Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing told Landry.Audio in a recent interview that he is not sad or resentful over the fact that the band has carried on recording and touring after his exit nearly eight years ago. "It was bound to happen," he said. "It's just the way it has happened. I think it should have been different, really. I think Richie [Faulkner, Downing's replacement] should have been allowed to be his own person. And if he likes to play Gibson Les Pauls, then he should go on stage and play those and not be encouraged to play Flying Vs and wear clothes like me and look like me and do all of that.
"When Ripper [vocalist Tim Owens] joined [JUDAS PRIEST as the replacement for Rob Halford], we gave him license to be himself — we didn't say, 'You've gotta do this like Rob or that like Rob,'" Downing continued. "So, essentially, my initial reaction was that the guys have cloned me. I thought, well, maybe they think it's a good move because the fans won't miss me and they'll kind of, in a way, from 10 rows back, think I'm still there. And the fact that my image was used in so much of the publicity for the upcoming tour. Maybe that's what went on. I think that Richie is such a good player in his own right that he should have been allowed to be himself. And, of course, when Glenn [Tipton] stepped down [last year after revealing that he has Parkinson's disease], I didn't see the same thing happening on that side of the stage."
Asked if he thinks Faulkner is an "adequate successor" to his lineage within JUDAS PRIEST, Downing said: "Well, it's absolutely seriously, seriously difficult to replace anybody that's been there for such a long time, and I understand that. It's so difficult, because it's not the same person. It doesn't matter, even if some people — and some people do think Ripper has got the edge over Rob. And I can see why — his vocals are young, they are strong. When he came into the band, he was tremendous. But the tonality and the texture, there's always gonna be little things here and there that are not gonna be the same. And people prefer to have the same. But I think that Richie is doing lots of things at the moment, really. He's not just filling in for me now — he's also playing Glenn's solos — and it all seems a bit strange to me. I don't really quite understand it."
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 following Tipton's decision to retire from touring.
"I'm sure that myself and Richie would have made a pretty good upfront guitar duo," Downing told Landry.Audio. "But time is moving on. Opportunities will get fewer and further between with age things."
In a 2011 interview with the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, Halford stated about Faulkner's physical resemblance to a younger Downing: "People are saying, 'It's a clone. You've got some of K.K.'s DNA.' It's just the way it turned out. We made, like, a secret search. When we knew K.K. was not gonna be making the tour, we did a lot of secret, kind of, searching for another player. And Richie just happened to be the guy. And he just happens to look a little bit of the K.K. image, you know?! I think it would be silly to say, 'We looked for a guitar player that looks like Ken.' What we want is a very good metal guitar player, and that's what Richie Faulkner is."
K.K.'s autobiography, "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", was released in September via Da Capo Press.