INTERVJU: Richie Faulkner

Richie Faulkner är aktuell med sitt nya band Elegant Weapons. Vi passade givetvis på att logga in och styra upp ett zoomsamtal med gitarristen. Richie berättade bland annat om favoritplattan med Judas Priest, att Elegant Weapons inte bara är en engångsgrej, att han inte är ett fan av svärfar Lynchs gamla band Dokken och att han varje dag känner tacksamhet över att få spela med Judas Priest:

Of course! Every day. It´s been a life changing opportunity and experience and one of the reasons why you and me are talking today about this new record is because of my history with Judas Priest. I´ve got them to thank for everything. I´ve got them to thank for the opportunity for being considered to play with them and all the lessons I´ve learned over the years. It´s been a life changing experience and an incredible opportunity. It makes me the guitar player that I am today and I can´t thank them enough for it and also the fans that trusted in them and me to do the job when I joined the band.

It´s been almost 25 years since you left Stockholm. In that time a lot of things have happened in your life. How do you look at those 25 years? Going from being a pretty much unknown guitar player to playing in one of the biggest metal bands in the world?

I didn´t realize it´s been 25 years. Thanks for bringing that up. (laughs) Bloody hell, has it been that long? I haven´t really thought about it, but it´s life, isn´t it? I said to someone before that if I didn´t get that opportunity in Priest, I think I´d still be doing the same thing. Playing covers, playing in bands in “ungdomsgården” (youth center) and still be doing the same thing. If this goes bad, I´ll be doing the same thing again. To answer your question, it´s part of the journey. I´ve had some amazing opportunities, even coming to Sweden and living in Sweden and playing in bands over there. It was an incredible opportunity and then go through life and then the Priest opportunity came up. I think those experiences in Sweden and the past, all of it goes into our experience and helps when we get opportunities. But yeah, 25 years… we´re getting old man! (laughs)

You were in a band called Solemn Temple, was that In Sweden?

Yeah, it´s always tough thinking about names and this band was no different. It was really tough. I mean, Judas Priest sounds amazing and Iron Maiden sounds amazing and you´re trying to come up with something that not only doesn´t sound like them, but sounds as cool as that does for a band that you´re trying to create, but it doesn´t exist yet. It´s really difficult. Solemn Temple sounds pretty cool now, but at the time it was the name that we chose, you know what I mean? It´s a weird thing and Elegant Weapons is no different. People ask about the name and there´s still people that associate the music with the name and the name doesn´t mean anything. It´s like Metallica, but I mean, that´s the coolest name ever. We associate with the music, so hopefully after some time, people will associate the music with the name and it becomes synonymous. Solemn Temple was heavy rock with the same influences, Priest, Maiden, Sabbath, Dio and all those sorts of things. We´re children of the 80´s and they´re the influences that are in our DNA. This band (Elegant Weapons) is no different and it´s the same influences and it´d be disingenuous to be something else. This is who we are and this is the music we love to create and these are the influences that shine through. That´s just who we are.

A name like Elegant Weapons, do you end up doing tons of Google searches to se if there´s already a band out there with that name?

You have to these days. When you figure out a name that you like, you check that no one has used it and there wasn’t another band called Elegant Weapons that I know of, so you kind of go with it. Elegant Weapons is obviously a reference to a couple of things. It´s a reference to the guitar, these elegant weapons that we use to create this music that we put down. To me, we´ve always referred to the guitar as an axe, so the guitar´s been a weapon for heavy music for years. It´s an inspiring thing for me. It´s also a reference to the lightsaber that Obi Wan Kenobi gives to Luke Skywalker. They´re relics from a bygone era almost, like we are. (laughs) They´re not disappeared, but I feel like it´s my duty to make sure they don´t disappear and carry these relics, like the lightsaber, into a new generation hopefully. It all comes back to the guitar really and the beauty of it.

I picked three songs from the album that I thought you could comment on. First one is “Dead man walking” First time I heard the intro, I kind of got an Iron Maiden feeling going.

1000%! Again, it would be disingenuous to shy away from that. It´s who I am and I´m proud of it. I´ve always worn my influences on my sleeve. I´ve been criticized in the past like “Oh, you sound like Zakk Wylde.” or “You sound like Michael Schenker.”, but that´s who I am and again I wanna be proud of it. Yeah, there´s definitely an Iron Maiden influence in there and the beauty about this is that you can take your influences and make a record and make a band and it´s the way that people perceive it that makes it what it is and I have no control over it. I have people say Alice in Chains and bits of Priest, Scorpions and Black Sabbath and it´s beautiful that people are picking up on all those things that I´m aware of and some of them I´m not. The Scorpions influence I wasn´t aware of, but that´s the beauty of creative art, without sounding too pompous. It´s subjective and it´s up to the people to experience it in their own way. It´s an incredibly honorable position to be in.

Second track is “White horse” I´m just a sucker for that Hammond organ.

That´s one of my favorites. It´s definitely not a radio single by any means. It´s got a lot of different parts in it and it reminds me a little bit of “Diary of a madman” by Ozzy. It´s a Hammond yeah. It´s featured in a few moments on the record and I love the sound. It gives it a retro feel. I love that song and it touches on the occult and stuff like that. I just love the way it twists and turns through different experiences and as I said, it´s not a radio single because it´s a bit more of a journey than that.

Last track I picked is the title track “Horns for a halo”, which has a bit of a Metallica “Load” era feel to it in the intro.

Ah, I haven´t heard that before. That´s a new one. I remember putting down the riff initially, sitting there coming up with riffs and that riff pops out and I recorded it and you have to call it a working title and I called it “Iommi” It sounds like something Iommi would play and again, not shying away from those influences. It is what it is. I´m a fan of Sabbath and it came out that way. But your right, I think Metallica would say that they´re fans of Sabbath as well so it´s all interlinked in the DNA for sure. I was a big fan of Metallica´s “Load” and “Reload” albums. They sounded great and I love the songs, so that´s a compliment, thank you very much!

How would you describe Rex Brown and Scott Travis who´s also in the band? Two veterans who´s been in the business for a long time.

Well, first and foremost, having them play on the record was an honor. Incredibly fortunate and incredibly grateful to have them on the record. They bring a sound that is easily recognized. Especially Scott. I´ve been playing with him for the last 13 years in Judas Priest and Scott Travis is… I think he´s underestimated. He´s such an influence in Priest. I remember a couple of years ago Scott hurt his wrist and we did a couple of shows and he wasn´t 100% and it changed the band drastically. He´s such a part of that band and the way that band sounds. He´s amazing and I don´t know if everyone knows that. I don´t think they understand to what extent Scott Travis plays in the band. And Rex Brown (Pantera), when he sent the bass tracks through it was unmistakable Rex Brown. It was that sound that we all know and love and grew up with. Obviously Rex is doing other things with Pantera so he can´t be a part of the live band, but having him as part of the record was great.

And you´ve got a killer singer on the record as well.

What a privilege! I think Ronnie (Romero) is a modern singer, but he´s got a classic heart and a classic soul that we can associate with. Some of the bands in the past like Rainbow and Dio and Whitesnake even, there´s a familiar quality in Ronnie´s voice and it´s great to hear him on these songs, because I think we get a bit more Ronnie Romero and I think he would agree with what I´m saying. There´s a bit more of him coming out and the more music we create, the more we play live, more of that probably comes out and it brings something unique to the band which then can only grow in its own character and uniqueness. I´m looking forward to see what Ronnie´s got to offer in the future. When we hear Ronnie in Rainbow for example, we associate his voice with Dio obviously because those are the songs that Dio was part of, but hearing him as part of these songs that we maybe haven´t heard before, you hear a different side to Ronnie and that´s a great thing.

Putting together an album like this, does that include a little bit more of artistic freedom since Judas Priest is what it is?

Judas Priest has always allowed me the freedom writing with them. There´s like no limitations really in what we put forward as ideas, but I understand what you mean. If you´re writing for a band that´s got a 50 year career and a fan base that been there for 50 years, you do think about those things. In this band, my priority was to not sound like Priest. I wanted it to sound like its own thing and having its own character. Obviously that DNA is in there, but if it sounded like a Priest record there wouldn´t be any point. As I said, Priest give me that opportunity to create music with Priest for Priest, so there would be no point. As long as it had its own character and identity, that was an important thing for me and I think it does.

Have you played anything for Rob or Glen or Ian?

Yeah, I played some stuff for Rob early on in the process and he dug it. He got where I was coming from and he was really excited about it. He digs it and I think they hear maybe the DNA in there and they knew I was gonna do it and some point. Hopefully I don´t get a phone call saying “What are you doing?”

Those guys are older than you and they´ve done it for a long time. What´s it like being around those guys? What do you pick up from those guys? Do they give you tips about the music business or what not?

You´re right and by just watching them you learn a lot. You pick up a lot just by observing what they do and how they handle things. I remember right at the beginning I was doing interviews like this, one on one, and I was getting misinterpreted and they didn´t understand what I was saying. It was coming across in a different way than I anticipated and I didn´t understand why that was happening. I asked management “Can you set me up with Rob Halford to do all the interviews that I can do with him?”, because he´s a master, the way he talks and the way he pronounces… he´s so elegant with what he says. I just wanted to learn how he does it, so maybe the misinterpretation wouldn´t happen anymore. That was an early example, I remember, that I needed to learn from these guys, but that goes right up to present day really. The way they´re creating records, they way they strive for unique quality. They don´t want to follow the trend of what everyone else is doing. They realize the uniqueness of Judas Priest and how to get the best out of that. Even responding to e-mails the way they do it is an education. It´s a master class. They´re legends and teachers and brothers and I´ve learned a lot from them up until present day.

Doing interviews today with clickbait and everything being so fast, is that something you think about? I have to watch my tongue and I can´t say this or that?

I think that´s just a product of the internet age. Context gets taken out and if there´s no context it doesn´t seem to matter anymore. You do think about it, but that´s the age we live in and as long as you try and tell the truth… things can get misconstrued and misprinted or misinterpreted, but all you can do is tell the truth and be honest and genuine. You can´t do much more than that really. Things are always gonna get misinterpreted, whether it´s on the internet or whether it´s face to face.

When are you going to put together a band with your father in law?

(laughs) That would be fun. George (Lynch) is another one you could learn a lot from. The way he plays and the approach that he has for the guitar. Again, it´s that unique thing that you could learn a lot from. Maybe will do something in the future. I know George´s really busy these days and he´s got a lot going on. He´s always busy with records and he´s touring with Dokken and his own band Lynch Mob at the moment, but he comes over to the house every now and then, so you never know. We might do a couple of ideas and see where they go. Nothing at the moment, but we´ll see what the future holds.

Way back, were you into Dokken? Did you listen to that kind of metal?

No, not at all. I think George knows that and I´ve told him before, but it´s honest. I wasn´t into that stuff, but I was into George as a guitar player. He was on my radar as a fantastic guitar player, but the music I wasn´t really into as much. But that´s fine as long as you´re honest about it. It´s not one of my influences, but I think he´s heavily influenced by the blues as well and sometimes differences can make something interesting.

As a kid, do you remember the first couple of records you really got into and some records that really had an impact on you?

For sure. I remember my father showing me stuff like “Electric Ladyland” (1968) and Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy, but I remember I had Jimi Hendrix “Smash hits” (1968) and I played it over and over again. You lift up the needle and put it back trying to learn the guitar parts. Moving on from there it was bands like Metallica, Maiden, Priest… I was in cover bands from when I was 13 and onwards so again, it was a lot of influences. Anything from Jeff Beck to Rolling Stones to Van Morrison, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Bad Company as you had to know as a gigging guitar player, so you can´t help but being influenced. It´s coming in and going out of the guitar and you´re being influenced without even knowing it. All of that played a part in my musical makeup.

If you were to pick a Judas Priest album, not naming the albums you play on, but is there an album you could single out as your favorite?

Yeah, my favorite Priest album is “Defenders of the faith” (1984). We were talking about how we perceive things differently, for me it was that experience of being taken somewhere else. What the songs were about. “The Sentinel”, it took you to a different place. You could almost see some of these songs and the stories they were telling. I like that experience and I got that from “Somewhere in time” (1986) from Iron Maiden, “Master of puppets” (1986) from Metallica. For me it´s always been “Defenders of the faith” Obviously I´ve got a different relationship with the songs on the albums I´ve created with the band.

Do you ever wake up and just go “Fuck man, I´m in Judas Priest!”

Of course! Every day. It´s been a life changing opportunity and experience and one of the reasons why you and me are talking today about this new record is because of my history with Judas Priest. I´ve got them to thank for everything. I´ve got them to thank for the opportunity for being considered to play with them and all the lessons I´ve learned over the years. It´s been a life changing experience and an incredible opportunity. It makes me the guitar player that I am today and I can´t thank them enough for it and also the fans that trusted in them and me to do the job when I joined the band. They´ve been nothing but incredibly welcoming all around the world. Every day I wake up and this is a product of that opportunity from them and I can´t help but be grateful for that to the end of my days.

Do you look at Elegant Weapons as a band that will continue on?

It´s not a record or a band that´s experimental or a one-time deal. I´m not interested in that. It was about putting a band together that could have life and longevity and evolve as a band. See how the music evolves as the band grows and that was one of the priorities. When I joined Priest on the “Epitaph” tour it was billed as the final world tour and I would´ve been silly not to consider a life after Priest. Luckily we´re still here 13 years later, thank goodness. But at the time, as they told me, “We don´t have much time left”, so there was no option but to consider what I was gonna do after Priest. But I also didn´t want to get a gig in Priest and then release my own stuff. Priest gave me that opportunity and that was the band I was in, I was in Priest and ten years later I think fans know that I´m not just gonna jump on the bandwagon. I felt like the time was right to release my own thing.

Final question. You´re home alone on a Saturday night and you pour yourself a drink. What album do you put on?

At the moment… I can tell you the truth, it´s Emmylou Harris. I live outside of Nashville so I´ve been kind of influenced by the countryness of it all, but if I have to put a record on it would probably “Electric Ladyland” by Jimi Hendrix. That´s where it all started for me and I always go back to that influence. You always hear something different. Jimi wasn´t around for too long commercially, but he´s been around for decades now because he´s music still has such an impact on me.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Björn Olsson