Rob Halford Hopes ‘Celestial’ Christmas Album Brings ‘More People Into the Metal World’
Judas Priest's Rob Halford was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The singer discussed his recently released solo album, Celestial, which is a mix of holiday standards as well as original Christmas songs.
The Metal God expressed his enthusiasm to cut heavy metal with the message of Christmas and hopes that this release not only helps bring some metal to the holiday season, but has the potential to introduce metal into the lives of others who have abstained until now.
Halford touched on Judas Priest's 50th anniversary, recollecting the struggle of the early years with a retrospective sense of appreciation for it all.
Read the full chat below.
Rob Halford has a new Christmas album called Celestial, and you've been a fan of Christmas, I guess. I follow your Instagram, and it seems like you really like Christmas.
[People ask], "How many Christmas trees does he have this year?"
I love it for many, many, many, many reasons, particularly for the music. So this is another wonderful opportunity to put out some metal vibes through the Christmas message this year.
Celestial is very much a family affair with your brother, sister and nephew all performing on it. What were you like as kids at Christmas time in the Halford household?
It was pretty much everybody and their family. When you've got kids in the family, it's just insane, running around the house with the sugar rush from all the candy that you get. It's just that very special celebration that is so important. I think just for them, the way it represents that moment when families and friends can get together.
There is a vocal theatricality involved in conveying emotion with heavy metal music. What aspect of that ability translates to singing Christmas songs?
Well, in my case, I did a lot of these vocal tracks in the middle of the blazing summer in the U.K. in the countryside on a farm in a barn. [laughs] So you have to imagine the wind and the snow and the reindeer and everything else, but that's the magic that we have when we make music — no matter where [you are] in the world, musicians close the studio door, put the headphones on, the red light goes on to start tracking and that's when the escapism and the fantasy starts.
Throughout your career, Rob, you've performed music that showcases different aspects of your vocal ability. What techniques were necessary for Celestial that was unlike any other music you've ever sung?
Well, the message is always important. Your emotion is conveyed through the messages that you read from the lyrics in front of you, so that is particularly special for me as a singer to put myself into the footsteps. For example, "Good King Wenceslas," that's just an amazing story with a beautiful sentiment attached to it.
More than anything, it is just the challenge if that's the right word and just to put your head in the right place to get psyched to give the message the best kind of Christmas holiday treatment you can give it.
There is a robustness to holiday music that's not much different from classic heavy metal. How much of making holiday music is an attempt to dispel some of the stigma surrounding heavy metal?
Well, the beautiful thing about heavy metal music is over the years it has kicked down the doors. It's such an incredible global force now. When we go out as Priest, no matter where we go in the world, there's metal being played and that's a long way from when Priest started 50 odd years ago.
The strength and power of metal music is very special and for some people it's difficult to reach. We metal maniacs are kind of an exclusive breed if, but I think the opportunities that are afforded with this kind of holiday music, Christmas music, take us to a different place and brings more people into the metal world.
Let's talk about Judas Priest for a second. Next year represents 50 years for Judas Priest. What is it like to just imagine going back to when you were growing up and starting this band and now here you are 50 years later?
You tend to remember the early years more significantly. As any band will tell you those early years were a struggle. You have to pay your dues — you have to play every bar, every club, every pub. Anywhere you can plug in the amps, you do that and then we have some money — do we spend it on food or gas for the van? "We've got to get gas in the van...," that kind of thing.
So to go from that place to this place, 50 odd million-plus records [sold] later with 50 years to celebrate alongside it is just truly magical.
When you were starting out as a young working band, you played year-round regardless if its Christmas or not. Are there any memories of any holiday camaraderie or anything fun that you remember from growing up, being in Judas Priest and having to do shows around the holidays? I'm sure you guys had to work through holidays back in the day.
Like any band, a show is a show when you play to spread the metal gospel of Priest. So the holiday season was no different in many ways, but you could sense it in, in a venue, wherever it might be. There's an extra kind of electric buzz of excitement around the holiday time, so those significant moments in any touring year, I think any band will tell you, is extra special.
Thanks to Rob Halford for the interview. Get your copy of 'Celestial' here and follow Rob Halford on Instagram. Keep up with Judas Priest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s radio show here.
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