Interview: Rob Halford

Interview: Rob Halford. Metal God.

In the beginning…there was Sabbath. Sabbath begat metal which begat Judas Priest. There is no metal record collection in the world that does not contain a Priest album in there somewhere. They are what many of today’s new metal and hard rock stars were getting stoned to in high school. You just can’t fuck with Priest.

Rob Halford is the recognizable vocal presence who is still doing what he does best. Metal. Previously he had formed two bands (Fight and Two) that attempted to intertwine a bit more of the contemporary sounds of the new school, but he has currently returned to front his own band simply called, “Halford”. It is not an attempt at a “retro” sound, more of Halford in his element (which to my ears is more in line with the Judas Priest ideal of traditional metal). His live set supporting Queensryche and Iron Maiden busted out largely due to his choice of supporting players and his never failing presence.

The privilege was mine to get a few words with the MetalGod.

Resurrection. Very old school.
Yeah, it’s definitely got some old school vibes to it. But I didn’t want to make a “retro” sounding record. I think there’s a lot of tradition in there. I sat down with Roy Z and figured out where we were going to go and what we were going to do. We just looked at all the great things with the voice over the years that I’ve been singing. It’s a good platform for that voice just to get back into that world again where I hadn’t been for a while.

How’s the reception been so far?
Brilliant. We’ve cleared close to 300,000 records in close to three weeks. A lot of people including myself are just glad that I’m back in the world of metal again.

Even the engineering and production seem to be reminiscent of the big arena metal sound. The guitars have a higher mid range as opposed to the big dropped D Korn crunch.
What’s so cool about this is the people that are getting into the record are coming from different generations. A lot of people who are into the stuff going on now, whether its Rage, Deftones, Korn or whatever, they are finding out about this music and are getting to check out a new sound, particularly from the guitar end of things. A lot of them have never really experienced that before.

What’s some of the background on the musicians you have on the album?
Mike’s from Poland, but lives in New Jersey now.  He’s just like a guitar virtuoso.  Just doing a lot of solo stuff in his studio back home.  He just sent me some tapes and I just got off on what he was doing.  Pat’s from LA.  He’s just like a west coast metal cruncher.  Ray’s from phoenix.  He was with me on the Two record.  Ray does a lot of bass clinics so he’s a very complete player, but he just likes to get into a heavy grove.  Bobby’s from Texas.  He used to be in a band called Rise.  I wanted a typical heavy metal drummer.  Somebody that could really do the double kick work and be exciting and have a lot of power.

What’s your opinion of the whole Metallica / Napster fight?
I think Napster’s really cool.  Did you see the Video Music Awards when Lars walked out? They boo’d him.  I don’t want to get into that because they are friends of mine.  Musically, I think they are awesome.  But I think on this level, we have differences of opinions.

What is Rob Halford’s world like nowadays?
It’s full of cool stuff.  I’m as immersed in metal as I ever was.  I’m keeping track of the new stuff that’s going down.  I get new CD’s all the time and check out a lot of stuff.  Mostly from Europe because I’m a traditionalist and I love black metal.

In America, the metal scene seems to rise and fall, but in Europe I’ve noticed there has always been a real solid progression.
America is so isolated. It’s just into its own world.  In Europe, it’s just very broad based with no boundaries.  People are jumping around from Norway to Germany to Italy to Greece.  It’s just all mixed up.

What were you listening to as a youth that put you on the path to metal?
Well there wasn’t any metal apart from Black Sabbath.  I was checking out early stuff like Hendrix, The Doors, Cream, Yardbirds, some early blues, The Beatles… lots of stuff with melody.  Metal was invented by Sabbath, Priest and Maiden.  So we just went that route.

How do you feel when people approach you and explain the impact Judas Priest has had on their lives?
The thing that’s cool about it more than anything to me… I feel I still have something valuable to offer.  Even though I come from a different place, people still get off on what I do.  I carry this tag called the Metal-God, which was put on me years ago, which is a really sweet thing to have.  I’m just really cool with the fact that I’m still alive and doing it.  I’ve been doing this for 30 years.

Touring with Iron Maiden and Queensryche – how’s that going?
That’s really sweet.  I mean, for people that are into seeing these groups, its just a trip to see Halford walk out, then Geoff Tate and then Bruce Dickinson… so I mean you couldn’t ask for anything better than that.  Its been a really hot summer tour for everybody and selling out everywhere and just ripping it up.

Any rumors that need to be put to rest?
Well we could talk about whatever you want regarding Priest if that’s what you are referring to?

No inferences, just wondering if there’s anything swirling around?  But now that you mention it, is there any chance of a Priest tour?
I don’t know.  I’d just never say never on that one.  Still fixing the friendship up between me and Ken and Glen and Ian.

What’s the last show that just blew you away?
Rage Against the Machine last Christmas here in San Diego.  That’s the truth.  You want to see the truth… go see Rage.

Back in the day (80’s) when Tipper Gore and the PMRC had a lot of visibility, Judas Priest was one of the bands singled out in the metal witch-hunt.  You were even blamed as the inspiration for some misguided youths tragic suicide, which resulted in you having to appear in court.  How do you feel the climate for expression has changed since then?
Yeah, rock-n-roll still pisses people off.  It’s there to shake people up.  Eminem’s at it right now.  Its just part of a cycle.  I do think it’s important that what we do stimulates people and rattles cages and makes people think and gets them to react.  So when I see stuff going down about controversy and debate, I think that’s an important thing.  As long as it real and its not just done for sensationalism.

What is your drug of choice?
Nicotine and caffeine.

What choices should American people have about drugs?
They should be free to stick needles in their arms, stick stuff up their nose, stuff down their throat, and do whatever the hell they want.  And if you fuck up… that’s your bad deal.  There’s enough information out there to make you realize what’s good and what’s bad.  I don’t think its right to deny anybody what they want to do.  And you live by the results and consequences of what you do.

Who is a Saint?
(laughter)  There’s no saints.  Everybody comes in the same level in my world.  Whether you’re a bum on the street or a King on the throne… we’re all people.

(controlling my laughter… all old-school Priest fans will get this)

Who is a Sinner?
(laughs again)  We’re all saints and sinners ain’t we?

What is the coolest?
People accepting me for what I do and what I’m a part of.

What is the lamest?
Anything that’s fake or fucking shallow.  Anything that doesn’t have any real honesty and conviction behind it.

Messages to the masses?
Take it easy and have a blast.

www.robhalford.com

Halford
2010 Halford IV: Made of Metal
2010 Live in Anaheim (recorded in 2003)
2009 Halford III: Winter Songs
2002 Crucible
2001 Live Insurrection
2000 Resurrection

2wo
1998 Voyeurs

Fight
1995 A Small Deadly Space
1994 Mutations
1993 War of Words
1992 K5 – The War of Words Demos (released in 2007)

Judas Priest
2010 British Steel – 30th Anniversary – Live
2009 A Touch of Evil: Live
2008 Nostradamus
2005 Angel of Retribution
1990 Painkiller
1988 Ram It Down
1987 Priest…Live!
1986 Turbo
1982 Screaming for Vengeance
1984 Defenders of the Faith
1981 Point of Entry
1980 British Steel
1979 Unleashed in the East
1978 Killing Machine (1979 released as Hell Bent for Leather in the USA)
1978 Stained Class
1977 Sin After Sin
1976 Sad Wings of Destiny