K.K. Downing didn’t realize Judas Priest would continue for more than a decade after their farewell tour

K.K. Downing didn’t realize Judas Priest would continue for more than a decade after their farewell tour

KK’s Priest and former Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing was recently interviewed by Marko Syrjala for Chaoszine. Downing was promoting KK’s Priest‘s upcoming sophomore album The Sinner Rides Again, which will be released via Napalm Records on September 29, 2023. Back in 2011, Downing had resigned from Judas Priest but starting in or about 2018 (after Glenn Tipton announced that he was battling Parkinson’s Disease), he made it known publicly that he would like to return to the band alongside his former bandmates Rob Halford (lead vocals) and Ian Hill (bass) but that never materialized. Downing then formed KK’s Priest which also includes former Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens on lead vocals, A.J. Mills on guitar, Tony Newton on bass and Sean Elg on drums. 

On what he would say to people that have been criticizing KK’s Priest for whatever reasons, Downing indicated: “Yeah, absolutely. I would say that if they can understand that parting ways with Judas Priest, you know, I was there at the beginning since 1969. It was my life, my heritage, my legacy, and everything. It meant everything to me. And — but in 2010, the decision was made by everyone and the band’s managers to end the band. That was the decision to do a farewell tour, and the band was set to finish. And that was agreed on by everyone. And we didn’t know then that Glenn was suffering from Parkinson’s already. And he didn’t tell us, you know.

But I’m just saying that maybe that was in Glenn’s mind that really — the uncertainty of having that issue, maybe that’s why he agreed, you know. I agreed because I felt that the band was not really performing as it should. Um, I can’t really say why Rob, um, and Ian agreed, but we all agreed, and we were asked to think of a title for the tour that would mean the definitive end of the band. And so, the title for the tour that was decided upon was the ”Epitaph Tour.” But I decided I didn’t want to do the farewell tour. So I decided to send, in a letter saying that I didn’t want to do the tour and wished them well, the farewell tour, naturally, assuming that they would get a replacement in for me just to do the farewell tour because I suppose in the back of my mind, I wasn’t really convinced that I wanted to end Judas Priest.

And I suppose, in a way, if I didn’t do the farewell tour, then maybe I didn’t say farewell. But I didn’t realise that they were going to continue for another 14 years. That wasn’t — that wasn’t the plan. That wasn’t what I was told. Otherwise, things may have been very different. But anyway, since that happened, I always thought that maybe one day, there would be an opportunity for me to rejoin the band. And that opportunity came along really when Glenn decided to retire from the band. But he didn’t ask me. No one asked me. Glenn gave the guitar to Andy Sneap, and that was it. Since then, I have asked the band, you know, and said to the band, obviously, “I’m thinking of starting my own band. Are you sure you don’t want me back in the band?” And they said no. Their lawyers wrote me a letter and said, on their behalf, no. I wrote to them again, and they said no again. So I started KK’s Priest.

The reason I decided on the name is because I didn’t want to — I didn’t want to start everything all over again and just leave all of my legacy and my heritage and my songs behind me. I didn’t want not to be a Priest. I signed up as a Priest in 1969 and wanted to continue to be a Priest. I felt that if the new guys in Judas Priest could be Priests, then I was entitled to be a Priest because they were playing my songs and they were doing my performance, so I decided to retain and be a Priest because I am a true Priest. I was there at the beginning. It was my creation, my idea. And I have been a part of the evolution, and very proudly, of heavy metal since 1969. And I deserve the right to continue that. That’s what I think. So I would ask the fans to give me and Ripper the opportunity to give them great songs and performances, just as they’ve always known from us. And hopefully, they will enjoy and understand that we are here to continue where we left off. And certainly for myself, you know, and I think that I deserve that opportunity.”

When Syrjala noted that this was the perfect answers to those critics, Downing added: “Yeah. I know it’s too long an answer to give, but it’s so hard when people don’t know all the details, emotions, and sentiments. I only hope that they can wish me well. I’m still here, and if they want to hear songs that they know and love played how they always were played, then they need to come and see KK’s Priest because I am the same person. I am the same player. I have the same guitars. I have the same amps, the same sound, the same technique. I am everything. (Laughs) No. I’m not here to try and take anything away from them because the brand name Judas Priest is bigger than all of us put together. You know, and they’ve proved that you can put brand — you can — you can take me and Glenn away, and the band is just as big, playing just as big shows because the brand name of Judas Priest is etched in stone. But it’s not the same as it was. Of course, it isn’t. So if somebody wants to experience it the way that it was, then come to see KK’s Priest.”

You can read the rest of the interview with Downing via Chaoszine‘s website.

KK’s Priest‘s “Strike of The Viper” video (from The Sinner Rides Again album):