JUDAS PRIEST bassist Ian Hill says Kenneth "K.K." Downing might have been "playing a bit of mischief" when he said he was "shocked" that he wasn't asked to rejoin 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.
In a statement released in March, Downing said that was "shocked and stunned" that he "wasn't approached to step into [his] original role as guitarist for JUDAS PRIEST." He added that he now knows "more clearly than ever" that he did the right thing by leaving the band when he did because he believes that his contributions to PRIEST's legacy are "unappreciated by more than one member."
During a press conference at this year's Hellfest, which was held June 22-24 in Clisson, France, Hill was asked for his thoughts on Downing's comments and whether PRIEST considered approaching K.K. to return to the band following Tipton's decision to step aside from the stage.
"I didn't know, really, where he was coming from with that comment," Hill said (see video below). "I think he just played a bit of mischief, to be honest. I mean, Ken's place in the band has already been taken; he's sitting right there [referring to current PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner, who was also taking part in the press conference, alongside drummer Scott Travis]. It's also two albums down the road since 'Nostradamus', which is the last one he played on, and is he gonna be prepared to play music from the new album, which he probably would not. And on top of that, he's gonna have to learn Glenn's parts too. So it's all reasons why we didn't [ask him to return]. Apart from that, he's been retired for nearly eight years. He hasn't since set foot on stage as far as I know, so he's hardly at the peak of his game at the moment. So, yeah, I wasn't quite sure where he was coming from with that — I really don't. I think it might have been just [him playing] a bit of mischief."
Downing announced his retirement from PRIEST in April 2011. He has since been replaced by Faulkner, who was once the guitarist in the backing group for Lauren Harris, daughter of IRON MAIDEN bassist Steve Harris.
"Firepower" was released on March 9 via Epic.
The first North American leg of the "Firepower" tour kicked off on March 13 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and wrapped on May 1 in San Antonio, Texas.
PRIEST will return to the United States at the end of August for a co-headlining run with fellow classic heavy rockers DEEP PURPLE.