Rob Halford says that guitarist Andy Sneap will stay with JUDAS PRIEST at least for the remainder of the band's current world tour.
Sneap, who produced PRIEST's latest album, "Firepower", stepped into the group as the replacement for PRIEST's Parkinson's disease-stricken guitarist Glenn Tipton.
Tipton was diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disorder 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 "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.
Asked in a new interview with "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon" what Sneap's status is with PRIEST, the singer said (hear audio below): "He's committed to this band for as long as we need him.
"Andy is a prolific producer," he continued. "He lives in his studio back home in Derbyshire [United Kingdom]. That's what he does — he gets up in the morning and goes to the studio and there it is; that's his life. So we're tremendously grateful to Andy for stepping away from that and standing in Glenn's place for the 'Firepower' tour.
"I think I can safely say that Andy will be with us through what's left of the 'Firepower' tour, which is gonna be [running] through the rest of this year and most of next year as well," he added. "Where we go from that, we can't even look and see. We're just very happy to have Andy with us. Glenn's happy to have Andy doing his parts on stage for him. Andy's carved out his own little kind of way of expressing himself, he plays the songs really well, and the fans have accepted him for doing something very generous. So it's a feel-good story, definitely."
PRIEST will return to the United States at the end of August for a co-headlining run with fellow classic heavy rockers DEEP PURPLE.
Halford revealed in a recent interview that PRIEST is planning to mark the band's 50th anniversary in 2019 with a special celebration, although he declined to offer any details.
Bassist Ian Hill is the sole remaining original member of PRIEST, which formed in 1969. Halford joined the group in 1973 and guitarist Glenn Tipton signed on in 1974. Rob left PRIEST in the early 1990s to form his own band, then returned to PRIEST in 2003. Founding guitarist K.K. Downing parted ways with the band in 2011, and was replaced by Richie Faulkner.