Spotlight On: Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner

Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner is living his dream in what he considers one of the greatest metal bands the world has ever known.

“You get so immersed in it. It’s quite a surreal feeling,” says Faulkner, who joined Judas Priest in 2011 following the departure of K.K. Downing, a founding member of the band. “There’s part of me that every now and then has to stop and think: Oh, my gosh. This is Judas Priest.”

Faulkner told Reverb that the band has welcomed him not only as a player, but as a writer, and that within the band’s collaborative aesthetic, everyone’s opinion is valued, which is just as well given that the band’s rigorous touring schedule leaves little time for reflection. “Since it is so immersive, you just kind of get on with it,” Faulkner says. “You focus on each other and the music and the creation and the future.”

Faulkner spoke with about his first experience playing the guitar, how he trains for touring and what’s new regarding the follow-up to Judas Priest’s 2014 opus Redeemer of Souls.

What was your first experience with the guitar? Was there anyone specifically who inspired you to play?

My dad had friends in bands when I was growing up. He played a little bit of guitar, and he borrowed guitars from them and taught me a few chords. The first guitar I played was a Les Paul shape, but it had been painted a florescent red with green and yellow and blue splashing paint across it. I think I learned “Wild Thing” by Jimi Hendrix. I remember actually going out onto the street in front of my house at eight years old, and I was playing these chords, and an old lady walked past and she put 10 pence on the walk. So, I guess she was joking, but in my naivety I thought, “Well, this would be a good way of making money!” So, my first memories of playing guitar are from my father and friends. My dad was a big Hendrix fan and into guys like Gary Moore and Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. He got me into it through his passion for it.

How have you adjusted your playing technique for Judas Priest?

I haven’t, really. Before I joined Priest, I played a lot more Les Pauls. It was my weapon of choice at the time. Since joining Priest, it wasn’t anything that was: "You have to play a V;" or: "You have to do this." Nothing has ever been said to me like that.

But that was part of the Priest tradition and it was a great excuse for me to play a V with a Floyd Rose. As a result, I’ve definitely built an affinity to the V, so that’s kind of been incorporated into my style naturally. It’s not something I’ve consciously changed style-wise. It’s always been part of my playing and my history. It’s part of my makeup as a guitar player. So, nothing has really changed. It’s just enabled me to focus on different aspects of the guitar that I’ve grown up with all along. It’s freeing, really, to be able to explore that part of my guitar playing.

How do you train and practice for touring?

I think you can really only practice to a point. Even when we go into rehearsals with the band a few weeks before we go on tour, I don’t think you can ever rehearse fully for the live situation. I’m always playing. I always have a guitar. I love playing. I think that’s one of the main reasons I do this: I have a huge passion for the guitar. I always have one with me. I’m not necessarily practicing, but I’m playing. Because of that, I'm always ready to go.

When you get up on the stage and have a PA and the fans out in front and a big stage and are moving around, the first week or so, no matter how much you practice, you’re always playing differently. You’re playing harder, you’re moving around a lot more and you’re interacting a lot more, and that interaction can have an influence on the precise nature of your playing. You’re giving part of your energy to the show. I’m not saying your playing suffers, but because you’re interacting and moving around a lot more, you’ve got to pay more attention to what you’re doing, and you can’t really practice for that.

Do you have any news on a follow-up to Redeemer of Souls?

We’re looking at maybe next year going into the studio again and putting down some ideas and seeing what we’ll come up with. The first tour I did was the Epitaph tour, and you can see why these guys have been doing it for 40 years. They love what they do, and it's inspiring.

When you go around the world and play in front of all these passionate fans in different counties, it inspires you to go and create new songs, and when you create news songs, it inspires you to go back out on the road again and play those new songs live. Now that we’re on the road playing Redeemer of Souls and these new songs live, it’s again inspiring us to go back into the studio and do some more. A lot of people say to these guys, “What’s the secret of doing this music for 40 years?” You can see why this happens: because it inspires us.

Any thoughts on how the new album will shape up, stylistically?

We don’t know what direction it’s going to take yet. Is it going to be a classic Priest record? Is it going to be a pioneering record, which Priest were famous for back in the day? They pushed the boundaries of heavy metal. That’s why they’re pioneers. We don’t know. We’ve got to follow up the quality and standard of Redeemer of Souls. It will be exciting to get back into the studio next year and see what happens.

Richie Faulkner’s Gear at a Glance

Two Gibson Les Paul Customs with EMG pickups

Two Gibson Custom Shop Flying Vs

Two Custom Flying Vs by Andy Beech

ENGL Powerball II, one main and one spare

ENGL cabs

Dunlop JC95 Jerry Cantrell Signature Cry Baby Wah

Dunlop Rotovibe

MXR Chorus

Photo by Anne Erickson

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