Judas Priest’s Rob Halford Wants His Blues Album to Touch on Different ‘Experiences’
Judas Priest's Rob Halford was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program and discussed the band's long-waited return to the road, other projects in the works and the band's 50-plus years in existence.
Although a lot has changed over the last half a century, quite a lot remains the same for the band, who have remained true to themselves and their pioneering form of heavy metal. With the "50 Years of Heavy Metal" tour and retrospective box set offering plenty of perspective, Halford noted the importance of the band sticking to the same songwriting methods, which comes down to getting the songwriters together in the same room.
The singer doesn't get too wrapped up in the past, instead looking at the big picture and the long-lasting success of Judas Priest, grateful for it all with some strong memories brought to the forefront regarding a photo book that captures the group's career and all of their different onstage looks throughout the decades.
Outside of metal, Halford is working on a blues album with his brother, Nigel, and nephew, Alex, which he hopes will span a number of "experiences" rather than sticking to a similar formula and sound from track to track.
Read the full interview below.
Bands weren't expected to last much longer than a few years, but here's Judas Priest more than 50 years later. What made you realize that it actually could be a lifelong pursuit?
For most bands, when you start up, it's just a dream you all have. Everybody is committed to making their dreams come true and hoping for their bands to grow and you have to put all the hard work into that idea.
It is about being aware of everything that you're making with your music and trying to create something that stands alone and has its own style, definition and character. We have that with us and we must never forget that Judas Priest was one of the very first heavy metal bands and heavy metal music was pretty much an unheard of experience when we started.
We went out on these long treks, particularly here in America, and people were going, "Hey, this band Judas Priest... they play this music and it's called heavy metal." So, you cherish those memories and that's where it began. That's what we're still doing now with the same ethics, determination and beliefs in the music that we're making.
Ultimately, the great love and support that we've had from our fans... our fans lift us up and keep us moving ahead.
Let's talk about the Judas Priest 50 Heavy Metal Years book. It's a vibrant book that showcases the distinct look of different eras of the band. Looking through those photos, visually, what era was your favorite look of the band and why?
I've got the book here in front of me actually and I thumb through it every so often. It's just remarkable. They say a picture tells a story and that's definitely the case with Judas Priest's 50 Heavy Metal Years. It's just a trail of visual information.
You can say that we ourselves as a band were growing exponentially, inventing and exploring all of these early adventures that we had with heavy metal as Judas Priest. I look at the pictures of us onstage opening for the famous Bill Graham Show in the Bay Area — we looked horribly different to what we did just a few years from that point. But that's the way it should be, especially with the defining experience that that one picture sends out. Every one of those photographs is just a very special moment for Judas Priest.
You, Richie Faulkner and Glenn Tipton have been writing material for the next album. How has that joy of that collaborative process been different now compared to other times throughout your career?
It's still the basic format of Priest, which is two guitar players and a singer in the same room, starting the day with nothing, just building the skeleton of a heavy metal song. That has been very important for us as a band. The fact that we were one of the first heavy metal bands to have two lead guitar players was also an important part of the makeup of Priest's music and that's what we still do now.
Judas Priest have been eager to be on tour again. How has that nomadic lifestyle benefited you as a person in terms of understanding people and the world as a whole?
It's really important for everybody to get on the road because it really puts things into perspective with what you're trying to be and do as a band.
For us, we truly become Judas Priest when we're onstage — it's the final part of the message of the metal. Every band will say that, no matter how much you enjoy writing and recording, the touchstone is when you're onstage and interacting with your fans. That really does everything for you.
It's the connection of all the hard work that's gone into writing the best music that you can. Your performance that's important, the reaction that you have with the fans that look after you. So, being on the road as we have been doing for 50 years is just as exciting and thrilling as it ever was. It's not diminished. I don't think any of us have said, [groans] "Oh, it's time to slug around the world again."
No, we've never done that. We've always been excited just as we are now chomping at the heavy metal bit to get to the tour buses, get on the planes, get back into the hotel life and do all the things that that are part of being on the road. It's a testament to everything that you that you stand for.
Judas Priest, "One Shot at Glory" — Live at Bloodstock 2021
There's a blues album in the works with your brother and your nephew. When it comes to expressing the pain and intimacy of the blues, which is a more important mindset or ability?
I think it's a bit of both. The blues is just an expansive landscape of different styles and some genres and everything else, much like metal.
I'm really intrigued and excited about how this new album is going to turn out to. You might've heard that we've got the basic building blocks ready, we've just got to find the time to put my own work into the project.
This is just stemmed off from the great experience that I had with my brother Nigel on drums and Alex my nephew and Ian Hill's son on bass and our respective friend musicians. It's just a lot of fun. Everything should have that fun element —it's an adventure, again, like everything in music.
And as long as you have in good times and something of substance is coming out of it, then 'have a go' as we say. It's going to be an interesting record because we're going to try and touch a lot of different blues experiences. There won't be one specific sounding track after track after track. We're going to try and go everywhere and mix it up, and, as I always say, it will be ready when it's ready.
Thanks to Rob Halford for the interview. Follow Judas Priest on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. See all of their upcoming tour dates here and place your order for the massive '50 Heavy Metal Years' box set here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.