Express & Star recently conducted an interview with bassist Ian Hill of British heavy metal legends JUDAS PRIEST. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.On the departure of founding guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing: "It came as bombshell to all of us. "I think Ken had just had enough. He'd got a lot on his plate with his golf course and I think he couldn't spend the time away. This tour's going to be, by the time it's wrapped up, the best part of two years. It's a long, long time to be away from things and I just think Ken couldn't handle the time away. "I'll always be a friend of Ken's and I'm sure he'll always be a friend of mine. Still waters run deep and we've been together as colleagues and friends since we were about five years old. We went through school and everything together." On Downing's replacement, Richie Faulkner: "All due respect to Ken, he gave us a long enough time to find someone to replace him. We found an excellent guitarist as you'll see when we come to the Civic. "We actually asked another guitarist [Pete Friesen; VO5, ALICE COOPER, BRUCE DICKINSON, KING BISCUIT] if he wanted the job but his schedule wouldn't allow it. He'd already committed himself to something else, and he said, 'You should try this lad.' "He's 31 . . . a nipper! We got to meet him, checked him out on the 'tube.' Interview sounds a bit formal, we just went over and had a chat with him, played a few licks over at Glenn's [Tipton, guitar]and we knew we'd got our man. "He's turned out really well. He's a tremendous talent, a great guitarist and a really nice bloke as well. We dropped very, very lucky with him." On the confusion surrounding JUDAS PRIEST's "Epitaph" tour announcement back in December last year, when they appeared to be calling it quits: "Yeah, there was a bit of confusion with ourselves, to be honest! "It's the intensive touring. This tour is going to be the best part of two years by the time it's all wrapped up . . . if it's ever wrapped up it's open-ended at the moment. As long as people want to hear us we'll keep on going. "But it was never going to be the end of the band. We always thought that we'd continue playing, at festivals somewhere or some special gigs somewhere. But touring for two years . . . you have to wonder how many more two-years-worth of touring we've got left in us." On whether the band is concerned about the physical demands of a two-year tour: "Well, we thought that before we started this tour, but, to be honest, we're handling it quite well! We all thought that we'd be lagging a bit but we're not. Maybe it's having some young blood in the band as well. It's a fresh incentive and it picks everybody up a bit." On whether there are any particular highlights which spring to mind from JUDAS PRIEST's lengthy career: "There are loads and loads of highlights but I tell you, nothing beats seeing your first album on the shelf. "We worked long and hard to get that first album there. It was produced terribly and it sounded awful but it's all we had and it was on the shelf next to all your favorite bands. And just seeing it there, you knew you'd arrived, that you'd made your mark and you'd made something that was never going to go away. You'd got your legacy really from that point onwards." Read more from Express & Star.