In a new interview with Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden's RockSverige, Richie Faulkner, who joined JUDAS PRIEST in 2011 as the replacement for K.K. Downing, was asked to name his favorite PRIEST album that he didn't play on. The guitarist responded: "My favorite PRIEST album is 'Defenders Of The Faith' (1984). We were talking about how we perceive things differently. For me, it was that experience of being taken somewhere else. What the songs were about. 'The Sentinel', it took you to a different place. You could almost see some of these songs and the stories they were telling. I like that experience and I got that from 'Somewhere In Time' (1986) from IRON MAIDEN, 'Master Of Puppets' (1986) from METALLICA.
"For me, it's always been 'Defenders Of The Faith'," he added. "Obviously I've got a different relationship with the songs on the albums I've created with the band."
Asked if he ever wakes up and just goes, "Fuck, man, I'm in JUDAS PRIEST," he said: "Of course. Every day. It's been a life-changing opportunity and experience and one of the reasons why you and me are talking today is because of my history with JUDAS PRIEST. I've got them to thank for everything. I've got them to thank for the opportunity for being considered to play with them and all the lessons I've learned over the years. It's been a life-changing experience and an incredible opportunity. It makes me the guitar player that I am today, and I can't thank them enough for it and also the fans that trusted in them and me to do the job when I joined the band. They've been nothing but incredibly welcoming all around the world. Every day I wake up and this is a product of that opportunity from them and I can't help but be grateful for that to the end of my days."
In September 2021, Faulkner suffered an acute cardiac aortic dissection during PRIEST's performance at the Louder Than Life festival, just a short distance from Rudd Heart and Lung Center at UofL Health - Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. It took the hospital's cardiothoracic surgery team, led by Dr. Siddharth Pahwa and also including Drs. Brian Ganzel and Mark Slaughter, approximately 10 hours to complete the surgery, an aortic valve and ascending aorta replacement with hemiarch replacement.
Two weeks after his surgery, Faulkner told reporters about how he felt while performing "Painkiller" with his bandmates at Louder Than Life: "I became a bit light-headed. It didn't go away. I've never fainted before. I've never passed out, but I knew that this felt like I was going to pass out in a minute.
"Luckily, it was about half way into the song," he continued. "So obviously, I had to finish the song. If I had known how important it was, maybe I would have got off there a bit quicker. But I think that's the whole point for me. I had no idea whatsoever what it was."
Faulkner said that he experienced a sharp pain as he was stepping off the stage. "That's when it exploded," he said.
"The more I read about it, the more astonishing it is to me to think that I even made it to the hospital," he added. "The amount of time when I actually go the pain and when I turned up in the hospital and when we were actually operating, it was quite a lot of time. The more I read about it, the more unbelievable — that amount of time — I don't know how I'm still around today."
Aortic aneurysms are "balloon-like bulges in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart through the chest and torso," according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control. Dissections happen when the "force of blood pumping can split the layers of the artery wall, allowing blood to leak in between them."
After Louder Than Life, JUDAS PRIEST postponed the remainder of the U.S. dates on its 50th-anniversary tour, dubbed "50 Heavy Metal Years". The shows were rescheduled for March and April 2022.
Last September, Faulkner revealed that he underwent a second heart surgery in early August 2022 to fix "a hole in the repair." He added: "There was a leak — I'd basically sprung a leak in there — and it was causing a sack to form around my heart. So they found it just before the European leg [of PRIEST's 2022 tour].
Richie was once the guitarist in the backing group for Lauren Harris, daughter of IRON MAIDEN bassist Steve Harris.