THE METAL GOD, ROB HALFORD, DISCUSSES 40 YEARS OF JUDAS PRIEST, BASKETBALL AND “AMERICAN IDOL”
Esquire.com: It’s been 40 years for Judas Priest this year.
Rob Halford: Yeah! In 1974 we released our first record, Rocka Rolla, and that just seems like yesterday. I think many people in showbiz will tell you that some of their strongest recollections are from the beginning, because if you’re lucky enough to be successful, that brings all this extra peripheral stuff and it gets kind of lost in time. But you always remember the early moments: the first record we ever made, the first time we came to America, things like that.
ESQ: And now, is Judas Priest still relevant, and if so, why?
RH: I think you have to really find yourself, as a musician, from record to record. You’ve probably heard a lot of people say, “You’re only as good as the last thing you did.” I think there’s some truth in that. This is our 17th record, 50 million records later, but we still feel as — I was going to say incomplete, but that’s not the right word. You’re searching, you’re constantly searching for the next thing you’re trying to achieve, and I think that your relevance comes from being able to prove your ability. Then your relevance connects to the people who support you, your fans, but it also goes through the cobweb of the music industry, so you’re touching other bands who consider your relevance or managers who consider your relevance, or the labels that consider your relevance. So it’s a very intertwined situation. So I think after all of that you decide you’re relevant for lots of different things. My relevance as a singer in a heavy metal band is based around purely what I’m doing with this new release, Redeemer of Souls.
ESQ: You love basketball?
ESQ: Do you have a favorite team?
RH: Well, I’ve still got my house in Phoenix, so I’m a Phoenix Suns fan. It’s been difficult for the team for the last few seasons, but I think we’ve got something very strong growing there and I think that next season is going to be spectacular. However, I also have my lucky San Antonio Spurs shirt and I was wearing that the day that they beat Miami. So I’m a Suns fan first, then I veer a little bit to the Lakers occasionally, but then the San Antonio Spurs. But yeah, I love it. And it’s only because I’ve spent so much time in America now that I learned to love the game. It’s such an exciting game. I love the way that one second can seem like an eternity. There’s one second on the clock and somehow somebody can pass the ball to two or three guys and they can get it in the hoop as long as it leaves their hands. The buzzer might have gone off, but as long as it left your hands it’s still going to count. It’s extraordinarily exciting!
ESQ: You played with Priest on American Idol. Was that a good thing for the group?
RH: Yeah. You know, a lot of our fans went, “Boo!” [Laughs] But a lot of our fans went, “Yeah! Priest on American Idol!” You’re in the homes of 30 million Americans, the vast majority probably haven’t got a clue about Judas Priest, but to be able to go on and do those two songs was just amazing. I think we’re the only metal band ever, to the best of my knowledge, to play American Idol. And it’s a great show. All the “boo-hoo” people can leave.
ESQ: Judas Priest, the band… Everyone’s been kind of private, in a way.
RH: Yes, we’re extremely private. Except for me! It’s always the gay ones that are screaming and blaming everybody else! [Laughs]
ESQ: How do you guys maintain that in the age of the Internet and social media, when everything is out there now?
RH: It’s a very good question, and it’s basically trust and respect for each. I would never say anything about Glenn, even about the music to a certain respect. But as far as the dirty laundry that some bands are very, very open about displaying, the most important thing for Priest is the music. We really treasure it. And I’m only speaking for myself, but once you get beyond that and you get deeper, digging in the dirt, it can really dilute what you’re about and what you’re trying to be with your music. So we’re very, very protective of that. We’ve also been fortunate in that we’re surrounded by people outside of the band who are very protective of us as well. You get these tell-all book from agents and managers that don’t really know the truth: We’ve been lucky. We’re constantly asked if we’re going to do a book. Well, it seems the only way you can get a book to be successful is to dig up the dirt, and I don’t want to do that, personally. I think it’s also part of the magic and mystery of the band, isn’t it? In today’s world, everybody knows what everybody’s doing. It’s all in one ear and out the other and doesn’t have any value. So for us, it’s about keeping the privacy and the mystique. The band is called Judas Priest and this is our music.
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