Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing was recently interviewed on the "Unchained" show, which airs on the 101.8 WCR FM Wolverhampton Community Radio station in Wolverhampton, England. You can now listen to the first two parts of the chat below.
Speaking about how JUDAS PRIEST has managed to stand the test of time, weathering punk, new wave, grunge, and countless other hard rock styles while flying the flag for no-nonsense heavy metal for nearly 50 years, Downing told host Garry Foster: "It was tough — very, very tough. I can remember one year — I think it was '77 — the only two bands that toured the U.K. were JUDAS PRIEST and UFO, I'm pretty sure. To my recollection, because everything was so suppressed because [of] not just the punk [explosion], [but] the new wave movement as well, back to back. And it was tough. We would go and play gigs in London, and even our fans, people just were spitting and stuff like that. It was some contagious thing."
He continued: "I would have to take a step back and say, this is what keeps everything — the industry and everything — ticking and healthy. But it's always been that way. There's been a lot of genres of music — industrial, grunge… one thing after another. Some of them I don't even know what they are. There's always gonna be that, I guess, but having said all of that, since probably the early '90s, thereabouts, everything seems to have ground to a halt a little bit."
According to Downing, JUDAS PRIEST's career arrived at a significant turning point in April 1980, when the metal veterans unveiled their aptly named sixth album, "British Steel". The LP saw the guitarist and his bandmates donning their now-trademark leather gear and studs and embarking on a global campaign to conquer the world.
"It was good, because JUDAS PRIEST, we were flying the banner for what we knew and believed in," Downing said. "It was very frustrating, because it was only just getting going — that's how I felt about it — what we were doing. 'Cause we hadn't actually got there yet. In '77, '78, I still felt we were climbing the ladder, trying to get to where we were intending to be. Which proved to be true, because it wasn't really until 'British Steel', because in '76, '77, I was wearing leather and studs and that stuff, and then I kind of encouraged Rob [Halford, vocals] on board: 'Come to London. Have some clothes made.' Which he did. By the time 'British Steel' came around, we were all on board with that look. So everything was complete. We had a great album, great album cover, and, at last, the look was there — the metal look. And because we rode the storm out — the punk and new wave — we had people that had been influenced by us and other bands that were still around — the SCORPIONS, UFO and those other bands — [and] we had [the start of] a so-called New Wave [Of British Heavy Metal]."
This past summer, Downing revealed that he sent two resignation letters to his bandmates more than seven years ago when he decided to quit JUDAS PRIEST. The first was described as "a graceful exit note, implying a smooth retirement from music," while the second was "angrier, laying out all of his frustrations with specific parties."
Downing later said that he believed the second letter was "a key reason" he wasn't invited to rejoin PRIEST following Glenn Tipton's decision to retire from the road due to his battle with Parkinson's disease.
K.K.'s autobiography, "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", was released on September 18 via Da Capo Press.
Interview (part 1):
Interview (part 2):