By Brian Ives
October is Metal Month at Radio.com. Throughout the month, we’ll have artist interviews as well as mini-documentaries about metal, metal fans and the birthplace of metal. And book reports: reading is fundamental, even for headbangers, and we’ll have reviews of some of the best recent metal biographies and retrospectives. Horns up!
Rob Halford is probably one of a handful of metal musicians who would feel struck to recall an Andy Warhol quote.
“As Andy Warhol said, the most exciting part of any event is the anticipation and waiting for it,” he says, discussing Judas Priest‘s next album.
That, however, is about all he can say.
“We’re making a new record,” Halford continues, “which we can’t talk about because we’ve been verboten by the label and management.” This news may come as something of a surprise, as they recently went on what they said was their final world tour in 2011.
So, with things going so well for Halford and Priest, it’s easy to forget that the iconic frontman left the band for over a decade in May of 1992. Priest moved on with a replacement singer, Ripper Owens (the 2001 Mark Wahlberg film Rock Star was inspired by that era of the band), and Halford started a few different projects. He’s been back with Priest since 2003, but Halford recalled some of his other bands that are in his studded rear-view mirror.
His first project was Fight, which took a more modern approach to metal: while it had echoes of Judas Priest, it was clear that Pantera was on his mind. The visual changes were even more stunning (and to metal fans, alienating) than his new sound. Gone were the leather and studs, replaced by t-shirts and (gasp!) shorts.
Just when the fans started to cope with that project, it split up, and Rob became less metal, and more sexually ambiguous. 2wo, coincided with Halford’s coming out of the closet, and the music seemed to reflect that sense of freedom. While it still featured metal guitars, it also featured industrial beats, some of which were provided by Trent Reznor. But because of the association with Reznor, Halford had to endure accusations of jumping on the industrial/metal trend.
In any case, Halford states, “(2wo) became better because of Trent’s involvement, and (Dave) ‘Rave’ Ogilve of Skinny Puppy who was in the mixing and engineering. Someone put me in touch with (producer) Bob Marlette, who introduced me to John Lowery – (future Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie guitarist John 5) – and we started to jam. we had these very heavy songs.”
But it was a trip to New Orleans that led to the collaboration with Reznor.
“I went to Mardi Gras, I (met) a friend of mine, we go for a drive, and we drove past Trent’s studio.” He eventually decided to get out of the car and introduce himself. “I knocked on the Sharon Tate door, tap tap tap, and this voice said, ‘Rob Halford, what are you doing here! This is ‘Rave’ Ogilve from Skinny Puppy, I’ll come right down. Trent’s gonna be here in a minute he’d love to meet you.”
Halford happened to have a cassette of some of his new songs, which he played for Reznor. “Within ten minutes he said ‘Can I get onboard with this? I’d like to see what I can do if that’s cool with you. ‘ It was released on Trent’s label (Nothing Records).” Watch the NSFW video for 2wo’s “I Am A Pig” here. The video was filled with gay imagery, so if the electro beats weren’t making the meat-and-potatoes metal-heads uncomfortable enough, the visual imagery surely freaked them out even more. While it was helmed by porn director and drag queen Chi Chi LaRue, it did try and provide something for everyone: porn star Janine Marie Lindemulder (who would later be pictured on the cover of Blink-182’s Enema Of The State album) starred in the clip.
His next band– simply called Halford– offered reconciliation to his former fans. This band was 100% classic metal, and brought the metal faithful back into the fold. “(Halford’s) Resurrection album was very important for me, and I think it did kind of heal some wounds that I didn’t deliberately inflict. I was genuinely enjoying myself (on the other projects). I believed in what we did and had fun with it. But I think I was able to really and truly understand how important Priest was in my life by being away from the band.”
One other project that has been on the back-burner is the infamous Three Tremors group: a trio featuring Iron Maiden’s singer Bruce Dickinson and former Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate. (Watch the three singers perform “The One You Love To Hate” here.)
“That’s still waiting to get off the ground. Even now, people are discussing it. it’s one of those things that needs to be fulfilled, I don’t know how it’s gonna happen or when it’s gonna happen but it would be very interesting to see what the outcome would be.” For now, the next project from Halford is the new Judas Priest album. As for the Three Tremors, metal fans can now enjoy the anticipation for a full-length Halford/Dickinson/Tate album.