Judas Priest
By Naughty Mickie

Judas Priest has finally finished in the studio and is finally out on tour. Along with favorites from their three-decade career, their shows are also boasting a few ear-tasty treats from their latest, "Nostradamus" (Epic Records).

The lineup is familiar- vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis, still I couldn't resist an opportunity for an interview. Hey, maybe I could even sing with Rob again...

"It's the evening time here in beautiful downtown Athens, Greece," Halford begins when I answer the phone. "We have a festival show to do tonight and I'm just going through my luggage because I've got too much stuff." Halford laughs, "I've got too much stuff, you know, and I'm just trying to figure out what to put in the wardrobe case. I'm just going crazy trying to figure out what I do need and what I don't need."

I'm not sure how I can help, as I'm in California, but I sympathize, as I've over-packed for vacation before. Next, I ask him to tell me what it's been like to be back with Priest.

"How to begin," Halford pauses, "It's a really difficult thing to put into words because it's such an emotionally based thing. Obviously I'm back with the guys that I spent most of my life with creatively, as a musician, and I think that anybody that you talk to that is returning back to that condition has nothing but the best feelings for it and then of course it's done out of the creative level.

"On the personal level, you just have so much connectivity between each other from those early days of rattling around in the back of the van with a bit of equipment that you didn't know if it was going to work or not when you get to a gig and load it in yourself and play the show and then dismantle it and drive home in the early hours of the morning. And trying to do a little bit of a job to bringing a bit of money besides your music.

"It's a lot of things really," Halford continues. "But ever since the 'Angel of Retribution' reunion and the tour that went with that, the Ozzfest tour that we did, the world tour, which was phenomenal, and now of course the incredible followup with 'Nostradamus,' it's been a whirlwind, it's been absolutely non-stop for the last four years or so. It's great. Everybody's happy, everybody's in good spirits. The fans are loving. It's good to be back on the road again having been in the studio for a couple of years making this record."

But why a concept album?

"I can remember us talking about it since the '70s and '80s off and on," Halford replies. "Wouldn't it be great to find the right kind of idea, the right kind of material, subject matter, whatever you want to call it, to give a really solid source of interesting musical entertainment and information because that's what good concept record can do. It's like a movie, it's got to have substance, it's got to have a good beginning and a great storyline and a pretty good ending. And then we found that in the life of this man Nostradamus.

"There's lots of historical figures, aren't there? But the fact that he was from the part of the world that was Europe and the fact that he lived at that time 500 years ago. And there was a lot of elements in his life that we can kind of relate to in a metal point of view because he went through acceptance, rejection, he had a lot pushed back against him and we talk about those types of conditions in our metal music. Part of the metal experience is talking about overcoming obstacles and so forth.

"That interested us apart from his prophesies, we wanted to know a little bit more about his personal life. As soon as we got all that type of feedback, we thought, man, this is just a metal match, it's absolutely perfect. It's been waiting to be done." Halford goes on, "The story goes that our manager Bill Curbishley suggested it to us and he's been watching our career for the last 20-odd years. He's a very good judge about everything about Judas Priest and when he presented this possibility we just roared for it."

I wonder if Priest's writing has evolved further.

"Not really. It all starts with a riff or a melody of some sort from a vocal point of view," Halford says. "Again, you've got to have a solid source for the idea whatever it might be about. With something like Nostradamus it's not exactly planned out for you, but at least you've got the guts of the idea. It's all documented, you've got your book, you've got your movies about him, it's all in chronological order.

"With this experience with 'Nostradamus,' it's definitely different than the other ways we would have gone around to putting the record together, but in essence you're still working from moment to moment. One minute you're talking about the dawn of creation and you're talking about prophesy, where he realizes he can have these visions and he's trying to say here I am and make of me what you will, and then he's in exile, then he sees the four horsemen of the apocalypse, it's all laid out, but you've still got to write the music. You have to set the tone, the atmosphere, all the things that you know about as far as writing a piece of music."

Halford goes on, "Whether it's a rip-roarer or whether it's a ballad or mid-tempo, that just comes in the writing process, you're never quite sure what's going to happen next really. That really for all of us, for the primary writers me, Glenn and K.K., still one of the most exciting parts about being in Judas Priest is actually writing new material."

I have to know if Priest is planning a special stage show for 'Nostradamus.'

"You've got to be really careful." Halford explains, "When you go to see Priest there's a bit of pre-emptive process- what are they going to look like, what are they going to wear, what is the stage going to be like, what is the lighting show going to be like, are they going to use the bike? We've been kind of lucky in that respect because it's going to be very easy to do the transition musically to 'Nostradamus.' We're already doing two songs, we're doing 'Prophecy,' which you may have seen pieces of it on the Internet already on YouTube, and then 'War' The cool thing is that it works really well directly transitioning to a live performance.

"We will do it eventually," Halford assures me. "We want to do the whole thing live at some point, we don't know exactly when. It's going to be next year because it's going to be a massive effort and we haven't quite figured out all of the ideas that we've got because there's multiple ways of doing it.

"Whether we keep it simple, straightforward performance or whether we just go over the top, bring in extra players, and use elaborate stage sets and visuals, screen things. There's a ton of stuff. You could make it like this big metal Vegas experience if you want to, like Cirque du Soleil," continues Halford. "There's is the practicality of it because obviously we want to tour with it as well. So I think we'll have a better idea, as we go along on this tour we're having major discussions, I would imagine by the end of this year, early next year, we'll have a better idea of exactly what we're going to do."

I decide to revisit some subjects Halford and I discussed in the past, starting by asking him if he still screams to warm up his voice before shows.

"No, I don't, I've actually stopped doing that now," Halford laughs. "The singer from Airbourne, I love that band, they're great and we see a lot of ourselves in those guys, a young Australian band that's just starting out, we've done some shows together. You can hear (Joel O'Keefe) screaming loudly in the showers getting warmed up. I don't really do much, it's only because of the way the show opens. It opens strongly, but I don't really need to let rip until much later on in the set so I just let the voice work its way through the first few numbers until we get to 'Painkiller' time and that kind of thing."

He also had homes in San Diego, Arizona and England.

"I've still got all of those places, my original home that I bought in the U.K. and the house in Phoenix, which I got in the '80s I think that was, and there's my place in San Diego to get away from the blazing heat of the desert," Halford shares. "That's where we're going to be going in a few weeks' time before we kick off the American tour, we start in Seattle, so I'm going to go into the oven. Mind you, I feel like I'm in the oven here now because it's at least 100 degrees here now and we're at an open-air festival tonight so it's going to be a real challenge and then we're in Bucharest tomorrow, but after that we're in Istambul. We're in the hot zone at the moment."

As I ask him about his 1981 Custom Harley-Davidson Lowrider, I mention that my Triumph chopper is in pieces now. My brother and I are working to restore it and it's taking longer than I anticipated.

Halford laughs, "It's a nightmare once you take one of those things apart no matter what it is you know."

As for his Lowrider, "I've still got that one, it's the one we still use on stage. I don't ride anywhere near as much. I can't remember, it's been years since I've been on a motorcycle. I don't why that is, whether it's the time in my life or what. But also, again, I'm stuck, I've been jumping on planes all over the place. I think that's going to come back to me at some point, I'll have more time and opportunity to enjoy that experience. It's tough in Phoenix to go riding around on a bike when the outside temperature is 115 degrees."

"Yeah, and then there's more traffic everywhere," I comment.

"You've got to be of a certain mindset to ride a bike in today's world, that's for sure," agrees Halford.

Knowing he's an avid reader, I have to ask what he's into now.

"I've just read the 'Sepulchre' by Kate Mosse, she's British, and I'm just starting to read 'The Sanctuary' (by Raymond Khoury)," Halford says. "I'm in my latter day 'DaVinci Code' type of book reading at this moment, nothing of any great substance, but it's a good read. It's a good bit of escapism to pass away the hours on the tour bus.

"I liked the one that Kate Mosse did because she jumps back and forth in time. 'Sepulchre' is set in 18th century, late 17th century Paris for half of the book and then it's in the modern time, so it's jumping back and forth from part one, two, three, four. She's an absolutely wonderful writer, she's so articulate and her words really paint these fantastic pictures. I can see it being a movie at some point.

"Just before I left Phoenix, I bought a book on Nostradamus that's called 'Nostradamus:The Good News' (by Mario Reading) because Nostradamus is more equated with bad news." Halford goes on, "I got that from Border's Books before I left. I've been interested to read some of the good things that Nostradamus talked about rather than all the death, doom and destruction that he's more associated with."

So what's up with his solo project, Halford?

"We're still noodling around with stuff," Halford says. "It's just again finding the right time and the moment and the opportunity to make that happen. It's just a case of the fans keeping their ears to robhalford.com for when it's going to come about."

I prod at Halford to reveal what's coming up for him.

"It's best to go to robhalford.com," Halford counters. "We've just had a Fight retrospective box set come out and we've got a Rock in Rio DVD coming out that everybody's been waiting for for years. We're in Rio with Iron Maiden, I don't what year that was, 2001? That's coming out in late August, early September. But primarily I'm just immersed in Priest, Priest, Priest, where I'm at the best of times right now. There's always new stuff on the horizon."

Before letting him finish preparing for his concert, I ask Halford for a few final thoughts.

"You can never thank everybody enough, that's a simple statement." Halford says, "The fact that the fans are the backbone of any group in existence. It's a funny thing being a musician because you've done everything for yourself and some people get confused about the whole world because you're getting all this great self-pleasure and enjoyment out of making music, but you can't really make that work til you have a fan base that's supporting you. That's what the fans do, so we constantly say thank you, thank you, thank you. That's the reason we keep going on, let's face it as well, you're motivated constantly by the energy and the feedback the fans give you is a very good thing."

Keep up with everything Judas Priest at www.judaspriest.com

Also, visit my blogs at http://mickieszoo.blogspot.com and www.insidesocal.com/doodah

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