K.K. Downing thinks it’s “strange” the other members of Judas Priest won't allow him to return to the band, but he says he’s made his peace with their decision.

After the guitarist’s attempt to “reinstate myself back in the band” didn’t deliver the desired result, he realized it was time to move on with his own music. “It was always confirmed that the door was closed, and they’re happy the way that they are,” Downing tells UCR. "That’s a bit strange, really. I mean, Andy [Sneap], for example, they consider him to be a touring guitar player, so I don’t know. It’s all a bit odd and strange - especially since they told the world for 10 years that I retired. If that’s true, why wouldn’t they allow me to come out of retirement?”

He points to a period when Rob Halford was out of the lineup. The singer quit the band at the beginning of the ‘90s and then returned more than a decade later. “When Rob left the band for 14 years, I obviously allowed him, of course, to rejoin the band,” Downing says. “At the end of the day, you have to listen to the fans, really. That’s what I think.”

Even when guitarist Glenn Tipton did solo albums, Downing insists he remained “the loyal trooper, the reliable one and totally devoted to what I started, which is obviously the band.”

Downing says when his exit was positioned as a retirement, it bothered him. “If that was the case that I just retired, it wasn’t really fair not allowing me to come out of retirement," he explains. "Bands have a long history of self-combusting, and sometimes they all leave at the same time. [They] go in different directions, then they all come back years later. ... I’m fine with it now. It’s like closure, it’s like a funeral Until a funeral happens and you know it’s definitive, you can’t move on. So I’m on a new path now.”

Watch K.K. Downing's Interview With UCR

He remains proud of the legacy he helped build with Judas Priest. "When I was a young teenager, there wasn’t any music around for people like working-class white kids, really, in the U.K,” he notes. ”That’s why a lot of the greats, [Eric] Clapton, [Jimmy] Page, [Jeff] Beck and all of those guys, they looked to the Black blues artists for [inspiration]. And they really enjoyed, as I did, that music.”

Clapton and his peers developed “progressive blues," Downing says, “extending solos and stuff like that” with their interpretations of older material. “If you listen to 'Crossroads' by the Cream, it can be a 10-minute live version with the improvised solo. All of that was great stuff. That kind of paved the way and got the ball rolling. So many great bands came out of that.”

Downing lists Fleetwood MacTen Years After, Jethro Tull and Wishbone Ash among the “progressive blues bands” that helped construct the foundations of his band's music. “We went onto rock and then hard rock, and the rest is history,” he says. “It’s great to have been a part of that evolution of music as we know it today.”

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