Interview By Alison Booth
It’s now moving swiftly towards fifty years since a band formed in Birmingham, who went on to become one of the biggest and most loved heavy metal acts on the planet! Now in 2018, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, Richie Faulkner and Scott Travis are preparing to release the eighteenth JUDAS PRIEST studio album, “Firepower” on 9th March via Columbia Records.
I was very fortunate to be able to speak to legendary JUDAS PRIEST bass player Ian Hill about the new release and as gain as much information as I could in the short time available! We also discussed the forthcoming tour, festivals and more. You can read some excerpts from the interesting chat below and listen in full on the audio player:
We had to begin by talking about producing legend Chis Tsangarides who sadly passed away recently. Ian paid the following tribute and remembered working with Chris:
“The first time we worked with Chris, he was a tape op come engineer at Morgan Studios in London and he worked on our second album which was in 1975, he worked on Sad Wings. Of course, he was a fresh faced young lad back then you know.
He was full of life – he was a funny man as well, some of the things he used to come out with, you know. He’d put on some accent and just sit down in the middle of the studio and say ‘produce, produce’ and stuff like that. Brilliant bloke, brilliant bloke.
And of course obviously, he worked up in his own field and ended up being a producer and he did Painkiller, he worked on Painkiller with us, which was a big move for us because we’d been using Tom Allom up until then and at that point I think we’d sort of reached the end of the road with Tom you know, so we thought we’d use someone else and Chris had been doing a lot of new metal. So we thought we’d give him a go and see how he’d fit in after all these years – there’s quite a gap there, fifteen years or so and he was just the same (laughs), you know a bit older, a bit bigger, but he as just the same and he did a tremendous job as you know, Painkiller’s one of our landmark albums. And then after that, Rob left the band after that, when we took on Ripper, he did Jugulator as well you know.
We hadn’t seen him for a long time – you know what it’s like in this business, you’re in different places at different times, but it is sad and it is a great loss to metal in particular and music in general.”
On forthcoming album “Firepower” Ian was very enthusiastic!:
“You say it every time don’t you, ‘this is the best album we’ve ever done’, but it is! (laughs) Believe me it is. It’s something we’ve always tried to do in the band – to step forward with each album and try and make things better. So we can justify when we say this is the best album we’ve done ’cause it is, it’s absolutely tremendous.“
We went back to using producers on this album for the first time in a couple of albums. Tom Allom of course who we’ve known from all these years ago, it’s a name that crops up every time we think of using a producer you know. And Andy Sneap who’s been doing all the new metal, he’s well up with the new recording techniques. So, we decided to approach them both to see if they’d work together and fortunately for us they did and they got on like a house on fire.”
Discussing the band recording the album by playing together in the studio, Ian expressed:
“Well funnily enough, you’d have thought Tom would’ve come up with that wouldn’t you, but it wasn’t, it was Andy. He wanted us to play as a band. When we started out, we were a bit wary about doing it like that you know. The trouble is when you’re doing it like that, you get your part right and somebody else hasn’t done it properly, so you have to do it again, so you’re there for ages – or you used to be at one time. But these days, you can always go back and do it yourself. And we loved it and I’ll tell you what, we played as a three or four piece and the backing vocal and walked into the control room to see what we’d done and it just sounded so real and fresh and awesome, you know what I mean? You weren’t playing to click track, you were playing it there together.
The little lifts and drops in tempo and of course everybody is there together and it just sounded so real. And we did the entire album like that you know.”
To give fans a brief insight into the tracks on “Firepower”, Ian stated:
“There’s a little bit of everything there – something we’ve been known for over the years is our versatility and there’s something there for everyone. There’s very very heavy stuff – one of the heaviest songs we’ve ever done, (pauses; I’ve forgotten the name of the bloody song!), ‘Lone Wolf’ and there’s production pieces, there’s ‘Rising From Ruins’, there’s ‘Traitors Gate’ and then there’s the softer songs as well. It really is a complete album and we’re all completely over the moon with it.”
Discussing touring, Ian spoke about dates in the UK and Europe:
“The only thing we’ve got in at the moment is Bloodstock. It’s early days for Europe yet, that’s August. We’re expecting more British dates to come in, whether that’ll be this leg of the tour or whether it’ll be at a later date.
We’re starting in America in spring, go through to early summer and then we’re going to Europe because there’s a lot of festivals. You’re playing to a wider audience which is great, which is why we love doing festivals.”
Regarding changes in the band and the effects from this, Ian expressed:
“KK’s been an immense part of the band since day one, so when he left it was a big hit. But the band is bigger than the sum total of its parts really you know, we needed to carry on – the rest of us had no intention of knocking it on the head. And along comes Richie, what a great find he’s been. He’s been an inspiration since he joined, he’s brought new life back to the band, come up with fresh ideas that we probably wouldn’t have thought of ourselves and he’s been a real asset.”
Answering the question of whether “Firepower” will be the last JUDAS PRIEST album, Ian revealed:
“Well, we’re not planning on this one being the last, put it like that. The whole idea behind, we were never gonna stop touring, we were just gonna try and get away from intensive touring, none of us are spring chickens any more. But that didn’t happen (laughs). If you’re gonna do a tour you know, you can’t say ‘we’ll play here and not there’. But we are loving it, that’s one of the reasons we do this, it’s because we love it and there’s no looking back now – we’ll just go till one of us drops I suppose!”