Judas Priest: Interview with K.K. Downing

I actually wanted to ask you about the two Ripper records, Jugulator and Demolition. The sound on Jugulator was kind of refreshed, Demolition sounded like there was some strain or tension in the band. What was going on at that point?

Yeah, well, I think it’s fair to say that, yeah, to me it was fairly apparent that whatever we did with Ripper, lots of people liked it, but to them, they thought that it was just a stopgap. I never really liked that sort of pressure. It was tough.

I think it was probably pretty tough on Ripper as well because he’s a damn good singer, but the thing is only now when you look at it, as good as the voice is, if it’s not the same voice…Halford, to a lot of people, is the voice of Judas Priest, just like Freddy Mercury was to Queen, just like Mick Jagger is to the Stones, or a lot of people say David Lee Roth was to Van Halen. (laughs)

Maybe Van Halen is one of the rare, if not the rare exception, where they get a new singer and they have their first number one record. So that’s kind of weird. For most people, it’s Bruce Dickenson as the voice of Iron Maiden. It’s etched in stone.

I would think a lot of that has to do with the singer’s personality too. I guess people get unnerved by the change.

Yeah.You obviously picked up on the sentiments during Demolition, but I don’t want to go into it too much really because it’s water under the bridge now.

Fair enough. Tell me about writing the new stuff.

It was pretty easy with Rob in the same room. Everything he sang sounded like everybody wanted it to sound like, like Halford’s voice. Pretty much everything you do with Rob’s voice on there sounded like Judas Priest, so that made it a lot easier, as opposed to Ripper singing and ‘Oh it’s good, but are people going to accept it?’ or whatever.

You did 10 tracks. Was that the total recorded?

No, we’ve got some other stuff as well.We’ve got an abundance of material, but everybody’s got to decide on what you use.

About the track ‘Revolution,’ the lyrics kind of point to a rebirth in metal.

Yeah, a lot of the concept is that, whether it’s ‘Judas Rising’ or ‘Revolution.’ There’s a lot of that in there, basically saying, you know, that we’re back to full strength and having just done the Ozzfest with Sabbath and having such a great time on that, and that being an out and out complete metal bill, it’s time for that revolution, like Rob’s singing, time to change, time to change on the fadeout.

Everything’s run its course since Rob left the band in 1990, I guess the trends were going that way, grunge, the Seattle sound, industrial, whatever. Everything’s had a fair crack at the whip, so it’s up to people now to decide what the real music should be for the future.

People always copy success, so it’d be great if we could be successful with this record and everybody will think ‘Yeah, this is where it’s at!’ That would be pretty cool. We’ll do everything in our power to make sure the new artists and the rock stars of the future are playing good songs.

We’ve got attitude in a lot of the songs, but I think some people put too much emphasis on attitude and not the melody and the song. It has to be musical. We’ve done a fair bit in the past, but I think you can show your aggression and your attitude in the music and the melody. It has to be musical.

There’s a very modern edge to a lot of the new material, a lot of layers in the production. It’s a very modern sound, but at the same time, Rob’s back and it’s classic Priest too. When you were writing and recording, was that something you were trying to consciously balance?

I think that there was a definite awareness, like a threshold, or a boundary to stay within. I think what we’ve done, we’ve got license to do because it’s 2005, so things must move on a little bit, but at the same time, so much of the content, which is the important stuff really, musical and lyrical content, that’s the stuff that’s going to make it acceptable to Priest fans of any age.

I really can’t wait for everybody to hear the whole thing front to back. I think it’s fair to say that because there’s not too many people doing this stuff, like before in the ’70s and ’80s there were so many variations of rock and metal, and even though we were there at the beginning, we were surrounded by lots and lots of great musicians, great bands. There’s not many people left, really.

If it’s AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, it’s hard to think of many bands that are left doing this sort of stuff really. Hopefully it kind of gives us an edge, really, doing something that not a lot of people are doing.

Angels Of Retribution is in stores now.