Backstage Axxess recently conducted an interview with bassist Ian Hill of British heavy metal legends JUDAS PRIEST.
On recording their new album “Firepower” live in the studio:
Ian: “We had two producers in Tom Allom and Andy Sneap. We decided to use producers for the first time in a while. We’ve been doing it ourselves and of course, Tom‘s name always pops up by default when you mention producers and JUDAS PRIEST. But, we wanted a newer edge as well, someone who is more up-to-date with the newer recording techniques and what have you, so we approached Andy Sneap, who we knew by reputation and asked if he minded working with Tom and the engineer, Mike Exeter. They all agreed and they got on really well. Long story short, you thought it probably would have been Tom that got us to play live in the studio, but it wasn’t, it was Andy who suggested it.
For the last few albums, we’d done everything separately, really. Get a good drum track and then mic the guitars and the bass or whatever. You’re just trapped in the studio where it’s just you there playing to what’s already down. This time, we decided to get the basic drum tracks. Instead of playing the drums to a click track, which makes it very precise and mechanical if you know what I mean, we decided to ditch that and Richie [Faulkner, guitar] and myself played along with Scott [Travis] while he was putting his drum tracks down. It really paid dividends. You get these imperceptible rises and flows in tempos because there are different parts in each song. It gives it a bit of life. It gives it a more real sort of feeling. You can really tell with some of the songs that it’s organic, if you like. It really worked out.”
On Sneap filling in for guitarist Glenn Tipton on the “Firepower” tour due to the latter’s ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Ian: “It’s a terrible thing with Glenn, his condition. He was actually diagnosed just before the last project and when we got to band rehearsals for the tour, it started out very, very rough, but as the days went on, he got better and better and better to the point where he gave tremendous performances on the last tour and we were kind of hoping that was going to happen again. At the end of the first week of band rehearsals it was apparent to everybody that it wasn’t going to happen, unfortunately, this time around. But it was a way for Glenn to admit it to himself that his body wasn’t going to let him do it anymore. Andy, actually, he was in the rehearsal studio at the time, he brought some effects tapes down for us and Glenn says, ‘Why don’t you give Andya go? He’s a good guitarist.’ We’ve heard his work with HELL and whatever.
So, we asked Andy. After he picked his jaw up off the floor, he agreed. [Laughs] Then he got, I think it was about two weeks to get the set together. He was a perfect fit. The thing is, he just did the new material so he was familiar with that. Knowing how a song goes when you’re trying to learn it, you’re sort of halfway there, the structures of the songs. He’s been a fan of the band as well for years. The older stuff we’re doing as well. He really was a perfect fit. Of course, as the weeks have gone on, he’s always been performing great, but now his actual stage presence is moving up as well. He’s putting on some great performances now.”
On whether PRIEST personally addressed former guitarist K.K. Downing after he claimed Sneap played some of Tipton‘s parts on “Firepower”:
Ian: “I haven’t spoken to Ken for a while, for a couple years. I’ll say what I said before: I really don’t know where he was coming from. When he retired, we took on Richie, you know, so he’s playing all Ken‘s parts. So, it’s not Ken‘s [parts] that are missing, it’s going to be Glenn‘s parts that he would be playing. Really, Ken, what’s he going to do? Come over to my side of the stage and play Glenn‘s parts? I just don’t know where he was coming from with it.
I think it was a bit of mischief on his behalf, to be honest. It wasn’t his job, if you know what I mean, that had become vacant. It was Glenn‘s. Glenn and Ken are two excellent guitarists, [but] both are completely different in styles and sounds, and for Ken to be playing Glenn‘s parts anyway, it really wouldn’t have sounded right anyway. We went for Andy anyway. We never thought about Ken for that reason. Like I said, I don’t really know where he was coming from with it.”
On whether he thinks PRIEST will ever be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame:
Ian: “I don’t think they like heavy metal bands, to be honest. One of the few heavy metal bands that was inducted was BLACK SABBATH and I think it took eight nominations before they got in. Don’t hold your breath. I’m not sure if JUDAS PRIEST has eight nominations left at this point in time. We’ll see. These things come up and it’s always nice, even when you’re nominated to be recognized by your peers. It’s always good news. But, having said that, we don’t lose a great deal of sleep when it doesn’t come off. We don’t set our sights on things like that. My priority is turning out good metal music and pleasing our fans.”