Richie Faulkner (guitar)
Phoner – Monday January 15, 2018
“When you go to Hellfest you have something different and something more. It is a different world and experience”
How are you Richie?
I’m good! How are you?
Wonderful – starting up the day! How deep are you into phoners?
You are my third one this morning so not too bad!
The first and most obvious question I have for you is, this is your second record with Judas Priest, how did it impact your writing with the band?
It’s a continuation of the inclusive feeling I had when I joined the band. When I joined the band it was very apparent that they didn’t want a sideman or a hired gun they wanted a band member. They wanted someone who gave 1000% and they would give 1000% too. Then you go on tour and you build relationships and trust. That came into play on the first studio outing, Redeemer Of Souls. It’s about the relationships growing. It’s a continuation of that mentality. The relationship has grown and you become closer. It’s an extension of that inclusive attitude coupled with the love, trust and respect we have for each other. So you go in with more ideas and you can definitely hear that it’s my second one. It’s an extension or a progression from Redeemer Of Souls. It’s got a great energy. You can hear that on the record.
How do you feel you have impacted the Judas Priest sound?
I don’t think I have to be honest. You have four guys who have been in the band for at least thirty years each. Priest has been around over forty years. I don’t think I could change the characteristic of the band that much. I was brought up on Priest musically and stylistically as a guitar player. It’s part of my makeup. I’m not going to change the sound, or maybe I do and I just don’t notice. It’s a hard thing to tell when you’re so close to it. I do think it sounds like Judas Priest in 2018, it’s a modern record and has the aggression of a modern record. It’s got the lyrics and composition of a modern record too. I have a fifth to play in that. There’s five guys in the band and we all contribute to that sound. But they have been going for 45 years so I don’t know if I’ve changed the sound!
What makes a record sound modern to you?
The sound of a record. It’s a nebulous thing. When someone says a “classic” record or a “classic” sound it could mean so many different things, it’s the same with “modern”. To me there is a certain production value that goes into a modern record, the way the drums sound and vocals sound. Some decades the vocals where smothered with reverb, like in the 70s, by the mid 80s they were a bit more dry sounding. It can change with the times. The production value is very up front sounding. It’s a good question! It can mean a lot to different people. In the context of Judas Priest’s music it doesn’t sound like a 70s record. It sounds like a current record, we try different things.
Tied into that – I was talking to some people in the London scene in preparation for this interview and talking about your old covers band Metalworks, how does it feel to go from being in the cover band to the band you’ve been covering?
(laughter) We covered quite a lot of bands, like Priest, Sabbath, Maiden and Deep Purple. It would have been amazing to have been considered by any of those. You can’t be in a rock and metal cover band without loving those bands. You aspire to be that good, those men are like gods who inspire you to start playing. You never think that opportunity will come in a phone call. If it does you know what it means. You know what it means as a fan and to people around the world and what that band represents. When you get the opportunity to become a part of it it’s a serious thing to be taken care of. It’s not to be taken lightly. You can’t just walk in. You’ve got to give your all to it otherwise it won’t work! I think knowing that about Priest history and knowing that about the band came from playing with them. I still do it. If I’m in London for the weekend I go and play a few songs!
Do you still feel connected to that London scene you came up in?
I don’t think I could say I feel connected. I spend a lot of time away from the UK on tour. Whenever I come back it is always slightly different. London always has that energy of something new. There’s an undercurrent. There’s an adversity there. It’s like people are fighting to get their voices heard. It’s a vibrant creative challenge there. Be it in fashion, music or the vibe. That never changes. You go anywhere and there’s always this impression of expression. In art in general London has always been at the forefront. I spend so much time away now that I can’t say I have the same connection with it but when I go back it feels like home. It’s where I grew up in over the years and there is something familiar about it when I get back there.
Part of growing up in London, that has fascinated about you, is you used to play with Lauren Harris (Steve’s daughter) and Christopher Lee – how did you get involved with them?
It’s a bit of a long story. I lived in Stockholm in my teens and went to an Iron Maiden show. One of the opening acts were a band called Dirty Deeds. A few years later I was in a bar in Camden playing cover and those guys came in. They were a signed band. One thing led to another and I joined the band and recorded with Steve Harris as the executive producer. From that relationship Steve asked me to do a session with his daughter who was doing a pop rock band and it’s like “Of course Mr Harris!” It was purely from playing in bars and clubs and enjoying the music and doing things. One thing leads to another. Then there you are on stage with Maiden and there’s the Powerslave set behind you! It doesn’t happen overnight but it’s the relationships you build along the way and the contacts you make and if you’re lucky and fortunate and the planets align that’s what can happen.
How did living in Stockholm as a teenager impact you?
I don’t think it would have been that different. Obviously I learned another language but I think I would have been doing the same thing if I lived in London, putting bands together, writing songs, all that. I live in Stockholm for about 4 years and met a group of guys I did gigs with. I don’t know if it changed me too much. I think it did give me an insight into the world and it made me more worldly. There was a lot of stuff there that changed my life. It’s a beautiful country too!
How does it feel to go from putting together bands to headlining Hellfest?
It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not one of those things where you’re playing to 5 people and then suddenly it’s 50,000. It’s a progression. You make mistakes. You fall and pick yourself up. It’s the same for whatever you are into. The interesting thing is that the fundamental of it when you get together with the guys it’s the same thing that drives you when you’re 15. It’s the same thing that drives you when you’re trying to put together an idea that excites you. It’s the same thing. Priest have been doing it for over forty years but we’re still looking for that. It’s great that doesn’t change. Everything around it does, the industry and the circumstances you’re in, but that initial creative thing never changes which is a great thing to see in bands like Priest.
What draws you to music?
I often think about this. There’s a drive to create, to write music, to create melodies. I don’t know where it comes from. I know that if you don’t do it then you feel somethings missing. I don’t know quite where that comes from. It’s a great thing though. If I wasn’t making music for Priest then I’d be doing the same thing on a lower level with groups of friends. I’m sure Zakk Wylde would be doing the same thing too. It’s in you and you never stop doing it.
You’ve played Hellfest a few times – how has that experience impacted you?
I’ve had this conversation before. They can merge into each other because of the schedule we are on and the timing. But Hellfest always sticks out. I’m not just saying this. The last time we were there we got changed and on stage and the curtains came down and it was like a different world, like Mad Max. There’s fire coming out of the buildings and all that. It was an immersive feeling, like we were all on a different planet. It’s a great thing. Fans go to festivals and save their money to afford it and when you go to Hellfest you have something different and something more. It is a different world and experience. That was just me playing it. I can only imagine what it was like experiencing it in its entirety. It’s a different world.
It does take you out of this reality, doesn’t it?
It does! I went to meet some friends after and the whole thing was the festival. It wasn’t disjointed. It gave it an amazing feeling. It seemed real. Like it was all part of the same base.
When you joined Judas Priest I was 15, that was this really exciting thing that some guy could just ‘join Judas Priest’! And I know a lot of other people in a similar boat who find your story inspiring. Where do you feel you fit into rock history?
That’s a great question and I appreciate you saying that. When the opportunity comes along you don’t think about it as inspiring people but when you hear people like yourself say that it can inspire people. It can happen if you take chances. As far as where I see myself in the history of things I don’t think about it. I just keep my head down and do what I do. You make mistakes and learn from them and get up and try again. The music industry is a forever changing beast. You have to wait for different things to be tried and to learn from. It’s an exciting time but also a daunting time. We all love that side of things. You can’t stop it. I think everyone looks to the future rather than where they are on the historical scale in Priest, so we’ll see where the future is!
Interview: Matt Bacon.
Many thanks to Olivier Garnier (Replica)