Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 17: Riding On the Wind

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

Stig and Rob Halford

Ah, yes, the mighty Priest! Does it get more Heavy Metal than that? I became an instant fan after watching a video from the legendary Rock Pop Festival in Dortmund, Germany, in 1983. Judas Priest was on fire promoting the Screaming for Vengeance album. It didn’t only sound Metal; it looked Metal as well. Just thinking about the opening of “Riding on the Wind” gives me goosebumps.

I managed to get a hold of a VHS copy with all the bands playing that night; Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Michael Schenker Group, Krokus, Def Leppard, Ozzy and Quiet Riot. That show in Germany opened a lot of doors into the world of Heavy Metal and behind one of those doors was Priest. I went to secondary school at the time and one of my classes was music. We had music genres as a subject for some time so I brought along my VHS tape to present Heavy Metal. My music teacher wasn’t exactly a metalhead to put it mildly. He turned on the VHS and Priest was delivering the goods. After a minute or two he said: “so now they’ve turned the priest into a Judas” and turned it off. I still wake up sometimes in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, regretting that I didn’t stand up for the band and the music. Years later I learned that the band took its name from a Bob Dylan track. That would have been something to tell my teacher. He still wouldn’t have liked the leather and nails though, not even the music.

A lot of bands changed their style in the 80s. For instance Iron Maiden did it on Somewhere In Time with the use of guitar synthesizers. I love that album. Priest did pretty much the same thing with the Turbo release. I didn’t fall for that one. I think maybe part of the reason was the video for “Parental Guidance” showing Rob Halford kind of dancing on stage. It felt wrong. Judas Priest was meant to be pure Heavy Metal, no dancing. That was the reason for not going to see them on the Fuel For Live tour in ‘86. They brought the whole stage rig that you can see in the live video. That was a stupid decision on my part. The album is really good (yes, I picked it up again years later) and I regret not going to the show.

So the first time I got to see Priest live was on the Ram it Down tour in ‘88. The album came out the very same day as the show took place. I hadn’t received a promo so I took a train to the city and went to a record store to have a listen. Back in the day you could pick the vinyl from the shelves, hand it to the record store guy and listen through headphones by the counter. Sometimes the record store guy wouldn’t let you listen through the whole song, but moved the needle to the next track when you were halfway through. That really annoyed me! It was good for the guys waiting in line to listen to their albums of course. The album starts with Rob screaming his lungs out. Yeah, that was promising! I don’t remember how much of the album I got to listen to the first time, but I listened to the record a lot when it first came out. Looking in the rear view mirror it is far from the band’s strongest album, but there are some really good tracks on it. They should of course never have covered “Johnny B. Goode.”

After listening to the record in the record store, I jumped on another train to get to the arena. I had to catch Bonfire who were supporting Priest and a current favorite of mine as well. Priest put on a great show as always. Speaking of good albums, in 1990 Painkiller was released. If any album alone can define the Heavy Metal genre then Painkiller is that album. Scott Travis had joined the band on drums and his entrance had a tremendous effect on this album. In ‘91 my dream package came to town. Judas Priest brought Annihilator and Pantera with them on tour. Those three bands were my biggest favorites at the time. It was almost like a dream come true. The show took place at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo. The venue used to house a public bath facility but had now been rebuilt to a concert venue. This meant that I didn’t have to travel out of town for the shows anymore, which was very convenient.

Before the show me and my friends went to a bar filled with excitement and beer. There were a couple of disappointments (one close to disaster) coming up. One of my friends who came by the bar had been told that Pantera wouldn’t play that night because the stage was too small for three bands. Bummer! I’ve been to numerous shows at Rockefeller throughout the years and I can’t count how many times I’ve seen three or more bands playing. Later I’ve tried to find out if there was another reason for the band not playing, but I’ve had no success in my investigation. I have heard Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo was seen inside the venue while the other bands were playing looking really sad and/or angry. So I missed out on Pantera supporting their groundbreaking album Cowboys from Hell. I will never recover! Still, I was really looking forward to seeing Annihilator who just released their sophomore album Never Neverland, and of course the mighty Priest. Our bar visit lasted a bit longer than planned and when we made it to the venue we could hear Annihilator’s intro “Crystal Ann” already playing. I rushed to the ticket box as fast as I could. I had an agreement with the organizer and she was supposed to put my name on the press list. I imagine my shocked face could have competed with Edvard Munch’s painting “Scream” when I found out that I wasn’t on it!

There were no smartphones at that time so pulling out my phone and showing a confirmation email wasn’t an option. I tried to convince them that my contact said she would put me on the list, but they wouldn’t budge. With Annihilator halfway into the first song I was getting really stressed. I offered to buy a ticket but they said the place was sold out and the they were at capacity and the fire code wouldn’t allow for more people inside. While I was arguing, Rune Lem, the president of the company that organized the show came by and asked what was going on. To this day I can’t explain my reaction; I grabbed his tie and knocked my head on his chest while crying out; “You have to let me in! You have to let me in!” I guess the beer and the desperation took over while my judgment took the backseat. I was expected to be booted out right away, but luckily his response was; “What the heck, just go inside.” Thank you Rune! Both bands delivered a killer performance. What made the most impression on me was the unbelievable high volume on Scott Travis’ double bass drums. Having seen Pantera the same night would probably have turned this into my best concert experiences of all times but alas it was not to be.

Tim “Ripper” and Stig

After the tour Priest took a long break and Rob Halford quit the band. In 1996 they recruited Tim “Ripper” Owens as their new singer. In preparation for the release of his debut album with Priest Jugulator “Ripper” did a press tour in 1997 and I was invited to meet him in Oslo. I met him in his hotel room and he was dressed like he was ready to go on stage. He’s a really nice guy, and we have met a couple of times later as well.

Halford’s first endeavor after Painkiller was his new band Fight. Fight released two excellent albums, with Scott Travis on drums. Then he wanted to do something completely different so he released the album Voyeurs under the moniker 2wo. It was a very industrial sounding album with John 5 (Rob Zombie, ex-Marilyn Manson) on guitars and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) as producer. When the album came out I was asked to do a phone interview with Rob. Of course I had to accept the offer even though I didn’t care for the album at all. You don’t say no to an interview with the “Metal God”. Period. I asked him about the direction he had taken on the new album. His answer was that he was totally done with Heavy Metal! We also had a nice talk about him coming “out of the closet” which was hot news at that time, at least for those who hadn’t already guessed it. Unfortunately the interview was left behind on a hard drive at the radio station where I worked at the time so I don’t have access to it anymore.

Luckily, Rob returned to Heavy Metal with his band Halford. The first album Resurrection is just as good as any Priest album. At least the ones that Priest released without him. Supporting the album Halford did a sold out show at Rockefeller in Oslo. I was invited backstage for an interview before the show. I had to ask Rob when he changed his mind about not doing more Heavy Metal. Listen to his answer for yourself. In the unedited version of the interview I just let the tape roll and we talked about the Fight releases after we were done with the interview. It is included in this new version posted here. Rob is a really nice person and I was quite happy with how this interview turned out.

Metal Express Radio got a foot inside the Judas Priest camp for a few years and we did many interviews with the band. Some were done by my colleagues in the US. We even had Rob Halford do a Christmas special show for us when he released the Winter Songs album. We stream the show every year before Christmas. The funny thing is that the band always said; “You are listening to the Metal Express Radio Networks” when making station IDs. I have no idea where “networks” came from, but we kept it. It’s probably due to something someone wrote in Judas Priest’s press papers to get priority.

One time I was taken out to dinner by an English magazine for sound engineers. I was interviewed about a huge amount of state of the art loudspeakers I had bought through my day job. After the interview the reporter and the photographer invited me to a nice restaurant. During the conversation we started talking about music and I mentioned Metal Express Radio. The photographer asked if I knew Judas Priest and their Screaming for Vengeance album. “I sure do, it’s one of my favorites”, I replied. “Well, I was the sound engineer for that one…”. I really thought he was kidding, but it turned out to be correct. What a coincidence! He also said that the band didn’t pay him for the job, so he brought the master tapes back to his house and put them in his closet until they paid him, which they obviously did in the end. Funny story! I am happy his house didn’t burn down!

Picture of Backstage Sweden Rock 2009
Backstage Sweden Rock 2009

Tim “Ripper” Owens did a solo show at Sweden Rock Festival in 2009 with an all star band consisting of Simon Wright, Dave Ellefson, Chris Caffery and John Comprix. I did a quick interview with “Ripper” backstage. The rest of the band had gathered around the table next to us and looked a bit bored. I considered joining them and asking them to do a quick Guest DJ Show or just an ad hoc interview. It’s not often you have so many interesting musicians gathered around a table. I decided not to bother them. I still regret that I didn’t. I am sure they would have said yes to chat and I am sure it would have been a good one!

While going through old tapes and files and stumbled across another interview with “Ripper” that I had totally forgotten about. This is some before his sophomore album with Judas Priest, Demolition, was released. After 5 years in the band I obviously had to ask him about all the people who wanted Rob Halford back in the band.

The last time I did an interview with Judas Priest was when they released their Nostradamus album. A Rock Opera that it seems to me the fans either love or hate. I heard that the band had planned to set up shows in a theater to perform this, but it never happened. I wasn’t that much into the record, but I should definitely give it a spin again soon. Maybe I will change my mind about the album. I was asked to do a phone interview with Ian Hill, the man who’s always standing in the background pumping steady bass. I didn’t think he did interviews so it was a nice opportunity to have a chat with him about how the idea of recording a concept album occurred in the first place. I actually call the album a “masterpiece” in the beginning of the interview…

Since the band got back together in 2003 I have seen them live several times. When Rob Halford started doing a lot of growling instead of the high notes he apparently couldn’t reach anymore, I thought that it would be coming to an end soon. The Epitaph tour in 2011 was actually going to be a kind of farewell. After the end of the tour, the future of the band was supposed to involve recording studio time and performing one-off live shows only. That turned out to be just talk. In 2018 they came back with full force and released the album of the year Firepower. It’s the second album without guitarist K.K. Downing and though Glenn Tipton plays on the album he had to step down from touring after he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. If you go see Priest live these days it’s only Rob and Ian who have been there since the early days. Rob got his pipes back in shape though!

Not long ago I read K.K. Downing’s book about his time in the band. It was a great read! It was especially interesting to read about the rivalry between the two guitarists, Glenn and K.K. himself. I remember from back in the day that most songs ended with guitar strumming that lasted a bit longer than the rest of the instruments before turning off the volume when played live. It turned out that the rivalry also caused a competition about which guitarist had the last note in the songs; pretty much like someone who always has to have the last word. Funny! Rob Halford’s biography Confess will be available this fall. Yes, of course I pre-ordered it long ago!

Latest update: after his autobiography “Confess”, Rob Halford released another book the following year named “Biblical”. I’ll highly recommend both. I had an interview set up with Rob to talk about the books and of course the next Priest album. He is always a nice guy to interview.

It costs a lot to keep Metal Express Radio running. Let’s face it, we’re a grassroots web radio and we do this because we love Metal. Any contributions that helps keeping us afloat are highly welcomed. We gladly accept donations on our donate page.


  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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