Judas Priest
An Interview with KK DOWNING
Part 2
By Bob Nalbandian

SW: The production is awesome...very heavy!
KK: It's as heavy as shit! (laughs)

SW: Let's go back to the beginning of Priest's career, in the early '70s. Back then, when you recorded such albums as RockaRolla and Sad Wings Of Destiny , there weren't many bands, apart from Black Sabbath, that played the real heavy, dark/gothic music. Was it hard to get established, especially here in the U.S., back then?
KK: In actual fact, America was very good to us very early on. I remember our first American tour...we were hooked up with bands like Foghat and REO Speedwagon. It was really cool because we were pretty much the new kids on the block, and we'd get on stage wearing all this metal & leather gear. Surprisingly, the response was very good; it was phenomenal, really. We would open up for Foghat in front of 12,000 people, and the next night we would headline a small club...and we didn't have any days off, that's the way it worked in those days. It was exciting times! And at the end of that tour, we were asked to fly to Oakland, California to play a couple shows with Led Zeppelin. That was terrific! We played in front of 65,000 people at Oakland Coliseum. America has always been very good to Judas Priest, it has always been our biggest market in the world.

SW: I've seen you on just about every tour, and I gotta tell you...Judas Priest have always put on the most amazing live performance!
KK: That's very kind of you to say, Bob. Obviously, we've always prided ourselves to put on as good a show as we possibly can for our fans. We're really looking forward to getting out there and doing it all over again.

SW: What ever happened to Les Binks? (former Judas Priest drummer)
KK: I don't really know, to be honest. He did a lot of session work before he joined Judas Priest, and I can only guess that he dropped back into doing sessions.

SW: Judas Priest is easily one of the most influential bands in heavy metal music...you and Glenn Tipton pretty much started a trend, so to speak, for "dual" lead guitarists in rock/metal bands. At the time, most hard rock bands only had a single guitarist, or one lead player and one rhythm player... do you feel you broke new ground in that respect?
KK: Yes, definitely. We never really understood why bands didn't catch onto it before. But, like you said, many bands would have one lead guitarist and one rhythm guitarist. In the very early days, before Glenn joined the band and before we recorded our first record, we were just a four piece with me being the sole guitarist. And every time I did a guitar solo, it sounded empty, so it made sense to recruit another guitarist to fill in the rhythm. But when Glenn joined the band, he was obviously a competent lead and rhythm player, so it was just automatic that he would take some solos. We would trade off solos and we also had the facility to harmonize with each other...it was just second nature for us.

SW: Are there any new bands you listen to?
KK: I put my ear to everything that has passed my way. We get a lot of tapes and CDs from our management office, or fans and journalists will send me tapes of new bands. If we get a copy of a new band's tape and we like it, we may consider taking them out on the road with us.

SW: What about the Spice Girls?
KK: (Laughs) No, I don't listen to them much...but I do listen to all different types of music. Being a guitar player, I personally like to check out the guitar greats like Van Halen, Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai.

SW: So, will Ripper come out onstage riding a Harley?
KK: Well, I'm gonna ask you, "What do you think about that?"

SW: (Jokingly) I think he should come out onstage riding a moped, that way Priest can win over a lot of Oasis fans!
KK: Yeah (laughs), pretty cool! We're actually considering constructing a machine at the moment, but what format it'll take, we're not exactly sure.

SW: Judas Priest greatly influenced the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement when it exploded in England in 1979...Do you think there's a chance Priest may influence yet another new metal music revival, say in 1999?
KK: No doubt about it. Obviously, we're gonna be doing what we've always done. And if we can put together a classic metal package, perhaps with another classic metal band and maybe one or two new bands that are playing what we consider to be "classic" metal...that would be absolutely brilliant. If we can influence musicians, both young and old...I mean, we're playing music from three decades. You might hear a song like "Turbo Lover" from 1986, then "Victim Of Changes" from '73, and then "Bullet Train" from '97. The point is, why get caught up in following trends...whether it be grunge, or death metal, or techno, or whatever? Why not just play what you feel? If a band like Priest can play successfully for three, going on four, decades, writing diverse music - and it's all metal music - doesn't that really epitomize the whole metal genre?

SW: I totally agree. I think it's more or less the media who try to control the musical trends...they've been trying to kill hard-rock and heavy metal music for years. They say "Heavy Metal music is dead," but what I find so ironic is the fact that the biggest tour package of 1997 was the OZZ FEST! That tour got absolutely no support from press, radio or MTV, yet it had the biggest attendance and grossed more money than any of the trendy tour packages such as Lollapalooza, Warped, the Horde Festival, or the Lesbian...excuse me...the Lilith Fair. It blew away everything!
KK: We're not out there trying to convince these people to listen to our music, but if nothing else, if they would open their eyes and ears a little bit to classic metal music they would see the huge impact that it has.

SW: Jugulator is released through CMC International (BMG). Your previous albums have been released on Columbia records. I noticed a lot of bands, old and new, have been turning to CMC, particularly classic British metal bands, such as Saxon, Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead...you seem to be in good company with CMC...
KK: We like it a lot. Instead of getting lost in a large network like Columbia...and the truth is, we never had a great relationship with Columbia, we sold a lot of records with them, but they never really had an understanding of metal music, or our fans. Now, we're very happy with our structure. Tom Lipsky (the President of CMC) has a serious understanding of classic rock...and that's really what we're all about.


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