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Interview with Nashville's Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Judas Priest - the legendary purveyors of aggressive and accessible heavy metal since 1969 have recently been nominated for the third time for inclusion into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. While we wait for that induction that would bring them and all their leather clad glory to Cleveland - they will be making a stop on their celebratory "50 Heavy Metal Years" tour at Nashville's Nashville Municipal Auditorium on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. For their guitarist Richie Faulkner this will be a hometown show. We had the pleasure of catching up with him for a few minutes in advance of their arrival in Music City.


Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest shreds at New Jersey concert in 2014.

MCN: It is a great honor to speak with fellow Nashvillian Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest today. Mid-Tenn has long been known as the Capitol of Country Music but you are part of a great and growing enclave of Metal legends finding refuge here. What do you think accounts for that?

Richie: Well I think there are many factors that go into that, but the growth of not only the musicians moving here but the infrastructure that supports music in general, has a big part in it as well. From the bus companies to management agencies and beyond, it's really turned into a hub for not only country music but all types of music including rock and metal. Plus the fact that being surrounded by so much positive energy and creative attitudes, you can't help but be inspired by that sort of atmosphere.

MCN: Does being surrounded by the constant sound of Country Music and bluegrass tones rub off on you in any way?

Richie: Ha yeah the next Priest record is gonna have bluegrass flavours for sure! Haha.

No, all joking aside, as I mentioned before, I think it's more about the positive creative attitudes that you get from Music City that is the biggest influence on the music that I make. When everyone is tuned in to not necessarily the same type of music, but the same end goal in their creative field, it just rubs off on you and transpires into your own creative outlet.

Whether it's country and bluegrass as you say, or rock and metal there's an overwhelming feeling of being able to express who you are and do what you want to do in your chosen music genre, and who knows, maybe meld different ones together somewhere along the line.

MCN: So, we are thrilled that the band will be getting to play a date at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium on March 23, 2022. The pre-hype for this tour started off with a bit of controversy when singer Rob Halford announced that this outing would feature the band as a four-piece. Now, this decision has since been retracted keeping the legendary dual guitar attack of the Priest in tact with yourself and guitarist Andy Sneap holding down the shreds. But, fans who were astonished at the suggestion that JP would downsize wondered what that would mean for you and how you would have actually pulled off the feat. Can you provide any insight on to what that approach might have been?

Richie: Well, whether people agreed with it or not, there was a moment there where the reality was that that was exactly what was going to happen.

So it was my duty to make sure that those songs were represented to the best of my ability using one guitar.

So I had a few tricks up my sleeve in order to recreate those songs to the best of my ability.

Luckily the set we are playing at the moment doesn't have many harmony guitar parts and I'd come up with ways of playing both parts in songs like Victim of Changes using delays. Kind of akin to what Brian May has been doing since the 70s in his guitar solos. You play one part then immediately play the other as the first part repeats underneath it. Then repeat.

Obviously, I don't have two pairs of hands so I can't recreate rhythm guitar underneath the guitar solos, but Ian Hill also had a few tricks up his sleeve to fatten up what was going on underneath those. But, as we all know that never happened and we are now back to normal as a five piece on tour and you never know, maybe Glenn will join us as we have seen before.

MCN: Now fully restored to a quintet status you will be heading out on the road for an extensive run of dates through mid-June that will celebrate "50 Heavy Metal Years" of which you have been a part of the organization for a little more than 20 percent of the band's total history. Can you summarize your experience a bit in one of commercial metal's best loved acts? Has it met all your expectations and been everything you hoped it would be?

Richie: You know, I've always said from day one that I was shocked how inclusive the experience has been.

You can imagine some bands where there might be one or two people that control everything and its their way or the highway. Since I joined the band, I've always been asked, as we all have, for opinions, ideas and input into set lists, song arrangements, ideas for clothing, production et cetera so it's just been an incredibly inclusive family atmosphere that I think makes the band more united and stronger as a unit.

Being given that much trust and input just makes you give 1000% back to the band and the fans that put them there for 50 years and really makes a tight knit unit with everyone pulling together.

MCN: Speaking of controversy, for decades fans who thought of the Judas Priest twin-guitar approach were able to cite the names Tipton and Downing as the creators of the band's signature sound. But, Glenn is mostly retired now and K.K. left the group in a flurry of acrimony opening the door for you to join the group. This fact comes up in a lot of interviews and you have made your feelings known on the subject. But, would you say the topic falls along the lines as "there's no such thing as bad press" as this line of reporting keeps the band on the front page and in the news?

Richie: In the short term I would tend to agree with that statement, however over time, and here we are talking over a decade now, I think it does start to have a detrimental effect on any band.

When people mention Judas Priest now there perhaps is a negative connotation because of the negative press that's been perpetuated over the last decade or so.

I think it can definitely hurt the band over time if it's perceived like that and although the comments seem to come from 'defending one's corner', I think ultimately it can definitely do more harm than good.

MCN: Can you tell us a few of your favorite guitar inspirations from both inside and outside the Heavy Metal genre?

Richie: I have many guitar inspirations from both rock and metal and outside too.

The 5 main ones have always been:

- Michael Schenker
- James Hetfield
- Dave Murray
- Zakk Wylde
- Jimi Hendrix

But there are countless influences.

Obviously the Priest lads, Brian May, David Gilmour, Gary Moore and Scott Gorham. I'm a huge Blackmore fan, Eddie Van Halen, Dimebag, Tony Iommi.... The list goes on!

MCN: Late last year it was announced the you needed to undergo major emergency heart surgery resulting in the postponement of the Nashville date. How are you feeling now? Did the knowledge that the mighty Priest was due to get back out there to deliver metal mayhem to their loyal legion of fans help you in your recovery and preparation for the road?

Richie: Well, we are a few dates in to the rescheduled dates right now and I'm feeling great so far. We talked about rescheduling these dates based on when I was going to be fit and able to do them, and my surgeons were more than happy with my progress to let me proceed with them.

It definitely gave me something to aim for during my recovery. Knowing that those dates were scheduled really gave me something to fight for and the support and compassion that I received from the fans was overwhelming, and really inspired me to work hard and make sure that I was fit, healthy and ready to get back out there and deliver the goods. The guitar was also part of the healing process and really was medicinal as I was healing after the ordeal.

It was quite emotional to get back up on stage again after leaving it in such a traumatic fashion a few months ago. There were lots of feelings racing through me but once again, the fans were there with me and once I made it through the first show, I knew I was gonna be ok.

A huge thank you to them once again for being such an supportive legion of metal maniacs!!

RICHIE FAULKNER/JUDAS PRIEST

Related Links: For more information on RICHIE FAULKNER and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Richie Faulkner | Judas Priest | Nashville Municipal Auditorium

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