JUDAS PRIEST Guitarist: 'I Never Thought I Was Naturally Talented; I Just Worked Hard'

Norway's Imhotep recently conducted an interview with JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing. A few excerpts from the chat follow:

Imhotep: What originally made you pick up guitar instead of some other instrument?

Downing: "This is actually a very good question. It was such a long time ago. Everybody probably dreams of being famous in one way or another. I didn't, however, take guitar playing all that seriously until the great Jimi Hendrix came into the picture. Also, many other great guitarists, such as Eric Clapton and Rory Gallagher, influenced me. Music became more and more important for me, and finally I bought a guitar. I worked hard to become a good guitar player. I never thought I was naturally talented, I just worked hard. At some point during the years I became quite good — or at least I hope so — and I consider myself pretty lucky, as I've been making my living as a musician for a long time."

Imhotep: How would you say your and Glenn's [Tipton] playing styles differ from each other?

Downing: "Many people ask that, and I'm not sure I really know the answer. I can only say that it's a strange thing, but guitar playing style is a bit like fingerprint — everybody's got a bit different. I guess that also applies to me and Glenn. We are both unique guitarists, but I can't point my finger on what the difference is."

Imhotep: Is there a secret to the JUDAS PRIEST guitar sound?

Downing: "No (laughter). We are searching, and I guess Glenn would agree with me on this one, new things all the time. One thing that bothers me a bit at this point of my life is that I am not as identifiable as a player as I would like to be. If I hear, for example, Michael Schenker playing I know immediately it's Michael Schenker, I don't have to see him. He has a very recognizable sound. Eddie Van Halen is another guitarist like that. I like to try different things, different techniques as far as the playing and the sound goes. I would say that is my thing."

Imhotep: Do you collect guitars?

Downing: "I don't consider myself as a guitar collector by any means, but I do have pretty many different guitars. I don't have any kind of guitar collector disease. I give away many guitars as well — to charity, to Hard Rock Cafés, to my friends, to my guitar technicians. If I would have kept every guitar I have ever owned I would have very many guitars, though."

Imhotep: You have influenced many younger bands and musicians. How does that make you feel?

Downing: "That's fantastic, dude! What else can I say? I would have never, even in my wildest dreams, could have imagined that I'd become a guitarist of play in a band that would inspire lots of other people. Now I can die happy."

Imhotep: How does your songwriting team with Rob (Halford) and Glenn work?

Downing: "It works very well, because we have two guitarists in the team. So when Rob comes in, we already have many ideas. Musical ideas. Me and Glenn, we throw around riffs and chord progression, Rob sings something on top of it, and it all becomes a song pretty quickly."

Read the entire interview at this location.


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