K.K. Downing has admitted that his criticisms Judas Priest may sound like “sour grapes” but he’s “afraid it’s got to be said.”
The guitarist has conducted a number of interviews recently promoting his autobiography ‘Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest’ where he hasn’t pulled any punches when talking about Priest band members - and his candid chat in Issue 10 of Planet Rock Magazine is absolutely no exception.
Reflecting on his relationship with Glenn Tipton, K.K. admitted he had problems with his fellow guitarist stretching back decades, explaining: “Yes (I had issues with him in Priest's early days), but I could put up with it because we were still young and it was still exciting and fun and there were girls and we were travelling the world. Later it became mundane.”
Agreeing that he was happier in Priest’s early days, K.K. explained: “There was a magic there (early on). Even though we didn’t have money we were a crack unit. We were powerful. But on the later tours, that went. We started to shed our armour and we became more vulnerable. We started to look older, because we were older.”
Elucidating further, K.K. said: “My philosophy is: the older you get the younger you’ve got to play. On our last world tour (2010) I was zipping around on-stage, throwing shapes.
“Afterwards I was chatting to Ian (Hill) and Scott (Travis) and Scott made a comment – ‘What do ya mean, man, it’s your show.’
“I didn’t say anything at the time but I kept thinking to myself, ‘What do you mean? My show? Am I trying to get all the attention?’ It made me feel uncomfortable. I was going out there every night working hard and hoping the other guys would latch on, but it wasn’t happening. So after that comment, I backed off.”
Asked by Planet Rock Magazine writer Mark Blake if he wasn’t enjoying himself, K.K. responded: “How may more times can you go to Cincinnati or Biloxi or Mississippi? On that last tour we went to Korea and Columbia and I enjoyed that. All the rest was exactly the same – and all the girls were now in their fifties and sixties.
“It started to feel like a penance, but the reward was always doing a good show. But I wasn’t even that, because the band wasn’t working any more.”
He added: “I think everyone was feeling it. Everything was a bit down, and I think Glenn tried to pick himself up by having a few beers before he went on stage. Then he was drinking between songs, and everything slowed down. It’s all on YouTube. You can see how it was.”
Turning his attention to Rob Halford, K.K. said: “When Rob was on, there was no one better. But it changed when he came back (in 2003). Rob had to use an autocue so that made him a bit static.
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a genuine talent, but I wished he’d retained his presence better than he has. He still sings and performs and he’s doing the best he can, but it’s not ideal for me. I wanted to tell him and I don’t know why I didn’t.”
Asked about his first impressions of his Judas Priest replacement Richie Faulkner, K.K. said: “Same clothes, same hair. It was like ‘OK, K.K.’s left here’s what we’ll do – we’ll clone him’. I don’t think he’d even played Flying Vs before. But Richie’s a fine guitar player.”
Reflecting upon his Facebook post earlier this year when he said he was “shocked and stunned” not to have been invited back into the Judas Priest fold when Glenn Tipton withdrew from regular touring duties, K.K. said: “Glenn handed the baton to Andy (Sneap) in a millisecond. I thought that was unfair to the fans and the box office.”
He added: “Me and Richie would have ripped it up. He’s a very tight player – locked in with those kicks and snares. It would have been a treat for me to play with someone like that.”
In the final question, K.K. was asked whether it was the end of himself and Judas Priest. He replied: “Look, I’m happy the fans got as many years as they did out of the Priest that was. The whole thing is unfortunate, because whatever I say sounds like sour grapes… But I’m afraid it’s got to be said.”
You can read the full wide-ranging interview with K.K. Downing in Issue 10 of Planet Rock Magazine, which is on sale now, where he also discusses his early days, Judas Priest’s embryonic years, selling his royalty rights to Judas Priest songs and how Jimi Hendrix was the only famous person he met that didn’t let him down.