ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 5, 1982
By Steve Newton
If there ever was a music devised to torture grandmothers, it would probably sound a lot like Judas Priest, a band that fuses the meanest of lyrics and nastiest of guitar sounds to create what can only be described as raunch. Though more recently the band has toned down in ferocity and produced cleaner, more acceptable heavy metal, anyone who has heard their earlier songs such as “Genocide”, “Tyrant”, and “The Green Manalishi” knows that aural devastation is Judas Priest’s stock in trade.
Spawned in the grimy smoke of Birmingham, England’s second largest city, Priest released their first LP in 1974. Eight years and as many albums later, the band still has its five original members. Guitarists Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing, singer Rob Halford, drummer Dave Holland, and bassist Ian Hill have stuck it out through the lean years of heavy metal and have ridden the wave of increasing popularity since the resurgence of interest in ’79-’80. Now the group has a hot selling new album, Screaming for Vengeance, which includes the hit single “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” and several other explosive tracks, including “(Take These) Chains” and “Riding On the Wind”.
Like many other popular rock acts these days, Judas Priest have taken advantage of the video medium to get their message across. In fact, they were one of the first bands ever to appear in an interview on MTV, Music Television. On their video of “Another Thing Comin'” the lads blow the head off some snoopy, straight-laced fellow who is trying to find their whereabouts with the use of a noise detector. The ban’s underlying message of lashing out at conformity and rules is humorously driven into focus when the poor fool’s trousers fall down in slow motion right after the blast.
When Judas Priest hit Vancouver this Tuesday they’ll be unveiling a new stage production courtesy of Plumbline Design, the same people who created Ozzy Osbourne’s stage extravaganza. They’ll also be backed by a hot new Canadian act, Coney Hatch, who are one of the first boogie-based metal formations to come out of this country in years.
I talked to Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill by phone from Chicago recently, and gained a few insights into the life and background of the man who lays down the bottom for the band’s dual guitar protestations.
Your lead singer, Rob Halford, has said that everything Judas Priest does onstage is done with total honesty and genuine projection. Is this so?
Everything we do, we don’t have to try and do, we do it because we feel like it. Playing the same song over and over again, it’s easy to project a strong sense of identity to our fans because they think, “Gee, I bet I can do that.”
I understand Halford rides a big motorbike onstage at the start of your concerts. What’s the story behind that?
We just thought it was a good idea. We’ve got sort of a biking image anyway, and we all have motorcycles at home. But we do have problems in some areas where there are strict by-laws and things. We have to watch it in some places.
How did the band come to record Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust” on the SIn after Sin LP? She’s the last person I’d figure a band like Priest would cover.
That was suggested to us by our first record company. They wanted a single, really. They wanted a commercial song that would be picked up by the radio stations. They said, “Here’s a song by Joan Baez, and do a lead break to it as well.” So we sort of beefed it up a little bit–and it came out as Judas Priest in the end. Not that I dislike the original, because I don’t.
In “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” Rob sings: “I’m on top as long as the music’s loud.” But what if the music isn’t loud, if heavy metal dies out? Hasn’t just about everything been done that can be done with power chords and raunchy licks?
Heavy metal is only an extension of rock music in general that originated in the fifties. It’s just another facet, another version. You know, people were saying, “What else can you do with Jerry Lee Lewis.” There’s always something else to do if you end up bored.
Which bass players have influenced your style of playing?
It’s difficult to say now, but years ago when I first started playing it was guys like Jack Bruce, the old guys. But really, I am not able to play like that. When I listen to Judas now, I don’t listen to any one thing–I like the band as a whole. I do like the lead breaks and solos, but on a whole I just like the song as it is.
Heavy metal has recently been gaining popularity in Canada, and it’s always done well in the States, but in England it’s more like a religion–they go crazy for it there. Is there something about the country itself that makes heavy rock such a popular attraction over there?
I doubt it. That is a difficult question really because it’s popular in so many other countries as well. The area where we come from, Birmingham, is very very industrial–in fact most of the large cities in Britain are industrial. That might have something to do with it. You’ve got to work or go to school, and it’s really depressing surroundings, especially if you work in a factory. So you go out at night and see a heavy rock concert and you get rid of all your aggressions.
Your live album, Unleashed in the East, was recorded in Tokyo. How did you find the audiences there?
There’s a lot more women in Japanese audiences. It’s sort of like Beatlemania used to be with all the screaming girls. But the male part of the audience is the same as everywhere else. Our audiences are generally all crazy. They’re all as crazy as we are. You can’t really say you prefer one country to the other because reaction around the world is generally the same.
What is it actually like going from country to country while on tour? Do you get tired of the hectic pace?
I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I don’t know how to explain it, but a lot of times you never get to see the places you visit. But when you do get a few days off and you get out to see those places it makes it all worthwhile. Just the fact that you’re travelling to different countries and seeing so many different nationalities is incredible in itself. And the fact that they’re coming to see you perform in a concert makes it even better.
Judas Priest: the name itself has an evil sort of ring to it. If hell had a jukebox, do you think it would play Judas Priest?
I don’t know, do you think it would play psalms? I haven’t been there, so I wouldn’t know. But why not? It’s pretty much an aggressive sort of place, so I’ve heard.