Judas Priest

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Judas Priest

Us Aussies love a little metal – even our native animals take no prisoners. “The first time I came to Australia was with Lauren Harris’ band, she’s the daughter of Steve Harris from Iron Maiden,” explained axeman Richie Faulkner. “On a day off we went to the Brisbane Koala Sanctuary. While we were all posing for photos I remember looking at this one koala. He had a huge claw right on the jugular vein in my neck and he was looking at me straight in the eye as if to say ‘one false move boy and I’ll rip this vein out!’ Please don’t tell too many I was scared of the fuzzy koala!
“Just kidding,” Richie said grinning, “I love Australia. Your country has such a wealth of history, character, identity … and koalas are part of that uniqueness. We couldn’t be more excited! I don’t think the Priest machine has been down there since 2009 or ’10. On the Epitaph Tour, we made it down as far as Singapore, but we didn’t quite make it to Australia, so it’s my first time with Judas Priest and I can’t wait to get in front of the metalheads at Soundwave.”
The mighty juggernaut that is Soundwave Festival has pulled out all the stops this time booking the godfathers of metal, and what better time than now, as 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of their debut album Rocka Rolla. “Everything the Priest was about then is just as relevant today. Stand up for what you believe, even though you might be frowned upon. Forge new paths and do the best you can do. Before I was asked to join them I was a fan, and I know how important their music is to people.”
Since joining the fold in 2011 after the retirement of one of the band’s founding members K.K. Downing, Richie has earned the respect of his bandmates – and more importantly, the acceptance of the discerning metal community. “K.K. is a guitar hero of mine and I’m not here to replace him, I’m just trying to do the best I can for the band and the fans.”
After K.K. left, Richie’s first assignment saw him hit the ground running as part of the Epitaph World Tour [2011/12]. “We spent a lot of that time building relationships, gaining trust and valuing opinions. They’re three of the most important elements of any band,” Richie says. “We wanted to show the world the Priest is still very much alive … We’re forging forward, as strong as ever.”
That strength and resolve can be heard in the 18 tracks on the deluxe edition of 2014’s Redeemer of Souls. Widely regarded as their best release in over twenty years, it’s proof the band who pioneered the genre almost half a century ago is still a force to be reckoned with. Refreshingly, the significance of process was not lost on Richie.
“It’s the first time the band has recorded without one of its founding members and it was the first time I was in the recording studio with the band. So from both sides there was a sense we had to make the album good and get it right,” Richie admitted.
“You can imagine after forty years some bands might rest on their laurels and see no need to try as hard because they haven’t got as much of a point to prove as they did when they were 18 or 19 and angry at the world. But there’s a genuine love and passion for what we all do in this band, and I think that comes through.”
Richie’s voice fills with excitement when the subject turns to his favourite songs on the record. “I’ve got favourites, we’ve all got favourites, but the interesting thing is they’re all special to us. There’s thirteen tracks on the standard edition – it’s like having thirteen babies.
“If I have to choose, I like Halls of Valhalla and Sword of Damocles. They both have the sort of sentiment that takes you to another place. For me the great thing about metal is there’s a healthy balance of reality and fantasy depending on which you want to take from … For me it’s always been about the fantasy element.
“Another interesting titbit is that we haven’t played any of the songs all together yet. Rob [Halford, legendary frontman] and Glenn [Tipton, dual guitarist] and I wrote the lyrics and we played little bits and pieces together. Then Scott [Travis, drums] and Ian [Hill, bass] did their parts separately. So we haven’t played these songs as a unit before and that’s really exciting in itself because some songs take on a different energy when you play them live as a band.”
With a two-month tour of the States set to kick off next month, the Priest machine will be well-oiled by the time it rolls into town early next year for Soundwave – and from all accounts Richie is itching to hit the road again.
“On tour Rob will come in with a bootleg of Queen from 1979 or something that no one has heard before – a rare 7-inch is like a piece of gold, you know? He’s the guy who’s always turned on to new things, he’s always digging for old treasures, playing new stuff on the tour bus. He turns us on to music that we haven’t heard before which is an amazing feat for a 63-year-old!
“We’ve a lot of fun backstage, and playing live with these guys is always incredible … I’m really living a dream right now. Soundwave is going to be epic – see you there!”
When&Where: Soundwave – February 21, 2015
By Natalie Rogers