Richie Faulkner says that he is "glad" to see founding JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing "back out there" with his new band KK'S PRIEST.
KK'S PRIEST is Downing's collaboration with former PRIEST singer Tim "Ripper" Owens and ex-PRIEST drummer Les Binks. The band, which pays homage to Downing's past, is rounded out by guitarist A.J. Mills (HOSTILE) and bassist Tony Newton (VOODOO SIX).
Faulkner, who joined PRIEST in 2011 after Downing left the legendary British heavy metal act, addressed K.K.'s current status during an Instagram Live session on Sunday (May 10). He said (see video below): "The great thing is Ken is playing again. He's out there with his band, and that's where he should be — he should be playing heavy metal guitar. And I'm glad to see he's back. It's been too long to not see Ken Downing up on stage with his flying V [guitar]. So I'm glad he's back out there, without a doubt. Everyone knows that anyway."
KK'S PRIEST's debut LP will be released via Explorer1 Music Group. The group will also play select shows to mark the 50th anniversary of PRIEST and Downing's career as a founding member. KK'S PRIEST's setlist will consist of PRIEST classics and new songs.
Last fall, Faulkner dismissed the criticism he received for supposedly trying to look too much like Downing.
"Obviously, you get the [haters] — the 'clone' comments," Richie told the "Let There Be Talk" podcast. "I've got long blond hair, playing a flying V [guitar]… [Michael] Schenker, Zakk [Wylde], K.K., Randy Rhoads — all those guys. To say I was a Ken clone was fairly narrow-minded. There's tons of guys who have flying Vs and long hair.
"The thing is if I had dyed my hair black to be different, I would have been shot down," he continued. "You've gotta be real; you've gotta be who you are. And I grew up on Ken, I grew up on Glenn [Tipton, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist] and the guys that I mentioned. So you've just gotta be who you are. And I grew up with those guys, and I'm not ashamed. I wear it on my sleeve — they're all my influences, and I'm not afraid of that… There's no point in trying to hide it. But it's gotta be natural as well. And I think somehow it worked out organically. I didn't try to copy him. And as it goes on, you always try to do your own thing and make your own statement."
Two years ago, Downing said that he felt like he was "being cloned" when he first found out he was being replaced by Faulkner.
Downing, who announced his retirement from PRIEST in April 2011 after nearly 42 years in the job, admitted to the "Appetite For Distortion" podcast that he was taken aback when he first saw his replacement.
"Richie, as far as I know, is a nice guy and obviously an excellent player," Downing said. "I was a bit disappointed when, basically… I think the idea was to replace me [with a lookalike], so I did feel as though I was kind of being cloned. But I'm not sure that was exactly fair to Richie. I mean, I could be off the mark here, but I think Richie had the right to bring himself to the stage with his own… portray his own image and ability to play the instrument the way that he does. But it is what it is."
He continued: "When Glenn retired from touring [in early 2018], the same didn't happen — obviously, [Tipton's replacement] Andy [Sneap] doesn't look anything like Glenn; he doesn't wear the same clothes, the red pants, guitars or anything like that. So I don't really know what's going on. But it is what it is."
In a 2011 interview with the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, PRIEST singer Rob Halford stated about Faulkner's physical resemblance to a younger Downing: "People are saying, 'It's a clone. You've got some of K.K.'s DNA.' It's just the way it turned out. We made, like, a secret search. When we knew K.K. was not gonna be making the tour, we did a lot of secret, kind of, searching for another player. And Richie just happened to be the guy. And he just happens to look a little bit of the K.K. image, you know?! I think it would be silly to say, 'We looked for a guitar player that looks like Ken.' What we want is a very good metal guitar player, and that's what Richie Faulkner is."