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Metal legend KK Downing raring to go as Steel Mill reopens

As the West Midlands nightlife returns after a Covid-enforced hiatus, former Judas Priest guitarist Kenneth 'KK' Downing is raring to go.

K K Downing at The Steel Mill in Wolverhampton
K K Downing at The Steel Mill in Wolverhampton

The Black Country metal legend reopened his live music venue this month with an increased capacity of more than 3,500.

Downing has also expanded the stage at KK's Steel Mill in Frederick Street, Wolverhampton, to provide a better view for audiences and more space for the bands to perform.

"We are back open with live music, and that’s fantastic, because everyone has worked so hard to get to this place," he said. "We are very, very excited.”

Downing said there had been a surge in interest of bands wanting to perform at the venue, adding that the new layout had received positive feedback.

"A lot of time, money and effort has been invested in this place by everyone and we are looking forward to welcoming live music fans back.”

Downing, who now lives in Bridgnorth, said he wanted his venue to inspire others to pick up an instrument and make music.

He said he was not offended by a rock magazine which this month referred to him as a ‘Brummie’.

“That’s okay, that’s okay. It’s a major city full of great music," he said. "I’ve been grateful of it over the years, people wherever you go around the world have heard of Birmingham, but never Hill Top, West Bromwich.

"We are close enough to it, it's the suburbs, still the Midlands.”

His new band KK Priest – which features former Judas Priest singer Tim 'Ripper' Owens – was due to release its album Sermons of the Sinner at the end of August.

But Downing said this had been delayed due to supply shortages.

He said: “I think essentially in a nutshell, when you announce a release date you have to order up enough product – vinyl, CDs, specially packaged formats et cetera – and the allocation wasn’t enough, it quickly got sold out.

"I want everything to be right, not disappoint the fans.”

The new-look stage at K K's Steel Mill

KK said that as well as supporting up-and-coming local bands, such as Bad Touch supported by Cannock’s Piston on November 24, popular tribute bands such as Dirty DC – due to appear on December 28 – were also important to the Steel Mill.

He said record fairs generated a lot of interest, and said the larger stage would give the Circus of Horrors Experience more space to perform on November 16.

"That to me is what this venue is all about as far as I’m concerned, especially supporting local bands," Downing added.

"We had Battle of the Bands here, Nigel Halford – Judas Priest’s Rob Halford’s brother – and his band Voodoo Sioux are playing here again.

Perennial favourites Thunder will perform two Christmas specials this year on December 17 and 18, the extra date being added after the first sold out immediately.

Downing has also put four new videos of K K's Priest on YouTube, including its first single Hellfire Thunderbolt.

“It hits you square on – like a hellfire thunderbolt," he said. "It's had nearly one and a half million views. Can’t be bad. I’m really pleased with the reaction to that song.”

He refused to rule out performing live gigs with his new band at the Steel Mill this year.

“Who knows?” he said, before slapping the table. “Watch this space.”

By Richard Pursehouse

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