By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
HOH: Man, brother, Priest has been road-dogging quite extensively in support of Nostradamus and now A Touch of Evil…Live, plus you have a theme to this leg with Whitesnake, as in you guys playing British Steel in its entirety. I probably needn’t ask, but how’s this retro-flavored tour been going in your opinion?
KK: Yeah, it’s been really, really good! I’ve been reading on the internet the fans just love it and I do read bits where people are saying we’ve blown them away. Time has been moving on for us, but now has been the right time to do this. It’s just great to be out here doing it. Who’d have thought it; thirty years on-end? British Steel was far from our first album, but it’s still amazing to be playing all of these songs live from way back when.
HOH: Let’s go back a minute to 1979 and the days of British Steel for Judas Priest. Heavy metal was obviously just being cultivated around the world with a large concentration in England. What stands in your mind as memorable in ’79 for Priest and yourself individually?
KK: Priest had been going on for almost a decade as a band at that point. We had good songs, we had an image that was working for us, but there was something missing before the British Steel record. We then got the songs and the album cover, but the thing is, the image of the band was leather and studs, which is why it was so successful, because suddenly something new was happening and people wanted to be a part of it. That’s why British Steel was such a success. People say by and large it was responsible for the whole metal movement that became such a success in the eighties.
HOH: I read on your personal website you recently attended the Download Festival as a fan and got away with it. What was that experience like, mingling in a crowd oblivious to a guitar legend in their midst?
KK: I had to keep my head down quite a bit! (laughs) So that bit was kind of tough, but I did go into the arena the day long to see Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Journey, Dream Theater and a bunch of bands. That for me was like turning the clock back because I used to go to every music festival coming through Great Britain, even before I started in Priest, even before I ever gigged in a band. It was a realization I’d missed a lot over the years, not continuing to have the enjoyment of being that fan again, you know?
HOH: Just those Isle of Wight Festivals from ’67 to ’70, my God, you saw the cream of the crop of the day! Which of those artists left the most impact upon you as a musician to make you want to just get up there and play?
KK: I always say when I saw the great Jimi Hendrix, it was a turning point for me, really. I only had an old guitar and an acoustic, and I was struggling along with that. I was already eating through blues-based guitar like (Eric Clapton and) Cream. When I first saw the great Jimi Hendrix, at that particular time I wasn’t intent on being a guitar player or a successful guitar player; I just wanted to get more of him really, because when he wanted to turn it on, he was magic. There was nobody else, and I’ve seen everybody, I’ve seen every other band. He was the man ahead of everyone. Obviously later in life when I was able to play, I was always remembering that magic he had, you know, the ingredients. Without him, maybe I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.
Henrdix was the type of performer—and I’ve experienced it with my very own eyes—where he sometimes had to tone it down. People would go absolutely crazy! I’ve been in Coventry Theatre where people would rush the stage, each and every one them, because he could literally send people into a frenzy. I was at the Royal Albert Hall where people were literally jumpingfrom the second floor balconies and landing on other people below! Obviously there were some times where he had to tone it down a little bit. The first time I saw him, things got quite a bit out of hand during “Foxy Lady,” where it was just mayhem from there. The second night I saw him in Bristol, England, he opened up with a Beatles song, “Sgt. Peppers,” so he’d toned things down just a bit. He had to do that sometimes, because when he wanted to turn it on, people would just go mad.
HOH: Intense. I’d like to get into A Touch of Evil…Live next. You guys feature 11 songs, most of which haven’t really appeared on previous Priest live albums. I think the approach is real novel and something the fans can get behind. What made you guys decide to choose, for lack of a better term, a non-monster hit set list for this album?
KK: We decided a lot of stuff had been missing from our other live albums, songs we’ll go out and play live like “The Rage” and “Steeler” and “Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise.” These are fantastic songs and some go down really, really well live. It’s about giving these songs a chance but at the same time giving the fans something they don’t already have in their collection. I think that’s the criteria we set for ourselves with A Touch of Evil…Live. So many of our songs have been around and around and around, either on live albums, bootlegs, DVDs or best-ofs, so we just wanted to give our fans something a little bit more unique and it’s not to say that every fan considers the most popular songs the band perform the ones they like most. Like the British Steel tour we’ve been playing, some of these songs have never been played live at all before; they’ve been in the closet for so long. We’d like to think everything we’ve done is valid anyway, so a second chance I think is well-deserved for a lot of these songs.
HOH: I agree, and I’d say minus the small handful of Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus songs appearing on A Touch of Evil…Live, these songs are long in your blood, from a fan’s perspective as well as yourselves in the band. They’ve been there regardless of what year they came out, but which song sounds the freshest to your ears on this album? For me, it’s “Dissident Aggressor,” hands-down.
KK: Yeah, I would have to agree. I thoroughly enjoyed playing that song earlier in the year and I think a lot of the fans have wanted it for a very long time. So maybe that song in particular stands out a little bit, though it’s pretty cool how “Judas Rising” kicks off the album. I’ve always loved that song as well. I hope everybody enjoys the whole album; I think it all works together well, I’d like to say. Some of those songs have spread over three, even four decades, but on the record it all sounds pretty energized. Then you have a great rendition of “Beyond the Realms of Death” as well, so we’re pretty pleased with this package.
HOH: I’d have to say A Touch of Evil…Live is much heavier than the other live Priest albums, Unleashed in the East notwithstanding. I love the sound capture and for me it just shows how you and Glenn (Tipton) and the Iron Maiden line are still the best in the business. Opinionated of me to say, but…
KK: I thank you very much. Yeah, it is a heavier album and Judas Priest is a heavy band. I mean, we’ve had a lot of light and shade going on through our careers and with our music, but we’ve never been afraid to push the boundaries of metal as far as we possibly can, nor the audience as far as we possibly can. It just goes to show you, really, from one end of the spectrum to the other, there’s a hell of a lot in-between and that hopefully gives a lot of encouragement and motivation to lots of new bands and tomorrow’s undiscovered icons. There’ll be lots of great people and bands emerging in the future.