Judas Priest Guitarist KK Downing Talks About "Nostradamus"
Band Photo: Judas Priest (?)
Jeb Wright from Classic Rock Revisited recently conducted an interview with JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing. Here are some extracts from the conversation:
Classic Rock Revisited: Do you consider "Nostradamus" to be a masterpiece?
K.K. Downing: "We said it is either a masterpiece or just a piece! It will be one or the other."
Classic Rock Revisited: How much did you know about Nostradamus?
K.K. Downing: "Zero. It wasn't too difficult to learn about him. Our manager printed a few things up for us to look at. When you start seeing things like he requested to be buried standing up then it gets interesting. He wore a medallion around his neck that had a year on it. The people that dug him up, when his body was exhumed, saw the year on the medallion and freaked out because it was the year they dug him up. The second time he was dug up was by soldiers who drank wine out of his skull. They got massacred on their way home. He also dabbled in Metal by mixing metals together – he probably was getting high off the fumes. I am not saying I am a believer but he had a lot of really cool Metal content in his life. It was quite a journey and a challenge for us to do. The emotions are really there. We have put our emotions into our music before but this is just a lot more in depth."
Classic Rock Revisited: Musically, Glenn Tipton and you played a lot differently that you have in the past.
K.K. Downing: "We have never played this much acoustic on a JUDAS PRIEST album. It was actually joyful to get our teeth into something like this from a musical point of view. We felt we had more licence to push the boundaries. We wondered if we could pull this off with mixing Classical and Metal. Rob said this, and I shuddered when I first heard him say it, he said, 'JUDAS PRIEST are going to do the first, in the history of Metal, the first ever Metal opera.' I am thinking, 'Wow, we had better get to work.'
Glenn and I had some of the very first synthesized guitars in the early ‘80's. We were able to create just about any sound we wanted by converting an analog signal to a midi signal. We pulled the old equipment out of the closet and there were a lot of pops and squeaks and we looked at each other and said, 'We had better fucking go get some new gear.' We have guitars now that are totally geared up and ready to go. Things moved on in the world of technology and we were able to use that technology to make choir sounds and orchestra sounds. The classical elements of Nostradamus' time were now there.
We thought that this could give us a bit of longevity. We are all headed to our sixties, you know. We thought we would like to create a record that our fans could really sit down and listen to like we did in the old days. We wanted to give it that amount of intensity just like I did back with albums like 'Electric Ladyland'. That album may not have been considered a concept album by a lot of people but it was sure as hell conceptual to me. It took me to another planet.
I think Glenn actually said this to me when we were in the studio. He said, 'I wonder that when people create these great albums if they know it is that great when they are doing it.' The chances are that I doubt they do, really. You don't know until you put it out into the marketplace. I think timing is very important. I think some of the JUDAS PRIEST records we did were too early and some of them might have been too late. 'Painkiller' may have been premature. Having said that it was a bit responsible for the new movement. We started touring with five tracks off that album and by the time we finished we were playing two. It was a bit of a hard sell, that album. When an album has been around for a decade then it becomes a classic. It is the same with a band. You don't get to be a legend until you have been around for a million years. You can be an overnight success but you can't be an overnight legend."
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