Ian Hill says that it's up to Andy Sneap to decide if he wants to carry on playing guitar for JUDAS PRIEST after the completion of the band's "Firepower" world tour.
When Glenn Tipton was forced to retire from full-time touring activities due to his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease, he and his PRIEST bandmates opted to hire Sneap to fill in, having gotten to know the British-born, 49-year-old producer when he helmed the group's latest album, "Firepower".
Asked in a brand new interview with "Talking Metal" if Andy will stay on as a touring member of PRIEST even after the "Firepower" trek is finished, Hill said (hear audio below): "It is something to be discussed, really. I mean, Andy is now, these days, first and foremost a producer. Whether he wants to go back and do that full time or not, it'll be a mutual decision when the time comes. Andy will be more than welcome to stay. He's done a tremendous job over the last year or so, really. He's done a great job stepping in for Glenn. It would have been very difficult if he hadn't been there, on such short notice, because we didn't realize that Glenn couldn't handle the intensity of touring anymore until… We were only about three weeks away from starting the tour [laughs], and Andy stepped in and did a great job. He pulled a real rabbit out of the hat in learning a complete setlist of songs in such a short period of time. He pulled it off anyway. And as time's gone on, obviously, his stage presence, he got more comfortable with that, and he's performing great now. So when the time comes… We'll give it to the end of this run and then see what everybody wants to do. As I say, he'll be more than welcome to carry on with us if that's his plan."
Pressed about whether the final decision will be left up to Andy — who was guitarist for cult U.K. thrashers SABBAT and currently plays with NWOBHM revivalists HELL — Hill responded: "Yeah. Pretty much so. I mean, we'll understand either way. He put some work aside to do this, and obviously, he's anxious to get back and finish that off. He's probably doing some of that now as we speak, in this short break that we've got. Like I say, if he wants to continue, that's entirely up to him, really."
Asked if PRIEST has anyone else in mind for the guitarist slot if Sneap ever decides to return to full-time producing, Hill said: "No, not at the time being. I mean, the plan at the moment is to go to the end of the year. The U.S. run, that'll take us up to the end of June. And we were gonna do some rearranged Ozzy Osbourne dates; we were special guesting with him, but he, unfortunately, got rather sick and had to cancel. And that's now being pushed back to February, so we've pretty much got the rest of the year off to sit back and see where we go from here. The plan is to tour next year with 50-year celebrations. And if Andy's with us, great. If he wants to carry on with producing, we'll more than understand that. He's done a tremendous job and he'll go with everyone's blessing. But, like I say, it will be time to consider that over the next few months or so."
Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago — after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier — but didn't announce he was going to sit out touring activities in support of "Firepower" until February 2018. The guitarist, who is now 71 and has performed on every PRIEST record since the band's 1974 debut set, "Rocka Rolla", is not quitting the band, but simply cannot handle the rigorous challenges of performing live.
Taking his first professional steps into the world of metal during his teen years, the U.K.-based Sneap has spent decades as one of the most respected musicians and music producers in heavy music, having worked with such bands as EXODUS, TESTAMENT, KREATOR, ARCH ENEMY, SAXON, MEGADETH and, most recently, PRIEST.
JUDAS PRIEST will return to the United States this spring for a run with fellow classic heavy rockers URIAH HEEP. The 32-date trek will kick off on May 3 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida and wrap on June 29 at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.