Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest
Judas Priest will be performing at the Hard Rock Event Center on May 3rd. TICKETS
By: Lori Smerilson Carson
Florida has been given the power, that is the kickoff to Judas Priest’s 2019 Spring/Summer US tour featuring their latest LP ‘Firepower.’ Lead Vocalist Rob Halford, Guitarist Glenn Tipton, Guitarist Richie Faulkner, Guitarist Andy Sneap, Bassist Ian Hill and Drummer Scott Travis will begin their 32 day tour in Hollywood Florida at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on May 3rd and will run throughout the states from New York to California. Fans can look forward to them displaying their profound musical abilities that won them a Grammy Award for ‘Best Metal Performance,’ VH1 Rock Honors recipients and a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Faulkner, who joined the band in 2011 explained how ‘Firepower’ (which landed at #5 on the US charts with songs such as “No Surrender” and “Lightening Strike”) and this current tour carry on the tradition of Judas Priest’s past hit records like ‘Painkiller,’ ‘Screaming for Vengeance,’ ‘British Steel,’ and ‘Unleashed in the East.’
SFL Music: How did you come about joining Judas Priest?
Faulkner: “You know what, its starting to get blurry now,” (he joked). “As I get older, I’m starting to lose my memory a bit, but you know what they say, it’s the right place at the right time and it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. All of those phrases they say, it couldn’t have been more true really. It was a friend of mine that I used to play with in cover bands back in London. There was a contact, a friend of a friend and they called me one day. I’ll tell you what, it was like a shot in the arm, like a shot of caffeine. I went down to see Glenn Tipton and Rob Halford and discuss with them what they wanted from a band member. I tell you what, it was like a whirlwind you know. But it’s always someone you know that connects you and I think opportunities come along in life like that and you’ve just got to be ready to take them. It was a really down to earth humble group of guys. They explained to me what the situation was and they just said what they wanted and asked me what I wanted as well. It was very inclusive and it went from there. That was basically it and I couldn’t have been more grateful to them really for giving me the opportunity.”
SFL Music: Well you have definitely added to the band’s amazing talent.
Faulkner: “Oh, that’s really nice of you. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
SFL Music: You’re welcome. Now, who are your musical influences? Is this what you knew you wanted to do?
Faulkner: “It was, I mean, you know I grew up in the early 80’s and bands like Priest and Maiden and Sabbath were around then. Before that, my father really introduced me to Jimi Hendrix and Rainbow and UFO and those sort of things, Thin Lizzy. Those heavy rock, twin guitar bands. So, it was very much part of my musical DNA if you like. Then you know as you get older you get into bands and you play covers and stuff around London, where ever you live, and Priest was kind of the staple diet. Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Deep Purple. That’s kind of the staple diets of the gigging cover guitar player if you know what I mean. You’ve got to do that “Highway to Hell” or “War Pigs” or “Another Thing Coming.” So again, it was not only listening to the bands, but playing that band’s music as well. It was all part of my musical make up. So, when I got the call, I knew exactly who the band was. What the band meant to millions of people around the world. I had to get my head down and take the opportunity and give it my best shot. It seemed to be the best way of doing it.”
SFL Music: Did you grow up playing guitar?
Faulkner: “Yeah, my father played guitar and he had friends in bands when I was young. I used to watch videos of Hendrix and stuff like that. My mom and dad got me a guitar and I used to listen to vinyl and I used to listen to Hendrix stuff. I’d keep putting the needle back and learn another part, and put it back again and learn the same part again, just to make sure. It was a slow process you know, but I loved it. You know what it’ like when you love something. It might be grueling to someone else who doesn’t have the affinity for it or the passion for it, but if you stay at it and it’s something that keeps you going and that was it for me. I learned all the parts to some degree and just loved it. You start writing your own stuff and looking to bands like Priest and the bands that you’re into to find out how they do it and what they’re doing and how they can kind of put across in motion, in a story not only in words, but in music. You sort of learn from those bands and they almost give you a master class in how to do it. And now to be actually doing it with the band is a trip as you can imagine. It’s like a surreal dream come true really.”
SFL Music: So, you taught yourself? You didn’t have formal lessons other than your dad?
Faulkner: “That’s right, yeah it was all done by ear. I used to have piano lessons when I was a kid and I wanted to play guitar or drums or something like that. Those Mitch Mitchell and the Hendrix Experience. I used to watch videos of him and Hendrix and that’s what I wanted to do. My mom and dad sent me down the route of piano so I can learn music theory. But in the piano room there was an electric guitar and a drum set in the corner and I was looking at this drum set and guitar, playing piano thinking there’s a disconnect, that’s what I want to do, that stuff in the corner. So, I didn’t last very long with piano and luckily for me they got me my first guitar and I went from there and the rest is history you know,” he chuckled.
SFL Music: What inspires your writing? You wrote with Rob and Glenn on ‘Redeemer of Souls’ (released in 2014) and you wrote more on this ‘Firepower’ album, correct?
Faulkner: “Yeah, again, they’ve just been great and have been really inclusive from day one and the writing sessions were no different when it was me, Rob and Glen. They’ve always had the two guitar player, vocalist writing team and they kept it the same. Just growing up with priest, its part of your musical DNA. So, when you get into the studio you don’t have to put a Judas Priest hat on. It’s kind of part of what you’re coming up with. So, we’ve done ‘Redeemer’ and the last record ‘Firepower’ and to be honest the thing that inspires me most, I think a lot about it, is the guitar. Before you called, I was just sitting down with the guitar with a coffee and sometimes things jump out. It’s the way the guitar sounds, the way the guitar feels. You might come up with something that’s heavy or you might come up with something that’s beautiful, but It comes from interaction with the guitar for me. It always has been. You travel around the world and you get ideas for what songs could be about, but the way songs sound has always been most important to me, if you know what I mean. The guitar really does that. I can sit down with it and I don’t know, its just something about the interaction with the guitar that’s really inspiring for me. The most part is coming up with melodies and riffs and solos and packages, but you know it’s funny, you never know where they can end up. You can record them pretty easily, either on your phone or if you’ve got some recording equipment at home. You can record them and you might be, I don’t know, in your kitchen. It’s happened to me in the past. I’ve be in the kitchen and got an idea for a guitar riff put it down on the phone and then it goes into the studio and it becomes a track on a record. Then it becomes part of someone’s day maybe. They could be on the road driving to a gig and they’ve got the album on with that riff that came (laughs) from the inspiration in the kitchen. So, you never know when you’re going to capture that lightening in a bottle. You could be anywhere, but um for me it’s the guitar. The inspiration with the guitar that inspires me to write and come up with stuff.”
SFL Music: You play mostly Stratocasters right?
Faulkner: “I play mainly Les Pauls and flying V’s and I started to get back into the Stratocasters yeah, absolutely.”
SFL Music: Are those your favorites?
Faulkner: “I’ve always been sort of mildly addicted to flying guitars, again, I get so much inspiration how can I not. I am actually going to a guitar store today. I live in south Florida. I don’t get to be here too much and there’s a shop down in Wynwood, down in Miami so I’m going there today. So, point being, they’re all favorites. They might look similar, but there’s something different, there’s a different pick up or a different neck profile, different sound or you just might get inspired differently from it. I love the Les Pauls, I love the Flying V’s and then like I said I’m getting into Stratocasters lately. I started on Stratocasters when I was young. They’re all beautiful. I mean, I’ve got SG’s. I’ve got different things here and there. It’s like your children you know. They’ve all got something special about them. I’m sure the collection might grow maybe today even, (chuckled) the collection might grow.”
SFL Music: I didn’t know you lived in south Florida, I thought you were in London.
Faulkner: “I’m from London originally obviously, (he stated with his British accent), but I move around quite a bit. Yeah, I’m in South Florida at the moment and it’s a bit sunny today.”
SFL Music: Yes, a good day to get out. What made you guys decide to start the tour in Ft Lauderdale? Is it because you are there or anything in particular?
Faulkner: “Well. There’s a fantastic steak restaurant in Boca so it was all selfish. It was me really. I wanted to start off in South Florida, (laughed) No, I’m only joking. It makes sense statistically really. The last time we were in the states was in December last year with Deep Purple and just the way the routing came about. We didn’t play South Florida on that leg. So, it made sense to come down here first you know and then float the routing from there. We’re in Hollywood, I don’t think it’s been out long. I think it’s the new Hard Rock Venue down there.”
SFL Music: Yes
Faulkner: “We played the last Hard Rock I think in 2015 before they changed everything down there. So really, it’s nothing to do with the Steak Restaurant, it’s just purely, we didn’t get to come here with Purple so we’re going to start off here so our fans in Florida can get some Priest and come out and have a great time with the Priest. We’re changing the set around a bit. We’re putting in some new songs, some old songs, some new old songs. The set design is a little different so we just wanted to make something different for the fans this go around that they might have seen us on the Purple run. So yeah, we can’t wait, not long to go now we’ll be back down here kicking off the show in Hollywood. Can’t wait.
SFL Music: Is there anything in particular the fans can look forward to with this show?
Faulkner: Well we don’t want to give too much away at the moment. it’s always nice to have an element of surprise at the show with the set list and stuff like that. We always try to do something different. Even the Firepower tour so far, we’ve been changing the set list around. We’ve been putting different songs in from the new record, some classics that we haven’t played, well the band hasn’t played for years. I think the last song we played was “Killing Machine.” We played that in France and I don’t think the band had played that live since 1978. As a fan of the band as well, I know it’s a treat for the fans to hear that, especially when they’re not expecting it. I think we’ve got about eight tracks that we’ve been working on. Some new, some old that we’re going to put back into the set for the next US leg of the tour. Hopefully fans will be thrilled with that. I know, I would be as a fan. Again, some of the songs they haven’t played for a long time or at all, especially obviously the new ones. We’re going back to England early March just before we take off to Australia to run over the songs again and see how they’re sounding, see how they’re feeling and then maybe there’s another couple that we can throw in there as well. So, the sets constantly evolving and the production as well. We’re always evolving the production just to make something different for the fans that might have seen us last year with Purple. It’s a full set this time. Last year we split the co-headline with Purple so it was a slightly shorter set time. This is a full set with all the bells and whistles. People that know what to expect from a Priest show, know what to expect when we come around. So yeah, we can’t wait to come around.”
SFL Music: In regards to Glenn, I hope he is doing alright. Is he going to be at all on the tour or is it just going to be Andy Sneap playing?
Faulkner: “As anyone knows this kind of challenge that Glenn’s facing, there’s good days and there’s bad days, (Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease) you know and Andy’s there, Andy’s filling in for Glenn. He’s doing a great job. As and when Glenn can and feels able, Glenn comes out. He was just out with us in Japan and Jakarta, Singapore, and Korea. So as only he can, he’s done some dates with us last year in the states. We don’t like to promise anything. It’s not our place to determine when Glenn’s going to be ok or not. It’s up to him when he feels right. I think the fans know that. When Glenn decided to pull back from full touring, we let the fans know straight away and I think fans have just been really compassionate to the situation. (Fans have also been supportive of Tipton’s Parkinson’s Foundation). I mean, how could you not be? He’s a legend. It’s a terrible debilitating disease and they’re nothing but compassionate to Glenn and the band. If Glenn shows up one night, the roof raises you know what I mean. Not only because it’s Glenn Tipton, but what that represents I mean, what he’s going through, getting up there on the stage and playing in front of thousands and thousands of people. It’s just a testament to him and what we can do if we all sort of push on and stick together. It’s an amazing thing, but then if he can’t make it the fans understand why. No one’s going to complain. They know what Glenn’s going through and they’re accepting. Obviously, they’d love to see Glenn there, but they understand if he’s not there. That’s a bit if a long-winded answer, but if and when he feels able to do it, I’m sure he’ll be joining us in the states on the next go around. Again, as and when he can, so I don’t know exactly when that’s going to be. Sometimes he does it on a whim. He says, “I’m going to come out this week” and he comes out and joins us for a few days. So, I don’t know when it’s going to be, but hopefully he’ll be out there again because I know he loves it, I know the fans love him. Fingers crossed.”
SFL Music: Yes definitely. What advice would you have for up and coming artists?
Faulkner: “That’s a great question. I think that you can look to new artists for advice myself you know what I mean. You can look to them and see what they’re doing. New artists these days have a great platform called the internet. It’s so accessible to get your music out which we didn’t have back in the day. I think one thing maybe it was the same back in the day, there’s a lot of bands and a few push through that were unique. That had something special. I think these days it’s the same thing. So, I’d say that I think your uniqueness is your strength. You’ve got this beautiful platform to reach millions and millions of people around the world and I think just retain that unique thing that you have. I learned something actually from Glenn Tipton. He said when he was young, he would try to emulate Rory Gallagher. He would listen to Rory Gallagher, fantastic blues guitar player. He was listening to the record or whatever he was trying to play, and he sounded kind of similar to Rory Gallagher, but he didn’t sound like Rory Gallagher. He realized pretty quickly that the thing that made it sound different was who he was and he realized early to nurture that difference and make something new. That’s a great lesson to hear. I’d say that to any aspiring artist. Some people might think, oh, this doesn’t sound as good as the person I’m trying to emulate, but that’s kind of what makes you, you and I think that’s what you’ve got to focus on and nurture. Hendrix was different. Everyone who’s broken through in the last 50, 6o years has had something totally unique. I think we’ve all got it and if you identify it, I think grow that. It’s hard you know. So, if you have something unique you definitely should nurture that. That’s definitely something that was passed onto me and I’ll definitely pass that on to anyone who asks me.”
SFL Music: Was there anything ese you want to say to SFL readers to know?
Faulkner: “If you haven’t seen Priest before you better come and check us out. If you have, If you were with us last year, we’ve got some new surprises for you. We can’t wait to see you all in Hollywood on the 3rd of May. It’s not far away. Again, we can’t wait.”
SFL Music readers, keep an “Electric Eye” out because Judas Priest is “Heading Out to the Highway!”