When your leadership of a band has entered its fifth decade, it's little surprise if you feel the urge to flex your wings elsewhere once in a while. Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford initially did this fronting the comparatively edgier Fight during the early nineties, at the time not a part of Priest. Next came the industrial tinged 2wo in 1997 with a lone album ("Voyeurs"), though the noughties brought a project with a more classic metal vibe, the simply titled Halford.
"Halford IV: Made of Metal
" was issued through Metal God Entertainment on September 27th, 2010 in Europe, its North American release occurring a day later on the 28th and its Japanese release happening the following month on October 13th. Produced by Halford guitarist Roy Z.
, its fourteen tracks were recorded during 2009 and 2010. Inaugural single "The Mower
" saw the light of day on June 25th at 19:00 PST via HalfordMusic.com, its successor and eventual title track being released August 11th through the same website. Directed by London based animator Dean Wright
, "Made Of Metal
themed, animated music video debuted on September 13th.
Halford's July 17th concert at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, California marked its first live performance in more than seven years, the previous one taking place on June 6th, 2003 in Anaheim, California. From there, Halford appeared on Ozzfest's 2010 Main Stage in mid August alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe, DevilDriver and Nonpoint. From November 12th to December 12th, Halford will support Ozzy Osbourne on a North American tour, performing a handful of headline dates immediately afterwards. Halford's previous full-length studio releases are: "Resurrection" (2000), "Crucible" (2002), and "Halford III: Winter Songs" (2009).
On September 22nd at 21:30 GMT, Halford / Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford telephoned Hit The Lights' Robert Gray to discuss "Halford IV: Made Of Metal".
Rob Halford: Hello - it's Rob.
How you are Rob?
I'm fine. How are you doing this evening?
I'm doing well.
Would it be alright if I began the interview Rob?
Yeah. We've got about twenty minutes mate.
Ok. That's great. How did 'Made Of Metal' come together?
'Made Of Metal' came together quite quickly really because, as you know, Priest is having a bit of a break. Me, being who I am, I can't sit around; I just have to keep busy, and that's just the way I work. I thought it would be great just to get the lads together and do some shows, and as soon as the dates started to happen - later on this year, I'm doing Japan and South America - I thought "Well, wouldn't it be great if we had some new songs to play?". That really started it all off. I just started to think about some ideas for some songs, and the bulk of the songs came together quite quickly here in San Diego where I'm talking to you from today. 'Made Of Metal' is just a nice, simple, fast, straightforward heavy metal record in that the arrangements are very direct and straightforward. The album has lots of good riffs and vocal melodies which are really easy to get into, and I think that was my approach. I said to Roy my producer "Let's be simple and very straightforward". 'Made Of Metal' has a bit of a classic vibe about it really; the album is a little bit similar to what 'Resurrection' was all about, just the use of a bit of an atmosphere. 'Made Of Metal' is obviously not 'Resurrection' though, but is just a bunch of really, really good songs. That was it; keeping it simple, and keeping it moving. Now the album is almost about to launch. I can't believe how quickly 'Made Of Metal' came together, though it wasn't a rushed job. The album sounds great in terms of production and standard of playing, and Mike and Roy Z pulled out all the stops in terms of the guitar playing.
In what ways is 'Made Of Metal' the most personal release of your solo career?
"'Made Of Metal' came together quite quickly really because, as you know, Priest is having a bit of a break."
Just lyrically. Being a lyricist has been my main job with all of these years with Priest. Having the luxury of a solo band, and part of the reason for having a solo band, is just to talk about things that I wanna talk about as a lyricist and as a musician. There are some personal stories on 'Made Of Metal', like "Twenty-Five Years". "Twenty-Five Years" is about my problems with drugs, which I've stopped doing now after twenty-five years. Again, there are songs about trust and relationships. They're just a little bit more intimate lyrically than the lyrics I'm mostly associated with.
Has giving up drugs changed your perspective on writing music at all? Is there a difference between writing songs whilst under the influence of drugs, and when you're not?
Yeah, yeah. It's an interesting thought that is, because if you look at some of the things that've happened in music over the years, some musicians have been very open about saying "Yeah, I was out of my head. I was bladdered. I was out of my brains when I wrote that song", and it can be a great song. I personally have found that I have a much better vision of what I want to try to do with a song when I'm writing, and not using drugs. You just get clarity, and I think you're also able to balance it out. Where I'm at now as a solo writer, I try to do stuff that I haven't done before, like the video for the title track "Made Of Metal". I'm in a clear head to do things like that, which makes things a lot easier I think.
In discussions about 'Made Of Metal', blues has been mentioned. In what ways does the album exhibit a small element of the blues?
When I was a teenager listening to music in Walsall, I loved listening to blues shows on the BBC that John Peel used to do. Of course, the roots of rock 'n' roll were blues in America which was particularly strong in Memphis, Chicago and so on. That's always been a part of my love of all things about music, people like Howlin' Wolf. These are all really famous people who put this music in the limelight, people like B. B. King. They are just important proponents today still. There's a song on 'Made Of Metal' called "Till The Day I Die" which is very bluesy, and I'm just using that experience to say I intend to do what I do until the day I die. I thought "How cool is that with the blues?". A lot of the blues players played forever, like B. B. King.
Was "Till The Day You Die" possibly influenced by the passing of Ronnie James Dio in May? He was obviously still performing at the age of sixty-seven until his battle with stomach cancer.
That's a very good question, but I don't know. Maybe it was an influence. Maybe subconsciously it was. I don't know. He was a good mate of mine, and I still can't believe he's gone. Obviously, music comes at you from many different levels - consciously and subconsciously. Maybe it was. I honestly can't say, but as you get older, you... (laughs) occasionally think about your mortality. I turn sixty next year, and twenty years of your life goes by in a fucking blast in rock 'n' roll doesn't it?
Time moves differently in the music world. Five years just zip by, ten years zip by, and then you're sixty. Maybe that was what I was thinking about as well. I wasn't consciously thinking about it because I didn't want to write a massively depressing song, but there may be some value there to answer your question.
I spoke to Glenn Hughes about Ronnie's passing during an interview, and he said that you and Ronnie are the "two greatest voices of metal".
That's a very nice thing to say. Being a Brit, I take praise in a sort of difficult way. We Brits, we just like to get on with it; we say "Thank you", but that's all. I'm just here to do what I do, but that's a really nice thing for him to say.
Would you say that straightforward, classic type metal is where your heart is at the moment?
"'Made Of Metal' is just a nice, simple, fast, straightforward heavy metal record in that the arrangements are very direct and straightforward."
Hmm... Yeah, I think it is. I've been feeling that way the last two years. Maybe I just prefer being in that world because I'm familiar with it - that's where I grew up. I mean, I love all kinds of metal; I'm very open about how I appreciate all of what's being done, but I suppose I'm an old metalhead in that respect (laughs).
(Laughs) Can we expect anything slightly different from you in future material? Like what happened with the project 2wo?
I don't think so. I don't think I'm gonna go that extreme ever again. You probably heard "The Mower", which was out some months ago. I put that on 'Made Of Metal' just because I thought "Well, I might as well. I'll finish the record on that bang, that high note". "The Mower" uses the vocal technique that I still like to use, and it's probably the most extreme track on the record. "The Mower" has its place where it is; after "Matador", there's "I Know We Stand A Chance", and then there's "The Mower". "The Mower" just seems to round it all up, and is a very modern metal track, very unusual sounding. I enjoyed writing that song, but not as much as say "Undisputed" or "Hell Razor", those tracks with a classic vibe.
Did that eight-year gap between 'Made Of Metal' and 'Crucible' affect anything at all?
I don't know. I'm just enjoying myself now, and I'm not worried about anything. I'm just having a good time. I've been doing this for forty years. I'm just going ahead. You let your heart rule, and if you set your heart loose, you can do what you wanna do in the most uncomplicated way.
You referenced the music video for "Made Of Metal", which is an animated affair.
Yeah. Well again, I was just thinking about stuff that I've never done before. I'm not a huge Formula One fan or a huge NASCAR fan, but I do watch those things mostly on the TV, and it's very exciting. I saw a similarity in what we do in metal with that type of experience; obviously, you're in a machine that's made of metal and fibreglass. The engine and the gears and everything are all very metal, and "Made Of Metal" is a bit of a metaphor really; the cars are loud and flashy, proud, and that's embedded into that type of experience, that type of noise and spectacle. I thought "Well, is there a way we can bring that into a song idea?", and it turned out really good. The company that did it for us is based in England, and I think they did a really good job.
Can we expect another Halford music video of that nature?
I don't know. There would have to be a follow-up anyway, and I don't have a song that follows up "Made Of Metal". At the end of the day, I think it's great to see a band performing video, but it's fucking boring isn't it (laughs)? Unless you're a real fan, it's boring (laughs). I'd rather see the band play live than a band play in a video, unless you got millions of pounds to spend. It's so expensive to make a video now - it's gone through the roof.
Why do you feel 'Made Of Metal' has more in common with 'Resurrection' as opposed to 'Crucible'?
As you'll hear when you listen to 'Made Of Metal', the album has the same atmosphere and the same vibe about it. You take songs from 'Resurrection' like "Locked and Loaded" or "Cyberworld", "Night Fall", and "Temptation". I'm not trying to say they're the same, but just emotionally and musically they have the same type of experience. Having said that, 'Made Of Metal' sounds different, and it's like nothing I've done before in my mind at least. I think what I'm trying to say is the album isn't what you'd possibly expect in the general way that we do things. 'Made Of Metal' isn't what you'd expect to be the follow-up to 'Crucible'. I like 'Crucible'; a very heavy record, a very serious record. Maybe that was it, that I didn't wanna make a serious record. Some of the messages are serious, but overall, it's just a good time metal album.
What was it like to perform as part of 2010's Ozzfest after a seven-year break from performing solo?
I just go out and do it. Again, I don't think about it too much. Performing with the Halford band did feel a little bit strange at first because I'm used to Ian and K. K. being on my right, and Glenn being on my left, and Scott being behind me, but that's where I live now anyway. My full-time preoccupation will always be with Priest, but it's the music that drives you, isn't it? The music is driving the Halford band. It's just an opportunity to play metal. We started with festival appearances, and it felt really good. The Ozzfest was a real test because, obviously, we hadn't been out for about eight years, and the Ozzfest audience was a mix. They were strictly Crue fans, strictly Ozzy fans. There were some Halford fans and Priest fans obviously, but it's a challenge to try to go onstage in front of an audience that's full of different metal fans. If you can win them over like we did night after night, then that's what music tries to do.
And speaking of Ozzy Osbourne, the Halford band will support Ozzy on a North American tour in November and December.
"Having the luxury of a solo band is just to talk about things that I wanna talk about as a lyricist and as a musician."
Yeah. He asked me if I would come along and do those shows. We've known each other forever, and I said "Yeah". It's a great opportunity to take the band out over here.
Thirty-five to forty years ago, I bet you didn't think that you and Ozzy - two men from the West Midlands - would be playing arenas in North America together.
It's one thing to do an Ozzfest with fifteen bands or whatever it was, but over here they're saying the Godfather of Metal and the Metal God are going to be side by side. You don't usually get that type of reaction to a concert tour today - it is quite unusual. I thought there'd be another act before us, but there isn't.
Will you be conducting any live solo dates in 2011?
No - it's all Priest. As we're talking right now, I'll be back home from the Ozzy tour and will see Glenn and so on. We'll just get together, and we'll figure out what the plans are for next year which is primarily getting back out on the road again, Priest having had a year off.
Are there any plans for a new Judas Priest album?
I'm sure there'll be something in the not too distant future because that's what we've been doing since day one, haven't we? We're a metal band, and we write, record, and tour. We're a bit more laid back these days; there's not the rush and the contractual obligations that there used to be. When we're ready, we're ready to do something like that. As usual though, as soon as we know what we're doing, we'll let everybody know on the website.
Ok. Thanks for the interview Rob.
Alright mate. Cheers.
Have a good evening.
Yep, ok. Nice talking to you.
Alright. All the best.
All the best. Cheers.
Interview by Robert Gray
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