Bassist Hill says ex-axeman didn’t have time to tour any more – and admits they confused themselves with “farewell” news

KK Downing

Bombshell: KK Downing

Judas Priest’s last remaining founding member says he thinks guitarist KK Downing quit the band because he wanted to concentrate on his golf course.

And Ian Hill admits the band didn’t just confuse fans with their “farewell” announcement earlier this year – they also confused themselves.

Downing astonished colleagues with his bombshell news at the end of 2010, and fans were equally surprised when his decision became public. Emotions were further upset when the Metal Gods added their Epitaph world tour would be their last.

But while Hill says he’s not sure why Downing made his call, he confirms once again the band never planned to split up after the current trek.

The bassist tells the Express and Star: “Ken’s news came as a bombshell to all of us. I think he had just had enough.

“He’d got a lot on his plate with his golf course and I think he couldn’t spend the time away – by the time it’s wrapped up this tour’s going to be the best part of two years. It’s a long, long time to be away from things and I just think Ken couldn’t handle the time away.

“All due respect to him: he gave us a long enough time to find someone to replace him. We found an excellent guitarist in Richie Faulkner.

“I’ll always be a friend of Ken’s and I’m sure he’ll always be a friend of mine. We’ been together since we were about five years old. We went through school and everything together. Still waters run deep.”

The Epitaph journey might even continue beyond the current schedule. Hill underlines Priest have no intention of calling it a day any time soon.

“There was a bit of confusion with ourselves, to be honest,” he says. “It was never going to be the end of the band. We always thought we’d continue playing, at festivals or special gigs somewhere. But you have to wonder how many more two-years-worth of touring we’ve got left in us.

“We were concerned about the physical demands before we started, but to be honest we’re handling it quite well – maybe it’s having some young blood in the band. It picks everybody up a bit.

“It’s open-ended at the moment; as long as people want to hear us we’ll keep on going.”

Downing designed the nine-hole course at his Shropshire home of Astbury Hall. In 2009 he said: “I just like to be around golf and golf courses. It’s almost like when I’m about to go on stage, putting my stage clothes on, all I’m thinking about is a golf course.”

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