ROB HALFORD Details His “Resurrection” In BraveWords 25 Flashback – “I Feel I’ve Committed Metal Adultery”
December 5, 2019, 7 months ago
Hitting the brakes on the motorcycle, there was much wear and tear on Rob Halford after he left Judas Priest following the Painkiller tour and the disasterous bike incident in Toronto (Operation Rock & Roll in 1991). Shifting into the groove metal oriented Fight, the Metal God left the metal and broke away with the industrial, electronic tinged Two, which left listeners confused and flustered. However, the prodigal son returned home to his roots with 2000’s Resurrection and was met with open arms from the metal family.
In this BraveWords 25 Flashback from issue #43 (September 2000), Halford talks to BW’s head honcho “Metal” Tim Henderson about his journey back to metal, repairing the relationship with his former Priest mates, listening to the “Ripper” Owens led Jugulator, and much more!
Within seconds of the new song “Resurrection”, a familiar voice peeks out amongst the ruins of heavy metal debauchery. Building from a whisper to a scream, this lone voice echoes through hard rock's past with a mean streak of revenge and a standard of excellence. And sitting with such metal royalty recently hits close to home for this Canucklehead. In fact it was in Toronto, during the disastrous Operation Rock N' Roll tour in 1991 (a near disaster featuring Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Dangerous Toys and Metal Church) that when Priest hit the stage during “Hell Bent For Leather”, Halford and Harley suffered a mishap when his head hit a cross beam in the tunnel before reaching the stage. Revved up and ready, he proceeded to knock himself off his bike, breaking his nose while the band cranked up a karaoke version of the aforementioned Priest staple. After the show, he went back to his home in Phoenix and the band never heard a peep from him until a few months ago.
When Rob Halford officially left Judas Priest in 1992 the metal world stood with its mouth agape. He proceeded to pick up the pieces hooking up with his Pantera buds on the Buffy The Vampire Slayer soundtrack cut, “When Light Comes Out Of Black”, a grueling example of where his aggressive mental state of mind was at. His first Fight solo journey, War Of Words, was a testament to tried n' true new age power metal. The follow-up, A Small Deadly Space, failed to click and he was subsequently dropped by Epic Records.
But it was his next career move that shook the world more so than his exit from Priest. Hooking up with industrial guru Trent Reznor on his Nothing label brought to light a changed man. Perhaps artistically frustrated with his previous musical surroundings, the electronic, modern vibe of the tragic Two (formerly Gimp, formerly Halford) project is a haunting memory. Silk tassels, eye shadow, nail polish, Halford was in Nosferatu mode, his denim and leathers securely locked away in a different time and state of mind. Indeed, it would take a record beyond words to welcome the former Metal God back into a community that he helped form. And this record is called Resurrection.
Nine years after the Priest divorce, a great deal of water has traveled under the bridge, some mouth-watering others distasteful. We all make mistakes. Hell, Columbia Records had Priest by the balls when they glammed the band up for Turbo. Some even say that Point Of Entry shoulda been burned and buried. We all go through various stages of content, discontent and waves of emotion. And at the end of the day we strive to better ourselves for the benefit of our own well-being.
Halford's well-being is perched on top of a Harley, screaming for vengeance. And on Resurrection, he's created a miracle image of just that. And with Resurrection set to strike in early August, complete with a rather convenient opening slot on the current Maiden tour (alas, both bands are under the Sanctuary Management moniker), it was time to face the day and dig deep into the mind of a leather-clad legend.
The original plan was to meet the Metal God for a mealtime chit-chat at this rather quaint, but seductive Italian eatery in Manhattan. But the plans went awry when the piano man began to butcher the “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” song by Rupert Holmes, signaling that this proper/taped conversation must be delayed. What proceeded was a one hour free-for-all off tape and locked solely in memory. And as we discussed the problems of the world, mainly heavy metal, it became quite clear that this polite, well-mannered, road-worthy Englishman has his heart back in its correct place.
After casually rushing through some vintage cuisine, Mr. Halford and I proceeded back to his sparsely-lit hotel bar. And immediately he goes for throat, acknowledging the error of his ways and his steps toward repentance.
"When I was on stage with Two in Switzerland (in 1998)," he begins his outpouring, "we had this god awful tour that collapsed because the fucking European Cup was going on. Everybody was staying home anyway, all the promoters were dying and bitching and moaning. I didn't want to go over there to work because I knew it was going to be a nightmare in terms of trying to get people to come. But I went anyway because I was obliged to do some dates. But it was when I was doing these shows that I just went, 'this is not me, this is not what I'm about, this is not what I do. I've got this wonderful affectionate thing called 'The Metal God' around my neck which I love to wear and I'm on stage dressed the way I'm dressed and looking the way I look and I'm just not connecting. I'm just not making it happen.'"
"And it was literally from the end of Fight through the writing of Two and then the connection with Reznor and eventually the live shows that drummed it home to me just how much of a metal freak I am. I can't escape it - I don't think I've ever tried to disguise that fact, but certainly the experience of Two brought me home, it helped me find my way back to the music that I love the most, and so I'm grateful for that. However, I wouldn't knock the Two record. I think the Two record is a pretty underrated piece of work, at least from the way I listen to it, musically and objectively. But the fact is the vast majority of people did not like it simply because it wasn't what I'm about. That plus the real honest fact that I was up on that stage, doing those songs and I just wasn't feeling the same way that I feel when I'm up there screaming and rioting in the true metal way. So it brought me back."
“When I got back to L.A. I went back to Bob Marlette for a short while because I knew Bob could understand my feelings and I said, 'Look Bob, this is what it is, this is what we've got to do, just out of no other necessity than it's my life I'm playing with and I don't want to fuck it up - I just feel that I've got to get back to this place'. So we put 'Silent Screams' together basically on an idea that I had about structure and content of a tune. I said 'I really wanna go for it, I want to make this big fucking huge statement and I wanna do it in a song and I just want to take some of the key elements that I know and love in metal which is the big powerful, emotional ballad moment and then I want to throw it into top gear and then head off into this other real intense up-tempo full-on roaring rage of an expression and then I want to end it in a big climatic cinemascope type of big picture feel'.
"So, once I'd made my little speech, Bob says, 'O.K. let’s write a song then.' And it came together really quickly. Literally within a couple of hours we'd written it and then we demoed it using pro-tools and when it was done I just sat back and listened to it and I just felt so satisfied and relieved that here I was, in one song I was saying so many things and getting all of my pieces right, all of my spirit, all of my emotion back poured into this one song. I couldn't wait and I said 'Let's stick it on the web - I want to put it on the internet right now', because I knew people would find it and they'll start talking, as they did, within 24 hours the email just flooded back and MP3's were made, CD's were burned. I even saw CDs being sold on eBay, the 'Silent Scream' demo, so I knew it was all going to be OK again."
And Resurrection is no-compromise metal, 12 tracks of Defenders meets Painkiller, 49 minutes of a man laying his heart on his sleeve. "I just knew that that was it," Halford recalls about the revelation called 'Silent Scream', his prophetic year 2000 take on 'Beyond The Realms Of Death'. "After that song there became the master plan, and it was the key for everything that spun off of it. After I'd worked with Bob for a while I went back to Roy Z because I'd had some chats with Roy on the phone, and Roy comes from a strong, metal background. God bless him, Bob's a great guy but he doesn't have that one thing that Roy Z has, which is this pure metalness about him. So that's why I went with Roy. Roy called me up and went, 'Come on let's do something - I know what you're about, I know what you've done, I know what you're capable of doing, let me make this great metal album with you'. And I said, 'Let’s do it, let's get going'. And once that decision had been made, everything suddenly started to fall into place."
Joining Halford on the record are guitarists Patrick Lachman and Mike Chlasciak, bassist Ray Riendeau and former Riot drummer Bobby Jarzombek.
"I'd been looking for players, even while I was with Bob and then by the time I met up with Roy I'd found my two guitar players - Mike who lives in New Jersey now but was originally from Warsaw, Poland - incredible virtuoso of a guitarist, beautiful European style, a lot of classic tone and emotion - and Pat from L.A. who's got more of an L.A. crunchy metal, killer attack. I wanted two guitar players that could do two different things, much like the thing I had with Ken and Glenn. They're two distinctly different guitar theorists, and that's what I wanted to work with one more time. So once I'd got Pat and Mike we just went into writing mode, and we wrote and we wrote and we wrote, and the songs just poured out from everybody. We had so much material it was incredible. I've got Ray with me from Two, he's just an awesome bass player, just plays such incredible heavy stuff. The last guy I found was Bobby. I wanted that killer double kick drum, big, huge, enormous Metal drum feel. But Bobby's such a tasteful drummer, he really knows how to play, and what to play and when to play it. So, Bobby was the last guy to join us before we went into the studio and that was that, we had a band."
And how does Halford compare this new youthful fire to that of his Fight era? He agrees that this isn't a Fight record.
"No, it's not. It's my first metal record since Painkiller, in my understanding of what metal is about, and what I know I'm about, and where I wanted this record to come from. But I still wanted that edge that feel that modern players give you. Fight was more in the distinctive newer '90s style of metal. It's just different players with different attitude and different ways of playing. The way these guys behave musically and on a personal level has the same kind of infectious spirit that the guys in Fight have, a lot of energy, a lot of determination. But I think the quality of playing is a major step forward. They just play very, very, very well and I think this is a real classy bunch of musicians and you can tell that; as you get into these 12 tracks, that becomes obviously apparent."
Amidst our pointed conversation, it's visible that Halford's musical scars run deep and he genuinely holds in high regard his mission of metal. In many ways, Resurrection is a therapeutic escape or shall we say, return.
"From where I was at, I was in a totally new environment," offers Rob, looking back at Two, a period in his life where he was noticeably disoriented. "I didn't know what was going on around me to be quite honest. I mean I could relate to it to a degree because it was such a stretch from everything I'd ever done. There was just something missing and I really did not know what was going to happen with that record. In all honesty I was clueless as far as where it would go. Part of me was thinking, 'this is just going to crash and burn', part of me was, 'well I know how fickle this business can be, anything can conceivably happen', and part of me was just numb to it all. Really, I was just going along with the flow as it were. So I was in such a fucking confused, mixed up state that I actually said at one point, 'heavy metal is dead'. But I think what I was saying was, I was dead at that point. I think that's what I was saying, but I couldn't find that clarity enough to actually make that statement. I was on this train that wasn't slowing down. We'd left the station and were proceeding along and I was just waiting to see what was going to happen next. And it all happened when I was playing those live shows, and the light went on in Switzerland and that was that."
And convincingly he turns to me, "Kid, I'm bursting out of that tunnel and the headlights are full-on. I've got the full throttle going and I just feel very satisfied with this record."
Past is past, enuff said. Halford begins opening up his soul on the title track and first single from the record, a blistering juggernaut that makes Jugulator seem like child's play.
"Like I say in the first line, 'I'm digging deep inside my soul, to bring myself up out of this god-damn hole.' I'm telling people that I've made this realization and I'm talking about the past and what I've done to myself and saying that the truth was with me all the time. I just think that, without putting myself too much on a pedestal, I just feel very, very proud of the language that I'm using on this record. So much music from metal bands these days is still in a very singular, kind of destruct mode and I've always tried to - in practically all the work that I've done - come through as best as I can in an uplifting kind of way. I'm really stripping myself to the bare bones on this record to bring that power more than ever. I'm really trying to make amends for what I've done. This is like, as much as anything, a peace offering back to the metal community saying, 'OK I fucked up and these are the reasons why.' The best way for me to explain that, at this point, is in the language I use in some of my songs. So, this is a very personal and direct way of doing it. Besides doing it in an interview, I'm actually putting it into my work for the first time and I feel that it's connecting, I feel there's a sincerity and an honesty that's really coming through on these songs."
Can you relate this experience to cheating in a relationship? "That is so fucking cool, because that's what I'd felt like I'd done. Yeah, I feel like I've committed metal adultery. The metal adulterer."
Is there any current contact with Trent Reznor now?
"No, not at all. We made that record and that was the end of that basically. I just had that one moment with Trent; I didn't spend an overly long amount of time with him anyway. He was just with me in the initial set-up and then I took off to Vancouver with Dave Ogilvie, to Bryan Adams’ house, and we did a lot of stuff there.
Aside from those fortunate enough to have pulled “Silent Screams” off the net, the first notes on Resurrection that will pierce forth is that of the title track.
"You light the fuse paper and it starts off with ‘Resurrection’, the initial launch happens with the second Resurrection piece, and then the fucking thing takes off and explodes as soon as that first line comes out. As soon as that first line comes out, 'I'm digging deep inside my soul...', it's like 'Oh my god' and then you just know that... there's a big huge sigh of relief and you drop your shoulders and then you just stick your head down and you listen to it. That was important for me, I wanted to make sure that people got it as much as I was getting it within the first 30 seconds of the record."
Tell us about that first take where the voice of old took a stranglehold.
"First take. Yes, as best as I can remember it was the first take. When I record I don't care about the first take or the hundredth take as long as I get what I know I need. But it's a blast when you get it on the first or second take, when you're in the zone. When I'm in the zone, I become detached - I become totally detached, especially when I've got the cans on. I don't know how or why this happens. I should speak to other singers about this. When I'm actually singing into the mike and I'm hearing it back through the headphones I totally detach. I become both the performer and the observer at the same time and when I'm doing that I know I've got it just like that. A Zen moment, it's like the Metal Zen moment. It's a bizarre thing, it's almost creepy when it happens to me because I just hit this plane. I've lived with that most of my career. I handle it, but it's still sometimes a strange feeling and I really have to hold on, I really have to fuckin' hold on to my, not necessarily my sanity, but I have to hold on to reality when I'm doing that. I've never told anybody this before, I've never even told anybody that that's what I experience, but I do, I just get this almost out of body... see I sound like fucking Sting now. It's very difficult to describe it because it's so pure, it's such a pure thing that it's hard to put into words. I just have this wonderful God-given gift and I think I just get in touch with my soul when I'm singing in the zone. When I'm in the zone, anything's possible, anything can happen, most of my bright things happen when I get into that zone."
That zone has produced some of the finest moments in heavy metal, Halford forever set in stone beside Robert Plant, Bruce Dickinson, Ian Gillan, Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio as the molten vocal forefathers of all things loud n' proud. He quit drinking and drugs in 1986 and once and a while you'll see the occasional smoke hanging off his lip when he's off the road. Fit, trim and unweathered, Rob Halford has overcome the nasty side of the music biz and moved forward in style.
"You have to be aware of your physical dimension," he adds. "A guitar player will change his strings, a drummer will change the skin on the drums, singers can't do that - you have to do what's necessary to get the best possible performance out of it. Usually when I'm in a recording mode, I like for a couple of days to settle in. By the third day I'm getting most of the things that I want. By the fourth, fifth, sixth day it's all going, it's all there and I'm just going. But it's a muscle and you have to protect it and look after it and I can't believe it's still working as well as it is working. Next year I'm celebrating 30 years of screaming metal music and I can't believe it you know. I listen to the power when I listen to some of the notes I'm hitting, I'm just like, 'Fuck, what's going on, it's the year 2000 and I'm still wailing away there.' It's a blast."
And the now-famous Roy Z was able to harness that in the studio. From The Chemical Wedding, Bruce Dickinson's last solo monster to Resurrection, Roy has harnessed incredible performances. And Helloween is currently in his guiding hands.
"He's just got the talent," Halford praises. "He knows what to say, he knows how to get you to the place you need to get to and I need that because I have to work with a producer. The best parts of me come from working with a producer and he's just able to say the right things, stroke me the right way, cause I can throw bitch fits in the studio like you wouldn't believe. Well you probably would - he just gets me there and I just have a tremendous respect for him. I'm temperamental in the studio and for the silly stupid things, I've got a really short fuse."
Perfection, Halford says is "my biggest character flaw. I'm way too much of a perfectionist I think. But that's because I've never settled for second best. I have a quality control that's always in gear. I just want to make it good, I have to make it good so I just tear it apart all the time. I'm never 100% satisfied, ever. I'm never completely happy. I'm content, but I don't think I've ever made anything where I can say, 'that's it, the big moment’s here.' That's why I think you go and make another record and another record. It's like the search for the Holy Grail. You never find the damn thing, but maybe that's a good thing."
On August 25, Halford turns one year short of 50. In May of 1973, he first joined the mighty Priest and for nearly twenty years he brought fame and fortune to the words heavy metal, especially in the flourishing '80s when Birmingham's famed five-piece chalked up over 25 million units in record sales.
"Have I peaked yet," he responds to the burning question? "Well, I will say this and don't take this the wrong way, but the reason that I'm going through this Halford thing and the reason I'm doing all of these things is because I don't really know how much time I've got left. Age plays a role on your vocal abilities. I do know that I've got this extraordinary voice and for as long as I'm able to do the things like I'm doing on Resurrection I'll keep going. But as soon as it diminishes, I'll be the first one to say it's time to knock it on the head. What's the point of doing any more of it if it's totally substandard? I'm just being a realist. I'm having some fantastic moments here and I want it to continue, but who knows how much longer I will continue. I'm optimistic; I've always been optimistic about everything in life. I'm not a fatalist, but we'll see where we go. And if these are my last recordings that's fucking great."
After supporting Maiden on the two-month leg of their North American tour, Halford will travel to South America, Japan and Europe. Welcome home Rob.
Disturbing The Priest!
While it's doubtful that we'll see any kind of Priest reunion, Rob Halford and his old Birmingham buds suffered one of the worsts rifts in rock history. It was only recently that Halford sent a peace offering in the form of a personal note to try and rebuild a friendship with the band. Here's his take on the relationship in 2000...
"Yeah, it was up to me to fix it ‘cause I screwed it up in the first place. So I wrote them a very personal private letter and it opened the key to us talking to each other again. I'm very happy that that's happened and we are at least able to pick up the phone and casually hang out with each other when I'm in England. So the friendship's being rebuilt and that's wonderful because they're like brothers to me. I spent 20 years of my life with them and I'm happy to say we're on speaking terms and it feels really good."
The Priest vaults...
"No, not much there, not that I'm aware of. Although I did read somewhere that Sony are planning to do a box set and they've supposedly found some previously unreleased tracks which scares me because I don't know what the fuck they've got or what they're going to do with it 'cause I'm not a part of that. I'm not a part of that factor of choice and quality. If there's anything left over that wasn't released it was probably because we in Priest at that time weren't satisfied with it. I don't know what's coming. I hope they respect the legacy of the band and don't throw a curve ball in there and do one of these things where it's all the same old stuff but there's one more track on there so you have to fork out $20 for that. That's just prostitution."
The Toronto Operation Rock N' Roll fiasco...
"I not only fell off the bike, I fell out of the band. I broke my nose and I never put it back so when I scratch my nose that's like my permanent memory. I just bent the cartilage out of shape. Yes, it was Spinal Tap. The first and only time that 'Hell Bent For Leather' was performed without a singer."
Resistance to Jugulator...
"No, I haven't listened to it. It's just too difficult for me to listen to the band when I'm not in it, and that's nothing to do with taking a shot at Ripper. I'm grateful that he's in the band because he's keeping the band alive. But I just don't... I just can't listen to it. It's just psychological. I should just put it on and listen to the fucking thing, but then if I do, people like you will say, 'Well have you heard it?', and I'll go, 'Yeah', and then you'll go, 'What do you think?', and I don't want to do that. I don't want to be put in that situation. I just love all the things that I've done with the band and I'm happy to be a part of that great legacy and that's all. You want to treat it with respect because that's what it deserves."
Priest, Sabbath and Zep - the Birmingham Heavy Metal club...
"It's something in the air, something in the air. In my last years at school I had to walk past this metal foundry and every day I got a lung full of this molten metal smoke and the shit that would coat your face. This was when I was 13, 14, 15 years of age. That was before I even discovered metal music. I've always wondered if that was part of the seed. I must have sucked in some molten metal at some point, ‘cause from that point on it was a cell in my system that's never gone away. I used to sit in class trying to study and I could actually hear the stamping of the metal foundry across the street - the 'thud, thud, thud' would actually come through the windows and that's kind of a nice thing to think about in the whole story of the life and times of a Metal God."