Rob Halford hammering away on well-tempered metal
Judas Priest’s final world tour comes to Winston-Salem this Sunday. (courtesy photo)
The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Strange, but not all that surprising, that an aphorism straight from the quill of Lovecraft can so aptly be repurposed from the Elder Gods to the Metal Gods. With screaming twin lead guitars, jackhammer rhythm, songs glorifying reckless badassedness and a four-octave-range frontman clad in more leather than Ron Burgundy’s book collection, Judas Priest have been objects of profane idolatry for nearly four decades. They consecrated metal culture for the post-disco era and the likeness of singer Rob Halford remains synonymous with the menace inherent in the once-misunderstood genre.
Yet, for all the hoopla surrounding the gargantuan final world tour by the Brit pioneers, Halford remains unwavering in his commitment to his craft. He insists the retirement of founding Priest guitarist KK Downing and a lawsuit against his former manager will not impede the band’s output. To man Downing’s vacated spot and infuse youth into Priest, they recruited guitarist Richie Faulkner, who was born only months before the release of British Steel. It’s a statement that the band is by no means finished because, as Halford would put it, there’s still a lot of heavy lifting to be done.
YES! Weekly: Since this isn’t the end of touring for Priest altogether, but what will you do with the time off of the road that you will have?
Rob Halford: Knowing us we’ll be slaving away making more metal. That’s just one side of Judas Priest, that we all still get tremendous pleasure out of writing heavy metal music. It’s not only a great source of joy, but it’s still a challenge obviously because you can start the day with nothing and end the day with a piece of metal that will live longer than you will. That’s always exciting to contemplate. So we’re not really slowing down all that much, we’re just doing things on a different timetable. This world tour is the last one, but that doesn’t mean to say that we’ll be in heavy metal rocking chairs for six months of the year.
Y!W: Where do the influences on the new music arrive from? Do you pay attention to new offshoots of metal?
RH: We’ve always acknowledged that it’s very foolish if you’re in a band and you don’t turn your radar on. It’s very easy to kind of get lost in your on world — and that’s a great thing to do — but every generation that we’ve experienced has been very inspirational to Judas Priest.
We listen to all kinds of metal. You keep your eyes and ears open. The trail that we’ve left is very diverse. We’ve been all over the play with our metal, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve tried to be very aware of what’s going on all around us in the metal world.
Y!W: What about your side projects? Any possibility of reviving 2wo or Fight?
RH: I don’t really know. I never say never, like Justin Bieber. Where the hell did that come from? Shows you how connected I am. You can’t say no. It’s crazy to say know to things like that in life. You just have to accept the possibility and if it works it works. If it doesn’t then it doesn’t.
Y!W: The tour’s setlist hits on every Priest album you were involved with, but were there any songs that you struggled to exclude?
RH: No, I think we pretty much nailed it on this one. I mean, you try and take your fans through as many different emotional twists and turns as you can, and that’s what we’re doing with this particular show. It’s about two hours and 20 minutes, and by the end of it, we’re all very tired. The fans walk away with a heart full of metal, and that’s how it should be.
Y!W: In an ideal world, KK Downing would be finishing the final world tour with the band, but how was it to assimilate Richie Faulkner?
RH: Firstly, he’s a consummate professional musician. He stepped up to the plate and just melted it. He’s just a stellar performer and brought a new dimension to the band. That’s not to say anything bad about KK, because these are the songs that him and myself brought together. But Richie has brought this tremendous energy and we’re excited about where that is going to take us on the new record. We can’t wait to get him in the studio.
Y!W: Will KK’s playing be heard on the new record at all? RH: Of course, we had written the bulk of the material before we ever found Richie and we’ve got such a strong connection there that I think it would be foolish to ignore what Richie can bring. He’s got this portable studio and he’s already shared some of his ideas with us. We’ve always written from the heart, and having said that, we all agree that the next one needs to be a classic British heavy metal album because that’s where we came from. The bulk of what we have now is very, very strong stuff in that regard.
Judas Priest’s Epitaph tour comes to the LJVM with Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy on Sunday.