After a near retirement scare and the departure of founding guitarist K.K. Downing, Judas Priest began the decade with a new guitarist and a massive final world tour. Young guitarist Richie Faulkner (Lauren Harris, Voodoo Six) immediately infused the band with a resurgence of fresh blood and energy, and suddenly the band’s retirement plans began to crumble. Vocalist Rob Halford, guitarist Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis began to think about another studio album.
This fall, Judas Priest released Redeemer of Souls–the band’s best overall effort since Painkiller in 1991. Reinvigorated with a wealth of great new metal on their hands, another tour was planned and the future is now wide open again. This week, legendary guitarist Glenn Tipton took time out to chat about the new record, Richie Faulkner, and much more. Due to a bad connection, some of the conversation was difficult to make out so the interview has been transcribed below.
You spent over 35 years playing side by side with the same guitar partner. What was it like for you to suddenly have a new face, a new style of player standing across from you in Richie Faulkner?
“It was a surprise really. It came as a surprise to us all. At that time I really, truly thought the band were finished. We were poised to do a farewell tour and of course Ken decided he’d had enough of that. I respect his decision. It must have been a big decision to make. I think we’ve all been through that phase. We’ve been around for 35, 40 years. But we found Richie and Richie is a small miracle because the guys is such a great guitar player and he blended in so well first on stage. And then of course he’s worked so hard and contributed so much to the album that it’s just a miracle.”
You guys declared the Epitaph tour to signal the retirement of Judas Priest and as Rob has since said, “We Lied.” Clearly the injection of new blood into the line-up re-energized the band. How did that translate into the writing for Redeemer of Souls?
“Tremendously, you know, because when we got obviously new blood in the band it was needed at the time. It would be the same thing; you get some new blood in there and there’s energy and enthusiasm—motivation, you see things in a different way. He just gave everybody a kick up the backside really. And that’s what happened. We went from literally meaning it was our last tour to there’s such great songs on this album, it’s a shame we can’t get out and play them. So, by any means this isn’t another world tour. I’m glad we’re doing it. I feel that it would be great to get on stage and play these new numbers as well as the old classics.”
When I reviewed Redeemer of Souls I stated it was the band’s most fully realized album since Painkiller, but more accurately it seems to me it would have been a natural follow-up to that record. Tell us about the album from your perspective.
“I think it’s probably in line with Painkiller, as you say. It’s what everybody wants from Judas Priest. I mean we’ve always been a band not afraid to expand and try new things, try new paths and directions. Like Nostradamus. There were many fans that got what we were trying to do with Nostradamus but there were a number of fans that wanted a ‘Judas Priest’ album and in Redeemer of Souls we give them a ‘Judas Priest’ album. We listened and we learned and we’ve gone back, if you like, to what people want from Priest. I’m proud of Nostradamus. It was a monumental task to record and put together. But I think Redeemer of Souls is what people expect from Judas Priest.”
In the early Priest years before British Steel there was some notable blues influence, and it was evident again on Redeemer of Souls as on “Crossfire”. And there were other elements of the band’s early years that seemed to resurface. You seem to have culled from all four decades of the band on this record: “Dragonaut” recalls the mid-80s Priest sound while “Beginning of the End” sounds like the modern companion piece to “Last Rose of Summer” from 77’s Sin after Sin album. It really seems to typify all that is Priest.
“I can’t take credit for ourselves for it. Richie had a major influence on these songs. Especially ‘Crossfire’ that you mentioned. He contributed so much to the album. He listened and did his homework, and he obviously listened to our older albums, and the things that he brought to the table were so appropriate to Judas Priest. Again, he really has to get a lot of credit for this album. We’ve always written as a trio, as you know, and we were a little bit concerned that Richie would bring in ideas that weren’t appropriate, but they were all appropriate. It really blended in with the stuff that me and Rob had already done, and it was just so enjoyable to get in the studio and put these songs down.”
You guys were pretty prolific on this record; 13 tracks plus another five in the deluxe set, not counting any that might be hiding in the wings. Was all of this written after Richie joined the band or did you guys have some ideas fermenting in the years after Nostradamus?
“We had some songs that were put together, like ‘Snakebite’ and ‘Never Forget’, “To Hell and Back’. ‘Metalizer’—Richie came up with an alternative chorus for ‘Metalizer’ which we went with. But that was all. The rest of it we wrote with me, Rob and Richie together.”
As a guitarist, did you try anything new in the recording of this record you haven’t done in the past? New effects or approaches?
“None particularly new, but first and foremost we are noted as a live band and we wanted to try and capture a live feel on this album. I’m not saying we all went in the studio without rehearing and put them down in one or two takes, but what we actually did was record everything, you know, we mic’d up cabs. We didn’t use processed guitars. We recorded the drums live; there’s no programming whatsoever and we just got what we felt was a really good live sounding album. I think we pulled it off.”
How much of the new album will fans get a chance to hear on the new tour?
“We start rehearsals on Monday and we haven’t actually decided on the setlist yet. I think ‘Dragonaut’ will certainly be heard live; ‘Redeemer of Souls’, ‘Halls of Valhalla’, maybe ‘Hell and Back’, ‘Crossfire’. So there’s going to be quite a few numbers off the new album in there, and you never know, we might throw in ‘Snakebite’. The extra tracks are quite interesting because they’re not weak tracks by any means. We thought the 13 tracks we chose for the standard CD, Redeemer of Souls, were in keeping with each other, and the other ones didn’t fit Redeemer of Souls. They’re still great tracks. ‘Snakebite’ is a great track, ‘Tears of Blood’ is great. ‘Creatures’, I love. Then you’ve got ‘Bring it On’ and ‘Never Forget’, which is our way of saying thank you to the fans for being with us for 40 years.”
Having now done a massive world tour and written and recorded a new album with Richie in the band, I am sure he has taken much from you, but as a guitarist what have you taken away playing with him?
“Yeah, the energy and enthusiasm is something you feed off. It’s also good to have a different perspective from another guitar player. K.K. and I were in the band a long time and I wouldn’t say we rested on our laurels: We’ve always tried to improve—we’ve always tried to tread down new paths and experiment and try different approaches. It hasn’t always worked but we’ve always gotten something out of it. Like ‘Point of Entry’ for instance, people weren’t sure about that album, but you’ve got great tracks like ‘Hot Rockin’’, ‘Solar Angels’, ‘Desert Plains’—so if we hadn’t gone in that direction on that particular album we wouldn’t have come up with those songs. It’s all a case of experimenting. And the thing I took off Richie is he’ll look at things not just as a new guitar player but as a fan of the band. Things that we thought we’re probably old hat he’ll say, ‘No, don’t be silly. That’s what fans wanna hear. That’s sort of the direction you should be going.’ Because he’s looking at it from a different angle and that’s always a good perspective.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the debut album Rocka Rolla. Many of the songs penned for that record were pushed out by Black Sabbath producer Rodger Bain and ended up on Sad Wings of Destiny. Can you share a few memories of what went on behind the scenes recording those first two records?
“It was pretty surreal to going from being in a band that just plays in pubs and clubs to suddenly you got the chance to do your first album. And although the production might not have been what it should have been, the songs were really early Judas Priest, so Priest, really in a sense, that everything you do whether it’s well produced or not produced, it’s got a classic sound. It’s got a character of its own, and Rocka Rolla has got that character. There’s some great songs on there for the time. And it’s great to look back and you get fond memories. We got very little money. In fact, we did some work in a studio in London, and we all slept in the van because we couldn’t afford hotels and the record company wasn’t there to reimburse us for hotels. So it wasn’t easy. We had to sleep in the van and then go in the studio to record. But that’s what a lot of bands do. It instills in you a lot of determination, those early days.”
On your next three albums Judas Priest chose to cover a Joan Baez, Spooky Tooth and Fleetwood Mac song. The latter of which I imagine was your pick. You so completely made them your own that many people do not realize they were covers. How did you guys choose those tracks?
“’Diamonds and Rust’ was actually suggested to us by the record company at the time, I think. And I’ve always been a big fan of Peter Green. I’ve always thought he was a tremendous white, blues guitar player. He’s got so much feel. He’s written some incredible songs. Things like ‘Albatross’ or ‘Stop Messin’ ‘Round’, and ‘Need Your Love So Bad’. Of course I was lucky enough to go see some great bands when I was young. They had some great clubs and I saw bands like early Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack, The Family. The Taste—Rory Gallagher was a big hero of mine and a great guitar player. So ‘Green Manilishi’ was a song—I don’t know who suggested it—but I mean I’d always wanted to record Peter Green songs. And I do think we put our own stamp on it and that’s something that’s very difficult, and I’m proud that we managed to do it.”
It’s been eight years since your last solo record. Any chance we’ll see a third?
“It’s debatable. I’ve always been very prolific and I’ve got a lot of ideas on the shelf and ready to go but at the moment I’m so excited about Priest. Priest has always been the first and most important thing in my life and with the release of the new album and the new tour coming, I’m very excited. I’m focused totally on Priest at the moment, but after that we’ll see. I enjoy doing solo albums and I did them when there was no active Judas Priest. And it was so great to work with people like Cozy Powell and John Entwistle, as you know both sadly no longer with us. But also it’s great to work with a lot of the young bands out there, and who knows there might be a third album in the bank.”
Our special thanks to Glenn Tipton for taking the time to talk about the new album, Redeemer of Souls, as well as some thoughts about the early years of Judas Priest. The band will be on tour this fall with Steel Panther.
Check out our 2011 interview with Ian Hill.