Glenn Tipton Official WebsiteLast Updated 05 August 2020
   

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Interview

Q: How old were you when you first picked up the guitar?
A: It was quite late really. I started playing it when I was about 19.

Q: Was it your first musical instrument?
A: No, it wasn't. My mother taught me the piano so I was fairly musical in that respect.

Q: What made you take up the guitar?
A: Well, my brother started to play one and I think it was his influence that gave me the desire to start. I used to sneak into his room to play on his guitar while he was out and I was daft enough to think that he didn't notice! (laughs)

Q: How did you learn to play the guitar?
A: I was self-taught. I've never taken a lesson. Initially, my brother showed me a couple of chords but from that point onwards, it was me listening to runs from my favorite guitar heroes at the time and trying to copy them.

Q: Who were some of your early guitaristic mentors?
A: Well, my initial influences were nearly all blues players - B.B. King, Freddie King, Robert Johnson and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, Elmore James. Then, there was Jimi Hendrix and The Cream. I was very influenced by the playing of Rory Gallagher in my early days but, as I've often pointed out, it didn't take me long to realize that you really need to develop your own unique style to get anywhere. You need to have an identity and that's what I've always strived for ever since.

Q: Although you never took any formal guitar lessons, have you ever studied from books or magazines?
A: No, not at all. I'm not a scale man. Although I studied piano and can read music, I dont play anything on the guitar directly from a piece of music manuscript. I never took the stuff I learned on the piano across to the guitar and I'm sort of glad I didn't, really. I'm very often asked the question, "Hey, man, what scale are you using in the middle of that solo and my answer is always (laughs) - "there is no scale!" For some reason, people are always trying to interpret what I play and break it down into various scales and modes, but I'm not consciously working from any! I have a good musical ear and believe in and base a lot of importance in "feel.

Q: When you're constructing a solo, though don't you think in terms of scales.
A: "Obviously, if I'm working in say, the key of C, I go from that point onwards but I don't consciously resort to scales only fretboard patterns or runs. I do this intentionally because I don't like to give myself any sort of limitation to work with. I find that this approach makes it easier to be flexible and doesn't tie you down as to what you should and shouldn't do. I believe that it also makes you more unique as a guitarist but you could also say I'm too lazy to sit there practicing scales all day and would rather be down the river fishing !!

Q: Do you pre-plan leads prior to entering the studio or do you just "wing it" when you're in there?
A: I usually work out my solos before I record them, but I do allow myself the freedom to change them at the last minute if the mood takes me! When I'm writing a solo passage, I either first put down a musical backdrop (a rhythm track) that I think is interesting to play to or I actually come up with some lead ideas I'd like to play and then create a musical backdrop with them in mind, but either way it must be relative to the song . Also I compose in real time . That doesn't mean to say that I put everything down in one take by any means , but in all honesty I would have a problem playing some of my lead breaks slowly .

Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, but, if my memory serves me correctly, I'm pretty sure that you stick very closely to your recorded solos when playing them on stage.
A: I've always thought that if a guitarist in concert doesn't play more or less the same lead break that he does on the record then the song loses a little something. I do allow myself certain areas where I can ad lib if I want to but I pretty much stick to the recorded versions of my solos,Again in all honesty if its a lead break I played years ago I sometimes can't remember exactly how I played it but I can always get close enough.

Q: Some of your leads have a definite classical leaning, if you don't mind me saying so. Where, if anywhere, does that side of your musical persona spring from? Your piano playing days maybe?
A: I'm very much into classical music. My mother used to be a classical pianist and so that side of things is somewhat inherent and indoctrinated into me from an early age therefore, I naturally tend to pick up on passages and ideas that have got a slight connection to classical themes.I don't only draw on my classical side for lead stuff. I also use it for rhythm passages and solo backdrops. Thanks to my mother, I've had that tendency right through my career.

Q: One of my favorite ever Glenn Tipton solos is the one you do in "Hell Bent For Leather" and that starts with a great piece of classical sounding, two-handed tapping.
A: Thanks. Actually, I used to use the edge of my plectrum to do the hammering in the part but for some reason have changes back to my finger .

Q: Are there any of the "newer" guitar players out there that really impress you?
A: There are a lot of brilliant guitarists out there now. It's mind-boggling! I almost feel sorry for a youngster who's just starting out on the instrument because the standard is so very high and the competition is so fierce. I listen to a lot of bands and guitarists but I still never zone in on any one particular player, so I don't really have a favorite as such. To me, the danger of listening to one particular player too much is still a very real one because there's always the chance you'll start to copy them. Unfortunately, this can often happen subconsciously without you ever realizing that you're doing it. I like to stick to my own guns and concentrate on inventing new things for me to play from my own lead style so to speak , but I'm well aware of what's going on in the guitar world, and I certainly don't go around with my eyes and ears closed!

Q: That's very obvious in the way your style has evolved over the years.
A: Thats nice to hear , I've put a lot of practice in as a guitar player over the years but I don't work every day. What I do is more like intense bursts of practice. If you made a graph of my guitar playing through the years, I think my improvements would be seen as steps rather than as a gradual curve.

Q: What exactly do these so-called "intensive bursts" of practice consist or. Do you pick on a particular aspect of your style you want to make better and work on it or is it a more overall playing thing?
A: Well, a "burst" usually starts like this: I'll listen to a hell of a lot of new stuff and get a general feel for what's currently happening and what the kids out there like and want. Then, with that in mind, I get my head down and really attack the guitar!

Q: You've just told us that you don't actually play every single day. How big of a gap do you leave between bouts of playing when you're not on the road or in the studio? Are we talking days or weeks or does it just depend on how you feel?
A: I do actually put the thing down for lengthy periods of time because I find doing that gives me a hunger to play, you know? I always want to have the desire to play the guitar. I have got to points in my career when I was so sick of it and I dreaded picking it up . So, what I might do now is go away from it for a while after a tour and then, when I come back, I'm really ready to play again. That's when I'm most prolific, both at songwriting and as a lead guitar player. After spending time away from the instrument, riffs, licks and leads just seem to come to me, and I have a strong desire to write and play again and thats when I practice as well

Q: Throughout Priest's lengthy life, you've consistently delivered the goods (sorry folks, bad pun but I just couldn't resist it!) in terms of quality material. Aside from the riffs that just seem to come to you, how do you personally go about getting ideas for songs?
A: It depends, really. Some come when I'm fooling around, some come when I concentrate on writing and some happen by mistake! I'd be a liar if I said I was never ever inspired by what other players and bands write from time to time but, when I hear something that I think sounds good (which can even be a drum rhythm) , I'll work along these lines until I know that what I've got is different but I'm excited about it and by this time it's is completely changed anyway. The best compliment paid to us is that our songs are timeless and that's another thing thats is reflected in our music. We're always working towards moving forward in terms of songs, solos and sounds .

Q: You've never betrayed your hard rocking roots, though.
A: No! Although we change our direction every now and again, In Priest we've always stuck to our heavy metal guns. We don't so much try to change our style but find new and hopefully, exciting ways to present our music. No matter how successful you get, you can't afford to become complacent or lazy. You can't ever let the grass grow under your feet, and you have to constantly monitor what's going on around you and, we always try to give our audience what we feel they want. if you want to stay around in this business, then you've go to progress with it - without compromising your musical integrity, of course. I've never thought much of bands who "jump ship" because when you do that, you betray your fans.

Q: While a lot of modern groups seemingly try their utmost to deny having anything to do with Heavy Metal, it's great to know that Judas Priest is still screaming out its Heavy Metal affiliation with a vengeance!
A: We are, were and always will be a Heavy Metal band and what is more, we're very proud of that fact. We've been savaged by the press at times but we've always soldiered on regardless because we truly love what we do. We will always carry the Heavy Metal flag and will never deviate.

Q: "Defenders Of The Faith," indeed!
A: Exactly! (laughs heartily) Hopefully, and with all due modesty, I'd like to think that after being around for nearly four decades in our own right, we've maybe helped in our own small way to carve out the path over which metal has traveled and matured over the years .

Q: I think that's a pretty safe bet! Anyhow, getting back to the art of composition, how hard or easy do you find it writing within the obvious confines of the Heavy Metal idiom?
A: That's a great question. For some reason, certain people seem to think that metal music is easy to come up with but in my opinion, good heavy metal songs are very difficult to write. In Judas Priest, we've always placed a massive amount of importance on producing the highest quality of material we can and over the years, we've invested a great deal of time and effort into our songwriting. In a strange way writing for my solo albums "Baptizm of Fire" and "Edge of the world" was easier to compose for. It's not that "anything goes", far from it but the boundaries are wider apart and acoustic songs like "left for Dead" , or "Searching" are acceptable along side fiercer material like "Kill or be killed" or "Voodoo Brother" I love film soundtracks and the epic "Himalaya" works along side tracks like "Resolution " or "Stronger than the Drug" .In Priest this wouldn't work but thats why its nice to get things off your chest sometimes with personal projects.It allows you that extra freedom and diversity in your composition .

Q: Do you ever go back and revamp or plunder riffs from the songs that don't make a certain LP?
A: Not usually. We might use part of a song from the past occasionally but usually if it doesn't work first time it wont work second time around.

Q: Although you're an incredibly heavy band, your material is very melodic. Is that something you've always striven for when writing?
A: Personally speaking, I've always loved melody. You obviously can't try to incorporate inappropriately sweet melody into a Heavy Metal song (laughs) but melody can take many forms. It doesn't have to be sickly , just something that works or is memorable and makes a great metal song . Something the audience can sing makes for a great night on stage and nowadays the audience sing along with not just verses and chorus's but the lead breaks as well

Q: I'd imagine that having a singer of Rob Halford's range and talent is a great help in this area.
A: Oh, definitely. Rob is an incredible vocalist and his range is absolutely astounding. He can do a pretty mean Frank Sinatra impression, too! (laughs) Working together with Rob is wonderful because he can literally sing anything.

Q: Do you ever find that your surroundings sometimes inspire you to compose?
A: That can happen, yes. For example, I often get great ideas when I'm driving cars. This can be quite frustrating though, because although I'll obviously try my hardest to remember them, some of them get lost forever because I don't have a guitar or tape machine handy. Thankfully, most of ideas come to me when there's a guitar lying around!

Q: When it comes to song arrangements, Priest has always been pretty much a free spirit. Is that a deliberate ploy on your part?
A: I don't know really, I've never given that side of things much thought! Personally, I don't believe that there are any real hard and fast rules as to how a heavy metal song should or shouldn't be structured in terms of verses, bridges, choruses, middle 8's and so on. To me, a song can be made up of two parts or twenty, it doesn't really matter as long as the overall result is fluid sounding , not disjointed and as long as it works. "Breaking The Law," for example, is the essence of simplicity whereas, say, "Painkiller" has a lot more going on in terms of structure and arrangement. I love both songs, though! To me, anything goes as long as the track sounds good!

Q: Getting back to lead playing for a second, although you're capable of some very slow, emotive passages, you definitely have a penchant for blazing out lightning fast runs on occasions. Is being able to play fast on demand important to you?
A: I like to be able to play fast but only when it says something musically. There's nothing more meaningless than a superspeed flurry of notes that don't say anything. I honestly believe that every lead break you do, however short it may be, must be both interesting and tasty but most of all improve the song. If a solo doesn't fulfill these things, then it shouldn't be there! With the way techniques have improved over the last 7 or 8 years, there are now a huge number of players around who can play extremely fast. Having said this, to my ears,not all of them can actually use this capability in a tasteful, musical way. There's no point in just playing fast purely because you can. I'd much rather hear a few notes played with feeling than a pointless, "million-notes-per-second" thing.

Q: I hope this doesn't sound like a really inane question, but how would you describe yourself as a guitarist?
A: Well, I'd like to think of myself as a player that plays various roles - you have to if you're part of a band. I believe that a guitar player can call himself a guitar player if he can play rhythm, play lead, write songs,and be a showman on stage. I honestly think that all these attributes are a necessity in this day and age. Do I fulfill all these roles adequately?----Who knows-- I hope I do! (laughs)

Q: Do you think that Priest's consistent success over the years is directly related to the stability of the group's nucleus?
A: Yes, without any shadow of a doubt. We've had a series of drummers, of course, none of which, to my knowledge, spontaneously combusted or died in bizarre gardening accidents ~ la Spinal Tap! .Of course, Rob left for a long time, but when we re united I believe it dawned on us all how much we appreciate being part of a band like Judas Priest with such a great chemistry, particularly on a writing level. I think we learned that sticking together with no ego problems is probably more important for Judas Priest than anything else. I'm not saying our relationship with each other is always blissful by any means - we've definitely had our moments and arguments! Don't consider that we've just sailed through all these years of our career without any conflict whatsoever because that's just not humanly possible! Even if you put music aside, there's business decisions to be made all the time and everyone's differing characters as well. So, obviously you are going to come across areas where you disagree, unfortunately. What you have to do is learn to live with that disagreement, learn to make compromises and learn to work around things so they won't build up into an almighty battle which will cause the band to break up. It's not always easy. There aretimes even now when we do have differences of opinion, but we have to always try and work them out.

Q: Thanks for giving us some valuable insights into your guitaristic attitude, and style, Glenn. To close, I wonder if you wouldn't mind passing on a few thoughts and tidbits you feel may benefit any aspiring young rockers reading this?
A: Not at all, it'd be my pleasure.

Q: Excellent! (in best Bill and Ted voice!) Firstly, what would your advice be to a highly dedicated and ambitious Metal outfit who'd like nothing better than to follow in Judas Priest's esteemed footsteps?
A: Don't follow in our footsteps!! The key to any sort of success is to sound completely like yourself and no one else. I know you didn't actually mean the question quite like that, but it's a great place to start! The surest way to fail, in my opinion, is to sound like a Motley Crue, a Judas Priest, a Megadeth or a Bon Jovi. You've got to quickly analyze what your band's got in the way of its own character, and also what you've got in the way of your own character as an individual musician, and then exploit those things. I can't really say that enough. I mean, it's the only way to succeed, really - to have and develop a sound that nobody else has and then nurture it, exploit it, and work on it as hard as you can. It's not an easy thing to do by any means, but if you work on it for long enough and use your own personal talents, then it'll eventually come out as musical character. From there, my second piece of advice is drop all the ego problems. If you've got a good band and it's working out, by hook or by crook, hold it together.

Q: Nice one! Lastly, do you have any similar pearls of wisdom you'd like to cast in the direction of your fellow axmen out there who hunger for success and improvement?
A: Again, always try and sound like yourself and secondly, as I explained earlier on, always try and keep a love for your own instrument and do it any way you can. Like I've already said, my own method is to put the guitar down for a period of time so that when I come back to it, I really want to play again. Obviously, this approach may not work for some people or even be necessary, but always try and find your own way and means of enjoying what you do. Then you'll definitely get maximum musical and creative benefit and I believe become more prolific as a writer and more accomplished as a player.

© 2020 Glenn Tipton