Interview with Rob Halford (Judas Priest)

You’re just about to issue a couple of releases through your Metal God Records Label. First of all there is a new version of Crucible that was first released in 2002. Why have you decided to reissue this?

It’s really what’s left in the back catalogue from the previous Halford releases and the Fight stuff and it’s just basically taking care of the final moments and putting them out on this small independent label, Metal God Records. There’s nothing left I think after this now. The remixing and remastering is what most of us do in the business after a record has been out for a few years to use technology to improve the sound quality of the recordings.

The new version includes 4 new songs. (“She”, “Rock The World Forever”, “Fugitive” and “In the Morning”). Were these bonus songs from special edition versions/Japanese bonus tracks or were these outtakes from the recording sessions?

They are a few songs that were on different versions of the album. It’s the way we do these things and sometimes tracks end up in one location for under licence and different tracks end up in another location. We now have the opportunity of pulling all the extra tracks together and putting them onto one release.

“In The Morning” in particular is such a great ballad and shows a different side to your voice. Have you considered putting together a collection of more reflective songs like this onto an album?

I’ll tell you mate, when I think about the things that I would still like to do I just don’t know how I could fit them all in but that is something I would like to do if I had the time. I never say no to anything, you never know what you’ll end up doing. So I’ll never say never to that.

You’ll also be releasing Live in Anaheim on DVD and CD. There’s a good spread of material from your whole career. Did you feel that you had to perform Priest songs with Halford or would you have preferred to go out and have Halford be seen as an altogether independent entity?

It was the position I found myself in my career before I returned to Priest. It did cross my mind whether I should even bother releasing these songs but the fact is someone’s got them somewhere on a bootleg anyway so it made sense to give them a decent treatment and get it out there. This was what I was doing at that time and although I was away from Priest, I was still connected musically. Those songs were what the fans were asking me to do and I was basically taking care of the fans’ needs by playing some of the Priest material alongside the Fight and Halford songs. Now I’m back with Priest I can probably focus more on the Halford songs when I play some solo shows later this year.
I’m really excited about being able to get this released. It goes back a few years and it’s been waiting in the vaults for an opportunity to get out there and show the band playing with that line up. The previous one was the Rock in Rio DVD when Pat and Ray were with me and this one there’s Roy Z, who also produces our stuff and Mike Davis on bass so it’s interesting to see that different line up. The material features a bit of everything. I think it’s cool to add to your collection if you’re so inclined.

These two releases will be coming out on your own Metal God Records label. Why did you decide to set up your own label in the first place?

I still think labels are very important. I’m just a little label compared to others like Nuclear Assault or Century Media but there’s still the ability that a small independent label can provide the same service as a larger label. We just wanted to be able to be in full control of the music and packaging and we wanted to re-release them again with some extra songs and the best way of doing that was on our own label.

Both Resurrection and Crucible were originally released on the Metal Is label (part of the Sanctuary Label). When these were released had you licensed them to Sanctuary or were you signed to a full deal?

We were signed to that label as part of a traditional record deal that most bands were signed to at that time but times have now changed and things are very different.

How did you manage to regain control of your own material?

I just bought them back, lock, stock and barrel. I had to write a cheque out for those and now I own the recordings. I got all the music, all the photographs and everything associated with those recordings. Rod did me a very good deal actually and it was all amicable and I’m grateful that he was so reasonable and he sorted that out for me and I’ve got all that music back now.

Do you think establishing your own label or licensing recordings to other labels while retaining ownership of the music is the way forward in the current day and age?

It’s a different world now and there are so many different choices now. In a way it’s a mixed blessing as you do control your own music but you can’t deny that if you’ve got a major label like Sony, like Priest has with Sony worldwide, you get a worldwide support system and a band like Priest needs that. Halford is tiny compared to Priest so you have to have a different business model.

As far as your label goes do you have hands on involvement in the running of the label?

I just oversee what happens at the label. The creative side is most important to me and we have a pretty decent set up. I keep saying to the lads to get the cameras out and give everyone a tour of the offices. We’ve got all the different rooms for editing and recording and everything we need for running the label.

The packaging for the Halford reissues and the Fight material that you released a while back is excellent. Although these are all available in your own download shop do you still feel that a well packaged physical product is still important in today’s market?

It’s very important. You have to remember that the Metalheads are different from everyone else. I was like the guinea pig for the way this record label is set up. The parts are made in one place, the printing in another, the packaging elsewhere. It takes a long time to set things up and what we’ve done with the previous releases is show people that we can do something decent. Money is scarce enough as it is so we want to give people a top job. For the first few releases we put in a personally signed card. I had a box of sharpie pens and thousands of cards to sign and I sat there in front of the telly for hours and signed and signed and signed but at the end of the day I know how it feels like to have a genuine autograph from a band that you’re into so it was a good thing to do.

Your last Halford release was Halford III: Winter Songs which was a collection of Christmas themed songs of both original and traditional material. Why did you decide to do that?

I just released the Winter Songs album late last year which showed a different side to me and it meant a lot to me to put that out. I always wanted to do something like that and the time was right to do it. I just wanted to try some different ideas that I had and really enjoyed doing that album.

Did you find that people who may not normally buy your music were picking up on the album?

I think so as I remember that I did some interviews with people who didn’t have a clue who I was. I think around Christmas time people are a bit more open minded because of the Festive season and people who wouldn’t normally listen to me decided to give it a spin and seemed to quite like it and it did quite well. You never know how many copies you’ ll sell in today’s world but for the amount of time and effort that went into it at least I covered the bills.

How about Two? That received something of a mixed reaction when it came out but one has to like the fact that you tried to do something totally different. Would you consider re-issuing that perhaps with the pre-Reznor mixes as bonus material?

We’re having to go through the legal stuff to get this material back. With the Halford and Fight recordings it was made very easy for me but this will be a slightly longer process. With Two, before the music was transformed somewhat on the final album it was a very, very straight forward four piece band performance and the songs sounded totally different. I don’t discount the possibility of asking the lads now to lay down the basic tracks on the bass, guitars, drums and vocals and see what we can do. We may re-record the songs if they work and may just do the whole album again.

Did you ever perform live with Two or was it purely a studio creation?

Oh yes, we did play live. If you look on You Tube you can find some footage of us on stage. I’ve got a couple of bootlegs of us playing at different events and we were a good band to see live. We had John 5 who played with Zombie. We were a really good little outfit. You can also see the racy video for “I Am The Pig” done by my friend Chi Chi Larue, the porno director. That’s pretty interesting so you should check that out.

That would make a great boxset for your label to put out featuring re-recorded updated versions, pre-Reznor mixes and live material.

Yeah, that would be interesting. We could do a limited run of a few thousand copies to give people the opportunity to add them to the collection if they so choose.

Tell us about your new single “The Mower” that has recently been released.

“The Mower” was written quite a few years ago and there was some more recording of the drum tracks done to finish it off last year. It’s not important when it was recorded or how it was recorded, it’s the thing that ends up blasting out of your speakers that counts. It’s an unusual track and very different to anything we’ve done before. The way that the song was constructed is quite different. I tried mixing some ideas up and was thinking about lots of different things while the song was being made and I wanted to have a bit of fun with the spoken part at the front, it’s kind of like a Metal Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”!! I just thought I’d have a go at creating an atmosphere with the voice like a horror or a mystery thriller type of movie. It’s an unusual track to say the least. It’s full of amazing riffs and time changes and the mood of the song goes from some straight 4:4 riffs into some really heavy downbeats. Musically we just wanted to make something that we hadn’t done before.

Have you any other songs ready yet?

Metal Mike and Roy Z are always doodling away on things and recording stuff, that’s how it works. We have “The Mower” out now and in a few weeks we’ll have another song released and one or two other things in the pipeline but I’m taking every opportunity that I have before Priest starts up again next year to get as much done as I can.

You’re currently on a break from Judas Priest at the moment and you will be playing some live dates this summer.

We’ll be playing some shows with Ozzy and the Montreal Metal Festival and we have the show in San Francisco too. We’ll also be doing Loud Park 2010 in Japan later this year. This time I’ll be concentrating more on my own Halford material as what’s the point of playing Priest stuff. If you want to hear me sing Priest then you can see me doing that with Judas Priest. I want to put more emphasis on my Halford material and some of the Fight stuff as well as the War of Words stuff is pretty popular. We’ve also got some new songs to play so we have plenty of material to cover. It makes sense to focus on this music.

You’re inviting unsigned bands to open up for you. Is this for one show in particular or the whole tour?

We have a few shows lined up over the summer at festivals but we have our one show in a few weeks in San Francisco and it’s the first time we’ve played live in a few years. We were thinking about who we could get to open the shows and we decided to run a bit of a contest to find an unsigned band to fill that slot. We thought that would be a lot of fun and a great opportunity for the winning band.

What’s the response been like so far?

Put it this way, my laptop is full and I have about 50 bands to listen to over the weekend and I’ll choose one from those. They’ve all sent me some music and MySpace links so I’ll listen to a couple of tracks from each band and will make some notes and make my decision after that. The ones I’ve listened to so far are all different types of Metal from Classic to very Extreme music. It’s going to be interesting to hear the variety and make a choice. I’ve had bands from all over America sending in music but I’ve wondered how some of them will get their van from coast to coast as you know how big America is, but I’m sure they’ll find a way. I’ve been very humbled by this whole thing as I didn’t know how many people would enter but it’s been overwhelming that so many people would take this opportunity to want to come and play for half an hour before our show.

Is there any activity coming up with Judas Priest?

Definitely next year. I’m seeing Jane next week and we’ll be building the touring roster with Priest for 2011 with a big Priest tour and I’m sure we’ll be out for most of 2011 and some of 2012. The next 3 years are pretty much booked.

You played a series of shows celebrating your classic British Steel album recently. Why didn’t you play any British Steel shows in Britain?

We were just so busy that we couldn’t fit any in. We’re not fobbing anyone off; it was just the way the timing of that whole thing turned out. We’ve got a lot of options when we come back to the UK and Europe as a lot of our fans would like to see the British Steel show. We loved doing that show; it was absolutely fantastic to do. The re-issue of British Steel that was just put out with the album, live recording and DVD was done really well and the fans loved it. We’ve still got the Nostradamus thing to look at and we’ll work on a really great setlist to put together.

Are you still thinking about doing a live production based on Nostradamus?

Yes, I’m really, really into that, I want to do it and I think it’s important to do at least a couple of shows and record them for a DVD. It would be a great theatrical production. I’ll be seeing Glenn, KK and Ian later this year back at home so we’ll sit down, have a bit of food and decide what we’re going to do next year.

Heaven and Hell have decided to play a special show for Ronnie James Dio at the High Voltage Festival in London in July. Would you like to do a couple of songs at that show?

I haven’t been asked to do anything. There’s loads of different rumours floating around but I’m working right up until July 24th so far so I’m totally booked up. I’m really pleased that Glenn Hughes is involved as he sang a beautiful couple of songs at Ronnie’s memorial and I said to a couple of my friends that Glenn sounded absolutely fantastic, he has an incredible voice. Glenn’s the perfect man for the job in my opinion.

Just to wrap up, after your summer shows are over, what have you planned for the rest of the year?

I’m still booking stuff for the rest of the year. I want to do as much as I can right through until December. I have a dream about doing a few Christmas shows too so that would be nice to knock a couple of shows out but it’ll all be on the website as soon as they’re finalised. I’m not sure if we’ll be getting over to Europe this time as Halford. I tried to get on a couple of festivals but I missed the boat with those but we’ll just have to see what we do as there’s plenty of time left until the end of the year and after that I’ll be concentrating on Judas Priest again.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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