TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Rob Halford was done face to face by David Lee Wilson in April 2003.
It is 4:00 in the afternoon, a full six hours before the “Metal God,” Rob Halford, is scheduled to take the stage at Pontiac, Michigan’s Clutch Cargo’s. Tonight’s venue is a converted Catholic Church that on alternate nights hosts raves or National touring groups but tonight there is a Metal show going on and there is a considerable line of Metal maniacs simply frothing to get in. As they trade stories of past Halford, Judas Priest and Fight shows survived and enjoyed, phone numbers and e-mail addys are exchanged so as to compare notes from the evening to come at a later date. The reverence in the congregant’s voices over what is about to happen would combust if taken a single degree higher. It is fever pitch on the sidewalk in front of Clutch Cargo’s right up until the giant church doors open to welcome all in for a very different kind of worship service. It is a blasphemously beautiful site and a vision far too rare these days.
While Ozzy and Metallica spend their summers playing the local enormo-domes with infinitely more mainstream packages, Halford will be slogging it out around the US club circuit but he is not going at it alone. With an underground Metal fest that injects a pureness of heart into the scene not felt since the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, “The Metal Gods Tour” is a chance to worship at the alter of Rock and Roll feverishly rather than fashionably. No need to withstand a dozen industry spawned turntable acts to get to the real meat of the Metal, no this is the real thing and only for the truly dedicated Metal fan. Each night of “The 2003 Metal Gods Tour” will find Halford thrusting a fistful of extreme sound by Testament, Immortal, Primal Fear, Amon Amarth, Carnal Forge, Pain Museum, Behemouth and his own band into the faces of a much neglected faction of Metaldom. This tour will be made as much in the pits and up against the barricade as it will be from the stage and any blood spilt will be a sacrament for the next time waiting on line to see a true Metal show, thank you Rob.
Rob Halford is hopeful that this initial outing will lead to an annual trek for “The Metal Gods Tour” and having gleefully lost some amount of my own hearing in Pontiac with the rest of the faithful I will be rooting for the tour’s success, till deaf do we part. More on the subjects of Metal Gods, whips and the beauty of leather from Rob Halford himself rests just an inch further down the page.
You are just getting into this “Metal Gods” tour, how does it feel to be at it again?
Well, we have been kicking the tires on the thing up in LA and everything is working great. It is just going to be an exciting trip to be back on the national scene for the first time in two years and more importantly the collection of bands that we are working with. You know, these guys don’t really get much of a chance to come over and tour extensively in the USA and in Canada so they are excited about the trip. Immortal and Primal Fear and Amon Amarth and Carnal Forge and it is just that harder, more extreme, part of the show that, I think, a lot of the Metal fans are going to be stoked about.
Of course, there is nothing like this touring, nor has there ever been to my knowledge.
These bands usually come over and do a couple of dates in a club and then they have to go back home to Scandinavia so this, to them, is a cool trip. Also, as I have been saying it is just important that we try and mix up the Metal and have all of these different styles of Metal music on display. If you are a Metal aficionado, it is going to be a blast! (laughs)
It is interesting that the two biggest names on the bill, yourself and Testament, have no current product out to support so is this just the best excuse available to go out and play for the pure fun of it?
Well, I think that me and Chuck (Billy) and our bands respectively are in that world that, you know, if you are part of that big corporate movement then it is important that you are out there on the back of your release but again, for bands like ours we are able to go out when we want to go out. When we do go out it is because we still have this great love of performing live. I know Testament have been hitting the road more consistently in the last couple of years than I have so they are road warriors, they are Metal Gods! (laughs)
Chuck and Testament have a uniquely inspiring case because Chuck was so ill at one point that it kind of looked like he had taken his last breath let alone played his last show?
Right, he was but he came back through with the care and attention he got and his own self determination and that is just a wonderful story, to be able to see him walk out each night and bang his head even though he has been told not to! He is a survivor whereas some people who have been at deaths door might re-think their lifestyle he is just saying, “Forget it.” He loves to sing and he loves the band that he is in and he goes out and does a great job each night.
This will read better than it sounds but he is a testament to the true Metal spirit.
Yes! He is a testament to Testament! It is a usable pun! (laughs)
Exactly! Like I said, it will read better than it just sounded, I hope! (laughs)
They often do. It is like some of my lyrics, sometimes you can write a line and go, “God, that is just the pits of cheese” but when you wrap a screaming Metal vocal chord around it, it does the business so you have to have an open mind. It is funny because the more that you do that, I have lost count of the hundreds of songs that I have written lyrics for over the years, but the more you do it the more you have a tendency to say, “Oh that is not going to work” or “I can’t possibly say that” or “Oh, I have done that before, does anybody know if I have used this line before in a song?” You are constantly doing that because of the volume of work that you are constantly exposing yourself to so what might have sounded a pun is usually put to good use in the end.
Have there been things that have come back to you where you will say, “No, I didn’t say that, did I?”
(Laughing) I try and avoid reading the interviews that I do! But I usually get it in the neck at the website because my fans are just tenacious. They are just like, they are into every moment that it is hard to get through a day and having said something that thirty minutes later shows up on the internet. It is a mixed blessing, the internet is a great component, a great tool to use in the music business but it is also difficult to try and keep a lid on things. We are in an age of too much information, too much clutter, too much spam in our lives.
It doesn’t seem like people give much care to what they post on the internet it is kind of a bulk game, no selection.
Yeah but I just cut through it all to find the most useful and important things to do and I think that is what you do in life anyway, just try and make sense of the important things more readily. You certainly have no control on life anyway, that is God’s trick, we have to get through it all but I do think that there are some things that you can be deeply aware of and involved with as I am with my music. With other things it is just like a mad racehorse with the reins loose because there are so many other people involved.
Each with their own concerns and agenda...
We have got sixty people on this tour and I am sure that we will have our moments of excitement if only just to coordinate sixty people twenty-four hours a day is just something that is remarkable!(laughs) Not just on this tour but on any tour really. If one wheel breaks off the wagon then the whole thing can grind to a halt but that will not happen! It will all work smoothly and we will all have a great time with one another and that is what it is all about at the end of the day, having a great experience, Metal and otherwise. There is going to be a lot of love on this tour!
Hopefully some of the carnal sort as well? (laughs)
Oh, I am sure! Well, it wouldn’t be metal without that! (laughs)
This thing seems to have come together very quickly, is that actually the case or had this all been planned long ago?
No, it has been in the works for over a year or more. The conception for this tour just came out of an idea and we thought that it would be cool if we put together a tour that basically did clubs and theaters and what have you but brought together a fairly broad cross section of Metal and went out on a national level and basically took care of a portion of the Metal community that gets overlooked. So, you start off with the idea and a bazillion phone calls and another bazillion e-mails and contracts and finding the bands later. . .that is the stuff that goes on that you don’t know about but at the end of the day, here we are all of these months later ready to make it.
Did you find that there was a lot of industry support for this tour? Is this a situation where you have a promoter like Clear Channel buying into most of the dates?
No. I think that if it is the success that we are anticipating then Clear Channel will come knocking but we have just kept this on a very family operated street level and that is probably because a lot of industry types wait until they see the dollar signs flashing. Once they see that something is making money, is financially recouping then they will probably step forward and become involved. This is all on the good faith of the bands, the guys from Primal Fear, Immortal and all of the bands saying, “Come on, lets go out and hang with Rob and play some Metal and that is just a great feeling and a virtue to come from these guys because some bands would say, “Well, is this going to work? Is anybody going to show up?” (laughs) True to nature the Metal spirit is really on display here. We have everybody supporting us, from the bands and the radio stations and from people like yourself, you are all there rooting for us in one way or another rooting for us and this Metal Gods tour 2003. Hopefully we will be talking about Metal Gods 2004 at some point.
This bill, with Testament and Primal Fear, there are a lot of bands that owe much to you and to Priest, do you feel a sense of these guys are watching you each night as fans rather than peers?
Um, yeah, more and more so and I am truly grateful that I am working with such great musicians but you know, it is one thing to be a singer but to work with great musicians, these guys are just colossal and they give me the confidence to go out and do the things that I have to do each night. When I am out there and everyone is hanging out on the side of the stage watching what I do, that is my Michael Jordan moment.(laughs) I want to impress, I want to do my best and I am inspired by the attention. It is a good thing to have. Thirty-two years later as a Metal singer I still have to be in form and ready to do what people expect and not to disappoint.
Is the set list wide open for this tour as you don’t have a new album that a record label is wanting you to focus on?
Well, you know, what I try and do more and more now is to try and look at everything that I have been a part of over the years, from Priest to Halford, and pick out musically, tempo-wise and in every other facet the best possible set list. The set list that we have put together for this particular tour is just a great one, it obviously has some needed and expected classic Priest moments but I also have tried to pull out some surprises with songs that have never ever been performed live before by Priest so that is a cool thing to show off and then there is obviously some stuff from “Crucible” and “Resurrection” and a couple of the Fight moments. It is cool that I am able to jump from these different places in my career and share the moments live.
I did expect that you would omit the Two period and you did, is that music something that people shouldn’t ever hope to hear live from Halford?
I have to stop avoiding that because I still love that record. It was definitely something of a controversial moment for me, not just working with Trent Reznor but the way that the music was coming out of the speakers. You know, the thing is, before we went into the studio those songs were, basically, played out as Hard Rock songs by me and John, Larry, Ray and Sid, I mean they were really belted out so when you hear songs like “Bed of Rust” or “Water is Leaking” or “I am a Pig” cranked out in a very straightforward and pure way, they just sound tremendous. I was actually considering putting “Bed of Rust” in the set on this trip but there just wasn’t the right moment for it. At some moment I will address that material, at the right moment because I am not running away from it and I think that more than anything you have to look at the fact that if I am coming to Toledo or wherever, for the first time in two years and I am going to be on stage for an hour and thirty minutes I am trying to give each musical moment as much value as possible so if there is a song that I think will have a better connection and mean more in the set than another song then that is the song that takes priority. I am not looking at my own needs exclusively when I put a set list together, I am always thinking about my fans. Maybe at some later point I will put some Two stuff in the set list.
That would be great because for as abused as that record was by people it really was a brilliant disc...
You know what happened with that whole thing is that the controversy and the critique built a wall in front of the music and it wasn’t given its chance. I mean, people were pissing on it before they even put it in the CD player. That is just the way that the music business is and that is not just happening to me, it is happening to a lot of artists, they don’t get their worthy moment and people just pre-empt, pre-empt, pre-empt. They hear one song and think, “Well that is crap so the rest must be crap.” And that is just a human condition, unfortunately. It is in music or just any creative moment, you can’t avoid it, it is what humans do.
It is funny because that whole period was just perfect for the whip and the leather...
It certainly does have its connections. Certainly in the flamboyance. I have always been accused as the one who started that look and that was based off of the “Hell bent for Leather” moment. When Priest first went out we were still in our Hippie clothes to some extent and so it wasn’t until the “Hell bent for Leather” “Metal” look of style and appearance came into being.
And nothing has ever been the same since! (laughs) Well, I know that whatever you are doing the Metal faithful will show up to see you do it.
I know that they will and, like I say, this tour will be a Metal connoisseur’s delight!
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