Interview – Judas Priest’s metal god… Rob Halford

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Judas priest rob halford 2018

Ladies and gentleman, I would like to bring your attention to the transcript below. I had the honour of talking with one of my all-time heroes of metal a few days ago. Rob Halford who maintains a residence in Arizona, graciously agreed to take my call, and we had some chinwag which lasted about 20 minutes.

The legendary metal frontman recently released his autobiography, entitled Confess. I reviewed it on this very site and my own confession was that it’s “the absolute best rock autobiography I have ever read”!

I was telling a friend the other day about the chat and how strong Rob’s British accent was; and how it is a weird thing, that when a person from a distant country talks it can be hard to understand, but when they sing, you don’t even notice. Anyway, here we go. 

“Hello Ernest this is Rob, how are you?” came in with a thick accent that kind of sounded like he had a bit of cold, but the warmness was there as well. He has one of those voices that makes you feel comfortable. There must be some kind of vibrations in the frequency and the pitch because I felt pretty comfortable straight away. I had anticipated a bit of shock and awe (on my part) when we spoke but was pleasantly relaxed as if I was chatting with an old friend from Walsall. 🤣

Hey Rob, today is the big day, did you vote ? 

RobUm, no I didn’t as I am a Brit and don’t have American citizenship but I would have, as I believe it is your duty. I will say one thing though pertaining to my own country; it is a fact that there is always 50% of the voters not happy with the outcome and then the next election it is the other 50% that are not happy. But, don’t get me started (laughter) with politics because as you get older, I think you get more vocal with your opinion and you are entitled to that. 

The writing style in your book was so relaxed, and the book and its contents were so enjoyable to read; how did it come about? Did you write this primarily single-handed or did you have a ghostwriter help?

For this book, it was Ian (Gittens) being my confessor. Just like going into a Church and speaking in a box, this was me confessing to Ian. He is recording everything, and I mean everything and he sends everything (60 hours of audiotape) to the publishing company who sends back the transcripts. It is then Ian’s job to sort through hours and hours of conversation and make sense of it all. He had a great ability to capture at the right time my voice and when it is all said and done, the book is like an album. Each chapter is like a song and the original transcripts look like verses. 

I read and knew that you worked with Satchel aka Russ Parrish of Steel Panther in your solo project with Fight. What was it like working with him? Was he always a funny and witty Spinal Tap kind of guy or did he just play as per Fight and left the one-liners out.

Smart, very smart, and a very proficient guitar player. He was always in the moment and his mind was always going. We had great recordings and shows and he is a good friend of mine. I am wondering if he will go back to playing other kinds of music later on in his career as he has built something very special with Steel Panther that is second to none in terms of what they do. It is very much like Confess in that it is unique and there is no other Steel Panther in the world. 

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I noticed that if you fire your current Priest drummer, with the next one coming in, you will be in a tie with Spinal Tap for the all-time lead for the number of drummers in a metal band’s career. Would you care to comment?

(laughter)

No, the drumming sequence of events were for the most part amicable. When we moved on to Sad Wings of Destiny we knew John (Hinch) was doing the best that he could with his own abilities, but we thought we needed somebody to give us some other definitions, so Alan (Moore) came in; and then we made our big record with CBS, Sin after Sin, and Roger Glover came on board as producer and we were developing into a different place with our metal and we needed a drummer with double kick potential and two bass drums and that also meant that for that one time, we had to work with Simon Phillips, and then of course Les Binks picks up after Simon, and then a turn of events meant that we wanted to go back to a more direct kind of place with the drumming aspect of Priest and that brought in David Holland. 

The way that Dave left us was a little bit different as he said he had enough of the touring. Some guys just can’t handle the constant slogging. He said he had a great time and just wanted to take a break and leave …which he did; and that gave the opportunity for Scott (Travis) to come back who we call “fanda legs”, and he’s able to give us every texture we need from the drumming side of Priest…

In regards to former member and guitarist K.K. Downing, is there any communication ?

Well personally, I haven’t talked directly to Ken since he left Priest ya know,  but it’s no different than when I was away from Priest for a decade or more. It’s a funny thing… bands are like families, sometimes you don’t speak to a cousin or a relative or whatever for a time, regardless of the situation; that’s just the way it is with bands. 

In respect to your admitted alcoholism and drug addiction at the pinnacle (especially) of your career; is it possible that these issues were a direct or indirect result of you wanting to hide your homosexuality in a predominantly heterosexual industry?

Ya, I think it was part of the crutch mechanism I was looking for. I wouldn’t say it was substantially the reason though. I love to drug, I love to drink, I had great times with it; it made me feel good and for the most part, it’s just a fun experience. Now for me, it became more than that because I have an addiction to it and it alters your brain chemistry. You become like a rat in a laboratory; you just want your next fix, and it’s no different than being hooked on cigarettes which I was briefly.

I definitely used them (drugs/alcohol)  at times to help me through those troubled times, but when I went into recovery, I found out the problems weren’t going to go away.  They might dissipate a little bit (with substance abuse) and make you feel better and help you forget,……but they are still going to be there; so with the addiction and that whole unbalanced place I was at with my sexuality… it was just like a fireball, and that’s what I wanted to bring across in Confess because it’s an important part of my life and the way it affected me and how it made me into the person that I am today 

Since C19 hit; when was the last time you played live

I think it was July the third or the second of twenty nineteen; it was the last Firepower show and it was in Vegas, and I believe it was about a year ago. Right now we should have been on the road doing the 50th anniversary tour but everything has gone tits up so we’ll have to wait till the New Year.

Who is your favourite Canadian musical artist ?

I would have to say Devon Townsend, and Geddy Lee is up there too, but Devon Townsend would be the one.

What message would you like to give to someone that may have similar struggles that you had to fight through?

I would say don’t be afraid to put yourself first because it is your life and you live by the choices you make and don’t let other people make those choices for you, whether it’s political or family or friends or whatever, they are not you. You are entitled to live the life you chose, based on fairness and equality in your own mind and heart, and if you struggle…you struggle…it’s just a struggle.

It’s not easy coming out as a gay man or gay woman or LGBT or whatever. It is a struggle because we are the minority, but you’ve got to stand up for yourself and you’ll find your place of strength and peace which will rush into your life when you step out of the closet that has been holding you prisoner.

Confess by Rob Halford is out now.

Interview – Ernest Skinner
Live photos – Steve Gerrard

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