ROB HALFORD Is Proud To Be An Inspiration To Other Gay Metalheads

Phil Freeman of Metal Edge magazine recently conducted an interview with JUDAS PRIEST frontman Rob Halford. An excerpt from the chat follows:

Metal Edge: What do you think about the recent nostalgia market in metal, with bands touring on their old stage sets from 1985 or whatever?

Halford: I love it. There's a really cool record shop in San Diego, in the Hillcrest area where I have an apartment, called Tang Records, it's a little tiny independent place. The guy that runs it, Migs, he just has a lot of real old vinyl, hard-to-get type stuff. It's like Amoeba in San Francisco, just a really condensed, compressed version of that, but it's the same philosophy. The reason these places exist is because the music and the videos, or whatever — the CDs, DVDs that they're selling — are extremely important and extremely valuable. And I used to hate the word nostalgia, but now I embrace it, because I understand more than ever as I get older in metal. How important it is for people to come to these shows and relive that metal memory that they may have all these years later, and to see the band that they love and grew up with, and to hear those songs. When I was walking past this shop, in the window they have all these CDs and T-shirts, and there was a book called "Power Metal", and on the cover is me with the "Painkiller" jacket on from '91. I thought, 'That's so fucking cool — I'm gonna have that jacket remade!' 'Cause I keep a lot of my stuff, but that jacket went missing at the end of the "Painkiller" tour. I think it was probably burnt as an offering to the gods. Anyway, yeah, I love it, and you can make that work beause all those bands you've mentioned are still making new metal, and they're part of the great history of what we do in heavy metal music. So when PRIEST goes out and plays "Victim Of Changes" for the one millionth time, it's for the first time that night, wherever we might be in the world, even though that song might have been written in the early '70s. So this whole thing of nostalgia, of reliving certain moments, is a great thing to do, and it keeps part of that area of the metal community really alive. We're part of the metal tree, these guys that we've talked about.

Metal Edge: See, to me, that's why metal bands don't jam onstage. It's about ritual and catharsis — everybody knows when the chorus comes in, everybody knows the words…it's a collective experience.

Halford: Exactly. And anything that's hit that classic level, whatever you want to call it, you don't mess with it. You want to hear the same top vocal melodies, the same words, the same lead break, the same drum breaks, you want to hear everything like you've lived with it for 10, 20, 30, 40 years of your life. You want to recapture that moment, whether it's LED ZEPPELIN or THE EAGLES, you want to hear that song, you want to hear "Hotel California" today like you heard it whenever. You want to hear "Whole Lotta Love", as we're about to hear in 2007 with LED ZEPPELIN, like you heard it when it first came out. You don't mess with that original experience, and that's how it should be.

Metal Edge: When you came out, and in the years since, have you heard from metal fans who were able to come out themselves as a result?

Halford: All the time, yeah, and that's just something that you don't even think about, when you get this type of feedback. It just makes it apparent that people from all walks of life are into metal music, from all different types of jobs, different religious backgrounds, different ethnicities, and different sexual orientations. It was no big surprise to me to find that there were other gay metalheads, it's an absolute fact. I would get some of the coolest emails, especially from younger metalheads struggling with their sexual identity, saying "because you did what you did, I was able to tell my friends at school, or tell my family, or whatever, and they've accepted me." And you don't expect that, so it's an absolutely wonderful thing to see and hear about. Because I've lived with this issue all of my life, it's no longer a big deal to me. But I appreciate, for people that are confronting that situation for the first time, maybe certain readers of Metal Edge, who may be going through that difficulty — you use whatever resources you can. What I always tell people is, you're not alone going through that struggle, that a lot of us have gone through that struggle, and the most fulfilling and freeing thing you can do to yourself is come out and be straightforward, and let everybody know who you are. To me, it's the definition of unconditional love. If people have unconditional love, they couldn't care less about that side of your sexuality. They will love you and accept you for who you are. If you can understand that you're not alone, that there are people out there to help you, even if you're going through difficulties of making that type of exposure of yourself, there are people to talk to, different organizations and all types of resources. 'Cause it's heartbreaking when you hear about teenagers who are being kicked out of their houses, or being forced to leave because they can't face these conditions — rejection, hate, or whatever — and that's unfortunately still part of the world we live in. But if you're able to break through and make that declaration, it's like freeing yourself. It's wonderful self-truth that you're able to kind of put out there, and all of the fear and rejection that you may have experienced from all these different areas sort of vanishes, because the truth is there. And once the truth is out there, you can't be attacked anymore, things can't really be directed at you. Which I still get, you know — people say really hateful things about me sometimes on message boards and blogs or whatever, but it has no effect on me, because I'm not hiding anymore, and it's ridiculous to make that kind of statement. It has absolutely no value. So I would encourage people, if you can, to face the moment and say "This is who I am, take it or leave it."

Read the entire interview at www.MetalEdgeMag.com.

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