Devil's Island featuring K.K. Downing
We're back on our tropical desert island, in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles from anywhere. This is Devil's Island! Every week we maroon a band on the island and seeing what they get up to. It's not your average desert island and we'll see just how each band copes with the extreme conditions.
This week when we arrived at Devil's Island we found none other than K.K. Downing, of Judas Priest, sat on the beach having been recently shipwrecked! How did he cope with life on Devil's Island? Find out now...
Welcome to The Razors'e Edge and our somewhat lovely, warm desert island. Don't worry about it's name I'm sure it's not as bad as that would suggest.
So you're marooned here on this island, but before you ended up shipwrecked you each chose one album that you couldn't live without. Which album did you each chose and why?
K.K.: Well I'd have to say 'Are Your Experienced' by Jimi Hendrix. It was life changing and game changing when that album came out. I was a massive fan of the blues and way back then in the early 60's there was so many great bands about and everything was evolving in a good way. When the Hendrix album hit, for me, that was in a different genre. It feels straight off from blues or progressive blues. When Hendrix came along it was the first time i'd heard "heavy metal" really, 'Foxy Lady' and 'Purple Haze', those riff orientated songs that were formatted in the way that they were. For me that was a game changer.
I don't know how many people recognise that, but I certainly did. I became a massive fan, got to see him a fair few times and it was the first time I saw somebody... well I'd seen guitarist look great or play great, sound great but not perform great. When I saw Hendrix I saw that. I saw all of the four boxes ticked - look, sound, play, perform. That had a long lasting effect on me. When I go on stage I like to think I tick the boxes, thats what I try to do, not two or three out of the four. I try my best.
The benchmark was set by Hendrix.
Just behind that palm tree is a shack for each of you to stay in, with enough space for you to put up a poster on the wall of one album cover. What album cover do you each chose?
K.K.: I think I might have to say one of my own. I'm torn between the 'Sad Wings of Destiny' and 'British Steel'. Because they were pinnacle albums for me, so totally different that they epitomise the brand name of Judas Priest. Some years apart, the 'British Steel' album for me was very significant. For that album, for Judas Priest everything came together, the band at last were fully 100% clad in leather and studs, we had the album with that set of songs, the album cover. Everything went together and for me that was the fully fledged launch of heavy metal as we know it today. I'm immensely proud of that look, that image, that sound and that genre of music.
There's also a bar on this here island. But alas each of you only get to chose one drink for the entirety of your stay. What's your tipple of choice?
K.K.: [Laughs] Well being a beer drinker, beer, lager, you name it. I think you couldn't really beat a litre stein of German Pilsner. And if I couldn't do that a pint of Bathams would be just as good. [Laughs] I take that back, it's got to be a litre.
There's a walkman in your pocket, on the tape inside is the recording of the one live show that stands out for you. It could be any show, from any band, anywhere in the world. What show is on that walkman?
K.K.: For me, I'd give anything to have a live recording the first Hendrix concert I saw at Coventry Theatre in '67. When he played with on the bill Pink Floyd, Move, Nice with Keith Emerson. For me that concert was the be all and end all. I got to see my hero and if ever a band never let a fan down... if anything the band surpassed your expectations then that was the gig for me. It was the gig when people jumped from the balcony and stormed the stage and I was one of those guys.
Its was moving and electrifying that our messiah had landed on this earth to come and save all of us sons of blue collar workers. The blues movement was great, music for the working class of Great Britain. When Hendrix came along he was playing this stuff that emanated from the blues but on top of that he brought about this music that was really seriously for people like me and the less fortunate in the UK. We became followers and you can imagine the impact that had on me and the burden on a young musician like me to move forward to not look like, sound like or perform like Jimi Hendrix, but to have all those ingredients but do it in my own way.
If I could turn the clock back and be reborn as Jimi Hendrix I would have done.
You're getting desperate, you decide the only course of action is to put a message in a bottle and hope someone finds it. Your message could be to any member of any band, but should be the one musician most suitable for a rescue attempt. Who is it?
K.K.: I'd be quite happy if I saw Uli Jon Roth roll up in a canoe and say "K.K. jump on man and lets go and have a jam".
I guess thats fitting as Uli, like myself, lots of people have cited us and referred to us as the sons of Hendrix. We had the influence of the great man but went and did it our way.
Finally, when the ship sank you each managed to save one person from the wreckage. That person is the one musician that has influenced your career the most, shaped your way of thinking and your outlook on life. Who did you save?
K.K.: Definitely Hendrix of course. Other than it could be any one of the great guys I was listening to when I grew up in the 60's. That could be from Uli, Michael Schenker, the greats... Clapton, Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher. All of these guys were great, I was trying to be on par with these guys, they were so formidable as artists and guitar players. Even Johnny Winter, he was extraordinary, he was a great blues and rock guitar player. So many great players and I am appreciative of all of their influences.
Thanks for your time. We look forward to seeing you back on stage on November 3rd alongside David Ellefson, Ripper, Les Binks and more at your very own venue in Wolverhampton.
As we sailed away from the island, leaving K.K. on the beach, we passed Uli Jon Roth paddling a canoe in the opposite direction. It looks like K.K.'s message in a bottle had been answered after all.