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Judas Priest’s Rob Halford Talks ‘Battle Cry’ DVD, Recording Plans + More

Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show. The “metal god” spoke about the band’s new ‘Battle Cry’ DVD and live album, and also shared a little bit on the group’s dynamics and what the rest of 2016 holds for them in terms of recording. Check out the chat below:

How ya doin’, Rob?

Hey Jackie. Hey metalheads, good to be with you guys once more.

We are here to celebrate the release of the Battle Cry CD/DVD/BluRay. It is out now, and was recorded at Wacken in  August 2015. Man, Wacken is such an amazing place. I got to see you play there a few years before that. Man, this one you guys play in front of like, 85,000 people?

Yeah, it was amazing, an absolutely incredible atmosphere at Wacken. All the metal festivals, no matter where they are around the world. They’re unique, aren’t they Jackie? They’re not only great for the bands that are jamming onstage, but for the metal community and metal maniacs. You get a chance to get together and yeah, listen to all their favorite bands, have some drinks and talk metal and live that experience. That’s what Wacken is very very famous for. It’s a three day event, I believe. I can’t remember how many times we’ve played, but we knew we wanted to make a full filming for DVD/Blu Ray and CD audio. We were trying to figure out the best place to do that, as the “Redeemer of Souls” tour roared around the world. Wacken made perfect sense because they’ve already got in house cameras and stuff going down. They do that every year. It’s just a great set of facilities that they have backstage. We got it all to work, and man, this is great. This is a real celebration for Priest, the “Redeemer of Souls” tour and for metalheads all uniting on the special night.

So many people thought that the band sounded better than ever on the last tour, especially you. How much did that overall response initiate the making of Battle Cry?

The fans drive us more than ever. When you see that kind of reaction when you feel those kind of vibes coming to you, not only from the stage but from social media, especially. We meet our fans as often as we can. That’s what we still thrive on in Priest. That goes into what we feel and what we do when we’re out on that stage. We’re obviously having the best of times ever, playing together as a band, but when you’re looking out and you’re seeing that frenzy when you’re feeling that kind of insane response it fires you up to really put more into it. We’ve said this so many times. We feed on that energy and power from our fans. And it goes into our performance. I think that’s what it is, you know? I don’t know why I was singing like I was or you know how Glenn [Tipton] was playing so great. Richie [Faulkner], Scottie [Travis]. But there was just something very special happening on that “Redeemer of Souls” tour. And you could really see and feel and hear it in the Battle Cry release.

The last tour lasted a little more than a year, over 100 shows. What factors did you have to consider when choosing which show to film and what ultimately made Wacken your choice?

Well we’re still recording every show that we do. That’s just part of what Priest has done forever, from the desk. That’s kind of an important element I think all bands should consider. You know, capture all of your shows whether you can just do it from the desk or whether you can put some GoPro’s on the stage. It’s all important, it’s all valuable. Beyond that you’re looking for in this case the biggest dimension that you can capture. I mean, this is just talking off the top of my head. When we were just recently looking to approve the Ozz Festival that we did out in what is now in southern California in front of 350,000 metal maniacs. When you look at that, you go, “Man that’s metal, that’s metal in its biggest expression, you know?” The big stage, you know? Hundreds of thousands of people. That’s a very, very special type of attribute for metal music. And let’s try and do that, again on this current tour. We played at a ton of festivals as you know Jackie. Both here in the States and elsewhere in the world. But the Wacken one it fell into place from the calendar and all that different perspective. But above and beyond that, we wanted to put Priest in that dimension that we haven’t seen the band in for the longest time for a festival moment. It took a festival atmosphere to capture the pure raw size and volume of Priest live in front of all of our fans.

From young men who are relentless to succeed to becoming a well respected band with an impressive body of work, what’s changed most about your overall perspective of being a musician?

Well I think that you know with all of the four decades in metal, there is a lot of wisdom at this point, [laughs]. And I’m want some wisdom Jackie, you know what I mean? Speaking about something if you are overqualified or not, but you just do these things you know? It’s just part of living the life. And we’ve done thousands of shows. God knows millions of miles we’ve traveled. And all these things accumulate but at the heart of what you do, it’s not really that much different when you think about it. Because you are still a band together. You are still having good times. You are still loving to do what you do in a band. And being with your fans that are giving you the life of metal. So it’s a combination of all of those things that have changed detrimentally, obviously. But the pureness of it is real, it’s raw. And I think that’s important for any band to remember if you’re growing.

Don’t lose sight of who you are and what you are and how you got to where you end up, you know? All of that, all the hard work but it’s also the fans that have been with you and gone with you as your band is developing. And as a musician I think it’s, again to your advantage to consider and remember you could never stop growing. There’s always a new idea, there’s always a new risk, there’s always new way to sing a note, there’s always a new way to hit a drum. With all of these things, you could never stop really learning in music. So that for me I think is the fundamental part of the joy of being in Priest. When we gear up to make a new Priest record, we have that in built and we know we have the chance to grow some more and display some things we haven’t done yet.

Rob, how is the relationship between people in a band similar and different to co-workers in a more traditional 9 to 5 career?

I think it’s very similar because we’re all creative people no matter what we do in life. It’s very difficult to be creative in the singular sense. Even the most famous solo artists in music will tell you that they’re surrounded by a team of people that help them be who they are and to achieve the things they want to achieve with their music. I think it’s the same with whatever you do. Whatever you do, it’s very difficult to live life alone and by yourself. It’s difficult. So, if you have a friend, teammate or a coworker, or if it’s one, two, twenty, you’re all pulling together to achieve something and there’s nothing better than a team being successful. Even if you have failure, that’s OK. You grow from failure. You groove from striving. Life is about pain and life is about overcoming that pain and making it into pleasure and joy. Let me rephrase that, [laughs]. Life isn’t about pain. Life has some pain in it and it should, too, that’s what makes you grow. All of that is involved in the similarities. We’re all doing something different, but a lot of the essential elements are the same.

Battle Cry is out now. Rob, there’s a glamourous perception about what it music be like to live the life of a rock star. What normal, mundane aspects of life help keep you grounded as a person?

Well, I consider myself very lucky, Jackie because I have some friends in metal that – because of their fame and because of their celebrity-ism, they’re life is different to my life. It’s very important to be able to do whatever I want to do, when I want to do it. I think you know me, we’ve known each other for a long long time, I think the fans know me long enough to know that i’ve always been about keeping it real. I do stuff like, [laughs], everybody else does. Listen, there’s a funny story here.

When we had a meal with Death Punch somewhere in Europe, we were talking about the rockstar lifestyle, celebrities and fame and fortune. And Zo [Bathory] was talking about a time when he was growing as a guitar player, he says, Yeah, one of my disappointments about that, he says, I was a big KISS fan. Loved KISS. Saw these guys at shows, massive stage performances, living the life, flashy cars, planes etc. I thought when they finished the tour, they all went back together and lived in a big caste somewhere. When I found out that that wasn’t what they were doing and that they were just a bunch of regular guys, he said it kind of deflated me. And I thought that was really cool – that was a real sweet kind of discovery for Zo to make and I think that the heart of what we do in metal, in hard rock is that there’s a principal here. Yeah, you see this larger than life / celebrities and fame and whatever it brings with it, and that’s great, but you have to find a way to balance that. You have to really make sure that it doesn’t get into your head so much that it causes damage. Sadly, metal, rock and roll has a trail of those types of terrible accidents and incidents that are about trying to find balance. So keeping it real and doing what you can to be aware of that, I think is very important.

Rob, what can we expect from the mighty Priest for the rest of 2016? What are you able to reveal?

Well, Jackie, we’re going on to writing sessions very soon. As we were winding up “Redeemer of Souls,” at the end of any tour like most bands, like what are we gonna do? What’s the plan? We finished this tour just before the holidays in December and we’re about to start writing sessions pretty much now. That’s great. Oh man, I can’t wait to get into the writing zone again. That, to me, as you and I have spoken over the years Jackie, that’s one of the most thrilling moments for me, personally in Priest. You go into a room, like soon I’ll be there hanging out with Glenn and Richie. You’ll be in a room with some amps and hey guys, have a cup of tea, whatever. Turn the amps on, start riffing and BOOM, you could have another amazing Priest song by the end of the day. I love that part of being in Priest. That’s the next step, writing sessions, get some really good Priest material ready and then Scott and Ian [Hill] come in and we jam and we start putting the songs together. Like always, it’ll be ready when it’s ready but there was already an extraordinary amount of ideas collected throughout that tour. So, I’m optimistic that we should have something ready by, not the end of the this year but definitely by the early parts of next year.

Thanks to Judas Priest’s Rob Halford for the interview. The band’s ‘Battle Cry’ live release is currently available in CD, DVD and Blu-Ray formats. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.

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