Interviews

Interview: The Metal God Himself – Rob Halford of JUDAS PRIEST

Rob Halford - Confess book coverJudas Priest singer Rob Halford will “expose every facet” of himself in an upcoming autobiography, titled Confess

The metal legend revealed that he was working on the book last year. In an initial press release, he promised he wouldn’t hold anything back. “Confess is a unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to expose every facet of myself,” stated Halford. “Digging deep with nothing to hide and nothing to fear was in many ways exciting, fun, disturbing, terrifying, and cathartic. I’ve held nothing back. It’s time for me to ‘confess.’”

The memoir will span Halford’s entire life and career, including his decision to publicly come out as gay in 1998. Among the other topics addressed will be his reasons for quitting Judas Priest in 1992 and then subsequently re-joining the band in 2003.

The rights to the autobiography were acquired by the UK’s Headlining Publishing, and it will be released through Hachette Books. “I have a real passion for warts-and-all, career-spanning autobiographies from icons of the music world and Rob Halford’s story is truly incredible,” stated Sarah Emsley, publishing director at Headline Publishing. “Covering seven action-packed decades, the early material [I’ve seen] from Confess is stunning.”

After ticking a box with one recent rock superstar interview, just a few days later I was lucky enough to tick another. My first Zoom interview experience and it was with the legendary vocalist of Judas Priest, formerly of Halford and Fight. During the chat, we examine his recent revelatory book, as well as his metal legacy.


ANTIHERO: Good evening Rob. How are you?

Rob Halford: I’m good, man. This Zoom world, I wasn’t given clear instructions on how to connect with you today, so I had to do a little bit of email research to get the appropriate connectivity sorted. But anyway… I’m ready.

ANTIHERO: I would have thought you would have been pretty au fait with this Zoom process by now. No?

Rob Halford: Not for an old metalhead like me, no.

ANTIHERO: As you can see, I dressed up especially. [I’m wearing my Judas Priest British Steel album cover t-shirt]

Rob Halford: That’s beautiful. Yeah, it’s amazing how many of those t-shirts from those albums that have become kind of iconic in the Priest metal world are still so popular. It’s a great shirt, isn’t it? That razor blade and everything.

ANTIHERO: It is, indeed, a great album.

Rob Halford: Well, it is, it’s another important reference point for Priest in metal. I could talk all day about British Steel and how much fun we had making it, and the way that Tom Allom steered us through to create in a new direction for metal in the way he made the songs tighter and more of an attack-type of sound. Great record, great record.

ANTIHERO: Okay. Let’s get onto your book. How difficult was the confessional process?

Rob Halford: Well, it was pretty straightforward and easy because like me and you are chatting, and it was very much like that making the book with Ian. I’d never done a book like this before, obviously. So, I was completely unaware of the procedure. But Ian made it really … it wasn’t particularly easy because I had to really think and remember stuff that I hadn’t thought about for years. But he did a magnificent job steering me through from my earliest memories as a little kid going to school, right to where I am now. So yeah, some of the darker moments, if you want to call them that, they were a bit challenging because you don’t want to dig up that kind of stuff from your past, but they were important to include.

ANTIHERO: Was this something that you had wanted to get off your chest for quite some time, or was it probably suggested to you maybe by the publishing company?

Rob Halford: Yeah, going way back … well, not way back, but to my forties especially, there seems to be a timeline in these autobiographies I’ve discovered, that as you’re approaching your fifties people start reaching out to you in the music world that it might be worth thinking about doing an autobiography. But I said, “No, I want to wait a little bit, I want to get a few more metal miles in my life.” So yeah, and it wasn’t so much about getting things off my chest. It was more like I knew that there would quite possibly be these unauthorised biographies that start to crop up like there are these unauthorised biographies about Priest. They’re just hash jobs of previous interviews and stuff like that. So, I thought, well, if I’m going to do it, let’s get it right. Let’s get it from the heavy metal horse’s mouth, rather than from a second source.

ANTIHERO: When did you actually finish it? Because it finishes … it’s very current. It deals with the current situation with the whole COVID-19 thing that we’re still in. I just wonder when you got finished.

Rob Halford: Yeah, at the start of this year we finished it because I was back in the UK. I’m in Phoenix now, I was back in the UK for Christmas and then Ian came up for some more last interviews. Then there was just enough time to get in one of the first big Priest writing sessions. So, by then, it was already hitting and hitting hard. So, the timing, it’s amazing really because I don’t think we’d have got it done otherwise if this thing if the calendar had been different, we might not have got it completed. But it was important to include this horrible thing that’s going on right now. Many of the stories in the book, it just shows you how life will take you in all of these different directions. It’s affected everybody this COVID-19 thing has. So yeah, we just about got the last few interviews in before we started to put it all together.

ANTIHERO: You’ve done a tonne of interviews to promote the book obviously, I just wondered if there’s any questions that maybe you had anticipated being asked that haven’t been asked of you? Or have people covered everything?

Rob Halford: Yeah, that’s a good question to ask. I mean, I know there’s a standard amount of questions that need to be asked. But let me just think, overall, I think just because the book is so full of information, that pretty much all the topics have been touched upon. It’s been great doing all these Zooms and phone interviews and so forth just to spread the word about the book, but I don’t think I’ve been asked anything that’s been like, “Oh wow, why didn’t I think of that?” or “That’s a cool angle.” Maybe you’ve got one Mark, I don’t know.

ANTIHERO: Well that gives me a bit of freedom to move outside just discussing the book then?

Rob Halford: Yeah, it does. Yeah, I love talking about Priest metal, things that go on in our lives. It’s all important.

ANTIHERO: The book covers that period, of course, when you were outside of Priest and you were creating music both for Fight and Halford, I just wondered, obviously now you’re in back in Priests I just wonder if that desire to create something that’s maybe not under the Priest umbrella of music, maybe music in a different style, maybe blues, a blues album, have you ever been motivated or think about creating something different musically?

Rob Halford: Well, I’m happy to say that this blues project that’s been in my mind for the longest time, it’s actually started to take root now, and my brother Nige and my nephew, Alex, a bass player, same as his dad, Ian from Priest, they’ve started knocking around some really, really, strong ideas. In my phone I’ve got 12 or more practically completed blues ideas that they put together. We had such a blast doing that Celestial album last Christmas, that I thought, well these guys are great musicians. Why don’t we think about this other possibility of a blues record? So that’s being pieced together as we speak. I had two really cool ideas from the guys yesterday. They’re putting it together in my kitchen in Walsall, they’ve got a little studio set up, they’ve moved everything around and I go in and I’m making a cup of tea in and a bacon sandwich, and then they start noodling some blues and they’ve got some great ideas.

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ANTIHERO: I mean, Firepower was a phenomenal album, how are you going to top that? You keep raising the bar each time, with each album.

Rob Halford: I know, I think it just shows you how passionate we still are, and how much we’re still connected and involved because let’s face it, we’ve got how many albums and hundreds of songs that could sustain us, for our tours especially, for as long as we wanted. But we’ve always felt that going through the process of writing and recording keeps you vital. You’re not living on your past glories. That first writing session back in March was absolutely brilliant. We had a tonne of ideas and because of what’s happening now, there’s still, much like this blues record, there are still pieces being accumulated and going back and forth, but we’ll get the job done. I don’t know when, we should have been on the road now, as you know, we should have been out with Ozzy and we should have been doing our 50th anniversary. So, we just ask everybody to be patient and it’ll happen.

ANTIHERO: You must’ve achieved all your goals, both personally now and professionally, but what still inspires you? What motivates you?

Rob Halford: Just everything around us in metal is a big inspiration because we’re always listening to each other. We’re always watching what each other do on stage and so forth. It’s just great to be still on that team of players, because all my mates, I’ve got all these different metal mates and different bands all over the world. We’re still all doing the same kind of work and experiencing very similar types of life journeys.

So, there’s always another metal song to be made. There’s always another metal album to be made. There’s always another metal tour to be made. It goes on for as long as you want it to keep going. That’s basically it, and your fans are at the core of it. We’ve got the most brilliant supporters for our band and they’re an inspiration too. So, we’re all in it together in that respect.

ANTIHERO: I was going to ask, did the overwhelming support of that fan base surprise you when you come over with your revelations about your sexuality and stuff like that? How they rally round instead of going … pushing you away.

Rob Halford: It just shows you; it just shows you how this unconditional love is within metal, within our metal community. We’re a special bunch of people, and we look after each other and we support each other. So, when I did come out as a gay guy officially all those years ago, I really wasn’t sure what the reaction was going to be because everybody’s different. But I think any concerns that I had were completely wiped away because I had nothing but acceptance, and people just saying, “Robbie, okay. It’s all about the music. It’s all about the metal that matters.” Which is what it should be.

ANTIHERO: Many of your vocal peers with advancing years have lost … let’s see, the voice hasn’t been as good as what it was when they started out, but you’ve retained yours, both in range, power, how and why have you still got that voice? What do you do?

Rob Halford: I don’t know, it’s like a heavy metal miracle isn’t it? I’ll be turning 70 next year. I’m excited and I’m thrilled that I’m still able to do what I want to do. There are some things I can’t do like I could do as a younger singer because I’m an older guy and your body changes, especially your vocal cords. But I’m encouraged, and I’m whipped along by Andy Sneap and Tom Allom in the studio to get the best out of me. So, I’m just very grateful because, again, some of my mates have had difficulties over the years with voice nodules and things that happen to you that really aren’t in your control. So, I just count my blessings that I’m still able to give it another crack at it every time we do a show or make a record.

ANTIHERO: Obviously you said you were meant to be out on tour currently, just returning to the book, in terms of promotion I just wondered, had you given any consideration to go out and maybe doing like a spoken word tour, where you promote the book, talking about maybe the stories face-to-face with people?

Rob Halford: Yeah, we were all so disappointed when we knew that wasn’t going to happen. I’ve done some virtual book tours where people would be watching you and I talking, but it’s not the same as being with your friends, being with your fans. We’ve all been disappointed, not just me, but for all of these different people that have made books. I was really looking forward to doing a book tour, going all over, reading bits of the book, and then just meeting fans and talking about whatever they wanted to talk about. I still think there’s a chance to do that because books are like records, they’ll last forever. So, sometime, I hope, next year there’ll be a chance for me to do a short book tour of the UK and just meet everyone and thank everyone for getting into it.

ANTIHERO: Just a couple then to finish. How do you view the internet, social media, and the importance of both of those tools for a band? Both an existing band and one that’s maybe starting out?

Rob Halford: Well, it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it really? I’ve said from day one, the good and the bad that the internet has done. It really decimated the music industry to a great extent when it first started. We had all that Napster stuff, and then we had all of these illegal downloads and pirate sites where you could pick up free albums. This is what bands do. The only way bands can sustain themselves is with their fans engaging with what they do, and picking up a record, or picking up a t-shirt, and going to a show. That’s still happening, but it’s coming from a different level now. :

The other side of it is, of course, that exponentially the growth of new bands and new talent is just gigantic since the internet and social media began to arrive. It’s become a little bit of a minefield because unless you know where you’re going, you can get lost. So, it’s particularly difficult for new bands to try and find a place to push through, which in the old days that was the responsibility of the label. Now there’s just barely a handful of major labels left that used to do that work. I really feel for these young and got younger bands that are trying to kick off, because financially, economically, it’s terribly difficult. That’s why I urge everybody if you’re latching onto a new band to support them. Don’t take their stuff from a different place. Give them some money, give them some incentive, to make it work for them.

ANTIHERO: Okay then just a final one. You’ve done many, many interviews over the years, but if the roles were reversed, who would you, Rob Halford, like to sit down and interview?

Rob Halford: Oh, that’s a great question. Some of my mates are no longer with us. I’ve always wanted to interview Lemmy and Ronnie, Chester, Chris, they’re in a different world. But right now, I’d have a lot of fun talking again to my friends in music. There’s so many of them, I wouldn’t know where to start. Whether it’s Bruce, or Klaus, or Coverdale, or Maynard, or Nergal. That’s in music, but then there are other people in the book world, for example. I’m a big fan of the works of Ken Follett, the author, and Stephen King. I’d love to get some vibes back from them. There are so many people out there that I wouldn’t know where to begin. But again, some of my friends, like Lars had a thing going recently where he would sit down and chat like you and I are chatting. I’ve watched some of his work and he asks some really engaging questions. So maybe that’s something that’s for the bucket list. I don’t know, I’ve got a bucket list that’s still full.

ANTIHERO: That’s great Rob. You’ve just ticked my bucket list straight away with this. So, thank you very much.

Rob Halford: Been a pleasure, mate. You keep safe, yeah? Keep safe.

ANTIHERO: Thank you very much.

Rob Halford: I hope I see you sometime in 2021.

ANTIHERO: Look forward to it, thank you very much again. Cheers.

Rob Halford: Have a good evening, see you later. Bye.

Rob Halford

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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