K.K. DOWNING: How I Came Up With Idea For JUDAS PRIEST's Twin-Guitar Sound
January 23, 2022
Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing spoke to "The Rock Show With Lee Graham" about how he came up with the idea of adding a second guitarist to the band's early lineup, thereby creating the legendary twin-guitar sound that is synonymous with the Rob Halford-fronted outfit. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "We were just a four-piece for quite a long time, really. And that particular period kind of set a precedent, I think, for everything that I thought was in my mind as best as I could do it, really. The goal was to be heavy, whatever that meant. And what it really meant was to be emotional with attitude and to be different to what other people were doing, because what other people were doing had a different target audience. So kind of that's what it was about. And then, as time went on, the idea came about… We managed to get a record deal but they said, 'Look, there's too many bands who have the same lineup — FREE, LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH, whatever. What about you guys having a saxophone player?' And I go, 'No way. You can keep your record deal.' 'A keyboard player?' 'No. Sorry.' So I sat and thought about it. I thought, 'Can we get a record deal and appease these guys?' And I'm thinking maybe a second guitar player. And I really thought that was a good idea, for lots of reasons. It would fill out the sound when I'm doing a solo. And I'm thinking if we can get another guitar player that can write, and he's a lead guitar player as well, we'll be two lead guitar players, two strong songwriters, it will fortify the band. And musically, we can venture into worlds that people haven't gone into yet. I had this crazy idea we can create heavy harmonies. And we did have a go at that. Because usually harmonies… 'Cause at the time you heard bands like THE ALLMAN BROTHERS and the JAMES GANG and the great WISHBONE ASH, and I wasn't a great fan because it kind of sounded a bit too light. 'Cause that's what harmonies do — when you start to build harmonies, they start to sound like chord structures, which they inevitably will, 'cause harmonizing with one note will build a chord. So I'm thinking we'll create… And we ventured out. And we eventually did. There is such a thing as diminished harmonies. You can stack minor thirds together — fine. It will sound not too pleasing to a lot of people, but to me it sounded great; it was dissonant."
He continued: "We got together [with Glenn Tipton]. And obviously, musically, what Glenn and myself brought together maybe didn't always agree, but I had a great appreciation, and I think Glenn did as well, is the fact that a band, it's a combination of people. And so some of the more melodic stuff, the slightly more commercial stuff that Glenn would come up with, I was in acceptance of that because I'm thinking that if we wanna really be successful with our music, then we really do need to broaden our horizons. And obviously, the combination worked incredibly well."
On January 10, JUDAS PRIEST revealed that it would perform as a four-piece when it returns to the road in early March. A few hours later, the band's touring guitarist Andy Sneap, who co-produced the group's 2018 album "Firepower", released a statement to BLABBERMOUTH.NET in which he said that he was "incredibly disappointed" by PRIEST's decision to carry on as a quartet and thanked the iconic outfit for the "mind-blowing" opportunity to share the stage with one of his favorite bands. Meanwhile, PRIEST fans were understandably upset about the band's decision to forgo its classic twin-guitar attack sound and made their feelings known on social media. Some even called for the return of Downing, who joined PRIEST in 1970 and remained in the group until 2011. 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 Rob, Ian Hill (bass),Richie Faulkner (guitar),Scott Travis (drums) and Andy.
Last week, 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."