Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth “K.K.” Downing spoke to Midland Rocks about his shocking April 2011 announcement that he was leaving the band prior to their “Epitaph” world tour.
Downing, who recently started a career as a rock promoter under the banner The Future Of Heavy Metal, says that, contrary to popular belief, he didn’t retire from the music business.
“I’ll never get away from this retirement thing, but what happened was that I quit,” Downing explains. “Retired implies that I am not physically able to do it. I am able to do it, but I didn’t want to do it; I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore
“A lot of things had changed. I think I counted about thirty reasons why I didn’t want to do it at the time, and that is an awful lot of reasons.
“In all honesty, I think that in so many respects it had run its course.
“If you’re part of a songwriting team, you get the recognition and reward for creating something, but for me, PRIEST became about going out and playing live and replicating exactly what people had enjoyed ten, twenty or thirty years ago. The fans would be just as happy if they could see us bin all of the modern guitars we now play and take them on a walk down memory lane, because I think that’s what people enjoy most. And I understand that, because if I could go out now and see Eric Clapton with CREAM, then I would be the happiest person in the world.”
He continues: “One of the beautiful things about being in the industry was the ability to continue to invent and create, constructing songs and making good records. You do feel the need to be creative, and that was taken away with the downloading thing, and as you get older, the balance of the scales starts to tip. So if you can’t be creative, why would you want to continue to dedicate the time into something?
“I suppose if the industry was still healthy and people still had to spend their hard-earned money buying a record, it would be different, but if you give something away, then it has no value.
“We used to buy an album and think, ‘Well, it’s not that good, but I’ll play it a million times [and] I’m sure I’ll get into it, and now it doesn’t really get a second chance.
“In the past, there was always the opportunity to create a record like ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ [PINK FLOYD] or ‘British Steel’ [JUDAS PRIEST] or ‘Back In Black’ [AC/DC] that would be one of those albums that would be indelible and people will always come back to. And I think that opportunity has gone now, and I think it would take a miracle for one of those to happen again.
“If you consider an album like [JUDAS PRIEST‘s much-maligned conceptual effort] ‘Nostradamus’, then if that had been released in 1978, then it would have been another ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, but it is all about the timing.
“When you think about it, in the early days, we had the opportunity to write great songs, play great solos and have great vocal performances, but people get used to it and it is hard now to get the reaction of, ‘Wow, have you heard the new PRIEST album?’
“The industry has changed so much… I see companies that are repackaging and rehashing, and that started happening to us, and that was not a pretty thing to be a part of. It’s kind of duping the fans a bit, because there are fans around the world that have got to have everything to complete their collection, so even if there are only a few thousand of them, if you put out a box collection, it might be $100, which is a lot of dollars, and so for me, that is something that I didn’t get into music for.”
Downing‘s place in JUDAS PRIEST was filled by new guitarist Richie Faulkner.
JUDAS PRIEST is currently writing and recording material for a new studio album, to be released sometime next year.