By Bill Adams
For decades, it was uncommon for a professional musician to take his or her career seriously. Many considered what they were doing to be a leisure industry – the guiding mindset being that they were able to work at a leisurely rate and whatever they were doing could be done when the urge struck them. Since first appearing alongside his bandmates in Judas Priest in 1973 however, the notion that things can be done when they’re done has just not washed with singer Rob Halford. Perhaps due to his upbringing in a very industrial part of West Midlands, UK, Halford has always taken a no-nonsense approach to his career, and that approach continues to this day; when he’s not actively working, he’s thinking about the ways he might be able to better improve his work both with Judas Priest and with his solo band, Halford. The ethic has served the singer well as, now, Halford is able to take a minute and talk about how, in addition to maintaining his parallel career with Judas Priest, he now has his own record label off the ground and running as well as reigniting the fires in his solo band as a touring and performing entity.
“Things have really been coming together well so far,” confirms Halford with an air of satisfaction. “Over the last few years – since we put Metal God Records [Halford’s solo imprint –ed] together – we’ve been re-servicing the Halford releases in different formats and part of that was to keep my material out in the world. I wanted to make sure that people could get the physical pieces – the CDs and the DVDs – and also to launch the label and get it up and running and make sure we can deliver good products and make quality material available. We’ve been able to justify that, and The Crucible is the final piece of the puzzle and recording sessions that we were able to bring out. The next big moment and next brand new set of ideas will be the Halford IV release, which is slated to come out later this year, and we’ve started actively looking for new talent that we want to release on Metal God Records in the future.”
The idea of a new Halford release AND a new boutique label from the singer are big news bites in any language, and the workload involved for those alone seems like it should be imposing; but the list of ongoing endeavors continues. For those unaware of the chronology, after Judas Priest’s British Steel anniversary tour ended last year, Halford released his third solo album, Winter Songs, and the release of a new Priest album was implied around the same time; the sessions for which may start looming soon. Before that happens though, the Halford band has signed on to play this weekend’s Heavy Mtl festival before then participating in a series of dates as part of the Ozzfest 2010 tour with further options for live performance opening up even as the band gets closer to starting with Ozzfest. The schedule of events sounds convoluted because everything in Halford’s career seems to be coming together at once which would be hectic for most but, in conversation, the singer keeps an even and almost serenely confident tone as he ticks off the different engagements he has agreed to undertake. “It sounds like it might be a lot, but everything about it is running really smoothly,” says the singer of his coming calendar with an almost unnerving comfort. “I’m really big on efficiency; if it’s not efficient, I have a very short fuse and can’t take it. I’m used to working with very professional people and in this business – as is the case in almost any – there are deadlines that have to be met and there really shouldn’t be any reason why they can’t be met unless something really catastrophic happens.
“In many ways, that’s how we’ve arranged everything about my music and performance schedule,” continues the singer. “I work very quickly in the studio, and I’ve got these wonderful friends that work with me; Roy Z – who’s in the Halford Band and is also my producer – and I are able to brainstorm records together and so once we agreed on which songs we were going to do, Roy and I map out the arrangements and Roy then takes that to the rest of the guys to piece it together. It literally only takes me a couple of days to do all the vocals here in San Diego, and then Roy takes those and does all the mixing and the mastering. Everything is perfectly doable that way, it’s just a matter of setting up that sort of string of events. We’ve set it up so that everything is very doable and not everything is on my back; I work with some very wonderful people and we’re all pulling together and making it happen. The same sort of order and efficiency works for everything else we do. Right now, for example, we know we’re at the Heavy Mtl in Quebec this weekend and then I think we have a week or two off before we start with Ozzfest in San Bernardino and that works its’ way across the country to finish up at the end of August or September.”
“Those are the dates we have planned so far but, beyond that too, we’re also filling more dates in as we go. It might be a bit pre-mature to start playing a lot of material from the new record because we haven’t set an official release date for it yet, but we’ll play one or two from it and then throw some focus on the other two Halford records – The Resurrection and Crucible are still quite significant musically. Beyond that, we’ll see what happens – we’re really just moving ahead from day to day but, from a business point of view, we know promoters want to see what we’re about; we know that we can’t live on past glories. Bands don’t get book exclusively on the knowledge of what they’ve done in the past, I think it’s about relevance in today’s world and so I think that, as we move forward and people see what we’re capable of and what we have planned, more dates will open up as we go.”
“One way or another, I figure on being on the road well into the winter, then take a bit of a break around the holidays and then get back on the road with Priest in the early part of 2011.”
The entire endeavor seems like it might be very regimented to those reading or those on the outside looking in, but Halford laughingly dispels the possibility that anything about his band as it functions now is joyless. In fact, according to the singer, the way everything falls together now is incredibly gratifying to him, and marks the best time in his life. “As you get older, most things in life start to make more sense than they did when you were in your twenties and thirties but I think I am enjoying it more now than I ever did back then because there’s nothing left to prove; I’m not up against any sort of wall of criticism,” explains Halford of his impressions of the view from where he’s sitting. “I mean, I’ve done it all, I’ve been it all, I’ve seen it all – these are like the bonus rounds as far as the opportunities go. Personally, I’m having the time of my life right now just doing what I really want to do. That’s a nice feeling, and having all the fans supporting Priest and the other endeavors – it’s just tremendously gratifying that you can still go out and do what you want to do more than anything else in the world and that’s write metal and play metal live.”
Bill Adams is the Editor-In-Chief of groundcontrolmag.com