In October 2011, Valley reporter Grace Bailey conducted an interview with former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth “K.K.” Downingat his home at Astbury Hall in Shropshire, England. You can now watch the entire 16-minute chat below.
Downing, who recently shot down as “inaccurate” reports that he left JUDAS PRIEST because he chose to concentrate on running the 18- and nine-hole golf courses on his property, stated about his surprise departure from the group, “This is the first year that I haven’t been out there with the band for a lot of years… more years than I can care to remember. It’s coming up to about 40, I think, so… It’s been a long, good career.”
He continued, “I’ve been very fortunate, really, to have been able to have achieved all of my goals. And it’s a great life, actually, going through life doing the thing that you always wanted to do as a youngster. I think that’s one of the fantastic rewards and also, obviously, meeting a lot of people.
“It was a set of circumstances that led me to not go out [on the road with JUDAS PRIEST] this year. I was kind of geared up for it, but there was a multitude of reasons. It pretty much came down to an unsettlement on my part with working relationships.
“It’s like anything else. If anybody out there is thinking it’s hard to live with one woman, they should try to live with four guys and hold it together. [Laughs] It gets to be like that, but obviously, with certain things, I just wasn’t completely happy with the way things were, with the way it was, [and I just felt like] it was probably best if I stepped down, and I did.”
When asked if he feels happier now that he made the decision to quit the band, Downing said, “I wish things could have been different, so I could have continued. Obviously, ’cause of the passion [I had for the band]. In the [late] Sixties, I was very instrumental in creating JUDAS PRIEST, and it was a hard bullet to bite. But I thought that if this is gonna be the way that it’s gonna be, then perhaps it’s time to step down.
“It was a massive consideration,” he added. “Obviously, the fans, who I love, and many of them have become very good friends. But I just hoped that they would appreciate that I couldn’t continue with the way that I felt inside for reasons which I’ll… I mean, certain reasons I will never, ever disclose.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have been able to do so many shows and tours and records, and come out of it healthy and well. But I haven’t really spoken to anyone about the inner details [behind my departure from JUDAS PRIEST], really.”
Regarding how he feels not being involved in the music industry anymore, Downing said, “I was wondering how I was gonna take it, but I do do stuff — go to concerts, and I’m actually helping a young band from my neck of the woods. They’re called HOSTILE and I produced their record. But there’s lots to do, really. I have been functioning here [at Astbury Hall] as a golf facility for a couple of years anyway, and everything is fine. I could leave home if I wanted do. But since I’m here, I do what I can when I can as best as I can. Because having Astbury, it’s pretty exciting to see it coming along.”
Downing, who is a founding member of the British heavy metal legends and was part of the group since 1969, announced his retirement from PRIEST in April. He has since been replaced by Richie Faulkner, most recently guitarist in the backing band for Lauren Harris (daughter of IRON MAIDEN bassist Steve Harris).