Following K.K. Downing's departure from Judas Priest in 2011, his relationship with the band has been tumultuous, to say the least – particularly in recent years.
When the guitarist quit prior to the band's Epitaph World Tour of 2011 and 2012 – which at the time was planned as their farewell tour – he cited an “ongoing breakdown in working relationships between myself, elements of the band and management for some time”, giving away little in the way of further details at his time of departure.
However, in 2018, Downing released a memoir titled Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest, in which he delved further into the reasons behind his departure, noting his relationship with co-guitarist Glenn Tipton as a major contributing factor.
“I never found Glenn to be particularly easy to get along with,” Downing wrote (per The Guardian (opens in new tab)). “Very early on, I was fully aware of the limited conditions under which he operated. If you were going to relate to him, you would do so entirely on his terms.”
In a December 2021 interview with Guitar World, Downing noted how he never expected Judas Priest to continue following the Epitaph tour, adding, “They didn't want any part of me, even though I was one of the only original members.”
And now, in the new issue of Guitar World (opens in new tab), Tipton offers his side of the story, and explains why, in his view, much of what's been said by Downing is both untrue and unfair.
“I never wanted to get into a public argument after K.K. left,” he says. “I never said a word and I stuck to my guns for over 10 years, but there comes a point when you read things that have been said that are just crazy. It's time to say something, really because he's saying things that he really shouldn't be saying. They aren't fair.”
“He's insinuated that he was the driving force of the band,” he continues. “It just isn't true. Priest [is] made up of five guys working together. [There's] not just one person driving the band. He's said all these things that, I think, are meant to upset us and get us to say something in response and for a long time we didn't. But I've got a lot to say and enough's enough.”
One of the more personal jabs Downing leveled at Tipton centered around his alcohol consumption. In the December 2021 interview with Guitar World, Downing claimed that Tipton's drinking before shows and in between songs was “slowing us down”.
“It made the rest of us feel insecure because it’s just like if you drive in a car and somebody is drinking at the wheel – you just don’t feel comfortable,” he said.
In Tipton's new Guitar World interview, he brands these claims as “silly”. “Everyone knows it's not true,” he says. “Like I said, the fans aren't stupid and they've seen me for 50 years playing around the world. I may have had a couple of beers onstage, but that's all. It's never affected the concert or my performance whatsoever and he knows that.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Tipton says that he “used to piece [Downing's] leads together” in the studio. “I did a lot of editing to make his lead breaks worthwhile,” he says.
“I would never have talked about Ken that way,” he continues. “It’s just that his accusations have gotten sillier and sillier – and I deserve to respond. He left the band. We couldn’t convince him to stay. And then he accused me of taking six years off to write two solo albums. I only did the solo albums because we were inactive at the time while Rob was doing his solo things.”
In 2020, Downing revealed that he had formed a new band, KK's Priest, with former Judas Priest members Tim "Ripper" Owens and Les Binks on vocals and drums, respectively, as well as bassist Tony Newton and guitarist A.J. Mills.
And in a 2021 interview, Downing said that Judas Priest had threatened him with legal action over the band's name.
“Their lawyers sent a letter to my record company making threats of legal action if I went forward with KK’s Priest,” he said. “But for the moment, nothing happened. I think they made the threat but decided not to follow through. They made the threat to stop me making the band.”
Glenn Tipton stepped back from touring with Judas Priest in 2018 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2008, though he joined the band onstage during their encore at Bloodstock Open Air in August last year. In December, frontman Rob Halford confirmed that Tipton would play on the next Judas Priest album.
“He's still a fighter,” Halford told Spain's Mariskal Rock (opens in new tab). “He never lets anything stop him. He's a great force for people that are living their lives actively and productively with Parkinson's. So he's still very much [like] that No Surrender song – a heavy metal hero.”
Judas Priest are scheduled to hit the road for their 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour later this year. Richie Faulkner – who suffered an aortic aneurysm onstage with the band back in December, and has since recovered – and Andy Sneap will assume guitar duties.
Earlier this year, it emerged that Judas Priest had decided to embark on the 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour without Sneap, who was originally recruited for their 2018 Firepower World Tour. Following fan backlash, the decision was reversed, meaning Sneap will indeed join the band for the trek.
Read the full interview with Glenn Tipton in the new issue of Guitar World. Head to Magazines Direct (opens in new tab) to pick up your copy.