RICHIE FAULKNER On Replacing K.K. DOWNING In JUDAS PRIEST: 'I Was Ready For The Challenge'December 23, 2022
In a recent interview with Great Day Houston, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner spoke about what it was like for him to join the band in 2011 as the replacement for original guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I played in a cover band in London and around the U.K. And JUDAS PRIEST songs were the staple diet of a gig in rock guitar playing. You had to know JUDAS PRIEST and DEEP PURPLE and IRON MAIDEN and all those songs if you wanted to play regularly. So I was intimately familiar with the band's material — never met the band before. I knew one of their ex-drummers, Les Binks. And I got the call from the management one day. I was a bit of… You know the 'Goldilocks And The Three Bears' where the porridge is just right; I wasn't a completely new guy where I was gonna get stage fright, but I hadn't been around the block for the last 10 years where I was gonna have a list of demands. I was right in the middle."
Regarding how his addition to PRIEST proved to be such a seamless transition, Faulkner said: "I think half of it was the size of it. You just kind of get swept along with the wave of it. You realize how much this means to so many people around the world. I think I was ready for the challenge. I know the duty that comes with being the guitar player in such a meaningful band."
Faulkner, nearly three decades Downing's junior, joined PRIEST after K.K. left amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance.
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.
Back in 2019, Faulkner dismissed the criticism he received for supposedly trying to look too much like Downing. "Obviously, you get the [haters] — the 'clone' comments," Richie told the "Let There Be Talk" podcast. "I've got long blond hair, playing a flying V [guitar]… [Michael] Schenker, Zakk [Wylde], K.K., Randy Rhoads — all those guys. To say I was a Ken clone was fairly narrow-minded. There's tons of guys who have flying Vs and long hair.
"The thing is if I had dyed my hair black to be different, I would have been shot down," he continued. "You've gotta be real; you've gotta be who you are. And I grew up on Ken, I grew up on Glenn [Tipton, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist] and the guys that I mentioned. So you've just gotta be who you are. And I grew up with those guys, and I'm not ashamed. I wear it on my sleeve — they're all my influences, and I'm not afraid of that… There's no point in trying to hide it. But it's gotta be natural as well. And I think somehow it worked out organically. I didn't try to copy him. And as it goes on, you always try to do your own thing and make your own statement."
Four years ago, Downing said that he felt like he was "being cloned" when he first found out he was being replaced by Faulkner.
Downing, who announced his retirement from PRIEST in April 2011 after nearly 42 years in the job, admitted to the "Appetite For Distortion" podcast that he was taken aback when he first saw his replacement.
"Richie, as far as I know, is a nice guy and obviously an excellent player," Downing said. "I was a bit disappointed when, basically… I think the idea was to replace me [with a lookalike], so I did feel as though I was kind of being cloned. But I'm not sure that was exactly fair to Richie. I mean, I could be off the mark here, but I think Richie had the right to bring himself to the stage with his own… portray his own image and ability to play the instrument the way that he does. But it is what it is."
He continued: "When Glenn retired from touring [in early 2018], the same didn't happen — obviously, [Tipton's replacement] Andy [Sneap] doesn't look anything like Glenn; he doesn't wear the same clothes, the red pants, guitars or anything like that. So I don't really know what's going on. But it is what it is."
In a 2011 interview with the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, singer Rob Halford stated about Faulkner's physical resemblance to a younger Downing: "People are saying, 'It's a clone. You've got some of K.K.'s DNA.' It's just the way it turned out. We made, like, a secret search. When we knew K.K. was not gonna be making the tour, we did a lot of secret, kind of, searching for another player. And Richie just happened to be the guy. And he just happens to look a little bit of the K.K. image, you know?! I think it would be silly to say, 'We looked for a guitar player that looks like Ken.' What we want is a very good metal guitar player, and that's what Richie Faulkner is."
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