Long before heavy metal was known for ingredients such as shredding guitars, double bass, "horns up" or black leather, the budding chefs were studying up in the 'burbs of England. Not far from Birmingham — which eventually spawned Black Sabbath — a young Rob Halford walked to school in Walsall on a daily basis, past the metal foundries with molten metal oozing out of vats.
In 1973, Halford (in his early 20s) came on board with Judas Priest, just a few years after the band's conception. A year later, the landmark metal band released its debut, Rocka Rolla, followed by such legendary albums as Painkiller, British Steel , and Screaming for Vengeance.
"We say that metal was invented in the West Midlands," says Halford. "So we were living and breathing it before a note was even played."
See also: The Five Best Judas Priest Albums of All Time
For 40 years Judas Priest has influenced just about every metal band there is in some way, and has brought a brand of ever-strengthening metal to the masses. Even the maturation of Halford's vocals have helped evolve the band's sound — the singer has elaborated in the past that over time your vocals age; it's not like you can tune them up, like drum skins or guitar strings.
While we speak on the phone, his West Midlands British accent is warm and soft-spoken, and our conversation is punctuated with chuckles and sips from what I presume to be a cup of tea. Then an image flashes in my mind — black leather vest, combat boots, black aviators, possibly his studded leather jacket — yes. The picture of his silver ring-studded hand encircling a teacup makes perfect sense. This is Rob Halford, after all.
Judas Priest has put out 17 records, written hundreds of song, and sold around 50 million albums. The pioneering metal band will always be known for carrying the metal flag and throwing kerosene on the genre's fire. In fact, the band's 17th studio album title, Redeemer of Souls, is quite fitting, seeing that the band's soul is rooted in redeeming the soul of heavy metal for as long as they can.
Redeemer of Souls was released in July, their first album since 2008's concept record Nostradamus, as well as their first without founding guitarist K.K. Downing, who left the band in 2011 during the Epitaph tour and was replaced by shredder Richie Faulkner. The first-week sales for Redeemer of Souls gave Priest its first Billboard top 10 album in the band's 40-year history.
Halford calls Phoenix his part-time home, and the November 12 show at Gila River Arena in Glendale will reflect that. The arena will be turned into a theater setting with the entire balcony hidden from view with a customized screening system. This ensures that the audience all have the "best seat in the house" so that fans can see Priest like never before.
Rob Halford talked to Up On The Sun from his house in England a few days before his 63rd birthday, about Dimebag Darrell, new blood in the band, and his love for Phoenix.
Rob Halford: I am so excited to be talking to someone in Phoenix! Have you guys had the annual monsoon season?
If you can believe it or not, it's raining here right now.
It's an unusual thing, isn't it? When we see rain we go crazy about it! People just look at us like, "What's wrong with you?" Hey! I just read your article about Dimebag Darrell. I can't believe it's been 10 years since he died. That was a really nice piece that you put together for the Phoenix New Times. I would love to be at the DimeFest event at Joe's Grotto. Tell everyone that the Metal God sends his love for supporting the cause! After all; it's for Dime's charity.
Well thank you for reading it!
I just can't believe it's 10 years this year. I remember I was sitting in my house when I got the call that he had died. The years have flown by.