Judas Priest ‘Really Hustling’ to Release New Music in 2023, Says Rob Halford
Judas Priest's Rob Halford was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program and, over 50 years into the band's career, things couldn't be busier for the singer, who is even looking at 2023 being the year fans get new Priest music.
The Metal God just put out his second book, Biblical, which is centered around a concept that sprung to mind as he was working on his first book, Confess. It's just one of many things in the spotlight right now, with Judas Priest's long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame being another, as is Priest's final leg of their ongoing 50 Heavy Metal Years tour.
And for the Rock Hall reunion performance, Halford is perfectly content to put aside all the drama and appreciate the moment for its historical significance not just for Priest, but for all of heavy metal.
Halford even shares a story of thieving an item from a recording studio from the British Steel sessions because he recognized it from John Lennon's "Imagine" music video.
Read the full interview below.
Let's first talk about the excitement that we all have about Judas Priest finally getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Editor's note: This interview was conducted in advance of the 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The excitement is building, not just for Priest, but for all of our metal maniacs here in the U.S. and the rest of the world because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is an internationally recognized place to be.
At long, long last Priest are in there and we can't wait to blast out some tunes because we are going to play live, which is a big thrill. We were up in the air about if that was going to happen, but it's on, so Priest will be playing live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Firepower was categorically a seminal Judas Priest album. What dictates the direction of a follow up to a defining album?
You can get kind of into a head game if you start thinking in that way. It's a perfectly legitimate question to ask because I think most balanced [musicians] face that that question.
I think that Firepower, for Priest, was as important as Painkiller was in the respect of bringing the focus and energy and refining and fine-tuning what we wanted to display at the heart of this band. We definitely achieved that with Firepower.
As far as where we are going next, the record is done apart from me. I've got a mic somewhere, I've been lollygagging around doing lots of stuff. But it's done and it sounds phenomenal. I think it's going to be a great follow up. It's not Firepower part two. We're always pushing and we're always trying to see what we can do next. So, there are some exciting opportunities that we've explored for the followup.
Here we are, still pushing through the back end of the 50 Heavy Metal Years [tour] and waiting in the wings is another Priest metal monster, ready to get launched at the appropriate time.
Judas Priest have joined the ranks of bands with adult beverages (alcohol). What conflicts, if any, do you feel about marketing a Priest-branded whiskey while practicing sobriety?
The first band to have done that with sober members in the band, off the top of my head, is Metallica and James [Hetfield] with the Blackened Whiskey, which my friends have told me is absolutely delicious.
Hey, this is the world we live in. Just because some of us are sober doesn't mean we get to dictate what we can approve and disapprove because of where we are personally. This is for everybody and our fans love to have a good time. That includes a few beers or whatever or a cigar. It's all good. Those of us who can do it in moderation and enjoy the experience, I say have a blast.
That's part of what we do when we go out for a metal show, especially — we have some drinks, we see our metal friends and we're all getting really energized for a great night out. So, we find the balance there and the beverage area that Priest works in is a good thing. It's just another part of what makes metal so inclusive of every opportunity.
There is a great fanboy story about you appropriating a piece of Beatles history from Tittenhurst Park where you recorded British Steel. Regardless of stature and all you've accomplished, why is it important to still be in awe of other musicians?
You become inspired and reflective of where those particular artists have placed their big stamp on the big umbrella of rock 'n' roll. All of us have our heroes. Ask any [musician] and any one of us will say that this person or this band played a significant part in their development as a musician.
It's a very natural and normal thing for us to do. We all need our heroes because of the great things that we take from that type of stance and good things come from it. It's like passing on the metal torch. But as far as what they meant to me and Glenn [Tipton], because Glenn's a massive Beatles fan like I am... I took that opportunity to sneak out a certain item from the house. I still wonder if I'll ever get an email from Yoko Ono, going, "I want that back."
While we were at Tittenhurst Park making British Steel. [producer] Tom Allom stuck me in this little cubicle room because he wanted a really dry, dead sound. So, I'm in there, disconnected from everybody with the headphones on. While we're in between takes, I look around and in the corner, I see this kind of Perspex monolith type of thing, like a little Egyptian obelisk.
My mind goes, "That was on the table in the room with a bunch of other things where John Lennon did the 'Imagine' track on the white piano." It was just collecting dust there, so as we packed up to leave the session, it mysteriously slipped into my suitcase and now it's on my fireplace in my house in England and I see it all the time. It means the world to me.
All of this is reflective on how we need each other for inspiration and to make great things happen.
John Lennon, "Imagine" Music Video
K.K. Downing will be joining you at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. What do you look forward to most about being there together, regardless of estrangement?
Exactly, regardless of estrangement.
It's going to be very, very important because of what the Hall signifies. It's important to have as many people that were involved in this great moment as you possibly can. So, obviously K.K. and Les [Binks] and Dave [Holland] were included on the list that we got and I wasn't surprised. I was very happy. I think we all were happy because it's important that that K.K. and Les are there. Dave will be there is spirit.
You've got to let all the stuff go and all you've got to do is focus on this incredible moment that we're going to be sharing together and making heavy metal history as it happens live when we perform together. I can't wait. It's going to be a blast. There's going to be a lot of goodwill, a lot of hugs, a lot of smiling, a lot of pictures, a lot of selfies, so we can all look forward to that with a lot of metal pride.
Biblical is your second book. What's fulfilling about communicating through written word enough to want to do it again?
I suppose really connects to my job. I'm a lyricist. I love words. I love the whole experience.
I'm a book reader as well. Books are so beautiful, no matter where you are enjoying them. Whether it's know, history, music, politics, art, science, fiction, fantasy, whatever, there are beautiful things to have and to be inspired by and to gain knowledge. They're not boring — they're just incredible parts of our lives that we can have adventures with and grow and get wisdom from.
On the back end of making [my first book] Confess with my dear friend Ian Gittins, who is my voice, I said at the time, "I've got this idea floating around in my head, but I can't quite articulate what I'm feeling. Would you be able to do some more work together?"
Biblical came into my mind, and using the holy book [The Bible] as a reference, we put together these chapters — sermons and revelations and temptations and all of these different aspects of the world of metal and rock. It's for anybody who wants to gain a deeper insight into how you get to these places. where you begin from and how you have to deal with all of the circumstances that come into being successful — managers, agents, lawyers, all the other stuff, plus lots of anecdotes. We wanted to make it informative, but also have a bit of humor and tongue-in-cheek and make it a good, all-inclusive, emotional read as well.
Can we say that next year will be when we hear new Judas Priest music?
I think we can but we can't be 1,000 percent certain because the front-end planning of a release is quite complex. You have to get your calendar of events in the right order. But we're really hustling to try and get it out sometime next year.
I think it's important for bands to take the opportunity to kind of pull back a little bit and go on the backburner. Don't entirely disappear, but when you're away for a while, it re-energizes the curiosity about what the band doing next. What is this new music and the sound like? What are they going to do when they play these songs live?
All of that has to be given time to develop and grow. All of that will be included in the timing for this next album, but we're so stoked to be out on the road here on what is the final leg of the 50th anniversary tour.
We're also focusing a lot on Screaming for Vengeance because it's also the 40th anniversary. We wanted to bring in a lot of songs from that album and it's been a blast going back and forth with each other trying to figure out the setlist. It's not the setlist that you just saw us when we were out with Queensryche [on the previous leg]. We have such a blast with those guys. They're so great at what they do and it's a perfect balance with Priest and Queensryche.
Thanks to Rob Halford for the interview. Get your copy of 'Bliblical' here and follow Judas Priest on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify. Catch the band on tour with Queensryche through Nov. 29 at these dates and head here for tickets. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.