K.K. Downing Says He Wanted to Remain in Judas Priest: “I Don’t Really Feel as Though I Left the Band”

  • Axl Rosenberg

After several years of making it fairly clear that he has seller’s remorse re: retiring from Judas Priest, guitarist K.K. Downing now alleges that his departure from the band was “orchestrated” by its other members — meaning he didn’t really “quit” the group.

For context: Downing has been weird/regretful about being out Priest for a minute now. In 2018, when Glenn Tipton had to stop touring as a result of Parkinson’s disease, Downing said he was “shocked and stunned” that Priest didn’t call him to return to the band opting instead to bring Andy Sneap on the road. Ian Hill later explained, rather logically, that “[Downing] retired seven years ago and he made it clear at the time that he didn’t wanna come back. So I’m surprised that he’s saying that he was surprised that he wasn’t asked.”

Around the same time, Downing caught flack for seemingly suggesting Tipton hadn’t played his parts on the band’s new record (he later walked back those comments).

Then, in 2020, he launched a new project, KK’s Priest, which just seemed really sad (and not just because the name, seemingly designed to maximize chances that people will understand the group features the former guitarist from Judas Priest while minimizing chances of not being depressing). That band is fronted by nobody’s favorite Judas Priest singer, Tim “Ripper” Owens, and also includes some dudes who lack even the most vague association with Judas Priest.

Which brings us up to now. In a new interview with the Brazilian podcast Inside with Paulo Baron, Downing ostensibly claims that the other members of Judas Priest conspired to get him out of the band, and that he didn’t actually leave of his own free will.

Downing explains his initial decision to leave the band on other members of the group not being “loyal to Judas Priest”:

“I felt aggrieved in the band, because I always felt that I was the one that was always true and loyal. Because, obviously, I was in the band some years before Glenn and [singer] Rob [Halford]. And Rob left the band for 14 years, or something like that, doing all those albums and playing with all those musicians. And Glenn took six years off to do two albums with Cozy [Powell] and John [Entwistle]. And they had their own web sites, selling merchandise and all of that. I never did any of that. I was totally loyal and true to Judas Priest — me, one hundred percent. I never wanted to create music for solo albums. If I created good music, it must go to Judas Priest. And if it wasn’t good enough for Judas Priest, why would I put it on a solo album? It doesn’t make any sense. The only music you can release is great music that is quality music for the fans to listen to. So if you can create that, repeating myself, it must go on a Judas Priest album, surely. Otherwise, you’re not loyal to Judas Priest. There’s no doubt in my mind Rob and Roy Z wrote some really good songs when he was coming back to be more like a Judas Priest band, with the Halford band, but if that’s really good music, and some of it was, it should have come to Judas Priest if you’re loyal to Judas Priest.

“And all of these things were building up inside me. And in 2010, Rob had released two studio albums — two studio albums — in the year before I… it happened. And he did his world tour, including the Ozzfest, playing Judas Priest music.

“So, all of these things were building up and building up inside me, and then the management was asking me to write an EP. An EP — after the epic ‘Nostradamus’. I said, ‘I’m not doing it.’ But the pressure came. I just went, ‘If K.K. speaks and he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, you guys need to listen.’ Luckily, they did, because they didn’t do an EP in the end; they did an album. I have a license to know what’s good for Judas Priest and what’s bad Judas Priest.”

Downing says he “felt I deserved more credibility and more respect” than he was getting, so he quit the band. But then, he claims, he had a change of heart — which the band basically ignored:

“[A] few months later, I changed my mind. I was starting to change my mind. It’s like with your girlfriend or your wife or whatever. I’ve never been married, but I’ve had lots of arguments with my partners and girlfriends. But after a while, you think, ‘Oh, God. Was it my fault?’

“I was talking to [Hill] in April [2011]. I [knew] it was a farewell tour, and that was all I was giving up. After a lifetime of dedication, it was just doing the farewell tour [that I was walking away from]. But then I said to Ian, ‘I think I’m having a change of mind. I think I should do the tour.’ I was talking to him about it. And I asked him to send me the setlist over that they’d been working on. And he sent me the setlist over, but the very next day, they released it to the press that I retired from the band. And then I was really angry. And then I sent in a second letter — not so polite this time. I was really angry because they were obviously talking.

“So, I don’t really feel as though I left the band. I feel as though it was orchestrated for me not to be there. So that’s what happened. Then I became a very angry person.”

Downing went on to say he has tried multiple times to get back into Priest’s line-up:

“I always thought that there would be an opportunity for me to be back in the band, but it just hasn’t happened. So, a year ago, I had to move on. I asked them one more time just over a year ago to reconsider, because there was guys in the band that wanted me in the band, and they said so. So I thought that that was an opportunity, but I was closed down by other people.

“It’s crazy. Especially in the world we live in. How many bands split up and reunite? How many guys leave and come back? It happens all the time. You’re bound to have a couple of arguments along the way, after 40 years or more. It’s bound to happen — disagreement. But it just hasn’t been able to turn around, this one, strangely enough. But, obviously, from my point of view, I tried, guys — I tried.”

Is Downing making valid points? Does it sound like he’s crying over spilled milk? Should Judas Priest bring him back, especially in light of losing Tipton? Should he have to lie in the bed he made?

The answer to all of those questions, in my opinion, is “Yes.”

You can listen to the entire interview below.


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