In an EXCLUSIVE chat with BW&BK this afternoon (February 17th), JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing took some time to discuss the band's upcoming concept album about the life and predictions of 16th-century French prophet Nostradamus.
"Myself and Glenn (Tipton - guitar) have been in the studio for the last month and a half non-stop, laying and formatting the tracks," Downing reveals before heading off to the pub! "Basically we're doing a lot of the groundwork. Roy (Z - guitarist/producer; also HALFORD, BRUCE DICKINSON) hasn't been involved in the new record as yet. He has really been quite busy with Rob (Halford - vocals) in his band as well. We'll have to see what happens on that front. Rob's already put vocals down on some of these tracks, but they've only been kind of roughed out. So, he's been refining the lyrics for the album. But the thing with this one is that the music is running an a hour and 39 minutes at the moment. So it's literally almost twice as long as what we've done previously. This concept is going to be that way, pretty intense, in-depth and length - and hopefully a masterpiece."
Will it stay that length?
Well, were were hoping we'd get it onto one CD, but knowing that a CD holds only 80 minutes, it's looking that we'll have two CDs I guess."
Is the material taking shape to the point that you can't edit it down?
"I think there is one idea that we can afford to leave off, but the rest is still going to run about an hour and a half."
Describe the material?
"It's tough and we are ready for anything. The only thing I know is that it sounds like music," he laughs! "Hopefully songs that sound like music - that's all I can say."
How many songs are there in the can?
"I think there are 18, but there are a lot of links between songs. There are lots of instrumental parts, so it's a full-on musical really."
What about orchestration?
"Yes, there's going to be orchestration. It's all myself and Glenn putting it together. We dabbled with Midi Guitars back in the '80s, with the Turbo (1986) album. Now things have moved on a lot and now we've got some pretty high tech gear. The tracking is very good, so we can put the orchestrations together ourselves. Also, we've always dabbled with keyboards as well. Godin, the guitar company from Quebec, I've been using those for about a year and that's working out really well. They are the best people in the world if you want Midi converters on an instrument. So we can actually play their guitars and go through a Roland or Axiom interface. It can sound like anything you know. We're getting all these really heavy, orchestral sounds and stuff."
Are any outside orchestrations being considered or will it strictly be all Priest?
"We're taking about that. We don't really know. What we do know is what we're putting together sounds really, really good you know. Obviously we want to go out and play and perform this concept in it's entirety. Hopefully this will be the first ever metal opera in a sense. We're talking staging now as well. We're look forward to putting on a great show with this music. Who knows what's going to happen yet. We'll release the record and maybe go out on tour. Maybe play a couple of songs off the new record. It would be nice to tour with this record, once we establish with the people whether they like it or not."
Have you encountered any problems with this massive undertaking considering you announced the project last April?
"No, actually. We're pretty confident ... quietly confident. The only question is the level of acceptance, because everybody, probably just want another Priest record you know! All of those ingredients will be in the record anyway."
Is this coming together at the pace you expected?
"We're belting along now. All the songs are down and formatted ... were just getting ready to get Rob over now and looking forward to hearing his lyrics on this new record and us putting it all together."
What's your timeline? Will Nostradamus be out by the summer time?
"Yes, definitely. We may be back on the road in the summer, maybe late summer. There's always somewhere in the world Priest can tour, so we'll be looking to get out there and play some shows."
Are you getting cabin fever?
"You do don't you? When you finish a world tour like we did - we did almost 18 months of touring. I think we did the Ozzfest and the European festivals before we even released our last record (Angel Of Retribution). And then we did a world tour with that. It's amazing, time goes by and you look forward to getting out there and cranking it up you know."
Watch for more of BW&BK's chat with Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing at BraveWords.com and in the next issue of BW&BK (#103 - out in late March). Up next he talks about his most recent undertaking - VIOLENT STORM, the new project featuring bassist Mick Cervino (ex-YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and RITCHIE BLACKMORE) that he produced.