JUDAS PRIEST Frontman Rob Halford On Nostradamus - "We're Treating This Like It's The Holy Grail Of Heavy Metal"
September 5, 2007, 12 years ago
BW&BK; spoke to The Metal God - ROB HALFORD (JUDAS PRIEST) recently regarding a number of topics including his new Metal God Entertainment company, his latest CD, Metal God Essentials Volume 1 (a Best Of compilation featuring tracks from his HALFORD solo days, his band project FIGHT and a few of new tracks) and of course the anxiously-awaited new Judas Priest album, Nostradamus, that will see the light of day in early 2008. A few excerpts from the BW&BK; chat follow:
BW&BK;: Where does Nostradamus stand at the moment?
Halford: "There is still a lot of tracking to do. I've done the bulk of my lead vocals, but I still have to go in and do some other bits and pieces. I asked Ken (K.K. Downing - guitar) and Glen (Tipton - guitar) if they didn't mind if I took off for a few weeks just to do this solo launch because I didn't want it to clash with Nostradamus. And they were really cool bout it. They needed to get on with some of their guitar pieces anyway. So I'm going to go back soon and get back in that world and finish my pieces."
BW&BK;: Are you going stir crazy in the studio?
Halford: "No I don't, I just love it. I just love being in the studio and hearing what we are putting down."
BW&BK;: Are you in K.K. Downing's studio?
Halford: "We're all over the place. But we're mainly using the studio that we did Angel Of Retribution in. Glen's doing some stuff at his place and Ken's doing stuff at his place. We just need to be with each other in as much of it as we possibly can. It's really important for me to have them there when I do my vocal tracks. I need them there. They get the best out of me in terms of performance. And we haven't brought a producer in yet. We're open-minded about producers. We're doing all the recording that we feel it's important to do and I guess at some point we'll look at the need of a producer to bring it all together. But there's an enormous amount of information going down in Pro Tools that we need to get locked. I mean we know what we are doing. As you know, it's always been a co-production level with Priest because we know exactly what we want to do. It is good to have one guy that can take all this massive journey and bring it all together. A good producer will put an idea forward that the rest of us might not have contemplated before. But we are on track. We know exactly what we're doing and it's just phenomenal. It's absolutely sensational. I think it's going to be a massive record, I really do. We're displaying the peak of our abilities right now in terms of writing and recording. The song structures and all of the elements are locked in. It's incredible listening to it coming back from the speakers."
BW&BK;: Are you surprising yourselves with the new material?
Halford: "Yeah, I suppose we are. In my world, as a singer, both Glen and Ken are really pushing me. And I love that. As much as we all know what we are capable of, they give me added energy and take me to places I wouldn't think of. I really value that. They've been with me in every step of my vocal production, so they are important to me when I'm behind the mic and the light goes on."
BW&BK;: Can you tell us what percent of the record is done?
Halford: "There's still a lot more that we can contemplate. You do your best, you track it out. You do your drums, your guitars, your vocals, bass and then you think of what else you can add. It's an open book really. We can take it to any level that we feel is relevant and important. And obviously you need to be constantly reevaluating that as you go through the process. It's like any session. When is it too much? When is the cut-off point? When are you doing something that's either going to get lost in the playback or is it extremely valuable and important? So you've got to be open-minded and not limit your potential."
BW&BK;: We spoke to K.K. about orchestration on the album - any update on that?
Halford: "By just making the statement that it's a concept album, that's a very loaded description. In any substance of a concept album, you've got to make sure that you really know what you are doing. As long as your idea is a strong one, as it is with this man Nostradamus - who was a real person who went through real issues in his life - then, we're trying to stay as true to the story of his life as possible. And all the other elements that we can consider like orchestration and everything else, I think you face them when you get to that moment. Much like any band, the important understanding is that you can recreate it live on stage with a minimum amount of fuss. That important to us in Priest. Everything that we've recorded in Priest, we've pretty much been able to bring out on stage. So, when we come to those decisions, we'll face them. But it's still too early to make any commitments while tracking."
BW&BK;: Given the Nostradamus concept, have you talked about album packaging/artwork yet?
Halford: "It's a special moment. We've never done anything like that before. When you talk about packaging and presentation, I think the Metalogy box set was phenomenal. It's a black leather box with a studded belt around it. It's absolutely brilliant. And that's attractive. And you put it on the table, you can almost hear the music coming out of the box. And that's the object of making great packaging - an appealing asset with your music. As long as you can come up with something interesting, something that correlates with what is coming out of the speakers, then it's an important thing to consider. And you can go anywhere with packaging these days. At the end of the, whatever is put into the packaging is reflected at retail, so you have to really think that through. It is a unique moment for Priest. Just the simple 'Judas Priest makes it's first-ever concept record' - that immediately is like, 'holy shit, what is this going to be?' It's a massive undertaking. With our experience, we've been in the creative world for 30-odd years; writing metal, recording metal, performing metal. I think this has come at the best time. I think if we would've tried to tackle a concept album in the early days, maybe we could've done it really well. But I think we've taken the wealth of our experience, knowing the expectations, we know we can do that confidently. But it's hard work, with an enormous amount of blood, sweat and tears going into this, which it should be. But that's just the way we are in Priest. As the primary writers - Glen, K.K. and myself - there is a standard that is set internally. We don't have to discuss it. We will not let anything go out there that we haven't given 1000 percent. So regardless of the critique at the end of the day, we feel that it's the best that we could make. And that will be the case with Nostradamus.
There's a lot of expectation. The pressure can crush you. It all is relevant to your in-built confidence. When somebody presents to you an idea - like Bill Curbishley (Judas Priest manager) did with this - and you either go, 'fuckin' hell, this is a great brilliant idea,' or you go 'holy crap, how are we going to do this?' That wasn't even our reaction. It was just - 'this is brilliant.' What was the other option? To go in and do another studio record - which we could've done. But with everything we've endeavored to do in Priest, each of our albums has got it's own legs. Right from Rocka Rolla - which I have to say is still a fuckin' great record. I love that record. I don't know why we don't consider it live cuz there are some great tracks on there. But I listen to that record - and I think that it would be great to go back into the studio and redo it. But I'm also thinking, what's the point. It's a testament to that very first ever professional recording that Judas Priest did. It was the biggest kick in the world when we all got that record - the vinyl with the hole in the middle - put it on your record player, put the needle on and hear what was coming out of the speakers. I can't even begin to tell you how incredible that feeling was. Rocka Rolla's got it's own thing. Sad Wings has it's own thing. Sin After Sin, Stained Class ... all of them are absolutely amazing. And that's how it should be. So right up to Angel Of Retribution, every record is like a moment in time where we were in our career. And so it will be with Nostradamus. But this has something extra going for it I believe. The fact that we are attacking reality, because almost everything else that we've dealt with has been our world of fantasy, creating these mythical monsters like the 'Painkiller', or 'The Sentinel' or 'The Sinner'. That's brilliant isn't it! And here we are, dealing with a living, breathing human being. It's going to be absolutely mind-blowing. I mean I carry the music in my head and it's just great. We're so pleased about it."
BW&BK;: Anything else the Priest masses would like to hear about Nostradamus?
Halford: "We're treating this like it's the holy grail of heavy metal. We're so protective about it - which you have to be - because I think that one of the intriguing things about creating anything - whether it be writing a book or making a move - the less you say about something, the more people want to know about it. And we don't need to hype it up, it's internal. The metal fans around the world have great expectations for this record. They know we're not going to drop the ball. They know we're going to give everybody something that's fantastic and top quality. And that's what it should be after 35 years."