Bernard Perusse of The Gazette recently conducted an interview with JUDAS PRIEST frontman Rob Halford. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
On coming out as a gay man in 1998:
"I kind of blew the doors off the myth that all heavy metalheads are Neanderthal and very limited in their ability to take on subject matter of any human depth. That's ridiculous: Metal fans are just as compassionate and caring and tolerant as any other form of music fans are. (The support) made me feel great. (But) I couldn't have done it while I was a drunk and a drug addict."
On becoming clean and sober on January 6, 1986:
"I was snorting cocaine left, right and center. I'd get whacked out of my mind before I went on stage. During the show, I'd be knocking back vodka and tonic and doing lines behind the amps, then come off stage and have a bottle of Mot & Chandon and start on 16-ounce cans of Budweiser. It just got so bad that I'd be back home in Phoenix, just literally punching walls, trashing rooms — and just severely unhappy."
On two young PRIEST fanatics, James Vance and Ray Belknap, who attempted suicide and whose parents subsequently filed a civil suit against JUDAS PRIEST, which was dismissed:
"The American reaction was phenomenal — the support we had from the fans every day, to and from the courthouse. But it was very difficult to sit there and listen to the attorney basically saying: 'These guys over there killed these kids.' (We thought) 'What are you talking about?' It was surreal, but we knew we had to stand up for what we believed in: We had absolutely no association with their death. We kept them alive for a good period of their lives. We were a lifeline (from) the s--- life that they were living."
On heavy metal being invulnerable to trends:
"Isn't it great? It's never going to go away! It's been here through the '70s, through the '80s, got stronger in the '90s — and even more so now."
On JUDAS PRIEST's longevity:
"We can either rip your face up with 'Painkiller' or we can play this beautiful thing called 'Last Rose of Summer', from 'Sin After Sin'. And people love us for that because they don't really know what to expect. It's a very broad-based display.
"I really think that PRIEST is unique. I don't think there's any other metal act in the world — I can only say that now because I've lived it for 36 years — that can do what we've done in PRIEST."