Legendary metal band Judas Priest need little introduction. As tough as the ‘British Steel’ that they named one of their best-selling albums after, the Birmingham five-piece have been making metal for over four decades. Back in the U.K. this November to promote last year’s well-received ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ album, we caught up with guitarist Richie Faulkner to discuss joining the band, his relationship with Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris, and what fans can expect from the U.K. shows.
How are you today?
I’m good man. We’re in the second night of a two-day run at the Paramount on Long Island here in New York. It was a great show last night, and we’re doing it again tonight. We get fans that come down to both shows, so it’s great to see repeat faces.
How have you been finding the American leg of the tour?
The States is great. They’ve got some great guitar shops over here. There are some great guitar gems that you can find in some of these stores.
Have you been doing some guitar shopping then?
Absolutely yeah – it’s one of my hobbies, shall we say! Wherever we go, I always go guitar shopping, whether it’s the U.K. or Japan – and Japan’s got some great ones as well, or wherever. But the States is such a vast continent that you can find some real diamonds. I just like to jump in a cab or on the train, and go and find some of these magical guitar stores.
Would you describe yourself as a guitar collector?
Yeah, I’m a fanatic man! I like the old ones; I like new ones. You can walk into one of these guitar stores, and there’s a guitar that’s been there since the late fifties and it’s got dust on it. You can tell straight away that it’s got stories; what bars it’s been in, who’s played it, what it’s seen throughout its life. I think it’s just really intriguing and part of our history. Wherever you come from, whatever part of the world you’re from, these guitars are just part of our social make up now.
I’d imagine that your partner in Judas Priest Glenn Tipton has quite a guitar collection.
Glenn doesn’t, surprisingly. He uses them as tools. He’s got a few guitars, but he hasn’t got as many as you’d believe. He’s got a few that he holds dear, and they’re the ones that he uses. He doesn’t really get sentimental over them, unlike me. I’m always growing the collection of children really, and I’m sentimental with all of them – they’ve all got a special place in my heart.
You joined Judas Priest in 2011. Tell me about how it all came about.
Well, it was through a mutual friend, a guy called Pete Friesen [former Alice Cooper and The Almighty guitarist]. I used to play in cover bands with Pete in London. Every Sunday we used to do a gig in this bar in Camden, and it was a great stomping ground for getting guitar chops. We’d play classics by Priest and Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath and Bad Company and UFO – you name it, we did it. Anyhow, a couple of the crew guys in Priest knew Pete from The Almighty, and they got in touch with Pete [when original guitarist K.K. Downing retired from the band]. Pete’s a fantastic and inspirational blues player, but he recognised that his playing style didn’t quite fit in with Priest’s ‘brand’ if you like.
So Pete Friesen originally got the call to audition for Judas Priest?
There were a few guys that got the call, but yeah, and I think he had the respect for Priest’s brand – you can’t fake that – you can’t fake being the guitar player in Priest, so he politely declined. He thanked them for the offer, and they asked him if he could recommend anyone else. So he put a few names in the hat, and I was one of them.
So that’s when you got the call.
They tracked me down and called me and asked me to go up to Glenn’s house and meet Glenn and Rob and discuss a few things. They asked me if I was busy, and stupidly I said; “I’ve got a few things on this week, but I could move a few things around”. Dude, I had nothing on that week! I was just trying to sound like I was busy.
So I went up and met Glenn and Rob, and we had a discussion about what they wanted, what they didn’t want, the same for me, and we went from there really. I guess I took the right approach, and they gave me the gig about a week later.
So it worked out then.
Yeah, I think it did. It’s important for those guys after forty years; there’s a lot more to being a touring musician than playing your instrument. You’ve got to be personable and get along with people, and you’ve got to be a team player. So we had to go through all that stuff, plus they had to hear what I could do on my instrument. It was a great learning curve; I’ve never been to an audition like that.
Glenn said he was a bit awkward; he’d never really auditioned anyone like that before – he’d never needed to on the guitar front anyway – so he didn’t really know what to ask me to play. It was just a case of; I’ve got this audition, I’ve got this opportunity – if I can’t think of anything to play I might as well not be here.
What did you play at your audition?
Well, initially he left me to my own devices. He said he was going to go and make a cup of tea and let me tune up and whatever. So I was noodling around and getting comfortable and unbeknownst to me, he was at the bottom of the stairs, and he could hear what I was doing.
There was no pressure. They had a few ideas for the set list that they were putting together for ‘Epitaph’, and they wanted to hear what I would do to some of those songs that they were considering. Songs like ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death’, ‘Victim Of Changes’ – which is a big K.K. Downing solo, ‘Blood Red Skies’ as well, and so I did that. I went home and recorded some stuff over that on the little recording rig I had, and it seemed to do the job, so I went back after a week, and Glenn said you’ve got the gig if you want it.
In the past, you played with Dirty Deeds – whom Iron Maiden founder Steve Harris championed, and also in his daughter Lauren’s band. Were you on the subs bench for Iron Maiden?
[Laughs] Yeah, you never know! I worked with Steve and Lauren, and he was one of the first ones that I told when I got the Priest gig. I said I’ve been approached by another band, and he was over the moon when I told him it was Priest. He’s one of these guys who’s really supportive, and he said; “I would have had you in my band. If anything would have happened to any of my guys, you were the guy that was going to do it”.
He’s a great guy, and like the guys in Priest he’s an idol and he’s a teacher. He wished me all the best and sent me on my way. We saw him at Download a couple of months ago. He loves the music; he loves the vibe, and he’s a genuine fan of all things heavy. So, it was great to get his endorsement right from the beginning.
Back to the U.K. tour – what can fans expect in the set list?
Well, we’ve changed a few songs. If you don’t want to know what they are, look away now! We’ve got ‘Desert Plains’ in the set, and we’re now playing ‘Screaming For Vengeance’, which the band haven’t played since 1986 I believe. We’ve also put in ‘The Rage’. We’re always looking at different ways to chop and change things around, so we’ll see what happens.
Finally, what’s next for the band?
Where we are now, coming to the end of this tour we’re now discussing going into the studio again. Playing live, you get fired up and inspired. It just seems to be just going on from strength to strength, and long may that continue.