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The Metal God Is Back

"The Metal God is back." Truer words have never been spoken. Returning to his rightful place as the leader of a brilliant straight-ahead Heavy Metal band, Rob Halford is back. Simply called HALFORD, the band's new album, aptly titled Resurrection, is out on the newly formed Metal-Is label. While everything seems to be new here, the sound is a throwback to the music that made him the name he is today. It's fast and heavy and as expected it's anchored by one of the finest voices in Metal. This should be enough to get any Metal fan excited, but wait, there's more. Add in a tour with IRON MAIDEN and QUEENSRYCHE and a duet with Maiden's Bruce Dickinson and you've got one of the most impressive and bombastic comebacks in music.

Promethean Crusade: How do you feel about the four new songs that are floating around on sites like Napster?

Halford: I think it's a cool policy because you want to save some things if you want to excite people for the first time to get the full on moment. These 12 tracks are really special great Metal songs and already the four of them are floating around the global World Wide Web, which is great, it's important, it's making connections. But there are 8 totally under wraps. The essence of the record is in these four songs, but it's by no means the pig picture moment. It sets a major platform for the other 8. It's a good way to do it because you can't grasp anything by just one song; two is good, three is better, four is really pushing it.

PC: Just one good song doesn't make a good record.

H: That's something that we worked very hard to do, to give it strength. I've been around long enough to be disappointed. To get excited about the first three songs and then fall apart, what a drag. We wanted to start off at a level and take [the listener] on a twelve-track journey. You get off the ride at track twelve and it's been a great ride and you want to get back on. We just listened to it all the way through in it's final mix and we're now at the point where we can actually listen to it without critiquing it too much and it's a really good record.

PC: And then to see that the NYC show sold out in an hour and a half [the interview was the day after that happened - Jeff] now you know that there will be 18,000 people there waiting to hear it [the NYC show was three days before the record came out - Jeff].

H: Exactly; that's even better. How much topping can you put on the cake? It's a very, very good feeling. We all work really hard as a team to make good music and now we're starting to see results.

PC: What was the chronology of this project?

H: It started with me when I was doing the few live dates with TWO. It was a moment wen I fully realized that I wasn't making an absolute total connection that I'd been making with all of the other great Metal that I've done in my life. I walked away from 'Priest to spread my wings and check a few other things out and I was in that environment with the FIGHT band, but then the whole TWO thing was a curve ball. Something that I gained a lot of experience and different feelings from and that kind of supports my theory that you can never stop learning. There's always something else to try and experience. But what I went through with the live TWO shows was that I wasn't connecting, it wasn't my world that, the world that I've spent most of my almost thirty year career in so I just had to get back to it. Initially I carried on working with Bob Marlett who was with me on the TWO stuff just because I had a relationship with him. I went back to him and said look, I'm going back to the full on Metal scene and this is me, no more need to run around and try other things, I've done that it's out of my system. Let's get back where I belong and one of the first songs we wrote was "Silent Scream" which is a key moment on the record like a blueprint for all the other stuff. I wrote with Bob for a little while longer, but by then I'd made some connections with Roy Z, in the meantime I'd been looking for players, so that's how the roots of it began. Michael and Patrick were the key members and we wrote the songs for several weeks working with Roy, but the actual band wasn't complete yet, when did Bobby join us [to Mike], it was literally days before we went into the studio.

M: Bobby showed up and we were like show up and have these twenty-two songs ready. He learned all twenty-two in a week and showed up to rehearse for a week and then we said ok, now you're recording, thanks for coming down. He was like, that's it?

H: You hear his drumming and you expect this Keith Moon kind of personality, but he's this Polish Texan from San Antonio and he's like, "ok, I can handle that, no big deal." The great thing is that he actually reads drum manuscripts and it's freaky to watch him because he's doing all this insane stuff and yet he's got his eyes focused on the notation. He was the last guy; Ray was already with us because I had a really great time working with him on the TWO stuff. That's how it all fell into shape.

PC: Was there a label in mind while you were doing all this?

H: That was the final part to the picture really. As I recall it, it was a combination of two things. Management, John Baxter who'd been looking after my affairs for any years and done great work supporting me in that role, but he knew this is where I was going to go back to and he could sense something special was happening. He presented me with the idea that we should look for a real strong organization and I really feel that Rod Smallwood and the Sanctuary group are the best people in this Metal world. So I approached Rod and he turned me down the first time. He was like well I know you Rob and we've been around together for a long time and he wasn't certain in his own mind what I was doing. He's like the ultimate true Metal manager. I think it was on the back of what Bruce [Dickinson, duh] told him after Roy had played some of the music for him over the phone that Rod started to listen. A lot of it was on trust and faith, I admire Rod for putting that trust in me because he never heard a thing, it was all what Bruce had told him. Bruce told Rod, "I think Rob's got something really special here and he's back in the Metal world and I think you should think about working something out on a business level. The whole label thing was very open minded and Rod said he was going to look at all the other options, but he told me what he had coming up through Sanctuary, Metal-Is, CMC, Castle etc. It just felt like a perfect scenario though it was a bit weird having him as my manager and my label manager, but when you look at it, what better thing could you ask for? Everything is under one roof and you see that when you go to the Sanctuary organization in London. The attorneys are there the travel agents are there the web people are there Bruce's little label is there all of these things are going on at once. You just stick your head out the door and yell down the hall and things get done.

PC: I think that must come from Rod's years in the music business and seeing all the things done wrong and realizing you can't rely on others; you have to do it yourself.

H: Mhm, I think that's a great philosophy and Rod's a very aggressive person in the business side of things. He's also a total Metal freak, you'll see him at shows banging his head every time Maiden goes on stage he's at the front going mental. He loves it; it's in his body. But yet he's very aggressive with business and he gets results, what more can band ask for? I've got the band side and the recording side covered, it's a good feeling.

PC: Now you have the freedom to just be yourself and do what you do best.

H: We looked at some other labels and they passed. They'll be regretting it soon. Regardless of that I'm just very, very happy to be with Rod and everybody, it feels totally solid.

PC: How did the duet with Bruce come about?

H: It was very spontaneous.

PC: Will you be performing it at any point on the tour?

H: We don't know yet, we haven't really talked about it. I'm sure it will be an amazing thing to see when it happens, but right now we're going to do our own separate things. We'll save that moment and when we get there, we get there. The moment will present itself I'm sure. It's a great song and when you hear these two singers side by side it's just infectious.

M: It's almost hard to believe on some levels; Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson, the voices of England. When we were recording and hearing it for the first time everybody in the band turned into fans and stood there with their jaws hanging open saying, "do you hear that?"

PC: Just the idea that it might happen because you're both in the same building playing on the same stage is almost enough. As if this lineup isn't enough. It's been the most anticipated Metal event ever since it was speculated on a few months ago.

H: From a singer's appreciation it's going to be spectacular.

M: A lot of the guys who used to listen to early 80's bands are grown up now and have real jobs. They can take their young nephews and those young kids go to school and tell their friends. So it's an amazing position to be in, you can play for a wide range of people.

H: People are there for the right reasons, it's the music. No one is going because it's the thing to do, like it's a fashion moment and cool to be seen. This is against all of that and all about the quality of the music and the musicianship and that's it. It's good stuff.

PC: After listening to a few tracks I realized that almost any question the media could think to ask you is answered within the lyrics.

H: It's just a very pure record. I mean, that's an interesting way to look at it really. You let the music do the talking for itself and everything you want to know about it is there coming out of the speakers. I'm able to sit back and listen to it now and I hear a band having fun, which is exactly what I set out to do. It also has legs and will stand the test of time so that you can listen to it now or 5 or even 10 years down the road and still enjoy it. I feel great inside when I hear it.

M: It all came together rather quickly too. Sometimes you are writing a great song and it all pours out of you really fast. Well this whole album was like that.

H: It's that synchronicity thing. We all believed in it and we all believed in each other's abilities, which shows.

PC: Did you retain most of the creative control or did you let the band do their thing freely.

H: There was great chemistry between us, which is great because I could never work by telling everyone what they had to do. The main man for keeping us focused was Roy Z. Roy kept us all together; he was the sheepherder. We'd be creating songs and having fun and once in a while lean over and get off into something different and Roy would snap us back to where we needed to be. That's the essence of a good producer and even after all these years I have to have a producer, it's very important to me even on my level.

PC: Did Roy play on the record at all?

H: Yes, he did. What did Roy play on [to Mike] do you remember?

M: What Roy added was a few guitar harmony parts after everyone else had left the studio. The amazing thing was that no one objected to anything any other musician did on this record. We all shared the goal of making the best recording we could make. It wasn't an issue for Roy, he saw that he could add something so he put his paints on the wall and made it better.

PC: How do you keep your voice going after all these years.

H: [Astonished] I have no idea. I've really got to stop smoking these fucking things [points to a pack of menthols]. I don't know, I really don't know. I listen to tapes and I'm going, " fucking Hell, I'm still hitting those notes?" It's got to be because I love what I do, I just love it to death.

PC: You can't question it too much.

H: No, I don't. I just do it. I don't do anything for it, no drinks, no pills I'm just very lucky I have this gift and it can still do the things I want it to do. It was a wonderful feeling for me on this record, because I get these... ok now I don't want to sound like a hippie here... but I get these real moments where I get detached from what I'm doing because it comes out in such a pure way. I'm in the zone. Roy has his own way of doing things; we'd warm up a couple of takes and start a real take. Actually when you were warming up he was taping, he tapes everything. You never know when the red light's on. You'll be doing the fifth take and struggling with a line saying, "fuck I can't get this" and Roy will say, "it's ok we got it on the first take, don't worry about it just keep going." He really has the psychology down as a producer he never loses his temper or gets in your face. He understands how musicians work because he's a musician himself. His big thing is that you don't need to force it dude, just relax and enjoy it, this is what we do. Don't force it, if it's not coming today then take the day off and come back when you're ready.

PC: That's a great philosophy for life.

H: I agree. I agree.

PC: How do you feel about tribute albums?

H: Well, when the word tribute comes up I feel good about it. It's at moments like that when you can fully realize what you've been a part of. Tributes are just another band's way of saying thank you.

PC: What did you bring from the FIGHT and TWO projects into this project?

H: They were responsible for bringing me back to this place, it helped me realize that I need to come back where I started essentially. It's all of some importance to me in my career.

PC: No regrets.

H: None at all. I just can't think that way, that's just the way I feel with anything in life. I don't pin it to that feeling what so ever. I don't have any regrets. The past is the past; everything connects to the past. Even if the opportunity existed to go back and change something, I wouldn't change it. It's a human quality and it's based on history.

PC: Better to have tried something completely different and find out sooner than to continue on doing the same thing and have your fans desert you for lack of change.

H: I feel that's exactly what I've done. If anything I've gotten stronger from it. You can never stop learning even if you are relearning some things. You don't want to have dull edges. I can hear it in bands that have been around forever; it's a tiredness and boredom. They feel obliged to make another record so they go and make one. That's fucking horrible. That's why I'll wait forever for a record from TOOL and wait forever for a record from RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, because eventually when it's ready it's ready.

PC: Instead of the label telling them to hurry up and put a record out.

H: It's the Evil Empire, maybe that's what Zach really meant [laughs].

PC: What vocalists did you admire as you were coming up?

H: Well, I don't think it was so much admiring, but it was more, "how did they do that?" When I heard the stuff that [Robert] Plant would do or [Ian] Gillan would do, I wanted to know how they got from there to there, what was that about? It might sound flat and cold and egotistical, but there hasn't really been anybody that I've gone towards. That also has to do with how I am. I don't put anybody on a platform; I just don't do it. That's not right for me, for me everybody is coming in at the same place at the same level and nobody's better than anybody else. It's what's there. We're so fucking stuck into these opinionated little boxes. We have the gold, silver and bronze medals and you come in second because you finished a thousandth of a second after he did. What's that all about? It's about what you've got and everybody has something.

I see bands talking shit about other bands saying "that band fucking sucks." You shouldn't do that. What right have you got to make those statements? Even Yoko Ono works in my book because it's all coming in at different places, but it's all good. It's negative energy.

M: People would just rather talk about bad things. Did you hear about what happened to this guy, or what this guy's wife did?

H: It's that confrontational state of mind. No one can let anything go, it always has to have something leaning against it.

PC: This NYC show is three days before the record comes out, are you nervous about that?

H: I am. I've been to shows like that where the band will play a song I've never heard before. That is already playing head games with me at four o'clock in the morning, but I have to let that go. I like to feel that we're all there at the same exciting moment together and whatever the reaction is then ... I think it's gonna be ok. I know a lot of people are going to stand there with their arms crossed. Ina perfect world I would have loved for this record to have been out for at least a month before the tour started, but that ain't gonna happen. So you just gotta go out there and work it, I'm lucky that I have the other stuff we can do with the 'Priest stuff and the Fight stuff and whatever else we decide to do. But that's not a safety valve for me, that's part of what we do as a band and also what people would be happy to receive.

M: No matter what we play it's always got to start with the band. You're going to have five super excited guys out there to kick ass and play their hearts out and that's going to translate into eighteen thousand people.