Rob Halford says that Glenn Tipton made the decision only five days ago to sit out JUDAS PRIEST's touring activities as a result of his battle with Parkinson's disease, with which he was diagnosed a decade earlier.
Tipton, who is now 70 and has performed on every PRIEST album since the band's 1974's debut set, "Rocka Rolla", is not quitting the band, but simply cannot handle the rigorous challenges of performing live. Joining PRIEST for its upcoming dates will be the band's co-producer and HELL/ex-SABBAT guitarist Andy Sneap.
Yesterday afternoon, only a few hours after PRIEST made the announcement about Tipton's condition, the JUDAS PRIEST singer spoke to U.K.'s The Quietus about the prospect of performing without the lone remaining member of the band's twin-lead guitar attack that powered solos on such classic tracks as "Electric Eye", "Hell Bent For Leather" and "Painkiller".
"Glenn has been battling hardcore with Parkinson's for 10 years and he's not let it stop him in any way whatsoever — you know, writing, recording, touring the world for the last 10 years," Halford said (see video below). "He can still play guitar — we have to emphasize this as well — he can still play the guitar, but when it comes to some of the more challenging songs that PRIEST has written over the years and songs that, for the most part, have to be included in the set, that's when it's just becoming a little bit difficult for him. So the biggest thing for Glenn — this is why he's really a hero for us — was to come to the conclusion that Andy Sneap would be flying the flag for him. We know Andy, and Andy has been so gracious to accept the request from Glenn, to be on stage for him for the 'Firepower' tour."
Although Tipton will not be traveling with PRIEST, Halford left the possibility of the guitarist joining the band onstage open during the upcoming trek.
"The great positive side of this for us and for Glenn particularly is that he's not let this challenge change his life that much," Rob explained. "Glenn is still Glenn — Glenn can still play the guitar," he said. "Same guy — a wonderful, great heavy metal guitar player. His role is a little bit different now. And I can't wait for those moments when he's gonna show up unexpectedly anywhere around the world on the 'Firepower' tour and come and jam out 'Living After Midnight', 'Breaking The Law', those kinds of songs. It's gonna be a really special moment. It could be the first show, it could be the last show — we don't know. But the joy is that Glenn is still playing and he's still with us, and he's as excited as we are to celebrate the release of 'Firepower'."
According to Halford, everything is "an open book" right now in terms of how much involvement Glenn will have in the "Firepower" tour, "'cause we're still kind of digesting all of this," he said. "Glenn made the decision about not being able to full commit to the tour only last Thursday [February 8]. So we're still very much processing all of the possibilities. The other thing is, much like some of the other areas in these kinds of challenges, daily, there are incredible advances in medicines, in drugs and such things that can help to alleviate the condition. So that's all part of the ongoing story for Glenn. Who knows? Next year or the year after that, things could be dramatically different. But in the meantime, yeah, Glenn can show up, as we've said in the statement, anytime anywhere."
Adding that Tipton will be there "with us in spirit — every show, every song" on the "Firepower" tour, Halford said that he was touched by the PRIEST fans' overwhelmingly supportive response to yesterday's announcement. "I've been [checking my phone] every hour or so, and it's just been beautiful — it's been absolutely beautiful," he said. "Thank you, everybody that's been sending these wonderful messages for Glenn. I know he'll be reading them and I'm sure he'll be so uplifted by the love that's coming to him.
"This is the other side of anyone that's dealing with Parkinson's, cancer, anything of that nature," he continued. "There's always this beautiful thing of hope and optimism and positivity that's pushing ahead of everything else. And so if you do go on to the Facebook of PRIEST or our Instagram and leave a message like that, it's not only great for Glenn, but it's also great for other people that are dealing with the same kind of issues."
Parkinson's is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body's motor system, often causing shaking. As the symptoms worsen, it gets harder to cope with everyday tasks and lead an independent life.
Pat Torpey, the longtime drummer for rock group MR. BIG, died last week due to complications from Parkinson's disease.
JUDAS PRIEST's new album, "Firepower", will be released on March 9 via Epic. The disc 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 digital artist and photographer Claudio Bergamin.
The North American leg of the "Firepower" tour will kick off on March 13 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and will wrap on May 1 in San Antonio, Texas. Support on the trek will come from SAXON and BLACK STAR RIDERS.
Photo credit: Mark Weiss