When you think about the two biggest names in ‘70s metal, whats probably comes to mind are Ozzy Osborne and Rob Halford. Ozzy and Rob’s careers have crossed paths several times over the last forty years, so it made for a great combination for an early winter cross-country, Canadian tour with the both of them. Both artists have recent brand new studio records, with Ozzy’s Scream and Rob’s late fall release of Halford IV-Made of Metal. Always one to keep his music fresh and exciting, Rob has recently gone back to his solo project after a new album and tour from Judas Priest in 2008. The new Halford album was recorded over parts of 2009 and 2010 with long time collaborator Roy Z and has been described as the most personal and introspective release of Rob’s career. Expect to hear and see more of Rob right through 2011. We had the great pleasure to speak to Rob for a few minutes right at the beginning of his Canadian tour with Ozzy. Unfortunately our conversation was slightly abbreviated because of a bad connection but as usual, Rob was his very gracious and cordial self.
You just released Halford IV-Made of Metal a few weeks ago now. Now that it has been out a little while how do you feel about the record?
Rob: Well it’s more about how my fans feel than I do, I’m absolutely thrilled, thank you to all my metalheads, especially up in and around Toronto, it’s brilliant you know. All my Canadian metalheads are really getting into it and I’m grateful, you never know how these things are going to work out, you never know how people are going to receive it. But I’m delighted, my thank you to everyone, it was a really fast record as far as the time it took to put together, only about three months from start to finish, not that we were rushing it, but it was just very fluid you know? It turned out great and I’m very happy and the fans are loving it so that’s a nice way to end the year I’d say.
When did you actually get down to business and start writing for this new record?
Rob: I think it was around April, Roy’s got the log, it’s all in the pro tools. Pro tools logs your time and date and everything, I think we started in April. I know we moved at a fair pace because by the time we finished it we were almost ready to go out and start doing the Ozzfest with Ozzy. So it was a pretty fast turnaround, including writing the material as well.
Now some have called Halford a solo project, but you do have a very accomplished band behind you. How involved were the other guys in the writing process for Made of Metal?
Rob: It’s called the Halford band like Ronnie had his Dio band, it’s just a focus really, it’s just to put a name on it and bring a focus to it. I can’t do what I do without Ronnie and Metal Mike and Roy and all the other people involved. It is a team effort you know, I’m a lousy musician as far as instrumentation, I just sing my parts and write the stuff, some of it’s all from me at times in terms of arrangement, some of it’s collaboration. It is a band, it’s very important, I think that’s the way I’ve always wanted to be as a musician, I don’t feel like I really have the desire to do it all on my own. I’m really solid with this band as it stands now.
Roy Z would is of course the Halford Band guitar player helped produce the record. Why did you decide on Roy rather than seeking out an outside producer?
Rob: Just a very informal chat, we were working and I said you know Roy, I’m going to go out and do some shows and there you go, there’s a vacancy thing that slaps you. laughs. And I said I know you’re really busy because he has tons of stuff to do with other artists and you know his own work that he does. It was just a bit of free calendar time more than anything else and I think his genuine desire to want to go out on the road and have a good time and play with the rest of the lads you know. So that was it, Roy’s with us at the moment, I don’t know if this lineup will stay intact, I hope it does. All of us in the Halford Band have got other ventures you know. I think we’ll stay together for as long as we’re all having a good time and we feel that we’re committed to doing what we do, that’s why we’re in any band. Some bands stay that way forever, sometimes they don’t. You can’t box somebody into a musical prison, that’s ridiculous. But as it stands now the band is great, I think we’ve put on some really good shows and we’re all very comfortable.
I saw a quote from yourself saying that Made of Metal is likely the most personal release of your solo career. What would you say has specifically made this album so personal to you?
Rob: Well it’s a couple of things really. First in the messages as a lyricist and because it’s the Halford Band I’m able to be more open and honest and have personal reflections that wouldn’t feel right anywhere else. I couldn’t do that in Priest for example because Priest is completely its own animal, it would be completely wrong to do that so I’m really able to talk about intimate personal experiences that have happened to me over the last 59 years. So it’s that and it’s also the chance to kind of see what I can as a solo writer, there are a lot of tracks on Made of Metal that came out of my own noggin, I was encouraged by Roy to do that. I like to collaborate generally, I was presenting these ideas to Roy and he was like “these are great, have you got new ones?” And I said yes I do and he said “great, just keep doing them, these are coming from you, keep doing them.” And so he inspired me to keep writing so those are the two levels that I used as being very personal.
Made of Metal comes less than a year since the release of the third Halford album, Halford III: Winter Songs which was of course, a collection of a number of reinterpreted holiday songs. This was certainly a gutsy endeavour you took on; are you happy with the way it turned out?
Rob: Yeah it was a bit selfish, I was really thinking about what Christmas and everything means to me and I love that time of year, I love the music and I just thought what would it be like if I threw my own two cents in worth. It was my interpretation of some of these great classic arrangements; I love the songs that were on that record, the original versions. Everybody believed in it you know, the rest of the guys believed in it and you know, all the label people were all behind it and encouraged the sessions to be made. So that was that really, it’s not really a metal album, I never said it was, it’s just again, to some extent a reflection of my personal faith and that was what it was about really. But um, it seemed to have done the trick you know, a lot of people have said, hey, that’s a pretty decent record, it’s something different to play besides Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman so there you go, you just put it in and have some fun with it and enjoy it.
Now what’s going on with Judas Priest these days? What is the status of the band right now?
Rob: We’re ramping up to go back out, Priest is going to be back out next year, there are so many things going on, there will probably be a press release before the end of the year to let everyone know what’s happening. It’s going to be Priest 2011 and 2012 I believe, the next three years of my life are pretty much planned out as you need to as a musician. So I’m excited to go back out with my band, it’s always led me and my life musically, the band that means the world to me so, yeah, there will be some news shortly about what’s happening with the band.
The group’s most recent record, Nostradamus, was released now about two and a half years ago after much anticipation. Are you pleased with how the record turned out and how it was received by the fans?
Rob: Yeah I think it was an important record for us, it was fun to do this concept thing. We never had any doubt, we felt so strongly about what we did to make it happen. Nostradamus is a very well known person, he’s very talked about, very written about. I think as a musical piece it was a monumental piece of work to really sit there and take it all in. So I personally, I know the band is very happy about it and it was a very cool event in the band’s career.
I read a few months ago that you said that the band was contemplating a Nostradamus tour. Can you give us an update on that?
Rob: Not really, the possibility is always there. When you’re in any band there’s always a possibility, when you’re in any band there’s always a lot of opportunities. The most important thing is to make the music up and to make it release and put it out as a CD or whatever. So it’s there and you never know what we might decide to do next.
You have a string of Canadian dates upcoming along with Ozzy. You must be very excited! What can we expect in terms of your set list?
Rob: It’s great, I mean Ozzy’s a mate of mine Aaron and we go back a long time. I’m just absolutely over the moon for him, just a side note he’s a fantastic guy, really really wonderful guy and this new record he’s got Scream is just phenomenal. You should have seen him on the Ozzfest tour, there are some clips floating around the internet, he looks great, he sounds great, he’s got a brilliant band behind him. I’m just thrilled to be going out on the road with him. So we’re going to have a great time and do some shows together and it’s unusual because we’ve never done anything like this before and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m sure everyone’s going to have a blast as we roll through one coast to the other. [ END ]