Whenever I think back to the day when I met Rob Halford of Judas Priest, a guy that really has meant extremely much to me, I realize how I just can't believe it actually happened!
It still feels like it was a dream..! To this day, I still can't quite believe that I was actually TALKING to this man, that I was sitting right next to him, having a conversation! It feels unreal, like it was somebody else and not me.
But it was me, a little nobody from Sweden who talked to the Heavy Metal God and although it has been 7 years since this meeting took place, this is the first time I actually took the time to write it down! It's been on Radio MCB, the station I worked at back then, and a short article was the result of this long interview. But I somehow feel that the things he had to say were interesting, so.. Disregard the fact that it's been 7 years since this interview took place - it's the first time anybody anywhere gets to read it! Hope you enjoy it! :-)
February 2, 1991: Sheraton Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden:
When my friend Janet and I walked into Sheraton Hotel I knew I'd have to put up a real acting performance in a few minutes time... There was no way I could EVER prepare myself for something like this! I had been a devoted Judas Priest fan since I was 12-13 years old, and if it hadn't been for Judas Priest I wouldn't even BE at Sheraton right now to do this interview with Rob Halford..! Priest presented heavy metal music to me and it really changed everything. My love for heavy metal music gave me the job I had always dreamed of, and a life I had never even DARED to dream of and now I was gonna face the man who was responsible for all this.
We walked into the hotel-bar/restaurant and took a quick look. I immediately spotted the people from CBS (now Sony Music) and Jayne Andrews, the management-lady who I had met in Copenhagen two days before, who arranged this interview for me.
I started to walk towards their table when I noticed somebody I knew in the bar - Anders Tengner, a famous Swedish rock-reporter. Only seconds later did I see who he was talking to! "Oh my God, it's Rob Halford..." I thought to myself and tried not to behave like a fan. I had to remind myself, over and over again, that I was there as a journalist, not as a fan. I just couldn't blow it, I had to fake a blasé look - the typical "I'm not-impressed-by-anything-or-anybody"-journalist professional-expression.
Janet and I took a seat at the CBS-people's table and tried to have a casual conversation. Janet succeeded, she's not even a metal-fan, so she couldn't care less about Rob Halford. I, on the other hand, couldn't help staring at the bald guy in the bar, I probably said my "yes" and "no"'s at the totally wrong places cause I really wasn't listening to the conversation...
Then, I saw Anders packing his things. He shook hands with Rob and left. I was next...
Jayne went over to Rob and they were talking about something, then she waved to me, like: "Come on!". I started walking and for each step I took I thought I was gonna faint - I was getting closer to The Metal God! When I finally stood face to face with him Jayne introduced us, he shook my hand and we were shown to a table. There was another guy from a Swedish newspaper at the table too, but he didn't get to say much... The waitress came and Rob ordered a Coca-Cola if I remember it correctly. I started my tape recorder and this is what was said!
(I wrote this down word by word - exactly as he says it, no corrections made anywhere, just so you can get that "live"-feeling! I suggest you download this page so you can read it off-line as I believe it's going to take you a little while to read the whole thing...!)
D: Your, uh...HAIR looks different! What have you done..?
R: Yeah, actually, my hair is too long at the moment, I gotta shave it off! (laughs) I haven't had a haircut in two weeks. I just get my clippers and just do it myself, you know... But it's great, cause Ken and Glenn go on like this (starts "fixing" his hair like a movie star diva) before they go on stage, and I'm just standing there "oh, come on!" When I wake up in the morning, I look like the same as when I went to bed! Everybody else wakes up with their hair...and it's like (sighs) "oh my God..." So I decided to get rid of it! (chuckles)
D: Quite original... You're probably the only rocker who doesn't have long hair!
R: That's true! And that's just part of my constant... desire to be...different. Not to be repetitious. I think everybody that's a Priest-fan, maybe, looks forward to seeing "what's Rob gonna look like this time?" you know...
D: This look suits you better than the long hair you used to have actually! (laughs)
R: Yeah, I've gone away from what I call the "designer heavy metal" (laughs). You know... I don't wanna do that anymore. I enjoyed it when I was doing it, but now I'm more...Hardcore. This is my hardcore metal phase.
D: How does it feel when you meet your old friends? I mean, your life is probably very different from theirs...?
R: It's an interesting question, because...If I see my friends from school...First of all, they all look a lot older than me! (laughs) even though we're the same age. Uhm... And-uh...I think that...
(Waitress comes with Rob's drink and puts it down on the table in front of him. He pauses for a second, says a polite"thank you" to the waitress, sips his Coke and continues:)
I think that heavy metal music, rock'n'roll music, keeps you young, you know. I mean, you look at the Rolling Stones with Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and all those kind of people - I think that... (coughs, mumbles "excuse me..." and continues:) It's no different to me... Being in rock'n'roll is no different to, say, Picasso. Or...(starts laughing) I was gonna say Van Gogh, but he killed himself in his pretty early! Uhm...But... You know what I'm trying to say? I think an artist... As long as your art is valid and important and has meaning, I don't think age has got anything to do with it! And... Yeah, sometimes when I put all my stuff off... stuff on, and I look in a mirror, and I go: "I'm 39 years old...!" (laughs) BUT...! I still feel I have every right to do it, because when I get dressed for a show, it's like sir Laurence Olivier getting dressed for a play, you know... It doesn't matter. You're putting on a costume and your identity, so...I'm happy with it. It doesn't bother me. I think that if it looked stupid or ridiculous, then... I would consider it, but you know... I'm a biker as well as a heavy metal maniac, and there's a lot of biker friends that I know who are like 50-60 years old, and they wear leather and jeans and studs, and they look really strong, tough and powerful! And... I have no problem with it.
D: You haven't done too many ballads throughout your career... The last one was "Out in the cold" on the "Turbo"-album...
D: Why is that..? Don't you feel that you're capable of writing that kind of songs..?
R: Oh yeah! In fact, we were gonna put a ballad on this... on the "Painkiller" album, but there really wasn't any space for it, so the nearest thing we got was "Touch of evil", which really isn't a real ballad as people expect, you know...
D: I love it! It's heavy...
R: ...it wasn't like "Beyond the realms of death" or "Before the dawn", that kind of stuff... Or "Night comes down". It was a really intense back beat of a solid heavy metal riff. Uuhh... But yeah...I mean, we may use it on the next record possibly. It's a really good song, a really good ballad. But... We wanted to make this record very strong, very powerful with no space for slow, kind of cigarette-lighters and mirror balls, you know... We didn't wanna do that.
Other journalist: I heard that you don't play that many songs from the "Painkiller"-album...
R: Yeah, we play...
D: Four! (I paid attention at the show in Copenhagen! Surprised? :-))
R: (surprised face) Yeah.. We do! We play four. We play... "All guns blazing"...
R: Yeah, "Painkiller"... "Nightcrawler", "Touch of evil"... Four of them. But, you know, when you're playing just under 2 hours, and you've got 14 albums to choose from, like 150 songs, it's like... Where do we begin? You know. What are we trying to do? So, we're trying to play songs that we know are like the classic cuts, that people wanna hear. If you play something from "Sad wings of destiny" people usually want "Victim of changes" or "The Ripper" which we do. Or from "Stained Class" we play the ballad "Beyond the realms of death" or from "Defenders of the faith" - "The Sentinel"... You try to pick songs that you feel are the ones that people really wanna hear. And...So... We... We try to make a set that was... You know, that had a flow, that had a lot of energy, that really didn't drop too much - apart from "Beyond the realms of death" where we take a little bit of a rest and then bring it back up again.
We're just trying to give something from everything that we've done. But even so, we missed out the "Turbo"-album on this tour and we missed out the "Ram it down"-albums, but that's because...
D: Are you ashamed of it? Of the "Turbo"-album?
R: No, we've been asked this question before, and I think that if we had been ashamed of it, we would never had released it. The fact is, "Turbo" was a successful album. Particularly in America it's gone platinum which is over a million copies. And, so... You know, bands go through different periods musically and image wise, and I'm happy that we've been able to do that. Again, coming back to this feeling of not wanting to be repeating yourself over and over again with the clothes, with the music that you play... Just trying to have something new to say all the time.
We're just trying, like we've always done, to show people that heavy metal isn't just one dimension. It's not just like... heavy riffs in A or heavy riffs in the chord of E, that you can take it lots of different ways. So, Judas Priest is "Turbo Lover" Judas Priest is "Freewheel Burning", Judas Priest is "Living after midnight", Judas Priest is "Victim of changes"... We're all of these different bands, you know..! I'm proud of everything that Judas Priest has done, and I'm happy to be associated with everything that Judas Priest has recorded.
Other journalist: How much has Scott Travis meant for this new album, the new material?
R: A lot! A great deal! I think "Painkiller", for me, is as much a drum-album as it is like, a guitar-album or a...vocal-album. We made the drums a lead instrument on this record. Without Scott, there's no way "Painkiller" would have been as powerful or as strong. He has the ability to make something...very,very exciting and very explosive with the way he interpreted the songs that we wrote.
D: What do you think the fans will think about the new drummer? Do you think they'll accept that Dave is no longer in the band?
R: Well... It's always a difficult thing to do. Dave left the group of his own choice at the end of the "Ram it down"-tour. He was complaining about being very physically burnt out, and... really not feeling that he was giving as much that we all give, you know. You gotta give everything when you make your music. And...
I think Dave would probably be the first to admit that heavy metal was...you know, uh.. important to him, but maybe not as important as it is to someone like me, who lives, breathes, drinks, sleeps, eats heavy metal music, you know..! And... So... He made a professional and a gentleman decision by leaving the group. But... It doesn't matter to me that Scott's an American. He could have been Swedish, he could have been French, he could have been from Holland, it doesn't matter. It's the quality of the work that matters, and he was the best heavy metal drummer we could find.
D: I read an interview where you said that the day that Judas Priest doesn't get a commercial success with an album, that's the day when you'll quit...
R: Well, that doesn't sound like me. Maybe I've been misquoted or maybe I was in a strange mood, because I think commercial success isn't really important. I think the solid hardcore following that you have from your fans is the most important thing. I get misquoted on a lot of things, and I don't know where that came from...
[It was Swedish music-mag OKEJ... - Daniela]
Commercial success to me is Guns n' Roses.. You know.. Commercial success to me is Iron Maiden. That's not Judas Priest! We're an album-orientated band, and.. You know, "British Steel", we had a few singles... And... That helped us to some extent, but...Our basic hardcore following is with the records, the LP's. Nothing else. And... I'd much rather be in that situation than be in a fashionable commercial heavy metal band that's famous for ten minutes and then disappears.
D: Did all the free publicity that you got with the Reno suicide-case help you in any way..? I mean, did you sell out more shows, more albums..?
R: It didn't help us at all. We haven't sold any more albums. We haven't made any more bigger shows, we just carried on in our steady, confident kind of a way...Some people said that, you know, with 10 million dollars, with the free publicity, we'd be a much bigger band. WE never believed that! And it's unfortunate now that in America, people that didn't know about Judas Priest, now they understand Judas Priest is being "The suicide band from England", and that's a band thing, you know... But that's the way that the media communicates in America...
Other journalist: I read that the free publicity helped you sell out more shows, bigger shows in the States...?
R: Mmmmhm... Didn't work that way at all. We just simply carried on the same way. We've just finished a three month tour of America that was...as strong and as powerful as the last three, four-five tours that we've made, you know.
D: I read an interview where you said that you don't like walking around raving about yourself, telling everybody how good you are...
D: ...but... You must hear that sort of thing every day..! How you influenced somebody, how you, maybe, changed somebody's life... Doesn't that have any influence on you at ALL..?
R: No. I don't think what I do is very important. I think that... I just do as best as I can do in my profession as a vocalist for a heavy metal band. I haven't gone out on some big quest to be the world greatest singer, or to want fame and fortune...
D: But many new bands are acting like that after only one single or one album...
R: Well, I think everybody that talks that way, or thinks that way, should ponder.. WHERE they're gonna be in five years time. Most of the bands with big mouths disappear. But I think if you're... genuine and you're patient and you work hard, then you get the rewards. And the wonderful things that are being said about Judas Priest now, come from a lot of different people...and especially from other successful heavy metal rock bands. They're just great words of praise that we accept with a great deal of thanks. And... Doesn't make me feel any different about myself or about anybody in Judas Priest. We're very level-headed people. We came from a tough working-class background in England, and we had to fight and work very,very hard to be successful. And when you do that, you see that rock'n'roll isn't just like all the fame and all the glory. It's like any profession. It's like any sport. Being a football- or a baseball player...Uuh..A banker, or... Anybody in any work of life. Everybody has different levels of acceptance in what they feel what they've achieved as success. You know. Success isn't money and cars and houses!
Success is being happy about yourself and accomplishing your dreams. Some people dream more than others, some people want more than others...Doesn't mean that people are any lesser..uh.. important - I don't attach any degree of importance to people's success. Just 'cause one guy works in a car-factory doesn't mean that I'm better than him! You know? He's doing as good as he can do, and I'm doing as good as I can do...
D: But isn't it difficult to keep your feet on the ground, after 15 years and everybody keeps telling you how great you are..?
R: Naah...Don't make any difference to me!
D: You started your European tour in Copenhagen...
D: Why Copenhagen?
R: Because we started the last European tour here. We just have a great time here. And... We started in Stockholm...! (smiles when he remembers). Actually, we rehearsed for Europe... We were in Stockholm for about two weeks making the "Ram it down"-tour rehearsals. But... We just love... You know, this part of Europe always reminds me of England. Everybody thinks we're in England, apart from the language, but everybody can speak English as well. So, we love Scandinavia. When we first toured in Europe, years and years ago, the first countries we came to were like... Norway - Oslo, Stavanger...Copenhagen... You know... Denmark... We used to come to small clubs here and play. Like... Nineteen-seventy...uh, seventy-four, seventy-five... You know... So we've got a lot of good feelings for Scandinavia.
Other journalist: I heard that when you're not playing with the band, you live a quiet...calm life..?
R: Yeah, because I get all my excitement... You see...When I'm off stage, I'm off stage..! I don't need to walk around with somebody carrying a spotlight as I walk in the supermarket or down the street, or drive a car (laughs)! When I go to work, I go to work, you know... And then, when I come home, I'm not working...!
And that's the way I look at it: It's a job, it's a profession, it's a career. I don't need all of the excitement and the fame of being in heavy metal. Uhm...So, when I'm not working, I'm relaxing, you know... And that's doing lots of different things, lying in the sun...like everybody has a vacation, or reading books, or watching movies or riding my Harley Davidson.. Doing different things like that.
D: So, what do you think Rob Halford will be doing when he's 80?!
R: When I'm 80???!! I'll probably be terrorising people in my electric wheelchair covered in leather and studs down the high street, hahaha!
D: So, you think that you'll never get sick and tired of heavy metal?
R: No, I don't think I will. I think I'll be a headbanger when I'm 80 as much as I was a headbanger when I was 18, you know... It's part of my life. It'll always be important to me.
D: Cause most people say that heavy metal is only for teenagers and that it "passes" after a couple of years...?
R: Yeah... Some people DO feel that way, and some people... I know. I've got friends who were into heavy metal and into Judas Priest for, you know, five or six years - NOW they're listening to Kenny Rogers, somebody like that! But, uhm... You know, with ME it's important, and I think a lot of metal fans, a lot of JUDAS PRIEST metal fans have been us right from the early days.You know, they stick with us. They've been with us since the very first records. Means different things to different people. But it's like rock'n'roll, you know.
D: Judas Priest was one of the first bands to start with the leather and studs-look and image. Where did you get the idea..?
R: I used to go to my local S&M-shop in London. You know... I've always been a bit of a sado-masochist... I like pain. That's why I've got all these tattoos now. I'm always looking for new areas of pain and darkness. Uuuh.. But... You know, when we first began, heavy metal didn't have an image or a look. And...
D: YOU didn't either..!
R: No, we didn't! No. If you look at some of the early pictures of Judas Priest, we're dressed in shirts and...
D: Silk and lace...
R: Yeah. That kind of stuff. But I always felt as though that wasn't really the true representation. You know, when you're playing real hard bludgeoning power-chords and blood-curtling riffs, you wanna...look as though you're doing it (laughs) you know..!
It's like going to see Hamlet and the guy just stands there in his underwear! It's just not the same, you gotta wear the clothes! So... You want to...make an image that works with the music, so... I took a lot of ideas from sex-shops with whips and chains and all that kind of stuff, and slowly started to develop it into the show, and it became more and more empowering, and that's the way the look should work with the music.
D: Your fans expect you to play a certain kind of music, like the heaviest metal possible. And when you did "Turbo" you made a lot of fans angry because you used the synthesizers for the first time...
D: So, do you feel that you're stuck with a certain kind of music- that you can't exactly develop yourselves and do something else - even if you wanted to..?
R: You mean now?
R: I don't think so, because...I think, when you put the records back to back and you play them back to back, you got all this variety, you got all this choice. And we pick and choose from different areas of what we've done and what we're able to do. Uhm... I think, as far as the fans being angry... You know, some of them were and some of them weren't. Some of them loved "Turbo", some of them hated it. Some of them love "Painkiller" some of them hate "Painkiller"... You know. You just make the record, and you hope that as many people like it as possible. I can't... I can't grab people´s arm and twist it up their back and go: "Go into that record-shop and buy "Painkiller!!" (laughs)
You know, it's a freedom of choice. So... I don't think it's restricted us. We restrict ourselves, basically. And... We choose to be as vari...uh, has as much variety and to have be as versitile as we can. That's what we'll always do.
D: You had just finished the suicide-case when this album came out, or almost anyway, and then you named the album Pain-KILLER... Don't you think it made some people a bit offended that you used the publicity to sell the record..?
R: Well, we never used the publicity to sell the record. I think if we would have done that, I'd be walking around in my three-piece suit that I had to wear in court.
D: Cause I saw an advertisment that said "This Priest-album is as great backwards as forwards"...??
R: Yeah, absolutely! That was the idea of the record-company. And ... You're laughing, and that's exactly what you should do! You should react to it with a smile.
D: I sure reacted at it..! I was like, "what's THIS??"
R: Yeah. You should... You know... I think...That's the way we intended it to be. It was like getting that lawyer, who held up "Stained Class" and said: "I wonder how many more people this has killed" , you know, and slap him across the face and say, well, "Get this!" you know! (gets upset and raises his voice for the first time during the whole interview. He's clearly bothered by the things that were said during the trial...) It's great backwards or forwards! You know... With any kind of tragedy, and it WAS a tragedy that two men lost their lives through drug-addiction and alcohol-abuse and parents that didn't love their kids, to...a situation where you could at least smile about it and get on with your life. I'm not gonna walk around being depressed for the rest of my life because of Reno! But at the same time... I don't think that... Like I said earlier, we didn't gain anything by the Reno-situation. We lost about a half a million dollars in legal costs, that we had to pay for, and a lot of terrible things were said about Judas Priest, about heavy metal. We defended heavy metal music!
D: Defenders of the faith, right..?? :-)
R: Yeah! Everybody said... People in court said heavy metal is bad, it's satanic, everybody that listens to Judas Priest is mad, is crazy, is full of drugs, hates the world, is an anarchic...You know. If somebody said that to you, you'd be pissed off.
R: I was pissed off! So.. We stood up in court and said "Fuck you! Heavy metal is great!"
MORE TO COME SOON! IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO LISTEN TO A TAPE AND WRITE IT DOWN - ESPECIALLY WHEN IT'S A VERY LONG INTERVIEW! KEEP CHECKING EVERY TWO DAYS OR SO FOR THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW!