Interview By Alison Booth
Where to start when talking about a vocalist and front man who has had the most phenomenal career, starting way back in 1969, before going on to achieve super stardom and success with one of the biggest, best known and loved metal bands on the planet! He is an idol to millions and was rocking and performing before so many bands that are around today. He is looked up to by peers, fans and critics – he is like a walking manual for metal. Of course I can only be talking about the one and only METAL GOD, JUDAS PRIEST‘s Rob Halford!
Rob has one of the most, if not THE most recognisable voice in metal, showing no signs of letting up any time soon, much to the delight of PRIEST fans around the globe. With an impressive seventeen studio albums under their belt, the most recent being “Redeemer Of Souls” released in 2014, JUDAS PRIEST are now set to unleash a new live album “Battle Cry”, on CD, Blu-ray and DVD on 25th March via Epic Records. The album was recorded at the Wacken Open Air festival in 2015, with some bonus clips filmed in Poland.
I was very fortunate to be able to have a chat with Rob about this forthcoming release, as well as PRIEST‘s past work, touring and plenty more. You can read some excerpts from our conversation and listen to the full audio below:
Regarding “Battle Cry”, Rob discussed the whole experience:
“As all of our metal maniacs are aware, we were out for the last eighteen months, one hundred and thirty three shows and umpteen countries, thousands of miles travelling to see all the Priest maniacs around the world on the Redeemer Of Souls tour. Thanks to everybody for supporting the Priest on that release. It was a very important record for Priest because it was our first studio album in quite a while and we were so thrilled with the way it turned out. It becomes extra qualified when your fans get behind you to give you such incredible support, so thank you everybody for doing that.
So along the way we went all over the world and did many, many kinds of shows, different kinds of venues and what we were hoping to get was a festival experience that we could film, consider for release, as we haven’t done anything like that for quite a while. So were were aware there’s the festival in Germany called Wacken, which is the premier European metal festival and we had an opportunity to work something out with all the production that was already in place and to film it all and record it all and really just use the environment and all of the great vibes, the atmosphere that exists in festivals wherever you might go in the world, but this particular one in Wacken.
It’s kinda cool, it’s kinda special in the way it’s put together. So there you go, that’s all we needed to do to plan ahead. We just went out there and did what we always do, played our hearts out everywhere we go and got it all captured live in the flesh, on the DVD, the Blu-ray and the separate audio CD. It’s a celebration of Priest to share with our wonderful fans, just add it to your Priest collection.“
Discussing the “Battle Cry” track list, Rob stated:
“Yeah it gets increasingly difficult you know, with so many albums and hundreds of songs recorded. It’s such a challenge that when we get together and decide what we’re gonna play and write a set list that we all agree on and that really is part of trying to find the balance there and then. Because I’ve got my favourite songs, Glenn’s got his, Richie’s got his, so has Ian and Scott and we try to find a balance. Any show that you go to for any of your favourite bands, it’s largely thought out in terms of dynamics – you know you start out something very strong and recognisable and powerful and then in Priest’s case, you try and take your fans through a little bit of a Dr Who and the TARDIS thing you know, jumping about from this decade to that decade. And you try to do as much as you can in the time that you’ve got to please as many people as you can. That’s very hard, ‘cos we know people go ‘oh they didn’t play so and so’, but it’s just the way it goes.
So here we were, really what was the Redeemer Of Souls tour, that was the release that we were consistently supporting and we weaved songs from that album into material from Painkiller and British Steel and so on and so on and it worked really well. It was a good solid show from a musical point of view.“
On the subject of undertaking such a huge tour in 2015, Rob expressed:
“(Laughs) It got a bit scary at the end when you look at your face in the mirror! You forget about that once the intro tape starts and your fans start roaring, you feel like a million dollars. It was pretty intense, it was a strong tour especially for some gods of our generation. And that’s what I love about metal you know, we’ve said it before – metal’s for everybody from all walks of life, all different generations. We’re still so grateful to have this opportunity all of these years later, to have our glorious fans giving us such overwhelming support. It always comes back to the fans, you can’t do anything without the fans, we can’t thank our fans enough for that.“
“I think it makes you realise your music is immortal, your music is eternal but a different perspective from a physical point of view. Without being morbid, God bless Lemmy, Bowie, all these really amazing important real legends, icons in rock and metal, they’ve left us with all their wonderful music and still remain very influential. What you do really is putting one foot in front of another and it’s also celebrating what they did, what they achieved. I mean, I was always inspired by Lemmy, with what he stood for, just looking at him on stage.
Bowie was one of my all time heroes from a singer’s point of view, but also in the amazing work that he created in his life. And my mate Ronnie, the same deal with Ronnie, all these beautiful people that left us with all of these treasures to really still enjoy and to bounce off, to get ideas and get a rush from. You’ve really got try and get over the hurdle of the sadness and then how great it is that we’ve got the music left to enjoy, to bang our heads to and have good times together with.“
When asked about new material to come from our metal legends, Rob revealed:
“The writing sessions will come first and I think much like any band, you start off the day in a writing session and you’ve got nothing you know. You turn the amps on and you start riffing and jamming and maybe by the end of the day you’ve got something that will turn into a really good piece of music, that’ll potentially last forever. So that creative side of Priest is as strong as it ever was and we’re all very very pumped up and thrilled for the opportunity that’s about to come to us again. There’s a new Priest record on the way and when it’s ready we’ll be letting everyone know it’s on the horizon. I would like to think that by the end of this year we’ll have the bulk of it created, but you can’t say for certain. The thing about Priest is that we treasure everything that we do, we so love being in this band Judas Priest. We can guarantee that we’ll give you a big solid dose of Priest metal!“
Regarding KK Downing‘s recent statement about playing with JUDAS PRIEST again, Rob said:
“It’s funny that is because I think that’s a dream of a lot of people, to imagine Maiden and Sabbath and Priest and Zeppelin. Can you imagine what that would be like at Wembley? Oh my God, it would be mad, it would be like multiple nights! Forget about fifty shows Michael Jackson didn’t do, it would be like a hundred shows at Wembley. It’s great to hear there’s that passion still in KK’s voice for Priest. We go around the world slogging away working really really hard playing the songs that we wrote together and really forging that back catalogue, just putting on incredible shows night after night with so much strength and power and energy. It’s beautiful that Priest still has conviction and still has that desire and passion and love for what we do in metal, so it’s all good vibes.“
Talking about what else Rob has left to achieve, he stated:
“Well I’m still very hungry to do a blues record, I love the blues. Before I joined Priest, in my early years as a musician, I listened to a lot of blues like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, John Lee Hooker, the people that invented it of course. The story goes everything comes from the blues.
I’m just curious to see what my take could be. I’ve no idea – would it be traditional, would it be heavy, a metal blues, what could it be? I think the best thing for me to do would be to do it with people that could direct me, give me some ideas as to where they think this voice, ‘cos it’s all about the voice, could be best utilised. That’s one of the things on the bucket list yeah, doing a blues album.“
Discussing the recently published interview with ACCEPT‘s Mark Tornillo, Rob enthused:
“Yeah great, he’s a brilliant singer, great front man, love that band Accept. It was unusual, a call to have a chit chat from two guys that do the same type of work, it was a lot of fun to do. I think there should be more of that ‘cos we love having chit chats with our friends in the business and with journalists like yourself. When you’ve lived the life there’s a lot of common ground, but it’s also an opportunity to pick up on stories that you probably don’t know about, you know, things you wouldn’t know about if you’re kind of outside what it’s like to be in a band.“