AJ Mills Of KK’s Priest: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

AJ Mills Interview

Feature Phoot courtesy of AJ Mills – Photo by Rocknpix

K.K. Downing has a legacy that much we know. But 36-year-old guitarist AJ Mills, who has known Downing for most of his life and currently is employed as a member of KK’s Priest, is doing his best to build a legacy of his own. Playing alongside Downing has been a dream come true for Mills, as his style, licks, and overall vibe have been greatly influenced by the legendary British shredder, dating to seeing him crush it with a V guitar in hand as a child.

From shuffling Downing, his uncle, and father to and from the pub after nights spent knocking back beers to having Downing produce and mentor him while a member of Hostile to cementing himself a key cog in the KK’s Priest wheel, AJ Mills’ grip on heavy metal mastery becomes tighter each day. His future is bright, but for now, he’s more than happy to back up the man who has given him so much, K.K. Downing.

While on the road with KK’s Priest, AJ Mills beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to dig into his six-string life inside and out of KK’s Priest.

How did you get hooked up with K.K. Downing?

K.K. actually went to school with my uncle Steve, and they, along with my father, remained drinking buddies through the years. So, when I became old enough to drive, they selected me as their driver when they would go out to a few pubs or a restaurant! I was in a band called Hostile then, and I played K.K. our demo CD, and he liked it. He said that he would like to produce the band, and then he took me under his wing as a guitar player and pretty much became my mentor.

I assume that K.K. influenced you a lot growing up.

Yes, massively. He’s the reason I wanted to be a guitar player. My dad took me to see Judas Priest for my first-ever concert when I was 14. They were on their Demolition tour cycle and came to Birmingham on their U.K. dates. K.K. came out with his Flying V guitar, and that was it! I was hooked! I said to myself, “That’s what I want to do with my life.” I found my calling!

What’s your favorite song to play live with K.K.?

They’re all really fun to play, as you would expect, being composed by a guitar player! I love locking in with K.K. when we do the duel fast runs, so today, I will pick the song “One More Shot at Glory” for my answer.

What piece of advice K.K. has given you, and what’s the secret to playing with him?

I’ve Known K.K. for nearly 20 years now, and he’s given me so much advice it’s hard to pick just one thing but one of my favorites is, “Just enjoy yourself when you’re up there playing because you never get that gig back once it’s done!”

What keeps you inspired to pick up the guitar?

Seeing people enjoy what we are doing and making people happy, all in the name of heavy metal.

You’re known for some heavy and unique riffs. What does that process look like for you?

Honestly, it’s just how I’m feeling at the time. Sometimes, I can even hear a riff in my head before I’ve picked up the guitar!

How about solos?

I like to sit and piece a solo together by working section by section. I like to sing some of the parts before I play them on the guitar. Sometimes, you can get away with just picking the guitar up and wailing away, though that’s very rare for me!

What riff, song, and solo are you most proud of?

This is impossible for me to answer as they’re all your babies, and it feels wrong to choose a favorite! It’s safe to say I’m proud of all of them because a lot of time and thought goes into creating them.

Is there one guitar in your collection that inspires you more than others?

Well, I told you a story about my first concert being Judas Priest, and seeing K.K. coming out with the Flying V. So, I told K.K. the same story some years ago, and he gifted me that very same guitar. I saw him come on stage with the Black ESP V I use today. It has a lot of sentimental value to me and is an awesome guitar!

What sorts of guitars tend to catch your eye, and are there any you wish you didn’t let go of?

Variety is the spice of life! You can never have too many guitars! No, because I’m a hoarder [laughs].

How about amps and pedals?

We use Marshall gear, and I also use a Kemper with that. A lot of time goes into creating the sounds we use, and all credit goes to K.K. for ensuring we capture the classic heavy metal tone!

What are three pedals you can’t live without?

Clutch, brake, and accelerator [laughs]!

What’s the secret to your pedalboard and tone?

K.K. Downing…

If you could give one piece of advice regarding gear to a new player, what would it be?

It would be to go with whatever feels the most comfortable and natural to them and always keep in mind that it’s okay to evolve and change. Listen to yourself and trust yourself.

What’s next?

Playing as many shows as possible all over the world!

AJ Mills Of KK’s Priest: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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