Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing says that he never had a chance to even contemplate the possibility of rejoining the band following Glenn Tipton's decision to retire from the road due to his battle with Parkinson's disease.
Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease four years ago — after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier — but only recently announced he was going to sit out touring activities in support of PRIEST's latest album, "Firepower". The guitarist, who is now 70 and has performed on every PRIEST record since the band's 1974 debut set, "Rocka Rolla", is not quitting the band, but simply cannot handle the rigorous challenges of performing live. He is being replaced on tour by "Firepower" album producer Andy Sneap, also known for his work as the guitar player in NWOBHM revivalists HELL and cult thrash outfit SABBAT.
Asked by Greg Schmitt of WESU's syndicated radio show "Noize In The Attic" why he didn't inquire about returning to JUDAS PRIEST once he found about Tipton's decision to stay off the road, Downing said (hear audio below): "I didn't have a choice, because it had already been announced before anyone knew about it — certainly before I knew about it. So the replacement had already been made, so there was never an opportunity for me to ask, and I probably wouldn't have anyway."
He continued: "I say that now, but I guess I'll never know. Even after it had been announced, I was thinking, 'Can this be real? Is it true?' And I guess I was waiting for the phone to ring and it never did. So I guess I can't really say how I would have responded or not; it was just a done deal, so best leave it at that, I guess — that's what I thought.
Asked if he would talk to his former bandmates now if they contacted him about possibly rejoining PRIEST, Downing said: "Of course. Everything is always worth a conversation. I'd have to see how the land lies and how everybody feels. It's just one of those things — it's kind of like if someone close to you passes on in life; you can't dwell on things [because] there's nothing you can do about it. And that's how I felt, and that's how I feel now."
K.K. went on to say that he has not yet spoken to Tipton in the months since Glenn announced he was limiting his touring activities. "I've passed on my well wishes through the management and said hello through there, but that's as far as it's gone," he revealed.
Downing's autobiography, "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", will be released on September 18 via Da Capo Press. The book was co-written by the Scottish author and journalist Mark Eglinton, whose previous collaborations include "Official Truth, 101 Proof" with Rex Brown of PANTERA and "Confessions Of A Heretic" with BEHEMOTH's Adam "Nergal" Darski.
K.K. announced his retirement from PRIEST in April 2011. He has since been replaced by Richie Faulkner, who was once the guitarist in the backing group for Lauren Harris, daughter of IRON MAIDEN bassist Steve Harris.