Rob Halford Interview: "We Don’t Want to Put Our Fans in Danger As Much As I Don’t Want to Put Us in Danger"
Written by Marc Parker and Melissa Benefield Parker, Posted in Interviews Authors
Image attributed to Larry Rostant
Rob Halford is the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Judas Priest and nicknamed “Metal God” by fans. Having sold over 50 million records so far and with 11 top 30 albums in the United Kingdom, Judas Priest is frequently ranked as one of the greatest bands of all time. Their best known songs are “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Living After Midnight,” “Breaking the Law,” “Delivering the Goods,” and “Heading Out to the Highway.”
The legendary frontman has also been involved with several side projects including Fight, Two and Halford. Recently, he released Confess: The Autobiography, about a rock and roll journey from a Walsall Council estate to musical fame via alcoholism, addiction, police cells, ill-fated sexual trysts and bleak personal tragedy and through to rehab, coming out, redemption and finding love.
"I’ll be in my 70s when I get back in the world again. I can’t wait. It’s going to be amazing, you know, because 70 is the new 50 or whatever. We’re still active, and we’re still vital."
Rob Halford: How are you?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Good. How are you, Rob?
Rob Halford: I’m keeping well. How are you doing during this this horrible pandemic? Are you okay, and is everybody in your family and your friends doing okay?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Yes, so far so good, thank you. I believe we’re all more than ready for things to get back to “normal.” How are you coping with it all?
Rob Halford: Well, I’ve got the joy of speaking to all of my friends. I’m in constant communication. It can be quite stressful, so always being able to talk about it and staying in touch with each other through Zoom or text or a phone call is very important to your mental health. So I’m doing good, thank you. I’m enjoying this experience with Confess and talking about the book and everything in it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What kind of feedback about the book have you received from fans?
Rob Halford: It’s a bit like making a record. You put your heart and soul into making a record, and then you have to be prepared for all kinds of feedback. I’m pleased to say that the vast majority of feedback that I’ve gotten for Confess has been beautiful. It’s been very uplifting and very moving to read some of the posts. Equally, there are people that are saying, “Why did you have to say this? Why did you have to say that?” Then moving to this whole thing about, “Where is this idea that you have the voice to say that?” I find all this intriguing. I really do.
In music, sometimes you make the greatest record in the world, and sometimes you get fans saying, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” So it’s truly peculiar. But I’m pleased to say I’ve gained wisdom through the years and am able to digest the criticisms in a more intelligent way.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I believe also that some people may learn from the experiences of others. They may be going through something similar in their own lives.
Rob Halford: Absolutely. Yes. I mean, I’m not unique. Things that have happened to me happened to many others, unfortunately, and they continue to happen. We just need communication. Talking things through are of value.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You spoke in the book about ongoing struggles with your sexuality, addiction and abuse. What were the toughest moments you had to relive while writing the book?
Rob Halford: I had to go back in time to some very stressful moments. As I said, anybody could be victims of sexual abuse or have lost somebody to suicide or have their own encounters with drug addiction or alcohol addiction. It’s a peculiar thing because if I keep talking about it, it adds value and importance to it because I think, when you’re living with trauma, even mental trauma, it’s important to keep these issues on the front burner. But I’m wondering, how much talking about it is enough, you know? It’s all in the book. It has value. It has important value because of of those episodes I went through … I’m not unique.
Abuse of any kind is horrible, and the horrible experience of suicide is with me every day, every moment. There are great organizations that provide assistance and just a general forum of discussion because talking is extremely powerful. It’s pretty straightforward in the book because I agreed that I was going to tell everything. So to actually speak about it that first time, then to go through the process of the audiobook, was equally strong. It made me feel good. I just felt that it was the important thing for me to express. So that’s where I am now with recounting some of those darker episodes.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: It’s cathartic for you to speak about it?
Rob Halford: Yeah. Yes. Absolutely. It is. But then, how much “catharticism” does an individual need, you know? (laughs) It’s been intriguing to me because I’m always checking on my own well being. It’s important that we all do that. We have to think, how are we feeling today? Are we upset today? Are we concerned about anything? You really have to look after your own state of being. You have to make sure that it’s in the best possible place.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: As a former addict and with the additional stress that comes with a pandemic, how do you stay mentally healthy every day?
Rob Halford: I’m still as optimistic as I ever was. I have my family, and I’ve also found that “light at the end of the tunnel” a beautiful philosophy for getting through difficulties. What’s vital in my life is my spirituality. I pray every day, many times a day. That whole faith part of me is unbreakable, and I can’t live without it. We need to give empathy to each other that you’ll also get if you have some sort of spiritual guidance. So that’s where I’m at right now with all of that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have you had other Christians tell you that homosexuality is a sin?
Rob Halford: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. That’s just the way people are, you know. But love is unconditional. It doesn’t have any conditions. But, yes, for the most part, this whole business of the teachings of Jesus is to love the sinner. You know, we’re all sinners. So it’s a way of trying to maintain that capacity of love without putting on individual strict rules and judgments. Christianity has its foibles just like every faith has its foibles, you know.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you have a favorite memory of Eddie Van Halen?
Rob Halford: One of the best memories is that we were special guests of Van Halen many, many years ago when Priest was touring in America. We were special guests at a show in Los Angeles. We were all fans of the band, but it turned out they were also fans of Priest. So we had a shared respect and love for each other in that area of our musical lives. We watched each other’s show. We hung out afterward and talked, and it was just very special.
Eddie would come see the band over the years and pop in after the show. That’s a special memory. We still mourn his loss. But the best way to celebrate the ones we lose is to listen to the music they’ve made.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Exactly, especially since we’re still pretty much locked up in our homes (laughs).
Rob Halford: (laughs) I am locked up. I get out of my house maybe once a week to go to the store to get stuff for the fridge.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have you discovered any new musicians that have what it takes to be successful?
Rob Halford: I can’t really pinpoint any names per se, but every day, I check three or four of the big music sites and try to keep up to speed with the developments and the growth of new talent. In metal, especially, that’s a thrill because I was there from day one. I was there. My band has influenced heavy metal to a great extent, so it’s exciting to see where it’s grown in the past 58 years to the global place it’s reached now. It’s wonderful. It’s great. It just shows you the power of the music and how far its reach has gotten.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s the story behind the name Judas Priest?
Rob Halford: Well, I’m not sure what those two words express about the band. You wouldn’t think they’d really connect, but they have, you know. The story about the actual name is difficult to pin down. Many, many times, it’s been put to us in the Bob Dylan song, "The Ballad of Frankie Lee." In the song, he mentioned the character of Judas Priest, but whether that was the catalyst for some of the band members, I don’t know.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How did the image of head-to-toe leather, spikes, the bondage-style getup begin for Judas Priest begin?
Rob Halford: It’s like any band, you know. In those first few moments, you’re searching and just want to develop and get some sense of the creative platform you wish to do. The visual part of the image finally found itself, and we finally started to look like the music sounded, and that is important for any band. With our kind of strong, powerful, forceful music, we had to find the appropriate visual image that would correspond to the volume, the excitement and the energy. And it slowly came to be quite an adventure because once we had that established, that became a heavy metal look.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Did you enjoy solo work as much as performing in Judas Priest?
Rob Halford: I did, yeah. It’s a journey and discovery in a creative sense. That’s what most musicians will tell you. It’s allowed me to search and just experiment and get other things out of my system to be a better musician.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I hear that everyone can now buy their very own Rob Halford ReAction Figure (laughs).
Rob Halford: (laughs) Who knew? Just when you think you’ve heard it all, and then suddenly you hear that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Complete with a whip and a microphone (laughs).
Rob Halford: A whip and a microphone? It’s amazing, isn’t it? It’s so much fun. It’s really a lot of fun, and I’m in great company because I saw Lemmy, the action figure, recently. So there’s the action figures of Rob and Lemmy.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: The Ozzy Osbourne/Judas Priest tour has been rescheduled?
Rob Halford: We’re going for 2022 now. That’s just the way the actual venues and the logistics are being worked out. Ozzy’s not going to be ready to work until then. And we’re almost to the end of this year, so it’s basically about a year and change before we go out. We’ve all been disappointed because we love our fans, and we know the disappointment they’ve experienced as much as we have. But you’ve just got to use common sense really because we can’t get together in facilities right now because it’s dangerous. It’s very, very dangerous, and we don’t want to put our fans in danger as much as I don’t want to put us in danger. So we’re just being sensible and taking the necessary precautions.
But it will happen, and it’s going to be great. It’s going to be so special because Ozzy’s from the same neck of the woods as Priest, and we’ve known each other forever. We’ll have us together on a lengthy tour, and Ozzy’s going to be quite remarkable. In the meantime, we’ll have to reschedule our fall tour for our anniversary for the same reasons. So everybody’s getting ready for the launch party in the summer of next year. This pandemic is not going to vanish, you know. We’re going to have to learn how to live with it like we live with the flu until everyone gets the vaccine.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Ozzy’s had some health problems. I hope he’s feeling better.
Rob Halford: Yeah. We know as much as everybody else, but he’s just a remarkable man and great musician. He’s got a remarkable voice. Nobody sounds like Ozzy. He’s got a unique voice. I love him. He’s said on recent television shows that he has improved. We wish him all the best and look forward to that tour together.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You have a beautiful voice. Is it a four-octave range?
Rob Halford: I don’t know what it is now (laughs). It has changed as the decades go by. That’s the beautiful thing about the human voice. It matures and develops over the years, and that’s a great inspiration for me because I’ll be in my 70s when I get back in the world again. I can’t wait. It’s going to be amazing, you know, because 70 is the new 50 or whatever. We’re still active, and we’re still vital. None of us are slowing down, and that goes for our fans, too. I can’t wait to see the fans again because the demographic for the fans is strong. That’s just beautiful.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Rob, I believe you will continue to be the “Metal God” at 70.
Rob Halford: Thank you, Melissa. You’ve made my day.
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Confess: The Autobiography Interview Judas Priest Metal Metal God