When comprising a list of the all time greatest rock singers, a person who is worthy of the top consideration would be, no other than, the Metal God himself Rob Halford. Rob has a long respected career as a metal vocalist but is now trying his hand at other ventures in front of the mic. Rob has a lot going on right now with his just released Winter Songs record and his new Metal God Apparel line.
Backstageaxxess.com chatted with the legend himself to find out how the new CD came about. We also dove into the wonderful world of video gaming, his new clothing line, his take on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to what lies ahead for Judas Priest. Lets hear it straight from the main man himself.
Gus: You just released Winter Songs, which is a collection of covers and original Christmas Music. How did the idea of doing a Christmas album come about?
Rob: I just love the time of year you know? One of the things about being a musician is you always carry a little bit of the inner child in you. I certainly feel that way when the holidays come around. I suppose its the memories of the holiday season, the music we remember. A lot of different things really on a personal and emotional level. Also around the holiday season, there is a ton of holiday music being played. We associate great events with music. I grew up with the classics like most of us did, mostly in the U.K., but I also spent a lot of time here in the U.S. Im also familiar with the music around the holidays thats played here as well. Most of it’s Rock and Roll so I wondered what it would sound like if it was my own endeavor? Anyway, there ya go. It was always kind of in the back of my mind that I wanted to make this kind of music and now finally I was able to find a moment in the calendar to put it all together.
Gus: You worked with Roy Z, who also produced Halford and Judas Priest in the past. How was it working with him on such a diverse project?
Rob: Roy Z is phenomenal! He is a dear friend of mine. He has the extraordinary talent for producing, engineering, mixer, guitar player, and onstage player all rolled into one. I just love his talent. He has got so many things going on for him. I wouldnt have had anyone else involved in this project other than Roy. Obviously, other than the fact that he is moved into the Halford band anyway.
Gus: So the transition was smooth then?
Rob: Yes it was. Its not that too peculiar for one or two tradings to take place. So when Ray Riendeau and Patrick Lachman moved on, Metal Mike Chlasciak and Roy Z moved in. This is the band now known as the Halford band: Roy, Mike, Mike D, and Bobby.
Gus: Can we expect these songs to be performed live at some point?
Rob: If I knew it was going to be so well received, I would have thought about that Gus. I didnt realize it was going to do as well as it’s done and I mean that genuinely. You never know where your music is going to end up or what the reaction is going to be like. This has been a real nice surprise for me. The idea I had about filling a niche for this type of music experience seems to hit the nerve. Having said that, this is a 45 minute release and if Im going to do a show (a Halford show is an 1 hour twenty or thirty minutes) I wouldnt have enough material. If it keeps going the way its going Gus, I would like to do a full release of this type of material and try to put a show together for next year.
Gus: I thought I saw something that you were on the bill for the Mark and Brian Christmas show in LA on December 16th. So youre saying that these songs wont be performed live then, correct?
Rob: Im going to be seeing Slash over the next few days and we are just going to talk about what we are going to do. There will be at least one of these songs from the record. Its a Christmas show that Mark and Brian do every year for the station and the midnight mission organization. Thats the main reason Im involved. Its also a treat too, as its a supergroup: Slash, Jason Bonham, Keith Emerson, Steve Lukather from Toto and all the other people that are involved. Something like this doesnt happen all the time, so it should be a really cool moment.
Gus: Your voice sounds amazing (Rob chimes in Thank You!) Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel and the title track. How was it singing these songs in the studio with the different tempos?
Rob: It felt wonderful. The beautiful messages and the texture of the material was pretty easy to sing in terms of the familiarity as I know these songs. They are in my head and I have been exposed to them many, many times. Having said that, you really kind of figure out your approach, on how you are going to perform these songs giving it your own kind of distinct treatment. In the singing function, I really enjoyed myself and had a great time! It was quite effortless really. That kind of takes the weight off your back.
Gus: How was the creative process for these original songs different from a metal album that youre more familiar with?
Rob: I left it in the capable hands of Roy because I was out with Priest. So again, it was Roys extraordinary talent. Take a song like We Three Kings and give it that treatment its just phenomenal! Its unique and I dont think there is anything out there like it. At least I dont think there is. The same way he treated “Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel” or What Child is This” and the rest of them too. He just did some wonderful things to them. All the praise goes to Roy. I just put my voice to it. The other four tracks mostly Roy put together with my contribution like Get Into the Spirit. I Dont Care is something me and Roy got together pretty quickly. I wrote Christmas is for Everyone while I was driving in the car to the studio. Those are the things that happen to you when youre a musician and you hear the music in your head. Its bizarre. The same with Light of the World. We had nine tracks finished and I dont like the number 9 so when I got to the studio I picked up a guitar and 15 minutes later we knocked Light of the World into shape. They were real fun and pleasant sessions. When we make the next Halford record, it will be a tough one musically. In terms of attitude it will be strong but it will also take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. There was no pressure is what I was trying to say. You didnt have to prove something. In Halford or when we do the next Priest album, its like you have to prove something to yourself in terms of your ability. For your fans, you have to step up and do something great! This was something that didnt have the stress and pressure attached to it.
Gus: In talking about how you lent your voice to the tracks that Roy created, how do you keep your voice so strong after all of these years?
Rob: I think its doing practice at the end of the day. I have been using it for 40 years and looking back on it I think its in pretty good shape and it depends on the things you do (laughs.) Its a Jekyll and Hyde thing. Im a totally different person from onstage than off. It still does things I dont want it to do, like sometimes it will go off in a different direction when Im singing, thats rare but its practice. Thats all that is. I should be at the top of my game now and if Im not I better be (laughs)!
Gus: Going in a different direction, I would like to get your opinion on something.
Gus: When do you think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will recognize your band, Judas Priest and your contemporaries in the heavy metal music genre?
Rob: Well, you have no control over that. You just keep doing what your doing and eventually you will get your moment. Its called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and it should be acknowledging some of these great people in Rock and Roll at all the different levels as you touched to it. Metallica, AC/DC, hopefully Kiss (ed note: Kiss did not get inducted for the class of 2010 that was announced on 12/15/09), Sabbath. There are a handful of people being recognized.. I dont know? If it happens to Priest it will be fantastic! I certainly think we deserve it! Its out of our hands like the 5th Grammy nomination we received but havent won one yet. The fact that they thought about and considered us is a tremendous moment in itself! If Priest gets in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame it will be a wonderful day!
Gus: Well, with another Grammy nomination, I hope its the start of something because you sure do deserve all the accolades you receive.
Rob: Thank you, Thank you!
Gus: You have your own clothing line called Metal God apparel. How did the idea of starting your own clothing line come about?
Rob: Its just an extension of what I do onstage ya know? I like to keep the interest focused on the stage and the performers. One of the ways to do it, or a way I like to try to do it, is to keep the costume changes going. I created Metal God Entertainment a couple of years ago, which is a broad based platform level of Metal God Records. We do things slowly and methodically to let people know we are a solid company that has good products. The clothing idea was already in the mix and we are just in the first phase of releasing the t-shirts, that are doing really well, so we will see where we will go next!
Gus: Do you see the line eventually ending up in a major retail store?
Rob: I hope so! Do you know anybody Gus (laughs)? Im all ears.
Gus: Well, Its all about the quality of the line. Im sure something will break for you as its becoming trendier for retail stores to carry Affliction and English Laundry type of products.
Rob: Thats why these shirts are priced accordingly. These arent your basic merch shirt you can get at a booth from a show. These are made from really good quality material. They have really good support in the quality of its appearance. Yeah, Im looking for retail, but its just as tough to look for retail as it is getting your music into Wal-Mart. Its a constant push and you dont give in and eventually it will happen.
Gus: You are becoming quite the entrepreneur with your apparel line, Metal God Records and Entertainment. Is there a future endeavor youre looking to get yourself attached to?
Rob: Ive done so many things Gus, really Im looking into doing extraordinary things like the Brutal Legend Video Game or association of Judas Priest music with Guitar Hero and Rockband. No, Ive been doing what I have been doing for almost four decades. Im always interested to see what I can do thats a little bit different. I dont know what that can be yet. Musically, I dont think I painted myself into a corner. As long as I can use the voice and get into touch in the right way. I have ambitions to do some kind of a duo thing with somebody even though I may not know who that may be. Whether that will be with a rock singer or a female singer? I like the idea of that type of collaboration. I love collaborations and thats why Im looking forward to this thing with Slash in few days time. Maybe something will come up with that. I dont know? We will see.
Gus: I was going to ask you what your take is on the new generation of video games like Guitar Hero and Rockband. Obviously, you attached some of your songs to these games but what is your overall take on them?
Rob: Its just another form of entertainment isnt it? I just heard from the AP that the recession is heading into the gaming industry. I think its wonderfully lectured, its exciting, fantasy, and escapism. Your not only getting music with the games like Guitar Hero and Rockband but simulating the moment with a special kind of guitar or drum set or what have you. Youre also an active participant for the next great guitar player or drummer in the future. Its a great learning tool, especially for kids. It teaches kids discipline. It teaches them to be good at something. In order for them to do this you have to practice, practice, practice. Some of these games have a productive use. So anything like that is particularly important. Especially getting your music across to a generation who normally wouldnt have heard of you before…until that moment.
Gus: You had a small role in movie called Spun with Mickey ORourke. How was that experience for you?
Rob: I got a call from the director, Jonas Akerlund, asking me what Im doing and I have this gig or scene if youre interested. Of course I was and Mickey ORourke was one of my movie star heroes. So that was a day in my life that was put onto film that will probably last forever. It was extraordinary! Especially to be in the company of a mastery craftsman like Mickey ORourke. It was just remarkable. I cant wait to see him in the new Iron Man next year.
Gus: Any future roles?
Rob: (laughs) oh, I dont know about that. It was a spur of the moment. I dont what to think or know if I was actually any good. All I know was I was happy and Mickey was happy and that was that. Some rock stars want to be film stars and some film stars want to be rock stars. I dont know what thats all about, but thats the way it is.
Gus: Judas Priest toured behind Nostradamus in 2008 and did a 30 year anniversary celebration tour of British Steel on 2009. What is the future of the band going forward?
Rob: We like to extend that celebration as next year is the actual 30 year birthday, next spring Gus. We are putting together a really nice box set with a DVD of the show. Its wonderful to see the band working through that particular set list, record, song by song. From what I can see, its already phenomenal! I will be seeing the boys over the holidays back in England and figure out what we are going to do and we will let everyone know on the website www.JudasPriest.com.
Gus: So will there be a tour set up for next year?
Rob: There are a few things going on but Im under lock and key to talk about it just yet.
Gus: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today at Backstageaxxess.com.
Rob: Thank you Gus!
We would like to thank Chipster Entertainment for allowing us the time with Rob. For more information on Rob, his latest CD Winter Song, or Metal God Entertainment, you can go to: www.robhalford.com.