Richie Faulkner Gave Judas Priest New Life. On ‘Invincible Shield’, They Return the Favor

Richie Faulkner Gave Judas Priest New Life. On ‘Invincible Shield’, They Return the Favor

- By Jon Garcia

Richie Faulkner chats with Knotfest about Judas Priest’s new album Invincible Shield, how the band continue to redefine the genre after 50 years, and why the world is a better place with the Metal Gods.

Photo by @Ras_Visual

It’s no easy feat to replace one of the most well-known guitarists in heavy metal, an innovator in a band of pioneers. It’s another entirely to be a defining reason why one of the genre’s forefathers are having another career resurgence.

But this is where Richie Faulkner finds himself in 2024.

“I think I was maybe a little naive,” Faulkner said about how he navigated those early days as a 31-year-old joining a band of legends. “I didn't think too much about it. I just did what they were asking me to do, and you do what comes from the heart, really. There's no rulebook for it, if you know what I mean. There's no instructions or anything like that.”

Over a decade after stepping into the strings vacated by K.K. Downing in 2011, Judas Priest is on the cusp of releasing their 19th studio album – and third with Faulkner – Invincibile Shield. It’s something even he has a hard time believing, considering he thought he’d only be in the role a few months.

“I came into the band thinking it was gonna be the final time that they went on a world tour,” he said.

Judas Priest were ready to say their farewells on the Epitaph World Tour, which planned to bring the curtain down on 40 years of heavy metal. But when it was over and the smoke had cleared, they decided to record another album, which inevitably begot more world tours.

Then in 2018, they released Firepower – a record that more than lived up to its name.

Like a shotgun blast, the Metal Gods exploded through 14 tracks of some of their best material in decades. Simultaneously, Priest embodied the entirety of their past while sounding equally modern and cutting edge. Firepower debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 highest-charting album to date.

Now, after many more tours, a global pandemic, and a near-fatal heart injury, Faulkner, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis are back with Invincible Shield. It’s a testament to the fact that, despite its best efforts, the world will never pull the plug on Judas Priest.

If Firepower was the engine of Priest roaring back to life, Invincible Shield is it purring at full throttle. It sums up everything that has ever made Judas Priest great: electrifying twin guitar harmonies, powerful and frenetic drums, and sing-along choruses that lift you up and give you power. All the while, Halford is shrieking away as good as he’s ever sounded.

Faulkner’s bandmates credit his energy and exuberance as a big reason for the extra wind in their sails. He’s quick to deflect such praise back on the men and women that make the Priest machine go; the band is larger than any one person, in service of something bigger than any of them.

“Priest is invincible,” Faulkner said. “It will be around a lot longer than we are, so the music will never die. It's all kind of poignant, really, when you put it in context like that.”

Invincible Shield has twists, turns and surprises well beyond what a 50-year-old band should be capable of. The title track wouldn’t sound out of place on Stained Class while having a chorus that rivals anything on Screaming for Vengeance. “The Serpent and the King” rockets through the headphones led by Halford’s piercing falsetto, strong enough to crack tectonic plates.

For any metalhead that grew up on Priest – be it in the 80s, the 2010s or any generation between – seeing them continue to redefine their own success is near tear-inducing.

“The world's a better place that Judas Priest is still in it, you know?” Faulkner said. “So I'm fortunate and I'm honored and grateful to be here.”

Faulkner sat down with KNOTFEST to discuss his recovery from an aortic aneurysm in 2021, what it’s been like trying to follow up a hit record, having Halford and Tipton as mentors and how he navigated growing from “new guy in Priest” to becoming an integral part of the family.


This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


First, how are you feeling since your health scare a couple of years ago? I was actually at that performance, and it was pretty incredible to see you again on tour barely five months later.

Richie Faulkner: I'm doing okay, thank you for asking! It was a recovery, but you said about getting back on tour so quickly… I think that was part of my recovery, getting back to it as soon as you could. Getting back to some sort of normality. It was important to have that target to shoot for, it was important to get back on the guitar, and it was important to get back out on the road.

[Guitar] was like a medicine. Obviously, there's different stages of the recovery, but that was one of the first things that I felt like I had to do. It’s like when you fall off a horse, you've got to get back on, and it was the same thing. Get back on a guitar as much as I could and get back to touring, get the tour rolling again, and beat it, so to speak.

Firepower was such a hit with critics and heavy metal fans alike. How did the band approach creating Invisible Shield knowing the appetite for a new record is at its highest in decades?

RF: Coming from Firepower, it was so well-received so what are you going to do? How do you follow something like that up? I know the guys have done that before: following up British Steel or Painkiller or Screaming for Vengeance. It was my first experience of having a record that was so well-received, and how do you as a musician do something that's ‘better?’

You never know how it's gonna be received. You know, some of the worst received albums in history have been great ideas at the time to the band. You just never know until you let it go in the world. So it's an exciting time – a scary one – but you've just got to get in and you've got to do what satisfies you musically.

You don't want to repeat yourself, that's just an inherent thing, but your character and your DNA – both as an individual and a group of individuals – is the same. So you try and do something that scratches that creative itch, but that character is going to shine through.

Obviously the guys – Halford, Tipton, Hill, Travis – they've been around. Scott's been there for over 30 years! So that character is going to be deeply ingrained in what they produce, but then hopefully it maybe twists and turns in different directions. That's what you strive to achieve, something that doesn't repeat itself but is true to the legacy of who you are.

 What was the biggest challenge Judas Priest faced to get Invincible Shield to see the light of day?

RF: I think timing. As you said, the pandemic – we couldn't get together and record it together or play the songs together. When the [restrictions were] lifted, we had a touring schedule to work around.

But albums inherently have a challenging aspect that becomes the story of the album. You know, in JAWS the shark didn't work, so they had to film it in different ways. It actually made the film better and more suspenseful because of the challenges that they had to work around. When you're younger, it might be financial constraints, or the studio's too small, or whatever it might be. There's always a challenge, and you overcome it.

Maybe that's what Rob meant with Invincible Shield, that you can't kill the heavy metal. It’s the heavy metal that we all hold high, and we stand behind the metal that is the Invincible Shield. We're a community. It will never die will and it will go on forever; that's the invincibility of it. There's challenges, but it didn't stop us.

Priest is invincible, and it will be around a lot longer than we are, so the music will never die. It's all kind of poignant, really, when you put it in context like that.

You’ve gone from “the new guy” to a member of the family. How do you feel your place has gelled in Judas Priest after 12 years?

RF: So that's an incredible question really, on so many levels. I came into the band thinking it was gonna be the final time that they went on a world tour.

Initially, it was very much in the live scenario. So are my guitar parts down? Am I playing the right notes? Am I honoring the legacy of K.K. Downing while being true to who I am? All those things. Then we were going to record a record, so you have to get your writing head on and get some ideas together.

As time progresses, it becomes less insular. It becomes more about what we're doing and how we're putting 1,000% into what we do: the live stuff, the production, the songs, the albums. Whatever we do, what are we doing to make this the best experience possible?

So you definitely become more of a team player. Not that there's any less emphasis on what I'm doing. I'm still trying to get the notes right, let me tell you! But it becomes more of a: what are we doing? How are we going to do this? What can we do to make it better? That's what that's what it's all about.



How did you navigate contributing to Judas Priest without sounding like a parody or a shell of what they were, as opposed to what they’ll be? How long did it take you to feel like you were ingrained in the band just as any other member in the past?

RF: I think I was maybe a little naive. I didn't think too much about it. I just did what they were asking me to do, and you do what comes from the heart, really.

The first record that I did, Redeemer of Souls, we were all doing the same thing. We just do what comes from your ideas and they come from your heart. I just did what I felt was the right thing to do. You've come up with ideas and some of them you think, ‘This isn't gonna work,’ but some of them do! You're surprised and so you just got to do what you do.

I think that goes for everyone. You can't mess with your DNA. Who you are and what you grew up on. What your influences are and what's coming out of you. So you just go in the studio, and you come up with stuff that's organic and real, and it sticks or it doesn't.

As I said, I wasn't really thinking too much about it. I knew what I was being asked to do and I just had a go! Fortunately, it worked and we're still here in 2024 putting out a new record, going out on a new world tour. The world's a better place that Judas Priest is still in it, you know? So I'm fortunate and I'm honored and grateful to be here.

What can you tell people about the perseverance that Glenn Tipton has shown battling Parkinson's disease, both throughout the years and working on this record?

RF: It's obviously been a big challenge for Glenn. He’s been doing it for over 50 years. It's part of who he is. As we were talking about me getting back to playing guitar and touring because it's part of who I am… it must be equally -- I don't want to speak for him -- but I mean, it must be equally important for Glenn to keep doing it as a guitar player and a writer and a pioneer of heavy metal for the last 50 years. You can't just stop doing that, you know? That's what he does. That's who he is. So I can't even imagine how frustrating that must be for him to have those limitations sometimes.

But Glenn's a warrior, you know? Wherever he can, he’ll come out and play. If he's got some ideas and he can put them down himself, he'll do it. If he can't, then I'll help him to translate those ideas. He's vital in Priest. I mean, some of those little turnarounds and different things out of the box stuff that you think it's not going to work…. that's Glenn! He comes up with ideas that initially you think, ‘That's not gonna work,’ but you try it and it absolutely does! It makes it different and unique. That's him. That's Glenn really.

It's a testament to who he is. He doesn't back down easy. If he can do it he will, and that's the way it's always been since he's been diagnosed with this challenge.


What were the writing sessions like for Invincible Shield?

RF: We always get together – me, Rob and Glenn – and we've got some ideas of our own that we bring into the session and we work on those ideas. So if me and you were writing a song, and I've got a riff and you've got a riff that goes with it, we put those together. Oh, great! Now we need a chorus. Rob's got an idea for a vocal melody on a chorus, so that fits and now we've got a chorus.

It's not that easy sometimes. Obviously, sometimes it takes a little bit longer to put stuff together. But that's how it works, just how anyone would construct a song. Sometimes Glenn will come in with a more fleshed out idea, sometimes I would, or sometimes Rob would, and we work on those.

Some of the songs are born in the studio. I remember there was one time Rob was sitting in traffic for ages on the way to the studio. He came up with a vocal melody and a vocal phrase, he came in and said, ‘I've got this idea.’ He sang it and it was instantaneous. Like, you could hear the riff almost. So we put the song together around that. So it's very organic.

Fortunately, we've got Rob Hallford and Glenn Tipton working with us! So there's some history and they know what they're doing. They wrote the rulebook book

Speaking of those two, what’s it been like creating music with and befriending two of the best songwriters in heavy metal?

RF: Oh, it's incredible, really. They're their friends as well. You become brothers along the way, you know.

As far as the music side of things… I mean, you don't get better mentors than that, you know? They've gone through trials and tribulations and success, and they really were pioneers. So having those guys as brothers and a resource to learn from is just, it's a joy. Unbelievable, really.

There are several references to faith, perseverance, and a general appreciation for life on this record. What can you say about the lyrics?

Rob’s done an amazing job on this record, as he always does with the lyrics. Really poignant, meaningful lyrics.

They're always slightly ambiguous sometimes, his lyrics are, and I think that's a great thing. They become your song, it becomes your meaning and how you perceive it. I think it's an important thing but he’s always upbeat and positive, or observant of what's going on currently or philosophically. Rob is a genius with that stuff.

As soon as you release music commercially, it no longer becomes yours. It becomes the listener’s. If they attach themselves to it and find their meaning in that song, it becomes theirs; and that's a beautiful thing. All you can do really is do what you do to the best of your ability and you let it go. Hopefully it becomes someone else's track and they come to a show. And they experienced that track that means so much to them. It's a magical thing, really.



In his autobiography, Rob Halford called you Judas Priest’s savior. That the band wouldn’t exist today without you. How do you see the story of Judas Priest since you joined and what do you think your place and role in this band has been?

RF: It's hard to say from my point of view. Maybe from an outsider's point of view, looking in they’d have more of an idea than I do. But as I said before, you just try and do what you think you should do. That's what you do. There's no rulebook for it, if you know what I mean. There's no instructions or anything like that.

I know Rob said that but it's a band of musicians. It's a band of brothers. There's management, there's crew, it's a big family. I'm one of those guys and girls in that family. So you just do what you do, really. You do what you think is best, as a unit and as an individual and that's all you can do. That's it, really. It works or it doesn't.

I think when someone comes into a band like that, the dynamic is inherently going to change. It's going to change by default, you know? If it was an office, a football team or something, and someone new came in the dynamic would change. It's gonna be a different energy for better or worse. Fortunately, this worked out and we're still going strong!

What do you hope people take away from Invincible Shield?

RF: Hopefully it connects. There's nothing better than what we experienced on Firepower, when those songs connect and you're singing them with the people down in front. They're singing songs that you had a part to play in.

Beyond that, it's out of my hands. I just hope it's well received. If it's not, that's fine. If it is, fantastic! Hopefully it stands the test of time. That's all we can ask for. You've got no sway over what happens. It's out of your hands. That's the interesting, scary, but exciting thing.

Invincible Shield by Judas Priest is available on March 8 via Epic Records.
Get the album - HERE

Apr 18 – Wallingford, CT – Toyota Oakdale Theatre
Apr 19 – Newark, NJ – Prudential Center
Apr 21 – Reading, PA – Santander Arena
Apr 24 – Bangor, ME – Cross Insurance Center
Apr 25 – Boston, MA – MGM Music Hall at Fenway
Apr 27 - Youngstown, OH - Covelli Center*
Apr 28 – Indianapolis, IN – Everwise Amphitheater at White River
Wed May 01 – Rosemont, IL – Rosemont Theatre
Thu May 02 – Minneapolis, MN – The Armory
Sat May 4 - Kalamazoo, MI - Wings Event Center*
Sun May 05 – Maryland Heights, MO – St Louis Music Park
Tue May 07 - Huntsville, AL - VBC Propst Arena*
Thu May 09 - Daytona, FL - Welcome to Rockville^
Sat May 11 – Alpharetta, GA – Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Sun May 12 - Mobile, AL - Mobile Civic Center Arena*
Tue May 14 – Charlotte, NC – PNC Music Pavilion
Thu, May 16 - Columbus OH - Historic Crew Stadium ^
Fri May 17 - Evansville, IN - Ford Center*
Sun May 19 – Washington, DC –The Theater at MGM National Harbor
Tue May 21 – Albany, NY – MVP Arena
Wed May 22 – Syracuse, NY – Empower Federal Credit Union Amphitheater at Lakeview
*Not a Live Nation Date
^Festival Performance
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