During a recent interview with Canada’s The Metal Voice, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner was asked what he thinks it would take for the band to reunite with the man he replaced in PRIEST, original guitarist Kenneth “K.K.” Downing. He responded (as transcribed by Phoosi.com): “I don’t know. It’s not my relationship. I think it goes beyond the music. There’s some stuff there that’s obviously personal, and it’s not my fight; it’s not my relationship. I think if it was purely music or business, then maybe it could be a money thing or it could be a creative thing, but I think it goes beyond that. And it’s up to the guys, really — it’s up to the guys to sort of find out what that is, or not. They don’t have to — there’s no obligation for them. It’s up to them.
“I’ve said it before, if it had ended differently, we might be in a different situation now,” he continued. But that’s just not the way it ended and that’s not where we are now.
“I don’t know what it would take to patch that up, but it’s been 10 years of weirdness, really. It’s been a bit unnecessary. And I said this the other week, really, and I hate to repeat myself, but they were brothers for 40 years. And I think, music aside, pick up the phone and have a chat, have a pint down the pub and just catch up and be buddies again more than anything else. But as I said before, it’s not my relationship to nurture, really; it’s up to them to handle.
“Obviously, it goes without saying, if Ken ever came back, I’d be willing to move over or do whatever it takes,” Faulkner added. “It’s JUDAS PRIEST. I’d be willing to get out or move over or wear a funny hat — or whatever it needs to do. But as I said, it’s not my relationship to take care of, really.”
Faulkner, nearly three decades Downing‘s junior, joined PRIEST in 2011 after K.K. left amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance.
In 2018, Downing revealed that he sent two resignation letters to his bandmates when he decided to quit JUDAS PRIEST. The first was described as “a graceful exit note, implying a smooth retirement from music,” while the second was “angrier, laying out all of his frustrations with specific parties.”
Downing later said that he believed the second letter was “a key reason” he wasn’t invited to rejoin PRIEST after Glenn Tipton‘s decision to retire from touring.
Back in 2019, Faulkner dismissed the criticism he received for supposedly trying to look too much like Downing. “Obviously, you get the [haters] — the ‘clone’ comments,” Richie told the “Let There Be Talk” podcast. “I’ve got long blond hair, playing a flying V [guitar]… [Michael] Schenker, Zakk [Wylde], K.K., Randy Rhoads — all those guys. To say I was a Ken clone was fairly narrow-minded. There’s tons of guys who have flying Vs and long hair.
“The thing is if I had dyed my hair black to be different, I would have been shot down,” he continued. “You’ve gotta be real; you’ve gotta be who you are. And I grew up on Ken, I grew up on Glenn [Tipton, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist] and the guys that I mentioned. So you’ve just gotta be who you are. And I grew up with those guys, and I’m not ashamed. I wear it on my sleeve — they’re all my influences, and I’m not afraid of that… There’s no point in trying to hide it. But it’s gotta be natural as well. And I think somehow it worked out organically. I didn’t try to copy him. And as it goes on, you always try to do your own thing and make your own statement.”
Four years ago, Downing said that he felt like he was “being cloned” when he first found out he was being replaced by Faulkner.
Downing, who announced his retirement from PRIEST in April 2011 after nearly 42 years in the job, admitted to the “Appetite For Distortion” podcast that he was taken aback when he first saw his replacement.
“Richie, as far as I know, is a nice guy and obviously an excellent player,” Downing said. “I was a bit disappointed when, basically… I think the idea was to replace me [with a lookalike], so I did feel as though I was kind of being cloned. But I’m not sure that was exactly fair to Richie. I mean, I could be off the mark here, but I think Richie had the right to bring himself to the stage with his own… portray his own image and ability to play the instrument the way that he does. But it is what it is.”
He continued: “When Glenn retired from touring [in early 2018], the same didn’t happen — obviously, [Tipton‘s replacement] Andy [Sneap] doesn’t look anything like Glenn; he doesn’t wear the same clothes, the red pants, guitars or anything like that. So I don’t really know what’s going on. But it is what it is.”
In a 2011 interview with the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, PRIEST singer Rob Halford stated about Faulkner‘s physical resemblance to a younger Downing: “People are saying, ‘It’s a clone. You’ve got some of K.K.‘s DNA.’ It’s just the way it turned out. We made, like, a secret search. When we knew K.K. was not gonna be making the tour, we did a lot of secret, kind of, searching for another player. And Richie just happened to be the guy. And he just happens to look a little bit of the K.K. image, you know?! I think it would be silly to say, ‘We looked for a guitar player that looks like Ken.’ What we want is a very good metal guitar player, and that’s what Richie Faulkner is.”