Original JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing says that he sympathizes with MÖTLEY CRÜE guitarist Mick Mars in his legal dispute with his bandmates over the latter group's ongoing tour.
When Mars, a co-founding member of MÖTLEY CRÜE, announced his retirement from touring with the group last October as a result of worsening health issues, he maintained that he would remain a member of the band, with John 5 taking his place on the road. However, in his lawsuit, which was filed this past Thursday (April 6) in Los Angeles County's Superior Court, Mars said that, after his announcement, the rest of CRÜE tried to remove him as a significant stakeholder in the group's corporation and business holdings via a shareholders' meeting.
Specifically, Mars claims he was asked to sign a severance agreement that would divest him of his 25 percent stake in the band's various business interests in return for a 5 percent stake in the band's 2023 tour. This stake, the lawsuit alleges, would be reduced to 0 percent for future tours. Mick claims CRÜE's management later upped the offer from 5 percent to a 7.5 percent stake in the band's 2023 tour, which would remain contingent on Mars divesting himself from the band and their businesses. When Mars refused to sign the papers, the band took the dispute to arbitration "rather than a public lawsuit so that the public would not be aware of the deplorable manner in which they treated their 'brother' of 41 years," Mick claims in the lawsuit.
Downing, who left JUDAS PRIEST in 2011 just as the band was preparing to embark on what was supposed to be PRIEST's farewell tour, addressed the similarities between his situation and Mars's battle with his CRÜE bandmates in an audio message sent to BLABBERMOUTH.NET earlier today (Saturday, April 8). K.K. said: "I do sympathize [with Mick], because I'm going through exactly the same thing. And it's pretty unsavory, to say the least. After spending a lifetime building the band's name, reputation, popularity and value, in particular brand name, it should be all right for people to retire, especially through illness.
"In my case, we were gearing up in 2010 to do a final world tour, the 'Epitaph' tour, which was meant to be the end of the band," Downing explained. "And because I was having pressure put on me to write for an EP to support that tour, which I absolutely was not gonna be any part of… I certainly didn't want to finish my career with an EP. So I threw the towel in and sent a retirement letter in.
"There was a whole set of circumstances for me not doing the final tour. And one of the main considerations [was] we were getting to be concerned about Rob [Halford, PRIEST singer] and we thought that he was gearing up, ready to leave [the band] again. Because in 2010, when all this was going on, the planning of the farewell tour and finishing the band, the justification was that Rob pretty much within 12 months [in] 2010 had released two studio albums with his own band and had done a world tour, including Ozzfest. And we were very much thinking that Rob, with his own manager, would go separate ways again. And that was another serious consideration. I really wanted to mention that because it really wasn't the band I was leaving; it was just I decided not to do the farewell, final tour of the band, because that's what we all agreed and that's what was intended to happen. So essentially my decision was just not to do the final tour of the band. Of course I didn't know that the band would continue, at that time, right up until today. Otherwise things and decisions may well have been different. But, as I said, I sympathize with Mick because the circumstances between the two of us seem to be pretty much… well, identical."
K.K. went on to say that Halford, bassist Ian Hill and guitarist Glenn Tipton "ganged together" and "kicked me off as a director" in the company Judas Priest Music Limited, which controls PRIEST's assets. "As a 25 percent shareholder in the company, their stance is that my shares don't have a value, which is completely ridiculous," Downing said. "I think Mick actually talked about that particular thing as well [as it relates to MÖTLEY CRÜE] and it seems to be what the rest of the guys in his band are trying to do also…. Even the [JUDAS PRIEST] 50-year anniversary book, for example, that's seriously well illustrated with so many pictures of my life's history that I don't get any revenue from that whatsoever, or from any merchandise. And I've been told that the company has no value."
Downing added that he wanted to speak about his experience in order to warn other musicians who could one day find themselves in a similar situation.
"I think to safeguard any other people that may be coming around to being in this position that may well be acquaintances of mine or even good friends of mine, I wouldn't like them to be in the same position," he said. "So safeguards needs to be put in place to avoid even the thought of litigation. But as for me and Mick, it seems that's our only route."
Downing left PRIEST amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance.
In 2019, Downing said that he reached out to JUDAS PRIEST about taking part in the band's 50th-anniversary tour but that their response was that they were not interested in including him in the celebrations.
In 2018, 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.
K.K. reunited with JUDAS PRIEST for a performance at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony last November.
Halford, Hill, Tipton and drummer Scott Travis were joined by former PRIEST drummer Les Binks, Downing and current PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner for a three-song medley consisting of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight".