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Richie Faulkner Talks Recovery from Heart Surgery, New Band Elegant Weapons, and Judas Priest Plans

"I just count my blessings every day that I’m still here making music"

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Richie Faulkner Elegant Weapons interview
Richie Faulkner, photo by Steven J. Messina

    The word that came up most frequently when speaking to Richie Faulkner is “fortunate.” It’s an adjective that the 43-year-old guitarist continues to apply to his circumstances, especially when discussing the events of the past dozen or so years.

    In 2011, the UK musician got the gig of a lifetime, joining Judas Priest as a replacement for K.K. Downing — a move that Rob Halford credits for “saving the band.” As the singer told The Georgia Straight in 2015, “[If] we hadn’t have found him at the crucial time that we were looking for a guitar player, things could have turned out quite differently.” Faulkner has since become an integral part of Priest, co-writing all the material on the group’s last two albums.

    Faulkner is most fortunate, though, for simply being alive. In 2021, following a performance with Priest at the Louder Than Life festival in Louisville, Kentucky, he collapsed backstage after suffering an aortic aneurysm. By chance, the venue was close to the Rudd Heart & Lung Center where Faulkner was immediately rushed. He underwent a 10-hour surgery to repair his ruptured aorta, a procedure that included putting a mechanical valve in his heart.

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    All of these experiences and his now hallowed position among the community of heavy rock axe slingers have all fed into Faulkner’s latest endeavor Elegant Weapons. The new project was born, in part, during the COVID pandemic when he found himself forced to stay in his home outside Nashville. The extra free time allowed Faulkner to finish some rough musical ideas he was playing around with, and to call on some of the many musical friends he’s made over the years, like Pantera bassist Rex Brown, his Priest bandmate Scott Travis on drums, and current Rainbow vocalist Ronnie Romero — to help with this new project.

    What came out of their collective efforts is Horns for a Halo, a lean and nasty collection of bluesy hard rock that follows in the still fresh footsteps of some of Faulkner’s influences like Michael Schenker (the group does a fantastic cover of UFO’s “Lights Out” on the album), Coverdale-era Deep Purple, and the many chapters of Ronnie James Dio’s career.

    With the release of this album set for May 26th (pre-order here), as well as a run of tour dates set for this summer (on which the band’s rhythm section will feature Accept’s Christopher Williams and Uriah Heep’s Dave Rimmer), we caught up with Faulkner from his home in Tennessee to discuss his current health, how Elegant Weapons came together, his approach to recording music, and what the future holds for Judas Priest.


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