Inquiring Minds: Judas Priest's Rob Halford

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Tonight, Judas Priest, led by the inimitable metal god Rob Halford, hits the stage at Verizon Wireless Theate less than a year since the leathermen last graced Houston. They came to the shed out in the Woodlands last August, headlining the "Metal Masters" tour with Motorhead, Testament and Heaven & Hell.

The band is currently on the road touring behind their fifth live album, A Touch Of Evil: Live, as well as celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the landmark British Steel release. Halford and crew will be performing Steel in it's entirety on each date, including the one tonight.

The album stands as a steadfast testament to the band's artistic tenacity and metal master prowess. It holds up magnificently well, with singles like "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight" still blowing away today's puny heavy metal folk by miles. Plus, Halford still has the pipes to keep up with the material, unlike some dudes who need teleprompters and diapers to rock sold out shows.

Rocks Off phoned Halford while he was in Cleveland for a stop on the band's current tour with Whitesnake to get his thoughts on British Steel and his band's mark on metal.

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Rocks Off: What was the social climate in England at the time of British Steel? We've heard many people calling it a punk record in spirit but firmly metal in sound...

Rob Halford: Many people have different perceptions of what British Steel represents. The big thing for us of course is that it's been a very successful release. It pushed us ahead in terms of recognition amongst the rest of metal.

To be honest, we didn't have much time to think about it. A good portion of British Steel was made on the fly, so to speak. We were literally making a record once a year for ten years. So, really we were just writing very spontaneously.

Even though we have always been aware of what has gone on around us musically, I don't think we have really ever taken those things as direct inspiration. We have always been very much with our ears to the ground. It's valuable. I think maybe the two tracks that have an edgy, thrashy punk vibe are "Rapid Fire" and the closing track "Steeler."

RO: Out of all the singles pulled off of British Steel, we have always loved "United."

RH: Oh yeah! Musically it's all over the place. The inspiration for "United" was the atmosphere of the UK at the time. There was a lot of unhappiness and friction going on between the government and the miners and the steelworkers. So, that's where I got this feeling. They kept saying "We're going to be united against [Prime Minister] Thatcher!"

It's a great song and then and now, it's about being united in metal. It's just a rallying cry for all the metalheads around the world just to be who you are, and stick with what you believe and love your metal and live it together.

RO: When Judas Priest looks back at the metal scene now, how do you guys feel? You guys and Black Sabbath are some of the last ones left...

RH: You feel very connected. Some kids in the audience have never seen Priest before. It certainly gives you a feeling of pride, because you know there is so much talent in the metal scene now and for young metalheads to latch on to Priest is a very cool thing to do.

It shows a lot of smarts, quite frankly, and if I do say so myself, we are a great metal band. You would normally associate a young metalheads choice with a band of their own generation, and it's a real privilege to have someone turn on to Priest.

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