His name is synonymous with Heavy Metal. K.K. Downing was a Grammy winning guitarist with heavy metal legends Judas Priest until his retirement in 2011. Along with Priest, he has sold over 45 million albums worldwide. K.K. was kind enough to answer Korea Guitar’s 20 Questions. Enjoy!
1. What attracted you to the guitar?
When I left school at 15, I always regretted 2 things, not learning another language and not playing a musical instrument. So when I first heard the blues I knew I had to learn guitar. I later went on to learn reasonable Spanish.
2. A. What was your first guitar and how did you get it?
It was an acoustic. I paid ten pounds for it from a shop in Birmingham.
B. When did the Flying V become your guitar of choice and why?
I saw it in a shop window in Birmingham. It looked great, rare, and metal to me. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford it without trading in my Gibson SG
3. Who was your biggest musical influence?
4. What was the first concert you ever saw?
I think it was John Mayall then with Mick Taylor on guitar.
Or it might have been Savoy Brown with Kim Simmons.
5. The Beatles or the Stones? Why?
Stones for sure. Much more street attitude and more blues based.
6. Do you remember the first Judas Priest show? Where was it? How many people were there?
I think it was a working men’s club, it was a very good crowd actually, mainly the daughters of the working men!
8. Is there one show you played that stands out more than any others?
No, I took every show as being equal whenever or where ever it was, irrespective of size or importance.
9. How important is image? Would Judas Priest have been as successful if you had worn jeans and t-shirts?
I think image is extremely important for every band, therefore I have to say that it is conducive to the level of success that a band achieves.
10. You played in Korea in 2008. Since this is a guitar blog from Korea, is there anything you remember about your time in Korea? Did you have a chance to wander around Seoul?
It is always exiting to visit and play places for the first time; I did get to go into town for dinner, but would have liked the time to see more. I can remember being impressed with how developed and modern Seoul was. It was a treat for us to play for our fans. I would hope to go back one day and have a proper tour around.
11. Judas Priest was one of the first bands to incorporate twin lead guitars, which has since been copied by many groups. How did this come about?
I think quite simply that both Glenn (Tipton, KK’s guitar partner in Judas Priest) and I were lead guitarists in separate bands, so when we came together it came naturally to share the lead playing.
12. What music on your mp3 player would surprise people the most?
I can honestly say nothing at the moment. It is full, literally, of great rock and metal.
13. What’s your best memory from the Ripper Owens era?
Basically, the man himself. Great singer, great guy. I do miss those times; we had some laughs, for sure.
14. Were there any songs in your sets that were a challenge to play live? Which ones?
I think over the years, Call for the Priest was quite epic!
15. What is the ‘definitive’ K.K. Downing song?
I guess it would be Victim of Changes or maybe Sinner.
16. When did you know you had ‘made it’ as a musician? Was there a moment you remember that made you say, ‘phew, after all this work, I’m finally there’?
I am not sure, but I suppose I could say that around the British Steel era. I remember feeling that the band was finally looking and playing like we could outshine almost anyone that we could be touring with.
17. What 5 songs would you recommend for people who aren’t familiar with Judas Priest to get them started? (Shame on them)
Victim of Changes, Breaking the Law, You’ve Got Another Thing Coming, Painkiller, Exciter.
18. What’s the best guitar you’ve ever played?
I think my KxK with the speed loader tremolo. (http://www.kxkguitars.com/)
19. What advice would you give to aspiring guitarists?
Get to know the fret board well, be familiar and practice hard with all scales. Learn how to set up and string your guitar so that it is easy to play for you. Learn how to record yourself with pro tools ,cue base, etc. Go to you tube and learn how to tune your guitar properly ( tune to your finger and impact pressure). Copy others just to learn, never ultimately want to be someone else. You must strive to develop your own style and character. Always choose band mates that are committed to the end.
20. Do you still play? Any plans for some new material?
Just for myself at the moment, no plans at this time. I am busy for now developing a golf and leisure resort with some land that I acquired years ago. I am also releasing a line of fragrances called “METAL” (for men) which will have a contribution to Teenage Cancer Trust. After all this is done…who knows?
21. In one sentence, can you describe the feeling of what it’s like to step out on a stage in front of close to half a million people like you did at the US Festival?
Truly wonderful. I wish everyone could try it!
Visit the official KK Downing website:
KK DOWNING DISCOGRAPHY
STUDIO ALBUMS WITH JUDAS PRIEST
Sad Wings of Destiny
Sin After Sin
Point of Entry
Screaming for Vengeance
Defenders of the Faith
Ram It Down
Angel of Retribution