K.K. Downing is an English guitarist best known as a former member of the heavy metal band Judas Priest. The band was formed in Birmingham, England, in 1970. The group’s core members were guitarist K.K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill. They were joined by Alan Atkins and drummer John Ellis. After several lineup changes, the band rushed into mainstream success in the late 70s. To this day, Judas Priest has sold over 50 million albums. They are frequently ranked as one of the greatest metal bands of all time. K.K. Downing left the band right before the at the time intended to be the band’s farewell, Epitaph World Tour in 2011Downing alluded to difficulties with the band and management and the breakdown of their relationship. At this point, Downing effectively retired from the music business but still did a few select projects and production work, including the band Hostile, whose debut album ‘Eve Of Destruction’ he produced in 2011.In January 2020, Downing signed a record deal with Explorer1 Music Group and announced his new band, KK’s Priest, with bassist Tony Newton, guitarist A.J. Mills, and former Judas Priest members Tim “Ripper” Owens and Les Binks. However, Sean Elg soon replaced Binks behind the drumkit, and he is now a permanent band member. KK Priest‘s debut album “Sermons of the Sinner” was released in October 2021. However, due to the global pandemic and problems with the record company, the band could not play live shows until the summer of 2023, when the band performed at festivals, e.g. Bloodstock, Legends of Rock, Alcatraz and Time to Rock. The band’s second album, “The Sinner Rides Again”, will be released on September 29, 2023, and its release will be followed by a tour starting in England in October. A lot has happened in K.K.’s life since leaving Judas Priest, so now was the right time to pick up the phone and call the man before the release of the second KK’s Priest album.
First of all, big congratulations on your triumphant return to the stage after a long break. That must have been a big relief for you for many reasons?
K.K. Downing: It was fun and exciting, but as you say, I’m very much relieved. We did the warm-up show in Wolverhampton. Yeah, we’re very pleased. Obviously, it’s still in its early days, but it’s great to be back on stage with Ripper and all the guys. And, um, I think it feels like a strong situation, but we need to go out there and play more shows and we will, and that’s what’s going to happen. I think we’re just about to take off next week to the Legends of Rock in Spain and the Alcatraz festival in Belgium. So, I’m really very much looking forward to that.
KK’s Priest was officially formed in early 2020; the first album, “Sermons of the Sinner,” came out in August 2020. But it took over two years before the band got to play live now. It must have been a frustrating time for you and the rest of the band members.
K.K. Downing: Yeah. Because I think that COVID-19 really was the main problem, wasn’t it? Because we were actually talking to Iron Maiden about supporting Iron Maiden in ’21 and ’22. They were going to do the UK arenas, and we were going to support them, but the COVID stopped that, and the shows got cancelled. And then, you know, the COVID thing was horrible. And so I just decided to make another record, so that’s what I did.
How nervous you were before those KK’s Priest shows? I’m sure there was a lot of pressure to make everything work and go ahead as planned.
K.K. Downing: Not too bad. You know, you’re always wondering if everything’s going to work properly. In Sweden, we had quite a lot of problems. The festival had problems with the electricity, and we went on late, and everything didn’t work that well. But I really enjoyed the shows anyway. But I’m only ever nervous in case I split my pants or break a string or if things don’t work. But other than that, I guess I’ve been doing it for so long it’s not too bad.
The show in Sweden was delayed more than 60 minutes, but once it started to roll, it worked great, like a well-oiled machine. There were no dull moments, and the band sounded fantastic.
K.K. Downing: All of the intro videos, none of it worked. But I don’t think the audience really noticed, so, you know. But there you go. We had some problems with the electricity and everything, but we enjoyed it. We were just glad to be playing another show, really.
The audience, including myself, didn’t know what to expect from the KK’s Priest show. So, if the screens didn’t work, it didn’t matter.
K.K. Downing: Oh, it was really disheartening because I was starting the first song, and usually, I can see the videos and the images and everything, you know, and there I couldn’t see anything. It’s always a bit disappointing, but the music’s the main thing, Marko, right?
I agree. The music always comes first.
K.K. Downing: Yes, absolutely. Every time.
However, the pyro and fireworks were spectacular in Sweden, and looked so great when it got dark in the evening.
K.K. Downing: I think that the pyro worked perfectly. It was just the videos that weren’t working. But I think it was good. We enjoyed it. I think the audience liked it, so that was good. But the worst thing was that we had to leave out two songs. They told us we had to cut the set list down because of the time. So we had to leave out ”Metal Meltdown” and our new video song that will be out in a week’s time called ”Reap the Whirlwind.” So, that’s a brand-new song off the new album. So that’s two songs we had to take out of the setlist, which was a shame. But we played the songs in Wolverhampton, though. But that’s why we were probably more disappointed that we didn’t get to play them because we’d already played them. But anyway, when we go to Spain and Belgium, it’s going to be a full set. It’s going to be great.
Is it right to say that visuals are a really important thing for KK’s Priest? I mean, all KK’s Priest’s music videos are very carefully designed and look great. And now, at live gigs, the band does everything as spectacularly as possible, with big pyros, bombs, and screens. Is this the kind of signal you want to send to your fans? Do you want to show that when you decide to do something with this band, it is always done as well as possible, spectacularly, without saving time and money?
K.K. Downing: Well, I think the thing is to send the message out to promoters all around the world. If they want to book the band on a big show, then we are able to put on a big show because people pay money at festivals and that, but I think it’s because sometimes places are so big, you know, the audience is so far away, you know? But I like all of that. I like all of that really because, you know, I remember when we first toured with KISS in ’77, ’78. You know, I was fucking blown away. I’m thinking, “Wow, we’ve got nothing, and they’ve got everything.” You know, Ace Frehley has got, like, rockets being fired from the end of his guitar. And I was thinking, “Fuck, that’s so cool,” you know. And, uh, and obviously, Judas Priest, we put on a lot of big shows. And they still put on a big show, but if, if people want to book the band to headline a festival, like, uh, that’s going to happen next week in Spain and Belgium, you know, and they’re paying quite a lot of money for us, then they’re going to get a fucking kick-ass of show. You know, that’s what’s going to happen. And, like I said, we’ve got the music. We’ve got the guys in the band. We’ve got our own performance. But if we can deliver up even extra, then we will if we can. But like I said, we’re going to play some places where we won’t have anything, just the band and the music, which is cool too.
If we talk a little bit about the songs KK’s Priest has played live now, I think the band’s set list was put together very carefully. It wasn’t only a collection of the obvious choices but a mix of old and new. You also played a few rare Judas Priest songs that the fans haven’t heard live a long time ago. Well, how did you pick the songs? It must have been really difficult task?
K.K. Downing: It’s so — it’s impossible, Marko. Even I don’t know if I’ve got — it’s impossible for me to know if it’s right until I get in front of audiences. And so — and people tell me because, with so many songs, it’s crazy, you know, and so. I said to Jari, you know, because Jari was saying, “Oh yeah, play this song. Play that song.” I said, “To be honest, I’m going to be on tour for the next three years. And I’m going to get through most of the songs because we’re going to be changing the set list, of course.” You know, we’ll be adding more songs from the new album. We’ll be changing the songs. And, and, and I think that that’s a good thing, you know.
That’s good to hear, because it’s the best way to keep things fresh.
K.K. Downing: We got a fantastic repertoire, so I’ll just keep changing them ’cause Jari says, “Put this song in. Put that song in.” I said, “Jari, I can’t put them in now, but by the end of the year, I’m going to change them, if not before. Because, you know, it’s so difficult. All of the fans have different songs they want to hear. Once, we actually said on the internet to all of the fans, “Put together your ten,” I think it was ten, “favourite songs for us to play in the setlist.” And the lists, they were all different, you know. We were hoping that it would help us to choose the set list, but it made it even more complicated.
There’s only one thing I want to complain about on the setlist. Why on earth was there only one song from the Ripper-era Priest on the setlist?
K.K. Downing: Well, in Sweden, we had to take out two songs. But anyway, I think that if I was able to play one song from each Judas Priest album, then I wouldn’t be able to have the ability to play any songs from KK’s Priest album because there are sixteen songs in the setlist. I think there are sixteen, but in Sweden, that came down to fourteen, so that’s not an average of one song per Judas Priest album. So, even though there was only one song from the Ripper era, there probably wasn’t any songs from ”Point of Entry,” any songs from ”Turbo,” any songs from ”Ram It Down,” any songs from ”Nostradamus”, or ”Rocka Rolla, or ”Angel of Retribution.” So, I get what you might be saying because Ripper’s in the band now, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s my legacy and career, too, you know. And, rather than play two songs from the Ripper albums, I would rather play a song from ”Nostradamus,” ”Rocka Rolla,” or any of those other albums. But it’s so difficult. But the good news is that we will keep changing. The set will keep on changing, you know.
If I could add one song to the setlist, I would add “Visions.” It would be a great addition to that list.
K.K. Downing: ”Visions.” Oh, okay. I do wanna play stuff from ”Nostradamus.” I want to play stuff from every album. I don’t think we played anything from ”Defenders of the Faith.” So, it’s difficult for me because if I put another song in from ”Jugulator” or ”Demolition,” it’s hard for me not to put a song in from, like ”Rock Hard Ride Free”? You know, it’s hard for me not to put those songs in, you know. If somebody says, “Oh, play ”One on One,” or play ”Hell is Home,” or play ”Freewheel Burning,” or the song ”Ram It Down.” I think I’d prefer to play — you know? Some of those songs are… I don’t know. It’s so difficult, Marko. I’ll never get it right for everybody. But we’ll keep on changing the setlist. Absolutely.
This goes a bit outside the topic of the interview, but as I recall, Judas Priest didn’t change their setlists much, either. At least not very often, or very much.
K.K. Downing: Yeah, and I was always complaining about it. I’m thinking, “Why do we have to keep playing the same songs all the time?” You know, I was fed up a bit. Yeah, I totally agree.
In 2020, KK’s Priest did a record deal with Explorer1, which released the “Sermons of the Sinner” album. But now the band has signed a new contract with Napalm Records, which will release “The Sinners Ride Again.” So, what happened with the first record label?
K.K. Downing: It was just disagreements really with the first label, you know? I was just disagreements, multiple disagreements, really. I mean, they were a new company, and bands started to leave the company. So, we all kind of left the company more or less at the same time. Wolfgang Van Halen left. The Raven Age left, and I think Steve Harris’s British Lion left. You know, we all left the company. I don’t think the company — I’m not sure if the company has any bands anymore. I’m very happy with Napalm Records. They have lots of metal bands, and they seem to be a good company, so we’ll stay with them now.
I’m sure that you are aware that if you go to the Internet and type KK’s Priest into the Google search, it will automatically redirect you to the website owned by the old record company, www.kkspriest.com. There’s the first KK’s Priest record and some band merchandise on sale.
K.K. Downing: Yeah, but my official website is now kkdowningofficial.com. We have a brand-new website, so that’s the place to go.
Maybe you should ask the old company to remove the old page. You know, it’s a bit of a confusing situation at the moment.
K.K. Downing: The problem is that they still retain some rights over the first record, so they’re going to want people to visit there because they could still sell the products, I guess, Marko. Yeah, that’s what they do. It is confusing, but hopefully, with time, that will change, so we’ll see.
Next, let’s jump back in time to the spring of 2018. Then you recorded a new version of the Judas Priest classic “Beyond The Realms of Death” with former Priest drummer Les Binks to celebrate the “Stained Class” album’s 40th anniversary.
K.K. Downing: Yes.
How did that thing come about?
K.K. Downing: I don’t really know. I think that Les just asked me if I would re-record the song because Les was very instrumental in writing that song. So he said, “Will you record it with me?” And obviously, Paul Crook is a very good guy. Paul’s a very heavy metal guy. I know he did a lot with Meat Loaf and is a good guitar player. And so, I said, “Okay, Les,” because Les had never asked me to do anything before, and Les is a good guy. I did it because he asked me. I said ”Yes,” you know, so we did it.
The song was released under the name DevilStar, and the band featured you, Les, Paul Crook, bassist Joey Vera, and Ripper. I think that was the first time you reconnected with him since the Priest days.
K.K. Downing: Yeah. Did Ripper sing on it? I think he did it, didn’t he?
Yes he did.
K.K. Downing: Well, it’s got to be pretty good if Ripper’s on there. But I’m trying to think now. I can’t remember, but I seem to remember it was pretty good.
Then, one thing leads to another. In August of 2019, you played a set of Judas Priest classics at the Bloodstock festival with the Ross the Boss band.
K.K. Downing: Yes.
Tell me a bit about that show and how it came about.
K.K. Downing: Well, that just came about by accident because a journalist from MetalTalk said to me, “Will you come to Bloodstock and accept the award for the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame on the stage?” Because I lived quite close to Bloodstock and because he first wanted me to accept the award in Wacken when the rest of the band accepted the award. But the rest of the band didn’t allow me to go and accept the award. So he said, “Well, why don’t you come to Bloodstock, and I will give you the award on the stage?” And I say, “Well, do you think so?” And he says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I want you to do it.” Oh, I say, “Okay. I’ll do it.” And then the next thing, he said, “Well, if you’re coming and you’re gonna be on the stage, what about you play a couple of songs?” And I said, “I’m not a solo artist. I’m not Ed Sheeran, you know.” And he said, “No problem. Why don’t you play — well, I can find a band to play with you.” And I say, “Who’s that?” And he says, “Ross the Boss. That will be great. He’s the only one guitar in the band.” And, and I said, “No, no, no, no. I don’t want to do that. I don’t know those guys. You know, why would I want to do that”? And he says, “Oh, Ross is a good mate. He’s a friend. He’s good — you know, he was in Manowar. You were in Judas Priest. It’s going to be great.” And so, anyway, he talked me into doing it. But anyway, I’m really happy I did it because they came to Wolverhampton, the Steel Mill, and we had a little bit of a rehearsal. And I totally enjoyed playing with the guys. They were fantastic. They were really good.
Wasn’t that Bloodstock appearance the first time you played on stage after leaving Judas Priest?
K.K. Downing: Yes.
At that point, you had had a really long break from playing live. How nervous were you before going on stage?
K.K. Downing: A little bit, but I was doing fine. Once I get on the stage, I just forget about everything and just do what I do. You know, it’s just beforehand, really, like I say. I just want to make sure that everything works properly because doing one-off shows, it’s kind of — you get a bit more nervous just doing one-off shows because of equipment and gear and stuff like that and working with new people. But yeah, it has to be done.
The next step towards a return then took place in November 2019, the Steel Mill show. It was a fantastic show indeed. I wondered if that show was something like that, where you kind of wanted to test how people would react when they see you, Ripper, and Les playing together on stage. Were you kind of testing the waters then, or what was the plan behind that one-off show?
K.K. Downing: No, no, no, it was because of David Ellefson. He contacted me and said, “Look, if I’m playing at your venue, will you get up and play a couple of songs with us? Because, you know, as you are the host?” And then I think, “Oh God, I don’t want to, really. You know what I mean? Start things, you know.” But then I thought, “Well, okay. If it’s just a couple of songs, maybe I can do it.” So I agreed to play a couple of songs, and then a mutual friend of mine and Ripper’s from Phoenix called me up and said, “Oh, I heard you’re gonna play with Dave Ellefsson,” because Dave’s a friend of his as well. And, and he’s quite wealthy, this guy. He says, “Oh yeah if you are going to play with my buddy Dave, I’m going to fly Tim over. Tim’s going to sing the songs.” So I went, “Oh, okay.” And so, you know, “Okay. Whatever. I can’t stop him flying over.” And then they said, “Well if you are going to be there and Tim’s gonna be there and David Ellefson on bass, why don’t we ask Les Binks to come up and play some drums?” And that’s when it started to get really out of hand, you know. So that’s when the setlist started to grow from a couple of songs, you know. So I’m thinking, “Oh, if Les is coming up, we probably need to play some songs that Les played on. You know, like, ”Exciter” or ”Hell Bent for Leather” or” Beyond the Realms,” whatever. So, the set list grew and grew. And then it started to turn into kind of a headline situation with kind of a bit of an all-star band. And so that’s kind of what happened, really.
So it was like that little cottage grew into a big castle.
K.K. Downing: Yes. Exactly. Yeah.
But not long after, you started a new band and signed a recording contract with the Explorer1.
K.K. Downing: Yeah. Explorer1 and stuff, yeah.
Was that successful Steel Mill gig the reason why you decided to start a new band?
K.K. Downing: I did that show, and obviously, it was very well received. And then, I think we did the show in November, and then Christmas came. And Christmas to me, because I don’t have a family, kids, or anything like that… so, Christmas was a pretty boring time for me, really, the Christmas holidays. So I thought, “Well, I don’t want to ask everybody if they’re interested in being in a band with me and then sit down to write songs and then find that I can’t write songs anymore.” So I thought, “I’ll do it the other way around. I’ll sit down because it’s the middle of winter. It’s boring. I’ll see if I can write some songs first.” I sat down and started to write some songs, and it went fantastically well and very quickly. And within three to four weeks, I had enough songs for a complete album. You know, all the demos, and it sounded good, obviously. It didn’t really sound that good because I was doing all the vocals. I was singing on the demos, but at least I was able to map all the songs out with some lyrics and melodies and everything. And it sounded good. You know, it sounded really good. So then I was confident to call the guys and say, “I’ve got some material here. Do you fancy making a record?” And they said yes, and that’s how it all started.
After you had finished writing the first album, who was the first guy you called and asked, “Let’s make an album together”?
K.K. Downing: I think it was AJ, my guitar player, because he lives not too far away from me.
And what was Ripper’s reaction when you asked him to join?
K.K. Downing: He said, “Yeah, sure.” He was totally — he said, “Yeah, count me in.”
Do you remember what the first song you wrote for the album was?
K.K. Downing: I think it was ”Hellfire Thunderbolt.” I think I went kind of chronologically. I did one song, and then I did the second, and I just went like that, really. So it was cool. But I had lots of ideas. I still had, like, a big vault of guitar ideas. Plus, I did a lot of new ideas, so it was pretty good, really. It was really easy, and then I sat down to do the second album. And I did the same thing when I did the second album. In three or four weeks, I had all the songs. I can sing, but not very well. But I’m pretty good at vocal melodies. So it was fair. I found it quite easy writing on my own, you know. And I didn’t realise how easy it would be because I was writing on my own back in 1969, 1970, and ’71. And back then, I didn’t think it was that easy. But now, writing on my own was really easy. Obviously myself, Glenn and Rob, we did a lot of great things together, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But it’s a lot easier and quicker on my own because if I like it, then it goes, and if I don’t like it, it doesn’t go. I’m the decision maker, and I quite like that, you know.
One confusing thing at the beginning was that when you announced KK’s Priest, Les Binks was listed as the band’s drummer. However, Les did not play on the album and is not in the band now. Was he ever really involved in the band at any point, and what exactly happened with him?
K.K. Downing: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, Les and I are the same age, and as you get older, it gets a lot harder physical-wise and even more for a drummer, so I understand. A lot of the stuff on the first KK’s Priest album was pretty heavy-duty, really. And Les did say, “Look, you know, I’ve got this. I don’t want to exasperate my issues and problems.” You know, he was enjoying playing with his friends in a band as well, and he just wanted to keep on playing. He didn’t want to do something that was going to stop him from playing altogether. So he very graciously said, “Yeah, I’m happy to hand the sticks over to a young gun.” And I understand because even playing the guitar, you know, I have problems in my left wrist, in my right elbow, but it’s not so enduring really as playing the drums where you have to use all of your limbs at the same time, you know, the joints.
Whereas most of the feedback has been very positive, some of the old Priest fans have been criticising this and that, starting from the band’s name, song titles, and lyrics, almost anything. Is there anything you would like to say to those people?
K.K. Downing: Yeah, absolutely. I would say that if they can understand that parting ways with Judas Priest, you know, I was there at the beginning since 1969. It was my life, my heritage, my legacy, and everything. It meant everything to me. And — but in 2010, the decision was made by everyone and the band’s managers to end the band. That was the decision to do a farewell tour, and the band was set to finish. And that was agreed on by everyone. And we didn’t know then that Glenn was suffering from Parkinson’s already. And he didn’t tell us, you know.
But I’m just saying that maybe that was in Glenn’s mind that really — the uncertainty of having that issue, maybe that’s why he agreed, you know. I agreed because I felt that the band was not really performing as it should. Um, I can’t really say why Rob, um, and Ian agreed, but we all agreed, and we were asked to think of a title for the tour that would mean the definitive end of the band. And so, the title for the tour that was decided upon was the ”Epitaph Tour.” But I decided I didn’t want to do the farewell tour. So I decided to send, in a letter saying that I didn’t want to do the tour and wished them well, the farewell tour, naturally, assuming that they would get a replacement in for me just to do the farewell tour because I suppose in the back of my mind, I wasn’t really convinced that I wanted to end Judas Priest.
And I suppose, in a way, if I didn’t do the farewell tour, then maybe I didn’t say farewell. But I didn’t realise that they were going to continue for another 14 years. That wasn’t — that wasn’t the plan. That wasn’t what I was told. Otherwise, things may have been very different. But anyway, since that happened, I always thought that maybe one day, there would be an opportunity for me to rejoin the band. And that opportunity came along really when Glenn decided to retire from the band. But he didn’t ask me. No one asked me. Glenn gave the guitar to Andy Sneap, and that was it. Since then, I have asked the band, you know, and said to the band, obviously, “I’m thinking of starting my own band. Are you sure you don’t want me back in the band?” And they said no. Their lawyers wrote me a letter and said, on their behalf, no. I wrote to them again, and they said no again. So I started KK’s Priest.
The reason I decided on the name is because I didn’t want to — I didn’t want to start everything all over again and just leave all of my legacy and my heritage and my songs behind me. I didn’t want not to be a Priest. I signed up as a Priest in 1969 and wanted to continue to be a Priest. I felt that if the new guys in Judas Priest could be Priests, then I was entitled to be a Priest because they were playing my songs and they were doing my performance, so I decided to retain and be a Priest because I am a true Priest. I was there at the beginning. It was my creation, my idea. And I have been a part of the evolution, and very proudly, of heavy metal since 1969. And I deserve the right to continue that. That’s what I think. So I would ask the fans to give me and Ripper the opportunity to give them great songs and performances, just as they’ve always known from us. And hopefully, they will enjoy and understand that we are here to continue where we left off. And certainly for myself, you know, and I think that I deserve that opportunity.
That was such a perfect answer to all those critics.
K.K. Downing: Yeah. I know it’s too long an answer to give, but it’s so hard when people don’t know all the details, emotions, and sentiments. I only hope that they can wish me well. I’m still here, and if they want to hear songs that they know and love played how they always were played, then they need to come and see KK’s Priest because I am the same person. I am the same player. I have the same guitars. I have the same amps, the same sound, the same technique. I am everything. (Laughs) No. I’m not here to try and take anything away from them because the brand name Judas Priest is bigger than all of us put together. You know, and they’ve proved that you can put brand — you can — you can take me and Glenn away, and the band is just as big, playing just as big shows because the brand name of Judas Priest is etched in stone. But it’s not the same as it was. Of course, it isn’t. So if somebody wants to experience it the way that it was, then come to see KK’s Priest.
I totally agree that the name and the brand of Judas Priest are much bigger than any of its members.
K.K. Downing: It’s bigger than all of us put together, me, Rob, it’s bigger than all of us put together. So, I don’t have that brand name. So when I go out, I can’t earn that sort of money. That’s for them, and they should be happy with that because the brand name is… it came thanks to me, you know, and I worked my whole life building that brand name up, and they’ve got the utilisation of it, not me.
The last question is about the Hall of Fame. In November 2022, you received the Hall of Fame award in Los Angeles. At the same event, you also performed live with your former bandmates for the first time since you left the band more than ten years ago. What kind of experience was the Hall of Fame for you as a whole?
K.K. Downing: Well, I was kind of debating whether to go there and do it or not because of all the circumstances. Plus, it was a long way to go, but I mean, Les probably told you that their manager told us that we were guests of the band. Me and Les. I’m going, “Fuck off. You know, I’m not — if anything, I’m a guest of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I’m there to accept my own award in my own right. You know, I’m not a guest of anybody.” You know, and then they were going to dictate the songs and what we were going to play. So I said, “Oh, fuck, should I bother doing this? You know, I mean, can I be really bothered?” And then — and then people were saying, “You’ve gotta go. It’ll never happen again, obviously, in your lifetime. You deserve this.” And anyway, so I decided, “Okay. I’ll go,” you know. Um, but obviously, we were kept separated and, you know, not allowed to walk the red carpet together, which is all very sad, but that’s the way that they wanted it.
Richie was great. Richie came, came into our dressing room. Richie was really — you know, he was fine. Obviously, you know I am the real thing, aren’t I? What can I say? But Richie’s great. We get on well. And Andy Sneap is great. He’s an old friend. As for the other guys, you know, I don’t care less about them. If they couldn’t have just like — you know, at our age, just one time, just this — you know what I mean? It was like, just forget about it. You know what I mean? But not to be so — can’t help that. But anyway, I went there and thoroughly enjoyed it really. I rented some equipment, and, luckily, I had a couple of brand-new guitars over there that I’d never seen or played. So, yeah, it was easy and fun.
It was an experience. It was an experience, to be honest. I mean, I wasn’t — even right up until the performance, I wasn’t sure., I kept saying to myself, “Am I doing the right thing here? Is this really heavy metal? I’m with a bunch of guys that fucking hate me.” I’m — I mean, the rock and roll. I’m looking at Ed Sheeran, and I’m looking at Dolly Parton, and I’m thinking, “Fuck it. Am I in the right place? Is this sort of a dream?” I’m thinking, “Oh, what the hell. Just grab the guitar, do it, and get to the pub.” And that’s what I did. I came off stage, put my clothes on, went straight back to the hotel bar, and that was it. I had some beers, and it was great.
Les also told me in Finland that you travelled from London to Los Angeles together and ran into Glenn and Jayne Andrews at the LAX airport. He talked briefly with Glenn there for the first time since 1979. You didn’t talk with them, but Les told me you spoke with Rob later at the ceremony.
K.K. Downing: Yeah, because Rob came over to me. And I didn’t want to speak to him because he left the band for 14 years, and I was instrumental in reinstating him back in the band, having him back in. And then he tells me that I can’t rejoin the band. I mean, how does that work? I don’t know how that works.
But yeah, the fact is that in the case of Judas Priest, certain people tend to make all the decisions regarding the band.
K.K. Downing: Yes. It’s Glenn and Jayne who make all the decisions and Rob, I hate to say it, but Rob is just — I really think that the only reason I spoke to Rob is because I think he’s being controlled. That’s the only reason. I don’t believe that Rob voted not to have me in. I think he was forced to. I think Rob would’ve voted me in. You know, it was their choice. And now Richie is off doing his own thing with Elegant Weapons and everything, so it’s not looking great for him, really, is it?
Have you heard Richie’s “Elegant Weapons” album yet?
K.K. Downing: Yes.
What do you like about it?
K.K. Downing: It’s not kind of… It’s good, but it’s not my style of metal. I don’t think it’s actually heavy metal. I mean, it’s not my thing. But he said he did something different to be different from Judas Priest. He didn’t want to be like them. Well, I guess, you know, I do want to be like — that is my type of metal, you know—I like Judas Priest, Scorpions, UFO, you know, Saxon. I’m the old-school boy. I love all of that shit.
KK’s Priest has a new album finished and plenty of shows coming up. But what kind of goals do you have with the band in the big picture? Because the fact is that there aren’t too many years left. That’s, that’s a fact.
K.K. Downing: That’s true. But that was another reason why I decided to do this. I like the idea to do two albums because now I think I can go out for probably two or three years. I’ll probably do some recordings in between, but nothing that will take too much time, you know, just so that I can go out and play everywhere, all over the world. And there’s no doubt I’m going to enjoy being out there with this band and playing these songs. It’s going to be fun and exciting.
So you are kind of saying that the plan is to release these two KK’s Priest albums, and then, that’s about it?
K.K. Downing: Well, never say never, but the main thing is I want a tour for at least two years because the world’s a big place. And I’ve got two virgin albums I’ve never toured with. But I also have the legacy of the Ripper years, classic Priest years, you know. And I think that the sound of KK’s Priest is, to my ears, the closest thing you’ll ever get to Judas Priest from any era, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, you know. It’s so because the thing and I know how to play these songs accurately and properly because I wrote them.
I have one more question regarding the KK’s Priest show in Sweden. Even though the videos didn’t work as planned, the show was still massive, with all that pyro and stuff. Does that mean that KK’s Priest will only perform at festivals and bigger venues in the future so that you can use that big production?
K.K. Downing: No, no, absolutely not, because we’re going to be playing some big shows, and we’ll have the big production. But in October, we’re going to be playing places like Rock City in Nottingham, 2,000 people, the Institute in Birmingham, 1,500 people. Those are a couple of smaller venues, and we’re not going to get much in there. It’s probably going to be stripped back. It’s just the guys in the van and the amplifiers, but I don’t care. We can do those shows, and I’ll enjoy that just as much. It’s going to be great. We don’t need the big production and everything. It’s just so nice to have because, with KK’s Priest, everything is quite new and unique. And when everything’s working 100%, it’s going to be fantastic. That’s what I think.
So, after the UK gigs, how will the tour continue next year?
K.K. Downing: So we’re going to do the UK gigs. Then we go, then we fly to Malta. We’re going to do a show in Malta. So there’s, there’s KK’s Priest, Metal Church, and the girls, Burning Witches, and two local heavy metal bands, so that’s five bands. That’s going to be amazing. And then we’re hoping now that people have seen us play, that we’ll get more added shows. The agents are also, we have a festival in Mexico on the 2nd of December. So we’re going to be playing some West Coast America. We’ll come back to America, and we will play some more shows before Christmas. And then we’ve booked the Monsters of Rock cruise next year. It sails from Florida. So we’ll be doing more shows in America and Canada, and then we’ll certainly be doing all of the European festivals next year, hopefully. Wacken, Graspop, Download, and all of that. So we’re very much looking forward to seeing what comes in and what offers come from the promoters. We’ve already got one promoter to do us a show in Poland. So, we’ll be putting some shows together, but I’d very much like to continue after October and play in Europe and Scandinavia. Yeah, all of that would be great to do that if that comes and that happens.
After those festival shows in August, there’s a lot of empty space on KK’s Priest events calendar. Does the band have plans to add more shows before “The Sinner Rides Again” arrives in shops on September 29?
K.K. Downing: Not at the moment. We have about a six-week period. But we’re going to continue to make videos with the songs from the album to release the videos. Like I said, unfortunately, we kind of missed the boat a little bit this year because it took so long to get away from the old record label. That was the problem. So we didn’t give promoters enough, you know, opportunity to book the band for this year, so we’ve missed out. But we’ll be good to go for next year. Absolutely, for sure.