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Credit: Andrew OgilvyWhen it comes to heavy metal bands, it doesn’t get much better or heavier than Judas Priest. The legendary band launched their Epitaph Tour in October.  Of this tour, vocalist Rob Halford recently told Rolling Stone, “We’re pulling out all the stops. We’ve built a brand new stage set, we’ve got all the effects that people love us for – the lasers, the fire, the bombs, the smoke, new costumes, and the bike. It’s just a full-on metal extravaganza.”

As Judas Priest fans already know, guitarist K.K. Downing left the band earlier this year, after being with the band for forty years. London born guitarist Richie Faulkner was appointed Downing’s successor in April. Before Richie took this new gig, he was the guitarist in Lauren Harris’ band (who is the daughter of Steve Harris, bassist for Iron Maiden). Richie’s first performance with the band took place on May 25, 2011 where the band performed “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law” with American Idol contestant James Durbin.

I had a recent opportunity to speak with Richie about his start in music, as well as his newfound success in Judas Priest. Richie grew up as a Judas Priest fan, so this opportunity has been a dream come true for him.

Richie said that he knew he wanted to make a career out of music at a young age. He grew up around music, and his earliest influence was his father, who was also a guitar player. Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple also had a very big influence on him growing up.

Richie told me that he didn’t really audition for Judas Priest. “I received a phone call that they (Judas Priest) were interested in me. I went to Glenn’s house to meet with the band, and we got to know each other. We played music together, and would take breaks to go to the local pub for a drink, and this is how we got to know each other,” he told me.

His first “real” show took place in Holland. Richie told me that his first time playing with the band that night (a full concert, and not just the two songs on American Idol) was “very exciting, and the fans were great.”

Judas Priest has been in the U.S. for a few weeks now. They performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which Richie said was a lot of fun. He said, “It’s a great honor to play in the United States as a headlining act.” We talked about how the fans were different all over the world, and how fan reactions are globally different. Of the U.S. fans, “They pay more attention here, and it’s definitely not as crazy. The shows are more controlled. It’s different, but still great. I love the shows here in America”.

Of Judas Priest songs, Richie tells me that the songs are “fantastic”, and his favorite song to perform live changes every other week. At the time we spoke, “Turbo Lover” was his favorite song to perform. Richie told me that there are a lot of favorite stories on the road. “Every night there is special magic going on. The incredible set makes quite an impression and every show is different,” he told me.

The band members have nothing but good things to say about their new member. Tipton has said, “Richie’s been fantastic. He’s young and fresh and full of enthusiasm. We really feel that we can continue forward in a proper way with him.”

The band recently released a compilation album called The Chosen Few. The new album features Judas Priest classics chosen by members of bands such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, and Lamb of God, among others.

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