K.K. DOWNING Denies He Was Nervous During JUDAS PRIEST's ROCK HALL Performance: 'I'm A Very Confident Performer'
September 8, 2023
In a brand new interview with Metal Pilgrim, founding JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing was asked if he was at all nervous before reuniting with his former band for a performance at last year's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "No, no, not at all. I mean, no more nervous than you ever get whenever you're playing. You can play 50 gigs in a row, but you always have that kind of anticipation that you might split your pants or break a guitar string or fall over, fall off the stage or trip up or do something. You have all of that going on, but we learn to live with it. But the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame was no different to that, really. Contrary to what some people might say or think, I really do think I'm a very confident performer. I wouldn't go out there if I didn't feel that I was well equipped and could more than adequately do what I'm supposed to do, really. That's play and perform and entertain."
Last December, Jayne Andrews, who has been managing JUDAS PRIEST for 37 years, spoke about PRIEST's reunion with Downing at Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, telling the "Gabbing With Girlfriends" podcast: "It was a bit strange, to be honest, because I dealt with everything for [K.K.] and [former PRIEST drummer] Les Binks [who was also being inducted]. Les, I'd never met him before. I never had any reason to have any dealings with him. But he seemed really nice — really friendly. He came and introduced himself to me. We bumped into him at the airport; they were on the same flight as us. And Ken just kept himself to himself. Even when he got on stage with the band [to perform at the Rock Hall], he didn't really communicate much with anybody."
When "Gabbing With Girlfriends" host Gloria Butler noted that the whole situation seemed "sad" and "bizarre," Andrews continued: "Well, it was, because, to me, if ever there was a time to try and build bridges, that was it. It was such a massive accolade for all of them — for [K.K.] and for Les and for Rob [Halford, vocals] and Glenn [Tipton, guitar] and Ian [Hill, bass] and Scott [Travis, drums]. And [former PRIEST drummer] Dave Holland, who's no longer with us, but he was inducted."
She continued: "We all said, any grievances or problems, we put them behind us. This is a very positive time. And that's the way we looked at it. And it's just a shame that [K.K.] didn't seem to look at it the same way… It's sad for him, really, because it shows — I don't know. It shows, really, that all the things that he says, when he had the opportunity, he didn't take it. He could have stuck his head around the door, in the dressing room, 'cause they'd arranged separate dressing rooms. Well, there's five of them [in PRIEST's current lineup], anyway, in the band, so you don't need another two in there as well. It was better, because, obviously, I didn't know what would be happening, how the atmosphere would be. But, to me, he should have just stuck his head around the door and said, 'Thank you for inviting me on stage with you.' 'Cause they didn't have to [perform with Downing and Binks at the Rock Hall]. They were absolutely told, 'You can go on stage with who you want. You don't have to go with him or with anybody. You go with your band, as you want.' I said to the guys. I said, 'It's a massive accolade to your careers, to honor you for what you've done.' And I said, 'It's eight and a half minutes of your life. Be the bigger men. Invite them both on stage,' which is what they did. And to me, that would have made him the bigger man, if he had just stuck his head around the door and done that. But, you know, there you go…"
After Butler brought up the ruckus surrounding the 2006 induction of the group BLONDIE into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (BLONDIE singer Deborah Harry did not want to perform there with former members of the group), Andrews added: "To be honest — and I probably shouldn't really say this — [K.K.] seemed a little bit nervous and almost out of his depth. And when we talked about it afterwards, we thought, well, PRIEST have carried on touring all these years; he hasn't. So he's probably lost a bit of confidence, coming to a big event like that, obviously, [and] having to confront all of us. He didn't know how we would be… I said we've got to see one person. He's got to see six people, really — five [without] me… But it's just a shame that once he realized that there was no animosity from our side that he didn't just stick his head around the door and say 'thank you.' But there we go. He didn't, so never mind."
PRIEST received the Musical Excellence Award at last year's Rock Hall, which honored Eminem, Dolly Parton, DURAN DURAN, Lionel Richie, Pat Benatar, EURYTHMICS and Carly Simon in the Performers category.
The JUDAS PRIEST members who got inducted include current members Halford, Hill, Tipton and Travis, along with former members Downing, Binks and Holland.
Halford, Hill, Tipton and Travis were joined by Binks, Downing and current PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner for a three-song medley consisting of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight".
In November 2022, Halford was asked in an interview with the San Antonio Current if performing with Downing at the Rock Hall ceremony helped put aside some of the acrimony that K.K. has shown about not being in band for these last few tours. Halford responded: "I think we should let the music speak for itself, really, because as you'll see from the performance, you'll see that all of that other stuff is irrelevant. All the things that have been said and suggested just float off into the air. What matters is what's going down on that stage at that time you're performing together. And there he is on my right-hand side. It just felt like he was always there. Look behind me and there's [Les], and the memories just are overwhelming. But, more than that, you're focusing on the moment that you're back together again and playing live. It was really a whirlwind. We were in each other's company for a very, very short space of time. We had very little time to communicate. But for the purpose of the induction of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame together, it was absolutely crucial that K.K. and Les were there. They were inducted, they needed to be in the room. And more than that, we were thrilled that they took the opportunity to say, 'Yeah, we'll come and jam on stage again with you guys.'"
In a separate interview with Lauren "Lern" Elwell of the KSHE radio station, Halford said it was "good" performing with Downing and Binks at the Rock Hall. He added: "We hadn't seen [Downing] forever. And I've still yet to watch footage of that. All I remember is my brief interactions with K.K., because I'm always running around the stage like a mad drag queen. My interactions with Ken and with Les, it was great. It felt wonderful to have that moment together after such a long time. And that just shows you the power, the weight, the vibe that the Rock Hall suggests you try to attempt. Try and recapture something of the essence that it really part of why you're here, why you're being inducted. I was just so happy that Ken and Les showed up, because they needed to be there. It was entirely their choice, but I said it makes absolute sense if you're in the room and we're playing together. And we did, and it was magical."
Downing left PRIEST in 2011 amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance.
In 2019, Downing said that he reached out to JUDAS PRIEST about taking part in the band's 50th-anniversary tour but that their response was that they were not interested in including him in the celebrations.
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.
In his 2018 autobiography "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", Downing wrote that he told Tipton and Andrews that he had "hated" them both "since 1985." In 2021, he explained his outburst to Classic Rock magazine: "I was angry. Glenn had formed a relationship with Jayne from day one, and it felt a bit like a John-and-Yoko situation. I didn't like that."
JUDAS PRIEST was on the ballot for Rock Hall induction in 2020, but failed to receive enough votes to make that year's class.
Having been eligible for induction since 1999, PRIEST was also on the ballot for the 2018 class of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but was ultimately left out of the inductee list.
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