Singer Halford is bewildered and saddened about the timing of Downing’s retirement – but insists their friendship hasn’t been hurt

Rob Halford

Saddened: Halford

Rob Halford doesn’t know why KK Downing couldn’t wait until after Judas Priest’s final world tour before quitting the band, and says the guitarist’s move has saddened him.

But he repeats that, now Downing is gone, the future may involve much more live action than they’d believed it would.

Downing surprised fans last month by announcing he’d left the metal gods ahead of their Epitaph global trek, which they’d said would be their last. He’s been replaced by Lauren Harris axeman Richie Faulkner, who’ll also appear on the band’s upcoming album.

Halford remains bewildered about the timing of Downing’s decision – but compared it to his own decision to leave Priest in 1992.

The singer, who returned in 2003, tells RafaBase.com: “Why is it happening now? It’s a great question, but you have to ask KK because I can’t answer it.

“You could have asked me the same question when I was away from the band and my good friend Ripper Owens was holding the mic for me.

“You’ve got no control over these things so you just have to accept them and see what your options are.”

Downing blamed friction with “band elements and management” for his retirement, although he later released a more reflective statement in which he said he was grateful for his 42 years in Priest and had nothing but good memories.

Halford comments: “I think it it was unfair to single out those things as the reason why he left, because it was more than that. I don’t really know why he said those things.

“I think maybe he was feeling very emotional – in the light of all the excitement and confusion things got kind of distorted.”

The frontman remains disappointed over his bandmate’s departure, which leaves bassist Ian Hill as Priest’s only remaining founding member.

“I feel very sad that this whole episode has taken place at the time it has,” says Halford. “I love KK like a brother – we’ve been in each other’s lives for over 40 years.

“KK’s gone. We love him dearly and we wish things were different, but they’re not. The important thing is we’re still all good friends. It doesn’t matter about the breakdown in communication or the creative differences; that’s just part of being in a band. The friendship doesn’t go away.”

Halford doesn’t see any reason why Priest should stop making records, and also believes there could be opportunities for further touring in the future: “It’s a very open set of opportunities,” he says. “We’ll still be doing shows, getting together every now and then and doing a festival here and there. But we won’t be going out on these long massive world tours as much.”

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