicians must there be out there that feel the same way but stick with the program? Imagine what people would think if more people spoke up and followed through with their thoughts like KK. I remember Brad Whitford of Aerosmith talking about getting sick of touring maybe 10 years ago and wanting to just relax. It didn’t happen.

    1. Very well said. But having said that to be honest when KK left it kinda killed Priest for me. Always preferred KK’s guitar work over Glenn’s. Glenn seems to wanna be a glory hound IMO. Listening to KK’s solos in Love You To Death & Wild Nights, Hot And Crazy Days gives me chills.

  4. The whole IPod thing ruins music. Clueless crap sound from ear plugs for people who hear, not listen, to music. No grasping the art, who produced, wrote, etc and all songs as band recorded makes for some kind of half worthless product. When asked why I don’t have one, my reply is hear my car and home stereos. If I wanted crap sound I’d pay a stupid fee for an iPod. Thanks, will stick to my 700 CDs. As to the extra editions it depends, I have over 150 concert DVDs and only buy extended editions if they include a DVD. Can’t fault those trying to make money when downloading has cut profits to much. Every code can be broken, 1 person loads it and 10 friends copy for free. I do laugh whenever something goes wrong and people “lose” all their music.

  5. While I can’t disagree with anything he’s said about downloading, I’m have a hard time “buying” what he’s saying in regards to why he left the band. Why did he wait to say anything for over a year if being “burned out” is the real reason? By leaving suddenly and “clamming up”, that gives the appearance that he had a conflict with the band.

  6. I agree with the general sentiment here about the bad effects that downloading, especially “free” downloading (i.e., stealing) has had on the industry and artists. However, I do enjoy my mp3 in one way. I use it to download (and yes I pay for the songs via Rhapsody or Amazon) songs that I like from bands that I don’t like or songs from bands that I like who put out a disappointing album. For example, I was never much of a fan of either Kid Rock or Poison, but like a few of their songs, so I’ve bought those 8 or 10 songs that I like for my mp3 player. Same with the few songs that I like on Judas Priest’s Turbo and Dio’s Lock Up the Wolves. I never bought either CD because I was disappointed with both. However, both CDs have a few good songs, and I’ve downloaded them. I really enjoy listening to the 450 or so songs that I’ve downloaded while I ride my bike, do yardwork, or clean up my man-cave/basement area downstairs when necessary.

  7. I completely agree wtih K.K….downloading has killed the industry and has made it so difficult for bands to make any money selling “albums”. (it’s no shock that concerts are so expensive now a days..how else are they to make any money?) I will always buy the full cd. I want to know everything about the band, down to the type of bass guitar used. I used to love going to tower records and shopping for the best of metal and rock…now I can barely find anything unless I go to Amazon. it sucks!

  8. On some level, the digital outlets for music could be a good thing – if people cared enough about buying a whole album. I’m talking about actually making a purchase, the whole pirating thing is a different animal and was happening long before the ITunes era. People just seem to buy the one song they hear on the radio. I couldn’t tell you the last time my wife bought a full album, it’s all singles. I’m the opposite, I never buy a single and always buy the album – but that’s how I grew up. Most of my favorite songs are “deep” album tracks. I can’t deny there is a benefit to the instant availability of music – don’t even need to get in the car just open up Amazon and a few clicks later it’s on my hard drive. But….. I think I’m going to go back to buying CDs. I do like having the artwork and liner notes, and since my car isn’t new I don’t have an IPod interface or USB port so I’m always feeding the CD changer. CDs burned from MP3’s don’t sound as good as “real” CDs. But, that might work for me and other people over 30 but I GUARANTEE you won’t get people younger than that to break away from just going to ITunes or other digital outlets. I really think in less than 10 years (maybe much sooner) you won’t be able to buy a physical copy anywhere. I wonder how many artists will even continue to produce full albums anymore. Just release a couple of songs now and then and tour? It could happen.

    1. Well said Steve, that why ticket prices are average 90-100 clams and a t-shirt is like another 40-50 . I miss those days walking into a record store and picking up what a wanted at the same time and more, Now its like logging on Amazon, going through purchasing process and then waiting almost like a week for it to come in the mail .

  9. Man. Really is sad to hear he wasn’t enjoying things anymore… I guess i get it though. 30+ years with the same group of people. Playing some of the same songs a billion times over each year.. I’d probably lose some of my passion too! And with this whole, download for free websites… Nobody’s striking pay dirt as a rock/metal act anymore! Rap either if you’re into that genre.. but so many things have gone online lately. I’m still pretty young myself, n fairly up on at least USING the Internet and the computer! Haha! But i’d still prefer to support my favorite acts by BUYING a CD or record with what bit of money im able to save up. I would love to have seen priest live.. I never was able to.. and now kk has left? Has anyone listened to the new album yet? I don’t know about you.. but i feel its missing that certain feel.. a particular sound or special riff, like Zakk Wylde of BLS/Ozzy.. hes got a signiture sound.. he makes his guitar do kind of a squeel. I think its kinda cool. But yea. Its missing kk. It’s a great album from what I’ve heard of it so far.. but it just doesn’t seem to have the same energy or passion as it would with kk… I grew up listening to them.. 30 years now. My dad introduced me to their music when i was 3 n ive been a huge fan since! Best regards and best of luck in your future endeavors! Blessed be KK! Priest will never be the same without you! God speed and good luck! May the metal gods fly you on their backs for the rest of eternity!

  10. I agree with a prior post. The problem isn’t the mp3/downloading technology, it is the record companies. It’s unconscianable that the artists (generally) make less than the executives . Remember when CD’s first appeared? They are almost the same price now that they were back then- 30 years ago! In what world does that make sense? I will also agree that mp3 versions are not the best quality, but I do like the fact that I can buy just the songs I like. Now, a band I LOVE will get my money for the whole album, but that’s not true for everyone. It also keeps artists honest- you can’t put out one good song and have everything else be just crap/filler.

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