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It's not often you are granted an audience with the Metal God. When you are, you best make it count. Right now Rob Halford is back where he belongs, at the very epicenter of the heavy metal universe. With a new album on the Billboard charts and a coveted opening slot alongside Queensryche on Iron Maiden's North American tour, the metal spotlight shines brightly in Rob's direction. What better time than now to talk with one of the undeniable legends of metal, a man who helped to invent the very sound we live for? So it was that Rob fucking Halford sat down to impart a few words of wisdom to the underground metal legions via the Metal Update.

Metal Update: Welcome back to the Metal God.

Rob Halford: Well thank you so much. It feels great to be back. Absolutely wonderful.

MU: I just saw the Madison Square Garden show.

RH: Was that a killer show or what?

MU: How did that night compare to the other shows you've played?

RH: You know, Madison Square Garden is the crown jewel of places to play.

MU: When was the last time you'd played at Madison Square Garden before that?

RH: When I was banned by the Garden authorities in 1980-something after the infamous frisbee-cushion throwing contest, on the 'Defenders of the Faith' tour. There was a considerable amount of damage done that night and, the funny thing was, before I went on stage this time, I spoke to Jon Scher, the promoter who promoted that particular crazy night with Priest, and he told me "you'll be happy to know now that all of the seat cusions are Rob Halford-proof." (laughs)

MU: Tell us about doing the VH1 thing.

RH: Well, yes. What an insane day that was. I was running around doing soundchecks and interviews and hosting The Rock Show and then I had to go on and do my piece, and do a bunch of stuff afterwards for VH1. It was just an insane day. But that's what I love about New York. It's just completely out of control.

MU: Why were you the host?

RH: Well, I'm building this wonderful relationship with the VH1 people. Trying to get them to do whatever they can to support the metal scene.

MU: Where's the 'Ressurection' video?

RH: Well, exactly. That was what was so frustrating, you know. Because as we were doing the show, I would do my bit and then lead in to this piece and that piece. You know? And all we had to show at that moment was the stuff that I did with Priest. And the fact of the matter was, if I'd known we were gonna get this opportunity, we would've put something together. But right now, of course, it's impossible to put down a video while we're on the road. Where's the time? It's crazy and it's very frustrating. Somehow we've got to make time to do that. As you know, videos are very expensive things to make. And it's also how you can use them. I would much rather save the money from a video and keep it in the touring cycle, so we can stay out longer and play more shows. But it looks like this thing is just taking off like a rocket. The album sales are just blowing the doors off.


MU: Do you know how it did on the Billboard charts?

RH: I'm expecting that news any minute but I haven't had a chance to look. I've only been awake for about thirty minutes. I went to bed at four o'clock this morning. I'm here with a coffee and a cigarette, trying to get the brain cells working. (laughs)

MU: So are you having fun with this thing overall?

RH: Oh yes, totally.

MU: Was there ever a day when you wondered whether you'd ever be playing these arenas again?

RH: Well, you never know. This is what's so uncertain about the things that we do. I'm just so ecstatic that I'm back with this fantastic metal album and this great band. And the wonderful reaction to the record and the live show we've been getting . . .

MU: How much does the recent career events of Iron Maiden provide you with a road map back, of sorts?

RH: We're in the same world of metal. And we've both traveled similar journies, absolutely. The whole roots of metal come out of the beginnings of the metal movement with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and then Iron Maiden. We're all older than dirt, but we're just having the most amazing success right now together, myself and Iron Maiden.

MU: You share the same management, right?

RH: Yes we do. That's exactly correct.

MU: How come Maiden gets to make a video for "Wickerman" but you don't get a video for "Ressurrection"?

RH: Well, actually, this was while I was still in negotiations with Rod Smallwood and the Sanctuary Group, so all of this came together at an incredible speed. All of things we tried to do we managed to get done, but this all-important video piece has yet t be created.

MU: What parallels do you see between Bruce Dickinson's career and your own? More importantly: will you follow Bruce in taking the next step after a sucessfull return to your metal roots with a Roy Z produced album and reunite with your former bandmates in Judas Priest?

RH: Well, I really can't comment on that. All I can really say is, you never say never. I'm no longer with Priest and they're the guys that control everything. The only news I can share, and I'm sure you've already heard it is we're at least talking to each other now. We're re-building our friendship. Beyond that, the future is unknown.

MU: Did you see the cartoon with KK Downing holding the 'Resurrection' album cover and talking to you on the phone asking if you're free?

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RH: No, not yet. That's on I must check that out, because I saw something funny on there that they created for this Three Tenors thing, with me and Bruce and Geoff. And, even funnier still, when I did Rockline last night, from Detroit, this guy was banging on the door at the station, and I went outside and he had actually made this incredible four foot by six foot poster of myself, Bruce and Geoff. He'd assembled this kinda spoof, Three Tenors full-sized poster thing. (laughs) Actually, he said it took him hours and hours to make one, but he said he's gonna franticly make me one today to give me at the show at Pine Knob in Detroit.

MU: Cool. Anyway, if you were a fan, forgetting about the politics of it all -- you're just a heavy metal fan, pure and simple -- wouldn't you be thinking, "Shit - Priest just HAS to get back together. It makes too much sense."

RH: Well, of course. I mean, it's no different than any of the great moments in rock and roll. Bands break up for any number of different reasons, but the bands are never the same again. Whether it's Crue or Van Halen or Maiden or Priest. It's just that all of the people remember what they want to remember. These things happen for . . . it's kind of a difficult thing. 'Cause, even though you're in a band, you're still kind of a different thing. Kinda your own entity. You have your own particular goals and ambitions you want to achieve. I think this is why we do the things that we do. You know? It's different being kicked out of a band, as opposed to going for a walk and doing the things you want to do. So it varies from place to place. But I understand the frustration, and I understand what's going on in people's minds about the whole thing.

MU: Did you hear 'Jugulator'?

RH: No.

MU: Is that a purposeful, concious decision not to listen to it?

RH: Yes.

MU: Because you don't want to be critical of it?

RH: Yes, that's right. I don't want you guys to say to me, "what do you think of Tim"?

MU: He's a good singer.

RH: I know he's a good singer, because I actually was given a bootleg video of Tim's tribute stuff from years and years ago. So I know what he's capable of doing.

MU: What do you think of that movie Metal God they're making?

RH: They've dropped that title now. Maybe it's because I own the trademark to all of that stuff and the lawyers in Hollywood were franticly panicking at the last minute. I just think that the George Clooney people have got to get a better insight into the metal community. I think that they're treading water as we speak.

MU: You're blending in a few Priest classics into the set on this tour.

RH: Yes, it's frustrating. We've only got so many minutes to play.

MU: I heard some nights you're doing "Stained Class". I can't believe you dug that one up! What a gem!

RH: I wanted to play that song 'cause the Halford players are big Priest freaks. That was just one of a couple of dozen we happened through in rehearsals in L.A. before we went on the road.

MU: We did't get to see that one in New York.

RH: That's because we only got thirty minutes, didn't we?

MU: "Riding on the Wind" is great too.

RH: Yeah. We've got a bunch of Priest stuff that we're gonna try to find moments to kind of flip-flop around the set to keep people . . . now the word is out that we're doing that song. It's a kind of motivation to keep people . . . do I really want people to expect it? I want to surprise people. Some guy called in on Rockline last night and kind of broke the news to the nation that that was one song we were playing. Obviously people will anticipate hearing that song, whch is a good thing. But I want to throw some surprises out too.

MU: OK, we'll leave the rest of the Priest alone. But you're doing some Fight material too.

RH: Yes. We learned two or three Fight songs. "Nailed to the Gun", "Into the Pit" and I think it was "Life in Black."

MU: A lot of people still love the Fight stuff.

RH: Yes they do. It just tears the place apart when we go into that particular number or two.

MU: What about the new Halford material? "Silent Screams" rules.

RH: That's just such a wonderful piece of work. Musically, it's very unusual. I'd love the opportunity to play that live, but it just takes up so much time. I could throw in three tunes in the time it takes to do that one. And I'm determined to go out there and rip the skin off of people's faces as much as I can.

MU: I like the dynamics of "Silent Screams". Reminds me a bit of "Beyond the Realms of Death".

RH: Yes, it does have a similar atmosphere to that. That was one of my thoughts behind the writing process. But of course, it takes off halfway through and goes into the insane full-on almost like speed/death metal approach.

MU: It's awesome. Was doing the Two project with Trent Reznor fun for you?

RH: Is fun the right word? It was an interesting moment that I experienced. It was a very hands-off thing for me. They were all new people, and they were taking me places that I had no real understanding of. So I just kind of sat back and nodded my head and I was just more excited and interested than anything else. 'Cause I just wanted to see how those guys can make these things happen. It was a very controversial record for me. It seems that people tend to remember the stuff that makes them scratch their ass, much more than the big picture. That was one of more than twenty plus CDs I've made in my career. I think if anything the reaction was justified by the devotion and the dedication of the fans. They want nothing from me but pure metal.

MU: Some of the more cynical metalheads out there would say you're just back 'cause metal's trendy again.

RH: Well I don't have time for that. When you're in this world, you're surrounded by opinions. And opinions are like buttholes. Everybody's got one and most of them stink. So you just push that to one side. I'm all about the positive virtues of what I do. If people don't like it, I'm not gonna lose a night's sleep over it.

MU: I have to ask you, what does the term "heavy metal" mean? And please think about your answer carefully. This is a very important question, and because you are one of the godfathers of metal, your meaning carries quite a bit of weight.

RH: Well it's defined by the sound more than anything else. This form of music is extraordinary by what comes out of the guitar and the drums and the amps and the screaming vocals. I just think it's that one moment that was created intitially when Tony Iommi picked up the guitar and began to lay down those first riffs. Black Sabbath. How can you describe it? It is by definition a sound.

MU: Who is metal today Rob? What newer metal bands are carrying the metal torch?

RH: I don't think there are any real metal bands in America, are there?

MU: You tell me.

RH: I don't particularly think that there are. Not by my definition of a metal band.

MU: What European metal bands are there?

RH: European? There's an arm's-length list full. Hammerfall. Primal Fear. Helloween.

MU: You like stuff like that?

RH: Yes I do. I like European metal. Because of its melodic content and it's hooky lines. That is unique. Metal has always been a unique form of music that comes from the other side of the Atlantic, you know?

MU: What about what Queensryche is doing now with their newer stuff?

RH: I don't know whether Geoff would call his band right now a heavy metal band. Is that what he calls his band? I just think you call yourself whatever you feel -- I mean, even Tony refuses to call Sabbath a metal band. He absolutely refuses to. I just don't understand it.

MU: It might be good for Queensryche to be out amongst the metal masses this summer.

RH: I think that they do great stuff with this particular moment of the 'Brave New World' tour. I mean, we go on, we do our thing and set the tone for the evening. Then Queensryche go on, get a fantastic reaction. Building it up for Maiden. Then of course, Maiden just tears the place down with their set.

MU: You're gonna headline after this.

RH: You think so?

MU: Do you?

RH: Well, I don't know. Depends how well the record goes. The album just came out at number 21 in Sweden. That's the first metal band that has been in the top thirty in Sweden in as long as people can remember.


MU: Just for a moment, let's address the whole sexuality thing. As much as there is bias and ignorance in the metal community surrounding the issue, there are people outside the metal community who know who you are simply BECAUSE you decided to speak out about it.

RH: It's slowly moving to one side now. Of course, since that moment I have been pretty low key because I've been away in the studio since the Spring of 1998 working on this new music. Now I'm back in the spotlight and the question keeps arising. The fact is, I'm glad that that part of my life has been opened up. Not that it was any big secret in my own world through my immediate family and friends, but I think that for those of us who go through this moment it's a very imporant cathartic moment, psychologically.

MU: Do you feel any obligation to champion that cause?

RH: No, I don't feel like that now. Maybe I will, maybe I won't in the future. I mean I don't think there's a moment really, in the male side of it, to step up. Of course, there's people like Ellen and Melissa, because they're women, they seem to have a better deal with that whole thing.

MU: It's not really where your focus is.

RH: No, no. I'll speak out against issues if it is appropriate, but I didn't do it for a bandstanding, political activitst thing. It was just a personal moment, and because I am a public figure, I wanted to remove that area of innuendo. There's nothing better than removing the ammunition.

MU: Shiftng gears (pun intended), there's no motorcycle in the Halford stage show.


RH: No, there isn't, because that's particularly unique for Judas Priest. Having said that, it's in the artwork. That's because if you look at the artwork, and you see me with that machine, it can only mean one thing. And that means I'm back in the metal world.

MU: No doubt that's true. But if you're telling me you're saving the bike for Judas Priest, isn't that akin to you sorta winking at us sayin', Priest may be comin' down the pike? Are you gonna save something for something that will never come? No way! (laughs)

RH: (laughs) Well, people can make of it whatever they want to make. It's remarkable how people put spins on rumors, it's like politics in rock-n-roll. Is he / Isn't he? Is there a possibility, I think so. I've only got to look at my message boards every day at The place is alive . . .

MU: You read the messages at

RH: Yes, I go on it every other day.

MU: When those people write posts they can be confident that you are going to read what they're saying?

RH: Well, yeah. Because it's my board! I worked with the people that created it to ensure we had a good place for people to visit and hang out and do stuff.

MU: There is a lot of activity on that message board.

RH: Yes, yes. An enormous amount.

MU: How does the Internet change the metal equation?

RH: I don't know if it is the lesser of two evils. 'Cause I've always loved the magic of what we do, and I think that some people love that too. One of the big problems with the Internet now is that you can't keep anything quiet. You can't make a surprise, but that's just the world of information we live in today. It's all about news, you know? In a heartbeat, a shitload of stuff will show up on the net, and we've gotta live with it. But the only thing we do with our site, we just let everybody else have fun and get on with it. We try to interact only when it's necessary. I think that part of the magic is keeping a little distance.

MU: Like the larger in life arena tours, the spectacle of it all.

RH: In part, it's about escapism. It's about letting go. Forgetting all the shit and the crap in life. It's like going to a movie, or reading a good book. It's important for humanity to have these moments of these emotions. It's vital to our sanity, and that's why I think it's kind of unfortunate that in some stupid technological areas . . . like that show Survivor. What the fuck's that about? But look how popular it is. Everybody's voyeurs. We all want to know what's going on in each other's backyards, backrooms, lving room, kitchen. What's up? Are we all living in glass houses?

Well right now Mr. Halford is once again living the glass house of constant media scrutiny. And from the sounds of it, he'd have it no other way. The Metal God is back, and the world has once again stood up to take notice. With his voice as strong as ever, Halford 's biggest worry may be nothing more than holding back on the high notes when he's indoors - we wouldn't want that glass house to shatter.


review of Halford's 'Resurrection'





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