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Judas Priest’s Rob Halford Talks ‘Redeemer of Souls,’ ‘The Simpsons’ + Tour Plans

Rob Halford
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. “The Metal God” took the time to speak to Jackie about the band’s upcoming ‘Redeemer of Souls’ album, their recent appearance on ‘The Simpsons’ and the group’s dedication to flying the metal flag. Check out Full Metal Jackie’s interview with Judas Priest’s Rob Halford below:

It’s Full Metal Jackie bringing you two full hours of metal each and every week. On the show with us, it’s a total honor to say I’ve got Rob Halford. How ya doin, Rob?

Hi Jackie, it’s great to be with you. Hello metal heads it’s great to be in the metal community once again and catching up on all things Judas Priest.

What an exciting time. We finally have a chance to get a sample of this new music on the upcoming record, the 17th album from Judas Priest, ‘Redeemer of Souls,’ coming out on July 15. We had a chance to hear the title track and I’ve been fortunate enough to get to hear a few more tunes, it’s worth the wait. Rob, in terms of the metal genre, Priest has literally done it all. What creative goal dominated the overall direction of ‘Redeemer of Souls’?

We’ve been using the ‘Nostradamus’ experience as a bit of a reference point. That was our first and only concept album, Jackie, and we love that record and there’s still more to come with that. It’s a type of project if you wanna call it, that’s got a long life, and we have many many more ideas to bring to the table with ‘Nostradamus,’ but as a musical reference and because it’s been six years since ‘Nostradamus,’ it’s never six years. I think it’s six years, and three years since we played out live on the road. We were just raring to get back into full on classic Priest mode.

Forty years later, we’re still making what we feel is some of the best metal of the genre from Priest. So, that was where the attention was to make a record that embodies everything that you love as a Priest fan, and everything that you love about classic metal. So, it was that and it was also the word relentless — let’s keep it relentless, let’s not take any steps back. So, from the opening, thundering storm of ‘Dragonaut’ through all the way to the final rallying cry, ‘Battle Cry,’ and then the cool down song, as it’s getting to be called “Beginning of the End,” it’s just nonstop. It’s roaring, I think it really sends a strong, strong signal that Priest is back again.

In terms of songwriting, Priest has been a collaboration between you, Glenn and KK — and now Richie. What is necessary to keep that creative relationship vibrant and flourishing?

Well any band is made up of great players, but also the writers and the history of Priest we’ve left this metal trail of songs over 40 years that have come from three guys getting together, and banging metal heads, and coming up with the riffs, and making the metal come alive. And we’ve always done that with myself and two guitar players, and I think the fact that we’ve had the two-guitar push in the writing has made the material of Priest quite unique. So having Richie on board for the first time in the writing board of Judas Priest was absolutely magical. He has all of the right attitude and belief and love for Priest that was needed to pull out all the stops and come up with some incredible contributions.

Everything on ‘Redeemer of Souls’ has come from Tipton, Halford and Faulkner and it was just really exciting to be in the studio while these songs were being born because, that’s literally what happens. You go in the studio with nothing and then at the end of the day you may have a tune that’s going to be around a lot longer than you are. That’s the power of metal, metal is eternal.

So, Richie was just ready to go. He came on board with Priest just as we did the ‘Epitaph’ tour and that was our first time to kind of live the life of the road, be in each others company, learn more about each other, on all the different levels that you do when a band gets together and starts tracking from place to place, and he took a little rig out with him, and he was always jamming, you know, that was his genuine enthusiasm. He was always jamming in a room and mingling with him next door, and we’d go, “Man listen to these riffs he’s coming up with,” and we would stick our heads around the corner, “Keep writing Richie, keep writing.”

So that was just his infectious energy and of course above and beyond everything about Richie Faulkner, he was a huge Priest fan. He’ll tell you he grew up listening to Priest, he was doing our guitar in front of the mirror to all of those early Priest songs. So he was the perfect fit, really, it was just a miracle that we found somebody, not only of his caliber, but of his music integrity, and the fact that he is a Priest fan.

Rob, what do you think your vocal performance adds to your overall legacy?

I’d like to think, as a metal singer, I’ve been giving it 100 percent from day one and that’s from my own determination and from the encouragement that I get from my bandmates. Again, I’m always thinking about the fans. The great thing about metal singers is that, especially if you’ve got longevity, your voice does tend to change. That’s just part of the physical attributes I’ve said before. It’s not like a drum kit where you can change a skin or change the strings on a guitar. Your voice does tend to sound a bit different in my time of life, with respect to where it was when it first kicked off.

Having said that, I’d like to feel that all the character and strength, all the delivery and the great fun that I have singing as a metal singer is still intact. I was pushed a lot by Glenn, who was producing this album, along with Mike Exeter. Because we’ve been family for so long, Glenn knows when to give me a kick [laughs] when it’s necessary. He got some spectacular performances from me for ‘Redeemer of Souls.’ I’m happy, you know me well enough, Jackie, I’m always complaining about the fact that I wish I could do more. That’s just the way I’m driven. The overall consensus is that the Metal God delivered the goods again.

Absolutely. People were losing their minds when you released the title track off this new record. Rob, how is your role and Priest’s role important now in keeping the metal flag flying?

Glad you brought that up, the fact that we still are flying the flag of metal 40 years later, it’s something of a standard. We carry something of a responsibility as well. We like to feel that we’ve consistently delivered what we’ve felt was the best metal in the classic metal genre. I always say from the stage, “Everybody ready for some Judas Priest style heavy metal?” Because that’s what we feel like what we’re doing. More than anything, I like to feel that the genuine commitment and dedication from Priest is as strong as it ever was.

Let’s face it, we don’t need to make another record. We’ve made sixteen of them, we have hundreds of songs. But you can’t stop the power of metal, and if you’re a writer or a creative person like we are in Priest, collectively, why put the fire out if it’s roaring? If anything, we threw kerosene on it and it just exploded even more for ‘Redeemer of Souls.’

That’s another attribute that I’m proud of in Priest, we’re not taking things easy. We may be out of the scene physically, for stretches of time, but that’s because we’re working hard, planning the next attack. It’s been a real labor of love, putting together the ‘Redeemer of Souls’ album. To prove to ourselves that we can still do this, and I’m sure our fans want to see and hear that as well. We love going out and playing all the Priest classics, ‘Breaking the Law,’ ‘Living after Midnight,’ ‘[You've Got] Another Thing Coming,’ ‘The Hellion’/'Electric Eye,’ ‘Beyond the Realms of Death,’ all of these and many more, but we’re equally as thrilled now there’s an opportunity coming to share some of these new songs, as we consider going out on the road one more time.

A few months ago we had a chance to see Judas Priest as ‘Simpsons’ characters. How does it feel for you, being in this band as long as you have, to have things like that happen to you and have people start recognizing the band for what it is?

It was a glorious moment. Who wouldn’t want to be a Simpson, or in the Simpson family? It’s the world’s biggest most famous animated TV show of it’s type. It still is, all of these years later. I grew up on ‘The Simpsons’ like a lot of us did when it was first broadcasted. I was hooked on that show. So, when these recognitions start to happen, especially by a fiercely protected treasured brand that the ‘Simpsons’ is, they don’t pick their guests very lightly. They think long and hard about who they want to step into The Simpsons world. It was a thrill for us, obviously.

I was just buzzing when I got that phone call that it was going to take place. It was a lot of fun to go over to the studios and sit in the reading room and listen to Homer speak two feet away from me, Dan [Castallaneta]. And all the other incredible voice actors that we know from that show. Then, to lay down some ‘Breaking the Law’ riffs and just see how it’s made. It was thrilling, especially to be on the Fox lot knowing that the Fox lot is where some of the greatest movies of all time have been made. But there you go!

When you’re stepping into that type of iconic cultural experience, and all of these accolades and awards start coming your way, later on in life. It’s fantastic. We’re extremely grateful and proud that we accept this, not only for Priest but for metal and fans in the world.

You heard about when they called Judas Priest ‘death metal,’ how hilarious?

Death metal [laughs], it was hysterical. I don’t recall us ever seeing the full script. But when it happened, the Internet just exploded. Everyone went ballistic. What are you talking about!? How dare you!? They’re classic metal! I’m at home and my iPhone is ringing with texts and emails and so there was this out of control media frenzy going on with that statement from ‘The Simpsons.’

Here’s the thing about metal, and what I love about the fans of metal, they’re so passionate and equally much respect and love to ‘The Simpsons’ people because they saw that. They heard about that and they put it right, and what a cool way to do it! To get Bart to get a piece of chalk and write on the chalkboard, “Judas Priest is not death metal.”

The best possible way they could have made good on that.

It was great. As I said, ‘The Simpsons’ people are as fiercely proud and protective of what they’re about as we are in Judas Priest. I think they treated the whole thing with great love.

You’ve discussed the idea of not touring again. What do you feel changed your minds?

It’s got to be the fans. We went out there in all genuine honesty, saying that this was a farewell tour but if we could have picked a better word than ‘farewell,’ I wish we could have found one. That should have been my job, being the lyricist. I suppose ‘farewell’ isn’t really goodbye, it’s like, ‘see you next time.’

What we were trying to explain as we moved along was, that we will be going out again but it won’t be these two-year treks around the world that naturally become a little bit more challenging when you get to a certain stage in your life. We never want to compromise ourselves, we want to be able to go out onstage, wherever it might be on the planet and give you everything we’ve got. If there’s a way of kind of readjusting the touring scheduling where we can do that, and go in the ring and give you everything, then that’s what we intend to do.

We’ve just been discussing, while we’ve been together in New York, the first time we’ve been together as a band in three years, ironically enough. We saw each other in and out of the studio, but we were never all there at the same time. So, for the first time we were together recently, and we discussed about the touring. We started to put down setlist ideas. It looks like we’ll be going out in the fall, in America. So you’ll be getting us towards that time of the year. We’ll be kicking the tires, as they say, getting the engine reved up and play live to our fans again.

The Five Finger Death Punch song you did guest vocals on, the surprise appearance at the Golden Gods. What an amazing experience. I was talking to Ivan about it and we talked about what it was like that day in the studio. It felt like something magical was happening.

It was and I think it’s another example of how we’re all connected in metal. It doesn’t matter if you’re not into this band or that band, we’re all metal heads together or knuckleheads as the Death Punch fans are. We’re all behind the same cause, living the life. You and I talked about this before, the song was sent to me, and I found out the guys were big fans of Priest. As soon as I heard the track I said, “I’m in. I’m ready, let’s go. Let’s do it.” I went to Vegas and laid the track down. Low and behold it was a number one in the rock charts for a long spell of time, which again, showed the greatness of that track.

I read recently a reference to the fact that, in metal, Priest is sometimes looked at as the old guard of metal. We’re the originators along with our best mates, Black Sabbath. It’s like, you can’t go to a show and see the guys that invented jazz. You can’t go to a show and see the guys that invented the blues. Those giants have long passed. But if you want to see the originators of heavy metal music, then go to a Priest show. A band for me, like FFDP is the new guard of metal. So, it’s just thrilling to know that there’s a connection there, running through the decades where there’s still a tremendous amount of respect and affection for each other. Even though we might totally be in each other’s backyard musically, the metal is there and it’s strong, and we’re still united.

It’s Full Metal Jackie with Rob Halford, the 17th Judas Priest record, ‘Redeemer of Souls,’ is coming out July 15. We will have Judas Priest in the U.S. touring in the fall. Rob, such a pleasure to talk to you. Appreciate all that you do. I hope to see you soon.

Thank you, Jackie.

Thanks to Rob Halford for the interview. Judas Priest’s ‘Redeemer of Souls’ is available for pre-order at iTunes and Amazon. This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Crowbar‘s Kirk Windstein on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.

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