HistoryKK'S Priest, featuring former Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing who had left that band in 2011 and singer Tim "Ripper" Owens, as well as second guitarist A.J. Mills (Hostile), bassist Tony Newton (Voodoo Six) and drummer Sean Elg (Cage), released its debut album Sermons Of The Sinner through Explorer1 Music Group on August 20th. This was later postponed to October. A single called Hellfire Thunderbolt was available. The American drummer replaced former Judas Priest drummer Les Binks who had a wrist injury. The band had played a show in November 2019 with David Ellefson of Megadeth on bass. Elg was in The Three Tremors with Ripper. The group was to play select shows to mark the 50th anniversary of Judas Priest and Downing's career. K.K. Downing revealed that his former band-mates had threatened to take legal action for the guitarist’s use of the monicker.
HEAVY DUTY – DAYS AND NIGHTS INJUDAS PRIEST BY K.K. DOWNING AND MARK EGLINTON
You Really Don’t Know What You’ve Got until It’s Gone
K.K. Downing the founder and former guitarist for seminal heavy metal band Judas Priest did not resign the band on good terms. He was alienated, angry and tired. This autobiography draws energy from that process, which is unsurprising given how he was in the band for forty years. The many years, albums, tours and accomplishments give the man and his book plenty of content.
There is much heavy metal and Judas Priest fans want to read about and the book proceeds chronologically for about 270 pages including several pages of photographs. Downing was influenced above all else by Jimi Hendrix whom he saw several times and spoke to at least once. He even saw Hendrix play a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club cover once. He speaks about a trip to Belgium from England via Austria, which geographically makes no sense. Still, the theft from a church sounds like fun except in the immortal words of V theft suggests ownership in the first place. He recalls how early bassist Bruno Stapenhill came up with the Judas Priest monicker. He also recalls how he auditioned at first for an earlier incarnation of the band and failed it before starting Freight with his school-mate Ian Hill! They were playing cover versions of bands like Quartermass in 1970/1971. Aside from information and recollections of all things Judas Priest the themes that emerge are K.K. Downing’s antipathy towards his guitar partner Glenn Tipton, the musicians being controlled and dominated by management (perhaps with the exception of Tipton) and a sense of under-achievement vis-a-vis their potential, their contemporaries and their own expectations.
The book omits many known episodes and curiosities, but one could forgive these given the forty-year history of the band. It does cover others with a fair bit of honesty. The inner workings of the band are laid bare somewhat. K.K.’s attitude to Tipton, Halford, bassist Ian Hill (who is largely as present in the book as he is at Judas priest concerts), the drummers and the management team is there to read. He calls Iron Maiden and its early incarnation “arseholes” and wishes Judas Priest had that kind of a management. The tensions with Tipton were large and persistent. Downing paints himself as someone who avoids confrontation perhaps owing to an unhappy childhood given his gambling, alcoholic and lying father. There are details about his love of golf (yuck!), which incidentally nearly derailed Alice Cooper’s career in the ‘70s, his investments and the many whores bands meet on the road. Page 152 refers to “Metallian” as “Metallion.” He refers to the Operation Rock & Roll tour and its underwhelming attendance numbers wondering what was going on. Oddly, Downing states elsewhere in the book that mixing styles on tour does not work and he was not in favour of touring with Annihilator or Fear Factory. Yet, he does not see how fans would see Judas Priest and Alice Cooper in the same way. This is unconscionable. He reveals that he was going to quit in 1991 and had even drafted the letter had Halford not done so, which is strange as his beef wasn’t mostly with the singer. Downing talks about his personal relationships and waxes about the type of relationships travelling musicians could have.
Downing recalls how Glenn Tipton more than anybody resisted the departed Rob Halford’s return to the band, but this reviewer also remembers statements from Downing being unenthused about the same man’s persistent hints he wants back. Speaking of which, Downing is in the same position himself now. Most of all it is interesting how much antipathy can exist between two guitarists when they are known the world over as the best dual-harmony team in metal.
Heavy Duty – named after a track off the band’s best album, Defenders Of The Faith – is a quick and interesting read that is clearly missing stories, but adds to one’s body of knowledge regarding what is perhaps the quintessential heavy metal group. – Ali “The Metallian”