RICHIE FAULKNER Talks ELEGANT WEAPONS, New JUDAS PRIEST Album - "It’s By No Means A RUSH Record, But It’s Got A Few More Twists And Turns And Musical Journeys"
May 26, 2023, a week ago
Richie Faulkner could easily focus full-time on Judas Priest (of which he has been a member of since 2011). But the 43-year-old guitarist has somehow found the time from Priest’s tour-record-tour-record schedule to launch his own band, Elegant Weapons. Joining Faulkner on the soon-to-be-released debut, Horns for a Halo, were Rainbow singer Ronnie Romero, Pantera bassist Rex Brown, and Priest drummer Scott Travis, but going forward, it will be Uriah Heep bassist Dave Rimmer and Accept drummer Christopher Williams joining the singer and guitarist. Faulkner spoke to BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato shortly before the May 26 release of Horns For A Halo (which is available for pre-order here) about both Elegant Weapons and Judas Priest.
BraveWords: Let’s discuss Elegant Weapons’ debut album, Horns For A Halo.
Richie Faulkner: “Obviously, this is something I’ve been thinking about – in career terms – since I’ve joined Priest. I had a conversation with Glenn Tipton right at the beginning when I joined the band on the Epitaph Tour. It was the final tour, so Glenn kind of laid it out for me – ‘This is a band at a certain point in its career. We’re not going to be around for 20-25 years. It’s the farewell tour.’ So, I kind of started thinking then, ‘Well, I’d better start thinking about what I’m going to be doing after this.’ It kind of spawned from there. It took a while to get going…and also, I wanted Priest to be my band. I didn’t want to get the gig in the Priest and then jump off and do other things straight away. The time was right. It was right around the pandemic really that I got all the songs and ideas together and wanted to see what I had. ‘Do I have an EP? Do I have an album? Do I have a band I can put together?’
“So, it’s been an ongoing process really – in different bits and pieces. But when I realized I’d got an album, and it’s an album that stands on its own – it doesn’t sound like Priest, it sounds like its own animal – that’s when it became evident to me that this is something that I could release and this is what I could get behind, as and when that day comes that Priest decide to retire, and I can carry on with that. So, Horns for a Halo is the first album on that journey, really. It’s important to me to have a band that plays live and releases albums and grows and evolves – just as Priest has, really. In terms of the process, it’s a lot similar – the mindset is it’s not a band that does one record and then calls it a day. For me, it’s more of a thought process of, ‘Do a record, do some live shows, grow the band, do another record’ – in that evolution that bands have, in terms of character and sound and style.”
BraveWords: A new single/video has just been released, “Do Or Die.”
Richie Faulkner: “I did most of the writing before getting the band in. So, I’ve been sitting on these songs for a while. Getting those songs into a format – which is a visual format – is really exciting thing. And ‘Do Or Die’ is about taking the shot, playing the game, giving it all – that kind of sentiment. So, we wanted to do a video that sums everything up to do with that. We found a new arcade full of old, retro games. We seemed to kind of contain the spirit of that. Y’know, play the game, take the shot type stuff – pinball and gaming. Plus, it was a real visual homage to where we’re all from – which is the ‘80s. It was that sort of neon/retro type stuff. I think it’s probably the fastest track on the record. It’s great fun to play and the video came out really well.”
BraveWords: What are some of your favorite tracks?
Richie Faulkner: “I think the title track is one of my favorites on the record. That’s got a really dark, Black Sabbath/Alice In Chains type vibe. I really like that one. ‘Ghost Of You’ is a somewhat ballad – that one brings to mind smoky piano clubs. I like ‘Dead Man Walking,’ and the song ‘White Horse.’ ‘White Horse’ is a bit more of a musical journey – it’s not just like verse/chorus/verse/chorus/solo/outro. It’s got a bit more twists and turns in it – I like that kind of dynamic to a song.”
BraveWords: How does Elegant Weapons compare musically to Priest?
Richie Faulkner: “My musical DNA is Priest. Obviously, before I joined the band and now being in the band for almost thirteen years, you can’t help but be influenced by that style of music. Priest have released two records with me in the band, and we’ve almost finished the third one. I think there’s different DNA in there, as well. I think it’s a bit bluesier than Priest. I’m a 43-year-old man that grew up in the 1980s, listening to ‘80s rock, metal, and synth pop and stuff like that. It’s going to have a different flavor. But as I said before, it sounds different to Priest – to stand on its own. I think those heavier, bluesier elements do quite a lot to set it apart.”
BraveWords: How is it working with singer Ronnie Romero?
Richie Faulkner: “Ronnie’s great. Ronnie was a natural choice, really. Again, I’m not a modern type guy by any means – and the music isn’t, either. Ronnie is a modern singer in 2023, but I think what his voice represents is a lot of influence by the past – Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, Joe Lynn Turner. So, he was perfect for the band. I called him up and explained what I wanted to do, and he’s perfect. He’s a super-pro. He turns up and he’s 100%. He doesn’t seem to need to warm up – he just goes straight on and delivers.”
BraveWords: How are you doing health-wise?
Richie Faulkner: “I’m doing very well – thank you for asking. Everything turned upside down for a while there, but I did my best to ‘get back on the horse,’ so to speak – get back out on tour. And I think getting back out and having a target like that – having tour dates or finishing a record – music served as a medicine, really. As a motivation to get back to health. I’m feeling good and looking to get out on the road again.”
BraveWords: When will the next Judas Priest album be released?
Richie Faulkner: “The truth is I don’t know. We’ve got to finish up some vocals – that’s the main thing we have to finish. I think Andy [Sneap] is going out to see Rob at some point to finish up the vocal recordings. So, when that’s done, we’ve got to mix it, master it, we’ve got to get into the packaging and deliver it to the label. And then the label has to manufacture it – it’s the manufacturing that will take some time. As far as finishing the record – it’s almost finished. I can’t tell you when – but it’s not going to be long.”
BraveWords: How does it compare musically to the last few Priest albums?
Richie Faulkner: “It’s the same band, so it’s the same DNA. But it doesn’t sound like the last record – it sounds like its own album, as they should. It’s exciting. It’s got a few more twists and turns musically – than the last record had. It’s by no means a Rush record, but it’s got a few more twists and turns and musical journeys.”
BraveWords: What are some memories of when Priest was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Was it the first time you met K.K. Downing?
Richie Faulkner: “It was the first time. I’m not really a fan of awards ceremonies – I don’t think they mean much these days. Heavy metal to me was always ‘our music’ because it was different. It was on the outside, it wasn’t in these award ceremonies. We were kind of the underdogs, we had our own thing, and that’s why it was cool. And to be accepted into something like that, it doesn’t really mean anything for me. Having said that, when I got there, there was Lionel Richie, there was Annie Lenox and Dave Stewart, the Edge, and Duran Duran were there. It was quite an amazing experience. And obviously, meeting Ken [K.K. Downing] was great. We know the history over the last decade or so with Ken and the band, but I haven’t really been a part of that – it’s not really my beef, if you know what I mean. It was great to meet him and great to play with him and Glenn, as well – it was a three-guitar attack in Judas Priest, who have always been known as a two-guitar attack. But to be part of a three-guitar attack with Priest – for what may be the only time ever – was a great thrill and a great honor.”
BraveWords: Future plans?
Richie Faulkner: “It was a priority to be a band that gets out on the road and does dates and tours. We’ve got some dates coming up in Europe during the summer – we’re doing some festivals, we’re doing some dates with Pantera, we’re doing a couple of dates I think with the Winery Dogs. The record comes out in May, and then we’re getting out on the road. There are four big characters in the band – myself, Ronnie, Christopher Williams from Accept, and Dave Rimmer from Uriah Heep. Those characters come together and create something new. ‘Greater than the sum of its parts’ type stuff. So, I’m looking forward to getting out on the road and seeing where it takes the band.”
(Photos: Jeremiah Scott)