Interview with vocalist Rob Halford
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: June 5, 2022
Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen (taken at Sauna Open Air Festival 2011, Tampere, Finland, on June 11, 2011)
Thanks to Ute Kromrey from Promöter (www.promöter.de) for setting up the interview
Judas Priest, formed in 1970 (1969-1970 as Freight), has become one of the biggest and most influential institutions in the world of heavy metal in the last 50+ years and has achieved many remarkable things during a long and respected career. They have had their ups and downs as every other band has, but somehow have always gotten back on their feet and kept their successful journey going. Judas Priest is considered an iconic heavy metal band and their reputation as one of the true pioneers of the heavy metal sound is undisputed. They are like heavy metal's Rolling Stone; they have kept their metal machine going strong, never giving up or making any compromises (it's been said that there's no room for compromises in Priest).
The band recently finished their 50 Heavy Metal Years Anniversary tour in North America and headed out to do the European leg of the tour, with a few canceled shows due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
On the verge of the band's European tour, the Metal God himself, the one and only Rob Halford, reached out to The Metal Crypt and in this conversation with him, we covered some tour-related matters, the band's nomination (finally!) for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in February 2022, shared a few words (or horns ups) about Dolly Parton, what's up with a new Priest album among other things...
Hello, Rob. How are you doing?
Rob: Hello, Luxi. I'm good, man. I'm good. Good to speak with you.
PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA
To get this conversation started properly I would like to hear about your tour in North America that you just finished, playing your last show in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada?
Rob: It was wonderful, man. It was so great to have Richie back with us after the hell trip that he went through. Oh, man, it was so scary for everybody, but he was great. Everything was great. Glenn came out and joined us at many of the shows. We really were able to continue what we started last summer at Bloodstock. Then we shipped everything over just the way the touring was planned. Shipped everything over to the States to take care of the USA and Canada. Now we've had a little break and now we're back on home turf and we're excited to bring the 50th anniversary to all points of Europe, including Finland.
Were there any specific shows on this North American tour that were high points for you?
Rob: I always enjoyed playing San Antonio, Texas, only because that part of the country was one of the original places that accepted and really pushed out the metal message. There was a fantastic DJ there called Joe Anthony. Joe Anthony was just a beautiful guy. He worked at a small radio station, and he had a very loose undisciplined style. His bosses were just like, "You do whatever you want, Joe." You would go to his studio, and you would be there for hours. He would play all your album and you would talk for hours. This is radio. It was like a podcast, the original podcast, but it was live. It was live.
Joe really spread the word about Priest through Texas because in those days, the radio waves went a long way. I have an affection for San Antonio but every single show that you play is important, every single show is valuable, there's never two shows identically the same. No matter what stage you're at, no matter where you are in the world, that moment that you're playing is unique and powerful and that's what we'll be doing when we do the same for you guys soon.
ON THE VERGE OF THE EUROPEAN TOUR
Now that you are on the verge of starting your European leg of the tour, unfortunately, there are dark clouds gathering in the sky because of the cancellation of gigs both in the Russian Federation and Ukraine due to this mindless and unjustified war. Without turning this conversation political, I would just like to know how much you are looking forward to coming to Europe after all the restrictions that we had due to Covid-19 and made it impossible for bands to tour.
Rob: Yes, music makes the world go round, doesn't it? That's a famous song or lyric from a song, "Music makes the world go round." The world stopped in one respect because bands couldn't play live. Metal maniacs, we couldn't be together with each other. People were enjoying music more than ever from home because the restrictions where we couldn't be together with each other live. What I'm trying to say is the importance and the power of metal, to me, exponentially grew. It grew stronger through the pandemic.
We realized more than ever how important this music is for us. Especially being together at a show. It was tough. Outside of music, this is a world full of people, fuck, it was horrible, especially for some of us that lost loved ones and had other challenges, but we stuck together, didn't we? That's the great thing about our metal community, we kind of watch out for each other and we support each other. We started Zooming or texting or doing whatever, FaceTiming, whatever, staying in touch that way.
What was particularly terrible was for the new bands that were just starting. They've got the record to go, they've got the songs ready, they've got the show ready, they're about to go on the road and then they can't do it. I felt so bad for all those bands. All around the world everybody was affected in that respect but hey, we got through it together and now we're all going nuts. It was just the power of the shows in America I know will be resonated when we play through these dates in Europe.
I was watching some clips of Maiden who did their first show the other day in Croatia, Zagreb, and the fans were going ballistic because Maiden hadn't been out since 2019 and everybody was just so thrilled to be back together again. That's what we're looking forward to, besides all the great things that we're going to do with the music, just to be with each other, man. The whole trip about music is made complete when we're together and that's what we're going to do again.
Yes, that's the great thing about this whole heavy metal thing, this big global metal family. We can absolutely stick together during both good and bad times.
Rob: Yes, for sure.
B-DAY COMING UP FOR SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE
The setlist on this tour is surely a kind of wet dream for every Priest fan out there, containing many "hit songs" that the fans will recognize right off the bat. As my all-time favorite Priest album, Screaming for Vengeance, will also turn 40 years old on July 17 this year, I was just wondering are you going to add some additional songs off that record to your setlist for this European tour, songs like "Bloodstone" or "Fever," for example, just to celebrate the album's B-day?
Rob: Turning 40? Where the fuck did that come from? I had no idea it was turning 40. I had an email about that some months ago. I can't find it now obviously, but I see it all the time. I see it all the time. I think Who Made Who by AC/DC came out 37 years ago today or 38 years ago today. There are all these anniversaries starting to happen on these records that we love and actually, you celebrate them in some way. We will be doing that. We've played those songs in recent shows, not too recent but "Screaming for Vengeance" and "Bloodstone," yes, I'm sure we'll throw them in.
Hey, you never know, we might throw one in just for Finland when we come back. They're great to play live. I especially like "Screaming for Vengeance," it's such an unusual song. The dynamics and the tempo and the way the drumming went down all these little da-da-da, da-da-da, it's such a cool piece of music. It's a challenge to sing this far up [*laughs*] but yes, I'm sure we'll be doing that. A graphic novel came out just recently based on Screaming for Vengeance in America. Don't know whether it's available in Europe yet but that was also about the album and the messages because metal always has messages and visuals, that kind of stuff.
When is it, did you say... July?
July 17th. That's the precise date of 40th B-day of the Screaming... album this year...
Rob: Where will we be? Have you got our tour dates in front of you, where will we be on that day?
Sorry, Rob, but I don't, unfortunately.
Rob: I'll have to have a look. I'll have to have a look but that's something to think about. I'll make a mental note of that and then I'll send an email out to the guys. If we are on stage that day, we will definitely have to throw in a Screaming for Vengeance song.
What kind of meaning does the Screaming... record have for you personally? Obviously that album really got some big wheels rollin' for the band...
Rob: Yes, it's just one of those things where you look through the history of this band. We've talked about a couple of other bands that have had a long history, and there are certain albums that push forward a little bit more than the others. I don't know why that is, it's just the way it works. That was certainly the case with Screaming for Vengeance. "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" was that sleeper track that we hid in the back, and that became a very big song. Just the opening salvo on that record, at the time that it was released, in the metal world, was a very strong statement. It's a beloved album in the Priest catalog. I just have the strong memories of recording it in Ibiza, and then finishing it off in Florida. The heady days, the ‘80s, the decade of decadence, when it really was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Now, it's rock ‘n' roll, Viagra, and All-Bran cereal.
Rob: That's what it is now.
Hehe... it cannot be that bad a combination either when you get old, I guess.
Rob: I tell you what's the most important, the rock ‘n' roll in that statement. Rock ‘n' roll is all that matters when you come to think of it.
Yes, and even though it's always been a big cliché to say but rock ‘n' roll never dies, just no matter what.
Rob: For sure. Very true.
ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME 2022 TALK
Third time's the charm and Judas Priest was finally nominated for the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this February. Do you consider this one of the biggest recognitions both for Priest as well as for you personally within your long career as the front man of the band?
Rob: What's the perception that you have, Luxi? What's the perception? The news has been out for a while now, but I've never really asked this question before. How do the Finnish metal maniacs view this opportunity for Priest? Do they think it's important? Are they indifferent? What is the vibe about the whole thing?
Well generally speaking, I have to believe not only metal maniacs from Finland but overall from all over the world see this whole nomination thing for Priest as a great and well-deserved thing because heavy metal music has existed for so long, actually for many decades because of bands like Sabbath, Maiden and, of course, Priest who all have made heavy metal something significant over the decades. You know, metal nowadays is more than "loud, rebellious and underground music," so to speak.
So yeah, it's such a great thing for you guys to get this kind of recognition for yourselves finally as Priest is, hands down, one of the most influential metal bands of all times, there's just no question about that.
Rob: Thank you, that really means a lot to me. A lot of people think of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as an American institution, which it is to a great extent, but what you've just told me is further proof of just how much our metal maniacs, our fans, around the world have invested their belief into this whole adventure. The bottom line is, it is recognition, and you get into the Hall because you've been put there by your peers in the business. I know Tom (Morello), from Rage Against the Machine, voted for us multiple times, and other friends have voted for us multiple times. The voting system is made up of these other musicians. That's a really sweet deal. It's not a bunch of idiots that don't know anything about anything. There's actually a real consensus taken into consideration when the voting and the tallying, all the rigmarole when all that happens. That's cool, man.
I love my social media. I try not to read everything because it's so passionate. Some people say it sucks, it's a waste of time, it's not real. All that negativity and you're entitled to your opinion. I think for your band, the band that you're a fan of, to get this kind of recognition, was a really sweet deal, man. You should say, "Yes, good for my band. I'm pleased my band is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame." That's all that this is about, at the end of the day.
So, has Dolly Parton been informed that you'd like to take a selfie with her when you all join this big party of artists on November 5th this year?
Rob: I'm going to force her to, even if she doesn't know who I am, if she's sitting at the table, at the Nokia Theater, or wherever it is in LA. I've been in that building many times, so I can imagine how it's laid out. I'm going to see what table she is sitting at. I'm just going to run to the table and do the devil's horns thing like this.
Rob: Tongue out, horns up, behind Dolly Parton's head.
Yes, that's the only right thing to do. [*laughs*]
Rob: It's the only way to do it. I can't smile sweetly. I've got to stick my tongue out and my horns up. Here's the thing about that. I've said this many, many times, that when you're in the company of your fellow musicians, we have so much in common because writing a metal song is no different to writing a country song. What I mean about that, is you start the day with nothing, and at the end of the day if your creativity's working you could have something very special. It doesn't matter whether Judas Priest, Dolly Parton, the Eurythmics, Eminem, Lionel Richie, Duran Duran, et cetera - we all live the same kind of life; the studio, on the road, and the dressing room; it's all the same, man. It's all the same. The music's different but the life is the same. I'm looking forward to meeting as many people as I possibly can because I love meeting people and I love talking about music, no matter what kind of music it is. It would be an epic moment because I've met Lady Gaga, I've met Madonna. I've yet to meet Cher, but I also want to meet Dolly Parton.
NEW BOOK IN NOVEMBER 2022
November of this year will see the publication of your second book, titled Biblical Rob Halford's Heavy Metal Scriptures. How was it to write your thoughts down for this book compared to your first book, Confess, which was published in 2020, and was a very honest, sincere, and personal book all in all?
Rob: It's just what you have to do to get this far, basically, in music. There are some life anecdotes in there, as well. Everybody can write a book about their life, and I did that with Confess, but as far as the actual working side of my life, there are lots of things that you can talk about. It can be anything, from how to use your voice to what to wear. How to get through a touring schedule. How to look at a contract. I've had a great time with Ian Gittins, we had such a wonderful time making Confess, and we have a great relationship, great rapport. He becomes my voice.
I was reading some of the final chapters today, it's done now. It's done now, it's coming out November the 5th, I believe. It's a nice follow-up. I think it's got the candor, it's got the humor, and it's got the West Midlands, Birmingham, Peaky Blinder attitude to it that Confess had. The initial feedback from the publishers, and the few people that have looked at the first drafts is really encouraging. We'll see. I just wanted to do it. After Confess, I said to Ian, "I've got another idea," and he goes, "What is it?" I laid out the blueprint, and he goes, "Let's do it then." We did it here in my kitchen. We made Confess, and we had a blast of a time doing it.
NEW PRIEST ALBUM – WHEN?
OK, to wrap up this conversation with you, I would be stupid to not ask any questions regarding new Priest stuff, so is there already something to be revealed about some Priest songs that you have been working on since the excellent Firepower album, which came out back in 2018?
Rob: It's so difficult to talk about music, isn't it? Because all of us musicians, we go, "Oh, it's the greatest thing we've ever done, man. The album just rips colossally, and the drumming is like peeling the skin off your face, and the singing is just so screaming."
What is that? What is that...? It's not Firepower number two, that's all I can say. If you look at Judas Priest from Rocka Rolla to Firepower, everything in between has got its character and its identity. That's what we're working on with this one. I think adventurous is a word we've never used before on trying to explain the content. It's adventurous, and now people are going, "What does he mean by that? Is it going to sound like Dolly Parton?" You'll have to wait and see. It's great, man. It's good. It's solid. It's a very, very good strong follow-up, as they call it, to the last one.
Have you already made some plans when it might come out - like next year or--
Rob: Yes. You throw things out and see if they stick 2023, 2024. I don't know. We've started tracking, been talking openly about that.
This is all the slog, this is, because once the song is written, once all the instrumentation, once all that is done, it's just a slog trying to put it together but you've got to get the performance in every performance. That's why you do multiple takes. The only person who is always late to the party is me [*chuckles*] because I've got my ideas. I've got my ideas for the lyrics and the titles and all of that. I really have to wait until everybody's done the bulk of their work instrumentally before I can sit down and listen and start going, "I haven't got a fucking thing, my brain won't work. I can't think of what-- I don't know what to do anymore. I can't think of the words. How am I going to sing this?" I go through all the neurosis; I go through all the self-doubts and wallowing in self-pity. Like, "I'm washed up, I'm useless. I haven't got anything left. I've given it all."
I have to go through that. I have to go through all of that then I start writing like a maniac. I just write too much stuff, so I know that that's waiting to happen and I dread it. I also get a thrill about it because I know that once we get to that stage, once we lay down the vocals, then the songs and the album is really starting to sound complete. It's coming together, man. It's going to be great. It's going to be great.
OK, seems like my time is up, so thanks so much for this nice conversation with you. It was a true honor for me personally to have this chat with you as a longtime fan of the band. All the best to you and your upcoming tour here in Europe.
Rob: Thanks, Luxi. All right. Come and see us.
Rob: I'll see you later. Bye-bye, man.
|Other information about Judas Priest on this site|
|Review: Classic Albums: Judas Priest: British Steel|
|Review: Sin After Sin|
|Review: Screaming For Vengeance|
|Review: Defenders Of The Faith|
|Review: Live in London|
|Review: Live in London|
|Review: Ram It Down|
|Review: Electric Eye|
|Review: Sad Wings of Destiny|
|Review: Angel of Retribution|
|Review: Angel of Retribution|
|Review: Live Vengeance '82|
|Review: Rising in the East|
|Review: Stained Class|
|Review: Redeemer of Souls|
|Review: Redeemer of Souls Tour|
|Review: British Steel|
|Review: Hell Bent for Leather|
|Review: Screaming For Vengeance|
|Review: Point of Entry|
|Interview with bassist Ian Hill on June 19, 2018 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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