K.K. DOWNING On His Reunion With JUDAS PRIEST At ROCK HALL: 'It Was A Weird Experience'
November 6, 2023
In a recent interview with Spain's The Metal Circus, founding JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing was asked what it was like to reunite 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): "It was a weird experience, because I was delighted when I was informed by JUDAS PRIEST management that we were being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. But then I was gutted, myself and Les Binks, the [former PRIEST] drummer [who was also being inducted], when the management wrote to us and said, 'Just to let you know, you are guests of the band.' And I'm thinking, 'Oh, fuck. Here we go. We can't just all go up there and have a really nice time. It's gonna be like that.' So that's the way it was — separate slides, separate dressing rooms, separate hotels. Couldn't walk the red carpet with them. And I'm thinking, 'This is really disappointing.' I devoted my life to this, to that band. I devoted my life. I never left that band to record with other musicians, like Rob [Halford, PRIEST singer] did and Glenn [Tipton, PRIEST guitarist] did. I was loyal and true to JUDAS PRIEST because I started it. I introduced those guys into the band, and I was devoted to it, and I'm getting treated like this. And I'm thinking, 'This is bullshit.'"
Downing continued: "But anyway, I went there with Les. I said, 'C'mon. We'll go to L.A. Let's have a few beers and enjoy it as good as we can.' And that's what we did. But the onstage experience, to me, didn't really resemble what I remember. You know, you've got two drummers, three guitar players. I'm thinking, 'This a jam session. But anyway, I'm just gonna enjoy it and rock out.' And that's what I did."
Downing previously talked about his Rock Hall reunion with PRIEST during a September 2023 appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk". At the time, he said: "I deliberated [about attending the event]. I'm thinking, 'It's a long, long way to go, 'cause I'm not exactly sure how it's gonna all pan out.' But both myself and Les Binks, we were delighted when we heard from the management that we were gonna be inducted. That was great. But shortly after that, we had another e-mail saying, 'Just to let you know that you and Les are guests of the band.' So straight off the bat, I'm thinking, 'Oh, here we go. This is not exactly how I thought it would go.' And then, obviously, we were kept segregated — flights, dressing rooms, hotels, the red carpet — so it was just total segregation. And that was it."
He continued: "I really must [give a] shoutout to Richie [Faulkner, Downing's replacement in PRIEST]. Richie was great. He came in the dressing room a couple of times. We had a good few laughs. Because lots of people were coming to our dressing room. It was good. Dave Grohl popped his head in, 'cause he's such a lovely guy, so down to earth, and that was funny. We had a few laughs. And it was great. [I] didn't say anything to the other guys, but there it is. But to be honest, once I got on that stage and I did it, I was glad that I did it, because I think that, justifiably, I kind of earned that, really. And there was some energy — there was a lot of energy from myself and Richie — because I think Richie was thinking, 'I've gotta go toe-to-toe with this guy. Otherwise I'm just gonna look like a shadow or something.' But it was good. We worked it well together. But I have to be honest, it just didn't feel like it used to; it was far from it. I think we had — well, we had two drummers and three guitar players. So that's one reason why it didn't quite seem the same as before, really. But, yeah, it was fun, like I say. I'm so glad that I made the decision to go in the end."
Downing also discussed his reunion with PRIEST in a separate interview with Marko Syrjälä of Chaoszine, saying that the whole event was a bit surreal, seeing as none of the other artists being inducted into the Rock Hall were even remotely close to metal.
"Even right up until the performance, I wasn't sure," Downing admitted. "I kept saying to myself, 'Am I doing the right thing here? Is this really heavy metal? I'm with a bunch of guys that fucking hate me.' I'm looking at Ed Sheeran. I'm looking at Dolly Parton. I'm thinking, 'Fuck it. Am I in the right place? Is it all a dream?' [Laughs] I'm thinking, 'Oh, what the hell? Just grab the guitar and do it and get to the pub.' And that's what I did. I came off stage, put my clothes on, went straight back to the hotel bar and I had some beers and it was great."
K.K. also confirmed that he did have a brief chat with PRIEST singer Rob Halford at the Rock Hall. "Rob came over to me, and I [initially] didn't wanna speak to him, because he left the band for 14 years and I was instrumental in reinstating him back in the band, having him back in," Downing said. "And then he tells me that I can't rejoin the band. How does that work? I don't know how that works."
According to K.K., "it's Glenn [Tipton] and [PRIEST's longtime manager] Jayne [Andrews] who make all the decisions [for the band], and, I hate to say it, but Rob is just… I really think that… The only reason I spoke to Rob [at the Rock Hall] is because I think he's being controlled. That's the only reason. I don't believe that Rob voted not to have me [back] in [PRIEST]. I think he was forced to. I think Rob would have voted me in. But it was their choice. And now Richie's off doing his own thing with [his side project] ELEGANT WEAPONS and everything. So it's not looking great for him, really, is it?"
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, Ian Hill (bass),Tipton and Scott Travis (drums),along with former members Downing, Binks and late drummer Dave Holland.
Halford, Hill, Tipton and Travis were joined by Binks, Downing and Faulkner for a three-song medley consisting of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight".
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.
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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