Just Like Priest

© Just Like Priest



Interview By Ville Krannila / June 2011

JUST LIKE PRIEST is Southern California’s tribute to Judas Priest. They have been paying tribute to the gods of metal for several years performing at prestigious venues such as the Hollywood Palladium, House of Blues, the Key Club as well as Bike Runs and benefits such as Toys 4 Tots. They have performed in front of standing-room only crowds from San Diego, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to Bellingham, Washington and their reputation has grown with them. JUST LIKE PRIEST takes their tribute to the highest level replicating the look, feel and sound of the world-famous Metal Gods from Britain.

The band’s line-up reads as follows:

Frank as Rob Halford (Lead Vocals)
Kevin as Glenn Tipton (Guitar)
Brian as K.K. Downing (Guitar)
Vic as Ian Hill (Bass)
The Gare as Scott Travis and Dave Holland (Drums)

First off the obvious question, why did you start a Priest tribute band and what does the music of Judas Priest mean to you?

JLP: We had been performing a tribute to Queensryche for years. After nearly every show, someone would say ”You’ve gotta do a tribute to Priest!”-we had the two guitarists, a strong foundation on bass and drums and a vocalist who could hit the notes with authority, but none of us really had time to do two tributes. Then we had one show set up as Empyre: Tribute to Queensryche and our keyboardist couldn’t do the gig and it was looking like future gigs would be difficult too. We didn’t want to lose the date and agreed to learn some Priest tunes and do a set as a tribute to the Metal Gods… it snowballed from there.

We did our first show without a name. After the performance a fan said, “I don’t know what you’re gonna call yourselves, but man you sound just like ‘PRIEST” and the band was born. The music of Judas Priest is our youth. It brings us back to everything we were growing up. Now we’re passing that onto our children— it’s coming full circle.

How long have you guys been Priest fans, how did it all begin?

Vic: Since my older brother bought the”Unleashed in the East” album in 1980.

Frank: Since I first heard “The Hellion!” in ’82 at school baby!

Gare: I’ve been listening since high school. We used to cover Priest in my garage bands back in the day, but then again, who hasn’t?

JLP: Really, we’ve been Priest fans as long as we can remember… they’re the godfathers of metal. So much is owed to them.

Of course singing the songs originally done by the Metal God himself isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Do you practice the metal screams or do any vocal training?

Frank: Yes, I’ve had lessons with a vocal coach, and train all the time to a CD in the car to keep my vox in check. But that’s mainly for the mid-range and to keep my vox in tune. For some reason, the screams come naturally. I honestly don’t know how, but ever since high-school I’ve been able to”hit the high ones”… it was always the mid-range that I had trouble with. So I train for breath control and tonality mostly and watch myself carefully before a gig (no loud or extended talking, avoid smoke, etc… some vocalists avoid dairy products all together, but not me! Bring on the pizza!)

© Just Like Priest

How much practice in general it takes to make a successful tribute act?

JLP: With our personal lives being what they are (work, families, little league, grandbaby, etc.) we practice together once a week, but are constantly rehearsing on our own time, listening to the studio tracks, the live recordings and DVDs to catch all the nuances we can. With the birth of YouTube, we able to access so much material that had not been available to capture even more of what makes Judas Priest the legend that it is.

What “gear” are the players currently using?

Kevin “Tipton” Pittsey uses Mesa Boogie rack and Cabs and has recently switched to Engl heads and Cabs for their ability to replicate all eras of Priest tones in one package.  His guitars are faithful duplicates of Mr. Tipton’s favorite axes. Including Hamer Phantom and Custom GT, Gibson SG and Fender Strat.

Brian “K.K.” Olsen runs “old school” rack and effects with Mesa cabs that duplicates K.K. Downing’s tone to the bone. Brian uses Gibson V and Fender Strats to replicate the sounds and feel that is K.K. Downing.

Victor “Thunderbass” hits the stage with SWR 4×10 cab and SWR 350 amp. It complements the sonic rumble of the Warwick Rockbass Streamer LX bass.

Frank “Halford” Casciato uses the Shure Beta Blue 58 wireless and PSM 200 Ear Monitors… or whatever the venue has available.

The Gare “Travis/Holland” Howe uses Tama Starclassic drums and hardware, Paiste Signature series Cymbals, DW9000 pedals and Gibraltar rack. He uses Ultimate Ears inner ears as well.

© Just Like Priest


What’s the hardest Priest song to play live? Which one took most work to get done?

JLP: “Sinner” for the most ongoing work…”Sinner” and “Painkiller.” “Screaming for Vengeance” is a bit difficult too.

Frank: “Painkiller” takes its toll on the throat.

Brian: All the angry songs… my fingers cramp up.

Gare: “Sinner” was one of those songs that did take a bit. You really have to pay attention in that song.

If you could add any song to the Just Like Priest set, which would it be?

Kevin “Tipton” Pittsey would love to add ”Metal Meltdown” or ”Demonizer” to the set for obvious reasons, God willing. “Rapid Fire” is another one, and it came in second in our online poll to allow fans to pick the next song we learn. “The Sentinel” was the winner. Frank is good with adding to the set whatever the fans would like them to learn. Brian wants to put”Out in the Cold” back into the set.

Have you recorded any Priest songs in studio? If not, do you have plans to maybe cut some demo versions of Priest classics?

JLP: We haven’t gotten into the studio to record anything as of yet… but we’ve been planning on doing it for almost 10 years now… never say never! We have a couple live recordings of “Diamonds and Rust” and “The Green Manalishi (with the two pronged crown)” that we like to share. Our emphasis is on the live show… anything can be done in a studio these days… but it’s bringing the live experience of a Judas Priest show that we aim to excel at and replicate.

What is the most memorable gig that you’ve played and what made it great?

Vic: Hollywood Palladium! The fantastic response we got for being an opening act! OLE!

Gare: Yeah, Hollywood Palladium for sure. We got to hang with Seymour Duncan that night too. But anytime we play House of Blues Anaheim, CA, the place is packed and the fans are amazing! The Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet is also one of our most favorite venues.

Frank agrees: The Hollywood Palladium gig opening for Rock Legends El Tri was one for the record books. More than 3,000 screaming Latino heavy metal maniacs thought they were front row guests of Judas Priest. Even our road crew were getting standing ovations!

Are there any interesting “Just Like Priest on the road” stories to tell?

We’ve had the same core members of the band for almost ten years now… Thunderbass has solidified the lineup for the last five… so yes, from Bellingham Washington, to San Diego California to Las Vegas Nevada, oh yes there are stories… We’d love to share, but some things need to stay within the walls of the band 😉

© Just Like Priest

Have you ever seen other Priest tributes? What sets Just Like Priest apart from other JP tribute bands?

JLP: Yes we have and they do a fine job! The ones we’ve seen in SoCal bring their own style and talent to tribute Judas Priest and we salute them and most of them are our friends… “Diamonds and Rust” and “Painkiller, the Halford Show” down here are great guys.

What sets JLP apart is a three-point element:
1) the LOOK: with the authentic guitars, props and stage similarities (on a small budget) all the way down to a mini-chopper replica.
2) the SOUND, the guitarists, bassist and drummer spend hours going over each song, each musical phrase to make sure they have it exactly as JP did it originally… we even have variations of the songs we perform.. For example, Heading out to the Highway ’82, or the ’86 version with extended guitar solos.
3) The TALENT, the musicians are gifted with their instruments, and all over southern California, folks will say “that other Priest band is good, but they don’t have Frank”… Frank has the voice, the stage presence and talent that carries the band above and beyond the others.

As one reviewer put it… “Talking of Frank, the way he hits the high notes on those Priest songs is beyond amazing. Forget just tribute bands, we are talking about one of the best operatic-style vocalists out there. Brian and Kevin on guitar replicate the K.K.-Tipton duo perfectly in terms of everything from the costumes to the performance. Vic ‘Thunderbass’ is always solid on the bass and Gare is a beast on drums. I really don’t see how anyone can give a better tribute to the almighty Judas Priest. If you are a Priest fan and haven’t checked these guys out yet, you’re missing out big time.” — Aniruddh ”Andrew” bansal.. www.metalassault.com

You take the time to also look like classic JP with leather, studs and motorcycles. How much work is there involved to get the right image into it?

It started out collecting parts here and there on eBay and what we had in the closet from our glory days… we used to have it part of our act that we’re living proof that anything you’re looking for, you can find it on eBay. But we reached a new level when our paths were crossed with Leather Master, Al Bane. He took an old trench coat Frank had and turned it in to a stunning replica of Rob Halford’s coat on the “Touch of Evil” live album. From there Al Bane has outfitted the entire band with replica clothing so that they look just like Priest. Frank even has a mini-chopper that he rides out on stage for a most-authentic look and feel to “Freewheel Burning” or “Hell Bent for Leather”… along with authentic Harley-Davidson sound sample, courtesy of our neighbor.
Gare: I get the most grief from the guys because I don’t wear any leather. Luckily, Travis normally only wears black t-shirts and shorts normally so I go with that. I know Holland used to wear sleeveless leather vests back in the day, but I wanna pass out just thinking about playing in that!

© Just Like Priest


It seems Priest is a way of life with you, if you weren’t playing gigs in Just Like Priest, what do you think you would be doing instead?

Aside from tinkering with the Queensryche here and there when we have time, it’s Priest and ONLY Priest!… aside from our real lives of husbands and fathers, a restaurant entrepreneur, a computer tech, an auto aftermarket specialist, a Costco clerk, and a small publishing company’s labor journalist… the tribute to Priest is the greatest escape any of us could ask for. The greatest compliment anyone can give us is those who come up to us and tell us that they relived their youth in our set. That’s what it all about. Having a great time replicating the music that shaped us all.

Judging from the Youtube clips you guys have some great fans, do you think you are also turning new fans into Priest’s music?

Thank you… our fans are the best, and the reason we keep doing what we’re doing. We know we’ve been turning new fans onto JP… because they’ve told us so. Especially with the shows we do at the House of Blues and Swap Meet (the all-ages shows). The Judas Priest fans are able to bring their kids, who know the songs from Guitar Hero and RockBand.. and NOW even American Idol! We’re able to bring them to the fans just the way their parents saw them back in the day. Metal never dies! We’ve had people come up to us and say they saw us previously and that made them go home and pull out old CD’s or go re-buy them to listen all over again.

Any final words for the readers of Steel Mill?

We’ve never gotten any direct feedback from the Metal Gods themselves… we know they know of us, but honestly have no idea what they think, if they have an opinion of us, of what we do. We sincerely hope that we are flattering the band (some say copying is the sincerest form of flattery and plan to bring Judas Priest as we know it, remember it, to ‘Priest fans as long as we can. We hold the utmost respect and honor for them and all they’ve done for this wonderful genre of music. We in no way think we are Judas Priest, but hopefully people who see us think we are “Just like Priest.”

Thank You! Keep playing and keep bringing PRIEST fans an excellent tribute!

© Just Like Priest


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