K.K. DOWNING Talks New KK’s PRIEST – “It Hits You A Bit More Like A Sledgehammer”
October 2, 2023, 2 months ago
Judas Priest’s original blond bomber, K.K. Downing, is still brandishing his weapon and delivering gleaming metal late into his career, returning now with a second KK’s Priest album, called The Sinner Rides Again. It’s the follow-up to Sermons Of The Sinner as well as the appearance with his old band at the ceremony to induct Priest into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. But more than anything, it’s a blurry continuation of the percussive power metal he and Ripper Owens and crew presented on the debut.
“Yeah, I think it’s all good, Martin,” begins Downing. “The only difference between the two albums, they could have been a double album as far as I’m concerned, although we changed the production sound a little bit, made it more edgy, optimized it. On the first album, I was thinking, you know, I don’t mind if this sounds a bit like British Steel or Stained Class, but it seems to be the way of the world now that people have a preference for this production style that’s more kind of metallized. The guitars are edgier and it hits you a bit more like a sledgehammer. People seem to like that.”
Keeping up with K.K. is A.J. Mills, who, night after night, has to plant his feet and duke it out with one of metal’s consummate storied players. “We split it down the middle,” explains Downing. “Originally, the whole thing started with the concept of two guitars, like Priest. You want two guys that can play rhythm, two guys that can play lead, two guys that can write songs, you know, and equally as well. So there’s that creative force, as opposed to an imbalance. We’re not Cliff Richard and the Shadows, you know what I mean? With Hank doing all the twangy bits and somebody just playing the chords. In Judas Priest in latter years, the concept kind of got lost, to have that guitar duel just coming out at you relentlessly, you know, in stereo fashion. But with me and A.J., it’s like that, where we put everything in 50/50—I wouldn’t have it any other way. I mean, on Painkiller I probably did have, let’s say, 12 lead breaks and Glenn probably had 12, but Glenn’s were like 20 minutes long and mine were just a few seconds (laughs). So on paper it looked good to me but in reality, you know, Glenn came back, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve done the solos on Painkiller’ and I’m going… ‘Okay.’”
On The Sinner Rides Again, K.K. wrote all the lyrics, and he’s got an interesting take with respect to his motivations in this department.
“Well, yes, there’s probably nothing better than if you feel kind of self-inspired, because the subject matter is relative to yourself, but also potentially to the audience. Do you know what I mean? I could be talking crap here, Martin, but just imagine if you’re a poet. I’ve never tried, but I’d love to write really kind of good poetry. Because the art of writing poetry is quite fab, really, because when you read a poem, you don’t really know if it’s about the writer, or how exactly the writer has an involvement with the content of the poem, or maybe he or she is just putting it out there in an ambiguous kind of way that it will opens the floodgates of your imagination.”
“And if it’s really good poetry, as the reader, you could probably make the words associate with your own life experience, or things that you wish for, or things that you don’t wish for, for some; it’s all a bit like that. But the main thing is, for me, in terms of who I am and what I do, if it can relate to me, then it’s probably going to have more passion and meaning to it. Plus in that case, I can get on with it and be quite prolific, augmenting the story lyrically and musically; do you know what I mean? Hopefully I’m explaining this right, because the thing is, if it’s dear to your heart, if it’s kind of in there and has some meaning to yourself, then you can push on and get it done. You can probably do it more quickly, because you’ve got a road you go down with it. You know where you’re going with it. Because lyrically, it all kind of adds up. It’s like putting paving stones in a road. You know where it’s leading to. But if it’s meaningful to me and I’m a part of it, it might also potentially grip the listener, the audience, as well, and they can be a part of it; it can have a similar effect on them.”
“Take ‘One More Shot at Glory,’ for example,” continues Downing. “Yes, hopefully maybe we will all have our one more shot at glory. And that can be recovering from a serious illness maybe, or recovering from a relationship that went sour or it might have to do with a job opportunity. Or for me, maybe KK’s Priest is my one more shot at glory. So yes, it does relate to me, and it relates to me in quite a few ways, to be honest. And so for that reason, I felt pretty sure that the listener could probably indulge in that as well and think yes, I’m going to have my one more shot at glory. I remember having my first shot at glory and I hope in the future I’ll get a chance to have one more shot at glory. You know, it can be anything. We just did a show with Paul Di’Anno, and Paul, sadly, is in a wheelchair at the moment. But they are hoping for him literally to get back on his feet fairly soon. I mean, for Paul, that would be his one more shot at glory, just to stand there at the microphone on his own two feet. So everybody can relate to that song.”
“One More Shot At Glory” turns out to be a musical highlight of the record, blessed with a “Savage”-like metal shuffle and jackhammering drums from Sean Elg, who is relentless and yet exacting across this album’s nine tracks. To my mind, the best riffs are reserved for “Hymn 66” and “Strike Of The Viper” (more the chord changes on that one), but the record closes strong as well with the galloping Maiden vibe of “Wash Away Your Sins.”
“Well, that’s another one,” muses Downing. “That’s another one where it’s me and the audience together as one. When we play the song and when we sing the song and we’re all together, we can all relate to those lyrics. I mean we’ve all been kicked hard. I don’t care who you are—everybody’s been kicked hard in one way or another by, you know, a school teacher, a parent, a friend, a wife or girlfriend, whatever. We’ve all been put down by people and we lie in bed at night and we think about, you know, I’m gonna get my own back—how can I get my own way back? But there’s another route, isn’t there? There’s another route. The fact is, that person, if you can call them up and call them out, or even scare them into repenting and saying they’re sorry, then maybe you don’t have to kick back at them. Maybe you don’t have to torch their car. Maybe there’s another way. Maybe that will just be enough (laughs).”
“So yeah, when I write and sing these songs—because that’s what I do; I sing them on the demos, not great, but so I can see how the parts fit together—there’s a lot of emotions and sentiments and messages and stuff like that that mean a lot to me. I mean, do I enjoy deep and meaningful content? Well, the answer is yes, I damn well do, really. Because like I said, if I’m invested in what I’m saying, I think it’s gonna superglue our relationship together with our listening audience. That’s the motivation I have to go to the places I go to with this band.”
(Photo – Mind Art Visual)