Rob Halford The Exclaim! Questionnaire

Rob Halford The Exclaim! Questionnaire
What are you up to?
We're about to release our new record, called Angel of Retribution and we're kicking off a world tour on February 23 in Copenhagen, Denmark and go roaring around the planet until we've seen as many of our metal fans around the world as we can possibly see this year and partly into next year. When Priest goes out, it's at least a year's trek.

What are your current fixations?
I am something of a bookworm. I do enjoy killing time in the bunk on the tour bus reading all kinds of material. I've got a pretty broad taste when it comes to reading – anything that can take my mind. When we get a chance I like to go to the movie theatres. I saw Sideways the other day.

Why do you live where you do?
I'm lucky enough to be able to have travelled the world so many times and as a Brit, I have an affinity with those parts of the world. I love the city of Amsterdam for lots of different reasons. It's a very cool place to hang out in and it's what I feel is a very human environment because there is a tremendous amount of liberal thinking over there. I think that's why it's a big attraction to a lot of people, especially people in the music business. And who wouldn't want to hang out in Southern California? It's gorgeous down here. I just enjoy the American lifestyle, although I have differing views and opinions that go on down here with current administration policies. You try not to let that interfere with your life.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
I would say painting. I love the work that Van Gogh did. His work is just so explosive and emotionally charged. Whenever I'm in Amsterdam I go to the Van Gogh Museum and just stroll around and look at his paintings and think about the work that he created. He had an ability to touch everyone.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
It would probably have to be back way back in the '70s when I went to the Isle of Whyte Festival where Jimi Hendrix and the Who played. I went down there with countless thousands of other people and camped out in a tent and enjoyed that festival atmosphere and experience. I saw Hendrix who is a god, really, in the world of rock'n'roll. It was just a very profound three-day event and I think obviously it moved me to want to carry on as a musician. And that was before I was a professional musician.

What have been your career highs and lows?
I guess the highs come when you're making steps forward in terms of success and recognition. Obviously when you have the chance to take your music further away from your home base, as it is with most groups, just through hard work and determination. Not only in taking your music around but also focusing on your music and making it as good as you can make it. Everything that surrounds that desire and intensity I think is vital to a musician. I think the highs though are when you get that first level of success, whether it's a gold album or a platinum album. Or every show to me is determined by the reaction that you're able to generate with your performance. I don't think, in all reality, that I've experienced a real low, per se. I think that any moment that you bought into where you had to struggle is part of growth. I think you face those low moments and turn them around into powerful ones.

What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Maybe an observation that you didn't do as you were expected. You're surrounded by critical opinion in music and sometimes if you get a comment thrown at you that you feel is questionable or maybe born out of some kind of malice or jealousy, I think that those moments you shrug them off.

What should everyone shut up about?
I guess there is still empathy in certain quarters that heavy metal music doesn't have a place or a virtue in rock'n'roll. Heavy metal has always been sort of an underdog. Not so much these days, but it's still there in people who knock it and refuse to accept it and try to push it to one side and say it's substandard, which I vehemently disagree with.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like the fact that I am very much a believer in everything I become immersed in. I don't really ever get disgruntled or dissuaded from what I do with my work. I think what irritates me most about myself is that I can get frustrated about my way of not being able to appreciate that you can't get things done all the time, the way you want to get them done. You have to be able to compromise without losing out.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Slow down and take things easy.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
I think it has to be this passion about the work that you're involved with that if you're in it 1000 percent or your heart's not in it, then you've no place to be. It's all such a very sincere real world that you live in as a musician, and you have to have everybody working from the same ethics in what you're about as a performer; it's all got to be very real and convincing.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I just feel good about Canada. In all my experiences up there, in places like Toronto and Vancouver, there's an affinity between Brits and Canadians usually that makes any journeys to Canada very appealing and comfortable when we get into town. I think that there's a great friendship that exists with Judas Priest and Canada. And again, as far as the Canadian view on life and liberty to a great extent is more real based; there's a lot of compassion.

What is your vital daily ritual?
My English tea first thing in the morning. If I don't get my tea I can be something of a bitch until get stocked up with enough of that fluid.

What are your feelings on piracy, internet or otherwise?
I think it's been a learning curve for a lot of people and there is a comfortable way of us all utilising this incredible technology. Obviously there is a portion of people that feel it is okay to take these things away from you without giving any recompense. We've all got bills to pay, so anything that's taken away from musicians is a disservice to everyone because we need that resource generated by what we do to carry on. I think that more recently there has been a better grasp of the situation with everybody trying to make it work and for us all to feel comfortable with it.

What was your most memorable day job?
I don't think I ever had one quite frankly. I struggled with whatever type of employment I had outside of being a musician. I did work in the theatre for a while when I left high school, which was very satisfying, because it gave me more of an opportunity to see all kinds of stage performances. For me, because of what I do for a living, I found that very rewarding; it helped me think and grow.

How do you spoil yourself?
I suppose a good meal. I'm not a material person, by any stretch of the imagination. I think I surround myself with basic needs, as far as how many clothes I have hanging in the closet, which is mostly black. I'm a very simple guy. Everybody in Priest comes from a very strong working class background, so we don't really need the flash cars and holidays. Any kind of time where you're able to take a break is a good reward.

If I wasn't playing music I would be:
I'd probably be involved in the entertainment business, in any shape or form, whether it's producing or continuing to write music. I'm too attached to it. Nothing really appeals to me outside of that world. It's just something that is inbred in me.

What do you fear most?
I'm not really afraid of anything because I am the Metal God.

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Is this like a sexual question? Like ripping all your clothes off and doing it? I think that just combating ignorance and bigotry and any form of intolerance, I'm the first to step up and get into a shouting match and debate about those issues.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
When I was touring with the band, I was having a shower and suddenly someone was standing in front of me saying, "Hey Rob, that show was great! I followed you all over the world, you're the best!" I'm standing there being praised in the shower and he handed me some CDs and asked, "Can you sign these for me dude?" I basically told him to fuck off. You can't really sign stuff when you're wet and covered in soap. Of all the places that you think are secure and you've got a little time to relax after a show and not being interfered with, that's one of them.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Somebody like John Lennon, who was and still is an influence in my life. I just felt that he was not only a brilliant writer and performer, but I was always overwhelmed by his activism for peace around the world.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
My mum, especially, has been one of the most supportive people in my life and what I do with my work. I think all mothers want their children to be happy in life and to find something that gives them joy and satisfaction.

Given the opportunity to choose, how would you like to die?
Quickly and painlessly. I'm not afraid of death, but I don't think any of us want to suffer.

For 35 years, Rob Halford and Judas Priest have been pumping out juicy guitar licks and sensational falsetto screams that have made them metal heroes. To mark this extraordinary anniversary, they will release their 16th album, Angel of Retribution, with Halford as lead singer, and their first since he left the band in 1992 to pursue other interests. Halford explains that it was the right time to reunite the band with its original line-up (plus Scott Travis on drums). "We felt that there was still essentially more great work to do. That was the overriding feeling of coming back together again. That plus the fans all over the world have been pleading for it for over a decade."

His 12-year absence wasn't for nothing, as the singer tested the waters with different projects like Fight, Two, and Halford, while the band carried on with another singer. "I think it enabled me to figure out what was best for me. It wasn't wasted time by any sense; it was important time that helped me find out a lot of things about what I needed as a musician."

From the opening rush of the aptly named "Judas Rising," Angel of Retribution sees Priest take over comfortably from where they left off with 1990's Painkiller. They've refused to adapt to any current musical trends and instead have just pounded away with their signature style that's helped them sell over 25 million records worldwide. "The fact of the matter is Glenn [Tipton], Ken [K.K. Downing] and myself are a great writing team and magic takes place; this metal magic happens when we're in each other's company and start writing music. We just let ourselves go instinctively. We're not tempted by outside influences; we're very up to speed with what's going on in the current metal world, but that has no part to play in how we write as Judas Priest."
Cam Lindsay