Former JUDAS PRIEST Guitarist K.K. DOWNING On The Influence Of JIMI HENDRIX - "He Was The First Person Where I Really Heard What I Would Call Real Heavy Metal"
September 25, 2018, 3 years ago
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, guitarist K.K. Downing, who famously left Judas Priest in 2011, discusses his new autobiography, Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest. An excerpt from the chat follows:
Rolling Stone: You detail the influence Jimi Hendrix had on you in the book, but you don’t mention Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin too much. For you, what influences played into Judas Priest’s brand of heavy metal?
K.K. Downing: "When I saw [Hendrix] in ’66, ’67 and ’68, he was his own free spirit. He was out there to do his things. I saw shows later on, and they weren’t the same as he was becoming more troubled, more affected with the business and whatever else was in his life. But in the early days, and Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend will tell you the same thing, when he first came to England he destroyed the place. I was at gigs where fans would jump from balconies and storm the stage; I was one of them. He had so much of an aura and charisma. It was dynamite.
"As for the others, I wasn’t really a Zeppelin or a Black Sabbath fan. I was a fan of all music, but nobody had what Hendrix had. He was the first person where I really heard what I would call real heavy metal. Sabbath had some good things going on, but it was bloody different. When Hendrix opened up with “Foxey Lady” and then goes into “Purple Haze,” the riffs and the style of writing and guitar playing is something that’s completely unique and that stayed with me. Obviously I went on to be a musician and the last thing I wanted to do was to copy him because nobody could, but it left inside me that style that needed to be elaborated on and that happened quite a lot in Priest."
Rolling Stone: Judas Priest always embraced the term “heavy metal,” where Sabbath and Zeppelin would scoff at the term. Why is that?
K.K. Downing: "Somebody tagged us heavy metal and I liked that. Even if we weren’t playing heavy metal - and I think we were - it all fit together as a nice wraparound package that was complete for me. By the time British Steel came, everybody’s wearing leather, studs; we had the razor blades, we had the British Steel album. We had all of that as a unique package and the rest is history."
Read the full interview at Rolling Stone
Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest is out now via Da Capo Press, and available to order here.
A book synopsis states: Judas Priest formed in the industrial city of Birmingham,
England, in 1968. With its distinctive twin-guitar sound, studs-and-leather image, and international sales of over 50 million records, Judas Priest became the archetypal heavy metal band in the 1980s. Iconic tracks like “Breaking The Law”, “Living After Midnight”, and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” helped the band achieve extraordinary success, but no one from the band has stepped out to tell their or the band’s story until now.
As the band approaches its golden anniversary, fans will at last be able to delve backstage into the decades of shocking, hilarious, and haunting stories that surround the heavy metal institution. In Heavy Duty guitarist K.K. Downing discusses frontman Rob Halford’s hidden sexuality, the personality conflicts, the business screw-ups, the acrimonious relationship with fellow heavy metal band Iron Maiden, and how Judas Priest was at ground zero for the parental outrage targeting heavy metal in the ’80s. Lastly, he reveals the life-changing moment when he looked at his bandmates on stage during a 2010 concert and thought, “This is the last show.” Whatever the topic, whoever’s involved, K.K. doesn’t hold back.
With the band at the beginning through his retirement in 2010 (and even still as a member of the band’s board of directors), Downing has seen it all and is now finally at a place in his life where he can also let it all go. Even if you’re a lifelong fan, if you think you know the full story of Judas Priest, well, you’ve got another thing coming.