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They Are Rightly The Metal Gods: Gnarly Charlie's Exclusive Interview With Guitarist Richie Faulkner of JUDAS PRIEST

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Thursday, August 21, 2014 @ 4:15 PM


"The band has always been about flying the flag for heavy metal in whatever corner of the globe it can."

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Live Photos By "Gnarly" Charlie Steffens

In hearty celebration of its 40th year and the Redeemer Of Souls album (released July 8, 2014) JUDAS PRIEST will begin a tour of North America on October 1st in Rochester, New York.

KNAC.COM checked in with guitarist Richie Faulkner to discuss all things Priest. Here is what he had to say.

KNAC.COM: Hi Richie. First off, congratulations on Redeemer Of Souls.

FAULKNER: Thanks very much, Charlie. Itís a proud moment for the band and a proud moment for me, personally. To get it from riffs and ideas that you have in your kitchen or your living room into the top ten Billboard chart--itís just an amazingly proud affirmation of how much the world loves JUDAS PRIEST like we do. So hopefully the Redeemer will go from strength to strength.

KNAC.COM: The bonus tracks are just as strong as the album tracks.

FAULKNER: We tried to look for a single to put out in the UK and the record label in the UK. They suggested some of the bonus tracks, which is incredible, really, that some of the bonus tracks could be considered for airplay on the radio. We always thought that we had such a wealth of material, and it was such a creative process, when we were writing and recording this record. We knew you couldnít put 18 tracks on just one disc. Itís testing the listenerís patience and it might be a bit too long. We knew we had these five extra tracks. We didnít want to put them on a shelf or put them in heavy metal vaults, you know, so they wouldnít get heard or theyíd gather dust on the shelf somewhere. We just wanted to get it out to the fans. Everything. So we have the standard edition and the bonus edition. We felt that they were as strong as anything else on the record. They just didnít quite fit in with the statement we were trying to make, but we wanted to put them out there for the fans to digest and get into anyway.

KNAC.COM: At the time you came on board with the band and the Epitaph tour that followed, was Priest considering call it quits?

FAULKNER: I feel that the general consensus in the band was that they were going to start winding down, looking to retirement and stuff like that. But after getting into the band, we embarked on this Epitaph world tour, and weíre playing songs from 40 years of the bandís career. We got fired up on the live scenarioÖIt was a retrospective of the bandís career. You digest all that great music, get fired up, you get into the studio, get the creative juices flowing, and, in turn, you get fired up again. So itís reenergizing. Itís why JUDAS PRIEST has been doing this for 40 years. Theyíve got a genuine love and passion for what they do. So, if there were any thoughts of retiring in 2010, 2011, whenever it was, I think those kinds of outlooks have changed. With all due respect, the guys have been doing it for over 40 years. So pulling back a little bit on the intensity might enable us to carry on a bit longer. The Priest is alive and well and pushing forward in 2014 with Redeemer Of Souls. We canít wait to get out there with that record and put the new songs into the metal masses and be screaming and singing and be playing with 20,000 people. We canít wait to do that. So the energy has definitely been positive and moving forward. I canít obviously speak for how the dynamic was before I joined, but Iíve heard from fans and the critics that the band seems to be energized. Long may they continue. Thatís what I say.

KNAC.COM: The Priest has a lot left in the tank and itís evident by this record.

FAULKNER: Well, hopefully. As I said before, we were writing so much material that we actually had to cut off the writing stage, because weíd run out of time. You never know what the future will hold. But purely based on the creative juices that were flowing in those sessions, when we came up with maybe 20 songs, I wouldnít rule out another JUDAS PRIEST studio record in the future. So letís keep our fingers crossed and hopefully there will be.

KNAC.COM: You and Glenn (Tipton) mesh very well together. Whatís it like playing with him? Has he taught you a lot? And vice versa?

FAULKNER: Well, Glen has taught me a lot over the years, without me being in the band. I always have been attracted to twin guitar parts, harmony parts and twin leads., because of bands like Priest and IRON MAIDEN and earlier on, THIN LIZZY, you know, that kind of approach. So, indirectly, Glenn and K.K. (Downing) and all these guys have been teaching me. Long before I got in to the band. You take that (in) almost subconsciously as part of my musical makeup and part of who I am as a guitar player. So you kind of take that with you on the road and as a philosophy for playing. And in a writing capacity as well.

Another thing Iíve learned is the way that these guys listen and value opinionsóitís not a dictatorship, itís not ďIím Glenn TiptonĒ or ďIím Rob Halford. This is my song. This is how itís going to be.Ē Itís, ďRichie, Iíve got this riff. Iím really excited about it. Do you got anything to go with it?Ē Or, ďWhat do you think about this?Ē Itís very inclusive. You listen to everyoneís opinion. It can only benefit the greater good. And even things like doing interviews, appearances, and all that sort of stuff. Itís stuff you donít necessarily learn when youíre standing in front of the mirror with your tennis racquet (laughs). When you get to this stage itís the business, thereís the promotion, thereís talking to the fans, talking to people like you, man. Itís all part of it and itís all exciting.

KNAC.COM: Then you were able to contribute big parts to the new album, right?

FAULKNER: Yeah. Me, Glenn, and Rob co-wrote the whole thing. Theyíve always had this dynamic of the two-guitar player/vocalist writing team. So we kept it the same. I wasnít bringing jazz songs to the table. This is the stuff that I always wanted to play. I knew what to do. And also, I took a recording rig out on the road. I was putting riffs down backstage and melodies and ideas. So I think they knew early on what I was doing on the road. Then, when we went our separate ways after the tour, we put things down on our own. Then we got together and put all those ideas in a big metal pot and put them together like a big metal jigsaw puzzle. We wrote stuff in the studio as well--embellished parts and changed parts. It was a natural thing. I think thatís why itís turned out so well.

KNAC.COM: Do you sometimes pinch yourself when youíre sitting at a press conference or other big event? You know, ďOh, my God. Iím in JUDAS PRIEST

FAULKNER: Yeah, man. The great thing is, being a fan of Priest, Iím granted access to these exclusive interviews that I would have never gotten access to 10, 15 years ago, maybe. Some of the interviews Iím just there with my jaw on the floor, listening to some of these stories. So, absolutely. You sit there and you pinch yourselfÖitís an incredibly humbling position to be in. Iím very proud of it.

KNAC.COM: With 40 years plus of history, thereís got to be a wealth of stories. The stories will never end, right?

FAULKNER: No. Thatís right. And great stories on what and what not to do, if you know what I mean. But itís all good stuff. Theyíve been through a lot, produced some great music, forged a path in music and metal, and Iím happy to be a part of it. They are rightly the Metal Gods. They deserve that title.

KNAC.COM: I saw you play in the band, shortly after you joined, in San Bernardino with THIN LIZZY and Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY). I thought you guys were very together that night. Solid.

FAULKNER: I remember that very well. Zakkís a big hero of mine. And THIN LIZZYóScott Gorham, heís a huge idol of mine. And we were headlining a show and we had those guys opening. So it was just great because you have to raise the bar. They started it all off. Scott Gorham and Gary Moore and then Zakk and Ozzy (Osbourne). Thatís the heritage, right there. And then when you go on after that youíve got to uphold that heritage and defend the legacy and fly the flag. It was just a great, positive place to be. Youíre taking from the old guard and youíve been selected by the Metal Gods to uphold and move forward. It just raised the bar and it pushes you on. And itís just inspiring to go out onstage every night and watch those guys that youíve held in such high esteem for many years, and then to try to go out and put your own stamp on the world. Itís a great dynamic to be a part of as a player and a musician. It was a great bill. Zakkís a great buddy. He always sends me text messages with pictures of his amps or new guitars that heís found and stuff like that. So heís a guitar-head like I am. Itís great to be friends with those guys and to be inspired on a musical level as well.

KNAC.COM: I saw one of the EMG Pickups videos on YouTube showcased your playing. In the video, you had mentioned that Michael Schenker and David Gilmour are two of the guitarists youíve been inspired by.

FAULKNER: Thatís right. Schenker doesnít play EMGs, but Gilmour does. And that was kind of the relevance of that interview. But Schenker has always been--and still is--a huge inspiration. Just his approach and melody and stuff like that. Plus, that he was a blond-headed guy with a Flying V, I kind of relate to that. There are about four or five guys that changed and influenced the way that I play on a conscious level. Then there are all these other guys, like Gilmour, Randy Rhoads, Brian May, Kirk Hammett. VAN HALEN. Theyíre all part of it, but it came down to four or five guys, which, actually made me sit up and take stock. And thatís what I want to represent in my playing. People like Schenker, Zakk, Dave Murray from IRON MAIDEN, and James Hetfield, from the rhythm point of view. And, of course, Jimi Hendrix. Iím still watching Hendrix videos today. I always go back to Hendrix. Thatís kind of where Glenn and K.K. came from as well. Their early influences were the same as mine. And then they created an influence to me later on, which then, I became a part of with the twin guitar thing. But originally, our influences, looking in hindsight, were the same: the bluesmasters. So it all kind of makes sense. Some of that is also evident on the new release. Thereís some blues elements on there. Sometimes you canít hear them necessarily, the blues elements. But if I sat down and showed youóif I had a Hendrix-y sound or something,--youíd see the parallels between what weíre doing on Redeemer of Souls and some of the early blues.

KNAC.COM: Which solos are yours, specifically? Can you call them out for us?

FAULKNER: All of my stuff is on the left-hand side, if youíre listening to it on headphones. Itís like if youíre standing in the arena and youíre watching Priest play, Glenn will be on the right as you look at the stage and Iíll be on the left. So we pan solos accordingly and most of my stuffís on the left and Glennís is on the right. Some of the solos are split and some are harmonized, But all the solos are split left and right, with me being on the left and Glenn on the right. Check it out. I think the band had put that in the liner notes in previous albums. They didnít do it on this one, for some reason. I donít know why that is.

KNAC.COM: Do you ever find that you mimic pieces of a K.K.-sounding guitar solo when playing the older material?

FAULKNER: Thereís two ways of looking at it: youíve got to be respectful to your predecessor and youíve got to be respectful to yourself. You know, you donít want to be a clone. But you donít want to be disrespectful to the guy who went before you. And Iím a big K.K. fan. Iíve always ben that kind of player, if Iím playing a Slash solo or a Schenker solo. I think, you take motifs on what you think are the most important parts of the solo. You retain those motifs and then you improvise and you go somewhere else. Like ďVictim Of ChangesĒ. There are certain motifs in there that Ken (K.K. Downing) played every time and I put those there because I think theyíre important, not because I have to, but because I think theyíre great parts of the solo.. In other parts you kind of create your own journey, your own notes, and your own nuances. And then with the new stuff, youíre putting down stuff thatís your own. And then Iíll change that in the live setting as well. Itís all part of improvising and all part of live music and what keeps it exciting and refreshing for both the player and the audience. I wouldnít like to say I mimic, but I take motifs from the solos. Thatís my responsibility to uphold those solos and those parts for fans around the world. Thatís what they expect. Thatís what they want to hear. But thereís also a responsibility to myself and the genre, really. Standing up for yourself, doing your own thing, and carving new paths in guitar playing or sound, or whatever it is. And thatís what the guys have done before me. So itís a bit of both. Itís a good question.

KNAC.COM: I think thereís the multitude that will stand there with their arms crossed, thinking, ďWhoís this Richie Faulkner kid?Ē But I think when they get to see you play their doubts go away. Did you notice this early on after joining the band?

FAULKNER: Well, thereís always going to be a healthy amount of skepticism when any change is made in a band after 40 years. And I think that skepticism only comes from a genuine love and passion of the band in question. Iíll have to say when Blackmore left DEEP PURPLE or Schenker left UFO, I had that kind of skepticism because you donít know whatís going to come next. Is the change going to work out? So thereís always going to be that. People prefer Paul DiíAnno singing in IRON MAIDEN to Bruce Dickinson. They still do, some people. So itís just a taste thing. Itís peopleís opinions and itís great. Thatís just the way life is, In the live setting there might be people folding their arms and they might say, ďOkay, whatís this going to be like?Ē Within 30 seconds, man, theyíve got their arms in the air and theyíre shouting and theyíre screaming the words. And theyíve got these big smiles on their faces. Theyíre with us. So, again, hats off and a big ďthank youĒ to the fans. They might be a bit skeptical, but they got their tickets, they came down to the venueÖand they have faith in the Priest. So itís a point to prove, but itís a positive point to prove. And thereís going to be fans on the next tour that havenít seen me with the band, so that will continue. They havenít heard the new songs. Itís a good form of pressure to fulfill that duty. Itís not a negative thing. Itís a very positive thing, an exciting thing to break new ground and convert new people to the cause. Thatís what Priest had done with me and hopefully weíll do that in the future with other people and generations to come.

KNAC.COM: What can we expect as far as the set list and the stage production on the new tour?

FAULKNER: Well, itís 40 years into the bandís career this year. Itís the 30-year anniversary of Defenders Of The Faith. So thereís a lot of anniversaries going around at the moment, so set list-wise thatís actually my favorite Priest record. Production-wise, we canít really go any bigger than the Epitaph tour. You know, it was fire and lasers and smoke and bombs. Thatís what the Priest is famous for. We pushed it to 11 on that tour. So we donít really know how to go any bigger than that. We understand that the Priest is all about the live music and the production, but also itís the strength of the music that shines through after 40 years. So we might kind of pull back on the production and let the songs do the talking. Thatís what people love about the Priest. But still upholding some of that experience and that great show that people and the fans love about Priest and look forward to. So it will be a healthy balance. It should be a really great tour and a really great set list. I canít wait to play it. If I was a fan and I wasnít in a band, Iíd be looking forward to going and seeing it as well. Some of the classic songs and some of the new songs from Redeemer Of Souls might be classics in the next 30 years. Itís a great, exciting time to be going out with the Priest.

KNAC.COM: Well, there must be a Priest consciousness buzzing around. When Rihanna is wearing a Screaming for Vengeance t-shirt, thereís hope, right?

FAULKNER: The band has always been about flying the flag for heavy metal in whatever corner of the globe it can. So when we did American Idol, some people raised an eyebrow, whether it was kind of too commercial. But you know what? We got heavy metal into 30 million homes in the U.S. alone. So, to us, thatís what we set out to do. So when Rihanna shows up in a Screaming For Vengeance t-shirt, itís just an affirmation of that. I donít know how many homes saw Rihanna in that show. If that is what that does, that, to me, is a great thing. People might have different opinions on that and thatís fine, but more people are getting turned on to the music that I love, and that we love. That can only be a great thing. Heavy metal is great. Itís here to stay. Whatever it takes to get more people turned on to the music that we love, then so be it.

KNAC.COM: What a great thing for you to be part of this legacy, Richie.

FAULKNER: Well it was enough just to be considered for the position, really. You canít take it for granted. You got to be humble. You just got to be true to who you are and true to Priest and remember what it means to be a member of Priest and a Priest fan. And again, flying the flag wherever we can. And if it means mainstream TV, if it means underground, if it means weíre going to go do a show with the most incredible pop act that reaches out to the most possible people, then weíre all for that. Itís a mission statement that I think we should all be proud of. Turning the world on to the music that we all love.

We canít wait to get out on tour and play new songs and create future classics, maybe. People say living the dream. It really is, man. Itís just an incredible experience, as you can imagine.

http://judaspriest.com
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