On May 11, Paolo Bianco of Musica Metal conducted an interview with JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford about the departure of the band’s founding member, Kenneth “K.K.” Downing; the addition of 31-year-old guitarist Richie Faulkner (LAUREN HARRIS, DIRTY DEEDS); and the group’s upcoming “Epitaph” farewell tour. Several excerpts from the chat follow below (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET from the original 15-minute audio, which can be streamed at this location).
On what it feels like to be back playing with JUDAS PRIEST again after taking some time off in 2010:
Halford: “It always feels like it never ended. It feels like the metal has never stopped, which is a great feeling. When we’re back in each other’s company, and we turn the amps on and the songs start to be played, it’s just magic — it’s metal magic. And all the ingredients that make good metal are still very much in place — all the passion and the belief and the power of what we do in PRIEST as metal players. It’s all good. And, of course, this is exciting because we’re doing songs that we’ve never done before for this show. We’re also doing some songs from a long, long time ago that we haven’t played for many, many years. So the setlist is gonna be very unusual; it’s very much a celebration of the life of PRIEST and music live on stage.”
On the new JUDAS PRIEST guitarist, Richie Faulkner:
Halford: “We’ve been very, very lucky to find a guitar player like Richie, because he’s a top man. He really loves metal, he loves PRIEST, and he’s got all the parts [down], he knows everything, he knows exactly what he needs to do, and he learned a lot of songs in a very short span of time. So I think that just shows his caliber as a top guitar player. I think he probably still can’t believe it’s happening. [Laughs] So, yeah, we’re very lucky and we’re very happy that we found Richie. I think if we hadn’t found Richie, we wouldn’t be coming back to Italy; we would have had to cancel the tour and think about what to do next. But Richie is doing fantastically well, he’s very excited about coming to all these different parts of the world and especially to come and play our own unique style of metal in Italy at the Milan show.”
On whether JUDAS PRIEST will do any touring after the release of the band’s next studio album:
Halford: “We’ve never followed the rules in PRIEST and we’ve always done what we wanted to do. We feel that it’s important to make another great British metal-style classic album. So that’s coming out next year. All the songwriting is completed. Me and Glenn [Tipton, guitar] wrote all the music. And we’ve got three tracks that are mixed and mastered and ready to go, so we’re trying to figure out the best way to let them out to our fans. And we’ll maybe play one or two of them live on this tour anyway, just to whet everybody’s appetite and get everybody ready for the full release. So we’ve got a new record coming out, and that’ll probably come out in the summer next year.”
On whether he feels a sense of sadness knowing that the band may not be doing any more touring after the “Epitaph” tour:
Halford: “No, I don’t think so. And we don’t want the fans to feel sad; we want the fans to celebrate with us. I mean, everything comes to an end one way or another; that’s just life. The great thing about PRIEST metal music is the metal music will live forever, and that’s all that really matters to us in the band. Of course, the fans are the most important part of the life of PRIEST, so I think it’s very important that all the Italian metalheads come to see this show. I’m sure at some point we would love to come back to Italy. It’s just that there’s some uncertainty now about a lot of things as far as the places that we will play and we may not return to. So it’s very important that all of our fans come and see the show and have a great time and celebrate the life of PRIEST through the music together.”
On whether he can see himself retiring from the music scene:
Halford: “Well, as a singer, you just have to face reality. You can sing forever, but the quality of your voice changes. And it’s important for me to know that when I go on stage I can do the work I need to do and do my parts really well. As long as I can do that, I wanna keep doing it. I’m just being cautious. I don’t know how long this voice is gonna last. But at the same time, I, personally, am not gonna say, ‘By 2015, I’ m gonna finish, I’m gonna stop,’ because I don’t think I can do that. It’s not in my system. I love metal too much to say, ‘By this time, I’m gonna stop doing the metal work.’ One way or another, I think all of us in PRIEST will stay connected to metal; that’s important for us all. . . We’re just dealing with the physical situation as much as anything else. I mean, we’re all in great shape. I think the feeling is ‘Let’s keep doing it while we’re still able to do it as well it needs to be done.’ And, as we said, this isn’t goodbye; this is just farewell. This is another massive, massive, very intense world tour for PRIEST. We’re just gonna slow things down a little bit now.”
JUDAS PRIEST‘s “Epitaph” world tour will kick off on June 7 in Tilburg, Holland.
Downing issued a statement last month regarding his departure from the legendary heavy metal group on the eve of its farewell tour. Downing said, “It is with much regret that I will not be with you this summer. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your concerns about my health. Please rest assured that I am OK. There has been an ongoing breakdown in (the) working relationship between myself, elements of the band, and the band’s management for some time. Therefore I have decided to step down rather than to tour with negative sentiments as I feel that this would be a deception to you, our cherished fans. However, I would urge you to please support the PRIEST as I have no doubt that it will be a show not to be missed.”
Photo credit: Andrew Ogilvy