Music News

Judas Priest singer Rob Halford schedules a meet-and-greet in Phoenix, and gives us some candid Q&A

Meet Rob Halford on Tuesday, December 11, at Zia Record Exchange, 105 W. University Drive in Tempe. The meet-and-greet/signing starts at 6 p.m. Call Zia at 480-829-1967 for more information.

Interview with Rob Halford by Niki D’Andrea

There’s little dispute that Judas Priest singer Rob Halford is the Metal God. Since 1974, Judas Priest has sold more than 9 million albums in the U.S. alone, not to mention the success of Halford’s other bands, Halford and Fight. The British-born Phoenix resident is named as a vocal influence by everybody from original Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno to Arch Enemy singer Angela Gossow, and is also credited with introducing the leather-and-spikes look to the genre. And at 56 years-old, Halford continues to churn out his beloved heavy metal music. We recently caught up with Halford to discuss the new Fight DVD (War of Words), the upcoming new Judas Priest album, and how he feels about being one of the few openly gay men in metal.

New Times: Hi, Rob! How are you? Rob Halford: I’m doing great! I’m enjoying this weather. It’s just been roaring rain in San Diego. Is it raining there, too? New Times: Yes, it’s been pouring rain all day here in Phoenix. Halford: That’s great. I hope my house is okay. It’s up on a hill in Paradise Valley, so I should have somebody go check on it to make sure it hasn’t slid off the mountain. But I love this weather. It’s very heavy metal weather. New Times: So you still live in Phoenix. What are your favorite things about this city? Halford: I’ll tell you my favorite story. I’ve been in Phoenix since ’85 or ’86. We played there on the very first tour that Judas Priest did in ’78 in America. We did a show in Vegas, and then the next night, we played Phoenix. And I stepped off the bus at 4 a.m., and the heat just struck me, like it always does, and I said, ‘Are we in Hell?’ How fitting for a band called Judas Priest to be somewhere that feels like purgatory. And coming from Birmingham, to be in such a beautiful location, it just blew me away. And on subsequent visits to the Valley – which was pretty much every year after that – it was just getting into my soul. So I decided to put some roots down. And I’m excited to be doing the signing at Zia Records. I’m glad to see Zia’s still around. We need record stores like that. New Times: Yeah, I collect vinyl, and Zia’s one of the few record stores that actually still sells records. Halford: What was the last vinyl you bought? New Times: I just ordered a split 12” LP of Witchcraft and The Sword. Halford: Oh, The Sword. I love them. Haven’t heard Witchcraft yet. There’s so much metal now, isn’t it amazing? I’ve been making metal for 30-35 years, and I’m just so excited about all the new bands and the variety, expecially the really heavy stuff. I can’t get enough of bands like Cataclysm, Dimmu Borgir, and Morbid Angel. New Times: Why did you decide to release a DVD documentary of your old band, Fight? Halford: Well…it’s a fantastic look back at a band that – if you listen to it today – it’s still as roaring as it was back in the ‘90s. It’s a good retrospective. Just because a band breaks up, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. New Times: Any chance of a Fight reunion? Halford: We were together for the first time in years at the documentary premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and it just felt wonderful. We did a signing session together, and then we went out for food and drinks, but nobody reminisced! And me being the old guy in metal, I like to reminisce. They were like, ‘Where’s the strip joint? Anybody got any weed?’ (laughs) I’m going to keep the door open. You just don’t know what life is going to bring next.

Rob Halford: "365 days a year, I'm a metalhead."

New Times: I heard a rumor that Judas Priest is working on a new album. Halford: Yes. We’ve been slaving away for two years on this Nostradamus project. It’s just been wonderful. We had a great time with the Angel of Retribution record we did a while back, and we had some great shows, including a couple in the Valley. And Bill Curbishley, who manages Pete [Townsend] and Roger [Daltry] from The Who and Robert [Plant] from Led Zeppelin, suggested this idea for our first concept record, which Priest and its fans have wanted for a long time. So we took a break and then went straight back into the studio to write. New Times: What do you like about Nostradamus? Halford: I like him because he’s a controversial figure. Some people think he’s nuts, and others follow everything he says. I think that’s just great, that’s part of the flux of what heavy metal does, too. New Times: You were one of the first heavy metal singers to come out of the closet as being gay. Has it impacted your career at all? Halford: It hasn’t impacted my career, and I’m grateful for that. The message heavy metal fans sent out is that they’re open-minded and forward-thinking and supportive of people who make music they love. But it’s still an important issue for me because I’m part of a minority that endures inequality. I’m not really an activist in that world, but when I stand onstage in Lithuania or Russia – someplace where there’s no tolerance or acceptance from the government about homosexuality – it’s a victory. Having said that, it’s still a struggle. It’s still a hot-button issue. The right wingers and conservatives are still trying to set up barriers and stop all people from attaining equal rights, which we are entitled to. And that’s all we want. New Times: Will we see Judas Priest on tour next year? Halford: Yes, there will be an extensive, worlwide Judas Priest tour next year. Part of it will be classic Priest – we’ve made 300 metal songs so far, so of course we’re gonna do stuff like ‘Breaking the Law’ and ‘Living After Midnight,’ but we also want to show off Nostradamus and do all the songs from the album in concert, which we’ve never done before. New Times: Awesome. Thanks for speaking with me today, Rob. Halford: Thank you. I’m glad I got to speak with somebody from home. New Times: Well, I’ll be at the Zia signing, too, so I’ll be sure to come up and say hi. Halford: Please do! We can get out picture taken together.

Meet Rob Halford on Tuesday, December 11, at Zia Record Exchange, 105 W. University Drive in Tempe. The meet-and-greet/signing starts at 6 p.m. Call Zia at 480-829-1967 for more information.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea