K.K. Downing says that he is "open to any conversations" with his former bandmates in JUDAS PRIEST about taking part in the group's upcoming 50th-anniversary celebration.
The guitarist, who left PRIEST in 2011 amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance, was replaced by Richie Faulkner, nearly three decades his junior.
Asked by DJ Yentonian in a new interview if he would welcome the opportunity to commemorate the half-century milestone with PRIEST, Downing said (hear audio below): "Well, I'm certainly open to any conversations, as I always say to those guys. I've said it pretty openly — what's happened has happened. Everybody in the band knew why I left the band, quit the band. Everybody in the band knew I had good reason to quit the band, because nobody, nobody quits a lifetime of invested time and energy into something and walks away from it that easily."
He continued: "Can I draw you guys a comparison? And it might be a rubbish comparison, but I always think that if any of you guys ever left your girlfriend or your wife, or whatever, and your parents had gone, 'Oh, but she was lovely. You guys were made for each other. You got on so well.' And you think, 'No, she was evil' — can I say 'evil bitch'? Because I've been there. But only you understand, because you are the ones behind closed doors having to deal with it all. On the outside, you put on a good face for everybody. But the thing is, just because everybody tells you that person is good and you shouldn't leave and you should go back, you know better, don't you? And you can't do it. As much as you'd like to, you can't do it — until circumstances change. And, obviously, circumstances [in PRIEST] did change, which left an opening for me. But all the guys decided not to keep the door open for me. Because the controlling entity still had control — unfortunately."
Bassist Ian Hill recently said that there were no plans for PRIEST to invite Downing to return to the band.
"Richie took over from Ken," Hill told Riff Magazine. "He's done an absolutely tremendous job, he really has. And he's made Ken's parts his own now. He's got his own angle on the lead breaks. Ken's part's been taken, and there's no plans to have Ken back, really. Hey, listen, never say never. But at the moment, we're going along quite well without Ken, so it could stay like that, I think, at least for the foreseeable future."
During the same chat, Hill confirmed that PRIEST is planning to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2020. "That'll come next year; we're planning on a celebratory tour next year," he said. "We weren't actually known as JUDAS PRIEST in 1969. Ken Downing, myself and a guy called John Ellis formed in '69, but we weren't called JUDAS PRIEST, actually, until 1970, so we'll start celebrating next year."
Last fall, Downing dismissed as a "load of bollocks" Hill's explanation for why K.K. wasn't invited to rejoin the band after guitarist Glenn Tipton's Parkinson's diagnosis was made public.
"We were like brothers; we went to infant school together and secondary school together, and we lived our career together," Downing said. "But I'm not totally happy about what's being said. Ian seems to be [saying] things like, 'None of the fans are missing K.K.,' and, 'Richie has brought a new energy to the band.' And I'm going, 'Ian, dude, on that last tour, I was the energy. I slowed down because people weren't keeping up with me.'… So I'm thinking, Ian, get a grip with yourself, mate. You've just replaced the energy with some energy. Fine — well, great. But that's not moving forward, Ian."
Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago — after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier — but announced in February 2018 he was going to sit out touring activities in support of PRIEST's latest album, "Firepower".
Last summer, Downing revealed that he sent two resignation letters to his bandmates 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 after Tipton's decision to retire from touring.
Downing's autobiography, "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", was released last September via Da Capo Press.