Matt Owen

‘No Resistance’ for Richie Faulkner’s Latest Metal Outfit Elegant Weapons

The last time we spoke with Faulkner, it was about all things Priest and joining in on their storied metal career. Now his endeavors are fresh, new, friendship-formed, and from the ground up. We were excited to speak to him about this journey.

Richie Faulkner is stepping out on his own, and he’s bringing along some heavy artillery in the way of both songs and bandmates. Elegant Weapons, spearheaded by the Judas Priest guitarist, released its debut album, Horns for a Halo, late last month.  

The record features driving and memorably heavy-hitting metal combined with classic rock influences. Faulkner’s songwriting is diverse while staying within the metal world; his solos and riffs soaring and sublime. His Elegant Weapons mates constitute a ‘who’s who’ of the genre: singer Ronnie Romero (Rainbow), bassist Rex Brown (Pantera), and Faulkner’s fellow Judas Priest band member, Scott Travis, on drums. Another Priest connection: Andy Sneap, Judas Priest’s producer and touring guitarist, helmed the production chair for Horns for a Halo.

Iconic Priest singer Rob Halford has embraced Elegant Weapons, giving “Horns for a Halo” an enthusiastic thumbs (horns) up. It’s easy to hear why. The title track heralds the proceedings, a molten slab of Faulkner’s gutsy riffs and screams and Romero’s commanding vocals with Brown and Travis locked-in tight, providing an, at turns, weighty and groove-laden foundation that runs throughout the album. 

Additional highlights include “Ghost of You,” a mid-paced piece accentuated by Faulkner’s emotive soloing and powerful yet restrained six-string work. The track also showcases a powerful and passionate performance from Romero.

“White Horse” is a tour de force brought to new levels by Faulkner’s mesmerizing solos yet again. There’s also a job well done cover of the UFO classic, “Lights Out.” Elegant Weapons’ energetic take on the song does UFO more than proud. 

Due to previous commitments Brown and Travis will be replaced on live dates with another pair of magnificent musicians with an impressive pedigree: Uriah Heep bassist Dave Rimmer and Accept drummer Christopher Williams. The band is set to hit the European festival circuit this summer, but could a US tour follow? Read on.

What sparked the inspiration for Elegant Weapons?

I’m always writing. I’m always putting stuff down and always coming up with ideas, melodies. For the last 10 or so years it’s been for Priest. There have been a couple of things I’ve put aside in a different file that wasn’t necessarily Priest. When I joined the band [2011], I had a conversation with Glenn Tipton about the fact that it was a farewell tour, it was going to be the last world tour, that the band weren’t going to be around for another 20-25 years. Fortunately, it wasn’t. Luckily, Priest is still here, putting out music and doing tours… and the world’s a better place for it. 

But at the time I’d have been stupid really not to think about what I would be doing after Priest, because that was the situation. Then fast forward 10 years and we had the pandemic. No one was touring, no one was doing anything, so I had some time to get all the ideas, stuff that had been floating around, whatever I had and figure out, “Have I got some songs, or an EP, or an album?” Just really see what I had. I wanted something that stood on its own two feet, that didn’t sound like Priest – something that had its own character. It went from there, really.

I realized I had something that was a little bit different. Obviously it’s the same DNA as I write with Priest – they’re gracious enough to include me in the writing side of things. Obviously here I’m not bouncing ideas off of Glenn and Rob, so it’s going to have a different sound because of that. When I knew I had something different I just went with it and the result really is the record and the band that we hear on the record. 

Photo by Jeremiah Scott

What were your Priest bandmates reaction to Elegant Weapons?

I showed Rob early on the songs that I was working on, and he really dug them. He thought it was a cool thing and wanted to hear more as it progressed. He was interested in what I was doing. He liked the songs, he liked the singer. There was no resistance, really. This year we’re not out with Priest. It was the perfect opportunity to release the record. There’s no conflict with live dates. It has worked out really well.

What was your mindset in terms of what kind of music you wanted to make? What was your writing process?

The guitar really dictates the music that I write. I sit down with a guitar and I noodle around and it inspires me to bring those influences out into reality. There’s stuff in there; there’s Black  Sabbath and there’s Priest, there’s Thin Lizzy and UFO and stuff like that. I’ve always worn those influences on my sleeve. If I write something down and it sounds like Priest, I’m going to do it because I didn’t write the rulebook on that stuff – it’s just music that I want to write and put down. If I write a riff that sounds good to me, I’ll record it and try to put a song around it. It’s the riff and the melody over everything for me. That’s what sparks off a song for me. 

What does the name of the band mean to you?

The band name is purely a tribute to the guitar and the instruments that we play. The elegant weapon is, in my case, a guitar. I only used one guitar on this record. It was a Flying V. It’s exactly that: elegant, but it’s deadly in a sense. It creates the music, a beautiful thing, but it’s also like a samurai sword. It’s a beautiful thing but it will chop your head off, like a guitar sound. It’s also a reference to the lightsaber that Obi-Wan gives to Luke. They’re like relics. I’m inspired by the guitar. That’s where the music comes from. For me, it’s a tribute to that – the elegant weapons that create the music that we all play.

Elegant Weapons boasts a tremendous lineup with Ronnie, Rex, and Scott. We know your connection with Scott, but how did you get Ronnie and Rex onboard? 

I met Rex years ago at a NAMM show and I’ve known him since then. I met him a few years back again and we’ve been close friends. I just called Rex up one day and said, ‘I’ve got this batch of songs. I’ve got an album. Would you do me the honor of recording the bass on it?’ I’m very fortunate and grateful that he said yes. Rex is a busy guy, so I was just very grateful to have him on the record. He has that unmistakable groove thing going. Scott’s the same – you know what you’re getting with Scott Travis and I’ve always kind of promised Scott that if I did anything outside of Judas Priest, I’d give him the right of first recusal. Fortunately, he was able to do it. 

Ronnie was the icing on the cake. I was looking for a singer and Ronnie’s name came up and it was a no brainer. I thought he’d be perfect. It’s obvious where the influences in the music come from. I’m proud of these influences; I don’t hide them at all. I’m aware that it’s 2023 and a band has to sound, production-wise, a certain way. It has to be modern; it has to be relevant. 

I’m proud of those influences and Ronnie’s voice is that for me. It’s a modern voice but you can hear where those influences come from. I thought it’d be perfect for the band. So, I called him up and had a chat with him and he got where I was going from as well. I’m from Priest, I’m from a legacy band. Ronnie’s from Rainbow and MSG. These bands aren’t going to be around forever – that’s just the reality of it. Hopefully we can take the DNA from these legacy bands that we’re in, grab the torch, and take it into the future.

The touring lineup includes a different rhythm section.

Everyone has their own things going on. As I needed a band moving forward to do the live things I had Christopher Williams from Accept – again that legacy band connection – and Davey from Uriah Heep. Davey I’ve known over 20 years, and we used to play the bars and clubs in London and other parts of England. We used to play everything from Fleetwood Mac to Jeff Beck and [Iron] Maiden and Sabbath, Santana – you name it, we know it. We’re best friends, as well. I was the best man at his wedding, so that’s the sort of relationship me and Davey have.

Christopher was connected with the record. He actually did the early recordings of the album. Scott couldn’t get in to record and I wanted to set the process in motion, so I asked Christopher to come in and record the record and then we got Scott later on to re-record the drums. Christopher was initially connected to the band, so it was a no brainer to ask him to join the band as the drummer to move forward. I’m grateful and fortunate to have first and foremost friends, but also fantastic musicians.

Priest touring guitarist and producer Andy Sneap helmed Horns for a Halo. That must have been very beneficial.

Another no brainer! It made complete sense. I grew up listening to music from certain eras. I grew up in the eighties and listened to music from the seventies and eighties. That’s what I and Andy grew up listening to – that music. However, he’s a producer in 2023. To me, he was going to produce the record and the record was going to sound like it was in the modern age, but I think because of who he is as a producer and as a musician, I think those influences in the music were going to shine through so it was a perfect match for me. 

How did the decision to cover UFO’s “Lights Out” come about?

I’ve always been a massive UFO fan and Michael Schenker fan and I was toying around with a couple of ideas of covers for the record. That one just seemed to have the right dynamic flow for the record. It fit the record well. The cover, you have to change slightly to make it your own but if you change it too much it’s not the same anymore, so I think we kind of changed it enough to be our own, but we didn’t change it enough to where the essence of the original was affected. I think we got the balance right. It remains for the public to voice their opinion on that. Fundamentally, I love the band, I love the song, and we went with it.

Can you talk about some of the songs on the album, specifically “Ghost of You,” “Horns for a Halo,” and “White Horse?”

Ghost of You” – A lot of people have mentioned that song. It’s a bit different. It’s the only ballad on the record… if you can call it a ballad. It’s kind of about a lost love or someone who’s passed that we can all kind of connect to and they keep showing up in our memories. We can’t forget them, they keep showing up. You think you see them around the corner, and you turn around and it’s not them. They’re imprinted on our memory. I think everyone can relate to that experience in some way or another. The music is kind of a bit slower paced. The imagery reminds me of a smokey, bluesy jazz bar in New Orleans with a piano playing. A little bit spooky but just something I thought had a really strong message.

Horns for a Halo” –The title track, that’s one of my favorites, as well. I remember when I was putting that track down, put the riffs down. That riff jumped out and I saved the track idea. You have working titles for things and that title was “Iommi,” because I just thought this is giving me Tony Iommi vibes and then it grooved from there. It’s kind of a Black Sabbath kind of vibe. It’s got a lot of melody in there, but it’s dark and brooding. 

White Horse” – It’s another one, but they’re all favorite tracks of mine! We didn’t release it as a single. I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day. They said the singles that we release are great but the songs on the album are better than the singles, which I thought was an amazing compliment. You don’t want it the other way around where you release the best songs and then people buy the album and they’re let down. “White Horse” is not a three minute radio song. It’s about a seven minute song. It’s got twists and turns. It’s a bit like “Diary of a Madman” in the sense that it’s got different parts and it’s about the occult.

You’re playing the European festival circuit this summer. Any plans to tour in America afterward? 

We’re looking for opportunities now. It would make complete sense to play Europe in June, July, and follow it up with something stateside. It would be great. I’d love to get a support tour or something like that and come back over to these shores. If we do, check out our socials and we’ll let everyone know as soon was we’ve got information.