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K.K. Downing on golfing during his Judas Priest days and how he stays fit these days

Modified 20 Dec 2019, 19:22 IST

K.K. Downing on-stage with Judas Priest at The Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles
K.K. Downing on-stage with Judas Priest at The Gibson Amphitheatre in Los Angeles

When you think of British heavy metal artists, the band Judas Priest likely comes to mind. As one of the founders of Judas Priest, Ken "K.K." Downing co-wrote plenty of rock anthems, including "Breaking The Law," "Living After Midnight," "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," "Hot Rockin'," "Heading Out To The Highway" and "Electric Eye." In turn, Downing's contributions have led to close to 50 million albums being sold worldwide.

K.K. Downing left Judas Priest in 2011, but remains involved with the group on the business end. After leaving Priest, Downing opened a golf course in England, which he talked about in his recently-written memoir Heavy Duty: Days & Nights in Judas Priest. But golf aside, Downing -- who was once ranked at number 23 on the list of "100 greatest metal guitarists" by rock magazine Hit Parader -- has remained active as a musician in his post-Priest life, and is reportedly waiting to announce his next musical project.

I had the pleasure of speaking with K.K. Downing by phone about Heavy Duty: Days & Nights in Judas Priest and more. Sports-related highlights from that chat are below; the rest of the interview will be played on an upcoming episode of the Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz. In the meantime, all things K.K. Downing-related can be found online at

In your book, you first mention golf when you are telling a story about touring with Def Leppard. But when did golf first enter your life?

K.K. Downing: I think that in dribs and drabs, probably in the late 1970s.

Did you take golf seriously when you first found out about it? Did somebody have to show you that golf was cool?

K.K. Downing: I don't know why I started. I kind of fancied doing that when I was at home. I didn't do it too much. But then when I entered competition with Def Leppard, the day after a heavy drinking session... (laughs) it kind of got fun. I could see how competitive it was. Those guys were very good compared to myself and Glenn [Tipton]. We were kind of getting going then, but got hooked. We found out it was a pretty cool thing to do. We'd been on tour long enough to know that propping up the hotel bar all day wasn't the best thing to do. It was a good way for us to get out and see towns and cities where we were actually visiting.

Besides yourself and Def Leppard, another artist that's widely associated with golf is Alice Cooper. Did you get to play golf with Alice?


K.K. Downing: No, I didn't, but Glenn did because Alice was on tour with Operation Rock & Roll for some shows about 1990 or thereabouts. He likes to play early in the morning, so Glenn made it out but I didn't make it. It's a difficult sport when you're awake, let alone when you're asleep.

Do you still play golf a few times a week? Or did owning a golf course change your relationship with golf?

K.K. Downing: I think maybe once a week. I keep myself pretty busy, really, doing things to keep fairly fit. I've started riding my racing bike again. I used to do that a lot as a youngster. That's kind of fun, I enjoy it.

Is that something you do every day? What does it take to be in shape as a cyclist?

K.K. Downing: It's a good question, because I've only just started doing this after many decades. (laughs) I just did about 16 miles, my first ride, the next day I could not walk up the stairs. I had to go up the stairs on my butt one step at a time. It was difficult because I was so saddle-sore. (laughs)

I'd forgotten about what your backside [goes through] riding a bike. I guess a lot of people out there, you ride a horse after you haven't done it for a long time, you get that same feeling. It was tough doing it again but very enjoyable.

One of the things you talk about in the book is that you knew not to drink too much alcohol before a show because you wanted to be in the best shape possible. What sort of things were you doing to be in great shape back then when you were playing arenas?

K.K. Downing: We would play golf and we would play tennis whenever we could. When the schedule is tough, most of it is just sitting about on a bus, on an aeroplane, in airports and all of that, so it's quite tough. I was never really a gym-goer. I was never really a swimmer, I would do a bit, but the hotels didn't really have much to offer for me.

For the most part, whenever there was an opportunity, Glenn and I would jump in a taxi and say, "Take us to a golf course." If not, "Take us to a driving range." Even if we just had a couple of hours before the bus left, we would just take off and do that.

The benefits of that were it got us out, doing something we liked. We got to do a lot of really neat things, and sometimes those taxi rides, they would be like 80 dollars. (laughs) It would be way out on the edge of town. But we got to see a lot of things, a lot of the countryside. We're really grateful for that.

Published 21 Oct 2018, 02:10 IST
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