After 40 years, a couple dozen albums and numerous trips around the world, Judas Priest are calling their new tour Epitaph and saying this is the end of their touring life.
With a new record, The Chosen Few, compiling songs chosen by famous fans like Ozzy Osbourne, Lars Ulrich and Gene Simmons, Judas Priest's Rob Halford sat down at his computer to answer a few questions via email.
Your voice is instantly recognizable. When did you first realize you could sing?
When I was a little kid in the school choirs. I remember right from that point how much I loved to sing from the feelings it gave me
What singers influenced you? Is there anyone that would be surprising to your fans?
I think all singers should keep an open mind to all kinds of singers, that way you can learn and develop in ways you might not think of. A surprise singer I admire might be Tony Bennet. His style and performance are unique.
What made you decide to have other people pick (and comment on) the songs for The Chosen Few? It's an interesting take on the idea of a greatest hits or fan favourites album.
Our label and management came up with the idea and we ran with it as we thought it had never been done before. Amazing that all of those famous rock stars should be Priest fans as well. Just shows how we all are in each other's lives with our music.
What's your favourite Judas Priest song? Why?
Victim Of Changes. It has the riffs, the pounding beats. Twin guitars, softer moments. Very bluesy and heavy. The light and shade mirror the band's name truly.
You've been playing with the guys in Judas Priest for 40 years. What is it that you like about being a member of that band? What is the band dynamic like after so many years?
Chemistry makes a band. Call it fate or destiny that brings the players together with their own way of making vocals, drums, bass, guitars. Combined with the writing teams and the never ending possibilities for a new song. All of this, plus the passion and self-belief and determination make a group what it is.
I remember when there was a distinct line drawn between metal fans and punk fans, but bands like Priest and Motorhead were the rarities that it was cool to like regardless of the length of your hair. To what do you attribute your widespread appeal (for lack of a better word, your cool)?
From the start we wanted to put on a show that fans would remember by the looks as well as the sounds. So we invented the leather studs, whips and chains that married perfectly with our music. Times change the looks of bands. We had ours from the mid 70s on and have played around with it here and there, but stayed true to ourselves.
Metal seems a lot more diverse today than it did in the past. Has your audience changed in the past 15 years?
We have grown old together, but every show we play now covers just about all kinds of demographic: from heavy metal kids barely in their teens to guys and gals from our time of life. Metal has no age limit. Never will.
Finally, I'm guessing you haven't lived in England for a long time, but I'm wondering if growing up in Birmingham - with its juxtaposition of industrialism and nature - influenced your music. Do you think there's something about that area that inspired bands to play heavier, faster or louder than others?
We count our blessings that we came about as we did at an exciting time of musical development. Many people say Priest was at the beginning of the scene, which is true. Metal comes from electric prog blues rock and we refined all of that into how we sounded. We guess it's the same for all bands as far as where you come from gets into your music. We lived and breathed the metal of the foundries and factories, so maybe that is in our blood.