ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 30, 1998
By Steve Newton
The last time I interviewed Rob Halford was in 1984, at the peak of Judas Priest’s arena-packing popularity. At the time, he was screaming his lungs out about how “Love Bites”, swaddling himself in black leather and chains, and riding a Harley onstage to a metallized version of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi”. Nowadays, things are different. Halford has lost the leather, has stored the bike, and is playing clubs in an industrial-rock band affiliated with alternative-rock icon Trent Reznor.
“That gives you an indication as to how my passion and my love for music hasn’t diminished,” claims the 46-year-old rocker, from a tour stop in Phoenix. “I’ve still got the fire and the power and the energy to want to go out there and play great music to people all over the place.”
During its mid-’80s heyday, Judas Priest was selling millions of albums with titles like Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith, but in the twilight of the ’90s, mainstream metal just isn’t so hip. There are those who would suggest that Halford’s switch from heavy metal to fashionable industrial rock was motivated more by commercial than artistic aims, but he isn’t fazed by any accusations of bandwagon-jumping.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bitterness and cynicism in all areas of entertainment,” he says, “and I really have no time for that kind of thinking.”
It’s unlikely that the hordes of kids who banged heads to metal anthems like “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” will be totally taken by Two’s contemporary-rock stance—it’s got drum programming, for chrissakes!—but some will no doubt be drawn by Reznor’s name alone. Halford met the visionary Nine Inch Nails founder at Reznor’s studio in New Orleans a couple of years ago, and the latter wound up with an executive-producer credit on Two’s 1998 debut, Voyeurs.
“He gets compelled to work with other artists,” says Halford, “whether it’s David Lynch or Marilyn Manson or David Bowie, and I think he was just excited about the possibility of his input. He really elevated the music from where he originally heard it, and gave it a more futuristic edge.”
Two recorded Voyeurs in Vancouver, with local Reznor associate Dave “Rave” Ogilvie twistin’ the knobs at Bryan Adams’s home studio in North Van and the Adams-owned Warehouse Studio in Gastown. Halford says he likes being in Vancouver because its “British connection” makes him feel close to home, but he left a few locals unimpressed a few years back when his post-Priest thrash band, Fight, backed out of a Town Pump gig just hours before showtime.
“We were carrying so much equipment that it was just an impossibility to get what we wanted to in the venue,” he explains. “So this is kind of a makeup thing for me, hopefully, even though the music is a little different. I’m just really happy to be able to say for certainty that I’m coming back to Vancouver to play for everyone.”
A lot of the Fight fans who were riled by that last-minute cancellation had no doubt been hyped about the prospect of experiencing some Priest covers up close and personal. But any Judas Priest freaks with tickets to the Two gig at the Palladium on Friday (May 1) can leave their requests for “Turbo Lover” and “Living After Midnight” at home.
“If you want Priest music,” instructs Halford, “go and see Judas Priest.”