Elegant Weapons – interview met Richie Faulkner (guitars)
Richie Faulkner“It is important to me to have a band. We have a line-up on the record which I am blessed to have: Rex Brown, Scott Travis and Ronnie. ”
We kennen Richie Faulkner allemaal als de ‘nieuwe’ gitarist in Judas Priest nadat hij elf jaar geleden K.K. Downing verving. Sinds dan is zijn ster rijzende. Elke muzikant heeft echter wel de droom om bekend te worden met eigen materiaal. Om een eigen identiteit te vinden, begon Faulkner zelf songs te schrijven. Nu zijn die verzameld op het album ‘Horns For A Halo’ van de nieuwe band Elegant Weapons. Dat betekent een spannende start van een nieuw avontuur en Richie vertelde ons alles over deze nieuwe uitdaging, zijn gezondheid en zijn dromen.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 2 juni 2023
I’m honoured to speak to you. The first thing I asked myself, was: you are a famous, busy musician as guitar player in Judas Priest. When and how and why did you decide to form another band besides that?
Well, when I first joined Judas Priest, Glenn Tipton told me: ‘I wished that Judas Priest has 20 years to 25 years left, but that’s not the case.’ I joined the band on a farewell tour. Luckily we are still going, almost thirteen years later, so we are very fortunate that Judas Priest is still around, but from what Glenn said, it made me think I should at least consider what I was going to do after Judas Priest, you know. So it has always been on my mind, what I am going to do musically when Judas Priest is no longer making music. Since that I dedicated my musical life to Judas Priest, as I said, it is almost 13 years now, it was not earlier than around the pandemic I had some time; as we all did, you know, with lockdowns and stuff like that. We did not tour. The Judas Priest album was pretty much written for the most part, so I had some time and I could focus on my creative outlet somewhere else. So I got all the songs together that I have been working on. I am always writing, I am quite a creative guy, so I am always creating riffs and melodies and song ideas. So I put all those ideas together to see what I have got. Do I have any songs? Do I have an album? So it started there really. It was very important to me that it sounded like its own entity, having its own identity. It didn’t sound like Judas Priest, otherwise there would be no point. When I started putting the songs together, it was clear that the songs were pretty good and they had their own character, and I decided to record them and I went from there really.
Indeed, one of the things I wanted to tell you is that I think that we can see this as a kind of revelation of your true spirit and your own personality in music…
Well I think I have always been grateful that I had the opportunity in Judas Priest to write music with them. That’s always been a part of my musical DNA. So it was just another outlet, so there is a part of me in everything I do. Judas Priest is one of those bands. It is a very organic band. In the past, with the albums I had the pleasure to co-write with them, we all did what came from the heart and what came natural. That’s a part of me as well. It is just a different side I think, it is a bit more blues in this record. I think you can hear all the influences in it. You can hear Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, the blues side of things and UFO. It is just another outlet really, during the pandemic to put something else down and see what I have got.
Did you write the lyrics as well or did you wait until Ronnie Romero joined the band?
I didn’t write the lyrics, no. I am not a great lyricist. I don’t enjoy writing lyrics as much as I enjoy writing music, so I let that to other people. You might know this: when you record your voice, and hear it back, it sounds strange. It is the same with me with my lyrics. When I hear my own lyrics, I don’t enjoy hearing them or writing them so much. I contribute, but I leave that to other people, so I had other people writing lyrics on this and it was all written before Ronnie came on board. Ronnie came on board when the music was written and recorded his vocals with the lyrics that were already there. He did a great job. He took a few days to kind of digest the lyrics and the meanings of the songs, so that he could do a great performance and really embody the message of the lyrics, which was a great thing for him to do.
Yes, I applaud it that you chose a permanent front man, not different singers…
Well, it is important to me to have a band. We have a line-up on the record which I am blessed to have: Rex Brown, Scott Travis and Ronnie. Then obviously moving forward, when we tour, I got a band together with musicians that are able to tour, but it is important to me to – at least – try and have a band spirit where people contribute and their own characters make the band a more unique entity, rather than just a solo project. Obviously I initially put it together, but it is my goal to have a band of people who contribute and add their musical identities to that band.
I think that is very important for the musical chemistry, also when you play live.
It becomes unique if you’ve got four or five different musical characters in a melting pot. The result is obviously different than what it would be when you did it on your own. And that is important. It is important to have a band that evolves and grows and maybe breaks new territory in terms of how they sound or what music they can do. It is an exciting thing, rather than just one person who does everything.
That’s true and then you can have a kind of interaction between each other…
Exactly. If you look at bands like Judas Priest… Obviously Judas Priest is an institute, a very unique thing, but the musical characters in the band, Ian Hill, K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford,… they are very individual characters. When you put them together, they make Judas Priest what it is, so it is the combination of those characters which makes Judas Priest. So I try to take that in this band as well.
That is a fine goal. In that time in the past, the time of all the heroes you mentioned, every band had a kind of signature sound. Now – also due to modern production I guess – there are many bands who sound more or less the same. I think you have been striving for that authentic sound…
I understand exactly what you mean. I often think that about the way guitar is these days. You have millions of guitar players with millions of different amplifiers, but it is hard to find their identity, whereas back in the sixties or with Black Sabbath, you didn’t had many guitar players and maybe two or three different amplifiers, but everybody had a different identity. The technological advances don’t seem to pull out identities. That seems to kind of blur them a little bit. Way back in the days, the identity came through the fingers and the soul, via the heart when things were created, even though it was on the same amplifier, it was sounding different. But again, taking this further to two or three or four different people in a band, capturing these characters and creating something new, I think that is an important thing if you want the longevity of the band based on character.
In the beginning I was a bit worried, because we all know that you have been seriously ill in September 2021 with instant surgery for your heart. How are you doing at this moment? Are you strong enough to face this challenge, together with being a member of Judas Priest?
I am doing well, thank you for asking it. I really appreciate that. I mean, it was a shocking time really, when it happened. It happened out of the blue, there was no warning and I was lucky to come through really, but I am doing well now. I am strong. We have been on the road since then. Actually I had to go in the hospital again to fix a complication and then we went out back on the road again. So I am doing well. I think there is obviously a balance, you can do too much, but I think when you keep active, it kinds of motivates me at least to keep going. Work on this record, work on the Judas Priest record, look forward to upcoming live dates and what we are going to do with Judas Priest in the future. It gives me kind of focus and motivation to do other things and it keeps you going.
I can understand, being busy with music makes you feel richer…
Well, it is part of who I am, it is part of my life. When it happened, I came out of the hospital and one of the first things that I wanted to do was pick up the guitar and start playing again. It is who you are, so you want to get back to who you are as soon as you can. It is a part of my life, it is almost like a medicine. Whatever happened, getting back to the guitar and music in some capacities is like a medicine, it is kind of healing you know.
Indeed, it is a benefit for your recovery let us say…
I would definitely agree yes, 100%
Choosing a name for the band is always something crucial. To me the name Elegant Weapons may sound a bit like a contradiction, because weapons are brutal, elegant is the opposite…
Well you are right, I like the juxtaposition between the elegant and the weapons. There are a couple references on the album, ‘Horns For A Halo’ is like a juxtaposition between good and evil. It came from, if you imagine like a Samurai sword, an ornamented Samurai sword, that might be an elegant weapon, but it came from the guitar and the instruments that we play really. Our words can be weapons and we can construct sentences and songs that influence people and the guitar is almost like a weapon, to be able to do that. I got inspired by the guitar and it is kind of a reference to that really. A guitar is an elegant piece of machinery that we use to create feelings with and it is also a reference to the light sable that Obi Wan Kenobi gives to Luke Skywalker. It is a weapon to crown an era. These electric guitars were much more available in the fifties. They are from the past, like some of this music. Like us. We are type of relics from a far gone era, but the goal is to bring them back in the modern era to be sure that they will never be forgotten.
Ah then I was not so far from your vision, because I have written down: ‘maybe the guitar is a weapon to conquer hearts and territory’.
Exactly. They are kind of these instruments of beauty. There was a time when I went through an airport security and I was checking the guitar through the machine and the lady didn’t know what it was. Sha sked me what it is and I said: ‘it is a guitar’ and she said: ‘a real one?’ and I said ‘yes it is a real one’. Not everybody is familiar with these instruments. I grew up watching Jimi Hendrix and Richie Blackmore and Tony Iommi with their guitars, maybe they will be lost in history, like the light sable in Star Wars. It is a relic from another age, but they are inspiring and the main reason I play music is the guitar. It is inspiring, I love it, so yeah it is a real reference to that.
Yes, sometimes you forget that there are people who never saw a guitar, or people who never heard of The Beatles or Bob Dylan…
That is right yeah. People have other technologies now and the way music is created. A guitar is like an old school thing, but it can be used to be modern and help people in a creative sense in the year 2023 and I think that is an important thing.
It is linked to feelings and emotions that is something we need in a world which is always getting harder and tougher…
Exactly and we always refer to guitars as axes, it is a cool axe, so an axe is a weapon and it has always been kind of associated with weaponry in the past, but they are beautiful things as well and that is why the juxtaposition of the two words of the band name invoke some imagery.
That is the sturdy imagine of the guitars… the Manowar feel…
Exactly! It is a powerful instrument and it looks like an axe. Gene Simmons had a bass in the shape of an axe. As I said, words can be weapons and we can use our minds as weapons. The music that we create with these guitars, that is kind of what it is all about.
You say that you don’t really like acoustic guitars, yet you do a rather mellow song on the album. ‘Ghost Of You’ is a very beautiful song, a bit bluesy…
Thank you very much. It is a slower song, it is a more kind of bluesy song, but there is no acoustic on it. I don’t dislike the acoustic guitar, but I don’t have a big relationship with an acoustic guitar. It hasn’t draw me in, like an electric guitar does. An electric guitar to me is one of the most inspiring things in the world, just looking at it makes me wanting to pick it up and an acoustic guitar never had the same resonance to me like that. I use it as a tool, to create different sounds, but I rarely get inspired in the same way by an acoustic guitar. The song on the album has got clean guitar on it, but it is not acoustic. It is a varied song, that one, it’s got elements from a smoky jazz club in New Orleans or somewhere. Again, it brings different imagery to life. Well, maybe in the future I will do an acoustic album, but for the moment it is the electric guitar that wins for me.
I know that you have been plying covers all your life in bands, but why a cover on this album?
As you say, I have been playing covers all my life and even in Judas Priest I am rendering songs from the last fifty years that I didn’t write. So it goes to my heart really, covers. I love – like we mentioned before – bands like Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, I am a big fan of UFO and Michael Schenker. I love the song ‘Lights Out’ and it seemed to flow in the dynamic of the record, that why I thought: ‘why not putting it on the record? It is a version of a song that I love and it is part of my DNA and the fans’ DNA, especially Ronnie singing with Michael. As I said, it has a nice dynamic flow in the sequence of the record, so I thought: ‘let’s put it on there’.
The first guy you contacted to form a band was Rex Brown. Then you changed to another bass player, Dave from Uriah Heep…
I have always promised Scott Travis that if I ever did something else besides Judas Priest, I’ll give him first refusal on the drums, so I was fortunate enough to get Scott on the drums. And I was friends with Rex Brown, first and formal and I called him up one day and I said: ‘I have got this record and I need some bass on it, do me an honour and record this bass on the record’ and to my surprise he said yes and it is such a great vibe that Rex creates on the album. He is a legend, I mean, Scott and Rex are both legends. Rex put a sound to the record that was just unmistakably Rex Brown. So I am really grateful and fortunate to have him on the record. When it came to the touring, obviously Rex Brown is in Pantera. So his commitments were there, so Dave Rimmer was the only choice I had. I have known Dave for over twenty years. We used to play covers in pubs and bars and club in London in the UK. So we are intimately connected as friends, and also musically. We used to play four or five gigs a week all around the UK and London. So when it came to selecting someone for the band, Davey was a no-brainer really.
At which age did you go to Sweden?
I think I was 16 or 17, something like that and I was there for about four years and came back in the early 2000’s. It was a great experience, you know. I had a band over there. We used to play in places we were allowed, because we were too young for clubs or bars. It was great and I used to sell hotdogs during the whole week and playing heavy metal during the weekend.
To round off the album we have a longer song: ‘White Horse’. What is that about and can you tell anything more about that song?
It is one of my favourite songs on the record. It is a slightly longer song with some beautiful parts and I like that dynamic. I like when it goes from rather unconventional arrangements and it takes me somewhere else. It is not a 3-minute radio single by any means, it is probably the opposite of that, but I like the twists and turns musically and the imagery it punches up. It is about the occult. There is a lot of stuff in it about the occult. It is one of those songs, I don’t know… I let the listener make up their own minds. Fundamentally to me, I just like the twists and turns it does musically, there’s some Ozzy Osbourne in there, there is some Thin Lizzy in there. It is a great track. Again, it conjures up imagery of the occult and stuff like that, so it is a great journey for me.
What are the plans for video clips?
The band was together a couple of weeks ago, recording some videos for the next couple of singles that are coming out over the next few months. The first video is an animated video for ‘Blind Leading The Blind’ and then for the next single it is going to be a band video. The single after that is also going to be a band video, so it is going to be exciting to see people’s reactions when those videos come out. Not long to wait now, so we will see how this proceeds. The record is coming out at May, the 26th and before that we have some singles coming out, it is exciting to release something into the world. Then it is going to lead its own life. It is an exciting thing as a musician.
I can imagine the excitement, because you start something new, from scratch let us say…
Yes, it is exciting, it is scary, it is all those things. I feel so strange to be judged, but that is the nature of the beast. We create music and hopefully we can make people feel a certain way with our music. So putting out the record is like putting out your kid to do its own thing. It is a living breathing thing. I am looking forward to see the album do that.
What are the plans for the near future and for playing live?
It is very important to me really, to have a band that plays live, and has live dates and tours and grows. So we have got some dates coming up in Europe in the Summer. There’s been some dates announced today on the social media. So that is only a couple of months away. We are looking forward to that, bringing the band over to Europe, hanging out with the festival crowds and taking our music overseas really. So we are looking forward to that. That is coming up in the Summer and then hopefully beyond that as well, we are looking to more dates and more tours and some more chances to get our music out there.
Fantastic! I will be on the first row, when you play
(Laughs) Haha brilliant, we look forward to see you there.
To round off, some thoughts and words about the new music of Judas Priest…
We are working on a new record, we have been working on it for a while now. It is almost finished. We are still working on some vocals with Rob, but it is almost ready. So it is really exciting to hear Rob’s voice on the new tracks and I can’t wait to let everybody hear it. I cannot say when it is going to be ready or finished or released, but I can say it is sounding fantastic and it is nearly there. It is nearly finished recording-wise. Then we have to master and mix it and get it out, but it is sounding great and I am really excited for everybody to hear it.
That’s amazing. That is also something to look forward to…
Richie I thank you immensely…
Thank you Vera, it has been a pleasure. Enjoy the rest of your day and I see you at the front row in Europe somewhere.