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.
Downing adds: "We're looking for something now that we can use just as much as a tool as an instrument; something to get the job done and something that'll be fast replaceable. Aside from my Hamer guitars, I've been using two Flying Vs-a '64 edition and a '70. And as they get older and become more valuable, it seems a shame to take them on stage and do with them what we do. They do tend to get very bashed about. And we do so many shows every year. Plus, the fact that the people who look after the guitars are not always brilliant at their jobs. It's a little risky to take a collector's model on stage. So we'll be looking to manufacture some guitars that can take the abuse or be easily replaced."
Tipton, who says he was initially inspired to pick up the guitar from watching his older brother play, feels that his own playing has improved a great deal since joining Judas Priest. "I was really into the blues when I started out ... Robert Johnson all the way up to Freddie King. Then later on I started listening to the more current, progressive guitarists that were coming out – everybody from Allan Holdsworth right up to today's crop of young players. You have to keep tabs on everybody and be aware of all the good guitar players."
He's quick to add, "I think any guitarist around today can play glistening fast lead breaks. The technique is so much more advanced these days, so that sort of thing is a given. But there's only a chosen few of that bunch who can interpret speed into tastefulness. And that's what I've learned since joining the group. Now I believe that on every lead break you play you gotta have something to say, something interesting and tasty that people really want to hear, or otherwise you shouldn't do it. Even if it's just five or six bars to fill in between verses, it's gotta say something."
While he does try to keep up on what new guitarists are playing, Tipton tends to look to other instruments to help him find new ideas for his own playing. "It's always an interesting exercise to take saxophone scales and interpret them through a guitar. Those kinds of exercises open new doors for you. They show you things to play that you probably wouldn't come across by studying guitar books or watching other guitarists. So I closely watch horn players and keyboard players as well. As a result, my own playing has improved and I think it will continue to do so. I mean, I don't think anybody ever reaches a level that they're satisfied with, where they decide to stop growing. Otherwise, a lot of the fun would go out of it and probably then it would be time to call it a day. You've always got to strive for better things. That's always been our outlook anyway."
As for Downing's own position in the guitar universe and his future plans, he says: "Can you really call yourself a guitarist unless you can play everything? There are so many unknown areas-flamenco, classical, jazz. There was a period that I went through when I messed about with all the other styles, and I enjoyed them immensely. But I eventually came to a point where I had to say, 'Look, I can play anyone of these styles if I practice and expend all my time at playing that one particular style.' But I decided to concentrate on rock guitar because there was no way I could really see jazz creeping into what I wanted to do, or indeed classical or flamenco. So in retrospect, I'd say I made the right decision. Rock is where my bread is buttered, so to speak. I think there probably will come a time in my life where I will spend a lot more time playing classical or jazz, just to play at home for my own satisfaction. But that time is not now."
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