K.K. DOWNING Looks Back On JUDAS PRIEST's 'Painkiller' Album

September 21, 2023

In a new interview with "The Jeremy White Show", founding JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing spoke about the 33rd anniversary of the band's classic "Painkiller" album. Addressing how the addition of then-new drummer Scott Travis affected PRIEST's sound and songwriting, Downing said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I think with the addition of Scott, because we knew his capabilities from his former band, RACER X, which were a great band… After so many years, having Scott in the band with those double kicks again, it just opened doors for myself and Glenn [Tipton, PRIEST guitarist] to write rhythmically and musically. And we knew that Scott could play anything that we could — as fast as we could play on guitar, we knew he could match us on the kit, which helped a lot, really, because it meant we could expand writing after so many years, really, in respect of the faster side of metal, if you like."

PRIEST's 12th album, "Painkiller" was recorded at Miraval Studios in Brignoles, France, and was mixed at Wisseloord Studios in Hilversum, the Netherlands. It was the first LP to feature Travis following the departure of Dave Holland.

Last year, Travis spoke to "Drumtalk", the video podcast by German drummer and videographer Philipp Koch, about the fact that the intro to the title track of "Painkiller" has become one of the most iconic drum intros of all time. He said: "Me personally, I always loved the drum intro of certain songs. We all know 'Rock And Roll' by LED ZEPPELIN and 'Walk This Way' by AEROSMITH, and, of course, 'Hot For Teacher', which is VAN HALEN. So, anyways, I grew up like that, always understanding that, 'Man, if ever I could come up with a signature drum intro — no guitars; just drums — and make it really impactful.' And sometimes I get emotional, now that I've been playing for so long, that I was able to come up with something."

He continued: "[I recently saw a video featuring] 'Top 15 drum intros'. And, of course, it's subjective. I don't know who made the list; I think it was some rock magazine. So, naturally, I watch it, and it had 'Where Eagles Dare' [by IRON MAIDEN], it had 'Rock And Roll', and number two was 'Painkiller'. And I was, like, 'Oh my God. Thank you so much.' And number one, which I'm happy to take a backseat, was 'Hot For Teacher'Sir Alex Van Halen. If I'm second place to old Alex, then, man, that's fantastic. Again, that's one opinion and one little something someone made up. But nonetheless, I didn't make it, so I'm happy that people appreciate 'Painkiller' and it has become a signature JUDAS PRIEST song, which I never in a million years would have imagined that."

Back in 2020, Travis told Invisible Oranges that he wrote the "Painkiller" intro at Miraval Studios in early 1990 as producer Chris Tsangarides and engineer Patrice Roullion were testing microphone placements.

"We were set up at the studio… Studio Miraval in Nice, France," Travis recalled. "The drums are all set up and they're in a big room and then, of course, the control room is at the other end of the studio. I used to just go and warm up first thing in the morning and just work on the next song we were gonna do the next day, and just start playing it with my own headphones on. It was just a cool place — very comfortable to just go and play whatever you wanted. I knew we were gonna be working on the 'Painkiller' song and it was meant to be a fast-paced upbeat song. And I was just messing around doing the intro type stuff."

He continued: "I don't know what those notes I play with my feet [are called]… between my feet and my hands. Technically, it's four with the feet, one with the hand. So it's not a quad but I don't know, septuplet, quintuplet... Shows you how educated I am on drumming, right? [I was] just out there messing around, doing a flurry of things like that, exercises and whatnot. I had the 'Painkiller' idea in my head and they really liked what I was doing and they said, 'Hey, just do some more of that, some stuff like that.' And I just kind of whipped it up…

"As a young drummer or just as a drummer, period, I always… I don't wanna say dreamt because that sounds corny, but I always was hoping that I could come up with a signature drum intro, and I think every drummer wants that. Rarely does a drummer get to do an intro and especially one that really sticks. Given the fact that it exists now, I'm kind of blown away. It's cool."

Scott's long and very influential drumming career has also included acclaimed work with FIGHT.

Photo credit: Mind Art Visual

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