There’s One Way to Guarantee K.K. Downing Returns to Judas Priest

He'd need a little help from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden

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Photo credit: Barry Brecheisen (www.bbphoto.com)

It’s been nearly five years since K.K. Downing officially left Judas Priest. Even today the departure is hard to fathom, it immediately severing the most potent twin-guitar attacks in heavy metal (he along with Glenn Tipton). In 2011, Downing and bassist Ian Hill were the only two members of Priest who’d been in the band since it formed 41 years earlier.

A lot went into Downing’s decision to leave Priest, but it mostly boils down to “it was kind of becoming all work and no play,” when for most of his tenure in the band the two were synonymous.

“[In the ‘80s] there were hundreds of girls at every show,” he says. “We got older and the industry changed, obviously with the downloads. The girls disappeared, most of them. It was still good [but] it was getting to be less exciting as the years went by.”

Downing used a chunk of his Priest money to buy a giant plot of land in Shropshire, England that he later turned into a golf course called The Astbury. He says “hardly a day goes by that doesn’t have an association with the music industry,” one that may include working with baby bands, dealing with Priest issues or doing interviews.

“After 40 years it was never gonna leave,” he says. “I was always gonna be an ambassador for Priest.”

“I didn’t think there was any place on the stage or anywhere else for Judas Priest that weren’t the well-oiled power machine that we’d always been.”

He laments the fact that Priest has hinted at a proper farewell tour for years but has never followed through. “I didn’t see that we were the leaders anymore,” Downing says. “You don’t want to get to a point where you fizzle out. Priest was always meant to be a high energy, adrenaline metal band and that was always what we endeavored to do. I didn’t think there was any place on the stage or anywhere else for Judas Priest that weren’t the well-oiled power machine that we’d always been.”

Downing doesn’t completely close the door on a return to the band—as improbable as it may be. Should, for example, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame get around to doing what it should have done 20 years ago and enshrine the metal pioneers, Downing would make the trip Stateside to attend. “I’d be fine with anything like that,” he says.

As for a reunion prior to that unlikely induction, Downing says “obviously they have [Downing’s replacement] Richie [Faulkner] there. Maiden has done the three-guitar player [thing], but I don’t think there’s room for an extra guitar player in Priest. Priest has always been a two-guitar band so I can’t see that working. We’ll have to see what happens next.”

The one way to guarantee a Downing return is to stage a stadium tour featuring the likes of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. “It would be something I would have to be part of,” he says. “Only because I’d like to see the greatest heavy-metal tour happen because it’s never happened. And it’s never gonna happen. Unfortunately, that chapter of history won’t be there forever, which is kind of sad.”

20 Comments

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  6. Patricia Comeford

    March 3, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I would love to see K.K. perform either solo or with a band! I was lucky to see Priest perform one time back in the 1980s. Priest has not been up to the same great level as when K.K. was with the band. K.K. helped write many of Priest’s best songs. He is a fabulous, hot guitarist with superb style!

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