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Rob Halford (Judas Priest)

Interview with Rob Halford from Judas Priest
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 07 December 2006, 3:59 AM

Does every genre in music has its Gods and its fools? I can't speak about fools but I am absolutely convinced that at least Heavy Metal always did have, still has and will always have Rob Halford, one of the very few people on this planet who fully, rightfully deserve to be called that, the magnum title of titles in Metal! Whether you're an amateur reporter, just a fan or a specialist in doing interviews, it doesn't matter. The shock of getting to talk to one of Metal's leaders, a person who stood there at the dawn of time before the wave came slamming down on our sorry asses, is irreversible.r>r>In this interview, simply put, you'll get to read about WHY Rob left JUDAS PRIEST, what happened in the meantime (FIGHT, TWO, HALFORD), what led to the grand return and what the future holds for all of us. After talking for almost an hour on the phone, I realized I simply wish more people were as decent, honest, polite and humorous as Halford, especially in the Music world. Live and learn! And the Metal God sure has tales to share with all of us. Behold!… (Note: this interview was taken on behalf of Metal Temple webzine and Rock Hard magazine - a big thank you to Chip, Sakis and Rob himself!)

First of all, I’d like to ask you what led you to the decision to create Metal God Entertainment - a corporation that acts both as a record label and a production company, if I’ve it got that correct. Was it because of an educated guess one could have that you were dissatisfied with the way Sanctuary Records U.K. was handling your back catalogue?

I think that Sanctuary did an absolutely fantastic job! They were really instrumentally making a bridge for me to get back to PRIEST. Rob Smallwood \[co-founder of Sanctuary Records, also co-manager of IRON MAIDEN] is a fantastic guy and everybody at Sanctuary worked really hard to make Resurrection (2000) the success that it was. I’ll always be grateful to Rob and everybody that worked on that release. But of course, as you know  Sanctuary has been in turmoil recently. A lot going on…

Financial issues…

Yeah. I was just thinking about the HALFORD stuff and, I mean, I’m just passionate about what I do. If it’s not available, it suddenly slips the spot in availability. Not exactly a complete waste of time but I would like to feel that my HALFORD stuff would be just as relevant in the back catalogue format as the PRIEST stuff is? So, what am I gonna do, you know? So I got all the songs back and a ton of other stuff.

Then I was looking to maybe do a record deal and none of that was really connecting the way I felt that it should be treated right. So I felt fuck this, I’m gonna do it myself! And because it’s all Internet-based, it’s a lot easier than having to get retail involved and get it put into trucks and sent to the stores… you have to check how many copies there are and how many got sold… an absolutely fucking nightmare! So I felt like well why don’t we just do it through an Internet-based download service?


ITunes initially but we’re making a Rob Halford Music Store so people can download CD quality onto Windows Media format. That’s what I decided to do and then I was thinking long term, when I hand up the microphone, I still wanna be involved in Metal and I still wanna be helping Metal bands…

Doing productions and stuff?

Yeah, it’s a bit of everything really. We’re just initially launching it as a way of putting all this HALFORD, FIGHT stuff out for everybody in a few week’s time.

That’s the first step.

Of course, that’s the first step, yeah.

 So you buy back your HALFORD releases (Resurrection, Live Insurrection & Crucible) and in addition to that you re-release them with bonus material, as well as a compilation of unreleased demo tracks from back when you were with FIGHT, a movie about FIGHT and a best of titled Halford: Metal God Essentials - Volume 1. Resurrection and Crucible are remastered, right?

Yes, they are.

And why did you do that for? The remastering I mean.

Well, same reason why all the PRIEST stuff was remastered. There’s just been an improvement in sound quality that is distinctive. It’s just important that you take that opportunity.

Now, concerning the unreleased FIGHT tracks…

The demos, yes, the 5 demos! These are really cool because when we started with FIGHT, as with house band, we didn’t have a label and so we wrote inside a tiny little studio in Phoenix, in the middle of the blazing summer of whatever year that was, you know, the early 90’s. I kind of surprised everybody because we’d only been together for a short while. I’d written all the songs, I demoed all the songs myself in a really primitive, loose format. We were jamming all the songs and then one day I said let’s go into record mode and everybody’s like what are you talking about?. Let’s just do it, you know, because there’s so much raw energy here! Everybody’s really loving playing those songs. Let’s not lose that vibe! So we thought of everything which ended up in the deal, that you know, we went to New York to Epic for the War Of Words album.

I just have those and I listen to them and they’re just great! I mean there’s a metal magic about them. I said we’ve got all this going on, around the end of November (2006), so let’s just make that available for everybody that’s interested to check it out. Because the War Of Words was a real success for us and so we just decided to kind of let everybody hear what led to that moment from the official recordings. They sound great, they sounds really, really strong and organic, raw and angry.

There are some extra tracks on there that didn’t make it \[onto the original release]. They were left out for the same reason you always overwrite; you always overwrite. You basically stockpile that stuff for some of the Japanese releases because… because the Japanese used to always want something that nobody else had - I don’t know why (Laughs). It’s just a case of, you know, providing everybody with the first demo sessions from the FIGHT times and anything else we could find.

So it’s practically the same songs but in a rawer version?

Yeah. It’s basically everything that you know from War Of Words and let’s just say they’re really cool in that state.

What’s the FIGHT movie gonna be like? What’s the movie about, exactly?

It’s got the essence of backstage antiques and that kind of thing but I think it’s a bit more in depth because it tells the story of the band. It kind of talks about my leaving from JUDAS PRIEST, interviews from all over the world regarding that subject and then of course there’s live performances from all over the place. There’s crazy shit like me doing bungee jumping…

(Laughs) Wow, really?

Yeah, you know, it’s just a lot of fun. It’s probably just a bit of a deeper introspective, you know, it’s got us in the studio recording, talking about songs and it’s psyching up to be something really special. I think it kind of goes hand in hand with the significance of FIGHT’s songs… The DVD is still in the editing mode at the moment. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of material. As Jay Jay \[bass] and Brian \[Tilse - guitar] used to say, the cameras were everywhere with them, Scott \[Travis - drums] and myself. So, we just spent an enormous amount of time going through hundreds of hours of footage and picking up bits that were invaluable.

And so the outcome of all that will be out, when?

For the FIGHT DVD? We haven’t got a date on that yet. We’re gonna try and get it out by the end of the year. The important thing for us is to try and get all of this out of the way, so to speak, to make it available before 2007, before PRIEST takes off.

Speaking of movies, how big of a movie fan do you consider yourself to be? Not only in terms of going to the movies or watching a DVD at home but also in participating in them! I still remember how surprised I felt seeing you in the movie Spun (2002) where you played the clerk in a video store. Are there any other movies you appear in that I’m not aware of?

(Laughs)Yeah, with Mickey Rourke! That was great! Mickey Rourke’s a wonderful guy. He looks Heavy Metal. Well, for me, I kind of breezed through that. You know, great acting is something extremely difficult to do. It’s very, very difficult. It’s as difficult as being a great Metal player. You have to grow into it. Ok, some people do have a natural talent and I just went into that thinking like we’re just doing a music video, speaking without music. And I enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun to do.

Have you been in any other movies?

No, I haven’t. I mean, I love movies. I wouldn’t say I’m a mad hardcore movie fan but like I am with my music, I’m very picky and choosy about what I put my time into. But I just like it, you know, it’s the same world, isn’t it? You’re creating these experiences for people to kind of go through. You can take people through a fantasy world and let them escape from reality. And I just love it; I just really enjoy the media of movies, especially what great directors can do.

Have you ever been invited to play in any other movies after Spun?

No, I haven’t. I’m not actively looking for it, you know, so to speak. But you don’t know what the day brings. Every day’s a different day, every day’s a unique day in your life so who knows what the next phone call or e-mail might be. Anything can happen.

True. OK, back to HALFORD, the band, now. Why did you decide to release new HALFORD tracks exclusively on ITunes and not as an EP for instance? I mean, I doubt if half of Europe even uses ITunes, as far as metalheads go at least.

Well, this has been kind of a dilemma for me. Apple ITunes is the world’s largest legitimate format in download experience and quality transfer and all forms of video media - I have tons of video music on my IPod - from DEFTONES to whatever. I don’t want anybody to be left out here and I have to look at a way to make sure that everybody gets what they need. I think that most Metal fans are connected to the Internet. I mean, they’ve got to be? What’s You know what I’m saying? So, you know, anybody that wants to check out has go to be able to go on the Internet, they’ve got to have a computer, a PC, whatever to be able to do that.

This is just the way of the world, you know. I mean it’s inevitable that CDs will become obsolete; you have to face that fact. It’s like the way vinyl became obsolete, cassettes became obsolete, 8-tracks became obsolete. It’s just some people are unfortunate. I think there’ll always be a market for some kind of physical collection. It’s just moving South fast. This is gonna happen to everybody before they know it - I tell you. It’s not going to come along creeping and slowly, it’s just gonna be within the next few years all the record companies are going to go we’re no longer doing retail manufacturing of CDs. You’re going to have to get everything that you want directly from Sony Music Online, Rob Halford Music Online, IRON MAIDEN Online… Maiden just released their record on Apple ITunes but admittedly they provided a CD format as well…

I couldn’t agree more but don’t you think that the CD market is still huge?

Yeah but it’s rapidly diminishing. For me, I’m not as big as IRON MAIDEN as a solo artist from an economic point of view. And that’s the crucial point here. If I wanna make a record and manufacture CDs, for convenience and for maintaining control and servicing, it just makes more sense to me to do it through digital download experience. It’s just being practical, it’s absolutely being practical. If I was in another world, if what I was about to do now was a more massive situation then I’d be in the world of CD manufacturing, putting them into trucks and everything, waiting for some guys to pick them up and put them in the stores - the fucking nightmare?

(Laughs)Yeah, I know, it can be.

Yeah. I just happen to be practical and realistic about these short releases.Apple ITunes and what will be the Rob Halford Music Store is just the best way for me to go.

So, HALFORD IV will be available only online?

Well, you know, by the time it comes out… I mean, we’re a long way from that release date. Who knows what’s gonna happen between now and then?

So, may I ask you what do the new HALFORD tracks sound like?

Well, I would like to feel that they’re distinctive and individual as with everything we’ve ever done. They’ve got some speed in them. To compare it to something, I think there’s a little bit of a vibe to Made In Hell from Ressurection.

Are there going to be a lot of screaming vocals?

You mean Painkiller screams?


No, there will not be, nope. Not in these two tracks \[Rob obviously means there’s only two new HALFORD tracks ready]. There’s an opportunity for me to use my voice in all of its capabilities in all of the other material. You’ll get the Halford scream on the other HALFORD tracks.

Will there be any special guests on the album like you had IRON MAIDEN’s Bruce Dickinson on the Resurrection album?

That’s a good question! I don’t really know, I don’t know. Anything’s possible!

Anything’s possible.

Yup. Anything’s possible. I’m not even thinking in that way right now. But the chance to meet with Bruce that one day, up in Burbank (California) - within two day we got The One You love To Hate written and recorded and that’s a great way to do it, you know. Sometimes if you don’t preplan, if you don’t think something through too much, something special happens. And me and Bruce are good mates and we’d always wondered if that opportunity would ever afford itself and just by chance we were both there and we said let’s do it. We had some fun and it became a piece of Metal history.

More so, you even got to perform that song live together with Bruce and Geoff Tate (QUEENSRYCHE) once!

Yeah! That thing in London? That was just amazing! To have these three singers up on stage together, at the same time!

That was an amazing thing!

It was a lot of fun!

So, I guess what you said, that anything can happen, also applies to touring for the new HALFORD album when it’s out?

Yeah, I mean… God, PRIEST just consumes everything (Laughs). Basically for these last few days I’ve been juggling the days between what I’m really here for which is to work on the Nostradamus lyrics and to talk to friends, such as yourself, about the upcoming HALFORD releases. I can only say, as I’ve said already, the fact is that when time permits and when there’s no clash in the calendar, then the HALFORD band will return.

What do HALFORD, FIGHT and TWO have, in your opinion, that JUDAS PRIEST never had? If you don’t mind me asking and with all due respect, were those things \[elements] the reason why you left PRIEST, music wise, in the early 90’s?

I think that out of all of those times, the FIGHT band to me was very distinctive. The was that FIGHT sounded and performed live. The music that was created, for me it was a long way from what I was doing with PRIEST and I mean, that was the reason why I stepped away from PRIEST. To look for an experience, new journeys and adventures with different musicians, different players, different styles, sounds and approaches - that I wasn’t experiencing with Glenn \[Tipton], KK \[Downing], Scott \[Travis] and Ian \[Hill]. That’s definitely what the FIGHT record was and more so the TWO experience with Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. I think that both of these bands, collectively, were what I always wanted to do and try away from the PRIEST experience. But the HALFORD band of course was more in line with everything that we love about JUDAS PRIEST.

And I think that subconsciously that was me, you know, finding the way back to PRIEST, with that band, with those songs, with those performances. I heard comments by people saying about the Resurrection album that this is the greatest PRIEST album that PRIEST never made, in all different kinds of critiques. And of course that’s where I was going. I had my time away from PRIEST experimenting with these chances. When I got those out of my system and I looked into my heart about what was really the most important thing to me, musically, and where I really felt the most complete, it was with JUDAS PRIEST. And so there’s no doubt - with Resurrection more than Crucible because with Crucible the band was progressing more in a different direction - that Resurrection was definitely making a sound that just screamed where my heart is at. So that’s basically how I view those three separate moments, FIGHT, Two and HALFORD.

Since on the next issue of ROCK HARD magazine there’s going to be a huge article on JUDAS PRIEST, focusing mainly on you, a lot of significant people from the world of Metal have been asked what their opinion is about the PRIEST story in the 90’s with you parting ways with the band back then etc. One of the world’s most renowned music authors, Martin Popoff, believes it was a number of factors, one of them being your sexual orientation, the fact that for a long time you had to keep it as a secret from the public and then a lyrics kind of thing, since he believes that with FIGHT, TWO and HALFORD you were able to address some adult themes for a change. He adds I would suspect it’s a bit like Bruce Dickinson leaving IRON MAIDEN. What’s your response to Martin’s thoughts?

Well, Bruce didn’t leave MAIDEN because he was gay! \[Jokingly Rob Laughs]. But that’s my response to Martin’s observation about my sexuality. You must know, 1000% it has nothing to do with why I left PRIEST. The only reason why I stepped away from PRIEST, as you know the story goes… It was never my intention. I never wanted to leave PRIEST. It was the ugly contractual almost litigation condition that I was involved with, on purely words on paper. That forced me to step aside from the Sony contract and that’s when the shit hit the fan, so to speak. But Martin’s right on the other areas.

About the adult themes?

Yeah, I mean, PRIEST never was and never will be a kind of sociopolitical band. PRIEST was never a Rage Against The Machine or anything like that. So it was an opportunity for me as a lyricist to write things about, you know, War Of Words… those were the things that I didn’t do while I was in PRIEST. Subjectively I’ve covered that in PRIEST, I’ve made ambiguous content with PRIEST lyrics that to me refer to more reality-based issues in the world. That’s not what we’re about in PRIEST. PRIEST’s world, lyrically, has been one of escapism, fantasy and less reality-based. Unless you take songs like Living After Midnight and You’ve Got Another Thing Coming… The closest we ever got with making a statement was with Breaking The Law. Breaking The Law was a real statement

I’ll be interested to see what people have to say because that moments of my departure had way more impact and significance to more people than I really considered.

Well, it did have a huge impact on the Metal world…

You know, you do these things for yourself, and that’s not being selfish. You go where your heart leads you. You don’t go where the pack leads you, you don’t go trailing behind everyone else’s thoughts, wishes and desires; that’s not the way to live your life! You live your life based on what you feel is right for you. And my life to me, musically, has always been JUDAS PRIEST and that was being reinforced by my being away from the band, to get a better understanding of that reality. That whole feeling I have about the way I live is important to me as a person.

I’m sure you’ve also heard a lot of negative opinions about the 90’s and the whole issue…

Yeah and that’s how it should be. Because we’re talking about music. The music is such a strong, emotional, psychological force in everybody’s life. And so, you know, people do get angry or cynical.

A lot of people connect reunions to money.

I don’t think so. I think it’s people in the media that take that response. They could say that about me, they could say that about Bruce, they could say that about Vince \[Neil - MOTLEY CRUE]…

Or Ozzy…

Or Ozzy going back to BLACK SABBATH, you know. We shrugged that off! Everybody’s entitled to their opinions, rightly or wrongly. The fact is with the PRIEST reunion that the financial aspect was the furthest thing away from our minds. We firstly, most passionately wanted to be together as a band and secondly we knew that that’s what the fans wanted as well. So, we both got the best out of that one situation.

I’m not sure if this has been asked before by many or even anyone but what’s your opinion on DC Cooper (SILENT FORCE, ex-ROYAL HUNT) and Ralf Scheepers (PRIMAL FEAR), music wise, who were the two out of three candidates for your spot in PRIEST when you left? Have you ever heard their stuff?

Yeah. Ralf is a mate of mine. I think he’s a phenomenal singer! And so is Ripper \[BEYOND FEAR, ICED EARTH, ex-JUDAS PRIEST].

And D.C. Cooper?

Who’s D.C. Cooper with?

He’s currently the singer of SILENT FORCE and ex-singer of ROYAL HUNT…

Ok, I have to be honest and say I’m not really familiar with his work. I mean, I was not a part of the pick & choose…

Yes, of course. I was just asking out of curiosity.

Yeah. That’s a good question. But I think the choice of Ripper was a good one.

Thanks. You still in touch with Ripper?

Yeah, we’re still really good mates and whenever we’re in his neck of the woods, up in Ohio, he comes to see the band.

That’s cool. Hostilities and wrong impressions suck…

Yeah, exactly. I mean, what’s the point? It serves no purpose, does it really? What do you get out of hostility? You get nothing. You just get negativism. I think that everything that we’ve done with PRIEST has been one based on respect, on respect of each abilities. And if you don’t like something or somebody, you keep that to yourself, otherwise it’s like dirty laundry? It stinks…

(Laughs)It stinks, to high Heaven, I know. Right now, like we all know, you’re taking a break from the writing/recording sessions for the new JUDAS PRIEST album titled Nostradamus. So far the band’s said in many interviews that it’s an opera kind of thing and a concept album about the life of the known French prophet.What I want you to explain though is what you, personally, mean when you say it’s going to be more metallized. I mean, how much more metal is there by one of the genre’s leading acts of all time that we haven’t yet heard?

(Laughs) Yeah, I think that when people think of Nostradamus if you read his books or you see the documentaries made about his life, you think well, where’s the Metal in that? So that’s the challenge for us, really. I think that the fact that he was a real, living, human breathing person is attractive.

And when you look at what he went through in his life, you know, the ways that he was treated by the Romeo catholic church, by a good portion of the society, in terms of alienation, of discontent, that’s Metal! That can be very easily interpreted in a rock ballads/metal ballads type of portrayal. The other thing is his prophecies, you know, he had some really heavy fucking prophecies!

Hey, he even predicted that we’re all gonna go…you know, go (Laughs)

Yeah! So, how Heavy Metal is that, you know? So, it’s just a great chance for us to take all of the things that happened to his life and metallize them! And that’s what we’re doing. I’ve got to say, the music is phenomenal!

Is it?

It’s everything that you love about PRIEST.

It’s not like stepping into new territories or something, right? I mean, not something people would not be aware of \[music wise]…

No, I suppose on an embellishment level with the way we’re gonna walk astray some pieces and, you know, additional choirs to some pieces; that’ll be unique for us. But the essence of what you love and want from PRIEST is gonna be in Nostradamus the Metal opera.

It’s going to feature some \[live] theatrics too, right?

Yup. Well, again, as we’ve been saying, part of the traditional inheritance of PRIEST are these massive monster stage shows and we’re just gonna utilize all of those moments in his life story through the music and accompany that with some kind of theatrical demonstration. Whether that’s pyros or big screens or illusions - whatever it might be. It’s all coming together under the same great PRIEST metal umbrella, on a bigger level by turning the fire up!

But if you’re going to be Nostradamus then what does that make Glenn, KK, Ian and Scott? (Laughs)

(Laughs) It’s all on my back, you know! When we started to get stuck into all of this Nostradamus world, it just became inevitable. I’ve been the Painkiller, I’ve been the Ripper, the Sinner, the Sentinel and now I’m gonna be the Nostradamus.

That’s a nice aspect. So, I guess that when Nostradamus is out, there’s going to be a really heavy and extensive tour.

Yeah. Much like everything, you know. Much like the Angel Of Retribution tour; that took off with the Ozzfest and then the Metal festivals in Europe before we took out the Angel Of Retribution tour. Yeah, it’ll be the same deal, although it might come on two levels. We might have a PRIEST classics tour and then we’ll do a Nostradamus tour. Because we are going to play Nostradamus from front to end.

That sounds so awesome. I hope they bring you guys to Greece again.

Absolutely! I mean, I would love to play at that place by the ancient Parthenon…

The Herode Theatre? Where Ian Anderson (JETHRO TULL) has also played, among others?

Yeah! Why can’t we do Nostradamus there?

Oh, man, that would mind blowing!

Wouldn’t it be? How Heavy Metal is that? JUDAS PRIEST playing by the ancient Parthenon?

That would be TOTALLY Metal!

Yeah! I mean, we’re trying to make them special events. Whoever does that… Is that the city? I guess the city controls all those types of performances…

I guess some big promoters could organize that. It certainly is a great suggestion. I hope it comes down on the table for discussion when the time’s right.

That would be great, wouldn’t it?

It would definitely be incredible.

An amazing setting at an amazing location.

Thank you for this wonderful interview, Rob!

It was a pleasure, Orpheus!


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