In a brand new interview with Edmonton, Alberta, Canada's K-97 radio station, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner was asked what relationship — if any — the band currently has with the man he replaced, original PRIEST guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing . He responded (hear audio below): "I've never spoken to Ken . And I don't really know. I honestly don't know. I don't think anyone's spoken to him. I don't think he's spoken to them. I think he speaks to the management. But I've never spoken to him. Most of the stuff now is online. It seems that there's a lot online and not enough talking with each other. But who knows? But we're just forging forward and doing what we can — new record, new tour, and forging forward with that, really."

Last summer, Downing revealed that he sent two resignation letters to his bandmates when he decided to quit JUDAS PRIEST . The first was described as "a graceful exit note, implying a smooth retirement from music," while the second was "angrier, laying out all of his frustrations with specific parties."

Downing later said that he believed the second letter was "a key reason" he wasn't invited to rejoin PRIEST following Glenn Tipton 's decision to retire from touring.

Downing told Landry.Audio in a recent interview that he is not sad or resentful over the fact that the band has carried on recording and touring after his exit nearly eight years ago. "It was bound to happen," he said. "It's just the way it has happened. I think it should have been different, really. I think Richie should have been allowed to be his own person. And if he likes to play Gibson Les Pauls , then he should go on stage and play those and not be encouraged to play Flying Vs and wear clothes like me and look like me and do all of that.

"When Ripper [vocalist Tim Owens ] joined [ JUDAS PRIEST as the replacement for Rob Halford ], we gave him license to be himself — we didn't say, 'You've gotta do this like Rob or that like Rob ,'" Downing continued. "So, essentially, my initial reaction was that the guys have cloned me. I thought, well, maybe they think it's a good move because the fans won't miss me and they'll kind of, in a way, from 10 rows back, think I'm still there. And the fact that my image was used in so much of the publicity for the upcoming tour. Maybe that's what went on. I think that Richie is such a good player in his own right that he should have been allowed to be himself. And, of course, when Glenn , I didn't see the same thing happening on that side of the stage."

Asked if he thinks Faulkner is an "adequate successor" to his lineage within JUDAS PRIEST , Downing said: "Well, it's absolutely seriously, seriously difficult to replace anybody that's been there for such a long time, and I understand that. It's so difficult, because it's not the same person. It doesn't matter, even if some people — and some people do think Ripper has got the edge over Rob . And I can see why — his vocals are young, they are strong. When he came into the band, he was tremendous. But the tonality and the texture, there's always gonna be little things here and there that are not gonna be the same. And people prefer to have the same. But I think that Richie is doing lots of things at the moment, really. He's not just filling in for me now — he's also playing Glenn 's solos — and it all seems a bit strange to me. I don't really quite understand it."

JUDAS PRIEST will return to the United States this spring for a run with fellow classic heavy rockers URIAH HEEP . The 32-date trek will kick off on May 3 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida and wrap on June 29 at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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