Rob Halford Brushed Off Early Cancer Warning Signs – ‘I Should Have Listened to My Doctors’
Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. There was quite a lot to discuss, from the band's ongoing "50 Heavy Metal Years" tour through recent events, such as a prostate cancer diagnosis early on in the pandemic as well as the work that's going on regarding the successor to 2018's Firepower.
There's also a forthcoming Screaming for Vengeance graphic novel on the way to celebrate the record's 40th anniversary, which Halford said he and guitarist Richie Faulkner are particularly excited about.
Regarding the prostate cancer diagnosis, the Metal God noted that doctors had warned him of some concerning signs, but he had brushed off any urgency attention and instead focused on tours that lied ahead. The singer wishes he had taken the advice of the medical staff as his cancer treatment could have potentially started earlier.
Read the full interview below.
Judas Priest and the term 'heavy metal' are almost as old as one another. Talk about what it was like starting out during that time of heavy metal being born.
It's remarkable to be at this place — 50 years of Judas Priest, 50 years of heavy metal. We are still doing what we began to do 50 years ago — we're out there preaching the faith, defending the faith, spreading the gospel of heavy metal music and that's what this band will always do.
It's such an important part of who we are and each night we go out and play and we see all these incredible generations of metalheads. So many that have been with us along the journey and, equally, all the new metalheads that are experiencing Priest for the first time. It's just wonderful to be here, to be blessed, to be able to represent heavy metal music at this time of our lives in Judas Priest.
Judas Priest Live in 2022
We've got a Screaming for Vengeance graphic novel coming out in July to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album. It's band's first-ever graphic novel. Rob, why was now the time to explore this area and what made you guys decide to choose this record?
Isn't it great how metal is going into all of these different opportunities?
We start off with the T-shirts and the patches and, and this, that, and the other, and then suddenly you've got a beer and then you've got a rum and then, and then out of the blue, you get this great company [Z2 Comics] that's offering you this opportunity to do a graphic novel. I love it.
"The Sentinel," "Painkiller," "Blood Red Skies" "Metal Gods" — they're all visual songs. When you hear those songs at home or when you see those songs when Priest blast out from the stage, we surround them with great visual representation. It felt very natural for us to have this place to go to in that world. Me and Richie [Faulkner] are crazy for all that kind of stuff. Richie's just Star Wars mad and so he was excited to see that that opportunity for us.
Rob recently, you opened up about your cancer battle. I'm happy to hear that you're now in remission, correct?
Yes, thank you. I am. You've got to look after yourself. You've got to keep the heavy metal temple clean and to deal with ever whatever comes your way. For me, it was my prostate cancer issue. I should have listened to my doctors because my doctors were saying my PSA (prostate-specific antigens) levels were a bit high. [I said,] "I've got to do a tour. I'll do it when I come back." So, I missed a couple of opportunities. If I had the treatment earlier, the treatment wouldn't have been as difficult as it was, but we got through it.
I had a wonderful team of medical people that looked after me in Phoenix [Arizona] and it happened while we were in the full-on pandemic. I was in the valley having the prostate removed and then two weeks of the catheter and a couple of months of radiation.
But, I came through it, through these beautiful, incredibly talented people. I'm in remission, but I will throw this out — guys, get your blood tests done, get the checks done. We just went through colorectal cancer month [in March], so please look after yourselves. Onward and upward!
And of course, you talk about what you went through in the updated chapter version of your memoir memoir "Confess," which is out there now.
I think it was important because for everybody. It's incredibly scary. My doctor told me, "You've got cancer. I'm going to take your prostate out. Come with me to this other room."
And the, my world starts really... oh my god, I've got cancer... I think that's a very natural reaction. He goes, "Have you got a question?" I go, "Am I going to die?" He goes, "No, you're not going to die. I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna do this..." They're so positive and they reinforce you through those early few days of of understanding your condition.
As I said in the book, I felt so terribly selfish — oh God, I've got cancer, I've got cancer... and then I see these commercials for Phoenix Children's Hospital and these little kids with cancer fighting for their lives. And I go, "For God's sake, you got so far in your life and you've got this to deal with and you got the most incredibly talented people to look after you and make you well."
It was a readjustment for me. I was really, really ashamed of myself to have that kind of perspective, but I pushed through that. And then I just got on with the job that that needed to be done. We went into gory and amusing details in that edition of "Confess."
As a younger person the C-word [cancer], as it used to be called for a lot of people, the outcome was going to be remarkably different than where we are today. It's just fantastic. The improvements and the way that people are treated now, it has given everybody many, many greater chances of living long, healthy lives. We should all be grateful for that.
Judas Priest are nominated again for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fans can vote at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website. Do it every day! Not only would being selected be well deserved, but, of course, good for the metal genre in general.
This is our third nomination. We need some more metal in there. We need the representation. We've paid our dues. We've done the 25 years [it takes to be eligible for candidacy]. We've checked all the boxes that you have to to be nominated. It's a great place to be — surrounded by so many of the incredibly talented people that are not metal.
But the thing about this is that it doesn't matter whether your Dolly Parton (I wish Dolly was going) or Lionel Ritchie or Duran Duran or Eminem or The Eurythmics or Rage Against the Machine... we all live the same life. The music might be different, but we all live the same life.
We've all got very similar stories to tell when it comes to the world of music that we live in. So to be amongst that kind of experience, it's just great. It's a wonderful representation of what we do as musicians in the truest sense. We love to make music. We love to play music. We love our fans. We're nothing without our fans. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would not exist without the fans that we have who support us and that give us our lives in music.
We should never forget that.
All of our fans that are voting for us daily, we love you. Thank you so much for that. It's important in respect to the boxes that you have to tick up again to get in the top five. So let's go for it. Let's make it happen this year. Let's get some metal in the Hall of Fame.
We've been seeing little blips of information starting to come out about new music. Is there anything that you're willing to share about you know?
We've started tracking. The songs are there and you can never have enough songs. When I talk to new bands on the occasions that I'm able to and talk about recording, I say, "Get as many songs as you can." I'm pleased to say that we've gone back to this format now of about 10 songs.
Remember when CDs came out and you could run over up to 80 minutes of music?
Firepower was 14 tracks or something. I love the idea of putting on a record (I love vinyl) and sitting there and listening to that representation of who you are and what you are doing at that time of your life as musicians in the band that you are in. These songs that are coming from Judas Priest are not Firepower MKII. Each Judas Priest record has its own identity and its own legs and its own character.
This is already built up to be something very, very special. It's definitely more adventurous. It's got that power and these roots — all the beautiful things that you love about Judas Priest and more. We're working on it right now. Any downtime we have, we're in the studio to piece it together.
I feel very confident that it'll be out in the not too distant metal future. The clock is ticking. By the time we wind up the 50th anniversary tour, we need to get ready to pump out that that next follow-up and be ready for another three year or so track around the planet, which I can't wait to do. It's amazing, isn't it? Fifty years [later and] we are loving it. We love our fans and we love what you do for metal, Jackie. The party's roaring and the metal is screaming and there's more to come.
The recent news of losing Taylor Hawkins has hit all of us really hard. Judas Priest paid tribute to him onstage and a lot of bands have been coming out there and showing their love with musical tributes and such.
We did [the tribute] at the end of "Desert Plains." I I got our video guys to put up this beautiful picture of Taylor. At the end of "Desert Plains," I sing, "From desert plains / I bring you love," and that's what we were bringing to the stage in Charleston, West Virginia.
Taylor was infectious as a person with his power of love and his drumming. When you watch that guy drum, you could sense that he was in the best place of his life at that time, living in the moment, playing with the Foo Fighters. I've been cranking Foo Fighters — everybody in this band is a Foo Fighters fan.
What this has been is just a beautiful celebration of love for Taylor, much like when we've lost our other friends in music. Yes, you grieve. Yes. you mourn. We send love to Taylor's family and the relatives and the fans, especially Dave [Grohl]. God, I don't know what Dave's going through, but surrounding surround each other with love is what you do and you play the Foo fighters and you watch Taylor, however you want watch him. Just look at that guy and see that he was the greatest of his kind in the music that he makes with the Foo Fighters.
Judas Priest Pay Tribute to Taylor Hawkins
Thanks to Rob Halford for the interview. Follow Judas Priest on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Head to their website to see all of the band's upcoming tour dates and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.