JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Glenn Tipton has thanked fans for their messages of support in the four weeks since he announced that he was retiring from the road due to his battle with Parkinson's disease. 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.
Said Tipton: "By now, many of you will know I won't be doing the forthcoming JUDAS PRIEST tour because of health issues. I'm so sorry, but four years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's and was told by my specialist that I had already had it for over ten years. I knew something was wrong with my co-ordination and fluency regarding my playing, but I worked around it and battled on. I have good days and bad days, but the disease is degenerative and I would never want to compromise the greatest metal band in the world. It was therefore during the last rehearsals I decided to step down and have Andy Sneap fill in. He's a great guy and I'm sure he'll do a great job. I'm sure the band will be as strong than ever.
"I have been overwhelmed by the massive support and love I've had from other artists and from fans all over the world and from many friends and metal maniacs out there. It's not the end for me — I'll still be able to write and record and on good days even join the band on stage for a few songs. With new medication and advances being made, who knows what the future holds, but one thing's for sure: it will certainly involve PRIEST!
"Finally, the biggest thanks goes to Rob, Richie, Ian and Scott who have stood by me and supported me through everything."
JUDAS PRIEST bassist Ian Hill told CBS SF that the subject of Tipton not playing on the "Firepower" tour didn't come up until after the recording sessions for the album were already completed. "That's the whole point," he said. "It's a terrible condition. Glenn's great for about ten minutes. He'll stand up there and he'll play through a song. Which is great from an album point of view. He rarely has to play longer than that if he does a song from start to finish. The longest song on the album is only seven minutes. That sort of thing he can handle, and, of course, [in the studio] he's sitting down on a stool. But if you put him on a stage and he to stand up there for the better part of two hours, that wasn't really realistic. We were hoping it was going to happen. We went through a similar scenario the last tour. We all knew then he was having his problems. So we started rehearsals and he was rough, no doubt about it. But as we went on through the week, he got better every day. And by the end of the rehearsals, he was ready to go. And he put in awesome performances on the last tour. So we were expecting — or at least hoping — that would happen again. But into the second week of rehearsals, it was quite obvious to everybody it wasn't going to happen this time around. It was… an achingly painful thing to him to do; to admit to us and the rest of the world — and to himself mainly — that his body wasn't going to let him do what he loved to do above all else anymore, you know? I mean, we were all upset when he came out and said it. The hairs on the back of my neck are sticking up now just talking about it! It's a cataclysmic thing to happen to someone. And Andy just happened to be in the recording studio. He brought some effect tapes down that he'd put together for us for the new album. And just said, 'You know, maybe Andy would be able to do it.' So he asked him, and after he picked is jaw up off the floor [laughs], he agreed to give it a go."
JUDAS PRIEST kicked off the "Firepower" world tour Tuesday night (March 13) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
"Firepower" was released on March 9 via Epic. The follow-up to 2014's "Redeemer Of Souls" was recorded by Sneap, the band's longtime collaborator Tom Allom and engineer Mike Exeter (BLACK SABBATH). The cover artwork for "Firepower" was created by the Chilean/Italian artist Claudio Bergamin.
The North American leg of the "Firepower" tour will wrap on May 1 in San Antonio, Texas.