Judas Priest are hitting the home stretch in their support of their Redeemer of Souls album. The band recently co-headlined Knotfest and we were able to get a few minutes with guitarist Richie Faulkner and bassist Ian Hill at the event to discuss the band’s Redeemer of Souls disc, their future recording plans and their upcoming Painkiller anniversary release for Record Store Day. Check out the chat below.
Can you talk about your relationship with Slipknot and getting a chance to be a part of Knotfest?
Richie Faulkner: Obviously, Slipknot has been in everyone’s consciousness since they’ve come out, really. They were quite a spectacle from day one. I think we had a show with them at Download earlier this year in the UK and we played just before them. Just a spectacle those guys, but they’ve always been that way. They’ve always been up there in the spectacle, they’ve always been getting bigger and putting on the best show for the fans. It really was something to behold. It’s great, it’s a younger generation here but there’s a band like Priest headlining Saturday night so it’s an honor for us to be here. The band crosses over to different fans. It’s an honor to be here.
Given the depth of the catalog, how difficult is it putting together a set list? Do things like band anniversaries or album anniversaries figure in?
Ian Hill: Album anniversaries are easy, because you just play the album. Otherwise, it’s a nightmare. We were trying to shake the set up before this leg of the tour and I think we each learned five songs we thought we might be able to do. We’ve only been able to use three of them because there are songs in there that you just can’t drop. It’s a dilemma we have with every tour. Obviously, we want to play new music, fans want to hear that, but they always want to hear their favorites. For every new song you put in, you’ve gotta drop one of those favorites. It’s a nightmare. It’s a pleasant nightmare to have.
For each of you, what’s your favorite Redeemer of Souls song to play live?
Ian Hill: “Halls of Valhalla” is mine. I think it’s an epic song. It’s one of our favorite albums; the new album is tremendous.
Richie Faulkner: I’d have to agree. I think it’s a classic Priest track. It’s got the intro, the guitar and the scream. Everything you’d associate with a Priest song. It’s a new one, but it’s got all the classic elements.
Richie, I remember you from your old band, but getting a chance to tour and play with Judas Priest and then getting to write for the record, how cool was it to actually sit down and write with these guys?
Richie Faulkner: It was a chance to get all the riffs out I had written in school that I couldn’t do, because they were Judas Priest sounding. You can get them out of the box, you’re in Judas Priest now you can use them. It was kind of, it was very natural. Growing up on the band and that style of music, that twin guitar thing and obviously a guitar player and a heavy metal fan. Whether it was Priest, Maiden or Sabbath or UFO. Whatever it was, that was my musical pedigree. So when we went into the studio, it wasn’t like putting a different hat on to write for a different band. It was just doing what came natural, really. It was just such a good fit. For many reasons, you can overanalyze it, the band came from the blues and progressive blues. They were Hendrix fans guitar wise, and so was I. Then I was brought up on Priest, so the initial influences were the same guitar wise. Then it was blended into their brand of heavy metal which I was then brought up on. For many reasons, but that definitely had something to do with it. That Hendrix-ey, blues, the initial influence.
Ian, I just read an interview with Rob Halford where he was discussing the making of this album. He was talking about you guys being on such a roll that the label had to come in and say stop, we need a deadline and move forward.
Ian Hill: There was too much, we didn’t want to release a double album and not having people being able to afford it. The songs that didn’t make it on the standard album, they weren’t omitted because they were inferior. They just didn’t fit with the flow of the album. There’s got to be a flow there. Some were just too good to discard. So we came up with the idea of a deluxe album and a mini disc as well, if someone wants to buy a standard one and then buy the others later on. But yeah, these guys are on a roll.
Take me into the sessions a bit. Did this album feel the same putting together? Anything different in the way you approached it?
Ian Hill: No. It was approached in the same way, well it’s evolved since way back in the mid ’70s. Recording has evolved. There’s more recognition really, to what it used to be. It was approached exactly the same way it would have been on any other album.
You guys are still at the top of your game. Iron Maiden is still out there. AC/DC is still out there. There are so many bands that have incredible history who are still headliners. Is there a secret to the success of keeping it going so long?
Ian Hill: Way back in the day when we were starting out and Sabbath, the earlier bands, record companies knew they weren’t going to make a fortune on us overnight. They were prepared to put money in and look at the long term and knew they’d make money eventually. You don’t get that today. I think everybody expects money now, now, now. If you don’t get it, you discard it. If you do get it, you do it for a few years and then you discard it after that. It’s almost become a throw away thing these days. Way back then, there was a little more substance to it. Then you’ve got the internet messing everything up, and there’s good and evil in equal measures. Obviously, if you’ve got something new, you can get it across to anyone in the world who’s got a computer. On the other hand, anyone in the world can nick it, as well, which is what’s happening these days unfortunately. Of course, record companies sign bands because they’re going to make money, not because they like you. So bands like ourselves, we’ve got a huge following. We’ve got a huge back catalog and we’re comfortable, but no new acts — it’s getting harder to get that initial investment. Just to get them out of the blocks. It’s sad.
Because Redeemer of Souls was successful — if you’re thinking of doing another record, do you see that album as a jumping off point or do you start fresh?
Richie Faulkner: We’ve talked about it. We talked about what we’re going to do when we get off this tour, just before Christmas. Then next year I think we’re going to approach it, a new record. How we approach that, I don’t know. The band has always done things differently throughout their career, while retaining their sound. But they’ve always been pioneers. They’ve always pushed it somewhere else. In terms of what the bible is going to be, we don’t know. Will it be a classic sounding record? Pioneering record? But it’s definitely something that we’re all thinking about and we’ll probably get into the studio early next year, have a few beers throw down some ideas and see where it goes. Nothing more than that. Just see if it starts to take shape, see if we’ve got any ideas that are worth pursuing. No pressure, really. We’ll see what the future holds.
Richie, in terms of the writing and getting a chance to work with Rob. Because he has such a wide vocal range, is that a challenge to be able to write to what he can sing?
Richie Faulkner: On the contrary really, because he’s got such a vocal range, some vocalists you’ve got to tailor what key you do things in so it fits their range. Whereas Rob, as you can imagine, you don’t really have to think about that as much. He can hit those highs. Anything. Any key. Any sort of idea you might have. It’s definitely a thrill having ideas in your kitchen or your bedroom. You have an idea and you put it down on a small recording device then you take it to the studio and it gets put down with a guy on drums and then he’s putting a melody over the top, coming up with stuff, so it goes from that initial idea. That initial spark to the next level where it starts taking shape. But at the end of it, you’ve got a “Halls of Valhalla” in front of 30,000 people where they’re singing along. Just seeing that spark, where it can be someone’s high point of their day without sounding too full of ourselves. I go to a concert, and the songs I listen to, it makes my day. That’s the way music touches people. Again, seeing that journey from that spark of an idea to making someone’s day is an incredible thing. Seeing it go from that idea, and Rob putting his trademark on it, it’s incredible.
Looks like we’re getting a diecut buzzsaw Painkiller LP for Record Store Day. Are you fans of vinyl, fans of record stores. Talk a little bit about your love of the format.
Ian Hill: The big differences is the variables on vinyl. When you’ve got a CD or an MP3 you get exactly what’s off the two track master. The only variable there is the quality of the stuff you’re playing off. With a turntable, you’ve got variables there to start with. The quality of the stylus, the speed of the turntable. Too fast, too flow. The little device that turns the vibrations into a sound, you’ve got all that and then you’ve got your amplification. So sometimes it sounds better, sometimes it sounds the same, sometimes it sounds worse. It depends on the quality of your equipment I suppose. It’s like smoking, it’s not just the inhalation or the tobacco it’s the fiddling around with the cigarette, taking it out of the pack, lighting it, the flicking the ash. I know because i used to smoke all these years ago. It ain’t just that, it’s the other stuff that goes with it. Getting a record, I remember doing it like that all those years ago. Getting it, putting it on the turntable very carefully putting the stylus down and listening to it for the first time. It’s magical. The whole experience, not just the music. Of course with an MP3, you miss all of that. And of course you’re going to grab the album cover and then you can read the lyrics, where it was recorded. The crew, the producer, engineer. You’ve got all of that right in front of you. You don’t necessarily get all of that, even with a CD. It’s very small, what you’re getting on there is limited. It’s the experience.
Since it’s Painkiller that’s coming out, Ian, any reflections on that era? What stood out?
Ian Hill: Well, Painkiller was a turning point for us, where Dave Holland, the drummer, left the band and Scott came on. We were able to do other things. Dave got his style, Scott had a different style. Fast bass drum work enabled us to do Painkiller. Songs like that, you’ve got fast double bass drums there. It was a start of a new direction.
I saw your Welcome to California photo, with you and Richie enjoying a day in Napa wine country. Can you tell me about your trip to Napa?
Ian Hill: I never knew the Jacuzzi family got a vineyard. I also didn’t know they invented propellers for airplanes. Their trademark, spa bath, they did stuff for agricultural irrigation. I think they had a brother or something that was at the table, who needed this therapy so they invented the jacuzzi. Never knew that. They do some pretty fine wines as well. We had this vineyard across the road, Cline. We were up there the next day to what looked like a 13th Century Italian castle but it only opened in 2007. Castillo Di Amarosa. Which was impressive! Whoever built the place did a mighty fine job on it.
One of my favorite California trips. Richie, I saw this on your Facebook page. Darth Vader is not a Sith role model. Explain.
Richie Faulkner: He’s not. The new Star Wars trailer, there’s a part in there where we don’t know who it is but we can guess it’s the new villain and he’s kind of worshiping Vader saying he’ll finish what you started. Now, I was racking my brains trying to remember what Vader actually started. He spearheaded the Empire for the Emperor. He was on the front lines and he was, but they mocked him. His own people mocked him. In A New Hope, he gets into an altercation with one of the admirals or generals because they’re mocking his beliefs. He wasn’t someone that started anything. No one to necessarily revere.
I just threw that out into cyberspace and it got a few different theories back. It’s interesting. Something like Star Wars is a part of our culture, kind of like Priest is, really. It’s the same sort of thing. We grew up with it and it’s influenced us in some way and I think that nowadays, and again like with the music. Kind of like a parallel with the music, people aren’t fooled anymore. You can’t pull the wool over people’s faces, you can’t just say, ah there’s a movie and it’s got Vader in it and it’s going to be great because people think about it in the same way you can’t just put a record out with a name on it and expect everyone to buy the idea of it, if that makes sense. People are thinkers. They think things through, people are smart these days. That was just something that crossed my mind and I threw it out there to see what came back.
What movie is more analyzed in history?
Richie Faulkner: Oh, it’s ridiculous. And at the end of the day, it’s just a movie. Really, it’s not. It means so much to so many different people. It comes out in a couple of months. I want it to be good but things like that make me start to doubt it’s credibility. We’ll see what happens.
Richie, I know you’ve worked with Christopher Lee, who passed away earlier this year. What’s your recollection of getting to work with him?
Richie Faulkner: He was from a different generation. He was 92? He had a different opinion on current affairs, based on how he was brought up, which I think anyone is going to have. Great to listen to, great to get his opinion on things. He had done everything that he did, 1000%. Again, it’s an extension of what Priest has always represented. Anything like that, really. It’s always been doing whatever you can do to the best of your ability. He was one of those guys. Music when he was 92, all the films he had ever done. He had been in the war. He had some incredible milestones in his life. A total legend.
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