Interview By Lord of The Wasteland
Transcription By Claudia
***Priest Live in Finland 2006 Pics by Luxi
There are certain instances in a metal fan’s life that one just never expects to happen. The opportunity to interview one of heavy metal’s elder statesmen, Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford, kind of fell in my lap in a roundabout way but as the reality of the whole thing started to sink in, I’ll admit to feeling a bit jittery.
Before I even asked him anything, Rob wanted to know where I was from, how long I had been writing, a bit about Metal-Rules.com and relayed his experiences in Vancouver. As some of his less-esteemed colleagues have shown in the past, canned answers and general boredom at the whole process has presented challenges with doing interviews that have left a bad taste in my mouth. Halford, on the other hand, showed a genuine interest rather than trying to hurry through the conversation. He is extraordinarily polite (true British manners), surprisingly soft-spoken and truly passionate about metal. I was sitting there the whole time thinking to myself how, at 11-years old, I remember seeing my friend’s older brother opening up his just-purchased-from-Sam-The-Record-Man LP of SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE when it first came out in 1982 and being totally mesmerized by the cover. Now I’m sitting here on my bed, twenty-five years later, talking to him on the phone?! Very surreal and hard not to turn into a giddy fanboy, as you can imagine. This is the friggin’ Metal God after all!!!
Enjoy this rare opportunity to pick the brain of Rob Halford on such topics as the recently revisited catalogue of his mid-nineties, post-Priest band, Fight, working with Tony Iommi, his new production company, Metal God Entertainment, the new Judas Priest CD, NOSTRADAMUS, and just what the deal was with him saying “metal is dead.”
Hi Rob! How are you?
I’m fine. How are you doing?
I’m doing very well thank you.
That’s good. Where are you exactly?
I’m in Vancouver, British Columbia up in Canada.
Ah…beautiful Vancouver. I’ve got lots of good memories of my trips to Vancouver over the years with Priest and working up there one time with Dave “Rave” Ogilvie on the Two project. It’s a great town. I’m sure you’ll be seeing us again next summer when we start the world tour. I don’t know exactly when we’re going to be back in the States but I’m certain we’ll be coming up to Vancouver again.
Excellent! Are you familiar with our website at all?
Yes, I am familiar with it. I’ve been on there a few times and, you know, it’s another great connection for everybody in the metal community, as we call it.
Thank you very much!
How long have you been working with that site?
Well, the site has been around since 1995, but I’ve been there since 2003. It’s actually based in St. John’s, Newfoundland out on the east coast.
Really!? That’s great but I’m interested about that Newfoundland place. Now, you’ll have to help me out here, that’s a state right?
Province. That’s right. I don’t think I’ve ever been there.
Most people haven’t. It’s an island and St. John’s itself is on the far east coast of the island, so you’ve got to get to Nova Scotia, then you get on a ferry for about ten hours to get to the island and then you’ve got another fairly lengthy drive from there over to St. John’s, so it’s not very accessible.
Have you ever been there?
I have never been there. It’s actually closer for me to get to London, England than it is to St. John’s, Newfoundland from Vancouver (chuckles)!
(Laughs) So is that the main guy that started it over there?
It is. His name is Geoff (“Evil G”).
Now I don’t know whether you would know this but do you know if any bands have ever been to play out there or not?
Well, I know that Geoff has said the last big metal tour that came through there was in 1988 and it was Alice Cooper and Motorhead.
Lemmy actually talks about that show in his autobiography, WHITE LINE FEVER. He says that they caught the ferry over and they just about froze to death because it was so cold (laughs).
(Chuckles) Well, it would be in the winter time I would imagine.
Like I say, it’s fairly isolated from any major transportation route so a lot of tours and bands don’t go out there because of the distance and the expense, unfortunately.
I wonder what the main industry is. Is it fishing and stuff like that?
Cod fishing was typically their largest export but they’ve basically depleted the whole waters around the area and there are a lot of people that really suffered very badly because of that.
That’s interesting. Well, you never know…I mean as far as me getting there one day. I love going to new places for the first time.
You’ll have to pencil them in on the Priest tour.
I will. I’ll have to go to Google Earth and have a look around the place. Glenn [Tipton, Judas Priest guitarist] would like that kind of place. He’s very much into that type of experience. We all are to a certain degree. I’ll have to mention it to him because I’m going to be seeing him next week when I go back to the UK to check up on the [new Judas Priest CD] NOSTRADAMUS sessions. I’ve been away for about a month while Glenn and K.K. [Downing, Judas Priest guitarist] have been doing their final guitar overdubs. We’re about to start mixing, so I’m going to see the boys in a few days time and then we’ll be rockin’ and roaring through the mixing sessions.
So your vocals are already laid down for the new album then?
Yeah, I completed those some time back. Everybody does their bits as you go along and normally I don’t do my vocal work until the bulk of the recording has been done which is how it turned out and rhythm guitars and everything were laid and all the other instruments, but Glenn and K.K. have just been burning the midnight metal oil and getting all of their leads completed, so I’ll be excited to hear what they’ve been doing. Then we get on with the mixing and the mastering and get it out for next year when the tour kicks off.
So we can probably expect something before the summer then I take it?
I think so, yeah. I mean, you know the way it goes. Most bands hit the road when they’ve got a new release out there. It’ll have been a couple of years since we’ve been back on the world circuit.
There have been rumors swirling around about an Iron Maiden/Judas Priest co-headlining tour. Is there any truth to that?
Well, there are lots of rumors and that’s just the passion that everybody has. Everybody gets excited that the tours going to launch but the only way you can answer those rumors is to wait for the official announcements on www.judaspriest.com. The dates are all being worked out as we speak, so that’s the best way to keep an eye on that type of thing. But we toured with Maiden many, many years ago in the U.S. and that was really successful. But, who knows? You just want to make a strong metal night for everybody. I would just ask our fans to periodically check www.judaspriest.com and see what’s being officially announced.
When Judas Priest does get out on the road again, is there any chance that any material from the two albums that you weren’t on—JUGULATOR and DEMOLITION—will be performed live?
Yeah and I’ve said this before that those two records are as important in the Priest world as everything else. Glenn, K.K. and I have talked about this and I’d welcome it. I think it would be an exciting moment for me to cover the tracks that my mate Tim [“Ripper” Owens] worked on while he was with the band. So again, anything is possible. Each time when we put a set list together, it gets increasingly difficult because we’ve got so many songs from so many records that we just have to look at the set list and figure out what the favorites are and go from there. Again, Priest fans around the world are always putting ideas upon what they’d like to hear us do, but I think it would be kind of fresh to pick maybe one or two tracks from both of those records and just give it the metal god touch.
I’d love to hear your take on a track like “Cathedral Spires,” for example since it’s such a great song.
Yeah, it is. It’s one of my favorites, so who knows? We’ll have a look at that as we get closer to kicking off the rehearsals and putting the show together for next year.
Over the past couple of years, Judas Priest has released a few live DVDs. Is there a lot of pro-shot live stuff that’s still unreleased?
Well, the last official release from Priest was the RISING IN THE EAST DVD from Japan but there’s always stuff floating around. It’s surprising to find out what you’ve got and what you might have overlooked just because of the immense amount of information that’s always going around. It’s just a case of deciding if that would be a venture to explore. I’m sure there is. I mean, there are bootlegs all over the place for starters but as far as official, authorized Priest stuff, that would be a task to enjoy and see what we come up with.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the KISS DVD box sets, KISSOLOGY, that they’ve been putting out but they’re just filled with all the stuff that’s been floating around as bootlegs for years and years. They finally got a hold of the originals and have given them the proper treatment and and they’re selling like hot cakes, apparently.
Yeah, and I think that type of experience is really welcomed if you’re a hardcore fan of a band that’s been around for as long as KISS has. Priest has been together since 1971, so that might be another fun adventure to look at, at some point in the future.
Maybe you can clear up another rumor and that is that Judas Priest recently bought the rights from Gull Records for the first two albums, ROCKA ROLLA and SAD WINGS OF DESTINY, for some proper re-issues. Is there any truth to that?
No. As far as I’m aware, that’s just another thing in the metal rumor mill. The story was, of course, we had to get out of that contract because it was just not realistic for us. We made that decision when we all went down to the offices one day in London and asked for a bit of money each week, you know, to live on (chuckles) and they flatly refused. Even during the SAD WINGS OF DESTINY years, economically it was just a very, very difficult condition to work in. So when we understood that they were not going to even help us out with what we felt was a reasonable request, that’s when we decided to see where else we could go and shortly after that, we moved in with Columbia Records—at the time CBS—which is now Sony BMG. Glenn, K.K. and I talked on numerous occasions of the possibility of trying to get that music back. I think it almost seems impossible from a contractual point of view. So anyway, we’re just so far ahead of things that I think we’re just content to know that at least the music is alive even though we don’t have any control over it. And it constantly gets re-issued and re-mastered and so forth, so we just leave it be.
Fair enough. Well, let’s talk about Fight! There’s some new product out on Metal God Entertainment (www.halfordmusic.com), of course. There’s the CD, K5-THE WAR OF WORDS DEMOS, and the accompanying DVD, WAR OF WORDS: THE FILM. Why is now the time to resurrect Fight?
Well, really it just runs on the back of the creation of this company. Metal God Entertainment was something that I didn’t really expect to be part of this far ahead in my metal career, over three decades worth of it, but I just looked at the situation when I was able to retrieve that music and put it into my own world and pick and choose what I want to do with it. It’s just another one of the series of projects that we’ve got lined up. There’s more stuff to come and we had great success with METAL GOD ESSENTIALS – VOL. 1 on a world-wide level through the metal community. That was incredibly well-received and while all that was being put together and going through the release cycle, the guys at the office in Phoenix were working on the Fight movie and the demos and so that was just the next piece of product in the pipeline. Release it now, five years from now, ten years from now…whatever. I think what we really want to try and send a message about is the validity of this company and that we can make great things happen with these moments, so that’s where we’re at. I was trying to get everything and I’ve succeeded in getting everything out before the end of the year because it’s all going to be Priest, Priest, Priest for a while, obviously. Whenever you release something like this, you have to do your promotion, which is what I’ve been doing recently with some of the movie premiers and so on and so forth. Working the phones, talking to my friends around the metal world and it’s going to be difficult to do that next year. So as far as anything else is concerned, I’m just excited once more that there’s a number of Fight fans still enjoying the music from WAR OF WORDS and A SMALL DEADLY SPACE and equally it’s an opportunity to see the band again live in concert from all of those venues that we had to get together in a really cool way because it’s much like the sequence of the songs on WAR OF WORDS, which is kind of fresh for me. I’ve never done anything like that before. And then the documentary at the front bit, the fifteen, twenty minutes of the media reaction and then the interaction of the band members and rehearsals, recording and going to Amsterdam, things like that. So, it just felt like now is the time to do it and I think we’re almost on an official date of release. In a number of ways you can pre-order through Amazon and through HalfordMusic.com and a few other places. But you just do all the work up front just to get the message out and that’s what I’ve been doing this past month or so.
I watched the movie last night and one thing I noticed is that “Vicious” is the only song from WAR OF WORDS that was not played. Was there a reason that that song was left off?
Yeah, it was just an issue of the rating thing.
Oh, because of the swearing in the chorus?
Yeah, and I’ve been lucky enough to get deals with Wal-Mart and Target and they just have a reaction to that kind of thing. And as much as I’m a believer in the First Amendment and everything else, it just made sense on a business level to accommodate the needs that were requested, though, it’s not really that much of a loss to a certain extent. The song is out there for anybody to look and find and enjoy but when I was told about that, it kind of irritated me a little bit, but it was either the option of putting the clean version out and it being accepted or being rejected and you can choose to compromise. You have to compromise in a lot of things in life and as long as you achieve your main goal, then the job’s done.
Right. When I was watching the live Fight footage last night, I noticed that you seem unusually comfortable on a smaller stage.
(Laughs) Yeah, I know.
Given the years of playing these massive arenas and festivals and the big tours, was it freeing somewhat to go back to an intimate club setting and reconnect with the fans in a more intimate way?
I think that reaction was just spurred by my fellow players, especially the demon bass player, Jay Jay. I mean, he’s infectious when you’re on stage with him. He just makes you do this type of performance and, yeah, I look back at that footage and it looks like (chuckles), it looks like another person. I think that’s just the way it was for me emotionally, psychologically, mentally, during that phase. I was just having such a great time. Of course it was a major change from those big stages that I’d been playing for many years with Priest. To go back into that smaller venue environment, it was kind of freaky for the first few days, but I just embraced it. I was just having a blast screaming and sweating all over the front row, that physical contact that you only get in those types of conditions. That’s the thing you picked up on and I think a lot of the other fans will be maybe making a similar kind of observation. But I just love looking and listening to the way that band performed that WAR OF WORDS tour. It was just a very exciting, explosive time on stages around the world.
I know you got the rest of the band together for the Best Buy autograph session. Is Fight going to be recording any new material or is there any chance of that? Or is this just a sort of a one off promotional thing?
Well…I drove up to San Diego where I’m speaking to you from tonight and I got to the hotel across the street from Mann’s Chinese Theater and about thirty minutes later everybody convened in the lobby and then we drove down to Best Buy about five minutes away and we just sat there and signed stuff and had pictures taken and then we went back to the hotel for about ten minutes and then across the street to the movie and then we said goodbye to each other (laughs). We were only in each others’ company for about three hours. Of course, it was just really a thrill to be together again as mates that you become when you’re in any kind of band and we didn’t really have a chance to sit down and talk at length about any of those possibilities. Jay Jay was the one that was pushing it, you know, “c’mon man. Let’s get back on the fucking road, man. We’ve got to get Fight out there, dude”, which was great. I mean, there’s still a lot of love for the music and the moments that we had together. Just to answer your question as best I can, much like everything I do, I never close the door on any possibilities. I guess I’ll just gauge the reaction of what we’ve got. I just got an e-mail today from Soul Food that distributes this stuff for me in Germany and the first prints of the movie and the demos have sold out in a few days, so I’ll just gauge the reaction on a world wide level and see what comes of that. So there may be or there may not be. I can’t honestly say right now.
Were you in touch with the rest of the Fight guys over the last ten years or how did you go about reconnecting with them again?
Yeah, I mean you do it by e-mail and the occasional phone call and so forth. Obviously, I’ve been closer with Scott [Travis, drums] than anybody else. Jay came out to some Halford shows and Priest shows. I hadn’t seen Brian [Tilse, guitar] or Russ Parrish [guitar] for a number of years, but yeah, we’ve kept in contact, but nothing on a day-to-day level because each of us is busy in our own world. Russ has got that rock school thing going on in Hollywood, that’s very popular. Brian’s doing work with Jay in their new band that’s doing quite well. So, we’re all working. That’s the main thing.
When WAR OF WORDS first came out you drew a lot of comparisons to Pantera. Did you feel those comparisons were valid?
No. That again is something that always irritated me. I think if I hadn’t have had such a wonderful time with Pantera on the PAINKILLER tour in Europe and if I hadn’t have had the pleasure to run down to Dallas for a day to work with the guys for the BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER movie on “Light Comes Out of Black,” I don’t think that would have been so much on the radar, under the spotlight. It irritated me because that’s not the kind of thing I do. I don’t chase after other people with my music. I try and be an innovator and the songs that I wrote for WAR OF WORDS—which I’d never done before because I usually work with a team of writers—I did all that myself in Phoenix, whatever year that was. It was just pouring out of me just because it’d been waiting to flow and go for a number of years and when we found the players for Fight and we started to rehearse the music in Phoenix, everybody had their own definitive sound and style in place and ready to work and so there was never a moment of saying, “Hey guys, you’ve got to get a sound like Pantera”, which is what the implication is. That would be absolutely fucking stupid, you know. Everybody had their way of playing and so it was just a case of recreating those very rough skeletal ideas that I presented to them and then going into the demo phase. I mean, you listen to the demos, which obviously is the first stage before production, and you can just sense the great energy and the real determination from everybody’s performance.
A couple of the demo songs don’t really change too much from the final ones but some of the versions are obviously quite a bit different, like “Beast Denies,” which turned into “Reality, A New Beginning.” The five new, or unreleased tracks, whatever you want to call them, that are on the K5 DEMOS, is that it that was done from that session or are there more songs that haven’t been released yet?
Yeah, those were the ones that I was surprised to find. We got the tapes from storage—I forget where it was, it was either in Phoenix or L.A.—but we got the tapes from storage and started to listen to them all and then these five tracks kind of popped up out of nowhere and I thought, well this is nice. I didn’t expect to find them and it completely slipped my mind, so that was just a nice little bonus to stick on the K5 DEMOS. I believe that’s all we’ve got. We were quite vigorous with looking at every possibility for these two reissues, the movie and the demos, so I’m pretty certain that’s it.
I read the blurb in the booklet about why you chose to label the demos as “K5” but is there any significance to K5? What exactly does that mean?
Well, around the time that we were rehearsing in Phoenix, there was this really terrible situation going on with these pension funds that was being embezzled and people were losing their life savings and a guy that was the main person involved in that was this man called [Charles] Keating. There were some other cohorts and there were five of them altogether. So because I didn’t want to leave boxes around with my name all over them, I just said, put Keating Five on there, so that kind of stuck and then we just abbreviated that to K5.
Interesting. I was hoping you could clear up one misconception. Did you leave Judas Priest to do Fight or were you still in Judas Priest when WAR OF WORDS was being written and recorded?
Well, that’s a good question and the answer is that I was still connected to Priest while I was writing all of that music and looking for band players. It wasn’t until I was finding myself in a position where the only way I could venture out to look at other record company affiliations did I see that the legal language in the contract was what I felt to be really severe and restrictive. I wasn’t the only one going through it. I think [Bruce] Springsteen was going through it at the time and George Michael. Everybody was contesting the language and the language alluded to the fact that if you were going to step away from being in that band, in that contract, then you would be free to pursue other searches for other labels and that’s what I had to do and of course that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan. I still insist today, in my own mind, that I didn’t leave Priest. I left Priest in the legalese of it all, but it just came at a time when…you know that PAINKILLER tour and the Reno trial before it had been extremely difficult for us all on a personal level and in retrospect, we’ve said now that the best thing we should have done was to have taken two or three years off. We’d been working hard from ROCKA ROLLA pretty much consistently up until PAINKILLER and bands are human and sometimes you need to take a holiday but we never did (laughs). But that’s really how the essence of it all came around. I mean, the thing that’s more important to me is the fact that Priest was still Priest and you know the band was still there, the band was still working and that was a little bit of a comfort. I think I would have been full of remorse if the band had completely broken to pieces but that was not the case because Tim went in and did some fantastic work on JUGULATOR and DEMOLITION.
WAR OF WORDS first came out in 1993 and the second Fight album, A SMALL DEADLY SPACE, was out two years later. That was a time when metal was becoming out of fashion and a lot of metal bands were quitting. Why do you think Fight succeeded when so many other bands at the time failed?
Well, in my mind, we didn’t really succeed to the dreams that I had about that band and you’ve raised a point that was the main reason as to why everything kind of ended so abruptly. When I went to New York City and played the record for the head of Epic Records at the time and we decided to move ahead and release the record, the grunge movement was just making enormous strides, particularly in America, and everything was in a state of change. The recording industry was kind of pushing metal to the side and so was the radio industry. All of those important parts of the machine that you need kind of stepped away from the important conditions that they provide in the big web of it all. So that’s where I found myself at the end of A SMALL DEADLY SPACE and I couldn’t really see it getting any better. I don’t ever recall saying, “OK, press the red stop button”. It was just that after the A SMALL DEADLY SPACE experience, I just made that connection with John Lowery, John5, and that kind of sent me off in a different direction for a bit. But that’s the way it goes in the music industry. Even today, you see that type of thing taking place. On a metal level, it’s consistently been secure but right now, it’s as strong as it’s ever been, in my opinion. But I just suddenly had the chance to work with John and I bumped into Trent [Reznor] and “Rave” and went up to Vancouver and did the Two record. That had it’s own kind of controversial moment but I love that music still and a lot of people have been saying to me, “Why didn’t you put it on METAL GOD ESSENTIALS”? and my reaction was, “Well, quite frankly, I didn’t think anybody was interested.” Now, it’s kind of feeding back, much like a lot of the stuff that Trent does. He’s got this advance vision and people are going, “Oh, we’d like to check it out all over again if there’s a way you can present it”. So what I might do is much like the Fight demos, create a package where there are the Two demos, which sounded different to the final outcome of the really cool collaboration with Trent and “Rave” and just let people have a chance to get that before-and-after feeling. I mean, I listen to “Bed of Rust,” “Water’s Leaking, “Stutter Kiss”…it’s fucking great music!
Yeah! I was just listening to the Two CD today, in fact, and it’s been a while since I listened to it.
Yeah and you do don’t you? I mean it’s what you do about music. We’re just swamped with information. We’ve all got tons and tons of CD’s and songs and because you’re always focused on today and looking towards tomorrow, you sometimes miss a moment and that’s what it was for me. I didn’t listen to the Two record until, oh God, about two or three months ago—first time in years and years and years. Just because some of the reaction I was getting back, I thought, well let’s check this out again and I was excited by it, so I might be called to give it its moment again. And the same thing there, we’ve got loads of video footage so we may look at that again for another project in the future.
I would imagine that the Two demos are probably considerably more raw and stripped down than the final product on the CD.
Yeah, they are. That was Trent’s thing. He said to me, “These songs are great but what would you consider with the collaboration?” and I’ve always been a Nine Inch Nails fan. I said, “Just go for it. Just do whatever you want to do,” so there is a vast difference in the sound of the songs. Again, I think that would just be a nice moment for people to enjoy and experience those two types of interpretations.
Is there any chance of revisiting A SMALL DEADLY SPACE, as well?
Yeah. Systematically, we’re just looking at all of the different ways to bring this music back re-mastered and remixed or whatever, so A SMALL DEADLY SPACE is being looked at and worked on right now, as we speak. It’s all going to come out eventually.
Do you have any ideas that you’d like to see on the second volume of METAL GOD ESSENTIALS?
Well, it would be the A SMALL DEADLY SPACE sessions, I haven’t really had the chance to look in depth at those possibilities just yet but for me, you know, when you’re doing what’s called in some peoples’ minds, a “re-issue,” it’s just important to present it in a way that you think is respectful to the fans that are going to put the money down for it. I’m always thinking about that because my fans are my lifeline. Without my fans, I can’t do anything. An element to the recording industry that I’ve never really liked is the way things get just botched together for a fast buck. That’s not my idea of respectfully treating the fans. So, VOLUME TWO could be that or it could be a mixture of other things. That’s just floating in the air for the time being.
So is A SMALL DEADLY SPACE going to be the next release from Metal God Entertainment once the WAR OF WORDS thing is finished?
The main idea we’ve got now is the ROCK IN RIO film.
Oh right, I saw the trailer on the WAR OF WORDS DVD.
Yeah, and that I think is a real nice little metal appetizer (chuckles) because you can see the band working on that ginormous football pitch-sized stage with the big projection screen and the boom cameras go out over a quarter of a million metal heads. That was just a remarkable night and we’ve got all of that in the can, so that’s the next main thing we’re looking to put out there. We’ll probably do something much like the Fight release. We’ll put a deal where you’ve got a DVD of the show, plus you’ve got the audio so you can stick it in your car and listen to it or whatever.
With Metal God Entertainment, are you aiming for sort of a far-reaching merchandising and multi media package, something like Gene Simmons has done with the books and the TV shows, or are you going to be sticking with just your own material?
Well, I think that anything is possible. I’ve just utilized this great nickname fans gave me years ago, “Metal God,” and it just makes sense to use that and we use the word “Entertainment,” which is what we do, we entertain people.
That’s what I noticed. It wasn’t just Metal God Records; it’s Metal God Entertainment, so it sort of left it open to the different things.
Yeah, that’s it so I think we’ve shown people that we can make good products. We can make great packaging for CDs, DVDs and movies. We’ve got some ideas for books in the pipeline, some radio ideas, merchandise. It’s just a lot of possibilities. I mean, for me, the greatest thing is that I can stay connected to everything in the metal world in a very broad-based, comprehensive platform. Not just for myself but eventually to look at other opportunities for other people that may choose to work with us.
Have you considered writing a book, an autobiography, a biography, something like that?
Yeah, I’ve been saying that for years. You see all of those unofficial, unauthorized releases, which again, are just coupled together from interviews and bits and pieces of statements that you allegedly have said, and that’s not really the real deal, so I think that if and when the time comes, I’m going to do my own personal story. It will be valuable and it’ll be interesting and full of things that you don’t know about me because that’s on a personal level. Again, you pick and choose when to do that. Some people pick and choose to do it while they’re in the height of their career or the twilight years or when they move onto something else, to retire, so there’s plenty of time to do things like that.
I understand that you worked with Tony Iommi briefly in 1996 on some music. Was there anything written or actually laid down on tape with that collaboration?
No. We’re good mates. We’ve known each other forever. We’re born in the same town around the same year. I remember we had a curry together in Birmingham and talked about it (laughs). We had lunch one day in Denny’s in L.A. and talked about it (laughs). The closest we got was when we did that NATIVITY IN BLACK song as The Bullring Brummies and, of course, I’ve had the joy to sing for Ozzy when he’s been sick or at Ozzfest or the Costa Mesa show. I think there’s no doubt that we feel that if we did get together it would be a great moment, but nothing had been definitively stated. I’m just excited that Heaven and Hell are doing such great work and there’s a new Heaven and Hell record coming out and there’s a new Black Sabbath allegedly coming out next year. I’m a huge Black Sabbath fan. Everybody knows that, so I’m content to just listen and look and enjoy everything that Tony does.
Did you get to see Heaven and Hell perform live?
I haven’t had a chance, no. I’ve got the DVD. Did you?
I did, actually. They started the tour here in Vancouver back in March.
Oh right, yeah.
It was an amazing show. They hadn’t played together in fifteen years and it was the first show of the tour but they looked like they’d been playing together for years. It was really amazing.
Well, they’re all master craftsmen and to listen to those songs again, that’s another really important statement that great music—great metal—lives forever. I know that from just looking at the fan reaction, the hard-core fan base, Sabbath fans from all different generations, including the new metalheads that have never had a chance to see them all together, just ran to that type of experience. I think it’s wonderful. I think anything that comes from a band with longevity, with the history, tradition of metal, whether it’s the Sabs, or Heaven and Hell, or Priest or Maiden, we’ve all been carrying the metal flag, whatever you want to call it, defending the faith, and people just love to go and see that. It’s just a legendary moment each time you go and check that kind of thing out in today’s world.
What is the status of the new Halford CD? I’d heard that you and “Metal” Mike Chlasciak were writing together again.
Yeah, while I’ve been back in Priest, all the Halford guys have been extremely busy. Metal Mike’s got his PainMuseum project with Bobby Jarzombek. Roy Z’s always swamped in work and Mike Davis our bass player, too. But you know, we’re going to utilize the technology of the internet. Metal Mike would send his music files over to Z and he would listen to them and vice versa. They’ve been zipping across L.A. and New Jersey and putting the ideas together and then on occasion just going into a little studio in L.A. and laying drum tracks and stuff down, so there are a lot of songs there. I just haven’t had a chance to put new vocals on them apart from those two tracks that were on METAL GOD ESSENTIALS VOLUME 1—“Forgotten Generation” and “Dropout”—so we’ve got a lot of material. Again, it’s just that the time to find for me to go and do that very important vocal activity. It’s just something to look forward to when time permits. I’m back with the band that I love more than anything in the world—Judas Priest—and that’s priority for me. I’ve still got the luxury of my solo work. As long as we don’t have any kind of clash and conflict in release dates and live shows, then we’ll kind of give each other the freedom to do that type of endeavor, so there will be one eventually.
When you came back with RESURRECTION in 2000, did you consider calling up the Fight guys to have them back as the band or did you want it to be a totally separate venture from Fight?
Yeah, I thought that was an important thing to do. I mean you look and work with different players depending on what your needs are and I think that all the guys that worked with me on the RESURRECTION CD were the right players for that style and sound of music.
I remember when that CD came out I just thought “Wow”! I mean, the Two record was such a departure from Fight and RESURRECTION, of course, was such a departure from Two. It was really something to hear. It seemed sort of like the “lost” Judas Priest album. I know I’ve read a lot of people have said that same thing but it really did feel that way.
Yeah, well I was working with Roy Z, who’s a hardcore Priest fan and it’s important for me to state that there was never any thought in my mind that I would try and emulate things from Priest because, again, that would be just a stupid thing to do. It was just the material and the players again, much like the Fight band. I was back in a very comfortable place because it was familiar territory for me with songs like “Resurrection” and “Made In Hell” and all the other cool tunes from that CD. Much like Fight, when we went into CRUCIBLE, we went off in a bit of a different direction again and that’s important for me. I don’t like repetition. I’m always looking for other adventures and that comes from my background with Priest because every single thing that Priest has done has got its own legs. From ROCKA ROLLA to ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION, everything is just standing up by itself and just displaying the writing and the producing and the performing and all of those other attributes from that particular moment in time. I carry that with me wherever I go, wherever I work and that just comes out of the wonderful experiences that I’ve had with Glenn and K.K..
Going back to the Two years, there was an interview that you have been famously quoted as saying that “metal is dead”. Was there a defining moment that brought metal back to life for you again after the Two project?
Oh well, that was an absolutely fucking stupid thing for me to say. I was just so emotional that day. I can remember I was sitting on my tour bus outside of the Hollywood Palladium in L.A. and I think the Two band was working with Rammstein that night and I was just in a bitch mood (laughs). I said something which I…..you know, everybody has the freedom to be stupid and I was completely stupid that day. I’ve made amends in recent years about making that ridiculous comment. I think I was probably just reflecting on my own situation, frustrations that come with what you do and I think it was probably a Monday night, I don’t particularly like Monday that much (laughs). Had it been Friday or Saturday, I’d have been in a different frame of mind. But I was just being a bit of a petulant rock star bitch that afternoon, so there you go. It’s all water under the bridge now.
(Laughs) What newer metal bands are you a fan of personally?
Well, you’ve probably heard me saying in recent weeks that I’m a fan of a great band that’s out of the Vancouver area called 3 Inches of Blood. When I heard that…is it Goat Herders…?
“The Goatriders Horde”?
I always get it mixed with Goat Herders Ride.
Anyway, it’s fucking great song. I love it! It’s just a wonderful way of meshing classic metal and new metal. The two singers and the guy with the PAINKILLER voice, I think it’s fantastic.
Yeah, Cam Pipes, he’s got quite a voice.
That’s right. I haven’t had a chance to see those guys live yet but I’ve got the CD.
I can tell you for a fact that those guys would be…they would be speechless if they found that out (chuckles).
Well, we’re all part of the same world, aren’t we? I mean, we’re all connected. We’re all inspired by each other, so I think that’s just wonderful. You put any kind of metal band in the same room—classic metal, Euro metal, black metal, speed metal, death metal, thrash metal, whatever you want to call it, and we’re on common ground. We’re all in the same cause together, so to speak. But yeah, 3 Inches of Blood, and I’m mentioning this band Pelican that I really like, that instrumental kind of prog-rock band, they appeal to me. The Red Chord out of Chicago, some of the more recent bands whether it’s The Black Dahlia Murder or Lamb of God, As I Lay Dying…there’s just so many. I just keep up to speed, you know. I’m a Headbangers’ Ball freak. I always DVR that every week and I’m always checking out MySpace and my friends sending me texts and e-mails, “Check this band out on MySpace” and blah, blah, blah. I just love it all. I may be an old metalhead but I just love to stay, as best I can, up to speed with all the new cool stuff that’s going on around us.
This is a question a few people actually wanted me to ask you which I thought was interesting: Who is it that makes your elaborate stage clothes, your Judas Priest stage clothes?
It’s an Australian guy called Ray Brown (www.raybrownfashion.com). We’ve known Ray for years. He’s out of Phoenix. He was doing a lot of peoples stuff in the eighties. All the bands were going to Ray, so we still work with Ray. Prior to that, I worked with this gal out of Hollywood. She looks like that chick from L.A. Ink [Kat Von D]. Beautiful girl, covered in tattoos and I can’t remember how I connected with her. Her name was Agatha [Blois] (www.agathaleather.net) and she makes these really elaborate, extremely heavy (laughs) leather and studded items that are just beautiful pieces of work. It’s like putting some art on your back but for the most part, we work with Ray Brown from Phoenix.
Just quickly going back to the NOSTRADAMUS album, it is going to be a concept album. We know that already but is it going to be a double album? Is there anything more that you can tell us about the record?
Being an internet guy, you probably are aware of the things that I’ve been saying. I’ve been saying as much as I can because, obviously, when you’re still in a creative mode, it’s just difficult to talk about what the final outcome can be. We have an enormous amount of material and the thing that we’re trying to accomplish more than anything else is tell the story of his life and not leave any important bits out. Equally, you can only get so much music on a CD, although if you go on to Blu-Ray, you can just stick stuff on Blu-Ray but then, you know, that’s still a new type of player. Again, we just ask for everybody’s understanding and when we’re ready to let loose the ideas, we’ll be able to say to the world, “OK, this is NOSTRADAMUS, this is how many tracks there are, here’s some song titles”, and go into a more in-depth discussion of what we’ve been doing. But again, I can only say that for me it’s some of the most amazing metal that Priest has ever made. Obviously I say that because I’m the singer for the band but I’m my worst critic and I know when we’ve got something great and that’s what we’ve got right now with NOSTRADAMUS. It’s incredibly great music.
I can’t wait to hear it. I think it’s probably the most eagerly-anticipated album of next year, that’s for sure.
Well, I hope so and it should be. I think we had a fantastic time with ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION and as we’ve said, that the normal process would have been to go back into a studio record but that’s not what we’ve done. We’re kind of killing two birds with one stone. Where did that phrase come from?
I’m not sure (laughs).
Killing two birds with one stone, it’s particularly violent but it works in metal.
Anyway, you know, we’ve got a concept record which had always been in the back of our minds and the fans have been asking for forever, and we’ve got this wonderful story based on a real person, not a character that we’ve created like the Painkiller or the Sinner or Sentinel. I know there’s a tremendous buzz out there and I’m glad it is there and I think that we can qualify that apprehension and all that energy that’s floating around. “What’s it going to be like”? “What’s it going to sound like”? “What’s it going to look like on stage”? It’s great to have that type of thing buzzing away in the background and like I say, we can just make everybody feel that all of their anticipation is well worth it, because it’s going to be a great metal moment for Priest and for everybody in the metal world when it comes out next year. It’ll be another great metal achievement from Priest. We’re still forging metal, which is what we always will do.
Rob Halford—Official Site
Judas Priest—Official Site