April 23, 2022

K.K. DOWNING: 'MOTÖRHEAD Were Responsible For The Creation Of Thrash And Speed Metal'

In a new interview with Rhys Bowler, former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing spoke about the advent of thrash metal in the early 1980s and the impact that it had on the evolution of PRIEST‘s sound.

“Other than heavy metal, I think thrash metal, obviously because around about the time in the ’70s and early ’80s, we saw some very good stuff coming around [from] the U.K., with bands like VENOM, but obviously we had METALLICA, which had a great relevance and [later on] great bands like MACHINE HEAD,” Downing said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

MOTÖRHEAD, to me… I have to say MOTÖRHEAD was to blame for all of that, I think,” he continued. “Well, I say ‘to blame’ — I’d change that to ‘thank’ for that, ’cause I think Lemmy and MOTÖRHEAD were responsible for the creation of thrash and speed metal, definitely. And obviously, we can’t leave out MEGADETH… And obviously, we had the likes of PANTERA coming through [in the late 1980s and early 1990s]. And we had a lot of great bands in the early ’80s that were kind of, ‘Okay, we’re the new kids on the block. Move aside.’ So us bands that had been around through the late ’60s and ’70s, we had to kind of listen up and go, ‘Hang on. Not too fast, you guys.’ But you can’t keep good bands down; they’re gonna push their way forth. But the thing is that was a very, very healthy thing.”

Downing also talked about the fact that PRIEST served as a major influence on many of the bands on the then-emerging thrash metal scene.

“I must say that we did — myself and Glenn [Tipton, PRIEST guitarist] — we did push the boundaries with the speed picking with some of our songs; they were pretty difficult to play, really,” he said. “[We had the attitude of], ‘Okay, you’re not gonna overthrow us just yet; we’ve got plenty of things to do.’ And I think we had to kind of stake our claim with the ‘Painkiller’ album… And of course, we went out on tour with the ‘Painkiller’ album around the world, and it’s strange how many bands that we had on that were like the bands we were just talking about. We went out with PANTERA, ANNIHILATOR, and obviously in North America and Canada we had MEGADETH and we had TESTAMENT. Isn’t it strange that we were put together with those kinds of packages?

“It wasn’t good for us that Rob [Halford, PRIEST singer], in particular, was very attracted to that hard-hitting metal, which I think led him away from the band, because at one point he did say that JUDAS PRIEST wasn’t heavy enough,” K.K. continued. “But obviously then he formed his own band, FIGHT, and stuff like that and went in that direction; he was very particularly taken with that heavier side. And yeah, I can see the attraction, because… I mean, Rob was responsible for us taking PANTERA out on tour, I think, because he became good friends with them. But what a great band, great guys. I will always consider them great friends ’cause we had such a good time… But the memories of those guys will live on forever and obviously their music. And of course now we’ll never see the likes of the mighty PANTERA as they were ever again. They’re etched in stone with the all-time greats.”

Downing recently launched a new band called KK’S PRIEST in which he is joined by former JUDAS PRIEST singer Tim “Ripper” Owens (vocals), along with guitarist A.J. Mills (HOSTILE), bassist Tony Newton (VOODOO SIX) and drummer Sean Elg (DEATHRIDERS, CAGE).

KK’S PRIEST released its debut album, “Sermons Of The Sinner”, last October via Explorer1 Music Group/EX1 Records.


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