When you think of bands that pioneered the twin-guitar attack, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are two that likely come to mind. Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton points out that Maiden were influenced by his band, but they took things in different directions.
Tipton stepped away from touring with the band in 2018 following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, subsequently replaced by producer Andy Sneap for road work. Even though he was forced to exit the road, Tipton remains fully engaged with the band, including helping to write the follow-up to 2018’s Firepower. Progress on the album was delayed by the pandemic, Tipton tells UCR, but says it will be worth the wait.
It’s been great to see you continuing to make some appearances on this tour.
It’s great. It’s very nostalgic, and it’s nice to be able to play some songs that we never got a chance to before.
When Judas Priest first became a two-guitar band, how did you and K.K. Downing divide the parts?
It really took care of itself. We didn’t sit down and say, “You take this one, I’ll take that one.” Everything seemed to fall in place. It seemed obvious which lead I should take and the leads that K.K. should do.
Painkiller was a pretty radical and heavy update to the Priest sound in 1990.
It really was natural. It was obvious when it came to recording [the album]. But we didn’t really have to change our style. We’ve always known what’s going on around us, like, the punk and new wave era, there were lessons to be learned there. We picked up on the energy of the new wave and punk era. You didn’t have to be a maestro to write some of the songs that the punk bands wrote with three chords. But what they did put out was a lot of energy. We learned a lot from that. It sort of gave us another direction and route to take.
But it was an obvious style to pursue. There’s always something you can learn from the new bands. “Painkiller” is a good example of that. It was driven [by similar energy].
Watch Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller’ Video
Kerry King of Slayer recently called your turn in “Beyond the Realms of Death” his favorite Tipton solo of all time.
That’s very good of him. I know he’s always been a big fan of the band. It’s great when a guy like that can open up and say what he enjoyed about tracks [like that]. It is a favorite solo of mine. It’s nice to hear somebody like Kerry come out and say that. With all of the hard work you put in, it’s nice to know that it’s appreciated.
What do you remember about the song and coming up with that solo?
Only the fact that it was a great solo to play onstage, and it gave a reprieve in the show. You can take a breather and then what follows on from that seems to be even more powerful.
Iron Maiden also had the twin-guitar thing, but they had a specific approach. As a guitar player, what was interesting to you about them?
I think it was a natural progression, that’s the phrase I would use. They took what we had done and made it their own. It’s important to be very easily recognizable when you’re writing songs. You know that you’re successful, I think, when you hear yourself on the radio and it’s easily recognizable. I think that Maiden did that. They’re very influenced by Priest, but they did it in their own way, and all credit to them for that.
The new box set has some great rarities. Do you have any specific favorites you were happy to get out there?
I just think it’s all great to hear. From the current version of Judas Priest, the present lineup, going back five generations, just to see how the songs … it’s like an old wine, they sit there and mature. I think that’s the case with this 50th-anniversary release. Some songs have been just maturing and, as they say, with age comes taste. I think that’s the case.
It takes a special guitar player to be able to match you, as Richie Faulkner did when he joined the band in 2011.
He’s phenomenal. I didn’t realize quite how good he was, initially. There’s been times when he’s just noodling on the guitars, and he doesn’t particularly know whether there’s anybody else in the studio. What he comes up with is unbelievable. He had a big mission as well. Because he had to play the solos in line with where the band was at. Otherwise, people would criticize him for that. He’s done that, but he puts his own stamp on it. I think it takes a lot of skill to do that. From one guitar player to another, I don’t think there’s anybody else that could have taken those solos and changed them without it affecting the quality of the song. He’s an incredible guitar player.
What’s going on with the new Judas Priest album?
The epidemic really halted the writing process. But the band was kicking ideas around before that. I think it’s what every Priest fan would want to hear. There’s no attempt to be clever or try and do something too risky. It’s just down and out Priest. And as I say, I think it will be what every Priest fan will want.
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