Rob Halford

Written by Lauren Wise Category: Spotlight Issue: March 2015
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After leaving the band in 1992 to work on other heavy metal projects, Halford rejoined in 2003, resuming Judas Priest’s upward trajectory. The band’s 2014 record Redeemer of Souls was its 17th studio album, and first to debut in the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Halford splits his time between his homes in his native Walsall, England and Phoenix. He perks up when we mention the monsoon season, and complains about his Paradise Valley neighbor, Alice Cooper (“We never see each other!”). We recently sat down with the oft-professed “metal god” to discuss his future as a full-time Phoenix resident, new musical endeavors and his dream dinner party.

Rob Halford - Judas Priest Singer

Judas Priest singer Rob Halford qualifies as the godfather of heavy metal music – he’s influenced countless singers in the genre over the past 40 years, sold more than 46 million records and established the genre’s leather-and-studs-look.

After leaving the band in 1992 to work on other heavy metal projects, Halford rejoined in 2003, resuming Judas Priest’s upward trajectory. The band’s 2014 record Redeemer of Souls was its 17th studio album, and first to debut in the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard charts. Halford splits his time between his homes in his native Walsall, England and Phoenix. He perks up when we mention the monsoon season, and complains about his Paradise Valley neighbor, Alice Cooper (“We never see each other!”). We recently sat down with the oft-professed “metal god” to discuss his future as a full-time Phoenix resident, new musical endeavors and his dream dinner party.

You’ve been a Phoenix resident since 1981 [after a tour stop with Judas Priest], and have seen the city evolve immensely.
I like to ride my Harley to the northern and southern parts of the state. It used to all be just desert! And now everything is a metropolis. It’s sad – but also exciting. I’ve always bragged about Phoenix. It’s great in lots of different ways, especially musically. I aim to move back within the year. I’ve always loved the desert. I find it to be a very, very beautiful place in America.

As one of the pioneers of heavy metal, how do you feel about the genre today?
It’s brilliant. It makes my heart feel good to know I was there, at the beginning. My hometown is eight miles away from Birmingham [birthplace of Black Sabbath], which as you know is where many say the origin of heavy metal kicked off [in 1968]. It’s just extraordinary to see, in the four decades I’ve been doing this, that heavy metal has become this global force.

You left the band in 1992 amid accusations of subliminal messages in your music, and your lawsuit against the Sony record label for restrictive practices. Looking back, would you still have left?   
I definitely discovered things [about myself] that I probably wouldn’t have if I had stayed. Wandering away from the pack and returning made me realize those things I thought I wanted were there in front of me. It introduced new musical points of view to me. I still have ambitions to do that again, actually. My heart belongs in Judas Priest from the beginning, but I want to do other projects.

Is it hard to imagine where you might be 10 years from now?
Well, I’ll keep going. Who wouldn’t want to do this if they could? It’s like my next-door neighbor in Phoenix, Alice [Cooper]. I mean, Alice is still out there, playing shows and booking tours too. It’s a privilege and honor to be able to keep going – especially with the tremendous amount of support that we receive. We can’t do this without the fans, and I still feel that surge of electricity going through myself and the fans during shows.

Do you and Alice ever get together when you’re both in the Valley?
When I’m there he’s usually away, and when he’s there, I’m away! I try to be in town for his Christmas Pudding [charity concert]. It’s wonderful how all the rock stars come together for a good cause.

Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list?
Well, John Lennon. Steven Spielberg. Ozzy Osbourne. Martin Luther King. It would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall there.

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 Check out phoenixmag.com/web-extras or our tablet editions (available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play) for exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the PHOENIX magazine photoshoot with Rob Halford.