Screaming for Life
18 January 2008
Words by Aedan Siebert
For over thirty years vocalist Rob Halford - the man known as the Metal God - has been a hugely instrumental and influential force in the Rock and Metal world. His career efforts as a part of seminal acts: Judas Priest, Fight and Halford have garnered the man much respect from a vast array of fans and press alike. I caught up with Rob to discuss the new Halford/Fight best of release Metal God Essentials, growing up with a passion for music and the responsibilities of being a dyed in the wool metal god.
“I'm very well mate - how are you doing?” begins a cheerful Halford, before he informs me of his activities over the past few months.
“Well, working with the Priest guys back in the UK on the new Nostradamus metal opera that is coming out next year. I finished doing my vocal work about a week ago and I'm back in the states now in San Diego just having a bit of a break and talking to friends all over Australia about the new Metal Essentials release. Doing a bit of that you know, and doing some work in the office back in Phoenix and then back over to the UK in about a month to see how the Nostradamus mixing sessions are going.”
Speaking of the Metal Essentials release...
“Well it's an unusual release because I mean normally an essentials (album) covers one set of songs from one particular area and with this one as you know, it's a combination of both Fight band and Halford. And it's just some highlights - it was difficult to pick the list really, because I love everything that I've been part of making with the two bands. It's just a good collection of songs that give you a pretty broad base to listen and look - with the DVD - of what I've done with my solo activities. And of course it's live material as well as a couple of new tracks with Forgotten Generation and Drop Out from the Halford band. So it's kind of mixed up you know? It's quite different to the regular essentials as everybody knows them to be - sounding and looking. It's really cool! We finally got the actual physical product available at long last after going through a download phase - I was waiting for this moment to finally arrive and it has! I've got the lads in Sydney at Riot! Records distributing it for me all over Australia. So we're in the launch mode and it's going great!”
As some fans may be well aware, Priest were recently inducted into Kerrang magazine's prestigious Hall Of Fame.
“Yeah! That was amazing! I mean Kerrang magazine - as you're aware - is quite an influential mag over in the UK and that kind of came out of the blue! We were asked to accept the award quite some time ago, but it was just a matter of trying to get us all in the same country at the same time because we're spread around the world. But it was a brilliant night out! To be recognized by that magazine - it's a weekly publication that reaches about a quarter of a million metal heads and rock heads each week in Great Britain - it was just a very cool thing to receive. And you know, to be in the company of the other bands that were there, like Machine Head for example, Trent from Nine Inch Nails, Fall Out Boy, Gallows, My Chemical Romance - it was just good company! So we had a brilliant night out there with everybody!”
Certainly, between the new Essentials release, the recording sessions of Nostradamus and the award from Kerrang, it could be said that there's plenty going in the Halford camp to keep the man well and truly busy!
“Yeah non stop! (Laughs) In over thirty years of it, it doesn't let up! So it's absolutely fantastic of course to still be so active and vital in the world of metal all these years later - it's still the best gig in the world to do what I do. I love it you know? It's just a real passion.”
I mentioned to Rob that he's certainly come a long way over the past thirty-something years and wondered if it was strange looking back on how things had turned out.
“Well you know, I think the thing about music is that it doesn't really have much of a timeline attached to it. I mean I know it's been over 30 years but it certainly doesn't seem that long. It's remarkable! Like in all of these CD's and hundreds and hundreds of songs and doing thousands of shows and travelling millions of miles around the world - time just seems to fly be so quickly. But I think the essence of what keeps you driven to do what you do is still pretty much the same as it was when it first kicked off. You've got to really be getting something out of being a metal player, creating music, recording it and then taking it out and playing the gigs. So all of that time just seems to get eaten up really quickly.”
That being said, Halford takes on a decidedly contemplative tone as I ask him where he thought life might have taken him had he not risen to become a metal god.
“I don't really know! I mean you know when I was just about to leave high school back in the Midlands I was already fascinated by everything in the world of entertainment - show business - whether it was movies or musical performances or theatre that kind of thing. I mean I look back - way, way back - to when I was about 8 or 9 years of age if not slightly younger, when I was involved in school choir productions and remember getting a kick out of that. All the way through my education I was involved in the things kids do at school and I'm sure that really was where the seeds were planted - knowing that I had a voice and how good it made me feel when I used it to sing - and the reaction that it created even then as a kid - it made me feel great! I enjoyed it so much. So when I left school I was in two minds as to what I was going to do. I ended up going to work in a theatre in Northampton as a stage lighting technician and I saw all of these incredible performances by opera companies, ballet, vaudeville, repertory theatre and looking at all that from the side of the stage was something that made me even more determined to try and get actually on the stage as oppose to being in the wings so to speak. And again at that time - I was probably about 16 or 17 - music was a really important part of my life. I just did what a lot of musicians do - I found a local band just to have a knock with and play some songs and that's really where I got my teeth stuck into being a metal singer. I suppose if I didn't end up doing that I would've still in one way or form been involved in the world of entertainment - all though I'm not absolutely sure as to exactly what it would be. Anything that's related to it I still find really fascinating and really enjoyable.”
This enjoyment and fascination seems to have permeated right through Rob's life - so much so, that he seems to be completely at home with what he does, and has never really questioned his career choice.
“Not really no. I think that - being philosophical - life is full of opportunities and you just have to find what gives you the most back out of life. I count my blessings really to all the other things I see and I witness that I'm glad not to be a part of. Just being a musician, being a creative guy is still the best thing that could've ever happened to me.”
As mentioned earlier, Halford's contributions to the world of Rock and Metal have been substantial ones indeed, carting the man to very high heights in the eyes of his fans and the words of the press. Oftentimes with great status, comes great expectations - a fact that Rob is keenly aware of.
“I think it's in both worlds really. When you become successful you maybe think differently. When you become successful and you become a professional musician, you want to hang onto that and you'll do whatever you've got to do to hang on to that because you're getting so much out of it you know? Despite that simple fact you have to really accept that the only way you can sustain your career is to do the best possible things. And even beyond that you know, it's a fickle business Rock and Roll - I mean there are many great artists that have just fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. When you do become popular - especially on an international level - the fire gets turned up a notch and you have to work harder. In my opinion, you're only as good as the last thing you ever did. You can't live on your past glories. Especially if your still active and looking for other things to do. So I guess it does bring a responsibility. It brings a responsibility to yourself to do the best possible job you can do, even better than before if you could - like we are for example right now with Priest with the Nostradamus release that's coming out next year - and then to your fans. You know, the fans are the backbone to everything that you try and do to sustain yourself with. They're the people that buy your records and come to the shows and buy a t-shirt. It's vitally important that you're responsible to making sure that the fans get the best metal you can make.”
Halford's coveted Metal God title is certainly a fitting one, and I like many fans out there was curios as to exactly how it came about.
“(Laughs) Well, I would never be so stuck up and pompous to call myself a metal god - fans gave me that many, years ago. I think it came off the back of that track called Metal Gods from the British Steel album in 1981. It was shortly after that these little references were being made either in the press or from the fans. I didn't really think much of it at that time quite frankly, I just thought it was a bit of fun - but it kind of stuck. And now when people talk about the Metal God anywhere in the world, they're talking about me and it's just a wonderful title. Again, it brings that responsibility to it you know? You know what you're looking forward to and you know what you want see and hear and you have to make sure you deliver the goods!”
As Rob previously mentioned after thirty something years, the workload doesn't let up - a statement that is proved wholly true when I ask the man about exactly what's coming up on the horizon.
“Well, as I said, back to the UK in a while to see how the lads are doing with the guitars and stuff on Nostradamus. I think probably by the time I get back we'll be beginning the mixing session and that will take a month or so to wrap up. Have a bit of a Christmas break - actually I think we'll probably be mixing right up until Christmas, taking a bit of a break and finishing the mixing in January. Then we'll deliver our record to Sony BMG and start planning the tours, and the live shows, putting the stage set together - lighting and so on and so forth and then we'll kick off touring probably in the early part of 2008. That'll take us all around the world next year and a bit of 2009. In the meantime after Metal God Essentials, we've got the Fight war of words DVD movie that's coming out in November and then a full length Rock in Rio Halford DVD coming out just after Christmas. So there is just enormous amount of activity still going on in both my worlds.”
Speaking of tours, there may indeed be a chance that Priest fans down under may yet get another chance to bear witness to the band's live show.
“Yeah! I've been talking to a lot of friends in Australia the last few days and everyone's mentioned how much they enjoyed it when Ripper came down with Priest. Before I came back over to San Diego we were - me, Glen and Ken - talking about the shows and the places that we want to visit. We get the world map out and Australia is looming up there and we absolutely have to come back you know, as the original line up! So we're starting to look for dates now and plug in the shows, I would imagine that by the early part of next year if you go to Judas Priest.com you'll see the gigs start to be locked in.”
Before we parted ways, Rob wished to pass on this message to all his Australian fans:
“Well just to thank everybody you know! I mean like I said earlier on, the fans are vital and I really appreciate their love and their support of what I do with my solo work and more importantly what I do with Priest. So I thank everybody for that and I look forward to seeing you hopefully sometime next year!”