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Kerby Shares a Couple Drinks With Judas Priest Axeman Glenn Tipton

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Friday, March 10, 2006 @ 9:11 PM


"You’ve got to go with the flo

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The first time I met Glenn Tipton was about four years ago at a hotel outside Sante Fe. This was during the Ripper era, and Priest was about to play a casino about two miles away. When the guitarist came down to the lobby where the interview was supposed to take place, he took a couple of quick looks around and said, “Where can we get a drink?”

We eventually walked upstairs where Glenn found the bar and turned around and asked me, “What do you want to drink?”

“Oh hell,” I thought. What in the world do you order? I mean, you never think of being in a bar with the guitarist from Judas Priest, and you also never think about what you’d order if he asked you what you wanted. Shit. I really felt like a beer, but…that might look weak, so before I even knew what I was saying, the word just popped out—“vodka.”

“What do you want with it?”

“Uh, nothing.”

“Straight?”

“Yeah.”

Upon hearing this, Glenn gave me the high sign with his thumb and then proceeded to order the light beer that I should have asked for--I ended up trying as hard as I could during the hour long conversation not to look like I was wincing as I took each sip of the drink.

Yeah, I’ll admit it; I even kept the receipt from the encounter.

Why not? It is a verifiable fact that Glenn Tipton has been a part of some of the best metal created over the last thirty years. Considered, along with band mate KK Downing, as part what could well be the preeminent twin guitar attack in rock history, Glenn has been all over the press recently in support of the release of albums Baptizm of Fire and Edge of the World which were recorded with the legendary John Entwistle and drummer Cozy Powell. Having just participated in one of the more improbable/amazing comebacks in rock history, Tipton has barely given himself any time at all to reflect before undertaking the task of promoting these records as well as beginning recording on a new Priest record as well. Exhibiting the type of energy these tasks require as well as the relative ease in which he conducts himself, it wouldn’t be hard to envision him standing onstage with JP ten years from now. If that happens, I think I could drink another vodka to that feat---or at the very least a light beer.

KNAC.COM: How much of the Edge of the World album had been completed before you went to Atlantic with the hopes of getting them interested in a solo record?

TIPTON: All of it really, Jeff. It was the first batch of songs that I did back in ’94 when there really was no Priest. At that point, I started to write even though I didn’t know exactly what it would be for—had no idea really. When I got the first batch of songs together, I brought them to Cozy, and when we thought about who could play bass, John’s name came up. After I played some tracks for John, he said that he’d love to do it. We eventually ended up in a little studio in Whales and recorded a batch of songs. Afterwards Atlantic suggested at the time that they liked the material, but they felt that I should work with some young guys as well. I got very little choice in the matter. Everyone thinks that just because you’re in Priest you can go out and get a solo deal, but that isn’t how it works.

KNAC.COM: Do you remember exactly how you felt back in ’94? I mean, I’m sure it had to be a definite time of transition for you.

TIPTON: Yeah, I mean at that time everything was kind of changing. Metal was getting darker, so I came across to the States to work with Billy Sheehan and Robert Trujillo. In all honesty, a really great album emerged. It didn’t turn out to be the end of the world, but it left this first batch of songs on the shelf, and I always believed in the material. After working with two legends like Cozy and John, I really wanted these songs to come out at some point. Recently, when Rhino wanted to re-release Baptizm of Fire because it had been deleted, that’s when we first discussed releasing the previous material as well. Basically, it’s a tribute to two of the greatest players who ever lived, and tragically neither are here now, but at least this is down now for everyone to check out and be inspired by their playing. That’s the way it came about really.

KNAC.COM: What made John Entwistle so much different than other bass players?

TIPTON: Jeff, we were set up in this studio in Britain in the middle of nowhere. John came down with a crate of whiskey and about twelve bass guitars. I was obviously aware of his work with The Who at the time, but when he struck up in the studio, his sound was so unique that it couldn’t have been any other bass player. He just stunned me with his talent and versatility. John could play any form of bass. He could finger pick the bass or play the twelve string—he was a total musician and gentleman as well. I was just knocked out really. The first thing we did was “Give Blood” off the album, and I just looked at Cozy, and we just burst into grins because there is just so much character in his technique and style. That’s what really floored me.

KNAC.COM: Do you ever get the sense as someone who has been around as long as you have been, that the best period for someone to make a life long impression on rock has passed?

TIPTON: Yeah, well, I think when you’ve been in the business as long as I have which is a long time that you actually just evolve and accept that there are going to be changes. You not only have to accept that, you have to go with it because if you don’t, the sands of time are going to cover you over. We’ve been around for thirty years in Priest, and we wouldn’t still be here if we hadn’t looked around us and kept our ear to the ground and checked out the younger bands and the competition and moved along with it. You have to do that. You have to accept that. For me, the great era was the mid eighties to the mid nineties, but I still enjoyed every year since then. You’ve got to go with the flow or you’re going to be left behind. There’s a spine or backbone of metal, and there are a lot of offshoots, but things usually come full circle and back to strength usually.

KNAC.COM: As a father who has children interested in music with a son who plays drums on “The Breed” with you as well as a daughter who co wrote the same song, what advice have you given them?

TIPTON: I don’t say much really, Jeff, because as you go through life, I think you have to learn your own lessons. Obviously, I give them advice when they need it, but when you’re young, you don’t really want to listen to advice. If I see them heading in a direction where I think I should mention something, then I’ll mention it. I don’t labor the point though because if you labor the point, kids don’t listen to you--kids don’t listen to you anyway.(laughs) I mean, my daughter is twenty-five and my son is nineteen, so they’re both pretty much adults now. They just see me as a father really or a friend. It was great to do all of this together though. My daughter came into the studio and started messing around on the keyboards one day, and I thought there was a song there. We started writing it together and weirdly, my son, who had been away at the university for a year, came back. Well, he left a guitar player and came back as a drummer---and he’s in three bands now. He ended up putting the drum tracks right down with shades of Keith Moon in there, and I was real proud of him. It’s a good thing to do to work with your family. It’s really not a nice song that we did though…it’s quite nasty really.

KNAC.COM: What’s being a father if you can’t write a nasty song with your kids every once in awhile?

TIPTON: Exactly.

KNAC.COM: How much real work was involved in the remastering of Baptizm of Fire? Was it just a matter of utilizing the new technology to update the sound?

TIPTON: I do believe I’ve got mixed feelings in that you should leave things alone in one sense, but I also believe that you should take advantage of what is going on today, and if the digital remastering is done right, it can really enhance the material. It’s a rock album, so if you can get it to sound louder, then that’s always a bonus. It does affect the sound obviously though in that if you increase the levels, you’re gonna bring some things out while others are gonna go back. That’s ok, if you’re gonna remaster something, it should sound a little different otherwise you might as well just keep the original version. All told, I think the advantages greatly outweigh the disadvantages. It has brought a lot more of the tracks to life and greatly improved them.

KNAC.COM: After you got the opportunity to be a vocalist on these, did you find that you didn’t really miss it when you returned to the stage with Priest?

TIPTON: Originally, I just sang these songs to get some kind of arrangements going to work out the melodies and things like that. When I first started writing this material, I had no idea who I was going to be working with. The more I sang, the more confidence I got and the more character I found in my vocals. In no stretch of the imagination do I put myself anywhere near the talent of Rob. When you’ve been onstage with someone as talented as Rob, you know what a good singer is. What I can do though is write the songs around my limited abilities as a vocalist, so I have that opportunity. I can get away with it because I know my limitations, and I can tailor make them to suit my vocals. As time went on, people told me that I should just sing the songs myself because there is a character there. I’ve heard my vocals described using many adjectives, and “interesting” is one--I’ll take what I can get though. I don’t purport to be the world’s best vocalist by any means, but I think that on my songs, it’s appropriate.

KNAC.COM: It’s interesting too because anything you do is going to be associated with Priest and Priest with Rob and Rob with this insane ability that no one else has. It’s an unfair comparison in that respect.

TIPTON: Of course you have to do solo albums for the right reasons, and hand on heart, these were done when there was no Judas Priest. I am a creative guy, and I needed to create, and at the time there was no future for us--we hadn’t even found Ripper yet. You’re supposed to do solo records in order to work with other musicians and have it gives you a chance to walk down paths lyrically and musically that you normally couldn’t. There is no way in the world that I would ever try to do a solo record that sounded like Judas Priest because I am only one fifth of Judas Priest. I couldn’t come close to it on my own. I just think the reason to do solo material is to artistically move about in areas that you normally wouldn’t be able to.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that the fans sometimes completely underestimate Ripper’s contributions to the group? I mean, if nothing else, it kept the core of you together so that the reunion could eventually occur.

TIPTON: We wouldn’t be here, Jeff, if it wasn’t for Tim. I don’t think he gets enough credit because we did two great albums Demolition and Jugulator. The Ripper years were great. In all honesty, it’s what kept Priest alive, because if we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t be here today, and that’s a fact. Tim doesn’t get quite enough credit because he stepped into Rob’s shoes, and there is no one else on Earth who could do that. You know when he stepped into his shoes, he justified it by doing such an amazing job.

KNAC.COM: Could you have predicted the reception that Angel of Retribution eventually received or the reception Priest received both at Ozzfest and later on during the headlining shows?

TIPTON: It was really heartwarming because obviously we were reunited, but we didn’t really know if the writing magic would still be there. We certainly didn’t expect the reception we got though which was phenomenal--from the reviews to the audience participation. It just couldn’t have been any better…it has been a wonderful eighteen months really.

KNAC.COM: Priest is also about to release a performance taken from the Screaming For Vengeance tour, right?

TIPTON: That’s right. It was originally given away as a bonus on the box set, but we just felt that people should have the opportunity to buy the DVD without having to buy the box set. That’s the reason that’s being released.

KNAC.COM: How gratifying was the eventual gold status of the Rising in the East DVD that was introduced at Christmas?

TIPTON: It’s all been good stuff, you know? I don’t think we’ve ever released anything that was superfluous--I think everything has had a good reason to be released, and the people really seem to have enjoyed it.

KNAC.COM: The one point that I have always contended is that basically anyone who saw Judas Priest on that tour could expect to see that same type of performance. It wasn’t like you guys just picked the best show or parts of other concerts to release.

TIPTON: Yeah, I mean every night we go out, we give 200%, and that’s because we genuinely enjoy not just Judas Priest, but heavy metal as well. I think a lot of bands out there go through the motions or go out there and do it for the wrong reasons. I’m proud to be a part of Judas Priest because I fell into a band where it all works, and it all falls into place. A lot of musicians don’t get a chance to do that. The time apart has really made us understand our roles in Priest and to appreciate them. It is a very special band.

KNAC.COM: Sometimes, when you’re at the studio recording the new album, do you sit back in the studio and say, “I can’t believe we ever broke up.”

TIPTON: There are various ways of looking at it. One is that when Rob made the split from the band, we’d been working long and hard up to that point and through a lot of arduous years, so in that respect, we needed a break. Obviously, we didn’t need a fourteen-year break, but we did need a break. Life goes on though, and if we hadn’t had that break, I would have never done the solo project, which was good for me--I got to work with other musicians and enjoy myself. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved just as I’m sure Rob is proud of his solo stuff as well. I think that time apart made us really value Judas Priest. When we got back together, we had more energy and enthusiasm than ever. Absence does make the heart grow fonder or so they say. I think it is important to look at the positive side of it rather than the negative, so that’s what I try to do. You have to take fate for what it dishes out and take the positives from it. I think that’s what everyone needs to do. There are a lot of people who look back or go “we should have done this, or we shouldn’t have done that.” I just think you need to take what you can get, and take it in a very positive fashion. I think at the end of the day, that is what I try to do.

KNAC.COM: How do you think history will treat rock musicians who play all the way up until death? Do you think those individuals will be viewed in the way that say a John Lee Hooker or some of the old blues players are viewed—meaning with integrity and respect rather than as a parody?

TIPTON: You’re depressing me a bit, Jeff. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: I just mean that it is an impressive feat and it seems to me that anyone who plays music for a lifetime should be given the same respect regardless of genre.

TIPTON: I think you just do it as long as you have the energy and enthusiasm for it. At the moment, the band has more energy and enthusiasm then it ever had. That’s what counts—that genuine love of what we do. We’ll be the first to hang our hats up when we feel that the energy and enthusiasm isn’t there. In this era, you still have The Who out there and The Stones out there—we’re still out there. I think that as long as there is a demand for your music, and you’re up to it and enjoy it, you should continue. You should always be the first to realize when that is dwindling though, and you should go out gracefully. I’m sure that we hang it up when we realize that the fire is gone. I think we can do that. I think we can step back and say that we’ve had a good run—better than most people anyway.

KNAC.COM: Doesn’t it make that decision that much more difficult when the same drive that made you great in the first place is exactly what has to be suppressed in order to admit that maybe your time is through?

TIPTON: Yeah, I think it is gonna be a hard decision, but it is also inevitable, and I think you have to make it at some point, so it’s just a case of when really. I think we’ll know when that time comes.


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