Judas Priest: Interview with K.K. Downing

Judas PriestThe return of Rob Halford-fronted Judas Priest was undoubtedly one of the biggest stories in heavy metal for all of 2004. Their stint on Ozzfest and the recording of what would become their comeback album, Angels Of Retribution, reinserted their name into the consciousness of headbangers worldwide, and what was only three years ago, a sad story of a band past its prime became the chronicle of one of hard rock’s most legendary bands’ triumphant return.

Although some of their work with Tim “Ripper” Owens (now in acclaimed power-metal phenom Iced Earth) was directly on par with the prior, Halford-era material, there was no denying that the fans clamored for the return of the charismatic and influential front man. Fortunately for all involved, the timing was right and the world got back the Priest it had missed so desperately for nearly 15 years.

How is the relationship with everyone in the band at this point?

Cool. A good working relationship. (laughs) Nah, it’s great. I think everything is truly cemented, we’ve had a good year, we did all of those festivals throughout Europe and then obviously we did the Ozzfest and had loads of fun. Made some money which is always good. And so, we’ve done an album and we did all that work in one year, so it’s going good.

You mentioned Ozzfest, and at least for the States, that was the ‘Judas Priest is back’ experience. How was it being back on stage with Rob?

It was cool. I would have to say that the good thing about it was more than anything else, compared to doing shows with Ripper, I think we felt a lot of onus on us, with a new member in the band. With Rob back in the band, a lot of the focus is on him on stage. So it helps us a lot really. When Rob moves, everybody looks to see what he’s doing. It’s kind of good really.

Obviously a lot of time passed since he was in the band, were you worried at all that the dynamics wouldn’t be the same?

No, not really.We know that Rob if anything had probably been more prolific and active than we had been during his absence. He did more albums, more tours, and stuff like that. And I had heard some stuff that he had done, some live stuff, and it sounded like he was just the same, he was just as capable of doing everything. Everything’s good, really.We’re older, but we like to think we’re just as good. (laughs)

Why now? The offer’s been on the table for a long time.

I guess it was just a case of you’ve got no control over it. Everything has to run its course and the timing’s got to be right for everybody. I guess it’s like, you know, you’re getting older, you’re looking back and reflecting, I think. And there’s always the ongoing pressure, the demand from the fans and stuff. I think Rob would have to agree, he must have had that all the time.

It kind of got annoying because we would go out and do a lot of great stuff with Ripper and then you do interviews with people and they go, ‘Well yeah, that was great, but when’s Rob coming back?’ In all fairness as a music fan, I think I was exactly the same really.

It’s annoying when you’re a fan of the band, you’ve gone to all the concerts, you’ve bought all the records, you know all the details, the history of the band and all that, and suddenly somebody leaves. It’s just hard to swallow, I suppose.