JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing recently spoke to BayInsider.com about the group's reunion with vocalist Rob Halford, their appearance at this year's Ozzfest and their admiration for BLACK SABBATH, among other topics. Several excerpts from the interview follow:
BayInsider: I had an interview with Rob Halford when he was touring with his solo band back in May of 2003, just prior to the announcement that PRIEST was getting back together. At the time, he suggested that the reunion could happen but wasn't that imminent and then the next month the word came out. I was curious, given the persistent rumors that were coming out for a few years, how long did reconciliation take from initial talks to when you made the announcement?
K.K. Downing: "Well, from our point of view we had to listen to those rumors that were totally unfounded for a long time! And then suddenly, for a very short space of time — and it was very short really — they were actually true. But we didn't know what was happening until we met up to start discussing business matters, mainly the 'Metalogy' box set which is out now, and a few other things. And basically it was Rob indicating that he'd wrapped up his other commitments and was available to do some work. It was just getting the timing right.
"We'd just done two albums and two world tours with Ripper Owens and so everything just kind of came together. We'd be traveling the world and we'd always get a massive amount of people wanting to know if Halford was coming back. And it seemed to be intensifying rather than diminishing, the demand from the fans.
"So we thought even though we're making great records and sounding great and Ripper's a brilliant singer — there's no two ways about that — it just seems the people want the original. And as I've said before, it's a historical fact that that's what people want. And I think they've got a point really, when they've gone out and dedicated themselves to a band for so many years: bought the albums and bought the t-shirts and stayed loyal. Then they want that original line-up back and feel they're entitled to it."
BayInsider: The period after Rob's departure and the recording of "Jugulator" was pretty lengthy. I know from what I've read that it was partly because of how long it took to find a replacement, but did it end up being the proper time for the band to take an extended break? Or was it really just the search to find the right man to fill Rob's shoes?
K.K. Downing: "It was a matter of finding the right man. We really wanted to find someone who hadn't belonged to another successful band, you know?"
BayInsider: You wanted to avoid the classic rotating heavy metal singer syndrome?
K.K. Downing: "Exactly. We could have done that. There were a lot of good singers who would have been willing to join the band, but then it would have been the amalgamation of two bands and we always wanted it to remain uniquely JUDAS PRIEST. But, as I said before, in the end people just wanted the PRIEST. I'm a firm believer that every band with any sort of status, just like they have the musicians and the sound of the band, they also have the voice of the band. And Halford is the voice of JUDAS PRIEST as far as everybody is concerned."
BayInsider: Now that you're back working with Rob again, did the new material come easily? Did you just fall back into the old chemistry you had?
K.K. Downing: "Yeah, we have tons of material. It actually hard to figure out what's going to go on the album. I think everybody's going to be pleased with it.
BayInsider: Do you see yourselves picking up where you left off with "Painkiller" as far as leaning towards a harder, more extreme sound?
K.K. Downing: "Yeah, definitely. I think people will be pleased to have the traditional PRIEST sound back. I'm saying that there won't be a couple of surprises in there, but it's not going to be like a guitar detuning thing or anything like that."
Read K.K. Downing's entire interview with BayInsider.com at this location.