Backstageaxxess.com was privileged enough to have some time with one half of metals most revered guitar playing tandems; K.K. Downing of Judas Priest. K.K. called us all the way from England to give us an update on what has been going on with him, from his recent line of signature guitars to his side project of producing hometown talent. Of course, we also talked about the upcoming tour with Whitesnake, the longevity Priest has enjoyed and how he and Glen Tipton alternate the solo spotlight. Lets read what one of the original metal gods had to say…
(Ed note: This interview was transcribed as recorded, please keep in mind that any statements that appear grammatically incorrect are due to K.K.s thick English accent.)
KK: Gus, how are you?
Gus: Great, and you?
KK: Excellent, excellent.
Gus: Well we have a short time so I want to get right into it. In a couple of weeks, you guys are going out on tour with Whitesnake, which is a completely different band than Priest. How did this package come about?
KK: Im not really sure. I know someone suggested it. When the agents got wind of it they said they really love it and wanted to do it. I wish I can say I thought if it.
Gus: So are you excited about the tour?
KK: Yeah totally. I was unaware that it has been 30 years since the release of British Steel but Im very happy to go out there to commemorate that. It was such a crucial point in the bands career.
Gus: Talking about “British Steel,” you guys will be playing the album in its entirety. Why did the band decide to play an entire album rather than play select songs from your entire catalog?
KK: Its always difficult to put a set list together. The one good thing is at least its a main start of a good set to play a whole album from front to back. Also, it seems very popular, now that bands are doing this sort of thing. Bands like Queensryche, Motley Crue, Maiden, and some other bands, as well, are doing it. Everybody is loving it so we are really pumped up about it!
Gus: Judas Priest will be releasing “A Touch of Evil”on July 14th. Can you tell us about how the song selection process went for the new CD?
KK: Yes, it was quite simply songs that were never released live before, either on DVD or CD. It runs under an hour long I think. It seems like we are just touring the world, since Rob has come back to the band, for the last 4 or 5 years. Its something we wanted to commemorate; some fantastic shows we had all over the world. It just seemed like a really cool thing to do. For a band that has such long career we only have done two live records, so this is the third one.
Gus: You and guitarist Glenn Tipton have had a long lasting relationship for well over 35 years. During the creative process, who determines leads, solos, and rhythm parts of a song?
KK: I dont know, really. I think early on, certain solos seem to suit me a little bit more and others suit Glenn. I dont know maybe intuition I guess. Sometimes we are not really sure and eventually we do a little bit of a divvy up. Its like maybe you do a solo on it then I do a solo on it, then we do a trade off solo on that. Nothing is etched in stone so we just go song by song really.
Gus: So you dont feel like you are stepping on each others toes then?
KK: No. We feel that there is enough soloing room on Priest stuff and have enough to do each anyway.
Gus: Looking back on your career with Judas Priest, can you now believe its been almost 40 years since you started the band with Ian?
KK: (pauses) 40 years… well, what can I say? (both laugh)
Gus: Well that is an accomplishment to be proud of and did you ever think 40 years ago that you would still be doing it?
KK: No, no. Its amazing. It’s really a testimony to our fans. I think that’s the big motivation. When we did the Masters of Metal tour we only did 18 or 19 shows in the US and Canada. We were really frustrated that we didn’t get to a lot of territories in the States. When you think of 50 states and we only did 18 shows and we knew that was a lot of uncovered ground. So we were determined to come back and play for the fans and not miss anyone out if we can possibly help it. That’s the main reason for putting this tour together to be honest. We felt awkward playing to playing to the fans in the U.S. while missing people out. We said we would come back and that’s why we are doing it.
Gus: KxK Guitars just released a signature series of your guitars. Can you tell us a little about that?
KK: They approached me and offered to make guitar for me and I said “yeah, but if you are going to do it, it has to be made to my specifications.”They said, “no problem.”When they made them I was totally in love with it. It’s extra special and it has gone off from there really.
Gus: Where can people pick up the guitars?
KK: From KxK and their website which I believe that there is an order form on the website. It’s a limited run of the guitars that they are doing. I know that there are quite a few orders being placed. It’s the all singing and dancing ultimate metal guitar, that suits me down to the ground.
Gus: You’re also involved with producing other bands. Can you tell us about that?
KK: I did the first Violent Storm album with Richie Savino who has played with Ritchie Blackmore. I got an opportunity to produce a new young band called Hostile which are virtually from my hometown and other local artists, which I do totally free of charge because I got some time and I’m happy to help some local talent. These days, with all the downloading, it’s restricting the cash flow of record companies to put into young bands. It needs people like me to lend a helping hand when we can. It’s not an open door for metal like it once was in getting assistance from the record companies. In the past, record companies were doing well out of the established bands that they could afford to nurture younger bands and that’s not an option now. A new band will not get singed now unless they blow the record company away and they walk in there with a CD and everything on a plate. That just seems like they way it goes, which is pretty sad. Anyways, I’m doing a band called Hostile’ which I have good hopes for. It’s their first record and the singer/ guitar player, Matt, is only 18 years old.
Gus: It’s been a year since the release of the Nostradamus CD, which is a concept album. Looking back on it now, is there anything you would have done differently?
KK: No, I can’t say. It’s just something we needed to get out of our system I think. It is what it is. Putting people not in Judas Priest world but Nostradamus world about 500 years ago. That what is was all about really. Just to portray the life and emotions and sentiments of Nostradamus. It’s something that virtually everyone goes through in life. Like sadness and different things and what Americans call a roller coaster, right? (we both laugh) You hit highs and lows. You’re either on way down or up but you’re not at the top for very long so you enjoy those pinnacles in your life. That’s my advice to everyone when they do experience them.
Gus: Western New York loves Judas Priest and we are excited to see you play with Whitesnake at CMAC in Canandaigua on July 8th. In wrapping up, what can fans expect from Judas Priest the rest of 2009 and beyond?
KK: We have been on tour for a quite a long time so we enjoy getting out there and playing for the fans. We are really pumped out for the British Steel tour because we bringing out lots of other songs not just the British steel songs otherwise there will be like freewheel burning (Laughs.) Its gonna be rip roaring. We have a few shows to do in Japan but then we have to see where we want to take Judas Priest from this point. One thing is for sure, we are not going to be repeating history, we are going to be pushing metal forward as we always do.
Gus: Thank you so much in taking the time and we look forward to seeing you next month at your show at CMAC.
KK: Thanks and looking forward to it and all the best to you buddy!
We would like to thank Chip Ruggeri of Chipster PR for allowing us time to talk to KK. For more information on the upcoming tour, go to: http://judaspriest.com.