Judas Priest Rocks On

Guitarist Glenn Tipton talks indie-rock, tombstone epitaphs and band rapport

judas_priest_no_credit_WEBHe’s responsible for many of the heaviest, most striking metal riffs ever recorded—“Breaking the Law,” “Living After Midnight,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” to name a few. But Glenn Tipton hasn’t just motivated legions of headbangers to pick up six-string axes and form bands. He’s also earned the admiration of soft indie-folk rockers such as Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon, who wrote a gentle, lovely song named after the hard-charging, leather-clad Judas Priest guitarist.

“I did actually hear that song,” says Tipton, 67, whose band will be playing the Pearl at the Palms on November 14. “I was honored by it. I’m proud to be recognized by other musicians. C’mon, if you don’t do anything in your life but inspire people, your life is worth living.”

Forty years after their first studio album Rocka Rolla (1974), Priest continues to earn positive reviews. Critics hailed the band’s recent disc, Redeemer of Souls, as yet another classic, on par with British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance and Painkiller. Tipton credits the creative infusion of guitarist Richie Faulkner, who replaced longtime Priest shredder K.K. Downing four years ago.

“I think Redeemer might’ve progressed much like a standard Priest effort,” Tipton says. “But when Richie joined the songwriting team, we suddenly realized our band had a moment to really shine.”

Interestingly, Tipton insists he was less interested in Faulkner’s technical prowess than in the 34-year-old’s positive, can-do spirit.

“It’s very important to get along with the right personality. The first thing we looked for is someone we could get along with and collaborate. It’s OK to have the best guitar player in the world, but if that person doesn’t mesh then it’s wasted. We met with Richie and knew he was a good guitar player as soon as he walked through the door. He’s such a nice guy. The thing we needed to know is if he could write.”

No worries there. Everything Faulkner brings to the table on Redeemer is pure Priest. From the fiery riffing on “Dragonaut” to the bluesy Hendrix blasts of “Sword of Damocles,” Tipton and Faulkner comprise a ferocious sonic wail. Fans, however, should expect to hear half of the tunes from the new album. It’s inevitable for a band such as Priest, with such a trove of songs, to leave out someone’s favorite.richie_faulkner_and_glenn_tipton_shuttertstock_WEB

“With this set list, though, we almost have it right,” Tipton says. “We’re playing songs we haven’t played in years like ‘Love Bites.’ It’s a very enjoyable set for us to play, and for fans to appreciate.”

People will always flock to see Priest perform live. But how does Tipton feel about getting older while continuing to play rebellious music? Will his tombstone years from now provide any insight? Tipton laughs at this, saying the best thing he’s seen on a tombstone is British comedian Spike Milligan’s epitaph: “I told you I was ill.” What Tipton doesn’t chuckle at is the idea of a Las Vegas residency a la Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard.

“I think if it’s done in the right way, by putting on a real professional show every night, then I can see the sense. Some people might frown on it, but I don’t.”

Finally, Tipton offers some wisdom for young guitarists looking to find careers in music.

“My advice has always been: Be yourself and bring your own character to the instrument. The best bands are those you can instantly recognize. I used to struggle for hours, days, weeks learning Jimi Hendrix riffs, until it dawned on me that it was more important to develop my own style.” 

Judas Priest

with Steel Panther, 8 p.m. Nov. 14, The Pearl at the Palms, $69 and up, 702-944-3200.

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