Ian Hill is waiting patiently at the backstage area, just a couple of hours before Judas Priest unleash an unbelievable show to the Greek fans that have gathered that night to witness the legendary band on their so called “Epitaph World Tour”. Hill is a genuinely kind man that has absolutely no problem in answering in an immediate manner to all our questions (including the topic of K.K. Downing’s recent departure). “Is there anything left for you to achieve with the band”, we ask him. The answer comes straight and without any hesitation: “I don’t really think so...we are Priest”!
Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: Well, Ian, here you are for the “Epitaph World Tour” but this is not the end for Judas Priest as you have stated...
Ian Hill: No, it’s not the end of Judas Priest…we’ve never intended to “kill” the band. We just need to slow down a little bit as we’ve touring and doing albums almost constantly for 40 years now. It really takes a large chunk of your life; so, we have to be…well…not choosey of where we will play in the future but how many shows we can do in a specific time. The European Festivals will always be a good option but we can’t do anymore the big touring thing…leave here, go to South America, then straight to USA, Japan, Australia…you know. Not that we don’t enjoy it; we love it! We love to travel, we love to visit places and do a little bit of sightseeing, especially when we have a day off. Bear in mind that we’ve been doing this for 40 years. After 6 months not being on the road, you get a little bit itchy because you need to be on stage again (laughs)! But, unfortunately, you don’t get any younger. Of course, we will continue to record as well…we have already written an album’s worth of material. Three songs are properly recorded and roughly mixed. I think that the record company might put out something, just a bit of something so as to let the fans know of what’s coming along. It’s gonna be a great album and it’s gonna carry on from where “Angel of Retribution” left off. We got “Nostradamus” out of our system and now we are heading towards classic Priest metal….the screams, the fast, the slow and the heavy! A little bit of everything. A big “thank you” for all that we are doing goes out to the fans.
Rockpages.gr: How does it feel to be reaching the end of your career? I mean, not only as a musician but as a person...
Ian Hill: It’s gonna be very sad, I suppose…luckily we are in the middle of a long tour and we are taking it from gig to gigreally. We will worry about it when the last show comes.
Rockpages.gr: I suppose you will get emotional on your last show?
Ian Hill: Quite possibly…well, the thing is that it won’t be the last show…I am talking about this tour.
Rockpages.gr: You have also a new member in the band...Richie Faulkner.
Ian Hill: Yes, we do.
Rockpages.gr: How important is his contribution to Judas Priest in regards with the live show?
Ian Hill: Richie is great, as you will see tonight. He is a great talent, a great guitarist, a great bloke and a great performer on stage. If we wouldn’t have found him, it would have been a struggle for us really. He came along and we couldn’t be luckier.
Rockpages.gr: Was it awkward for the band and you personally to be performing without K.K.?
Ian Hill: Not really! I mean…Ken decided to retire; he’s having trouble with his wrist; I think that was probably the main reason. We gave him a lot of time to change his mind…I tried to persuade him to change his mind but he seemed adamant…he wanted to retire. We had to move on as a band. Richie was a gift to us and being a Priest fan himself, he knew almost all the songs that we were planning for this tour. The important thing is that Richie has kept the essence of what Ken was doing…with his lead breaks, his solos…although, he still leaves his own stamp in the music.
Rockpages.gr: How does it feel to be the only original member?
Ian Hill: (laughs) Oh yeah…(laughs)
Rockpages.gr: Is it 1970…? Early 1970?
Ian Hill: 1969 really…that was when we started.
Rockpages.gr: That makes you now something like a father figure to the other guys…
Ian Hill: (laughs) No! Well, maybe for Scott (Travis) and Richie. They are the young ones. But, the rest of us have been together for so many years…Glenn, Rob and myself…we are grateful to have had the luck to enjoy a good life together and continue in one way or another.
Rockpages.gr: Why don’t you get to compose more songs for Judas Priest?
Ian Hill: Well, Ken, Glenn and Rob had formed a great writing team. I am perfectly happy to get along with it. And how can you argue with all those great songs that Priest had delivered through the years (laughs)?
Rockpages.gr: Ian, when will we see playing in the very front of the stage? I mean all these years you are standing by the drum kit.
Ian Hill: Maybe in the last show I will make a surprise step forward (laughs)!
Rockpages.gr: Ian, after all these years is there anything left that you haven’t achieved?
Ian Hill: I think that we have achieved everything that we’d set out to achieve…I don’t really think so…we are Priest, you know! I am sure that none of the other guys would have thought back in the day that we will still be doing that after 40 years. We even got a Grammy award which was nice.
Rockpages.gr: Flash forward 20 years from now…you are sitting on the porch and a kid with a metal t-shirt stops by and asks: “Mr. Hill, which is the quintessential Judas Priest record that I should listen to? Which is the cornerstone record of your career”?
Ian Hill: Oh, the cornerstone record…it’s probably the first one.
Ian Hill: Yeah, I mean…it wasn’t well recorded; actually it sounded fucking awful (laughs)! But, after all these years of working hard and trying to make it…one day you go into a record store and you see your record on the shelves…it was the time when “Rocka Rolla” was among all my favorite records…Cream, The Stones, Animals, The Beatles…all those great bands. When I saw our album in the record store, I instantly knew that we have arrived! But, I guess that every band considers their debut as a really important first step on the ladder. Then, it’s up to you to improve or blow it! Fortunately, we were able to improve and we kept building our sound from album to album.