Judas Priest’s Rob Halford Talks ‘Epitaph’ DVD, Upcoming Album, Five Finger Death Punch + More
Legendary Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. Halford spoke all about the band’s new concert DVD, ‘Epitaph,’ as well as the band’s plans for a new studio album. He also spoke about his journey as a vocalist with Judas Priest, as well as his collaboration with Fiver Finger Death Punch on the single ‘Lift Me Up.’ If you missed Full Metal Jackie’s show, check out her interview with Rob Halford below:
Judas Priest are celebrating 40 years with this new live concert DVD release ‘Epitaph.’ It screened earlier worldwide in May – what’s the most surreal aspect of watching yourself on screen in a movie theater?
I think you see it as our incredible Priest metal fans see it and that is always an unusual feeling because obviously you’re standing on the stage looking forward and seeing all the craziness that’s going on and now you flip it around and you kind of look at yourself from the fans perspective. I got to say, I’m a big fan [laughs] — it looks pretty good especially exciting are all the close ups because whenever we get to see our favorite band in concert we always try to get as close to the front of the stage as we can.
With ‘Epitaph’ they’re literally onstage with us so you’re really getting to see the metal being made up close and personal. Overall I think musically, leisurely, audibly, emotionally there’s much more closer one on one contact with Priest.
‘Epitaph’ features a song from pretty much each of the 14 albums right?
Yeah, I think what we found out now, Jackie, is not exactly in retrospective mode – the challenge for any band when you go out on tour is to give your fans a different experience. This is no different to what Priest has done over the decade. I can’t remember how it came about, it was before we kicked off the world tour and we discussed production and costumes and all the other incredible things you need to make the metal magic work and so we just thought, “You know what we’ve never done is really look at the whole back catalogue and try to feature some metal from the ‘70s, some metal from the 2000s, some metal from the ‘80s and just flip it around,” and that’s what we ended up doing.
It’s really exciting for Priest fans and again for metal heads that want to know what the vibe was in the ‘70s and throughout the show we’re moving from decade to decade and going to the last studio release ‘Nostradamus’ and everything in between. It’s a little bit like Heavy Metal 101 – it really is a kind of metal feast for you to get a closer look at what we’ve tried to accomplish over the last four decades.
Rob, I had a chance to spend some time with you at the Golden Gods and that was an emotional day – when we found out about Jeff Hanneman. I know you got to spend some time with a lot of old friends, like Kerry King, how did you feel about the comradery that day?
We supported each other, Jackie. When we lose a dear friend in metal whether it’s a musician or a fan – we live this life together as a metal community, as I’ve always called it, we reach out and we support each other through the difficult times. I thought it was really strong of Kerry [King] to appear at the Golden Gods I think that may have been the best thing for him to do rather than stay at home because he was just surrounded by people that were expressing their love for Jeff and reminiscing on all the great things he created throughout the years of Slayer.
As I said to Kerry, the great thing about what we do in music is that the creative side of what we put into our life lives forever. The blessing that we have of Jeff and Slayer is that we’ll always be able to thrash and bang our heads to all the great things Jeff supplied and made amazing thrash.
Rob, watching and listening to this literal timeline of Judas Priest, what’s the thread that maybe wasn’t so obvious to you over the course of the entire history?
That’s a really cool question — mind you I would expect a cool question from Full Metal Jackie. I think really it’s really just revelation. When you’re in a band you’re not really aware of where you’re going from one year to the next let alone decade to decade, you’re just so focused on the moment of the day and you also project your plans for the future but you leave this trail behind you and that is your thread. It’s your common thread through all of the things you’ve done either onstage for fans around the world or in the studio where you’ve been laying down the tracks.
For me I think the big thing was to just sit back and listen – all of us in the band listen to all of the music we’ve made, we wanted to really dig deep and bring out some of the significant tracks of our metal career. I’ll tell you, it made us feel good and it made us feel proud as metal musicians, not only for ourselves but for everybody that supports. It’s just this wonderful recognition again that heavy metal is a fantastic style of music, it’s never going to die and we have a great place to be in right now in the metal community worldwide.
Rob, good collaborating partnerships can’t be forced – working together as songwriters Glenn [Tipton] and K.K. [Downing] had something special. Now writing new music with Richie [Faulkner], what was the moment when you realized this would be special too?
Well firstly it was just so exciting to see Richie doing his work onstage night after night, he loves to get onstage he’s a fantastic metal musician so that was just pouring out of him after every performance, he was still buzzing and just wants to keep going. What he would do is he took a small recording rig and he was just throwing ideas down all the time and he would come to the various parts of the dressing room and say, “Hey check this out.” and we knew then and prior to that because Richie’s got some great solo material you can find on the internet.
His music, the stuff he was writing while he was on tour was immediately connected to the Priest world of music so we were thrilled. It is kind of difficult because you have to get the chemistry, you have to get the right balance and we’ve struck gold with Ritchie because everything that he’s put forward towards the brand new Priest record that we’re working on right now is just sensational. We’ve got some exciting, heavy things being put together over here in the UK in the studio and we can’t wait to get that out – probably, hopefully next year. In fact I’m pretty sure it will be next year, metal heads and Priest fans, there will be some more Priest on the way.
You have been the singer of Judas Priest for almost 30 years is that correct?
I joined Priest around the mid ‘70s I think it was – the name of the band Judas Priest originated in 1969 – the name of the band actually goes way back to the very roots of metal. We always reflect on the fact that where I’m talking to you today from Birmingham, England, was the home of the beginning of the metal scene. My neighbors just a few miles from here are of course Ozzy [Osbourne], Tony [Iommi] and Geezer [Butler] from Sabbath. I’ve been singing for my metal supper [laughs] for a bunch of time now, Jackie.
It seems like it’s half your life basically.
Yeah I would say, at least.
From the perspective of where you are in life, now, what is it about Priest that you absolutely can’t live without?
Firstly it’s the friendship you have with your bandmates, we are literally like family after all of these incredible experiences that we’ve shared together immediately joined to that is there’s this very elusive thing that happens in life, in bands. You’ll hear stories of how guitar players bump into each other in the club or in a record store however the connections are made. That’s what puts bands on the right track, if you’ve got that special chemistry and bond that happens in your music – for me I’ve always been feeding on that, it’s like water to me, it’s like the air that I breathe. To be in a band like Priest, that’s genuinely what I live for, it gives me sustenance. I’m a bit too melodramatic [laughs] but I’m trying to emphasize what it means to be in a band that means so much to you.
Rob, I’ve got to bring up this collaboration you did with Five Finger Death Punch in the song ‘Lift Me Up.’ I know that it’s not something that you typically do, your voice is not lended to a lot of different projects of other bands, so tell people what the experience was like for you?
I absolutely love the band, I think the band is absolutely amazing. I’ve been watching the band from the early days much like I’ve been doing with much of the metal scene, I’m just feasting on it all the time especially since it’s so easy now through the internet to pick up on things. I was absolutely thrilled when I an email from the Death Punch camp saying, “This is who we are, this is what we’re doing and we’re just going to throw this out and see if you’re interested.”
Actually I was excited because I started following the band’s career and I just had a feeling they’re about to go over what we call a tipping point and I think the band’s going to explode this year worldwide, I really do. I asked for the track to be sent to me just to check it out and as soon as I heard it coming out the speakers I went, “Man, I want in on this.” Firstly it’s an amazing song and then just to be in the company of these metal heads as well, that I really support was just a great thing to do. We made contact and so I went out to Vegas and meeting the guys for the first time and what a bunch of great lads, as we call each other in the UK.
We just bonded right away and they just have their hearts in the right place, I love them for that and I love them for the fact that they believe in themselves a thousand percent and not letting anybody get in their way. I’m just happy for them that the single is doing so good right now and I’m sure it’s going to get better over the coming weeks.
Everybody is really excited about these two spectacular back to back full CD releases. The guys are really laying it down, they’re going, “Look you’ve heard us say who we are, how we believe in our music and our fans, well this is how much we’re committed, two full CDs coming out” literally back to back and if that isn’t a strong message I don’t know what is.
I think it was really cool that you actually came out to Vegas and got to record in the studio with the band, from somebody who was there that night I have to say, it was magical. There was a feeling like something really big is happening.
It’s very tangible in what we do, the air is electric and as you say, Jackie, you can do things over an email, send it to me and I can jump in a studio anywhere in the world and do it but I was looking forward to going to Vegas for 48 hours and that was the right thing to do because when I actually met the guys we went and had some food afterwards and hung out I was even more committed. Just the way the calendar sometimes works in your favor, we had a chance to work together at the Golden Gods recently. To get onstage and physically perform the song with the entire band, what a great night that was for everybody.
This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Lamb of God bassist John Campbell to her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.