Guitar playing to me is pretty much everything. It's part of who I am. It's part of my life. It's part of every thought really. It really is that intrinsic to who I am as a person. It's kind of like talking or breathing. It's one of those things that's just become a natural part of every minute of every day.
We didn't have a guitar in the house, but my father had friends around town that were great guitar players. And I remember he had a friend of his called Tony. He was in a band called the Angelic Upstarts, and it was like a punky rock band. And he was a Hendrix fanatic, and he had this white Start. And he lent us, it was like a double cut. It was like a Gibson double cut type thing, and he'd painted it like a fluorescent orange color and then sprayed it with blue and yellow and reds and greens, and it was this punky looking guitar. He let us borrow that, and I remember learning a couple of chords on there. And then from there, I think around seven or just before my eighth birthday, I've got my first guitar for Christmas.
But I think initially it was Hendrix that kind of turned me on to not only the audio side of things, but the visual performance. And as I said, as a 7-year-old kid, you don't really think too much about it, it's just the impact that hits you. So it's like, how can I emulate this? So initially it was trying to learn Jimmy tracks from the vinyl. You'd pick up the needle and put it back and literally note for note it was an arduous process. You have to put it back and... That note. And then stop it and whatever.
And then as your kind of knowledge and vocabulary grows you know where the notes are that you're hearing and where they are on the neck, and then you kind of progress onto different things like UFO, Thin Lizzy, all my father's influence, Black Sabbath, as I said, Purple, that sort of stuff. And then as you grow older, I found that Thin Lizzy became Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, the double guitar type stuff, Sabbath. There were elements of that which became Metallica for me. There was some sort of DNA link between. And I can understand it and it was harder it was fast. It was the next level for me. So I went from there.
And I think you then try and emulate what are they doing? How are they creating what I'm feeling? And why am I feeling these things from the music they're playing? How are they creating these emotions through music? And how can I emulate that? Not only what the notes they're playing, but how can I do that in my own songwriting and create my own? And I think initially the songs you write are complete rip-offs, maybe with different lyrics that I was coming up with, just to put things together and figure out how things work together, melodies and harmonies. So you still do, still rip stuff off.
But that's what influence is I think. You're always going to be influenced, but not only the Hard Rock stuff, but early eighties was a great time for pop music as well. Duran Duran, Ultravox, Roxy Music, stuff like that. You know, Flock of Seagulls, great, great, great pop music and Brian Adams, stuff like that. So you can't deny I'm in one of the biggest heavy metal bands, most influential heavy metal bands in the world. But that's where I come from. And you can't change that. And that's always going to be part of your influence. Whether you use it or not is another question.
Yeah, I don't think it was ever a drive to be the best guitar player in the world, which is quite fortunate. But I was introduced, as I said initially to David Gilmore from Pink Floyd and Brian May and Tony Iommi. So I think there was value in different styles. To be the best was an ambiguous term. It was just how it reached you sonically. It wasn't the amount of notes, it wasn't how fast the guy was playing. It was the value of what they were playing. I think that was the most important thing. So it was either Gilmore or Glenn Tipton, who's better? It's subjective, but it was what they were saying that was the most important. And I think that was also in the band setting as well. It was important for me to be in a band and create music in a band and that sort of stuff rather than be a solo guitar virtuoso.
I used to work in a guitar shop in Walthamstow in London, and I remember being aware of Ernie Ball. That was just what you played. You played Ernie Ball. That was it. To me they were the best strings. There was maybe three or four different brands, but that was Ernie Ball was the one that everyone played. And the great thing I think about when you're young, again, when you are sifting through what works and what doesn't is that you find out on the job, the guitar, the strings, the pedals, the cables, the amplifiers. It's trial and error. You find out what works and you stick with that. The strings are the same.
Your buddy's got a pack of something and you try them and it's like, I don't know what it is about it. It didn't feel right or that was too bendy or that was, they snapped or they worked. They were consistent. They cut through, "Oh, well keep them, keep them for the next time," and next time they worked. "Oh, keep them. What were they? Oh, them ones. Oh, keep them." That's how it works. You haven't got two screamer 50 saying, "I'll use these because I am telling you..." You use them and some things don't work. Some things do. The ones that do, they get through to the next round and you keep them for twenty-five years.
Working in the guitar store, you've got to be there early. You've got to get on the bus, get off the bus, walk to the guitar store, you hate it. You want to be back in bed, but there's something driving you, which it all comes down to this. And in hindsight, probably one or two of the most important people that opened the most important doors in my life. I still know the guy that owns the shop. He had a cover band.
So I was 13 at the time. He got the thirteen-year-old to play UFO and Thin Lizzy covers because it was a novelty. And then from there, that got me introduced to the live scene and everything that I was talking about before, the equipment that you use, the amplifiers, the sound, the interaction in a band, all that sort of stuff. So from that one meeting in a guitar store with that one person, from the cover gig, there was someone there that introduced me to that person. And from there they knew them and then all of a sudden you getting the call. So it was probably one of the most important interactions and friendships I'd ever struck up. And again, without knowing it.
So I was asleep in the middle of the afternoon and the phone rang and it was the management of Judas Priest. And they introduced themselves. She started to talk about a situation that we all know now, but she was a little bit vague, wasn't letting on too much. Obviously I might not be the guy. You don't want to let on too much information. "Ken had hurt his hand, wasn't able to do the first leg of the tour. We've been looking for someone to step in for the first leg." And I was awake. It is like I had five shots of caffeine. "Would I be able to come up and meet the guys sometime this week?"
For some reason, I tried to make it sound like I was busy. And I said, "Well, I've got a few things this week. I might be able to move a few things around." I don't know why I said that. I think I was just trying to sound important, like in demand or something. I don't know why I said that. She said, "Oh, we can leave it till next week if you want." I said, "No, I'll be there tomorrow." I was going to go to Glenn's house and meet Rob and Glenn and the management and discuss some stuff, bring a guitar.
I had to borrow the train fare from my mother. I didn't have the money to get up there. So I said, "Mama, I need to borrow some money to get on the train to go up." She said, "Where are you going?" And I told her, she was like, "What?"
So I went up to Glenn's, didn't have anything on that week, obviously. We spoke first of all about the situation and it transpired that it was a lot more permanent than was alluded to initially. They wanted someone in the band as a member of the band. They didn't want a fill in or they wanted someone their own opinion, their own voice, and can I play a little bit? So I played a little bit and we went from there. I didn't necessarily play anything too complicated or... I mean, you can't go in that situation and show off. That's not the situation. I'm not really a show-off anyway, but it's not the British thing to do either. You kind of do what you do and you're kind of humble about it. It's Glenn Tipton and Rob Halford, any sense of arrogance or show off, you're out the door. That's what I'm thinking. I'm not even thinking it. It's like ingrained in me. You don't do that.
I had a Les Paul and I plugged in one of Glenn's amplifiers with his tech and Glenn went to make a cup of coffee and he went down the stairs. The studio's upstairs. So he went downstairs and he went to make a cup of coffee, I thought. So I've started noodling around and he was at the bottom of the stairs listening, which was great really cause if he's standing in the room, he's like standing there. You know?
But he was at the bottom of the stairs and I didn't know he was there. So I was kind of getting my sound together, noodling around. And he said he knew pretty much that they had their guy, which is lovely for him to say. So yeah, I came back a week later and they gave me the gig.
Well, I wish I could tell you that I remembered the first show. I have no recollection whatsoever. The second one, I remember. The first one, I don't remember anything. The second one I do, the second one was a big show, Sweden Rock, 30 odd thousand people there. There was a big ego ramp that went, one of those big ego ramps that go out into the crowd. And Rob had a bike that was supplied by the local MC chapter. So he turned it on massive. It was like a dragon. This thing got smoke everywhere. It was loud. And he drove it down the ego ramp. This is the second show. I'm on stage, I'm by the mic stand, and he's come around me and he's gone down the ego ramp. In the rain, right? So slippery, slippery stage in the rain. 30,000 people, Rob Halford, big bike.
We're all thinking he's not going to be able to break and he's going to go off the end. He didn't. He stopped. So if you can imagine, from my point of view, it was Halford from behind. His horns were in the air, the lights, spotlights were on him. It was raining, the bike was smoke and lights and flashing, and there was 30,000 people in front of him doing the same thing. All hands, horns in the air. And I'm thinking... It was surreal, but it made it real at the same time. I'm thinking this is happening. That was my first and probably strongest memory of the whole thing, because it was just larger than life and was this guy means so much, and there he was on this bike. The whole imagery of the whole thing. And I didn't have a, thank goodness, I didn't have a phone or anything to capture it. It's in my mind. It's one of those things that I can only tell people about because no one else saw it from where. And I can only tell you about it. And that's why it's magical, you know?
When I'm on stage with Priest, the first couple of songs, the curtain goes down and the amps come on and you're playing and the crowd goes up and you're getting into your stuff. And then there's a moment where you kind of sit back a little bit and you take it in, and you survey the audience and you see who's around and you see what everyone's doing. You watch YouTube videos and stuff like that. But you always remember when you were a Priest gig or a Maiden show or whatever, and you were down the front and Steve Harris had his bass in your face and he was singing the words and you were singing back at him. And you can't recreate that stuff.
And we have, especially in Europe, we have young teenagers at the shows singing Electric Eye or Tyrant. Old deep cuts and stuff. You remember what it feels like really to be at those shows with that connection with those, I call them artists, but they're more than that. They're like, I don't know. They're artists, they're friends, they shape your life in a way. They teach you how to write songs, they show you how to play guitar or whatever instrument it is, and there they are and you're interacting with them. So it is always like a conscious thing, really to interact with them the way that they interacted with you when you were at a gig and will be at a gig. It is a special thing. You can't recreate that online. You can't recreate that on YouTube, whatever. It's the magic of being at a live show.
It always comes back to the guitar. Always. There's a passion for the guitar, which is sometimes frustrating. Always has been. You're loading out four by 12 cabinets at three o'clock in the morning in the pouring rain, it's freezing cold and you hate it, but you're there the next day doing it because there's something pulling you back and it still the same. And then obviously it grows. The longer you're with Priest, the initially it's about the playing, getting the songs right, all that sort of stuff. And it's kind of insular, making sure that your own house is in order. The longer your with Priest, it becomes more about what we are doing, the production, the fans, the experience. What can we do to make this bigger, better, sound better, all that sort of stuff. So you become more aware of the bigger picture rather than just, I've got to get this note right. I mean, I still worry about that every night. So it's a bigger view of what's going on. But at the core of that is the guitar. That's still what drives me every day.
Well, I think coming in stylistically, it was always a conscious thing to honor what went before. But also I was aware of being my own person. They always were both Ken and Glenn and all the icons. They had their own thing. So I came in sounding like Zach Wilde, Michael Schenker, and Dave Murray rolled into a ball. And you get into a profile band like this, the spotlights on you. So you can't now do that. You've got to kind of, what are you going to say? You've got the platform to be able to carve your own voice. So what are you going to say? So there was a part of me that was obviously respecting what worked before, but I've now got to think about what I'm going to say as well. And it's a continuing journey to this day. I think the more you create, the more of you you put in, obviously. And the more thought goes into the evolution of your own voice.
The new record, I'm not going to go in there and play K.K. Downing licks. It would be inappropriate, disrespectful to him and myself. Three records in I should be creating my own voice by now. It is a conscious thing, purely because it's always been a challenge for me to have my own voice on the instrument. I've played in cover bands. So you copy, you emulate, it's like a ventriloquist, you know, you've got other voices, but you don't have your own. You know? So it's always been a challenge to find.
But one that's, I think it's a healthy challenge. I enjoy it. And hopefully someone out there can maybe put the new record on and by now they might be able to, that's Richie. They can hear the DNA, they can hear the K.K. Downing in. They can hear the Tipton or the Schenker in the DNA. But maybe, hopefully, maybe, you never know. They can hear something in there that they can pinpoint my style. Maybe. You never know. That's the goal.