The five members of JUDAS PRIEST recently spoke to the U.K.'s Metal Hammer magazine about Halford's return to the group's lineup and their new album, "Angel of Retribution". Several excerpts from the interview follow:
On whether PRIEST created the heavy metal genre:
Rob Halford (vocals): "You know something? We were the first ever heavy metal band. Yes, BLACK SABBATH were before us. But there was always something of a dilemma about whether or not SABBATH were a heavy metal band. JUDAS PRIEST have always said that this is what we are, and this is how we're happy to be seen. I have some very primitive demos of PRIEST and you can hear the metal in the music right from day one."
On whether it was it easy to work as a team again after Halford came back to the band:
Glenn Tipton (guitar): "It was great! The chemistry was there as soon as we started writing. We did two albums with Ripper [Tim Owens, currently in ICED EARTH] and I'm proud of them, but it's still not the same as writing with Rob. The three of us have a formula, and it's nice to have that back."
K.K. Downing (guitar): "With Ripper we were a little more exploratory, and tried to appease the new metal fans and the old metallers, because it's important to get young blood on board. But we think that young fans will like our record too. Rob's great, he comes up with loads of ideas and he's a great lyricist. It all came together very easily. The prodigal always returns, hahaha!"
Rob Halford: "A magic happens with songwriters and when we get together we have a certain creative thing which happens when the three of us connect. It's not easy writing music in PRIEST because we set such high standards — there's a lot of creative tension between us. We're not only thinking about now when we write, we're thinking about the great heritage, legacy and tradition that the band has created."
On what was it like when IRON MAIDEN appeared in 1979 and started stealing PRIEST's thunder? Did PRIEST regard them as upstarts?
K.K. Downing: "Absolutely! Remember, they were the third wave of heavy metal. BLACK SABBATH were the first wave of metal. Then there was us and the SCORPIONS in the second wave. Then MAIDEN and ACCEPT and DOKKEN all came out, and then the whole thrash thing started. The '80s were great, you could see an amazing band every night."
Rob Halford: "There's always an element of challenge and competition, which is important because it drives you forward. But MAIDEN are a very important heavy metal band — they're a part of the great British heavy metal tree. I would argue that PRIEST are the roots of that tree, holding it together. MOTÖRHEAD are great too — I would love at some point to organize some kind of massive gig with SAXON, VENOM, and all the different British metal bands of all the different styles — all the money could go to charity or whatever. You can put the word out — I'd be up for it — we could have a big summer show. These things are much easier to organize than people think..."
On Rob's going public with his homosexuality:
Rob Halford: "A lot of cool things happened because of it. I've had feedback from a lot of people, particularly teenagers who were going through tremendous hardships with family and at school. I know when I was 12 or 13 I was thinking, 'Oh God, I'm a freak, I'm gonna burn in hell' and all that crap - and it's a horrible experience to live through if you don't have support. But looking at the bigger picture, I'm not the only metal homo, ha ha! There are many more, statistically speaking. And they can stay in the closet or come out, it's entirely up to them. I feel proud that I'm the first person to do it on that level."
On why he decided to come out?
Rob Halford: "It wasn't a premeditated thing. It was a very flippant remark I made on MTV when I was working with Trent Reznor on the TWO record. Some people said I just did it for the publicity, but I've got enough publicity in my life, thank you very much! I was asked a question and I replied by saying, 'Speaking as a gay man...' and the bloke almost dropped his clipboard."
On whether there were there crowds of rednecks in Texas burning PRIEST records in the streets?
Rob Halford: "Ha ha! There was a little bit of that — people dancing round bonfires saying, 'Let's burn this fag's records'. But they were probably the same people who have problems with other people's skin color and religious backgrounds. If you're a bigot and a racist and you carry round that internal hatred, you can only change yourself. I just feel sorry for these people. Anyway, I made people sit up and think, 'I don't like fags, but I love JUDAS PRIEST, what am I gonna do?' so it was a bit of an eye-opener for them."
On the fact that his stage uniform should have made his homosexuality obvious:
Rob Halford: "It is kind of humorous with the way I look. But to get the story straight — straight! Heh heh — once and for all, the whole imagery of the leather and the whips and the chains and the motorcycle was a very important personification of something that we were desperately searching for. You hear this incredible huge massive thundering riffage, and you can't stand there in spandex. You look in the mirror before you go on stage and you say, 'that's the Metal God — I'm ready for work.' It's a uniform, an outfit — you try to dress the part. The fact that it's part of the image of homosexuality is a non-issue. It's just unfortunate that it fell into the same category in lots of people's eyes."