JUDAS PRIEST's RICHIE FAULKNER: 'I Get Called A K.K. DOWNING Clone A Lot, Which Is Quite Ironic'

October 11, 2022

In a new interview with Highway 81 Revisited, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner, who joined the band in 2011 as the replacement for K.K. Downing, was asked about singer Rob Halford's comment in 2015 that Faulkner "saved" PRIEST. Richie said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "That's incredibly nice of Rob to say. I obviously didn't realize [the band was at a crossroads at that point]; when you come into a situation, you don't realize what that situation is like behind closed doors. I didn't realize it coming in, but when I sat down with the guys in the initial conversation, it was explained to me and it was very clear that they wanted someone as part of the band; they wanted someone who had their own opinion. I play a Les Paul and a flying V and a Gibson SG and stuff like that — different to Ken [K.K. Downing], really — and they wanted someone who was their own person. I get called a clone a lot, which is quite ironic; I think it's 'cause of the blonde hair or whatever."

Richie continued: "They wanted someone who was part of the band. We didn't know if the writing was gonna be cohesive — we didn't know; you can't know until you start writing — but it was clear that they wanted someone who was part of the band. They wanted a bandmember, someone who was gonna pull in the right direction. They didn't want a hired gun who was just gonna show up for live shows, get their paycheck and bugger off. They wanted someone that added their opinion to the band. And that wasn't just lip service. I think the first example of that was in those discussions. They told me what they wanted as far as a bandmember and guitar player. They asked me what I wanted and what I didn't want, which I thought was… I was surprised at the question. But looking back on it, it gave me an insight into exactly what I just said. They wanted my opinion, they wanted to hear what I wanted as a bandmember, what would make me comfortable or what would make the person that got that role comfortable as a JUDAS PRIEST bandmember. I went to get fitted for the leather and the studs, and I had a conversation with the designer, and he had asked me if I had any ideas for the design — that sort of stuff. And the setlist — do I have any ideas how we could work together to change the songs a little bit. So it wasn't just lip service. It was very much… they meant it; they wanted someone who had their own opinion."

Faulkner added: "I think Glenn [Tipton, PRIEST guitarist] said to me once — they'd been in the band, at the time, for 40-plus years — I'm gonna have a totally different opinion to all of them, and it's one that he thinks is a valuable one. And we're all gonna disagree at some point, and that's fine, but a different opinion is always a valuable one."

Faulkner, nearly three decades Downing's junior, joined PRIEST after K.K. left amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance.

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.

Back in 2019, Faulkner dismissed the criticism he received for supposedly trying to look too much like Downing. "Obviously, you get the [haters] — the 'clone' comments," Richie told the "Let There Be Talk" podcast. "I've got long blond hair, playing a flying V [guitar]… [Michael] Schenker, Zakk [Wylde], K.K., Randy Rhoads — all those guys. To say I was a Ken clone was fairly narrow-minded. There's tons of guys who have flying Vs and long hair.

"The thing is if I had dyed my hair black to be different, I would have been shot down," he continued. "You've gotta be real; you've gotta be who you are. And I grew up on Ken, I grew up on Glenn [Tipton, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist] and the guys that I mentioned. So you've just gotta be who you are. And I grew up with those guys, and I'm not ashamed. I wear it on my sleeve — they're all my influences, and I'm not afraid of that… There's no point in trying to hide it. But it's gotta be natural as well. And I think somehow it worked out organically. I didn't try to copy him. And as it goes on, you always try to do your own thing and make your own statement."

Four years ago, Downing said that he felt like he was "being cloned" when he first found out he was being replaced by Faulkner.

Downing, who announced his retirement from PRIEST in April 2011 after nearly 42 years in the job, admitted to the "Appetite For Distortion" podcast that he was taken aback when he first saw his replacement.

"Richie, as far as I know, is a nice guy and obviously an excellent player," Downing said. "I was a bit disappointed when, basically… I think the idea was to replace me [with a lookalike], so I did feel as though I was kind of being cloned. But I'm not sure that was exactly fair to Richie. I mean, I could be off the mark here, but I think Richie had the right to bring himself to the stage with his own… portray his own image and ability to play the instrument the way that he does. But it is what it is."

He continued: "When Glenn retired from touring [in early 2018], the same didn't happen — obviously, [Tipton's replacement] Andy [Sneap] doesn't look anything like Glenn; he doesn't wear the same clothes, the red pants, guitars or anything like that. So I don't really know what's going on. But it is what it is."

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."

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