Interview with Legendary Drummer Les Binks (former Judas Priest, Les Binks' Priesthood)

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Les! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.

CV: From your experience, do bands today have the same tenacity, drive and commitment as their predecessors did, back in the 70s and 80s, to build a fan base or has, in your opinion, the internet and social media created an outlet for bands to not work as hard? Has it become too easy?
Les Binks: Well I don’t think you can refer to or assess all bands today with the same view as they will hopefully all be different…and some will do better than others. It’s got to be harder for new bands to establish themselves than it was in the 70s and 80s. The record industry has gone through dramatic changes and not for the better… so I think new bands have to use the Internet and social media to their advantage and that wasn’t around back then. Times and technology are constantly changing so you have to try harder to stand out and get noticed.

CV: In your opinion as well, do you think digital technology within the recording industry has diminished the feel and soul of modern day music as many critics have expressed? Has the human feel been removed?
LB: I’m not against all use of digital technology in recording studios but you’re right, it can make the music more mechanical…but it works better for some types of music. If you listen to records from the late fifties, sixties and seventies, they were performance dependent. You had to get it right in as few takes as possible. With Pro Tools you can have a lot more control over how the end product will sound, but it’s not the same feel that you get from musicians performing together live in the studio. I prefer the human touch.

CV: Is it possible that digital technology has also begun to reduce the level of playing quality needed by musicians to actually perform live without some form of digital assistance or trickery as some critics and fans have pointed out or has this always been the case in one way or another?
LB: I think it depends on the complexity of the music you are performing live. If fans have paid to see a live performance then that’s what they should expect to get, but there’s nothing wrong with using the technology available to re-create the sounds that were on the studio recordings. If the studio recordings were simply guitars, bass and drums then there should be no need for anything else to re-create that live.

CV: A lot of fans, including myself, consider Judas Priest's trifecta of albums to be "Killing Machine," "Stained Class" and the live release, "Unleashed in the East," as the representation of the classic Priest sound. The drums on those specific albums delivered what was to be the band's signature sound overall.  Would you agree with such a fan admiration and assessment?
LB: Well that’s very flattering to hear those comments. I think the drumming on those albums certainly contributed to the classic Priest sound but it was a joint effort. The excellent twin guitars of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton…incredible vocals of Rob Halford and solid bass from Ian Hill… It was a chemistry that we jointly created together.

I always play the way I feel the songs should be interpreted to bring out the best in them. It’s good to find that the listeners agree with me.
CV: How would you describe the level of impact that Judas Priest and these particular three albums had on Heavy Metal in the late 70’s and early 80’s as the NWoBHM was bursting onto the scene? Was the band aware of the contribution it was making to the genre?
LB: It’s only today when you hear these comments that you become aware of just how influential those albums were and how other bands were influenced by them. When you are ensconced in writing and recording you have no idea how the end product will be received by the fans. We certainly carved out our place in the development of Heavy Metal with those records especially as they were released at a time when a band called the Sex Pistols unleashed punk in the U.K. and record companies were largely ignoring the Metal genre.

CV: Do those albums hold a special place for you as they do with many die-hard Priest fans? Do you look back on those albums fondly?
LB: Yes I do have very fond memories of those albums. It was a lot of fun making them and the band was young and full of ambition and enthusiasm and hungry for success.

CV: Given the major changes over the last two decades, is the music industry a viable and stable enough environment for new artists to attempt to make a successful career in your opinion?
LB: The music business has never been a very stable place to be but it doesn’t seem to deter musicians from doing their thing thankfully. Don’t forget that there are a lot more people competing these days which makes it harder to make it. You have to be able to stand out from the others, be totally dedicated and determined to succeed. Real talent always shines through.

CV: It may be impossible for an artist to be all things to all audiences, but is there a way for any artist to be considered, or even looked at as a solid talent and inspiration regardless of style or genre by music fans?
LB: Like I said, if an artist has real talent and music that has credibility in whatever genre they embrace, then they will find their audience and with it, the appreciation they deserve.

CV: Does any artist immediately come to mind for you…as one who would be such a level of inspiration across a multitude of platforms and audiences regardless of their style of music?
LB: That’s a tough one. I guess I’d have to say The Beatles both as a band and as individual artists. John Lennon in particular with songs like “Imagine”…they really crossed all the barriers to appeal to a very wide audience.

CV: What defines a great band in your opinion? Is it more than just the it an attitude?
LB: Well obviously the music is paramount but I’d have to stress the importance of the chemistry between the musicians collectively. The Beatles were a perfect example of great chemistry. They were all great artists in their own right but the magic really happen when they gelled together. They had a unique chemistry between them.

CV: Do you accept Les Binks' Priesthood to simply be described as a tribute band or is it something much more than that…especially being that the band performs a host of classic Judas Priest songs that you originally played on. Does “tribute band” accurately describe it?
LB: The Les Binks’ Priesthood band was originally put together for a one off performance at ‘Legends Of Rock’ festival.

The concept was to perform the material that I’m associated with during my time in Judas Priest. This included the songs I recorded, co-wrote and performed live on tour. Tribute bands don’t have any original members who created the records or played a part in writing them so I guess that rules out the tribute label.

We don’t play material beyond my tenure. However, at the request of the promoter of L.O.R., we threw in three extra songs from beyond my period to keep him happy but haven’t played them since and don’t intend to.

CV: Recently you performed with former Priest alum K.K. Downing and Tim "Ripper" Owens along with Megadeth’s David Ellefson.  What was the experience like and were you surprised when you got the call from K.K. to be a part of the event?
LB: KK Downing and I had recorded a new version of a song I co-wrote with Rob Halford “Beyond the Realms of Death” back in 2017. We had Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens on vocal, second guitarist was Paul Crook (Anthrax, Meatloaf) and Joey Vera on bass (Armored Saint). 

I was in Ireland when I got a call from KK asking me to do a one off show with him, Ripper and David Ellefson from Megadeth at KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton. The second guitarist was AJ Mills from Hostile.

This would be the first time I walked onto a stage with KK since I left Priest. We had limited time for rehearsal as David and Ripper were only arriving in the U.K. a day or two before the gig but all went well and we had a blast. The audience was fantastic and excited to see KK back on stage doing what he does best. A great set list which included material that Priest had never performed live before like “Before the Dawn” and two songs from the Ripper era.

It’s a great night to remember and a lot of fun for all.

CV: Can fans expect to see more from this line up in 2020?
LB: We all really enjoyed performing together but it was billed as a one off so nothing more is planned at this stage. I think Ken would like to perform in some shape or form in the future but at this stage it’s difficult as everyone has other commitments and it would be hard to get everyone available at the same time. Who knows…I guess it’s a question of watch this space.

CV: Your playing style has been described as a fusion of jazz and rock that laid the groundwork to what would become the modern Heavy Metal drummer’s sound. How would you describe your personal playing style and where do you find inspiration in your playing?
LB: I grew up listening to Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin, Deep Purple…so mainly the Rock guys but when I got into the session scene in London I had to be very versatile so I listened to many musical styles…one of which was Jazz fusion and Funk. I was into The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Billy Cobham on drums, also Chic Corea’s Return to Forever with Lenny White on drums. I guess some of those influences rubbed off on me. I like to have an open mind and take things from all styles of music and adopt them into my approach to drumming. It gives you a much wider musical vocabulary.

CV: What’s next for you? What can fans expect to see coming up?
LB: I’m in the fortunate position at this time in my life to be able to pick and choose what I want to do so I will only take on gigs or sessions that I think will be enjoyable and fun to do. The show with KK and the guys was a lot of fun to do and I’m hopeful that we can do something again soon. I’m still active with my band and have some shows in January 2020 thru to March. I’d love to do some shows in the States as we have so many great fans on that side on the pond. Let’s wait and see!
CV: Thank you again Les for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. It was a pleasure. I wish you all the best and continued success.

Check out Les at:

This interview is dedicated to the memory of David Caudill.

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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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