FORMER JUDAS PRIEST GUITARIST K.K DOWNING DISCUSSES WHY HE LEFT THE BAND, “REDEEMER OF SOULS,” AND WHETHER HE THINKS HE WOULD EVER JOIN THE BAND ONSTAGE FOR A ONE-OFF SHOW
Robert: I understand you had your reasons for leaving [Judas Priest], but how did things go from the band retiring in 2010 with a Farewell tour, to you leaving in 2011 and them continuing on?
KK Downing: I’m glad Priest is continuing on. I was so close to doing that tour it wasn’t funny. It was just one of those things. I had lots and lots of reasons for not continuing, as I wasn’t content with things as they were. I wasn’t happy with the band’s live performance. I thought it could have been better, not that the fans would notice.
To me, Priest was always a stealth machine and that’s what I liked about it. Even though you get older you still need to be able to deliver the goods. People came a long way and paid a lot of money to see us so you’ve got to make sure you still give 110%. I thought that should be inherent and what it should always be.
Robert: Would you ever consider joining Priest for a special one-off show or perhaps join them on stage for a song or two?
KK Downing: [Laughing] No, I don’t think that will ever, ever happen. Obviously I’m quite happy for Richie Faulkner to be in the band. But, I really wasn’t expecting to have someone who had so many familiarities as me, the looks and everything. At a glance nothing too much has changed for the fans.
Robert: Can we expect a solo CD or hear you on someone’s CD, as a guest performer?
KK Downing: It’s hard for me to be creative in music, if I thought I was still coming up with good ideas and writing good stuff it would probably still be befitting of Priest. It’s hard after 40 years; we’ll see what happens in time.
I get lots of requests to perform on people’s CDs. I had a bad time with the people from Cleopatra Records; they got me involved in a Who Tribute CD. The producer hacked the solos to death and then randomly put it into the song.
On my site you can hear what I originally did. I also did a solo on Geoff Tate’s CD. People have always asked me to do stuff, but I was always dedicated to Priest. It’s great that people still remember me.
Robert: Since your departure from Priest has any famous bands reached out to you to play for them?
KK Downing: There have been some good people putting tours together and asked me to join with them like the Rock n’ Roll All-star tour when they went to South America.
Paul Rodgers asked me to do some dates as well. I wasn’t able to do either this time around [but] thought it would be fantastic to play with them sometime.
Robert: Have you listened to Priest’s 2014 release, Redeemer of Souls?
KK Downing: I haven’t listened to all of it. Rob’s voice is synonymous with Priest and time will tell if there are any classic Priest songs that come out of it.
Robert: Is there a favorite Priest album that stands out to you as the epitome of what Priest was all about?
KK Downing: I think British Steel really hallmarked the phrase “Heavy Metal.”
I also think that everything came together on that album for us as a band. It was the first time everyone in the band was wearing leather and studs. When we went out on that tour it seemed like a new ship had set sail.
We felt like we had a lot of power, even though we were the underdogs as a support band. I can still recall when we were back stage dressed in our metal uniform, we felt like we had strength. We were a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Robert: I take it that you look fondly back on those times developing and growing as a band?
KK Downing: Yeah, I think when you look back at the ’80s; you had a lot of major bands come through town. It seems like all the bands were good and had value.
There were some great guitar players that broke through, like Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. They took over for the guitarists of the ’70s like Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher and Eric Clapton – all the great players.
In the ’90s it just stopped. Even though there were a lot of good players out there, you still have to play good songs. I like to think that our PainKiller CD ignited some good bands, as well, like Pantera, Exodus and, of course, Metallica. Those bands got a lot faster and more furious. Everybody thought this was the way to go.
Read K.K.’s entire interview with Guitar International, here.