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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Richie Faulkner Judas Priest - Interview
The Rockpit interviews
RICHIE FAULKNER
JUDAS PRIEST




A gift to Heavy Metal and to the fans of Judas Priest alike, Richie Faulkner has taken his rightful place in one of the most influential bands in metal history. Having stepped up to the challenge of creating his own unique style within a band that has done it all, and at the same time honoring his predecessor. Richie combines his heartfelt love of the genre, with his stellar musical ability in true Rockstar fashion. From the start of his career with Priest, he has lived up to and beyond the expectations of fans and critics alike. Shredding masterfully on Priest's latest and highest charted album to date, 'Redeemer of Souls'. Richie is currently touring South America alongside his iconic bandmates and is leaving a legion of metal fans stunned. We catch up today with Richie, a few hours before his show in Santiago, Chile. He takes the time to share with us his view of what Judas Priest is to him and how things are now, 4 years after becoming the newest member of the Priest Machine. Having grown up listening to the band he is now a member of, Richie's style blends seamlessly with the already masterfully crafted sound of Judas Priest. Brought into the band with open arms, he shares with us a bit of what it was like in the beginning, and what it is like now after years of touring and after recording the album that helped revitalize the hearts and passion of Judas Priest as a whole. Nominated by Metal Hammer's Golden Gods, for the Dimebag Darrell Shredder Award and having had a chance to work with Sir Christopher Lee on his latest Charlemagne project, Richie shows he's not just a guy going through the motions, but has embraced his life in the true fashion of a future Heavy Metal hero. Enjoy!

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Steve - Hello Richie, I hear that you're in Chile today, are you getting any kind of a view of the volcano far south of you?

Richie - We're in Chile, we were in the Andes yesterday, me, Glenn and Ian, and our tour manager went up to the Andes and it was breathtaking man. We didn't see any residue from any volcano or anything like that, though the sun is shining and The Priest is in town, and we're ready to deliver the goods. So it should be a good night here in Chile.

Steve - Fantastic, I've just seen on your Facebook page that you all seem to be rallying together and ready to rock.

Richie - It's been great up until now all the way through South America, we've done Brazil, we've done Argentina and now we're in Chile. We've had a great bill ya know, we had Ozzy, and Motorhead and we had Kiss one night in Sao Paulo. So, it's been a great lineup of great bands, plus other ones as well ya know, but those were the 3 big main events that were done each night. It's been a great pleasure to be playing with those bands in such amazing countries with such incredible fans.

Steve - Wow, those are a lot of great musicians. Now those gentlemen must have been big hero's of yours, what was it like to do a show with them, even if not sharing the stage?

Richie - Well they're even bigger heroes now, as far as Priest is concerned. Growing up with the band like Priest and learning all their licks and riffs, kinda the framework behind that kind of band, you know, the dual lead guitar playing, the tradeoff guitar playing, and then obviously they're my heroes in that sense. And then you get into the band and build relationships, you become friends ya know and even more so they're huge heroes of mine. You learn from them, what to do and what not to do, and you see how they see things and it's just a great education you know. That goes for all the guys in the other bands as well, we hang out with the Motorhead guys, some of the Ozzy guys you know, and even watching them on stage, see what they do and how their operation works. It's just a great education, there such big heroes of mine and even more so now.

Steve - I've heard you talk many times about the family vibe that you have with the rest of the band, what would you say that looks like now?

Richie - We're like brothers really, they're all like my older brothers. They kinda let you get into trouble sometimes, if you know what I mean. They teach you a little here and there but then they get into trouble as well, they are kind of authority figures but at the same time they're out getting into the same scrapes as you are, so we have some great times because of it. We see some great things... so it's just a pleasure really, so I'd definitely say brothers.

Steve - Going back in time a bit, I remember seeing your first performance with Priest on American Idol and immediately thought who is that and what a killer pair of shades? What was it like to not only be brought into a band of this magnitude and then your first performance being on national television?

Richie - Well it happened pretty quickly, to be honest. We were in talks you know, and I didn't get approved... well, we hadn't gone public with the announcement until about a month, if I'm correct in remembering, it was about a month before the dates started (Epitaph Tour). So we announced the dates, I went and got fitted for the leather and the studs and then we went into rehearsals, and then we did the American Idol thing. It was pretty surreal really, you kinda don't have a lot of time to think about it, and if you did you'd probably trip up. You know what I'm saying? You know what your job is and you know what to do, and you know you can do it and you've been selected to join the band and that's an accolade in itself. It's just a complete honor to be considered, but to be accepted into the band, it kinda of gives you confidence. So you know how big that tv show is, I think it's like 30 million views in America alone, and being a Priest fan you're really aware of the value of that exposure, and Priest has always been about flying the flag for Heavy Metal. It was a new tour coming up and a new guitar player and just all that sentiment of flying the flag for Metal and we just saw that as a perfect opportunity to get into 30 million households in the U.S., just before the U.S. tour, and fly the flag. You do just get to the point where you just kind of focus and you shut off, well not that you shut off, you just blank everything else out and focus on the big task at hand and you just get on with it... shades and everything. Luckily there were only about 2 or 3 thousand people in the room, you didn't actually see the 30 million people or so watching so that was probable helpful as well. It was mainstream tv, we're a metal band, I guess you could call us rockstars, so we decided to wear the sunglasses and I'm glad we did. (Laughs)

Steve - Well, it was in true Rockstar fashion. \m/ After that you embarked on the Epitaph tour; when would you say, was first time you felt like you were going to be a permanent part of the Priest Machine?

Richie - Well, I was informed before we went on that (tour), when they accepted me into the band, I was in the band, if you know what I mean. It's not a temporary position... they said "this is the situation and we want you in it and do you want to be part of the band?" and I said Ya. So from that point of view it was from the beginning, but from the creative and musical point of view... that's a very good question. I mean, you're almost... as I said, too focused. You know what you gotta do, you get up and do it and it may be a couple of weeks in and you start to feel a bit more comfortable, you start to move around a bit more and interact with Rob and Glenn and then it starts to become, ya know, you become part of the band in a group sense if you know what I mean. You start to become more familiar with people. Definitely, from that point of view, after a couple of weeks. I mean again, your touring with these guys, you're almost living with them, ya know, hotels, and tour buses and airports and customs and security lines and airplanes, so you build a sense of comradery very quickly. I think that translates to the stage and to the creative process, the new album to the studio setting. Now we're onto the second tour and, it's more of that. More familiarity, being even more comfortable with each other, we're just having a blast out here.

Steve - When you then recorded "Redeemer of Souls", how did you ensure your creative presence was felt throughout the process?

Richie - Again, we talked about the education that you can get from these guys. To sort of reference that, it wasn't the case that I needed my presence to be felt. These guys were open and willing to hear what ideas I had. So that was a big lesson to have, it wasn't like coming into a dictatorship, and there are 1 or 2 guys ruling the show, it was 'this is the way we've always written, with 2 guitar players and a vocalist... what ideas have you got?' And again, we'd been out on the Epitaph tour for the better part of 2 years prior, so again you've built that comradery, you've built the trust, you know that your opinion and everyones opinion in the band is going to be asked for and valued. You know it might not be agreed with, fine but, you know that when you put an idea forward it's going to be listened to. Going into the studio, that was a great situation to have for creativity, whatever you've got, put it on the table and if it sticks... we'll use it. That was the same for everyone ya know. I had an idea and Glenn said 'I have an idea that goes with that.' Or Rob would come in with a vocal melody and ask me if I have anything to go with it. It freed up a lot... It's not 'You can't do this' or 'you can't do that' or 'it's gotta be like this'... It's, 'Let's just do what comes from the heart'. Priest has always been such a strong character band, ya know, individually as individual musicians and as a collective and I think that, when you do what comes from the heart, that's what shines through to Judas Priest. And luckily, being brought up on Judas Priest that what came from my heart as well. It was a great combination and a great environment to breed creativity.

Steve - You can definitely see the heart that is in the band as a whole, you can feel it in the music and big fans will listen to it with their heart as well.

Richie - Well again, I think that Priest has always done that, it's always been about whats come naturally to them. I think it's important to have that, there are five guys in the band, and they'll always have individual characters musically, though when you put them together, they become that individual character that is the Judas Priest that we all know and love, ya know. So it always comes from the heart, so they've always done what they wanted to do and when you do that you pioneer new paths in music and you don't follow trends and that's why you're a trailblazer. Ya know, Sabbath, Maiden, Priest... to name but a few. They're trailblazers and they don't follow the grain, they do what comes from the heart and it was a continuation of that. Again, it was a great lesson for me coming into the fold, do what comes from the heart and don't try to copy anything else, just do what comes naturally. We went from there, so it was a great lesson and a great experience.




Steve - And the proof of that is in the success of the new album. After 40 years and 17 studio albums, Priest scores their highest-charting set. "Redeemer of Souls" marks the bands first leader on Top Rock Albums and first top 10 on the Billboard 200 (No. 6) how do you feel about this accomplishment and how much credit do you give yourself for being part of that?

Richie - Well, most of the credit has to go to the fans obviously. I mean, we've come up with the ideas and we've put it down. The guys have been doing this for years and I've been in the band for like 5 minutes and been kinda given this opportunity to create and write and perform with these guys and to just get it into a format, to get these 18 songs and put them out to the market. Though it's the fans put it to where it gets to, you know, we can't do that. And it's just an incredible affirmation of the strength of heavy metal in 2014/15. It was undeniable; I think heavy metal can be kinda undervalued, when it's in the top ten like that in the biggest market in the US. It's up there with country, rap, pop and hiphop and all those other types of music and, ya know, I've got huge respect for every type of music. But to have metal, right there, #6 in the top 10, it was undeniable... the fans put us there and we can't be thankful enough for that. It just sends a strong message to the rest of the world that metal is alive and well in our time and long may that continue. That's the way it felt for me really, apart from being a part of it, just the power of heavy metal around the world really.

Steve - Now you've used the monicker 'Defender of the Faith' on social media, what does it mean to you?

Richie - Well we're actually celebrating the 30th anniversary of "Defenders of the Faith", it came out in 1984 so last year was it's 30th anniversary so were kind of continuing that in our setlist. You know, we're all defenders of the faith; Priest has always been defending the faith of heavy metal and have never shied away from the title. In the 90's I remember people, it wasn't fashionable to be heavy metal, ya know, and Priest never shied away from that. Again a lot of Priest's message that I got from their music was 'Stand up for what you believe in!' Do what you do to the best of your ability and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. "Defenders of the Faith" pretty much summed that up for me as an album and as a sentiment. And when you look out to the tens of thousands of metal heads out there at a Priest show, they're all Defenders of the faith, I'm a Defender of the Faith so are they, it's a community. And we are all Defenders, and as silly as that sounds, it's a family feeling. And we're all Defenders of the Faith, that's why I use that on social media and everything like that.

Steve - When it comes to the releasing of remastered/special edition albums, like the newly expanded three-CD version of "Defenders of the Faith", which includes a complete live show, recorded at the Long Beach Arena in California, in May, 1984... or the updated "The Essential Judas Priest". What type of input are you be able to have with these types of releases?

Richie - Usually from the back catalogue, no it's not really anything I've been involved in, I really don't have any authority in it, ya know. And rightly so, I wasn't around for that sort of stuff. I will get 'What do you think about this or think about that?', it's always fantastic being a Priest fan, I mean they show me the new packaging that's coming out again, like The Essential Judas Priest, we added 2 tracks from "Redeemer of Souls" on there. But essentially it was the same packaging and stuff like that, and obviously I was aware of that and aware of Defenders as well. Creatively if it was something that I wasn't even born for, I don't really feel that I have any real authority anyway. It's a great package, there are some great live tracks on there from that Defenders of the Faith, they actually played the whole album if I remember correctly. It was such a strong album; it was such a statement after "Screaming for Vengeance". It's just fantastic, packaging and everything that you'd expect from a Judas Priest release.

Steve - Two of my first albums when I was younger were "Screaming for Vengeance" and "Defenders", I’d like to make sure I catch up on them with the latest releases.

Richie - Defining moments in Priest back catalogue I think. All of them are to some degree, Sad wings of destiny, Sin after sin, British Steele, Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith.

Steve - Now with 18 songs (including the bonus tracks) on "Redeemer of Souls", which songs would you say stretched your abilities as a musician the most?

Richie - That's interesting, that's a good question. I think when it comes down to the studio environment, the ideas and melodies that you're putting forward are obviously things you've come up with so therefore you can play. So I don't think the complication comes from what you're playing, it comes from constructing the song. To fulfill your expectations, you got the idea in your head of what you want to be and then you have to kind of put it down in a way that reaches that idea you have, if you know what I mean. That can be quite complicated, you've got an idea that's just not quite working out right or too many parts or too little parts, not filling in the right places to get the right dynamic effects. I think that's the challenge I think that's a healthy challenge, I like that challenge just to create the best music you can. When you get it to the point where you've got the "March of the Damned" or "Halls of Valhalla" or "Redeemer of "Souls and your sitting back and listening to it for the first time, you started off with an idea, you've created it with other guys input who've been writing for 40 years and are just masters in it. You sit back and listen to it and there's a feeling of, like you can't wait to get this out and play it live. Cause you know, it starts out as a riff and then it morphs into a bigger idea, then it's a song and then it's out in a live scenario and people are singing and then it becomes part of the peoples day. It's an amazing feeling, so just being on the road now and seeing that whole process through from its conception really, to ideas that you have in your bedroom or in your living room, going through that whole process, to getting them out on the live circuit is just an incredible journey man, and it's great to see those people down in the front singing those songs that you helped create and it's just a huge buzz.

Steve - I've heard you talk about being such an improvisational player in regards to your solos and how you can draw inspiration from fans while on stage?

Richie - Well yeah, sometimes if the gig is really going off and the energy is really high in the room, especially down here in places like South America, Argentina and Brazil, the energy is so high and you kind of get caught up in it. So I can't really define what it is that I decide to do, it’s just a spur of the moment thing, and that kind of translates into you and what you're doing. You do a few different things that you didn't do the night before, or you try a few different things out, based on that excitement. Other gigs, you might be a bit further away from the audience, of these bigger places you're quite far away, so you lose a little bit of that energy from that connection. I mean, it can be a huge arena and it has it's own type of energy, but it's just a different type of energy so that might mean a little less improvising or it could be, ya never know, it could be improvising for different reasons. But, I always like to get out there and see what happens, a kind of familiar framework. You know you can kind of go different places with it, Hendrix did it, K.K. did it and I like that kind of approach. Sometimes you kind of hit a bum note or two, but you got to do the bum note twice so everyone thinks you meant it. It usually comes off OK, again I've grown up with the band and I've grown up with these songs and that style of music and you can kind of improvise cause you know where you are, it's a familiar territory you know. Yeah, it's definitely the energy of the fans in the room and the lights and the sound, it kind of all seeps in and comes out through your fingers and it's an amazing thing. I love doing it you know.

Steve -I know that you'll be playing at the Rock On The Range festival coming up May 16th in Columbus, Ohio, it's the largest music of it's kind in North America. What are you anticipating the experience to be like?

Richie - American festivals are fantastic anyway, we did a couple of them last year, I think we did The Fun Fun Fun festival in Austin. American festivals, especially this one, there's a huge lineup of bands, I've actually got some friends playing earlier on in the day, so everyone kinda knows each other. Down here (South America) when it's just us, there are local bands and we don't really know them. But when you get to America, all of the crews and the bands, your kind of familiar with them and it's like again, meeting up with a band of brothers and family and you can catch up on road stories, so I love that aspect of things as well. Plus, the lineups are great and the food is great in the US, I love the food in the US, how you can go to a festival and get some seriously good food. I love touring in the states as well, I love touring everywhere, but Rock On The Range is the first time I've done it, though I'm not sure if it's the first time Priest has done it, so it should be an exciting night, it should be a magical night and I can't wait to do it.




Steve - You've been nominated, and rightfully so, by Metal Hammer's Golden Gods, for the Dimebag Darrell Shredder of 2015, what does this mean to you and what do you think of your competition?

Richie - First of all, being nominated for anything like that is a huge honor, to be in peoples minds enough to be considered for that. But then going on for the Dimebag Darrell award, is just... you know there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that, you know how important that is for people, and then to be put down as a nominee for that, I can't really put into words really. Just to be nominated, for all the guys in there, there is some stiff competition, there always is and there always should be. There always should be good guitar players out there and I'm glad that there's stiff competition. I'd be happy with the nomination; every guy that has been nominated for that, I think is a winner. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but it really is, something is important in our community everyone is a winner. We'll see what happens, may the best man win and I'm really excited to have a shot at the award and we'll have to see what happens.

Steve - You had the opportunity recently to work with Sir Christopher Lee on his second Charlemagne album, what do you think you took away from that experience, outside of aiding in the arrangements?

Richie - Christopher is an amazing guy; he's from a different time and a different generation, different ideas, different viewpoints. And again, like the Priest guys, you can learn a lot from those people, they've been there, done it and got the t-shirt you know what I mean... they created the t-shirts. An amazing guy to just sort of listen to and interact with. It was a new experience from my point of view, the songs were in a very orchestrated format. It was like an orchestra, and the skeletons of the songs were kinda there and they asked me to construct them in a way that a metal band could play them. So I had to come up with drum parts and guitar parts, bass parts with arrangement that make it kinda like, you know, metal. I'll always remember, I was staying at Steve Harris from Iron Maiden's house at the time. I was close to being in his daughter's band at the time, so I was staying in like an annex and I had Sir Christopher's voice booming out over these speakers in the kitchen and, being Steve Harris's house, there's like these monster and Eddie mummies in the driveway and Sir Christopher's voice booming out over these speakers, the neighbors must of thought what the hell was going on here, ya know. Again, a great experience musically and personally as well. It was great to hear the finished art, well I didn't actually play on the finished album, I submitted songs and they got other guys to play them. They did a great job and it was a great story, he's part of that lineage so King Charlemagne makes that much sense. A great project to be in both personally and creatively.

Steve - I know we're getting close to the end of our time, with you having to play a show later tonight, though my last question is a more serious one. Our world is changing and with times being what they are, people are getting more comfortable talking about mental illness's such as depression and bipolar disorder and the stigma surrounding it. Have you or anyone you've known over the years ever had their battles with mood disorders? And if so, what did it take for you/them to get through it? I'm hoping people that struggle with it can find some inspiration to get through it in places like heavy metal.

Richie - Well I think the the very thing these days as with everything like that is the awareness, the awareness level is always going up. There is always an awareness and an acceptance because of that awareness and I think that is the most valuable thing. You know, with the internet, people can learn, they can look into things and can gain tolerance and acceptance and acknowledge what people have to go through. It can happen to anyone and with any type of mental illness, it can happen to anyone really. I mean I've been exposed to autistic family and it's challenging, but were all human beings and I think the awareness is the key. Go back a hundred years and there was not awareness and the approach was quite different. It was kind of lock people away and you kinda forget about them, but today, there is a lot more awareness and I think that is the most valuable thing that can happen and long may it continue. People can learn more about it and I don't think they will stop learning about, it's something we're all aware of in our time.

Steve - And what songs from the Priest catalogue would you suggest for someone looking to improve their mood and who is struggling?

Richie - There are quite a few, ya know, some of the classics like, "You've got another thing comin". has always been one for me, it's like "If you think I'll let you go you're mad!" All that sort of statements. But I think a lot of Priest's music is all like that, a lot of it you can take how you want, but a lot of it has that message, even if it's not directly about that subject, it's about getting out there and doing what you do and believing in what you do. As I said before... and that's nothing but inspiration. Defining the genre, going against the grain, standing up for what you believe in and the whole Judas Priest catalogue is a testament to that mentality. But definitely the feel good songs, I've got different ones for different reasons. "Desert Plains" or "Blood Red Sky", which really has nothing to do with the subject matter we're talking about, like lifting you up... but it kinda all does. Definitely put on "British Steel", it has some great uplifting tracks on it and if you want to bang your head put on "Painkiller" or "Screaming for Vengeance". Really, you could sit there for a week and listen to everything. I mean the whole message of Judas Priest's music is uplifting, I'll say put on anything from Priest and you'll feel better.

Steve - Is there anything else you'd like to mention before we go? I know there is judaspriest.com and you're on Facebook and twitter... is there anywhere else we can go to find out more?

Richie - I think those are the main hubs, you've got judaspriest.com and that has the official dates and moves and releases and where we're gonna be. And then as you said, Rob's got his Instagram now and he's got his Facebook. and I've got Instagram and Twitter, the day to day things you know, the things you can see through the bands eyes. We try to keep it fun and entertaining and stuff. So JudasPriest.com and Judas Priest on Facebook, any events or any news that's going on in Judas Priests world will be on there. We'll be out to see you all pretty soon anyway.

Steve - Thank you so much for your time today Richie, I greatly appreciate it and best of luck tonight.

Richie - You too brother, thank you now, goodbye!



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Interview by Steve Wilder on May 5th 2015