comments made by retired guitarist KK Downing regarding the health of Glenn Tipton following word that the rocker is stepping aside from touring in support of the group’s March 9 set, “Firepower”, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
The iconic metal outfit recently confirmed Tipton’s plans and decade-long fight with the health issue alongside word that album co-producer Andy Sneap would step in for the guitarist on their upcoming world tour, which begins in Wilkes Barre, PA on March 13.
Downing – whose twin-lead guitar work with Tipton provided a signature sound for the group through the years before he retired in 2011 – issued a statement acknowledging his bandmate’s status while describing Sneap as “one of the greatest contributors to rock and metal that you will ever have the privilege to meet. To that end I have no doubt that his contribution to the new Judas Priest album was much more than just as a producer.”
Frontman Rob Halford addressed Downing’s remarks during a February 27 interview on “The Freaks With Kenny & Crash” show on Phoenix’s Fox Sports 910 radio station (video below), stating, “Let me just say that the great joy of Judas Priest is that we’ve never gone into this kind of arena of a public dispute. And it’s so easy to fall into that trap in social media today. How many people have you seen in sports, for example, that have made a rash comment on Twitter, just on the heat of the moment, emotionally. You know, we’re all human, we’ve all got feelings, and we have a tendency to blurt out the first thing that is on our minds, and rightly or wrongly, things can kind of come back and chase you afterwards in a negative way.
“So, with regards to everything that was made in [K.K.’s] statement today, a lot of it, to me, is completely superfluous,” he continued. “But the one point that I would like to clarify and have on record is this insinuation that Andy Sneap was covering Glenn’s guitar parts on ‘Firepower’, and I can categorically state that that is a thousand percent false. Because I was with Glenn for all of his guitar work, and he worked really, really hard. Imagine this guy in the tenth year of Parkinson’s. I’ve never seen anybody so brave in the fact that every song was a challenge for him to make it work, but he did — consistently, day after day. It was just a very powerful thing to experience firsthand. And this just goes to show you about the amazing stories that surround invididuals around the world that are dealing with Parkinson’s in their life.”
“I just wanted to touch on that one issue,” added Halford, “because out of everything that was laid out in that statement, that one hit me personally. And so now I’ve been able to clarify that and make sure that everybody out in the world listening to the show, on the Internet and elsewhere, understands that everything that you hear from Glenn on ‘Firepower’ is the amazing Glenn Tipton. Oh yeah!”
On February 28, Downing released a follow-up statement in reaction to Halford’s remarks, saying “just to clarify that my complimenting Andy Sneap as I did was no more than I would have said about any other guitar playing producers that have also contributed much more than expected to our past albums. Great talent such as Chris Tsangarides (R.I.P) and Roy Z both not only produced – but also contributed song ideas, riffs and licks, lyric ideas etc. Consequently, albums like Painkiller and Angel of Retribution would not have been the same without them. Even George Martin, I believe, provided much more for the Beatles than just the role of a normal producer.
“An extra musician in the studio, like the aforementioned talented producers, really does bring a great benefit.”
Fans will learn more about Downing when he publishes his memoir, “Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest”, via Da Capo Press on September 18.
Co-written with Mark Eglinton, the project explores the guiatrist’s history with the band, who he joined in 1969 and was featured on all Judas Priest releases from their 1974 debut, “Rocka Rolla”, to 2009’s “A Touch of Evil: Live.”