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K.K. Downing Interview

A Conversation With The Judas Priest Guitarist

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K.K. Downing
K.K. Downing
Judas Priest founder K.K. Downing and his bandmates continue to work on the concept album Nostradamus, due out later this year. He’s also the executive producer and plays on a couple tracks of the new Violent Storm album Storm Warning. The band was formed by Mick Cervino (Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore). K.K. is an extremely nice guy and was more than willing to talk about the progress of the Priest album, his involvement with Violent Storm, and debunked the myth that his house is also a bed and breakfast.

Chad Bowar: How is Nostradamus coming along?
K.K. Downing: We are working on it day and night. It’s going really, really well. It’s a long project in terms of the length of music. It’s over an hour and a half of music, so for that reason alone it is going to take us a bit longer to pull it together. But hopefully we can offer something unique and wonderful to the world. We’re totally into it. We promise the fans we’ll get it to them as soon as we possibly can. We’ll get a Priest tour together as well.

Are you and Glenn (Tipton) doing the production on the album?
So far that is the way it seems. We’ve been working hard, pretty much nonstop. That’s not to say at some point we might bring someone else in, but we’ll see what we need. If we think we need to, we’ll certainly do that. But I think between Glenn and I we’ve got an awful lot of experience. It’s sounding really good. It’s the closest guarded secret in rock and roll at the moment. It’s a bit different than the work we’ve done previously. We’re looking forward to exposing it as soon as we can.

Obviously writing lyrics is different on a concept album, but is writing the music any different from a regular album?
I think there are a lot of the usual ingredients, but with a bigger spectrum of sound with a bit of a classical element and more orchestrated sounds, which can be extremely heavy if used right. Hopefully it’s going to be pleasing to a lot of people, and that’s what it’s always been about. We’ve always tried to widen the audience of rock and metal and make it more credible to more people, and hopefully we’ll achieve that goal with this project.

How did you become involved with Violent Storm?
We were on tour in Miami, where those guys reside. We got hooked up at one of our gigs. That was back when Ripper Owens was in Priest. We just hung out and had a few beers. It was quite a while later when I was in the south of Spain and we jumped on a plane and went to Barcelona. We watched Mick (Cervino) play in Yngwie Malmsteen’s band. We again hung out and drank a few beers. Mick mentioned that he wanted to put together a solo record and asked if I would play on a couple of songs. He sent the songs to me and I thought they were pretty cool. It was along the lines of the type of music I like, more classic metal. I played on the tracks and sent the tapes back to him. It went on from there. I got more and more involved. There were lots of things that needed to be done to the recording as they were. My years of experience have helped me learn a few things. I took on a producer’s role, rearranging and editing and helping with the mixing. I got more into it and wanted to see how good we could make the record.

Mick has been called one of the best bass players in metal. Would you agree?
Absolutely. He has an awful lot of musical ability. He also has songwriting ability and can play the guitar as well. He’s well rounded. He’s a very talented guy. He was formerly with Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore, so he’s got good credentials. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the band getting out there and doing it live.

How has the response been to the Violent Storm album so far?
It’s building slowly but surely. You can’t keep a good record and a good band down. They are playing some festival dates in Europe with Heaven and Hell, which will be great exposure for them.

30 plus years into your career is it easier or harder to write songs?
I think the sponge is always being squeezed harder. When will we run out before we are just duplicating what someone else has done? The answer to that is in the combination of what people have to offer in the band. Five individuals when we come together creates something unique. When we will run out of ideas is a very good question. Hopefully not until this record is done! (laughs)

What do you think are some of the most underrated Judas Priest albums?
I think they are all underrated. I think everyone who’s never bought a Priest album should go out and buy one, and follow that up by buying every other one as well! It’s fair to say that even with as long and successful of a career that Priest has had, we still have a long ways to go to be comparable with a lot of bands that have gotten a much bigger audience, whether it’s Queen or Gun ‘N Roses or Metallica or AC/DC. We are not considered underground by any means, but Priest is still climbing the ladder in a lot of respects. For that reason I think we’re still doing it. We’re still hungry. It would have been great to have been a Led Zeppelin, where your first album is bigger than sliced bread. The good thing about Priest is that we’ve always been building and hopefully getting better. But then again, we’re not over and done with yet, while a lot of those other bands are.

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