If you don’t know who Judas Priest are then you best brush up on the past 40 years of heavy metal history fast because the Gods of the genre are making their way to our shores for Soundwave 2015! The band, despite having periods of inactivity, has been a driving force for heavy music both decades ago and still today. With their most commercially successful album, ‘Redeemer of Souls’ released last month, we caught up with guitarist Richie Faulkner to talk about Australia, the band and all things music.
Hey Richie, how are you?
I’m very well Matt, thank you, how are you doing?
I’m good mate. Getting right into it, how are you feeling for Soundwave next year?
We can’t wait man! For me personally, we didn’t do Australia on the Epitaph World Tour. We got close; we got to Singapore but we never crossed into Australia. So for me, it will be my fist time coming down with the band and we’re going to great places down there. We’re doing Soundwave plus we got our new record out down there. Honestly, we’re just really pumped about coming down.
I know it’s very early on but do you know if you will be doing any sidewaves whilst you’re here?
I can’t really divulge too much at the moment but I think Soundwave is the official one. No doubt there will be other things going on. The fans just have to keep checking the website and it’s a bit of long way to go and just do one festival, isn’t it? But no, there will be some other stuff.
When I say Australia, what pops into your head? What does the country represent for you?
Well, I’ve got family out in Sydney so that the first thing comes to my head; my nephew and sister are out there. Then obviously the people of course, they’re lovely, a bit like us Brits with the weather and the food, and the great scenery. All that stuff, there really isn’t anything negative in my mind. When you think of Australia it’s kind of the other side of the world; it’s exotic and beautiful.
So with Soundwave, there always seems to be a large number of people who hate on the poppier, non-metal bands, thinking it’s a metal festival. So what’s your take on the diversity of the lineup?
I think it’s just the greatest thing, man! Whenever you play a festival like that with such different music on the bill I think it gives all the bands an opportunity to reach out to new fans. They get exposed to stuff they never have been and they get to see bands in the festival scenario. Exactly where they should see them: live! It’s a great opportunity for the bands and fans to be introduced to a new fan base or a different band. Whoever is on the bill, they should be going down there and standing up for who they; that’s what is all about really.
Following on from that, metalheads are often typecast as elitist and although it’s a stereotype, it does happen sometimes. You’re probably the best person to ask this really so what do you think of people being biased to other non-heavy genres?
It’s hard to answer actually. Recently you had Rhianna wearing a Judas Priest t-shirt on stage and people went nuts and there was a bit of that elitist stuff from the metalheads with the: “What does she know about metal?!” But at the same time, if someone as mainstream as Rhianna is putting on our t-shirts and is discovering this genre we love so much then putting that statement out there, it’s just converting more people to the cause. It always happens when there’s “your band” and then someone else finds out about them, they’re no longer “yours”. Priest kind of fly the flag for metal and so do the metalheads so when it crosses over it can be a good thing. I think people are starting to realise that. It’s turning people on to the music that you love and that’s a great thing! How can people not [love that]!?
Another ambiguous question for you; do you think metal is as prominent and as strong as it was back in the eighties or nineties?
I think it comes and goes really. Like any music style it kind of pushes forward sometimes and other times it takes a backseat some other times. Metal was huge in the eighties and did itself in really to the point where grunge came along and just knocked it off. It seems to be riding high again as a lot of music styles are. Priest has always kind of flown the flag for metal and are not afraid to say that. A lot of bands shied away from the metal tag in the nineties but Priest stuck to their guns and so did a few other of bands like Iron Maiden and AC/DC. They always said “we’re metal and we’re proud” and they’re ones ruling the world really. Metal comes and goes in waves and I think this is currently another huge wave metal is riding.
Talking about the latest Judas Priest album, ‘Redeemer of Souls’, it was the most successful album for the band commercially in its debut. Does that stuff matter to you? Do you value these chart positions and numbers?
Absolutely! Any sort of affirmation man. We love what we do and we go in and do our best. So when it goes in the Billboard Top Ten like that, it’s an affirmation that what you’re doing is good and right, and people like it and the fans are still with you. Again, it might wake a few people in the industry up that a band after forty years can get their first top ten record in the States. It might turn other people onto metal as there’s this metal band in the top ten, and they’re go “Oh let’s check ’em out”. It’s conquering new ground and expanding the market into others that might not have been exposed to it before. It’s a very valuable thing and we’re very proud.
In regard to that, what’s your take on music piracy these days versus music streaming?
It’s another one of those things where there are people on both sides of the coin. I can see the value in [free music sharing] for new bands to get the exposure they might not otherwise get. They might not get monetary success but they reach out to the world; the world is at their finger tips almost literally. You’ve got to put in the work but you can get it out to all the world. There’s a double edged sword right there. We haven’t quite learnt how to control it yet. We haven’t put some rules and parameters around it. You’ve got stuff like Spotify however which is great. It’s not quite there yet; I don’t think the artists are quite getting compensated enough for what they’re doing but I think the whole streaming idea will get there; it will work itself out. I can see both sides of it. If I spend ten dollars on a Spotify subscription a month, that’s one-hundred and twenty dollars a year. Frankly and honestly, that is more money than I spend on a CDs a year. We’ll see what the future holds I guess.
It seems that bands nowadays bands are almost relying on social media and these streaming sites to get their foot in the door as opposed to just touring and trying to prove those votes through their hard work like a few years ago. What do you think of this new way in which bands are trying to get popular?
The interesting thing is you still have to do the work in my opinion. Whether you’ve got access to a record deal or you’re touring or you have a million followers, the point is everyone else has that same access and chance to spread their music. It’s a level playing field in a sense. You’ve still gotta do the groundwork; what is gonna make you different from the other million people in your city doing the same thing cause they sure are. It’s a different form of getting in the van and touring. Yes, you have the connectivity, but you’ve still got to work at your brand and set yourself apart from all the other people. You can see both sides of the coin as it breeds creativity for bands to be different but, at the same time, it wasn’t like it was back in the day. If there were only ten people doing it in the US or Australia then it would be easier from that regard. There’s not though; there’s millions and millions! So you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to get yourself heard above the other noise. It’s always been like that though. You’ve gotta perfect your craft and be good at what you do and be different; all that stuff is retained from years and years ago despite the new playing field.
I’m kind of dying to ask this question. It’s in regards to the future of Judas Priest. Has the success of not only the new album but your Epitaph World Tour changed anything in the foreseeable future?
Um…maybe! (Laughs) As a creative person, there were talks of retiring and a couple months of touring and all of a sudden that’s turned into another album and another tour and to be honest, with the creative juices that were flowing in those sessions I wouldn’t write off another Judas Priest album. Everyone in the band has got a genuine love and passion for what we do in Priest. We do a tour and we can’t wait to get into the studio to get these new ideas down. You get in the studio and those ideas become songs and you can’t wait to play them. It goes around like that a lot. I think we will be around for a while you know, maybe not as intensive as in the past but we will be out there with possibly a new studio album.
One last question before we let you go, Richie. Do you feel like you’re fitting in well in Priest since joining three years ago and are the fans accepting of you, considering you joined a band of such high stature?
From the moment I joined it was an incredibly inclusive atmosphere. It wasn’t a dictatorship at all, everyone had a say which you hope is what a band is going to be. From the stage, to costumes to setlists to how we can change things everyone is asked and valued, which only benefits the greater group. We went out on the tour and of course there were fans going to be skeptical but they all came out there and a big thank you to them for training the band and their decision. But in thirty seconds, they were all down there screaming the words with me and that’s just going to continue. There’s obviously fans around the world who haven’t seen me with the band and there’s some healthy skepticism around the band as they love them and want what’s best. I just hope they’ll come see me with Priest and they’ll leave with smiles on their faces and they’ll be sweaty and exhausted because we put on a great show as we set out to do. It’s all really good as we’ve got a new record that we can hopefully make future classics with and I can’t wait to do that in the near future.
Awesome, Richie. Thank you for your time and all the best for Soundwave.
Thank you Matt. Take care.
Soundwave 2015 general public tickets are now on sale. Details here.
‘Redeemer of Souls’ is out now via Sony Australia.