Judas Priest is one of my favorite bands, one of the bands that made me love heavy metal, one of the first bands that I’ve ever seen in a concert in 2011 in Thessaloniki and one of the bands that I admire. They are legends. So, before the “Epitaph Tour” in 2011, Judas Priest had announced that this would be their last tour. They hired a new guitarist, Richie Faulkner and began the tour.
Seven years later, Judas Priest is hopefully here, presenting their new album, the second album with Richie Faulkner. Its name is “Firepower” and I tell you, it’s truly amazing. One of the best albums they’ve ever done, in my opinion. With tracks like “Necromancer”, “Evil Never Dies” and all the others, it seems that the band is very strong, sounding like a fresh heavy metal band with a great experience.
Due to this album and their upcoming performance in Greece this summer, Judas’ Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner, gave an interview to Rock Overdose and to Konstantinos Sotirelis, talking about the new album, Andy Sneap and Tom Allom, his bandmates, about heavy metal and many more! Enjoy!
Rock Overdose: Hello, Richie! How are you?
Judas Priest: Hello, my friend!
Rock Overdose: It’s a great honour for me- having this interview with you. Thank you very much!
Judas Priest: The pleasure’s all mine, sir!
Rock Overdose: Could you tell me the band’s news these days? What are you doing now?
Judas Priest: Well, I’m on a short break before the rehearsals start. We start rehearsals in February, so this is my last chance to get some relaxing time. So, I’m in the sun, chilling out, playing some guitar… The calm before the storm- you know? So, I’m really looking forward to getting to rehearsals and working out the setlist and putting the tour together. But, this is the calm before the storm. I’m relaxing at the moment, for the next week.
Rock Overdose: So, you’re going to release your new album in 9 March. How do you feel about this release?
Judas Priest: I’m really excited! I think, in the band, we’re all excited. You know, we’ve put a lot of work, a lot of energy, a lot of passion into this record and it’s amazing that we released a song only this month and you, journalists, are hearing the record. So, we’re starting to hear feedback from people and it seems to be overwhelmingly positive – you know – so it makes us even more excited for everyone to hear the rest of the record. You know, put it on in their car, or do whatever people do with it. So, we’re totally excited to be getting closer to the release date and… Everyone can hear the songs; everyone can hear the record and, then, we can take it on tour. It’s an incredibly exciting time for Judas Priest.
Rock Overdose: Um, your label sent me the album yesterday and I have to say that it’s a very dynamic album, with some great compositions. And, to tell you the truth, to me, it feels like it’s one of the best Judas Priest albums. What’s your opinion on that?
Judas Priest: Thank you very much, man! I appreciate you saying that! I mean, I think… It’s hard to say when we are so close to it– you know? We wrote the songs, we recorded the songs… We’ve lived with them for a while now. So, it’s very hard to be objective about it, you know. Obviously, we feel like it’s a progression from “Redeemer” (2014). We think that going… Everyone said it. I think this is a better album than the last one.
Rock Overdose: Yeah, definitely!
Judas Priest: If it wasn’t a better album, there would be no point in releasing it. You know what I mean? We wanted to do something that was better, that was different, that was classic Judas Priest, but modern Judas Priest for 2018, and I think we’ve done that. I think… We love the songs. It’s got a great energy, a great vibe. We recorded it differently; we recorded it more cohesively, together. We rehearsed the songs, so it was a great experience to record and to write. So, I think that, kid of, comes across… When you listen to the album, you can hear that come across in the sound. So, yeah, man! I think it’s a great record. I’m super proud of it! I mean, we all are super proud of it, and I hope the fans love it, as well!
Rock Overdose: This is the second album you participate in. So, did you use any different method during the writing and the recording process from the “Redeemer”?
Judas Priest: Yeah, we did! I mean, personally, it was deciding in terms of recording ideas and putting down ideas. I mean, it was slightly different in the terms of the way I approached the guitar but, in terms of the songs and the recording, definitely. We… For “Redeemer”, Glenn Tipton and Mike Exeter produced the record. In this one, we also… “What can we do differently? How can we do things different to “Redeemer”…” The production team was one of those things, so we got in Mike Exeter again, as an engineer, and we also brought Tom Allom and Andy Sneap to produce. So, it was two producers this time, one from a classic period of the Priest career and a more modern producer.
Rock Overdose: Two great producers!
Judas Priest: It was a great ‘marriage’, they are two great producers! And you know what? It could have gone horribly wrong. There could have been egos, there could have been- going into each other’s territory, and we don’t know if it was gonna work or not. But, I’ll tell you what, it worked beautifully. Tom, being a more classic producer, he had certain ways of doing things which complemented Andy Sneap’s different ways of doing things. They just worked fantastically together. And they were adamant that we got together in the same room, with the songs that we had. We tried them, and we rehearsed them, and we felt the songs out, and we felt what it needed… You know, the pushing forwards of music, it happens naturally. What you get from playing with people is what they wanted to bring back. I don’t think Priest has done that since “Painkiller”, according to Scott Travis. You know, he said that was the last time they did it. I think it really affects the feel of the songs. It affects the vibe… It just affects the energy of the end result and, I think, that was… There were a couple of things that we did differently that really affected the final result.
Rock Overdose: In my opinion, Judas Priest sound more fresh into this new record. Can you spot the difference into the compositions and the music into “Firepower” and the “Redeemer”?
Judas Priest: I think it’s a lot of differencing… I think it’s the composition, it’s the sound… It’s the natural progression of the musicians and the band together. I think it’s a lot of things. I think it’s a drive to produce something different. I think it’s a drive to produce something that is an extension of the band catalogue. You know, there’s no goal to recreate the last record, or there’s no goal to recreate a specific time in the band’s career. The goal is to push ourselves- you know? To do something different, to do something forward thinking, fresh and new and, you know… Obviously, there’s references in there to the Priest that we all know and love. Because it’s Judas Priest; we love those references, we love that sound and those little things that happen uniquely in Judas Priest. But we don’t set out to recreate those which is- you know… “What can we do different? How can we do something better? How can we do something that sounds better, that feels better?” That is, better songs… We are always evolving, I think, as writers, as players, as musicians, and we always try to do something like that. It’s, like, different from before and this is just an example of that- I think.
Rock Overdose: To me, it sounds like Judas Priest wanted to go back in time and combine some of the best parts into some new music. Am I right?
Judas Priest: Um, as I said, I don’t think this is a conscious thing. We didn’t try to go back anywhere, but I think that’s a natural characteristic of Judas Priest music. I think, you know… Even if we’re trying to push forward and we’re trying to sound relevant and current and modern Judas Priest in 2018, of course there are gonna be certain characteristics in Judas Priest music which sound like they could have been from “Defenders Of The Faith” (1984). They could have been, too… I’m a fan, as well. We all love Priest, we all grew up with Priest.
Rock Overdose: Of course!
Judas Priest: And we identify Priest with different parts of our lives in different albums, so that’s always gonna be there. But, it’s definitely not a conscious thing to go in and, “We’ll create something from 1986”, or it’s just- you know… We do what we do; we go forward and, then, it’s up to the listener to make that connection. You know, and we always do- I mean, I do. I listen to “Painkiller” (1990) and I can hear stuff from – you know – “Rapid Fire” or… You know, different songs throughout the times. You can hear references all through their career and that’s the same thing here. But, it’s definitely not a conscious thing.
Rock Overdose: How did the new music come up, and what was your contribution to “Firepower”? I guess that you had more parts, from the previous albums to write because you’re more years into Judas Priest.
Judas Priest: Well, I did have a lot of ideas. I had a lot of riffs, a lot of melodies, a lot of songs which were more developed. You know, they weren’t necessarily just riffs, or they weren’t just – you know – solo ideas. A lot of them were more developed songs. It might have been an intro, a verse and a chorus, so there’s more of a structure there…
Rock Overdose: I see…
Judas Priest: …when I put the idea in. I’m always writing; I’m always writing ideas, melodies. I’m writing stuff now. I’m writing stuff at home, I’m putting down ideas and they grow. They might turn up on a Judas Priest album in a few years. You know, that’s how it works for me. So, going into these writing sessions, I had a wealth of materials and ideas on the title. You know, I’ve been allowed the opportunity and the voice in the band to be able to put those ideas on the table and be part of the creative team, so I can only thank them a lot for that. And that, in turn, inspires me to create more stuff, so it’s a good cycle to be on.
Rock Overdose: Do you have any plans to, maybe, record a solo album because you have so many ideas? Maybe in the future.
Judas Priest: Um, it’s an interesting question. I get asked that a lot and, to me, it’s never… It’s always been something in the future. It’s never been something that I’m focusing on now. Ever since I joined the band, I’ve been included as a member- you know, as a hired gun, not as a side-man. And I think I’ve felt like, when I’ve been given that respect and that…
Rock Overdose: I think that’s why- that this is the reason why this line-up is very strong, and we can see it on the stage.
Judas Priest: I think that, as soon as you’re in a band, having that respect from the band, you give it back to them times a thousand. You know what I mean? So, I think that my focus is Judas Priest, my creative ideas is Judas Priest. They’ve given me the opportunity and the respect to be a member; I give everything that I have back to Judas Priest. So, in terms of a solo career, I’m not even thinking about it. It’s obviously that might happen in the future, but right now it’s “Firepower”, it’s Judas Priest and it’s Judas Priest music. That’s the least I can do, in my opinion. I think you’re absolutely right. I think the fact that they gave me that opportunity and they made me a full member reflects on how well – I think – it worked both live and in the studio. You know, it’s 100% you’re-part-of-the-band, you’re-not-a-hired-gun. I think you’re absolutely right! When a fan sees that, they see it differently. They see you as part of the band and… I think you’re right; that’s why this line-up – I think – has worked beautifully well. So, I can only thank them for being so… I mean, that’s a great lesson to learn from the masters, and I can only thank them and the fans for being so welcoming.
Rock Overdose: How does it feel to write music for, and with, Judas Priest? I mean, you’re part of a great history, playing among legends. Does this make you feel anxious?
Judas Priest: I think it would if it happened overnight- you know? The great thing was… When you look back at my career with Priest, we started off with a world tour. So, on the world tour, we built up relationships, we gained trust… You know, you get close as individuals and, then, when you go into the studio to write new ideas, you are comfortable that your opinion and your ideas are gonna be heard. You know what I mean? So, I think it was a natural progression and a feeling of comfort when I put those ideas forward because of the history we had on the Epitaph tour (2011-2012). And, then, we’ve done “Redeemer”, the Redeemer Of Souls tour (2014-2015), which grew the relationship. We got closer as brothers, as individuals and as writers. And so, when we go into the “Firepower” sessions, it’s an extension of that camaraderie and that family, and that trust, and valuing each other’s opinion, so it’s not uncomfortable at all. But, it would be if it happened, like, overnight. You know what I mean?
Rock Overdose: Yeah… I think that the first tour that you came into Judas Priest was on the Epitaph tour, right?
Judas Priest: Yeah, the Epitaph tour. That’s correct!
Rock Overdose: A lot of Judas Priest fans, including me, thought that, maybe, that was the last Judas Priest tour, but, hopefully, that didn’t happen. Was there any discussion…
Judas Priest: I thought so, too. I thought so, too, when I joined the band. I mean, I was under no illusion that the band… You know, I knew, they told me, “This is the farewell tour”, so I thought the same as you and… I think that the reason they’ve been doing it for over forty years is the reason why they’re still going. Once you… “OK, this is the farewell tour”, so you go out on the tour and you get inspired. You get fired up by the fans around the world. You’re playing great songs to great people and that can only be inspiring- you know. So, then, you go into another record and that inspires you to go out and play the new songs all over the world. You go out in the road and that inspires you again, so you can see how they’re making records. I don’t…But, you know what? They’re still going and they’re still producing great music, and they’re having fun
Rock Overdose: Also, maybe you are one of the reasons they decided to continue. The line-up was strong again, maybe. I don’t know, but we have to thank you for that. I think that you’re one of the reasons that Judas Priest decided to go on.
Judas Priest: Thank you, man! I appreciate it. I think we’re all responsible for continuing. We’re all passionate about it, we’re all energetic about the band. I’m a part of it… equally responsible for this. That’s all- you know?
Rock Overdose: In my opinion, the best track of the “Firepower” is the “Necromancer” because it’s the most evil and dark song. Do you have any favourites and why- if you have any special?
Judas Priest: It’s always great when journalists like yourself hear the record because everyone has a different opinion of their favourite song. It’s an amazing thing! “Necromancer”, you’re right, is a dark song, it’s a simple song, it’s a heavy song. Actually, my favourite is “Evil Never Dies”. I love the way that it goes! It starts off as mid-tempo, pretty strong, and by the end it’s such a crescendo. Such an intense ending! You just sit back and …the riff… It’s such an intense ending. It grows into that ending with different qualities, with different things that are special about them.
Rock Overdose: Lyrically, which direction did you follow this time?
Judas Priest: That’s a good question! I think we have used, as always, strong lyrical content. I do think it’s one of the strongest lyrical albums. I think the energy’s strong in there. It’s always stimulating to have a blend of fantasy and reality. So, you have songs like “Breaking The Law” about social problems. I think this record is not different in terms of bringing strong message. “Rising From Ruins” has that Judas Priest kind of ethos, standing up for what you believe. So, this is a very strong lyrical album, more abstract in there. Rob [Halford] is a great singer. He is a great connector. He connects feelings with words in a way that the meanings of words is just… He is just phenomenal to watch and to learn from.
Rock Overdose: I see… As you said before, this time you had the chance to cooperate with two great producers, Tom Allom and Andy Sneap. Tom Allom knows the old Judas Priest sound and that is something we can hear on the new record and, on the other hand, Andy Sneap brings out something new and fresh. Halford said in an interview that it sounds like “a young, fresh metal band”, this new record. What’s your opinion on that? Do you think that Andy Sneap plays such an important role in this regeneration, let’s say?
Judas Priest: Yeah, I think that everyone’s involvement in this record can’t be understated. Everyone… Tom, Andy, Mike Exeter, the band- you know. You can’t understate anyone’s involvement in this record and the importance that they have in the recording. Tom obviously has been working with Priest. Andy was obviously a more modern producer, but Tom has also been working with Priest up until our live Blu-Ray, “Battle Cry” (2016), and also “Epitaph” (2013). Tom has been working with Priest throughout the years and he’s more than just a classic Priest… He’s been working with them. He also had a current idea on the way that Priest sounds today. So, I do think that Andy is known for his more-than-metal production and I think getting that more-than-metal production with the classic character of Priest which Tom knows, and also Andy knows… He isn’t very hung up in the picture. He has got a character of 40+ years and it’s aesthetically Judas Priest. With that beat and that production, it’s Judas Priest in 2018, with the perfect flavours. With Tom Allom’s production, I think it’s a perfect merge.
Rock Overdose: This summer, you’re coming to Greece so as to promote your new album. How do you feel and what do you remember from your previous visits in Greece?
Judas Priest: I always remember shows in Greece are off the charts. Everyone’s so, like, passionate! Like, everyone goes nuts- it’s like… Different countries around the world have different ways of expressing themselves- you know? Greece seems to be pretty down to party when it comes to expressing themselves with every band. We’re having such a good time. So, whenever we get to Greece, it’s always a great experience. This is one of the countries I go to in my spare time. People are beautiful, the country is beautiful. You have such a love for Priest and we have such a love for you, guys. It’s just a great atmosphere
Rock Overdose: And we love Judas Priest very much. What should we expect from the show and the setlist?
Judas Priest: Oh, that’s a tough one; that’s a secret. We’re still putting it together. You know what to expect from a Judas Priest setlist. There’s gonna be new songs which may become future classics. There’s gonna some classic songs on there. “Breaking The Law”… We have some new ones which I’m really looking forward to play. You know, to make those future classics, you need to play the new ones. I think there are definitely a couple of tracks on the new record which can be future classics. I mean, songs like “Firepower” and “Lightning Strike”… A few songs in there could be great classics. We’re looking forward to playing a definitive set together, to bring out the fans. To give them some old, give them some new, give them something unexpected, share a great night with you! We can’t wait to get that on the road!
Rock Overdose: That’s great! Can’t wait for this show! As we see, a lot of heavy metal legends are not with us anymore, while other huge bands like Black Sabbath put an end to their career. Do you believe that heavy metal will die soon, or do you think that there are new bands that could become so big like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and Motörhead?
Judas Priest: That’s a very good question. I think we’re always thinking about that. “Who’s gonna be the next Priest? Who’s gonna be the next… ?” Metal no longer sees a future; nobody knows yet. I think one of the interesting things that I’ve noticed is that young people these days are making new music not for the money because there’s no money to be made. They’re making music because they love music, and I think that’s a great thing to have. It’s great to see these young kids putting bands together- these guys and girls that have got no interest in making money or being part of the industry. They’re putting music together that turns them on musically and that they enjoy playing. I think that’s a great thing. But I don’t know who’s gonna be the next Priest, or the next Maiden or Sabbath, but I do know that music is being made for the right reasons. I hope that continues, and metal will never die! Metal will be there. You know, “Firepower” is gonna be there, long after we’re gone. You know what I mean? It will always be there. Maybe it will be like the cave paintings in… You know, the cave men, the cave paintings… There will be some sort of an archive, but it will never die. As long as there’s music being created by people that like music, I think it’s got a good future, so it’s exciting to see what metal becomes.
Rock Overdose: Have you ever had a discussion in Judas Priest about, maybe, to end your career? To end Judas Priest? Have you ever discussed this?
Judas Priest: I think they had that discussion before I joined. [Laughs] We haven’t had that conversation since I’ve been in the band. You know, as I said to you before, there seems to be a kind of a knock-on effect. We go on tour, we get inspired to write music, we write music, we get inspired to go on tour… And I think we’re so passionate about what we do. I don’t know… I think the only thing that would stop Priest is if someone couldn’t physically do it. As long as the band can physically do it, I think that the band will continue as long as it can. There’s no discussion about retiring, so long live the Priest!
Rock Overdose: Of course! Let’s hope that we’ll have Judas Priest for many years more.
Judas Priest: I’ll do my best!
Rock Overdose: Great! Thank you very much for this interview! It was a great honour for me! It’s a dream coming true, honestly. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. So, please close this interview with a message to your Greek fans.
Judas Priest: Well, as I said before, we love Greece. We love playing for you, guys, and we’re looking forward to bringing “Firepower” to you this year, in 2018. See you soon, and keep the faith!
Rock Overdose: Great! Thank you so much! See you in the summer.
Judas Priest: Thank you, brother! See you soon. Bye for now!
For Rock Overdose,
Interview: Konstantinos Sotirelis
Tapescript: Stergios Gkoutsidis