December 13, 2010
Review by Tim Taylor
"Halford IV: Made Of Metal"
Label: Metal God Records
What is Rob Halford Made Of?
A JAM Exclusive In-depth Interview with Rob Halford on his latest Release.
Rob Halford's voice is the one that comes to mind when thinking of classic heavy metal music. With Judas Priest, the Metal God's patented shriek redefined the genre, and although many copycats have tried, nobody has been able to match the power and intensity of his screams. Through the years, whether he was writing a rock opera about Nostradamus with Priest, playing clubs with the aggressive metal band Fight, or opening arena shows for Ozzy with his current band Halford, he's never given less than 110 % to any project. The current Halford record, Made of Metal, is a brilliant mixture of deep, emotional songwriting and mindless metal. The Metal God talked with JAM about the new album and tour, which rolls through Dallas December 13th.
JAM: The latest Halford project seemed to happen very quickly. How did Made of Metal come together?
Halford - The inspiration came when we decided to go out and do some shows together for the first time in many years. The whole thing came together in a 3 month span, which is relatively fast by today's standards. I think that Made of Metal is our way of letting the world see the Halford band for what we are. We're just a metal band. I wouldn't say that we're anything ultra special. We're a great band to go and see play live. We've got a lot of intensity and passion when we play live. Probably more than most bands do. It's great to go out and play a lot from the back catalog, but we wanted to introduce some fresh ideas and sounds to our audiences this time around because it's been seven years since we've released anything new.
JAM: The songs "Hell Razor" and "The Mower" are just fun, ass-kicking, old school metal songs, but there are other songs like "25 Years" and "Heartless" that seem to have more of a story behind them.
Thank you for picking those songs! I agree. A number of these songs on Made of Metal came out of my old metal head. They're the kinds of songs I've been writing for many, many years. It was very exciting to get back into that experience again. I'm very fond of doing that type of music. I suppose the core of our style of metal has a touch of an old school feeling attached to it. "Hell Razor" is just a very old school metal song. I just love the beat. On the other hand, "The Mower" is way more advanced. I don't know where that writing came from. It's really kind of modern in style. I suppose the fourteen tracks are pretty broad based. You take a song "Like There's No Tomorrow" or "Matador", and they go to other extremes. It's an interesting record. That's really all I want to do at this point in my career: make music that's entertaining and interesting that you can get some sort of connection out of and have a good time with it.
JAM: I think my favorite part of the album is the bluesy riff on "Til The Day I Die".
Yeah, that was brilliant. Roy Z came up with that classic sound on the steel guitar. That song is just my acknowledgement of the blues. Everything comes from the blues, as you know. When I first started to listen and get into music, that was my touchstone. Brilliant blues players like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Bessie Smith, were all that there was on the radio really. I just thought it was a nice time to acknowledge those wonderful players.
JAM: A couple of critics reviewing Made of Metal did nothing but compare your new songs to Judas Priest songs. Having such a distinct voice, do you expect that, or does it bother you since the Halford songs are really very different from Priest?
I don't read reviews or criticism. I really just have an acceptance of it. It's just one person's point of view. I suppose that, as long as people are fair and reasonable, that's fine. I was talking to Ozzy about that the other day in the dressing room, and he said that somebody showed him a review of a song he performed, which he had never done in his life. (laughing) That's how crazy it can become in that world. I suppose that somebody giving you rave reviews would make you feel good, but it's just something that comes with the territory. The comparisons will always be there. I am the voice of Judas Priest, so it's inevitable that it will come up. That's great for me, because that's the band that still leads me to do everything in my world, generally.
JAM: Since Halford III: Winter Songs was pretty well received by metal fans, did that make it easier to experiment and try new things with Made of Metal?
I don't really think about it too much. If there's a chance to go into writing mode and make some new music, I just get stuck into it. If you think too much, you might destroy it. I think everything that we do in music should be like trying to grab lightning in a bottle. Someone might say, "That sounds like something you did twenty years ago." Well, so what? It's a new song. So what? That's the way I think you should be about your music. If it is a new song, and it has a little bit of a flavor or atmosphere of something you've done previously, that's fine. That's who you are. That's what you're about. I just love writing. To me, it's still the biggest thrill when I'm being creative in a writing situation.
JAM: Is there a possibility that we might hear some of those Winter Songs on your winter tour this year?
I might do a tune, yeah. It's certainly the time of the year for it. I was listening to some of the tracks during the 16-hour bus ride to Calgary yesterday where it's minus of eight degrees right now (laughs). I love that record. It's a special record to me for a variety of reasons. I think by the time we play our show in Dallas, we might have a couple of those songs in the set.
JAM: How has it been, playing with Halford at Ozzfest and opening for Ozzy's arena shows? I know those can be tough crowds.
It's great! The thing I love about Ozzfest is that it's stayed true to what it's all about. They showcase all of the new talent on the second stage, which I think is really important to do, and Sharon is really determined to maintain the important parts of what Ozzfest is about. When you go on before Crue and Ozzy, it's a really mixed crowd of people. Much like the shows with Ozzy on the arena tour, the vast majority of people are there to see Ozzy. He's the main guy. You really have to work a little harder to convey your music, and hopefully convert some of the fans there and bring them over to your side of the fence, so to speak. I love that challenge. It really is a challenge, especially when you walk out and play to people who aren't severely into your music, and by the end of the night you've got them standing and cheering. That means you've connected. I love this mix of shows that I'm doing. It started off at a very small venue in Seattle for a solo show, then the next night we were in Victoria, BC, sold out for Ozzy. We're moving all the way across America, and down to Dallas. I'm looking forward to going back to Dallas. I love that town. I've got lots and lots of great memories and friends there. It's just as fun and exciting as it ever was. As long as it's fun and exciting, it gives me a reason to leave my recliner.
JAM: After being back with Priest for a few years, was it a difficult transition to switch back to Halford?
Yeah, it felt a little bit strange at first. I've been working solidly for eight years, so I wasn't sure how it was going to feel. Once we went into rehearsals, and I was feeling the energy of the band and feeling the power of what these guys do instrumentally, I thought, yeah, this is still working for me. I still need to do this. It's still very important to me, so I need to do it.
JAM: I saw you dressed as a priest in a cell phone commercial, you're doing animated videos now, and you have your own clothing line, Metal God Apparel. What other surprises do you have up your sleeve?
I don't even know myself yet! That's what is so great about what we do in music. There are endless possibilities. We all wish we could go on forever. Right now I'm just looking forward to the next writing session. I'd like to do anything that keeps me connected to the world of heavy metal. That's still something that I believe in passionately. That's why I started the record label, Metal God Records, which is up and running well now. I feel great about all of the other things out there that are just waiting to be discovered. That's what keeps this job exciting. What could be the next great discovery? What else is out there to achieve? It's always a pleasure to consider everything that keeps me connected with the people of heavy metal. Looking forward, I'm sure there will be more music from Halford, more music from Priest, and more shows from both. That's what keeps me motivated more than anything else. I think you need to have that kind of drive. Once the party's over, the party's over. In my world, the heavy metal fat lady hasn't sung yet!
JAM: Well, being a fat guy, I appreciate you making 3XL sizes in the Metal God apparel!
Hahahaha! Yeah, when I turned 50, my temple went and changed too! We all go through that, don't we?
JAM: I'm really close friends with a gay man who plays metal here in Dallas. When you came out in the 90's as the first gay man in metal, I thought hundreds of others would come out too, but that never happened. Do you think it's harder to make it as a gay man in metal than in other genres of music?
Yeah, I think there's a bit of a stigma attached, and it's still a very homophobic environment. It may have been a bit more that way in the 80's. I think the world has changed a little bit for the better in the gay community over the last twenty years. There's still a tremendous amount of work to be done, but I think in terms of acceptance and understanding, let's just all get on with our lives. We're all the same people. I never really thought about it when I came out. I didn't even consider that there would be any ramifications. It's been a really wonderful time in my life, to be able to be as open and honest as we all try to be in our lives. You would think that a guy like Ricky Martin would have a tougher time, since he has such a female dominated audience, but I guess that just goes to show you how smart women are. (laughing) They don't care! They just think differently than men do. I'm very grateful to my metal fans for being intelligent enough and tolerant enough to say, "We don't fucking care! Whatever Rob is, we just want to hear his voice, see him play, and have some good times together!".
JAM: The whole metal world was shaken up this year by the passing of Ronnie James Dio. How will his life, music, and legacy inspire you for the rest of your career?
Well, the great thing about what we do is, we record this music, make videos and DVD's, and they become a reminder of all the great people who have passed on or have been taken from us. Ronnie, Hendrix, Joplin, the way Dimebag was suddenly taken away from us – these great people live on forever in their music. We hear them every day on the radio, we have them in our collections at home, and the kind of musical and spiritual connections we have with them never ends. It's a rare blessing that we've got in our careers. The main reason while we're all here is that we'll always be here. It never vanishes because the music never dies.