JUDAS PRIEST bassist Ian Hill spoke to The Aquarian Weekly about why he and his bandmates reversed their decision to remove guitarist Andy Sneap from their touring lineup. The U-turn came days after PRIEST's original announcement, in which the group said it had planned to resume its "50 Heavy Metal Years" tour as "an even more powerful, relentless four-piece heavy metal band." Sneap later released a statement expressing his disappointment with the decision, while fans were understandably upset about the band's choice to forgo its classic twin-guitar attack sound. Some even called for the return of guitarist K.K. Downing, who joined PRIEST in 1970 and remained in the group until 2011.
"When it became apparent that [PRIEST's longtime guitarist] Glenn Tipton wasn't going to be able to do the 'Firepower' tour [in 2018], the first thing that [singer] Rob [Halford] said was, 'Well, we'll carry on as a four-piece. We started out as a four-piece, so we can do it again,'" Hill recalled. "I'm a pragmatist, I see positives in most things, so at first I thought, 'Yeah, it'll work.' Then, when you start to think, you're, like, 'No. Really, all of our success is gained from the two guitars.'
"We decided to get Andy Sneap involved for that tour [in 2018]," Ian continued. "Andy was the perfect choice. He had just produced 'Firepower', so he knew all the new songs we'd be playing. He was a fan of the band, as well, so he knew all the old stuff. He was the perfect choice. Then suddenly, Rob gets the idea to do the four-piece thing again. He rang Andy up and told him. Andy was fine about it. But then we thought, 'There's been some [fan] comments and if we do it at all, this probably isn't the time.' So, we had a quick U-turn and asked Andy if he'd do it again. Thank goodness he said yes."
On January 15, JUDAS PRIEST released a statement announcing that it was reversing its decision to tour as a four-piece, explaining that the bandmembers "decided unanimously" to continue their live shows "unchanged" with Halford, Hill, Sneap, Richie Faulkner (guitar) and Scott Travis (drums).
Last month, Halford admitted to Billboard that PRIEST's short-lived plan to embark on its 50th-anniversary tour as a quartet was his idea. "Of course, that blew up in my face, didn't it?" he said. "To have done something like a four-piece now would've been just not right, ridiculous, insane, crazy, off my rocker, have a cup of tea and relax. It's kind of water under the bridge now. I think my heart was in the right place, but I'm not the first musician to have a crazy idea."
Sneap, who is also known for his work in NWOBHM revivalists HELL and cult thrash outfit SABBAT, began touring with PRIEST four years ago after Tipton — who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease eight years ago after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier — announced in early 2018 he was going to sit out touring activities in support of "Firepower".
Hill is the sole remaining original member of PRIEST, which formed in 1969. Halford joined the group in 1973 and Tipton signed on in 1974. Rob left PRIEST in the early 1990s to form his own band, then came back to PRIEST in 2003. Downing parted ways with the band more than a decade ago and was replaced by Faulkner.
In January, Downing said in an interview that it was "very, very strange" for PRIEST "to even think about" the possibility of going out as a quartet. "I'm like everybody else. I'm totally bemused," he told the "Rock Of Nations With Dave Kinchen" classic rock show. "It was just so extreme and insulting in a way, I guess, and insulting to Glenn as well. It was kind of a slap in the face, saying, 'Okay, you two guys did it, but we think just one guy could do what…' It kind of made us and everything that we've done and created, saying it was all superfluous, really, and didn't really have the value that… I'm sure Glenn will agree with me that it does have a value."
PRIEST's current North American tour kicked off on March 4 at Peoria Civic Center in Peoria, Illinois and will conclude on April 13 at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Support on the trek is coming from QUEENSRŸCHE.
JUDAS PRIEST was forced to postpone around two dozen North American shows on its rescheduled 50th-anniversary tour in late September after Faulkner suffered an acute cardiac aortic dissection during a performance at the Louder Than Life festival. He ended up undergoing a 10-hour life-saving surgery a short distance away at Rudd Heart and Lung Center at UofL Health - Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.