Judas Priest singer Rob Halford is “still shook up, emotionally” after witnessing guitarist Richie Faulkner being rushed to a hospital for what turned out to be life-saving emergency heart surgery. The metal band was forced to postpone the remaining dates on its US tour, but Halford has “good news” to share regarding Faulkner’s recovery.
As we’ve reported, Faulkner was onstage performing “Painkiller” at the end of Judas Priest’s recent set at Louisville’s Louder Than Life festival when his “aorta ruptured and started to spill blood” into his chest cavity. He immediately underwent a 10-hour surgery at the Rudd Heart and Lung Center at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital, where five parts of his chest were replaced with mechanical components.
Heavy Consequence just caught up with Rob Halford to discuss Judas Priest’s new 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music box set, but, of course, we first expressed our concerns about Faulkner’s health.
“The good news is he’s healing, and his therapy will be picking up the guitar and getting back into these new songs for Priest and getting ready for the next batch of road work,” Halford told us. “I’ve had a couple of conversations with him, and he sounds great. I’m waiting to hear that he’s picked up the guitar — he’s probably picked up the guitar already and his doctors are saying, ‘Put that guitar down!'”
Footage of Richie performing “Painkiller” at Louder Than Life shows him miraculously finishing the song and its impressive guitar solo. However, the guitarist does look a bit more subdued than normal. As Faulkner himself put it, “As I watch footage from the Louder Than Life Festival in Kentucky, I can see in my face the confusion and anguish I was feeling whilst playing ‘Painkiller’ as my aorta ruptured and started to spill blood into my chest cavity.”
Halford has yet to watch the footage from the concert that shows the moment of rupture. “I can’t look at that yet,” the legendary frontman explained. “I’m still shook up, emotionally. Eventually I’ll try to watch the footage, but [Faulkner] says in his own words when he looked at that footage he sees a dying man, which is basically what it was.”
The singer continued, “And it’s just incredible that he got through that song and he came to the dressing room and he got changed. Even after the paramedics told him he needs to go the hospital and get a proper look at the stuff, he was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be back. I’m going home for a couple days after this show, I’ll see you guys in Denver’ and walked out the door and then probably less than an hour later he was having over 10 hours of heart surgery. It’s just unbelievable.”
Meanwhile, Faulkner himself has offered more insight into the harrowing situation in a new interview with local ABC affiliate WHA11.
“I became a bit light-headed,” recalled Faulkner. “It didn’t go away. I’ve never fainted before. I’ve never passed out, but I knew that this felt like I was going to pass out in a minute. Luckily, it was about half way into the song. So obviously, I had to finish the song. If I had known how important it was, maybe I would have got off there a bit quicker.”
He added, “The more I read about it, the more astonishing it is to me to think that I even made it to the hospital … I don’t know how I’m still around today.”
The guitarist reiterated that he had no prior heart issues, saying, “Listen, I’m 41 with no history,” he said. “You could be the same. Go and get checked. Get in front of it if there’s anything like that. If there’s not, great. Take it from me: Just go and get yourself checked out.”
The TV segment also featured the lead surgeon, Dr. Siddharth Pahwa, to whom Faulkner told directly, “You saved my life. My little girl saw me come home, and that just means everything.”
Here’s wishing Richie Faulkner a speedy and full recovery. Watch Judas Priest performing “Painkiller” at Louder Than Life below, and stay tuned for our full interview with Rob Halford, in which he discusses the new 50 Years of Heavy Metal Music box set, the band’s upcoming touring plans with Ozzy Osbourne, and more.