Bernard Perusse of The Gazette has posted his entire interview with JUDAS PRIEST frontman Rob Halford in a question-and-answer format. A couple of new excerpts follow:
Gazette: What kind of house did you grow up in? What were your parents like?
Halford: Well! My mom and dad, God bless them, are both 80. Still alive and kicking and metalheads. They come to the PRIEST shows. We moved into a council estate. I was born in 1951 and World War II had only been over for a few years, so the country was still rebuilding and there was rationing going on still. It was a very difficult time for the whole population, and these council estates, as they were called, were the first breed of new affordable housing for millions of Britons, and so that's where I was born and raised, in Walsall, which is my hometown, about eight miles out of Birmingham city. It was tough. My dad again, ironically worked in the steel manufacturing business. My mom was a homemaker for a number of years, and then she worked in schools, like as a nursery-school teacher and this, that and the other. But my roots were very much working class. Very working class. Which I think, again, is a common element in the metal fans. A lot of the metal fans have working-class roots. It was tough, you know. Money was tight, there was no central heating. But I look back on those times with some kind of sentiment, and also with pride, because I think your early formative years are really important to your character. And that bears reference to how you're going to turn out as a human being later on in life. So, yeah, I count my blessings that I went through those really good early formative years.
Gazette: Do you remember the first live show that made an impact on you?
Halford: As a kid, I was always enamoured by all areas of show business, entertainment. When I left school, I worked in a theatre, as a stage-lighting engineer and I was exposed to everything from Royal Ballet to Doyle Eckhardt's opera company to travelling repertory companies to variety shows with jugglers and magicians. I saw it all standup comedians and this is when I'm only 16. I saw the lot from the side of the stage and I thought "I don't want to be on the side of the stage. I want to be on the stage." And, of course, by then, music was having incredible value to me. In your early teenage years, music is your best friend, because you're rebelling and kicking back at your family and your friends, and school, and nobody loves you, everybody hates me, nobody understands me but my music does. So you become attached to music in your teenage years. There's a lot more going on, mentally and physically. So that's really when I started to get to grips with what was really drawing me. I knew I wanted to be involved in music. I'd got the voice, from being discovered in class when I was 8 years of age and had to sing in front of the whole class with the schoolteacher, because she was auditioning for the choir. And I made such an impression, she took me around to every other classroom and had me sing a cappella, and kids are clapping. I thought "Hey, this is pretty cool." Really, really significant kind of psyche, head moments that you never forget.
Gazette: I also wanted to ask specifically about "British Steel". That's a very tight, very focused kind of event. What's your assessment of that album, in retrospect?
Halford: Well, it's become a classic, hasn't it? There's even a TV and a DVD documentary about the making of that record. I don't know what it is. It's just a form of ... it's like a touchstone, a litmus test, a catalyst, a sequence of events that find you in John Lennon's house in Tittenhurst Park with no music written, but you know you're on a deadline to make a record for your label. And you've just come back from touring Japan, and you've had an incredibly successful time there, but now it's time to make another record. You're working against the clock. You've got very, very primitive ideas of what you want to try and do and you record them and it's just a remarkable record. Everything about that record the drum tone, guitars, bass, vocals it's very stripped-down. It's a very simply-produced recording. It's almost like you're live in the room when you hear it played. And it's just the songs. All the songs just .... connect, in almost a conceptual way. It's one of those records where you put it on from the first track, which I think is "Breaking the Law", all the way through to the end and you can just listen and absorb the whole experience. And it's very fluid. There's a lot of connectivity in it. What year was that? 1980?
Halford: That was an amazing time. Because there was a revolution going on with punk and new wave as well.
Gazette: ... although the '80s, as they went on, became a strange time for pop music.
Halford: Oh, yeah!
Gazette: There were synthesizers and drum machines ...
Halford: Yeah, yeah!
Gazette: ... and that whole kind of thing. It sounded at times as if PRIEST was having to adapt to that. How difficult was it for the band to have to face those kinds of production values?
Halford: Well, here's the deal: you utilize them. With all these incredible inventions that come along, particularly in the instrumentation of what you record, you shouldn't be afraid to buy a box with all these blinking lights and knobs. And you put a guitar cable in and you play a chord but if you hit this button now, it's going to make it sound like this. And you go "Oh, my God. That's amazing! How can we put that into our music?" And so it was with the "Turbo" record. We were in Spain at some villa in Marbella, and Glenn had got this device, and he played this strange note, which turned out to be the opening note to "Turbo Lover", and then the sound in "Out In the Cold". I guess that's just being fearless, and not really adapting to the climate around you. Because I think once you do that thing, you become a victim of fashion in the music industry. I think what we displayed in the "Turbo" cycle was this band's resistance to being boxed in that we would try anything that we wanted to try and do. We were basically going with our own gut feelings, a sense of adventure."
Read the entire interview at www.canada.com.