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Judas Priest’s Rob Halford on LGBTQ rights, the art of autobiography and 50 years of screaming for vengeance 

click to enlarge In celebrating their 50th anniversary, metal mainstays Judas Priest haven’t slowed down; they’ll come to Colorado Springs on June 5. - NARCIS PARFENTI / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Narcis Parfenti / Shutterstock.com
  • In celebrating their 50th anniversary, metal mainstays Judas Priest haven’t slowed down; they’ll come to Colorado Springs on June 5.

If there’s a group of musicians, in any genre, who can match Judas Priest’s extensive track record when it comes to recording and touring, they’ve been doing it in near-total obscurity.

The consummate English heavy metal band, who gave us signature hits like “Breaking the Law” and “Screaming for Vengeance,” are currently marking their 50th anniversary the way you might expect them to, with an extensive national tour that, this time around, will include a rare Colorado Springs appearance at the Broadmoor World Arena. The current tour also celebrates the success of last year’s Firepower, which debuted at No. 5, making it the band’s highest-charting album to date.

As it happens, Firepower’s release also coincided with the 20th anniversary of frontman Rob Halford publicly coming out during an MTV interview. The media responded to the concept of a gay man in heavy metal with predictable shock and awe. But for the vast majority of metal fans who’d long worshipped at the altar of Judas Priest, it was a matter of little to no concern.

In the following interview, Halford took time out to talk about the Equality Act, writing an autobiography, and his band being the heavy metal version of Queen.

Indy: So tell me about your autobiography. What year are you up to?

Rob Halford: Say again? What year am I up to in my sobriety? This is my 33rd year…

No, sorry, your autobiography. How far along are you?

Oh, I do beg your pardon. There was a problem with the phone connection, and they sound a bit similar. At this point, the book is still in its early stages. I’ve been around for 68 years, you know, and I literally have thousands and thousands of memories. So it’s difficult. My notes go all over the place, from this decade to that decade, from this moment to that moment. So it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a little bit scary, you know?

How so?

Because I’m a very positive person — I tend to block out negativity — and I’ve had some negative moments in my life. So I have to ask my partner, whom I’ve been together with for 25 years, to help me go to those places that I’ve kind of pushed back. Because I think a book of this nature has to be open and honest, and as revealing as you’re prepared to make it. Otherwise there’d really be no purpose. It would just end up sounding like a bunch of the interviews I’ve been doing for the past 30 or 40 years, which you can already find online. 

On a related note, last year’s Queen biopic broke tons of box office records. Do you feel like you’re ready to make one of your own? And if so, who would you like to play you?

It would be interesting. I mean, the closest that’s happened, in terms of metal, would be the Motley Crüe bio they did on Netflix, which I’ve yet to see. I don’t know. I personally don’t see it ever happening. But you never know, you know? And I haven’t got a clue who would be approached to play me or Glenn or Scott or Richard. Have you got any ideas? 

Let me get back to you on that. Meanwhile, I have a question about your current tour-mate Mick Box’s recent description of his band Uriah Heep as “The Beach Boys of Heavy Metal.” If you were to draw a similar comparison with Judas Priest, what would it be?

Well, ironically enough, given your last question, I think that calling us a heavy metal version of Queen would be quite a decent comparison. I’ve been a huge Queen fan all of my life. And when I think back on all the songs that Judas Priest has created over the last four decades or so, I think we do have a bit of a Queen vibe about us, in terms of not putting blinkers on oneself, letting the music take you where it needs to go, and being from the heart. Because Queen was a band that never let itself be boxed in.

One more question: It seems like the U.S. and U.K. have been moving in similar directions lately. America has Donald Trump banning transgender people from serving in the military, Britain has Boris Johnson comparing gay marriage to bestiality. When it comes to LGBTQ issues, does it feel to you like we’re taking one step forward, and two steps back?

The world is always evolving. And I don’t think we should let ourselves be duped by the idea that leaders are going to take us to this place or that place. I think we have to do what we need to do for ourselves. The great thing about the American style of democracy is that the person in the White House changes every four years, or at least every eight years, which is nothing compared to a lifetime. I feel that the LGBTQ community is being completely and utterly ignored right now by this current administration. And I think that’s unforgivable. So I applaud the Equality Act that Nancy [Pelosi] and Chuck [Schumer] and everybody passed recently.

Having said that, you know, it’s a slog. But we have this song on last year’s Priest album called “No Surrender.” And that’s what it is, you know. Life should be about no surrender, life should be about never giving up and never giving in. And when a mass of millions of people in this great country are, on the surface, being ignored completely, I think that really pisses us off. But it also makes us stronger, it makes us more energized. It gives us more strength and power to deal with what needs to be dealt with.

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