K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest Talk Gear in 1984 Guitar World Interview
Check out Guitar World's first interview with K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest from the July 1984 issue.
"That could happen very easily with certain personalities. If one person is very pushy, he'll try and take over. And if the other has got a more passive personality, he's going to let him. But Glenn and I were both very much of the same temperament. We've always been aware that ... 'If you try and overtake me or try and overstep the mark a little bit, I'm gonna come down on you.' And that's the way it's always been with us."
Tipton adds, "It's definitely a healthy competition. If I know that Ken is practicing hard, then I gotta do the same, just to keep up with him. And vice versa. It's always good to have competitiveness in a band, as long as it's friendly competition. The other positive aspect is that we each bring fresh ideas to the band. If you're the sole guitar player in a band, then obviously there are certain things that you're going to miss ... new sounds, new equipment, new things happening. When you're on the road as much as we are, you can get so wrapped up in what you're doing that you can miss all those things. Whereas, with us it's like two heads are better than one all the time. I mean, between the two of us, we can keep our eye on everybody and everything that's happening. And it's important to keep up."
Downing and Tipton have both used Gibson guitars almost exclusively over the years, though both have been experimenting with Hamer guitars of later. Downing reports excellent results:
"I think it's the best guitar in the world. It's absolutely beautiful. It's like the original Gibson red mahogany underneath with a mantle top. It's very well-made, very strong and it's got a Floyd Rose clamp system on it. There are a few tiny problems with it, which you always get with a brand-new guitar. You really have to wait for the neck to settle in to a point where it's trustworthy, because you do get a certain amount of movement with new wood. And you have to give it time to adjust to different temperatures. The Hamer also has an excellent-sounding pickup. My '64 Flying V, which has got PAF pickups in it, is no comparison, and that is a beautiful-sounding guitar itself."
Before discovering the Hamer, each player went through a variety of guitars. Tipton says he started off with a semiacoustic Hofner, graduated to a Rickenbacker, then progressed to a '67 Stratocaster. "It was one of my all-time favorite guitars," Tipton says. "It was salmon-pink, really nice. But it was stolen. Shame, really, 'cause I had no money to buy a new one. But what happened was, the club where it was stolen from reimbursed me for the guitar and with the money I bought another Strat for very, very cheap. Later, I moved on to a Gibson SG, which became a favorite guitar of mine."
Downing says he started off on a Gibson SG Junior, which led to a 1959 Gibson SG Standard. "I've always been a Gibson fan for some reason," he says, "But I've also always had a Strat as well throughout most of my professional career. I like those as well but Gibson has always been my preferred guitar. I've found that it has a more powerful pickup and allows me to playa little bit more fluently. Plus, the frets seem to be a little closer together, and the Gibson has that extra frets. I've gotten used to using that extra fret way up there."
After seeing guitarists Freddie King and Kim Simmons sporting Gibson Flying Vs, Downing decided to pick one up himself. "I just like the look of them. They look a little more adventurous and not many people play them, I like them, I think they're cute. I know some guitar players wouldn't buy them because they couldn't sit down and play them. Well… who wants to sit down and play?!
"Even when I'm in the house practicing solos, I stand up and play. I even stand in front of a mirror when I'm practicing, just to see what I look like when I'm playing. I suppose it's trying to see yourself from an audience point of view, I like to watch my hand going up and down the neck. I can remember when I used to watch guitar players, and it used to impress me to watch their hands, playing all those notes. So I place importance on the visual aspects of playing too. I want it to look good and sound good."
Recently, Downing and Tipton have been toying with the notion of designing their own guitars to suit their individual needs. "I don't think Ken and I will ever be satisfied with a guitar, no matter how long we go on," Tipton says. "We're always looking to improve our sound. And this search will naturally lead us to designing our own instruments, There's a multitude of little things, very fundamental things, on a guitar that cause it to break down or go out of tune or not play fluently.
"And it's these little things that build up over the years… silly things, like the position of the volume control. I want something that you can easily get to, so I know just where it is, where it's totally accessible and doesn't get in the way of the tremolo arm, as some do. There are so many variables- the wood, the electronics inside, the frets, the tremolo bar setup-that determine the sound of a guitar. And it's something that you can always keep improving. So it's a continuous process of trial and error, trying to make your guitar trustworthy,"
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