By Jeb Wright
Judas Priest are one of the founding fathers of Heavy Metal. They are currently playing sold out shows around the world on their Epitaph tour, somehow, even sublimely suggesting that the end is nearer than any of their fans would care to admit. Priest are a proud lot, and rightly so, as their music changed the world. Vocalist Rob Halford is called the Metal God, and until 2010, Ken, aka, KK Downing and Glenn Tipton were the most famous one/two guitar punch in Metal history. Sadly, Downing has retired from Priest, his announcement that he was stepping down from his role in the band shocked the world of Metal. The band appeared to be lost, at best in limbo, at worst, at the end of the road. Tipton, in this interview, admits that if they had not found their new guitar player, Richie Faulkner, it would have likely been the end of Judas Priest.
America is getting their first taste of Faulkner, and so far, the results are good. It can’t be easy stepping into KK’s role, as he was a staple in the Priest lineup since their debut album Rocka Rolla. However, just as Halford, at one time, moved on from Priest, only to return, the music went on without him. In the interview that follows, Tipton reveals that Judas Priest isn’t done yet. They plan to release new music with the current lineup of the band. Tipton also reveals one reason why Downing felt he had to leave Priest.
While many questions remain unanswered, and some answers only raise more questions, one thing is for certain, and that is that Judas Priest is looking forward to rocking the USA on the Epitaph tour. Read on as Tipton reveals some hints to the set list and to the future of Judas Priest, both on stage and in the studio. In addition to the current tour, we also discuss the band’s latest ‘best of’ release titled The Chosen Few, which sees their contemporaries choose their favorite Priest songs, the box set of UK singles that is available for purchase and what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame means to the band.
Jeb: Tell me what to expect when I see the Epitaph tour.
Glenn: It is a Judas Priest extravaganza. We have lasers, lights and flames. It is so difficult, as you know, to put a Priest set list together, that we have come up with a new idea. We are playing at least one track from each of Priest’s studio albums, which is seventeen albums. We are going back to Rocka Rolla and playing “Never Satisfied,” we are bringing songs like “Starbreaker” back and we are doing songs we have never done before, like “Blood Red Skies.” We are, of course, also playing all of the favorite Priest tracks that everyone can sing along with. We have Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy with us as well, so it is a great night of rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal.
Jeb: You have a new guitar player in Judas Priest. Did you let him suggest any songs?
Glenn: We did. Richie [Faulkner] is great. He has stepped in and amazed us all. He has a lot of good ideas. We have been in this band for forty years, so sometimes we are a bit hesitant to make certain decisions. We have new input on things and that helped us a lot.
Jeb: You played with KK for forty years and I am sure you two had mental telepathy between the two of you. How hard has it been to get on the same page with Richie, concerning the solo switching and the harmony lead playing that you do?
Glenn: That is the amazing thing; Richie has just blown us all away. Last November, Ken told us that he wanted to retire because he had problems with his wrist. We thought that was it, really. We didn’t do anything for three months. We knew that there were a lot of kids that wanted to see Priest play, one last time. We decided to do it, if we could find the right guy. We found Richie and he just blew us away. He blended straight into the band. He has the essence of what’s necessary for Priest and he does his own thing as well; he really is extraordinary. I have said it before, but I think if we had not found him, then we wouldn’t be on the road now.
Jeb: Where did you find him?
Glenn: Someone recommended him. We contacted him for about two weeks but he didn’t respond to us, as he thought it was a joke. We got another number for him and we finally got him to realize that it wasn’t a joke.
Jeb: I am like a lot of Priest fans and you wish you could have things a certain way but, just like when Rob left the band, you have to move on. The music must continue.
Glenn: The music is the most important thing. I have seen things from my own point of view, as I’ve considered retiring a few times myself. This can be very arduous and we’re all getting on a little bit in age. The moment you walk onto the stage and the crowd roars, then you wonder if you can ever give it up, as it is such a great vibe out there.
Jeb: Is this the end of Priest or is this just the last time Judas Priest will do a huge world tour?
Glenn: It is the end of the huge world tour. If a string of dates makes sense, and it was offered to us, then we would consider it. We’ve definitely got at least one, maybe two, albums left in us. It is not the end of the band by any means; it’s just our last tour of the planet.
Jeb: I love Nostradamus. Rob told me that one day Priest may play the entire album in concert. Will that ever happen?
Glenn: We’ve discussed quite a few times doing that. When we went out and played British Steel from start to finish, everybody loved it. We have discussed the possibility of doing Nostradamus, or even Angel of Retribution, from start to finish. We have discussed doing Screaming For Vengeance in its entirety as well. It opens a ton of worms, as that would mean that I would have to tour for thirty more years!
Jeb: Has any new Priest music been written?
Glenn: Rob and I did some writing in January and February. We have actually done eight to ten songs. We’d like to sit down with Richie, as he has already presented a few ideas that are very Priest-like. That is a whole new option that we want to pursue. The thing that we need more than anything else is time. We have a very heavy touring schedule and then we will need to rest a bit before we get back in the studio.
Jeb: After all these years, how humbling is it that when you announced the Epitaph tour the Priest fans bought tickets in droves.
Glenn: It’s wonderful. Every night when we take our bow at the end of the show, the crowd roars their appreciation. The reactions we have been getting all over the world, from Europe, to South America, to North America have been wonderful. It makes us very thankful that there are so many fans out there who appreciate what we have done.
Jeb: Some of your contemporaries make new music and just take whatever advance money they can get. Priest continues to push themselves to write great music. What is your secret?
Glenn: We’ve always kept our ear to the ground. We’ve always listened to the younger bands and we’ve never thought that we knew it all. We always try to push the boundaries for Judas Priest and we try to evolve. One compliment that we’ve gotten quite a lot is that Judas Priest’s music is timeless; and it is, in a way. We are so lucky in the way that we write. We play songs that are still viable now, that we wrote forty years ago. Like I said, we are playing “Never Satisfied” from Rocka Rolla and it is great to play on stage. We wrote that song 36, or 37 years ago and it is still fun. It is the fans that have driven us on and supported us for all of these years. It makes us very emotional and very proud.
Jeb: You have just released The Chosen Few, which is a ‘best of’ type of album. However, the songs are chosen by your peers, people like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Alice Cooper, Lemmy and others. How did that idea come about?
Glenn: We talked about that with the record company. Rather than just do another release of our greatest songs, we thought it would be interesting to talk with Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Kerry King and all of these other people, who we have worked with over the years, and have a lot of respect for us. It was interesting to see what their favorite songs were, and it was quite surprising in many ways. I was very interested to see what these guys said their favorite piece of Priest music was.
Jeb: You also have a huge box set of singles.
Glenn: There is a box set out of all of the singles we’ve released in Great Britain. We’ve never really been a singles band in America. We’ve had “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight,” which I suppose you could say were our singles here. We have never been a big singles band, but on every album we have released a song, or two, that has a taste of each album to let people know the character of that certain album. Every Priest album is just another chapter in the book of Judas Priest. While it is unmistakenly Judas Priest, each album has its own thing going for it.
Jeb: You did two solo albums, one with John Entwistle and then you did Baptism of Fire. Will we see another Tipton solo effort?
Glenn: As you know, I did Edge of the World with John Entwistle and Cozy Powell. It was such a fantastic experience, as they’re incredible musicians and great guys. Sadly, neither of them are with us anymore. That experience is something I will always remember and I will always be proud of being a part of that. Baptism of Fire was great because I played with some great musicians, who were real young guns and kept me on my toes. Perhaps I kept them on their toes too; at least I like to think so. I did both albums when Priest weren’t really operable. At the moment, my full attention is with Priest, and my first obligation is always going to be Judas Priest. As far as the future is concerned, it is great to work with other musicians. You never know what is around the corner.
Jeb: Last one: I am a huge Judas Priest fan. You are already in the Priest fan’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in our hearts, but I am curious if you think Judas Priest should be enshrined in the actual Rock and Roll Hall of fame?
Glenn: I don’t know if we will ever be invited to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or not. If we do, it will certainly be a privilege and it will be something we will be proud of. If we don’t, then it is not going to change our lives. Our legacy is in our music. We will leave our music for everybody and I think that’s good enough. You don’t always need an accolade to leave a legacy.
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