K.K. DOWNING Believes His Exit From JUDAS PRIEST Was 'Orchestrated': 'I Don't Really Feel As Though I Left The Band'

May 1, 2021

Founding JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing says that he had "a change of mind" about leaving the band before his exit was officially announced a decade ago.

Downing left PRIEST in 2011 amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance. He was replaced by Richie Faulkner, nearly three decades his junior.

The 69-year-old Downing, who wrote about his departure from PRIEST in his 2018 autobiography, "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", discussed his split with the group in a brand new interview with Brazil's "Inside With Paulo Baron".

Speaking about his decision to write a book, Downing said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I wanted to try and give my side of everything, really. And I know it's always tough to do, and it was tough to do. But the set of circumstances led to what it became.

"Not a lot of people know this, but some things happened in the winter of 2010, and they were not good things that were happening, and I was not happy. I felt I deserved more credibility and more respect. And I'm a very proud guy. So I basically threw the towel in.

"I don't mention this in the book, but a few months later, I changed my mind," he revealed. "I was starting to change my mind. It's like with your girlfriend or your wife or whatever. I've never been married, but I've had lots of arguments with my partners and girlfriends. But after a while, you think, 'Oh, God. Was it my fault?'

"I was talking to Ian [Hill, JUDAS PRIEST bassist] in April [2011]. I [knew] it was a farewell tour, and that was all I was giving up. After a lifetime of dedication, it was just doing the farewell tour [that I was walking away from]. But then I said to Ian, 'I think I'm having a change of mind. I think I should do the tour.' I was talking to him about it. And I asked me to send me the setlist over that they'd been working on. And he sent me the setlist over, but the very next day, they released it to the press that I retired from the band. And then I was really angry. And then I sent in a second letter — not so polite this time. I was really angry because they were obviously talking.

"So, I don't really feel as though I left the band," Downing added. "I feel as though it was orchestrated for me not to be there. So that's what happened. Then I became a very angry person. I neglected to mention that in the book, but it is what it is."

In recent years, Downing has made it very clear that he wanted to return to JUDAS PRIEST, particularly in early 2018 when guitarist Glenn Tipton announced his decision to retire from touring. "But if it's not to be, it's not to be," K.K. told "Inside With Paulo Baron". "I always thought that there would be an opportunity for me to be back in the band, but it just hasn't happened. So, a year ago, I had to move on. I asked them one more time just over a year ago to reconsider, because there was guys in the band that wanted me in the band, and they said so. So I thought that that was an opportunity, but I was closed down by other people.

"It's crazy," Downing continued. "Especially in the world we live in. How many bands split up and reunite? How many guys leave and come back? It happens all the time. You're bound to have a couple of arguments along the way, after 40 years or more. It's bound to happen — disagreement. But it just hasn't been able to turn around, this one, strangely enough. But, obviously, from my point of view, I tried, guys — I tried."

Elsewhere in the "Inside With Paulo Baron" chat, K.K. touched upon some of his frustrations toward the end of his time with PRIEST, explaining that "I felt aggrieved in the band, because I always felt that I was the one that was always true and loyal. Because, obviously, I was in the band some years before Glenn and [singer] Rob [Halford]. And Rob left the band for 14 years, or something like that, doing all those albums and playing with all those musicians. And Glenn took six years off to do two albums with Cozy [Powell] and John [Entwistle]. And they had their own web sites, selling merchandise and all of that. I never did any of that. I was totally loyal and true to JUDAS PRIEST — me, one hundred percent. I never wanted to create music for solo albums. If I created good music, it must go to JUDAS PRIEST. And if it wasn't good enough for JUDAS PRIEST, why would I put it on a solo album? It doesn't make any sense. The only music you can release is great music that is quality music for the fans to listen to. So if you can create that, repeating myself, it must go on a JUDAS PRIEST album, surely. Otherwise, you're not loyal to JUDAS PRIEST. There's no doubt in my mind Rob and Roy Z wrote some really good songs when he was coming back to be more like a JUDAS PRIEST band, with the HALFORD band, but if that's really good music, and some of it was, it should have come to JUDAS PRIEST if you're loyal to JUDAS PRIEST. And all of these things were building up inside me. And in 2010, Rob had released two studio albums — two studio albums — in the year before I… it happened. And he did his world tour, including the Ozzfest, playing JUDAS PRIEST music. So, all of these things were building up and building up inside me, and then the management was asking me to write an EP. An EP — after the epic 'Nostradamus'. I said, 'I'm not doing it.' But the pressure came. I just went, 'If K.K. speaks and he doesn't think it's a good idea, you guys need to listen.' Luckily, they did, because they didn't do an EP in the end; they did an album. I have a license to know what's good for JUDAS PRIEST and what's bad for JUDAS PRIEST."

Last year, Downing announced the formation of KK'S PRIEST, in which he is joined by fellow former PRIEST members Les Binks (drums) and Tim "Ripper" Owens (vocals). The band, which pays homage to Downing's past, is rounded out by guitarist A.J. Mills (HOSTILE) and bassist Tony Newton (VOODOO SIX).

In 2019, Halford didn't rule out Downing's reunion with PRIEST, saying "what will happen will happen." But Hill has said that there are no plans for PRIEST to invite Downing to return to the band. "Richie took over from Ken," Hill told Riff Magazine. "He's done an absolutely tremendous job, he really has. And he's made Ken's parts his own now. He's got his own angle on the lead breaks. Ken's part's been taken, and there's no plans to have Ken back, really. Hey, listen, never say never. But at the moment, we're going along quite well without Ken, so it could stay like that, I think, at least for the foreseeable future."

In 2018, Downing dismissed as a "load of bollocks" Hill's explanation for why K.K. wasn't invited to rejoin the band after Tipton's Parkinson's disease diagnosis was made public. "We were like brothers; we went to infant school together and secondary school together, and we lived our career together," Downing said. "But I'm not totally happy about what's being said. Ian seems to be [saying] things like, 'None of the fans are missing K.K.,' and, 'Richie has brought a new energy to the band.' And I'm going, 'Ian, dude, on that last tour, I was the energy. I slowed down because people weren't keeping up with me.'… So I'm thinking, Ian, get a grip with yourself, mate. You've just replaced the energy with some energy. Fine — well, great. But that's not moving forward, Ian."

Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease seven years ago — after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier — but announced in February 2018 he was going to sit out touring activities in support of PRIEST's latest album, "Firepower". He was replaced by "Firepower" album producer Andy Sneap, who is also known for his work in NWOBHM revivalists HELL and cult thrash outfit SABBAT. Tipton occasionally joins PRIEST onstage for its encores, performing "Metal Gods", "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight".

"Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest" was released in September 2018 via Da Capo Press.

Photo credit: George Chin

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