K.K. Downing Sympathizes With Mick Mars Amid Motley Crue Lawsuit
The 71-year-old Mars filed suit against Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Vince Neil last week, claiming they're ripping him off financially and trying to fully remove him from the band since he announced his retirement from the road last October, citing his decades-long battle with ankylosing spondylitis. Mars claimed the band tried to force him to sign a severance agreement that would divest him of all current and future Motley Crue businesses in exchange for a compensation package that he deemed insultingly low.
Downing, who quit Judas Priest in 2011 shortly before they launched their Epitaph World Tour (presumed at the time to be their final voyage), said he understands Mars' frustrations. "I do sympathize [with Mick], because I'm going through exactly the same thing," he told Blabbermouth. "And it's pretty unsavory, to say the least. After spending a lifetime building the band's name, reputation, popularity and value, in particular brand name, it should be all right for people to retire, especially through illness."
The KK's Priest guitarist said that at the time of the Epitaph World Tour, he was also "having pressure put on me to write for an EP to support that tour, which I absolutely was not gonna be any part of. … I certainly didn't want to finish my career with an EP. So I threw the towel in and sent a retirement letter in."
At the time, Downing thought he was only bowing out of Judas Priest's farewell tour, not quitting the band outright. "So essentially my decision was just not to do the final tour of the band. Of course I didn't know that the band would continue, at that time, right up until today," he said. "Otherwise things and decisions may well have been different. But, as I said, I sympathize with Mick because the circumstances between the two of us seem to be pretty much… well, identical."
Downing further claimed that frontman Rob Halford, bassist Ian Hill and guitarist Glenn Tipton "ganged together" and "kicked [him] off as a director" of Judas Priest Music Limited, which controls the band's assets — similar to what Mars has accused his bandmates of attempting.
"As a 25% shareholder in the company, their stance is that my shares don't have a value, which is completely ridiculous," he said. "I think Mick actually talked about that particular thing as well [as it relates to Motley Crue], and it seems to be what the rest of the guys in his band are trying to do also. ... Even the [Judas Priest] 50-year anniversary book, for example, that's seriously well-illustrated with so many pictures of my life's history that I don't get any revenue from that whatsoever, or from any merchandise. And I've been told that the company has no value."
The guitarist urged other musicians to proactively shield themselves from intraband legal drama. "I think to safeguard any other people that may be coming around to being in this position that may well be acquaintances of mine or even good friends of mine, I wouldn't like them to be in the same position," he said. "So safeguards needs to be put in place to avoid even the thought of litigation. But as for me and Mick, it seems that's our only route."
Downing's comments come five months after he joined his ex-bandmates onstage at Judas Priest's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction — so perhaps reconciliation is not out of reach for Motley Crue either.