Rob Halford says that he was personally "upset" by K.K. Downing's statement in which the former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist insinuated that producer Andy Sneap was covering Glenn Tipton's parts on the band's new album.
Two weeks after Tipton announced that he was retiring from the road due to his battle with Parkinson's disease, Downing released a statement in which he said that he was "shocked and stunned" that he wasn't approached to rejoin the band and suggested that Sneap's "contribution to the new JUDAS PRIEST album was much more than just as a producer." His comments appeared to get a rise out of Halford, who fired back that "a lot" of K.K.'s statement was "completely superfluous" and dismissed as "a thousand percent false" the idea that Tipton didn't personally lay down all of his guitar work on "Firepower".
Downing later walked back his comments, saying that he only meant to say that Sneap probably not only produced "Firepower" "but also contributed song ideas, riffs and licks, lyric ideas etc. Even George Martin, I believe, provided much more for THE BEATLES than just the role of a normal producer," he explained. "An extra musician in the studio, like the aforementioned talented producers, really does bring a great benefit."
In a brand new interview with Los Angeles Daily News, Rob said that he didn't know why Downing chose to inject negativity into a public statement about Tipton's condition.
"[K.K.] had made the decision to retire, I don't know how many years ago that it was," Halford said. "At the time, he was emphatic about retiring and never coming back, and that's what we were left with. There has been no communication since that time. There has been no inquires about how the band is doing since that time, or how the guys are doing, or anything of that nature."
Halford continued: "It's a very emotionally charged point that we are trying to not let us detract from the moment in focus here, which is the album and the tour.
"What upset me personally was the inference that Glenn didn't play on this record. I took that quite strongly.
"Like I said on a radio interview, we have never been a band to publicly bring these things to the surface," he added.
"There are so many ways you can send a message through — 'Hey guys, if you need me, let me know, I'm ready' — not do it like this, you know what I'm saying?
"You know, we will fight this head-on. We won't shy away. It's very easy to fall into the clickbait, isn't it? 'He said, she said' — it tends to dilute all the great things that you have achieved as a band in your music and everything, and it's also an insult to the fans, to some extent, because we are all in this together. It is what it is, and I hope we have laid it to rest now."
Downing 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.
PRIEST bassist Ian Hill recently shot down the possibility of Downing returning to the band, explaining: "He retired seven years ago and he made it clear at the time that he didn't wanna come back. So I'm surprised that he's saying that he was surprised that he wasn't asked. I think we all thought he probably would have been surprised if we had asked him."
In his original statement, Downing said that he knows "now more clearly than ever" that he did the right thing by leaving the band when he did "as it seems that my time spent in the band, and my value in terms of crafting its huge legacy, was and is unappreciated by more than one member."
Tipton, who is now 70 and has performed on every PRIEST album since the band's 1974's debut set, "Rocka Rolla", is not quitting the band, but simply cannot handle the rigorous challenges of performing live. Joining PRIEST for its current dates is Sneap, also known for his work as the guitar player in NWOBHM revivalists HELL and cult thrash outfit SABBAT.
"Firepower" was released on March 9 via Epic.
The North American leg of the "Firepower" tour will wrap on May 1 in San Antonio, Texas.