Let’s Rock Chats With Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner

Richie Faulkner has been a member of Judas Priest since 2011. He has completed 2 albums with the band and is ready to set out on his third world tour, in support of Priest’s new CD, Firepower, which will be released on March 9. It’s a beast of an album and he’s a beast of a guitarist. 

This was an extremely special interview for me.  I grew up with Priest’s music and they, along with Van Halen, are the reason I picked up a guitar. 

With the sad news of Glenn Tipton having to stop touring due to Parkinson’s Disease, Richie explained how he and new touring guitarist Andy Sneap would handle guitar duties on the road.

“Andy will be doing most of Glenn’s parts and for the classic songs, I’ll be doing KK’s parts, and the newer songs, my own parts, which is technically the same as we did on the Redeemer’s tour.  I’ll be taking some of the load off of Andy, some of the solos and stuff.  But for the most part, he’s going to be playing most of Glenn’s stuff.

It’s gonna be interesting and Andy has said as well that he’s by no means the new guitar player. He’s filling in for Glenn, he’s flying the flag for Glenn and helping out Priest.  And I think that’s a noble attitude for someone to have, you know.  They don’t want to come in and take over.  They want to come in a provide support for their heroes.  (Glenn) was a hero to me.  He’s even more of a hero now, knowing him personally. And it’s the same for Andy.  He loves Glenn.  He loves the band and he’s there showing his support.  And if and when Glenn comes back, or if he chooses to come and do some songs with us, Andy’s gonna be more than supportive to have him out there. It’s a noble attitude to have and an attitude that makes you realize that you’ve got the right guy.”

Here are some other highlights:

On Priest’s influence on him as a musician, before he joined the band:

“Massive! To the point where I don’t think I really realized it until I got into this situation, you know.  I think they were one of the band’s that I looked to for how to create songs.  How were they making an emotional statement with heavy guitars and harmony guitars and clean guitars?  How were they connecting that emotional sentiment with music?

Growing up, playing around London in cover bands, you always played Priest.  You always played Sabbath, Priest, UFO, Maiden.  They were a staple diet of the gigging rock guitarist.  So, in ways that I couldn’t even fathom, I think when you get into a situation like this, it’s all part of your musical makeup and you don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to put on a different hat to perform Judas Priest music or write Judas Priest music.  It’s part of your musical makeup and I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s worked so well for us.

We get on very well, first of all and musically we’re on the same page.  We come from the same background like Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher.  So, I think all those things come into play and it’s work out for the best because of all those elements.

We have ideas of our favorite bands, as players, you know. And we hope it’s like something on the inside.  But when you get on the inside and it’s even better, it surpasses all your expectations.  As I’ve said, they were heroes before
I joined and they’re even more heroes after I joined.  When you get to see them personally and the way they do things, the passion they have for the passion and the metal, it’s just inspiring.

On Firepower:

“This record is connecting with people cuz it has those references to classic Priest, but also, it’s not resting on the laurels of classic Priest. It’s forging forward with an intensity and vibrance that Judas Priest is famous for as well. In 83/84, it was Screaming For Vengeance, Defenders of the Faith.  It was forging forward.  In 2018, it’s a different sounding record, but that heart of pushing forward and forging forward in new metal is the same.  It’s intact.  And I think that’s what people are picking up on.”

On speed vs. slower solos:

“When I was younger, I was always about playing more notes, you know, faster notes.  These days it seems to be pulling back on the speed, the fastness, but saying just as much, with more melody, like David Gilmour or Slash or those kind of players.  They contain messages in the melody.  So, it’s all about that kind of thought process.  Sometimes you blaze off and do some pyro techniques on the guitar.  Sometimes you pull back and play something with fewer notes. 

Whanking for whanking sake is great, but it doesn’t connect with as many people as saying something for a reason.  And if the reason is whanking and fast and fiery…then fine.  But if it doesn’t call for that, it doesn’t connect in the same way.  If you go to a Pink Floyd concert and David Gilmour is playing Wish You Were Here, that’s a prime example of how to connect the emotion with the audience, and I think that’s a powerful thing.  It’s something that I definitely was striving for, as a guitar player, on this record.

On recent comments from ex-Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing, in which he stated that Glenn may not have played on Firepower and Andy Sneap may have contributed more to the album than just co-producer:

“I don’t think that should even be a question in anyone’s mind.  I don’t think Glenn Tipton and Judas Priest would ever do anything to undermine the integrity of what they’ve done for the past 50 years or what the fans have given to them for the past 50 years.  So, in short, Glenn Tipton played all these parts on this record.  That’s kind of the last word in it, you know what I mean? Not that it’s my word, but that’s the answer and that’s the truth.

I know Ken (KK) insinuated that, and he’s kind of backtracked just a bit and said that that’s not what he meant, but we all knew what the insinuation was.  To be honest with you, it’s all a storm in a teacup.  I think the main thing here is that…we’ve got a great album ready to be released, and that’s what we’re focused on.  And Glenn was a thousand percent of that, like he always has been.”

On drummer Scott Travis:

“He’s phenomenal.  He’s got everything.  He’s got power, speed, finesse, taste, groove.  He’s got everything. He’s an absolute bulldozer of a drummer.  I can’t say enough about him.  He’s a great guy, too.”

On Rob Halford’s vocals getting more powerful as he ages:

“I don’t know what it is.  I’ve followed him around at shows before, before a show, trying to work out what his secret schedule is.  What does he do before he goes on stage?  What magical elixir is he taking before he goes on stage?  And dude, he does nothing.  He has a cup of tea, ho goes out on the stage and he slays it every night.  I believe he’s getting better and better.  He’s going from strength to strength in terms of lyrical content, performance.  He embodies the songs live, and he performs the songs.  So, to call Rob Halford a singer is an understatement.  Rob Halford is so much more than a singer.  It’s an inspiration to see and be a part of.”

On Ian Hill:

Ian Hill is such a big part of this record. Again, from playing in the room with him, like we do every night with him on stage, when we’re playing these new songs, Ian puts down the most obnoxious, deep rumbling bass sounds that have ever come out of this planet.  He’s just inspiring.  He’s such an easy-going guy.  I don’t think people realize how good of a bass player he is, when he puts those little tasty fills in there, little notes, it’s magic. He really is the glue that holds this band together.  He’s phenomenal. “

On Priest fans:

Priest is only around for this long because of those people (the fans). That can never be taken for granted. 50 years this band has been going, and it’s because of the fans. The fans are the lifeblood of any band and we will never take that for granted.  And that’s why we always give 1000 percent and we’re looking forward to giving 1000 percent on the Firepower tour.  Dude, it’s the Priest family.  They mean so much to all of us.”

 Listen to the full interview below:

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