Featured Interview: Rob Halford & Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest by Matt O’Shaughnessy
Iconic Judas Priest came blasting out of Birmingham, England in the late 1960’s and early 70’s and never looked back and to this day have forever carved their rightful niche in a genre of music they significantly helped pioneer and break new ground in. Albums such as Sad Wings Of Destiny, Screaming For Vengeance, British Steel, Painkiller and many more Priest gems, each completely unique in their own right as the legendary Metal Gods never followed trends or fashions, would gift the metal community with 40 years of memories through their popular music. The band from Birmingham would influence generations of musicians and metalheads to an incalculable measure. Judas Priest is celebrating forty grand years rocking the masses from coast to coast and for that matter all over the globe with the stellar and much-touted release of their Epitaph DVD/Blu-ray which was unveiled this past May 28th through Legacy Recordings, a division of SONY Music Entertainment. At first glance, just by reading the track listing on the back of this much coveted Priest DVD, one is in for the Metal God Ride of a lifetime with twenty-three all guns blazing Judas Priest songs enclosed herein, recorded and filmed on the final night of the bands Epitaph World Tour at London’s prestigious Hammersmith Apollo in May of 2012. Rock Show Magazine’s Matthew O’Shaughnessy recently caught up with the Metal Gods and had the distinct honor of chatting again with singer Rob Halford and guitarist Richie Faulkner about the Epitaph DVD, forty years of Priest metal magic, and several more milestones the revered British metal masters have created.
Matt O’Shaughnessy: The Epitaph DVD is a wonderful gift for your fans. It’s certainly a must have for all Judas Priest supporters as it showcases twenty-three incomparable tracks with such wide depth and span over your exciting and, most importantly, heralded career. This will not, as I now understand, be Judas Priest’s last round of touring or final world tour, thankfully.
Rob Halford: “Well it’s turned out not to be the final world tour; what we tried to do as we got into gear again (and especially since Richie came onboard). We suddenly realized that now there were more opportunities opening up. What was a final global world tour in the way that we’ve been doing them for the past thirty odd years is just going to change slightly. For example, we’re going to do a European tour for about a month or two months and then instead of jumping on a plane and going straight to New York to start an American tour, we’re just going to pull back and put a bit of space to recharge our batteries and to be able to keep that special feeling that Priest always wants to generate when we go on stage. We have a big responsibility not only to ourselves but to our fans that we don’t drop the ball. And, so again, it’s no different than sports athletes; Michael Jordon wasn’t going out on the court as much when he was getting older. But when he went out he could get it in the hoop. But it’s not the end of touring. We are still going to be going out there.”
Matt O’Shaughnessy: Rob, explain if you will, the process of choosing the venue you did for the filming of the Epitaph DVD, Hammersmith Apollo in London.
Rob Halford: “In the United States you have Madison Square Garden, Jones Beach on Long Island and these wonderful places. You look for that type of venue to again capture the metal magic. We were saying earlier on, we never really thought about this. This was a pretty ballsy thing to do; we’ve done all these shows around the world and traveled like a hundred thousand miles, and you think it would have made sense to do it at the front end of the tour but we left it to last moment, the very last show. I think we were just looking for that special climax that an end of tour date can give you. But when you do it in your home country in the capitol in London at this very, very famous venue and you bring in the cameras as well. We were just on fire that night. It was just a stellar show for everybody!”
Matt O’Shaughnessy: Epitaph seems to well serve as a celebration of Judas Priest’s last forty years.
Rob Halford: “As we got into the preparation for this tour, I think we did start to think a little bit differently because most musicians are focused on what you are doing now. In this respect we felt that it was now time to do a celebration of the last forty years of Priest with a lot of hard work from everybody - band, crew, label and management. This DVD is like a documentary without people yapping on it. It’s the music speaking for itself. I think that’s the best way when you are trying to tell the life of a band. You can either do it like we are chatting now. But the real essence of why you are here and what you do is best displayed in your performance and that’s what happens on Epitaph.”
Richie Faulkner: “Well, as a fan myself, I mean it’s a benchmark in the bands career. Obviously, it’s a different lineup and I’m responsible for that I suppose. As a Priest fan it’s a must have release filmed at a legendary venue. You’ve got bands in the past like Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy that all recorded at Hammersmith Apollo. …A legendary venue, a legendary band, Judas Priest.”
Rob Halford: “At the end of the day it’s all for the fans. We’ve said it a million times and we’ll say it a million more times. It’s for the fans, the fans, the fans. Especially in metal; metal fans are the best in the world for any band like Priest. You literally do feed off their enthusiasm and off the energy that they throw back at you night after night in the live format. And you certainly see that with the British crowd. We had people flying in from all over the world for the last show of the Epitaph tour which just shows you the dedication of the fans you have in heavy metal. This is not only an opportunity for us as a group to have a great time and check out all of the things that we’ve tried to do with our music. But it’s for the fans. And when you are seeing the show, the show literally runs as you would see the Epitaph tour. Once that camera starts rolling, nothing stops. It’s a fascinating experience. There’s no cutting back to the dressing room, or to whatever. It’s as we are playing and there are no overdubs. This is legit and this is straight from the band down onto the audio track. If you saw the Epitaph tour, you are seeing it again, but you are seeing also in a very intimate way. When that camera zooms in on Richie’s fingers, and you can see how he’s playing those notes – that’s a real treat. You’re getting really into the heart and soul of the bands performance.”
Matt O’Shaughnessy: Music will often trigger memories in a listener or fan. Regardless of how old or young they are. Judas Priest has a rich and deep catalogue of legendary music to its great credit. Epitaph features a wide, highly unique range of your music.
Rob Halford: “It does, and again it’s a pride and joy to listen to Rocka Rolla for the first time as I did in I don’t know how many years. To listen to Never Satisfied again, Dying To Meet You, Cheater. And then go through every other one of our records and listen to all of the songs; you tend to forget because there is so much of it. You just feel really, really proud that you’ve got those experiences musically to keep investigating. It really makes you think differently about the band you’re in because you don’t do this often. You don’t really deeply reflect on the vaults of the material that you’ve got. And it’s great that a song like Never Satisfied written in the early 70’s can work just as well with Judas Rising from Angel Of Retribution or Prophecy from Nostradamus. From the early 70’s-2008 and it all connects. That’s the magical thing we’ve discovered. In this respect, one minute you’re in the 70’s then the 90’s, and then you’re in the 2000’s, then your back to the 80’s. It really is flawless. That was just a great discovery.”
Richie Faulkner: “I’d like to second that really. Again, you can play songs from different decades. You can have Turbo Lover next to the Sentinel next to Victim Of Changes. Whatever order you put it in as long as it’s in the dynamic of the show; they will stand up to each other. I think that’s a testament to the bands, as you said, either foresight or whatever they were doing to do a song that was forty years old back to back with a song from 2008.”
Matt O’Shaughnessy: Rob, there really seems to be a lot of different songs from different decades featured on Epitaph. This will certainly lodge a lot of great memories in your fans.
Rob Halford: “This definitely proves a point, Matt. We’ve been saying that for as long as we can remember. When you look at Epitaph and you listen to it and do all that cross-generational jumping around musically from different decades. It really is an affirmation that your music is still good from one place to the next. I’m glad you raised the point about weddings and college and school because that’s what music does to you in your heart. When you’re listening to Living After Midnight from the 1980’s and you were maybe dating somebody or on vacation or whatever. These songs trigger memories. These songs really become part of your life. That’s the wonderful gift of music. That really gets to the soul of the great wonderful thing that music is able to do to each and every one of us.”
Matt O’Shaughnessy: Judas Priest always epitomized your incredible world-class vocal abilities, rapid-fire guitar assaults and spectacular stage shows. On Epitaph you feature twenty-three-trailblazing tracks ranging from Rapid Fire, Starbreaker, Beyond The Realms Of Death, Painkiller, Never Satisfied, The Hellion/Electric Eye and more Priest gems!
Rob Halford: “We all made lists of what we wanted to do; that was the real challenge of trying to capture a little bit of something from all of the fourteen studio albums. It was a joy and also a challenge to us musically. We didn’t shy away from some of these more in-depth songs. It would have been easy to go ‘oh, we’ll just do the easy stuff, the three minute tunes, etc. We wanted to show you that this band is still strongly supported and behind some of these big epic moments from our records. We wanted to show we can still do this. And I think our fans love that; that you can still do Painkiller with same thrust as the recording. That you can still do The Sentinel with same kind of attitude - the fans go nuts because my band can still deliver the goods in that particular way.”
Richie Faulkner: “What we thought was interesting as well was once we got the set-list down; each song almost becomes its own little performance. So, you’ve got these little performances in a big performance. They’ve got their own character and production. It’s a fantastic thing I think as a Priest fan, and obviously now being in the band, it’s a great thing to see.”
Matt O’Shaughnessy: Rob, you and the band always marched to the beat of your own drummer, so to speak, and never ever cared about the trends of the day. Rather, Judas Priest were trendsetters and leaders indeed.
Rob Halford: “No, we never did. I remember when we were in London recording around the punk and new wave era and suddenly everybody rejected heavy metal in the UK. Everybody went ‘it’s over, it’s over.’ And we said, ‘no it ain’t over!’ We’re still who we are and have our fans that are never going to leave us. With that attitude I think that was just a great example of the resilience of heavy metal music. We have gone through trends and fashions and different styles of acceptance and rejection and we don’t really care about that. What we care about is our music and the fans that support us globally. I think it was Ronnie James Dio who said heavy metal will never die. And that’s an absolute fact.’
Richie Faulkner: “The great thing about Priest as well is every album has its own character and that they are always pushing the envelope as far as sonic landscapes and different effects. They always pushed the envelope into new territory and when you do that you are always a leader. You’re the one carving the niche so to speak.”
Matt O’Shaughnessy: Rob Halford, it’s been another distinct honor taking with you. Is it safe to say The Metal God will be taking to the great stage for another twenty years?
Rob Halford: “I’m sixty-two this year so we haven’t got too long to wait (laughter). I’m really glad you brought this up, Matt. One of my all-time heroes is Willie Nelson, who as you know is celebrating his eighty - second year I think in country music. God bless the man. Even somebody like Tony Bennett, the great crooner; these guys inspire me as a musician. Seventy is the new fifty. Like heavy metal will never die - The Metal God will never die!”
Rob Halford: “Thank you for looking after the band. You cannot do this without your fans. So a big, big thank you, to every Judas Priest fan. Relive the moment and enjoy the DVD. We look forward to the next time when we go out on stage and say, ‘the Priest is back!’”
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