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Ian Hill (Judas Priest)

Interview with Ian Hill from Judas Priest
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 19 April 2006, 2:18 AM

Over 30 years of Heavy Metal and still here they are, standing tall, standing proud. In the dictionary of music, Judas Priest is THE definition of Heavy Metal, along with colossal acts Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, to which I always feel we owe… the soundtrack to our lives.<br><br>Little did I know as a kid that one day I'd get to meet Mr. Glenn Tipton (in 2001) in person and interview him. Even lesser knowledge did I possess of what was to happen one winter day in 2006 when the phone rang… Here is my interview with NOT just a bassist but one of Heavy Metal's fathers, one of Heavy Metal's founders. The polite, the intelligent, the humorous, the amazing Mr. Ian Hill!

It all started in the city of Birmingham, over three decades ago, when Heavy music was born because of bands such as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. Now, in 2006, do you think there could be another Birmingham somewhere out there, a sole place that could give the world of Rock & Metal a definitive boost into new groundbreaking territories, music wise?

Well, I’m sure there is somewhere but I don’t know if it could be Birmingham again, it could be anywhere I suppose. It would be great if someone could find a new format, you know. Probably Heavy Metal at the moment, I think most of it has been explored, you know, I mean Heavy Metal being as versatile as it is, I don’t think that there’s many other aspects people can find to exploit. But you never know…

An essential 2-CD Judas Priest collection is going to come out on April 4th through Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings. How essential could such a release be for the average Judas Priest fan since I’m pretty sure a fan would more or less have all your albums anyway? What’s the target group for this release?

It’s something that the record company is responsible for. I think it would be valuable to anyone who wants to listen to more known and best loved tracks without having to go to the different albums to find them. You could find them all in the same one, you know. Of course it’s a taste for any retrospective fan to get a cross-section of our whole catalogue, so, you know, it would be indispensable to them, anyone who’s wishing to get not only into Judas Priest but Heavy Metal in general.

So it’s more of a kind of a thing for starters…

Could be, yeah. Like I say, it’s representative of what the band’s been about.

Ok, I’ve got one question for you concerning the Rising In The East live DVD. What basically led you guys to record a live DVD over there?

Well, our first live album was recorded in Japan and of course this was in a time before DVD… (Laughs) …the world’s moved beyond since then, and we were planning on recording the tour and the production somewhere so we thought this might be a good idea since the first live recording - the first official live recording took place there - so we thought it might be worth doing it there again, with a DVD, to show where the band’s at the moment.

Where do you think that the band has the most enthusiastic audience? I mean whenever the band plays a gig anywhere on the planet, in your opinion…

It’s difficult to say. I mean, we get a great response; we’re very, very lucky, you know (Laughs)… Our fans are terrific wherever we go and we get a similar response everywhere because of that. It’s very difficult to say. Even in one country you may find you’ve got a greater response in one city than another. It’s unfair to pick any group of people out. As I said, we’re lucky to have such great fans!

Well, may I ask you this then? I’ve always wondered what Judas Priest thought - along with Iron Maiden etc - about U.S. fans and European fans. Where do you think Metal fans are more enthusiastic or wild?

Oh… Like I say, yeah, I mean, they’re wild everywhere! The big difference probably is that in America they show up in Chevrolets and things like that and in Europe in Fords! (Laughs) But other than that they’re very, very similar. We get crazy responses everywhere. Of course there are exceptions sometimes…

Have you ever felt disappointed by any audience in any of the places you’ve played?

Not really. The only disappointing part - which is not the audience, really - is the way some of the promoters treat the first few rows in front of the stage. Sometimes the prices are so high that the only people who can afford to sit there are people who are very, very well off and…

… and that’s not what Metal’s about…

And it’s not really Metal to be perfectly honest. It’s a show really because these people just sit there and expect to be entertained. Obviously of course you can’t tar everyone with the same brush but generally speaking, that’s the case. And of course you’ve got many, many metalheads a few rows back who’d give their right arms to sit in the same seats!

Yeah!

There is a time where it might get a bit disappointing but the rest of the audience makes up for that.

Do you feel there are songs on the essential JUDAS PRIEST release that could have been replaced by other more essential tracks? Having asked that of course I do realize I would have had a hard time picking tracks for such a release. I would have had a hard time picking tracks… Who really picked the tracks? The record label I suppose, as you’ve already said…

It is difficult as you say. Your list of favorite tracks would probably be different than anyone else’s, same as mine would be different to Ken’s \[K.K. Downing - guitar] probably (Laughs). It is difficult to please everybody all of the time. I think they try to get what is perceived to be sort of fans’ favorite songs and hope to please the majority of people (Laughs)!

On March 31st, the band will be performing at the Royal Albert Hall in London in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust Charity and as a tribute to Tommy Vance (UK’s Friday Rock Show) who sadly is no longer with us. Would you like to say a few things about this one-off show and Tommy Vance of course?

Tommy’s been a big friend to us and Heavy Metal for years and years. He’s been a great server of this type of music, a great friend to us all. There were times in Britain where nobody else was playing Heavy Metal at all except Tom, you know. And we all owe him a great debt because of that. On top of that he was a genuinely nice guy, a terrific bloke. He’s sadly missed by all of us.

It was guys like Tommy who played a great part in the evolution of Metal music…

Yeah, if it wasn’t for Tommy and people like him, you know, it would be very difficult for Heavy Metal to become popular anywhere.

You’re not going to play any other shows this year, right?


Well, yeah. It was a difficult decision, really. We were sort of penciled into some of the festivals in Europe this year but I think we’d rather prefer to concentrate on the album and not get any distractions like that, you know. To keep everything fresh and running along, make a good job of the album and get it finished by the end of the year, all being well. And then we can go out for the whole of 2007, you know, with a new album…

And tour for a whole year, as usual… (Laughs)

Do the whole world again and continue until…

…saying that, if supposedly the band had batteries, how long do you think - as Ian Hill - that those batteries would last?

(Laughs) I’m 50 and I only feel like 20! You tend to think you’re a bit invincible (Laughs)! I intend to carry on for as long as I can! I’m setting no time limit to retire.

You don’t feel tired, at all, right?

I don’t think there’s any reason we should be! We might slow down a little bit in years to come but there’s no reason to say that’s it, we’re not going to do anything ever again! I can’t see any of us feeling that way and I can’t see it happening, to be honest. We’re all dedicated to the band and it’s not just us, you know, it’s our fans as well! We’d chase a lot of people off if we said that’s all. Like I say, a few years down the line we might say well, ok, we’re not going to tour every year; we’ll tour every 18 months or whatever.

Might not be THAT intense, yeah.

Yeah, just lay off a little bit but not to quit it out altogether.

Of course not!

I read in an interview your longtime band mate Glenn Tipton gave quite recently that whenever Priest tours again, it’s going to feature a lot of songs that have either been performed on really rare occasions or simply never before. What’s your opinion on that?

Well, yes, every time we come to put a setlist together, it’s always difficult because we’ve got so many fans’ favorites there. You’ve got to drop somebody’s favorites to make room for a new song. So we thought we’d drop most of them and play songs we’ve never played for a long time or have never been played before; a completely fresh set. I think that it’s something that we’re all excited about because there’s some great material that’s been overlooked over the years. Like I say, every time you make a new album, you’ve got to make room for 4-5 of the new tracks of the new album and because of the fans’ favorites you find you’re replacing the previous album’s new songs (Laughs)! I’m sure that the fans love the standard tracks that we’ve always played but it will be very refreshing and very exciting to do something completely different.

Will you guys ever be playing songs off Demolition?

Ummm…

…just wondering…


There’s probably no real reason why we shouldn’t. I mean it’s probably a bit unfair to ask Rob \[Halford - vocals] to do that because he wasn’t involved in the writing or recording of them, you know. So it’s a bit unfair on him. I mean, there’s some terrific material on there and if Rob decides he’d like to have a crack at one, we’d accommodate him on that.

So, that would always be a possibility…

It’s always possible, yeah.

How do you feel about the Angel Of Retribution album now, almost a year after its release?

I think it did what we set out to do. We started out to portray all the different aspects of Heavy Metal that we’ve been involved with over the years. Not just the heavier side of things, also the more commercial, the more laid back; all of the aspects of the genre. And I think we achieved that. I think it’s given everyone some idea of what we’ve been involved with over the years. A lot of the fans never saw us with Rob and it was just great for them to not just see him on tour but to experience a new album as well, doing all the different kinds of music we’ve been known for over the years.

So, as you said, after Angel Of Retribution, it’s time now to be all locked up in the studio for 2006…

…that’s it, yeah (Laughs)!

You have any new tracks ready? As far as the basic structure goes.

Ken and Glenn \[Tipton - guitar] I believe have ideas and Rob’s always got a catalogue of vocals he works on. So, yeah, I should imagine that there will be a few tracks that’ll come together quite quickly.

Any clue about the overall direction of the new songs? Music wise…

We’re not going to go off in any tangents, that’s for sure (Laughs)! It will be recognizably Judas Priest, very much along the traditional lines. We’ve got no plans for another Turbo or something like that (Laughs). We’re going to keep it as everyone wants.

Do any of you guys ever keep in touch with Al Atkins \[ex-Judas Priest singer] or just keep track of what he’s up to?

I speak with Al occasionally, yeah.

Still friends?

Yeah, he generally calls me when he wants something. (Laughs)

(Laughs) Oh!

No, no, he’s still a friend, Alan. We bump into each other from time to time. I mean, I still live probably just 20 miles from where I was born and of course Alan still lives in the same area. We bump into each other from time to time and correspond. He’ll call me up, like I say, and ask me how things are going and vice versa.

It always struck me as weird - since the music world is a pretty weird place to be anyway - that during your 3 decades of career as a band, there’s never really been any sort of special event with Al Atkins as a guest maybe, or I’m not aware of it at least.

Nah, it’s something in the band’s past, I suppose. I’m not so sure Alan would be into it, to be honest (Laughs). He’s moved on and he’s doing other things, you know. Who knows in the future, you never know, do you? Never say never to anything, I suppose!

During the 80’s, Iron Maiden for example once appeared at a local club under a different name and played a show for not more than 100 people maybe, who were totally unaware of what was going on. Would Judas Priest ever do something that special or weird?

Again, it’s possible. Although I can’t think of any reason why we’d wanna do that.

Well, when Maiden did that, it was a kind of a warm-up show for their upcoming tour back then. So, they wanted to play in front of an audience who’d have no clue Maiden was going to be there.

I can see that being the only reason why we’d do something like that, just to ease ourselves back into the live environment. It might be good fun actually! When Tim \[Ripper Owens - vocals, ex-Judas Priest] was with the band, we played some of the larger clubs and it was a great experience. I mean, you’re right there with the fans. They’re right in your face in some of the places we played. It’s great because, you know, you get all the feedback and you see people’s expressions; it was a really enjoyable experience!

What would your advice be to all the younger rock & metal musicians from around the world?


Try to be as different as you can without going too left field. And it’s basically keeping attitude - keeping attitude and don’t give up! Even way back when we started, it took a long time for us to get signed by a record company. That was an awful deal… (Laughs)… So, it does pay off if you stick together and keep on improving. If you cannot improve then there’s not much point in carrying on. If you stick together and keep on improving everyday in whatever material you put together, if you improve from the old stuff then you stand a chance.

Do you see a future in young musicians as far as Metal goes?

I can, yes! I mean, there’s nothing to replace it. That’s the point. There’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and Heavy Metal’s been around for all those years. There’s nothing to replace it. Nothing’s come up that’s even comparable to it. The last 15 years or so, you’ve had the new sort of wave of Heavy Metal bands come in but they’ve all been doing stuff that’s been done before, really, you know, taken to extremes. It was all Heavy Metal at the end of the day (Laughs)! The only reason it’ll vanish is, I think, if it ever becomes unpopular; that’s the only reason.



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