The phrase “the PRIEST is back” is something every metalhead with a working mind in his head would like to read, even though this band is approaching its 50th anniversary. Of course, there have been two “blows” in the lineup, but considering how awesome the latest “Firepower” turned out to be and how great JUDAS PRIEST sound live, I’d say it has been a solid recovery. Some days after the show at Tinley Park, IL, METAL KAOZ got Richie Faulkner on the phone to learn about the band’s plans to celebrate the 50th year milestone. Read below what Richie had to say.
Hi Richie and welcome to METAL KAOZ!
Hi Dimitris, how are you, buddy?
Great, so how is Canada?
Canada is great! I mean, we love playing up here. We have just arrived in Montreal and we have a show tonight. The Canadians have been always great, so I am really looking forward to playing for them.
Awesome! How has been the ‘Firepower’ tour so far?
It’s going great! We started in North America, then we went to Europe and we just got back to the North US and Canada. We’ve got a few more things planned. The record has been out for five months now, and seems to be connecting well with the Metal maniacs and - you know - we have played some great shows in front of great people in great countries, so we could not be happier.
I and my wife had the pleasure seeing JUDAS PRIEST in Chicago, and it was a great show. I love your way connecting with the fans with hand gestures, making faces, it is really fun to watch.
I’ve always felt that this is an important part of a live show. I mean, going to see IRON MAIDEN and you have Steve Harris looking at you, singing the words, is something you cannot recreate on YouTube or anything like that. This is an important part of the show and we are all on the same team - you know - we are all fans of PRIEST - I am a fan of PRIEST - and you’re looking the fans in the eye, you are singing with them, having fun engaging, and this is all part of it. And the fans seem to enjoy it, making this even more fun.
Oh yes! You joined the band in 2011 when PRIEST were about to embark on the ‘Epitaph Tour’ which was supposed to be something like a farewell tour; so how was that mindset changed?
I totally mess that up, didn’t I? (laughs) I mean, it is not a ‘farewell’ anymore. I think that whenever you change a team whether it is in an office or a football team, the dynamics do change too; sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst. In this case, it seems it was for the best and it worked. Knowing the guys like I do now, I see the passion they give to the music and the fans, and how much they love it. I don’t think there is something you can do for almost 50 years without having that passion to do it. So, if the intent was to pull back from touring, seeing what I have seen now, I don’t think they can. They love it too much to quit! So, after almost 8 years we have put new music out, we have toured, and I can tell you both the touring and making the album were not lazy. We have given 100% in every engine, if you know what I mean; we are not doing this half-heartily and I think this is indicative of how much the band loves what it does.
I guess you are to blame for messing their retirement plans up, right?
(laughs) No, man, I don’t think so. Obviously, I had a part to play, but I am a fifth of a five-part band and, like I said, they are all passionate about what they do that would be impossible to quit. Also, the amount of love the fans have about this band is so inspiring to tour, put new music out, and we will see where we will go in the future.
Talking about the future, do you know what is the status with Andy Sneap? I mean, he looks great with the band on stage, so do you know what will happen?
We really don’t know. We are focused on the album and the tour and Andy is a part of this. We are having a great time and Glenn has joined us on stage whenever is possible, but beyond this, we don’t know what is going to be like. Whether we’re going to find someone or Andy is going to become more permanent or whether he is going to go back to producing, like Rob has said. We are focused on what we are doing now; Andy is a part of it and we are glad to have him. When the ‘Firepower Tour’ ends, we will see what will happen; we may do another record or another tour. We might keep doing the ‘Firepower Tour’ for 10 years like THE EAGLES (laughs) something like a long-running thing; who knows? We can only thank Andy for being there and thank the fans for being so accepting of him and also of Glenn’s situation. Whenever Glenn comes out, he raises the roof, man! He surprised an arena full of people and you can feel the love for Glenn when he steps out. It is an amazing thing and a goosebump moment.
Let’s talk about the making of “Firepower”; what was your contribution on the songwriting as compared to “The Redeemer Of Souls”?
It was a similar situation; it was me, Glenn and Rob getting together and bringing all of our ideas on the table. And this is how we started forging our ideas. For me, it was a conscious effort to be better; this is my second record, so how can I be a better songwriter, a better guitar player - you know - how can I take what I did before, learn from it and get better; this was my mentality. The guys have been fantastic giving me that opportunity to be creative and have an input on the making of the album - I can only thank them for this. As an individual, the biggest differences were playing better and write better.
Were you given all the degrees of freedom you would like to have when writing music?
Yeah, from day one, I’ve always felt like being part of a band and I did not feel as an outsider. They made it clear when I joined PRIEST that they didn’t want an outsider; they wanted someone who will be part of the band and will give his 100%. It has always been like “Richie, what do you think?” and, you know, everyone has an opinion and does not mean that we will go every time with what he thinks, but everyone’s opinion is asked and valued. We will debate, we will talk about it and we will choose the best thing, so just having that opportunity on what songs we should do or stage outfits I wanna wear or what I think about a part a song has and so on, is great. It has been like that from day one. I am incredibly grateful to them for that. If everyone has his own opinion, then it makes the band better; everyone is happy and is giving 100% for the band they love, rather than not having an input and maybe doing a solo project on the side. It has been focused on PRIEST because of this mentality I think.
I agree that this makes the band better as I have seen in JUDAS PRIEST shows with this lineup and there are differences between the first and the last one; I think the band looks more solid right now.
I think so, this is an effort progression. You are absolutely right.
We mentioned Glenn’s health problems and I would like to expand this a little bit; there are a lot of unfortunate musicians out there who face health problems and they do not have medical coverage. Do you think there is something that can be done to secure the musicians by providing them health insurance? It is heartbreaking to see musicians pretty much asking the fans to help.
I understand what you’re saying and it is an interesting point. I mean, in every country there is a difference healthcare setup but you are absolutely right; we, musicians, typically do not have healthcare, pensions or dental insurance. This is the path that we chose, but, you are right, when something happens, it is very hard… I mean, it is very expensive these days and musicians may not have the possibility to sort it out. I have seen a lot of people going to like GoFundMe and turn to the internet for support with donations and stuff like that. It is an interesting thing and there should be more talks about it especially with the mental issues some people have; we’ve just lost Jill Janus [singer of HUNTRESS], Chester Bennington [singer of LINKIN PARK] and, you know, it’s been a few people who had mental issues, so we need more support for that. I totally agree with you that there has to be more talks about this and something needs to be done.
Absolutely! Let’s go back to the music and talk about the band’s future plans; Rob has mentioned the band’s 50th anniversary, so do you know something about the plans for that? Is it about touring or re-releases…
Obviously, I do have some idea of what is being talked about, but it is at the very early stages at the moment and I do not want to give anything away. But as Rob said, this is a fantastic milestone for the band and, again, the fans have put PRIEST there for all this time. This acknowledges the fans more than anything, so it will be all about giving back to them; an event that the fans will really remember. It is in progress and we are talking about what we want to do, but in true JUDAS PRIEST fashion, it is going to be something everyone will remember. We want to give back to the fans because, as I said, they have put the band there for nearly 50 years and they are still coming to the shows, they still love the band, so yeah, it will be something special.
That’s awesome! Are there any JUDAS PRIEST songs that you would like to have in the setlists?
Absolutely, there are tons of them, man! Like “Island Of Domination”, put “Sentinel” back in (we did that in the ‘Epitaph Tour’ and I’d love to play it again), “Delivering The Goods”, I’d love to play “Killing Machine”... There are so many great songs, so many like deep cuts like “Hot Rockin’”, “Exciter” and lots of others. Still, we are doing a lot of great ones in this tour, like “Sinner”, “Tyrant”, “Freewheel Burning”, “Saints In Hell”. We are doing a great cross section between the old songs plus the new ones and I’d love to play more of that stuff as well. As we go on with this tour, we will be adding more from the new album and swapping them around.
It feels great seeing a band with 50 years of history playing more of the new stuff, as we do not like seeing bands playing only the old material.
I hear ya and I think it is important to do that and maybe create future classics. I mean, “Another Thing Coming” was a new song once, and “Breaking The Law” was new back then, if you know what I mean. I think it is a careful balance because you do not want to put too many new songs as you may alienate part of the audience. You have to keep this balance and, as I said, we will be changing songs as we go on and add new songs as people getting more familiar to that material. At the moment, we are doing “Rising From Ruins”, we did “Evil never Dies”, “Lightning Strike” from “Firepower” and we are looking if we can do “Traitor’s Gate”, “Necromancer”, “Sea Of Red” as we go through the tour, so it is exciting for us and also for the fans as they become more familiar with the [new] record.
Have you ever discussed of adding songs from “Jugulator” or “Demolition” although Rob is not singing on those?
Yeah, we have discussed it and Rob has said that he is more than up for it. The difficult thing is, as with all the songs we’d like to add, is deciding what song to remove from the set; if we are going to add “Cathedral Spires”, you have to choose what to remove and, you know, you’re adding someone’s favorite and then you’re removing someone else’s favorite (laughs). It is a battle, but it is a good one to have, but, like I said, we are totally up for it.
You can always play for three hours, man - that would be fine for us (laughs)...
I can play for three weeks, man; we could set up a gig somewhere and every night for three weeks play a different album. I would do that in a heartbeat, man!
That would have been amazing, Richie! Will you play in Chicago again next year?
We are looking at the options and coming back to the States, but nothing has been confirmed yet. What usually happens is start touring and then getting offers to come back and the tours grow. Right now, we are doing North US and Canada, and I think we are going to South America and Japan, and we have some other plans too. As long as people want to see the band, we will come back.
And we will be there again. Thank you, Richie for your time.
Thank you, Dimitris.
Have safe travels.
Thank you, brother. See you soon!