Back in 2021, Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner had to be hospitalized. After playing a set on the Louder Than Life festival on September 26, Richie collapsed after walking off the stage. It was revealed that he had to undergo a major heart surgery although things were, luckily, handled in time and he was stabilized after the incident. As a result, Judas Priest had to postpone a bunch of shows.
In the embedded player below, you can check out a fan-filmed video of the set-closing “Painkiller” from the said performance.
In a new interview with Guitar World, the guitarist opened up on this whole incident and how it all went down. Recalling that fateful night, he said:
“I needed to finish the song, but I had the presence of mind to come back from the edge of the stage just in case I passed out from fatigue. Luckily, Metallica was headlining that night or we would have played a full set and I probably would have dropped dead onstage.”
He also added:
“If I had known my heart had split open and I was bleeding into my chest cavity, I might have handled it a bit differently. But I had no idea. I got my jeans and T-shirt on. I didn’t think it was anything really serious and I didn’t want to make a fuss. I probably would have kept going if we did an encore.”
“The original plan before the show was to drive home and have a few days off at the house to spend with our new baby. Then I was going to fly to Denver to meet the band and carry on with the tour. I figured I could still do that. I’d been healthy before the show, so I was like, ‘Obviously, it’s not a big deal. Let’s just get in the car and go back home. It’s going to be okay.’ There’s no question I would have died in the car on the way back home if I even made it to the car.”
As the source further adds, Faulkner was persuaded by his girlfriend and medics to get into an ambulance. Which was, obviously, a good idea since he was pretty close to dying. Faulkner adds:
“It’s so weird because I’m feeling good. I’m feeling strong. It feels like a lifetime ago when I was onstage in Kentucky dancing with the Reaper. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to be here. I know that. But it’s still hard to believe it really happened.”
Asked whether he had any family history of such ailments, Faulkner responded:
“No, nothing. It came right out of the blue. I think there was high blood pressure pounding on the walls of my aorta, and over time it weakened the walls without anyone knowing. And then, finally, it just burst.”
Further pressed whether there were any warning signs, he adds:
“Not that I could tell. They say people who are having heart problems sometimes have backaches, but I’m 42 and I’ve been running around onstage forever. So my back has been hurting daily since I was about 35.”
“In February 2020, I had a physical in England and the doctor checked my blood pressure and said it was a little high, but she said it was okay and there was nothing to worry about. The Kentucky show was in September the following year, and there was never any indication of any problem before I got halfway through ‘Painkiller’ [closing song of the set].”