Mike Gamms of Screamer Magazine recently conducted an interview with JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
On JUDAS PRIEST's new concert DVD and Blu-ray, "Epitaph", captured live at London's HMV Hammersmith Apollo on May 26, 2012:
On whether when he was recording PRIEST's 1974 debut, "Rocka Rolla", he ever imagined he would be playing songs from that LP nearly four decades later:
Halford: "I don't think any band does; that never even crosses your mind. I think most bands are focused on what they are doing now and looking forward to the future. that's why I think this 'Epitaph' DVD is so valuable. Because it's really like a documentary of the band's life in music... It really shows the band's breadth of dimensions that we had with writing metal songs. From 'Never Satisfied' [off 1974's 'Rocka Rolla'] which is a very simplistic, blues type of song, all the way up to more complex materials like [the 2008 album] 'Nostradamus'. It is like a retrospective, really. A celebration of all the wonderful years that PRIEST has been together writing heavy metal… We went, 'Well, hey, maybe it's time to take the opportunity to look at all the material we've banged out over the last 40 odd years and try to present a show, not in chronological order, but let's put a show together that touches on the signatures from each record.' That was the basic simple idea. And then we just went through every record and picked the songs that we ended up using… It wasn't easy to get the balance but I think taking 'Never Satisfied' from the 'Rocka Rolla' album was a good choice. I wanted to do the title track, 'Rocka Rolla'. And I wanted to do 'Cheater'. And I wanted to do 'Dying To Meet You'. But that would have been like 20 minutes and change of the show. We had to discipline ourselves."
On whether it was a difficult decision for JUDAS PRIEST to continue without founding guitarist K.K. Downing, who quit the band in April 2011:
Halford: "In all honesty, it was [very difficult]. But, thankfully, [K.K.'s replacement] Richie Faulkner went out night after night and he did a magnificent job. He had a lot of pressure on his back, but he didn't crack under it. He just went out there as a true professional. He's a great guitar player. He really pleased the fans tremendously. If we hadn't had Richie, I think the tour would have been cancelled, quite frankly. It was very difficult to find somebody to play on that part of the stage. Richie is a hardcore PRIEST fan, he's seen us many times. He just ran with the opportunity and did a fantastic job."
On whether he was willing to include any songs from the JUDAS PRIEST albums he didn't sing on — 1997's "Jugulator" and 2001's "Demolition" — in the setlist on the "Epitaph" tour:
Halford: "I was ready for it. I was ready to play anything from those two records. [But] we were looking at the strongest possible moments [when we were putting together the setlist] and all of them outweighed other records and all other songs. I was waiting to have the opportunity to sing some of our songs from 'Jugulator' and 'Demolition', but it just didn't happen… I'd like to say it didn't feel as though anything was missing. I would have liked to maybe have the opportunity to include those two records in there. But in hindsight, I still feel like what we set out to achieve was done and it was a great show and the fans loved it. And I don't think that anybody cared at all, or felt there was a great big gap or empty portion that's not being covered. I think it got the job done."
On "Epitaph" being the first JUDAS PRIEST concert to be released in theaters:
Halford: "I'm excited because we've never done this before as a band. It looks great just on a regular flat screen TV, I can only imagine that on a big screen with Surround Sound, it's going to be really exciting. I'm looking forward to it, and so are the fans… I've always loved the movies. I think that goes hand in hand with rock and roll. Just the whole creative process. I've always been very intrigued and interested in the way that works. I probably get more immersed in movie land now than I did as a kid. I just find the whole experience so wonderful. It emotionally takes you to places that the real world can't."
On kicking off the "Epitaph" tour with a two-song set performed lived for an audience of over 35 million "American Idol" viewers:
Halford: "More people saw JUDAS PRIEST in America in three and a half minutes than I think we've played to ever. 35 million people saw the band in one go. It was a great opportunity for PRIEST, but also for heavy metal music. The next morning, I was checking iTunes, and a PRIEST collection, I think it was 'The Essential Judas Priest', had shot to No. 1 overnight. That's the power that 'American Idol' has, in the way that it reaches people."
On the possibility of getting involved in outside projects in the not-too-distant future:
Halford: "I never close any of those doors, I keep them wide open. I just have to find the right time to get to them. I really enjoy those other opportunities, but the band that's always led me in my life is JUDAS PRIEST and I'm looking forward to the next chapter of PRIEST right now."
On PRIEST's plans for the immediate future:
Halford: "PRIEST is working on a brand new record right now. It's coming together really great. It's got all of the essential elements that you love about JUDAS PRIEST if you're a PRIEST fan. I'm going back to England shortly to start laying all my vocals down."
Read the entire interview from Screamer Magazine.