Regarding the initial announcement that he was retiring from playing music, Downing said: “That was a myth. That’s complete misinformation. And this is why I’m so unhappy with the rest of the guys in [JUDAS PRIEST], because they told you and all the fans something that’s complete misinformation. But they only told you that because they don’t wanna get into the details.
“In December 2010, I decided not to do the farewell tour — the tour that we all said we were gonna retire; we were gonna retire the band,” he continued. “It was gonna be the end of the band. And so we’d been asked to put together press releases, which we did, and I have, about the of the band and all of us retiring JUDAS PRIEST. When we were gonna do a farewell tour, we were being asked by the management to think of a name for the end of the band, the farewell tour. And it was gonna be called the ‘Epitaph’ tour, which I wasn’t particularly keen on. It was gonna be the end of the band.
“So, what was it that I was gonna not do that everybody else was gonna do? There was only one thing that I was not gonna do. It was do the farewell tour, which was the retirement tour, and I said, ‘I’m not gonna do it.’ I didn’t know they were gonna carry on for another 10 years; I thought they were gonna do the retirement tour, which I didn’t do.
“This is why I’m disgruntled about the whole thing — because it made me look like a deserter; it made me look like I jumped ship and deserted the fans. ‘Oh, Ken, he’s retiring to look after his golf course.’ Well, thanks a lot. [What I told the band and the management was], ‘I will do this tour, this farewell tour, but things have gotta change. People can’t get p*ssed on stage. People have got to give a hundred and one percent if we’re gonna do this. I’m not gonna do an EP, like you’re telling me to do, because I’m not gonna end my career on an EP.’ All of these things that I was saying — ‘I need to have a voice’ and ‘Everybody needs to listen to K.K. If we’re gonna end this, it needs to be done in the way I think it should be done.’ But no, they weren’t having it. So I went, ‘Right. I’m not doing it.'”
“What the world doesn’t know as well, in April 2011, I changed my mind, because people were telling me, ‘K.K., you were there in the beginning. You started it. You should finish it.’ And so I was speaking to Ian [Hill, bass]; I called Ian up. And I was talking to him about it. And I told him, ‘I should do the tour, really.’ And I asked him, ‘Can you send me the setlist over?’ Because that was always a bone of contention. He sent the setlist over.
“And the very next day, they released a press release that I retired. Because after he sent the setlist over, I called him back and said, ‘Ian, it’s really good. It’s exactly what I was suggesting back in December.’ This should be a chronological, it should be a taster of the successful songs from each album. It should take people on this lovely journey, chronological journey through the setlist. And that’s what the setlist was. So instead of me getting a phone call the next day, thinking, ‘Okay, Ken, we hear that you’re thinking about doing the tour.’ I didn’t get that. They released the press release.
“So that’s when I got really angry and sent in my second letter — that same day. And I gave the guys my real reasons for not doing that final tour. The first letter I sent in was a retirement letter, saying, ‘I’m not doing the tour. I’m out now.’ But I didn’t give them the real reasons. But in the second letter, I did.”
Downing also went on to say that he should have been asked to return to PRIEST when guitarist Glenn Tipton announced in 2018 he was going to sit out touring activities in support of PRIEST‘s latest album, Firepower, due to his battle with Parkinson’s disease.
“If I had retired, why shouldn’t I be allowed to step back out of retirement? Guys always leave bands and rejoin. Bands self-combust — GUNS N’ ROSES or whatever — and come back together. It’s par for the course. But when I sat there expecting to step back in the role when there was a place for me — ’cause they obviously wanted to go forward with Richie [Faulkner], who they’d found and become friends with — so when there was an opportunity when Glenn retired and I didn’t get the call…
“I should have elaborated more in my [2018 autobiography Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest], I should have gone more into detail, but that’s not why I wrote the book. I wrote the book for a lot of different reasons and didn’t think it was… But it’s important — these details are really important,” Downing continued.
“I feel as though I was ousted out of the band. And after 40 years… I mean, if you take the guys individually, Rob [Halford, vocals] left the band for 14 years and I was instrumental in getting him back. Glenn left for six years to do two solo records. He was allowed to do that. No problem. If that’s what you wanna do artistically, I can’t stop you.
“And Ian, bless him, we went to kindergarten together, me and Ian. But he was never a writer in the band. He comes along with his bass guitar, and he’s done a great job. But without the songs, there is no band. I provided the songs all of those years, which was a livelihood for Ian, and now he’s saying he’s voting me not to come back in the band. Can you see the irony and why I’m angry about it all? The three guys, and I was the loyal guy. I was the guy who never wanted to play with other people, because my focus only was JUDAS PRIEST.”