Followers of the metal were shocked when earlier this year Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing announced he was leaving the band after 40 years. His replacement is young Londoner Richie Faulkner — a man who knows how to set his fretboard alight and melt your face, while remaining cool as ice onstage.
The ex-Ace Mafia and Lauren Harris man took some time out during Priest’s current Epitaph World Tour to discuss his “dream” new life and being a sci-fi geek.
Geeks of Doom: Were you welcomed into the band?
Richie Faulkner: Absolutely. They’ve been nothing short of welcoming on every front really, on a personal level and a musical level as well. We arranged some of the songs live to put some extra guitar solos in there to showcase what I can do and you can’t get more welcome than that. You know, changing arrangements for classic songs like that just to accommodate what you can do I think that’s a great honour to be granted that opportunity.
Geeks of Doom: That twin guitar sound of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton was integral to Judas Priest and to metal music.
Richie Faulkner: Absolutely.
Geeks of Doom: Did you feel any pressure to be replacing a part of that?
Richie Faulkner: Not really. I mean, as a fan of the band I know what the fans expect. I knew what I had to do as a player and as a fan of the band the job I had to do, if you know what I mean. I’ve always been in twin guitar bands, you know, a fan of Priest and it was all the pieces matching up like a jigsaw puzzle. Like I said the twin guitar in Priest as a fan and also the songs, they all sort of made sense. So it wasn’t pressure in a sense, but it was just kind of a duty to do the best I could for the band and the fans really.
Geeks of Doom: What was that first rehearsal like with the band?
Richie Faulkner: Well the first rehearsal, I mean, it was great to actually play music with the band…
[At this time the phone line cuts out. Redial.]
Richie Faulkner: Where was I?
Geeks of Doom: The first Judas Priest practice!
Richie Faulkner: Yeah, as I said it was great. We thought it was going to take a bit longer than it did to get the songs and arrangements together. It went really quickly so, you know, we spent most of the time down the pub, really! We’d rehearse for a couple of hours, go through the songs, then go and have a couple of drinks. It was just great to hang out and it was a great vibe.
Geeks of Doom: So it was hard work from the start!
Richie Faulkner: Well from my point of view it kind of came naturally, you know, so I wanted to do a good job of that so…
[Phone line cuts out again. Redial.]
Geeks of Doom: Hello! Me again!
Richie Faulkner: Alright mate, got a dodgy connection here! No worries.
Geeks of Doom: What’s the reaction from the Judas Priest fans been like?
Richie Faulkner: Well, great really. I think they’ve been amazing welcoming a new guy to the family. I think initially there was some skepticism, which, that’s natural, you know? That’s going to occur when someone leaves after 40 years. People I think have a tendency to fear the worst, even though they should be trusting the band to pick the right guy, people tend to fear the worst. So we always knew that within the first week of getting out there on tour and showing people what we can do they’d be on our side and they’ve been nothing short of amazing really. They’ve been really welcoming. You accept, you understand the skepticism… but two songs, three songs into the set they’ve got their hands in the air, they’re singing along, they’ve forgotten all that. They’re just enjoying the show. So it’s been great, really. The crowd reaction’s been amazing.
Geeks of Doom: Cool. What was the reaction like from your bandmates in the Lauren Harris band?
Richie Faulkner: Well obviously they were disappointed. When an opportunity like that comes along that you have to leave something for there’s always going to be some disappointment, you’re always going to be letting people down in a certain sense. But it wasn’t like a mate’s band playing down the pub that you’re going to leave them for. It was a bit of a different situation to that, you know? They totally understood although they were a bit disappointed that I was jumping ship. They totally understood and I spoke to Steve Harris [Iron Maiden bassist, Lauren Harris’ dad] and he totally understood. They all wished me good luck. You know, I’m still on good terms with them, they’ve got the band back together, they’ve got new people and they’re carrying on and everyone’s happy. So it was great, they were all really understanding. I couldn’t ask for more really.
Geeks of Doom: Would you go back to them at some point?
Richie Faulkner: Well you never know. You never know in the future. I mean, I don’t think there’d be a time when they’d need it. You know, I’ve gone a different path now, they’re going a different path, but you never know what happens in the future. So never say never but I wouldn’t think so. This decision’s made and that’s the way it’s going to be now.
Geeks of Doom: That’s fair enough. Have you ever spoken to KK?
Richie Faulkner: No I haven’t, no. I mean, I’ve heard various bits and pieces… what he’s posted on the website, stuff like that and obviously what the band said. You know, they told me about the situation. I haven’t actually spoken to him personally, I think that I’d like to meet him and talk to him but I don’t think it would be an important thing for me to talk about. I think that’s the decision he’s made and you have to respect that. I’d like to talk to him about other things maybe what he’s doing now or guitars or something, you know? As I said, he made the decision and I think everyone’s got to respect that. And I think there would be other things to talk about; he probably wouldn’t want to talk about that either, you know what I mean? So [I would] probably talk to him about motorbikes and guitars and crap like that.
Geeks of Doom: Cool. Can you confirm the status of Judas Priest? People assumed it was the end, but apparently that’s not the case.
Richie Faulkner: It was billed as a farewell world tour. It was going to be the last world tour that the band do. It takes a couple of years out of your life, you know? It’s all right for me, I’m a lot younger. But the other guys have been doing it for the last 40 years. So it’s the last world tour, last full-blown world tour, but it’s not the end of the band… If the time’s right and the situation’s right we’ve said in past interviews the band will go out again. It’s just that, in certain parts of the world because it’s not the full-blown world tour after this one, some places we won’t get back to. And it’s my job really to keep them going, keep the flame alive and keep them, what’s the word? Keep them excited about things and keep things going. I’ll do my best to keep them going on the farewell world tour [and] keep them going for the next 10 years. I think the Eagles have been doing a farewell tour for the last 10 years, so I think if Priest could do that we’ll be happy! [laughs]
Geeks of Doom: [laughs] I hope so! How’s the tour going so far?
Richie Faulkner: Fantastic really. We’re in the UK at the moment; we’ve just come back from doing some dates in [mainland] Europe. We just played Scotland last night which was amazing and we’re on our way to Newcastle now so it’s been going great. We’ve got the big High Voltage festival in London at the weekend which is a bit like a homecoming for me. Not for the rest of the guys they’re from up north! But for me it’s a bit like a homecoming so it’s going great really. As I said it’s a bit of a dream.
Geeks of Doom: Glad to hear it. What was that first show like for you in England?
Richie Faulkner: It was a bit different because we came from Turkey and the people over there are just so passionate about things. It’s like in certain parts of the world they’re so passionate and vocal and they go nuts. We came back to Newport in Wales so it was a bit of a different vibe. The weather’s different, you know, a bit grey and gloomy and stuff. But it was great to actually get back to an English crowd. It was different but it was still great and you know when you’re playing in front of an English crowd you know they really take it seriously. They love the band so it was great from that point of view to get back [and] from my point of view on English soil prove to the English fans that I could do the job.
Geeks of Doom: Well I think we all agree that you can!
Richie Faulkner: Thanks very much!
Geeks of Doom: I know you’re a self-confessed geek…
Richie Faulkner: Yeah!
Geeks of Doom: Especially when it comes to movie soundtracks. Would you ever consider going down that route?
Richie Faulkner: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think when you’re a musician you’re on the other side of the fence so when you hear a song you hear the guitar, you hear the drums, you hear the bass, and you hear the vocals. You almost hear it as like different tracks put together. Whereas with soundtracks I kind of hear differently. I hear it as like a whole piece of music if you know what I mean? And it kind of takes you somewhere, you know? I was listening to the Blade Runner soundtrack the other day and it just takes you to another place, it takes you to that world. I absolutely would love to do something like that. I love sci-fi soundtracks primarily but, you know, things like Braveheart it just captures a vibe that, for me, I don’t get anymore. It’s a different vibe I get from normal music because you actually get to hear different things. You can hear the bass and drums and guitar and stuff but that stuff it just sounds like a big wash of music that tells a story. So that’s why I absolutely would love to be writing definitely a sci-fi soundtrack which, we’ll see.
Geeks of Doom: Awesome. Will you bring that to Judas Priest? Because they can be quite theatrical at times.
Richie Faulkner: Absolutely. Definitely. I mean, all their songs tell a story. It’s normally, like Painkiller, is a metal thing rides into town and biking, using characters and stuff like that to tell a story…you know, lyrics of a story, but from my point of view music should tell a story as well. Although Priest does and metal does [but] when you listen to movie scores it tells it in a different way. I’ve really found that interesting as well.
Geeks of Doom: Cool. Thanks a lot for your time, Richie.
Richie Faulkner: No worries at all. Thanks very much.