Interview with the frontman and metal legend himself, Rob Halford

- Jun 17, 2007 at 03:52PM
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In the slightly more than two years since I co-founded this website, I’ve had the pleasure to interview a wide variety of awesome musicians, but none as influential and legendary as Mr. Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest. Rob has pretty much done and seen it all in his near forty year career with Judas Priest, not to mention his numerous other projects such as Fight, Voyeurs and The Halford Band. Rob recently created his own production company and record label Metal God Entertainment which is just about to release Halford-Metal God Essentials-Volume 1, the first of many new releases scheduled that will be more geared towards Rob’s solo work. In addition to all these new releases, Rob let us in on some news about the upcoming concept record from Judas Priest based on the life of Nostradamus (the famous sixteenth century prophet), other new releases from Metal God Entertainment, as well as his continued, unwavering passion for music. Not only did Rob give an excellent interview, he is also one of the nicest and most pleasant people I’ve ever spoken to in the music industry. Here’s what he had to say:

Your brand new disc Halford-Metal God Essentials-Volume 1 is set for release next month and it is the first greatest hits package of your solo career. How did the whole idea to do a greatest hits of your solo days come about in the first place?
Rob: Well you can probably relate to this being in on my publication, I mean the internet is just such an important part of life today, I mean everything would just grind to a halt if we all went offline. And when we put www.robhalford.com online some years ago, it was an incredible success and we were looking and listening to the way all these DEP packages and everything else were surfacing and of course the initial trauma with Napster and illegal downloads and everything had kind of settled down with the arrival of Apple Itunes and that kind of thing. So I just felt that was where I wanted to go initially, I wanted to start putting out my music by the internet and the download experience.

And that was a real success, but my next goal was to actually have this physical product and so that’s what we’re about to do and so we’re just presenting this first piece Metal God Essentials which is just really an overview, some of my favorite moments from what I’ve done so far in my solo career with the music and of course the bonus DVD that has some cool stuff on it and the packaging looks really strong. That’s what the metal community wants you know, they want both experiences, they want the physical product and the download, cyber world thing so this is that first offering. We’ve got some other things in the pipeline, we got the Rock In Rio piece coming and that’s just spectacular to look at and listen to and then you got the Fight movie and some boxsets coming along. So yeah, this is just the first one Aaron and um, I just feel great you know because we’ve got Metal God Entertainment which is not like Metal God Records although that’s what this is, Metal God Entertainment is a record label but it’s also trying to secure something for the metal future for me as far as bringing in other talent and also getting into radio and video and all that other cool stuff.

Now the album features thirteen tracks in total from your Fight and Halford solo releases. How did you go about deciding on the track listing for the disc? Was it difficult to narrow it down to just thirteen songs?
Rob: Yeah you know unlike a brand new record with the studio, if you’re in a band and you’re doing a brand new record and your pacing and your tempos and all the other ways you put a record together are important, but this is kind of just jumping about from place to place you know. I think the running order works really well, um, I think it was cool that we started off with “Resurrection” because that’s where, in the Halford band at least, we kind of kicked metal paydirt if you want to call it. And then we mix it up you know, to go from studio tracks into a live scenario with “Screaming In The Dark” is kind of you know, a different thing to do. And then jumping into the Fight world and then we have a couple of new tracks with “Forgotten Generation” and “Drop Out.” And then we wind it all up with a remix which is called “Redemption” on the European one, it’s different titles for different territories because we did four or five different remixes of the “Forgotten Generation” track. So you know that combined with the DVD, it’s just a really strong looking piece of product, you know calling it business wise, it’s product. With me on the bike (on the cover) and the screaming, flying skeletons, it’s brilliant; it’s just a great looking piece of metal visual display.

Not only does the album contain some of your best solo work, but it also offers fans two new songs "Forgotten Generation" and "Drop Out," your first new material in over four years. When were these songs recorded and were they just leftover material or did you specifically record them for this greatest hits package?
Rob: While I’ve been back with Priest, um the main writers in the Halford band Mike is based in New Jersey and Roy Z is based in L.A., they’re just kind of swapping files over the internet and sending each other ideas. But in Priest, everything is done with Glen and K.K and myself, that’s our word, that’s our creative world, but with the Halford band, I just like to leave the guys to enjoy putting together all of the instrumentation side of it so that’s what they do. When I get the material, it’s almost finished you know and I just make my feelings felt about any of the possibilities. So as is this case, I mean we’re stalk piling a ton of new Halford material and these are two new relatively new tracks that we put together, let me think, are we in June? Let me think when did I do this? I think we finished them off sometime last year so it is relatively new, it’s not stuff that is four or five years old.

One thing that struck me about the title of your new release was the "Volume 1" at the end. Does this indicate that fans can expect a Volume 2 and perhaps a Volume 3 of your greatest hits in the near future?
Rob: Yeah, I think you can do that you know regardless of whatever band you’re in if you got some longevity attached to your career and we’ve got an tremendous amount of material that we can put together in this packaging. And it’s cool you know, I mean to just kind of mix it up and just show all the displays of versatility of what I’ve done with the Halford band and with Fight. So yeah, there will be a volume two at some point, I don’t know when exactly, but that’s the ambition.

In addition to the release of the greatest hits disc, Metal God Entertainment also has some other releases in the works, including three new boxsets set to be released late this year and early next year. Any word on what we can expect from these upcoming releases?
Rob: Well you may have seen the Silent Scream streaming on www.robhalford.com from Rio and that’s just absolutely fucking spectacular to look at. I mean, it was just an incredible night to be on stage in front of a quarter of a million people, it was mind blowing and the band was red hot. And uh, you know you see that big screen on the stage on the massive stage and you know, the band really dominates throughout the whole performance and then the video cranes swing out in front of the crowd, it’s just mind blowing. There was a bit of a taste of that with Silent Scream so when you hear the rest of it, I think if you’re a fan of what we do in Halford, it’ll be a real kick. So we got that coming and then we got the Fight DVD which is a very in depth type of look, like a rockumentary thing of what was going on with me when I was putting the Fight band together. An enormous amount of video footage, DVD footage that’s never been seen before, combined with you know, the rehearsals and the shows, the writing sessions, the recording. It’s a fantastic thing to just put in your player or put your headphones on and just take it all in and experience something new for the first time from what was happening then. And then we got boxsets coming along as well so we’re really just trying to think of different ways of presenting all of what I’ve done so far in my solo work.

The last several months have certainly been busy for you from a music and business perspective as back in November, you formed your own label, music and film production company called Metal God Entertainment. Why did you decide just recently after all these years to take such an active control over your music and your catalogue by forming your own label?
Rob: Oh it’s brilliant; it’s a joy to actually be able to control your own music. When the Sanctuary organization was going through different changes some time ago, they afforded me the opportunity to get my music back so yeah, that was absolutely brilliant, I just ran to that idea. It was really that possibility that opened up all these other endeavors, um, you know so I was able to do that with all the Halford material. I’ve had a great relationship signed to BMG who are able to let me do what I want with the Fight material so that really was the kind of impetus to spur me on and that’s when we thought of MetalGod Entertainment and then that became a broad based idea with a possibility of bringing in new talent and doing radio and video and everything else for the future. So it’s never too late you know. This is not me pontificating, but I think that’s what life’s all about, it’s about taking chances and taking risks and if they don’t work at least you can say well you had a go. Have a go I say!! [laughs] Otherwise your life is behind you and you’ll say oh fuck you know, I could have done this, I could have done that, why didn’t I do this, why didn’t I do that, you know. You just gotta really run out there and be assertive and grab life by the balls and you know, see what you can do with that.

Although your career is still going very strong with no end in sight, you've been at the top of the heavy metal world now for decades and you're responsible for influencing a generation of metal bands. How does it feel to be doing this after so long and do you still feel the passion for music that you did say ten, twenty years ago?
Rob: Yeah still the same Aaron, it’s not changed a speck, it hasn’t changed a lick, I mean you know, nothing’s changed at all, in fact there’s probably more determination now because when you get to this wonderful place, it brings responsibilities and there’s nothing wrong with having responsibilities. You just keep pushing yourself which is what I’m doing back in Priest at the moment with Nostradamus, just when you think Priest has done everything, we throw this at everybody, our first ever concept album, it’s a metal opera based on the life of this real man from France five hundred years ago. So you’re looking for things like that (new ideas) I mean, you can’t just go “oh we’re going to write some new songs and a new studio album,” that type of thinking has never really been apart of what I’m about or especially what we’re about in Priest. We’re genuinely excited about what we’re making you know, to make something from nothing with music is just a wonderful challenge and that’s definitely the vibe we’re getting with Nostradamus right now, so no, nothing’s changed, I’ve probably gotten more intense.

Your answer there actually leads into my next question Rob. Aside from your solo work, you're still very much apart of Judas Priest, your legendary metal band and you will soon be joining the band for a tour to coincide with the release of a brand new concept album about the legendary 16th century prophet Nostradamus. How did this whole concept for a record come about and where are you in the recording stage?
Rob: Well in the recording stage we’re still tracking, we’ve got a bulk of the work done, it sounds absolutely fucking amazing and that’s not me inflating it, it is genuinely spectacular. So we’re still carrying on with that and it should be out sometime in 2008. The idea (for the record) came from our manager Bill Curbishley because we were ready to go in and do another studio record but Bill came to see us towards the end of the Angel & Retribution Tour, he came to Russia, we were playing Russia and we had lunch with him and he said “look, I have this idea.” Bill manages The Who, you know, Pete and Roger and Bill was behind the enormous success of Tommy and he said “I just think that you know, maybe you should think about this possibility of doing a concept album and I’ve been thinking about this guy Nostradamus.” And as soon as he brought the name up, I’m like, I’m there, let’s go, you don’t have to say anything else. I knew something of him already like everybody does about the books that you read about him, or on the internet or on TV, documentaries and I thought wow, this is absolutely brilliant so that’s where it all came about from.

Speaking of the album, it's been rumored that it will be a double album with a run time of roughly ninety minutes which would be Judas Priest's first ever double disc. First of all, can you confirm this rumor and if so, why did you decide to do a double disc release?
Rob: It is a rumor still, I mean there is an enormous amount of material and you can only put so much on a single CD so you know, we’re trying to tell the story of his life and we’re trying to cover every significant moment of his life and I think you know, when we got it all recorded, that’s when you’re faced with the reality of how much time you got and how much a CD will afford you and the timing of it all. So we just ask everyone to bear with us and as we actually get into the mixing mode, we’ll be able to be more definitive and tell everybody exactly what we’ve got, but we just want to make sure we tell his life story so we’ll do whatever it takes to do that.

Even though you're widely recognized as THE metal god, you briefly experimented with a more industrial sound to your music in the late '90s with the Voyeurs release when you were helped by the likes of Trent Reznor and Dave “Rave” Ogilvie. Looking back on this album and this period of your music, how do you feel about it now? Is it something you're proud of?
Rob: Yeah, I think it’s great. You’re the second person today who I’ve been talking to that’s mentioned that and I’m really grateful because I think it was overlooked because it wasn’t really in the metal world so to speak, but I think it’s a great record, I really do and I’m very proud of it. I think Trent and Rave did a fantastic job, but I also want to give people a chance to listen to the original recordings because the original recordings, they’re quite different from the final release that we put out, so I’m trying to make provision for that. And eventually the original two songs should be available for download and we’ll put a physical CD out. But no, everything that I’ve done, I never think “oh what was I doing there?” Because you’re in control and I don’t think I’ve ever made a mistake and that’s just speaking bluntly, I’m proud of everything that I’ve stood by and if you don’t like it, well you can fuck off as far as I’m concerned, that’s just the way I am. I do my best; I put out things I believe in and if you don’t like it then pass on to something else.

Speaking of Reznor, do you still keep in touch with him and have you heard his very politically motivated new album Year Zero?
Rob: It’s just been out a few days hasn’t it?

It’s been out about a month and a half, six weeks now.
Rob: This has come out since With Teeth?

Yeah, it just came out at the end of April.
Rob: I’ll have to go online and have a look because I know he’s got a fantastic website and he streams some of his music on there. I’ll have to check it out but you know, if that’s the area that you choose to move in (politically), I mean I’m not that dissimilar to what Trent does in the way that at least with my solo work, I can be more real world based and I make specific statements that affect me, that piss me off, that make me angry and I think that’s a great virtue. All songs have a message whether it’s I love you, do you love me or this government sucks in a basic format and then you expand upon your beliefs and your thinking process about what’s going on around you in the world. But I’ll have to check it out.  [ END ]
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