INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Ian Hill is a founding member and bassist for the Birmingham-based Grammy award-winning heavy metal band, Judas Priest. The band was originally formed in 1970 and their albums such as BRITISH STEEL, SCREAMING FOR A VENGEANCE, and PAINKILLER are well-known metal classics. For many reasons, this band has often been nominated as one of the most important and most influential bands for the whole metal scene. As of 2011, after the departure of KK Downing, Hill is the sole constant member of Judas Priest. The band, which now features vocalist Rob Halford, Hill, drummer Scott Travis, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Downing’s replacement Richie Faulkner, announced a Judas Priest farewell tour in late 2011. The tour, titled The Epitaph, started in June of last year. That tour recently rolled into Helsinki. It was a real pleasure to sit down with Mr. Hill and discuss the farewell tour, line up changes, a possible new Judas Priest album, and Hill’s future plans, amongst other topics. Read on!
VICTIM OF CHANGES
You now have been almost one year constantly on tour with this new Judas Priest line up. How has everything been going on the Epitaph World Tour?
I think it’s been great; it’s going really good. We just fitted in, you know, just great. It’s like it’s always been with the band it’s going really, really well.
This is the first Judas Priest tour without K.K. So is anything different now, and do you still miss him?
We always miss him, I mean, he was a huge part of the band, you know, after all those years, a founding member way back in the late sixties with myself, so yeah, everybody is going to miss him. He was a huge character. But from a musical point of view, Ritchie is handling everything that he played, you know, and he’s adding his own flavors and his own particular style as well, so it’s something that the fans won’t, musically the fans won’t miss that much because Ritchie’s doing such a good job.
How about you personally, do you still miss K.K. on stage?
Of course, yeah, yeah, I do.
Does it seem that you’re still on good terms with him as he recently produced your son’s band Hostile UK debut album?
Yeah, we’re still friends, so when we get the time, we’ll bump into each other and see how things are going – just general friend things and stuff like that.
Like you just said, Ritchie has been doing an excellent job with you guys. Many reviews have stated that he has given some extra kick, some new fresh energy, to the band. Do you see that as the same way from your point of view?
Yeah, well, he’s young. He’s got so much energy. Just hoping some of it is going to rub off.
NEW PRIEST ALBUM AND SOMETHING ABOUT NOSTRADAMUS
Richie’s doing great on stage, but how are his songwriting skills? I mean, have you already been writing new material with him?
Well, we’ll see, we’ll be going back in the studio after this leg of the tour, we’re trying to get an album out towards spring next year, maybe. And then we’ll see from the writing point of view, and when he’s in the studio, he’s doing his own stuff rather than trying to interpret someone else’s. I think we’ll see then, but you know his true talent, I suppose.
This Epitaph tour is going to end at the end of May.
But there are no dates booked for Judas Priest after that. So, what’s going to happen after the Epitaph tour is over?
We take some time off in the summer; we all go and have a holiday and recharge the batteries, and then, as I said, the plan is to get into the studio and put down a little record. That will probably take maybe six months or so, something like that, so we may be doing a string of dates to promote that. It won’t be a world tour you like it is now. It will be shorter strings and dates that, fortunately, it will be the last time in some places that you’ll get to see us live. But we’ll try and get to each country at least if you know what I mean instead of doing five or six shows in one country, you know, maybe we’ll just do two or three, you know, and cut it down like that.
If I remember right, Glenn already said sometime in early 2011 that you already have some songs written for the next album?
Yeah, that’s true yeah, yeah, three songs are already almost complete, but those were recorded before Ritchie had tried to do any work on them, so that will have to be reworked just to an extension to fit Ritchie in. But yes, those three songs are nearly completed, and three of them have had their heads together, and they’ve got a lot of ideas, a lot of chord sequences, rifts, and whatever you know.
Do you already have any idea what kind of album the next one will be? I mean, is it going to another theme-based album like NOSTRADAMUS or more like a classic Priest album?
Yeah, it will be a classic Priest album.
So let’s speak a little bit more about NOSTRADAMUS. Once the album came out, there was a lot of talk and discussion about Priest performing the whole album live, and there was talk about the NOSTRANAMUS DVD and stuff like that, but… none of those things came into reality?
It’s still a possibility. It’s just a huge undertaking to do something like that. To try and take that complete production on the road is an immense undertaking. And it basically has the time to do it, and as I said, none of us are getting younger – it would be great if we could do it – maybe be a few private shows here and there and try and get something out, but it’s something that’s very possible in the future.
You put a lot of time and effort into the NOSTRADAMUS thing, and, after all, did everything go the way you wanted to with that album?
I think it turned out well. I mean, it’s musically it’s probably the best thing that the band’s ever done, with different avenues obviously with the strings and the choral pieces, and yeah, I think we are all very happy – I was happy with it, and I’m sure that the rest of the band were as well.
How about the commercial side of NOSTRADAMUS, was that part satisfying the band as well?
Well, what sells these days, you know? I mean, people get my stuff for nothing. I mean, everybody knows it – my kids do it, you know. It’s just a sign of the times, unfortunately. But as I said – the people are going to suffer from the up and coming bands. Because the investment in new music is nearly almost universally come from record companies, and that’s only because I think they think they might make money out of it. If they can’t make any money out of it well, we will not put anything into it. And it’s a shame unless you’re on X-Factor or Britain’s Got Talent or America’s Got Talent or whatever. The chance of getting that sort of exposure is remote. I mean, you can give your stuff away yourself on the internet and try and promote yourself and try and hope people pick up on it. Still, there are thousands and thousands of bands all doing that, and the chances of people that just, everybody suddenly picking up on you is pretty remote. And it’s a shame, and of course, we’re okay, we’re a large band we’ve already got our fan base, and we are very, very lucky with that. But compared to the amount of what we call bands, bands like ourselves are very few and far between, and that’s the only other way an up and coming band is going to get any exposure is if it comes on tour, gets on the end of a… one of the major band’s tour. But even then, promoters want somebody who’s going to sell seats, and it’s a vicious circle. The internet is good and evil in equal measures. If you have got something to sell, you can get across to everybody on the planet very, very easily, but as I say, the other side of the coin is that as soon as it’s on the shelf, some moron’s giving it away for nothing.
THE FAREWELL AND LIFE AFTER JUDAS PRIEST
Well, you have been in Priest since day one, and you have gone through all the changes at different times. You were in the band when Tim Ripper was in the band, and then now it’s the band without K.K. So do you think there is anybody in the band who’s irreplaceable?
No, I mean Priest is a name. It’s a universal name. The band is bigger than any one member of it, with the possible exception of Rob, obviously. But then again, we carried on with Tim when Rob did his own thing. So it is possible to continue without any of us in the band. I mean, Kiss is talking about farming it out, franchising it.
That’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it works in the real world?
No, I don’t think the fans will put up with it, not for a second.
Right, but you see that, without the exception of Rob, the band could carry on with some more changes in the lineup?
It is possible, it is possible, yeah. I mean, we do are doing fine without Ken, we did fine without Rob, you know, I’m sure the band will do fine without me and probably do fine without Glen as well, and when you look at bands like Whitesnake, you know the only person in there is David, so, anything is possible.
So, if you decide not to continue for one reason or another, you would give your blessing for the rest of the guys to carry on?
If I don’t continue and they want to carry on, of course, yeah!
Once Judas Priest announced the farewell tour in 2010. Then the band stated that: “There is going to be another tour and album, which is going to be our farewell album but might be the last album“ – so what does that statement mean actually?
Well, our albums, there’s less physical work in an album than there is on tour. It takes you away from home for months, sometimes years on end when you tour, and that’s basically what’s getting to us at the moment. We’ve been doing it now for forty years, and it’s time to spend a bit of time at home and, of course, records, you can do that based at home. So from that point of view, it’s a little bit easier than touring, so yeah, why not do an album after this one, see how we feel?
You don’t have to do more albums or tours, but…
We don’t have to.
…but you’ll do more if you want to?
We might be done after doing the next one. It’s just that we have still have things – a lot of music to offer, so only the time will tell?
Okay, you mentioned Kiss – but there are many, many more bands from your generation who always keep on saying that this is the farewell album and this is the end, but still, they keep on continuing, so what does the word retirement mean for Judas Priest?
I don’t know, I mean, I thought of not doing it, not playing and something that. It terrifies all of us, I believe, and many of the bands are probably genuinely thinking like: “Well, this is it, this will be the last tour,” and within a year or two, they start missing it all. They want to get back. So that’s why I mean a lot of these big bands don’t need to earn money. They’ve already got it.
What else they have to do?
Yeah, but they just love it, so I’m sure we’d be the same as well. If we said, well, yes, this is going to be the last tour; we are not going to play ever again after this, within six months, we’ll already be on the phone! “laughs.”
Judas Priest is one of the classic bands that has strongly influenced the birth of heavy metal, and if and when you decide to retire one day, What will happen to the whole old school metal scene? What will the old school metal fans like me listen to after that?
Well, I don’t know. I think the more up, and coming bands will probably get a little bit more established. I mean, if the older bands aren’t touring anymore or touring, fewer people still want to get their music. So I think they will start to get a bit more established and start accumulating their fans, and it will carry on through them. I’m sure it will.
When that day comes, and you leave the tour life, could you imagine yourself in some other role in the music business? For example, could you see yourself as a manager for your son’s band Hostile UK?
It’s negligible, I mean whether I can do much for anybody, to be honest I mean all I can do… All I can do is get their name pushed forward for a tour or a record deal. That’s the only thing you could do. Managing a band is a full-time occupation, and I don’t think it’s a sort of thing I’d really like want to do if you’re retired; I mean really retired, but you know? There are other things I want to do. I want to play with cars and airplanes and learn to play golf and stuff like that. Get away from music. But I’m not, like I say, who knows in six months’ time if I’ll get a bit bored and we, you know, sort of dabble at something or another, you know.
Okay, I think that’s it.
Okay, that’s great
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