K.K. DOWNING (ex-JUDAS PRIEST): “I Do Hope I’ll Be Up There On Stage Playing If JUDAS PRIEST Are Inducted Into The ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME”

JUDAS PRIEST (Live at The Sheffield Arena, U.K., February 13, 2009)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Making his first live appearance on stage for 10 years at the Bloodstock Festival in the summer seems to have reinvigorated his love of music. Mick Burgess called up Judas Priest legend, K.K. Downing, to chat about returning to the stage, his Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame nomination, his upcoming show with former Priest cohorts Les Binks and Ripper Owens and the prospect of re-joining Judas Priest for their 50th anniversary tour in 2020.

First things first, congratulations on your nomination for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame. How did you feel when you heard that?

It was great to hear that we’d been nominated for a second time. It was obviously a disappointment the first time around when we didn’t get inducted. It’s one of those things where you buy into the whole thing or you don’t. It’s not easy to get in there and there’s no such thing as a young legend. We’ll see how that goes. It took us four Grammy nominations until we won one so who knows. Hopefully one day we’ll get it and when we’re sitting there in our rocking chairs at a ripe old age it’ll be cool to have gotten in there. We’ll just have to wait and see.

If you were to make a pitch to the committee who makes the induction decision, what would you say to secure your place in the Hall?

I would say, quite simply this. I don’t know of any other band who has been more dedicated, with a bigger catalogue of Rock and Metal songs than Judas Priest. I don’t think even the Scorpions can match us for that. I don’t know what you have to do to get in there. I know our fans want us in there but are they going to wait until one or more of us pops off before inducting us? I think if it’s inevitable that we will get in next year, in 5 years or 50 years time, they may as well give it to us now while we’re alive so that we can go over and play for them.

I take it you’d definitely be up to perform with your old band mates again?

Absolutely. It’d be great for the fans. We’ll just have to wait and see but I certainly do hope that I’ll be up there performing with Judas Priest if we are inducted.

Talking of performing again, you made your first appearance on stage at Bloodstock with Ross The Boss in the summer. Has it really been 10 years since you last performed?

It didn’t feel that it had been that long at all. It was cool, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t meet the guys until Friday and I was on stage the following lunch time. I’ve done it for so long that it is what it is and it all came back fairly quickly.

How did you feel just before you walked out on stage?

I had a great feeling before I went on. You feel it in your gut but in a good way. You might worry about breaking a string or something but nothing too bad.

Who’s idea was it to work with Ross?

I was invited to receive an award that I hadn’t received at the Wacken Festival the year before. People wanted me to get the award. There was talk of me flying all the way over to Los Angeles to get it and then someone suggested Bloodstock. I wasn’t too happy that I couldn’t get the Award at Wacken with the rest of the band and the new lad, Ritchie picked it up. It was a bit silly really. They decided to give me it at Bloodstock. I heard that the Priest camp pulled the plug on me getting it. I’m not saying anything about it and they said that it was my show and then they decided not to give me the award at Bloodstock. They said it wasn’t something that they do but that’s how it all started. They said if I was going to get up on stage then I may as well play a couple of songs. I’m not Ed Sheeran, I can’t just get up there on my own with a guitar. Somebody suggested Ross The Boss. He’s old school Metal with a good band so I thought it’d be a good idea to get up on stage with them and do a few songs. It just seemed wrong to get up on stage after being away for so long and say hello. I wanted to be able to play music again and blast out a few songs.

How long did it take you to get back in your stride?

It’s just what I do. It’s like learning a language. The words you’ve learned just come back so it’s like that with music. It was still all there for me. I speak pidgin Spanish by the way. I’ll never forget those words I’ve learned.

Is this something you could see yourself doing again with Ross at some point?

I don’t know. I’ll just see what happens. There are a lot of things going on at the moment. I’ve been reading about stuff in the Priest camp where Andy Sneap has said that he’d keep on playing until they no longer want me that I thought was a bit strange so that rings a few alarm bells. There is a 50th anniversary coming up and I’ve been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with some lads from the past as you know and the new guys in Priest are not a part of that. It’s just a bit of sour grapes the way things turned out and there seems to be a stone wall at the moment but I should have been in there by now really. It’s all beyond me. It’s just one of those things, guys leave and guys come back.

Rob Halford left and came back didn’t he?

He left for 14 years and it was me and Sharon Osborne that brought Rob back. Sharon spoke up first and I acted upon it but we got him back into the band after he’d been away for a long time so you can never say never.

It’s been quite difficult for you in the press recently and it seems as though you get misquoted and then everything flares up between your old band mates making it hard for you to heal the rift?

I reprimanded Blabbermouth over a couple of things and they did rectify it which was pretty good. You take a couple of words out of context and it can have a completely different meaning and people can read it and pounce on it and end up getting angry which can make things difficult especially when I did not say those things in that way.

On 3rd November you’ve got a very special show at The Steelmill in Wolverhampton with Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson which features your old mate Les Binks and Ripper Owens. Who came up with that idea?

I’m not really sure how it came about now. After Bloodstock I had an awful lot of proposals. David said he was going to bring his band to England and do his bass story show. He asked if I wanted to play along with him, doing a few covers. He was only doing the one show at the Underworld in London so I asked him if he wanted to play at the Steel Mill in Wolverhampton as well. It just went from there and he said he could bring Ripper over. I said if he was bringing Ripper then I’d ask Les. It’s going to work out great. We’ve got Blaze Bayley opening too so it’s going to be a great show. Dave will do his Megadeth stuff, then we’ll go on as a five piece which will include guitarist AJ Mills from the band Hostile who comes from my neck of the woods. We’ve already had a rehearsal with Les and AJ and it sounds great.

When was the last time you played with Les?

It must have been back in 1979 so it’s been quite a while. It was really good and really tight.

What did you play?

I am keeping the set list a secret but you won’t be disappointed. It’s nice being able to do it my way too.

Ripper Owens stepped in at a difficult time for Priest in 1996. It must be good hooking up with him again?

I’ve been to a couple of shows when he’s been in England. We do stay in touch by email and speak on the phone. He’s a nice guy. I’m looking forward to playing with him again. I don’t think I’ll be missing anything that I used to have when I’m doing these shows if you know what I mean. Les and Ripper are incredible. Dave is a great bass player and I wouldn’t have selected AJ if I didn’t think that he couldn’t do my job, Glenn’s job or Ritchie’s job.

If this show goes well are you thinking of adding some additional shows or is it just a one off at the moment?

There’s been a lot of interest but I’m just going to see how it goes and will see how we all feel but I just know it’s going to be really great. I won’t be relying on great big television screens or a big show like that. It’ll all be about the songs and the energy of the show just like the old days.

Looking forward into 2020, what plans do you have?

I think there’s such a legacy of songs that I’ve already done so first and foremost if I was going to do anything I’ll just get back out there and play live again. I’m 67 now and you can lock yourself away forever writing and recording but you might never get out onto the road and that’s the important part for me, to get out and play.

K.K. Downing plays at K.K’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton on 3rd November with Ripper Owens and Les Binks from Judas Priest, Dave Ellefson from Megadeth and Hostile’s AJ Mills.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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