During an appearance on the “In The Trenches With Ryan Roxie” video podcast, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner was asked if he has had any interactions with the man he replaced in the band, original PRIEST guitarist Kenneth “K.K.” Downing. He responded (as transcribed by Phoosi.com): “The ones [I have had] with him — I say directly, through Twitter or whatever — have been positive. I mean, there was one… He said something about my payment structure, which was [laughs]… which was weird for someone to say. And it wasn’t true, which was a bit mindblowing.”
Faulkner also commented on the fact that Downing has been vocal about his dissatisfaction over the fact that he wasn’t invited to rejoin PRIEST when Glenn Tipton announced his retirement from the road nearly four years ago.
“That whole situation with him and the band over the last 10 years, to me, has been totally unnecessary; it’s been a bit of a shit show,” Richie said. “And I don’t know why that is. To me, music aside, they should maybe pick up the phone and just talk to each other as buddies and go and have a beer and just be pals. You know, fuck music for a minute; let’s just be pals. And then whatever happens, happens. They were pals for 40 years. They lived pretty much together for 40 years — four decades.”
He continued: “I wish it was different. All that weirdness of the last 10 years didn’t need to happen. If they’d parted on good terms, maybe things would be different now. But, unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
Richie went on to express his hope that Downing and his former bandmates in PRIEST will find a way to mend their relationship if they eventually get inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
In May 2019, Phoosi.com published an interview Downing gave to Germany’s Bleeding4metal.de in which K.K. said that it “seems wrong” that Faulkner and drummer Scott Travis “are not officially members of JUDAS PRIEST as they are on a wage.” Within a couple of days, Faulkner released a statement disputing Downing‘s comments, insisting that he hadn’t been a salaried employee “since 2012” and slamming his predecessor’s remarks as “an attempt to devalue my and Scott‘s position in the band.”
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 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.”