Thirty years ago today—on May 14, 1984—Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford called me up from a gig in Portland, Oregon, to chat about his band’s new album, Defenders of the Faith. At the time Priest was riding high in the metal world, their last two albums—1981's Point of Entry and ’82's Screaming for Vengeance—having both gone platinum (a million copies sold).
Defenders would also go platinum on the strength of the singles “Freewheel Burning”, “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”, and “Love Bites”.
Here’s the story that ran in the May 25, 1984 issue of the Straight under the headline: JUDAS PRIEST: ON TOP AS LONG AS THE MUSIC’S LOUD.
I remember thinking at the time that the headline was pretty rockin’.
Has the band gotten over the management hassles it suffered last year?
Yes. Bill Curbishley is firmly at the helm now. For the first time in our career it feels like we’ve got a good manager at the controls.
I heard that you were talking to Bruce Allen in Vancouver.
Yeah, Bruce was one of the many contenders that came along when our management left us. We were left in the middle of the Screaming for Vengeancetour last year, and spent half of that tour managing our own affairs as we went along, day to day, which nearly drove us mad.
Bill Curbishley used to look after the Who, didn’t he?
He still does, yeah. Although they are of course semi-retired, he’s still actively involved in their solo pursuits. But we were quite flattered to find out that we were the only band that he said he would ever consider approaching to manage on any level. His first official engagement with the band was at the US Festival.
How did that go anyway?
We had an incredible day. It was a remarkable experience, to say the least.
And right after the US Festival you started work on the Defenders of the Faith album?
Yes. In fact, the day after we flew to Ibiza, which is that small island off the coast of Spain where we recorded Screaming for Vengeance and Point of Entry.
Did it take a long time to make the new record?
Well, we had such a successful year with Screaming for Vengeance over here that we didn’t want to go in there like a bullet and come out with a rushed album. So Curbishley told us to go in and spend as much time as we felt necessary to come up with the goods. We probably spent more time recording this album than we’d ever done in the past, but I think for all the time and money that went into it, it turned out to be more than a good followup album.
Your video for “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” looked like a lot of fun.
We had a ball doing that. It was partially responsible for the success of Screaming for Vengeance. It was a big single for us in the U.S.
I thought it was hilarious when the noise inspector’s pants fell down.
[Laughs] Well, of course that was an added bonus. The reason that happened was because the technical experts that were responsible for blowing the dummy’s head off had been hanging around the set locations for a good eight hours, and they were looking forward to letting us see what they could do. But they packed too much plastic explosive, with the result that not only the head blew up but the pants fell down as well. But we’ve always tried to place a smile or two in our videos.
In that song you sing, “I’m on top as long as long as the music’s loud.” But what if the music isn’t loud? That is, if heavy metal dies out?
I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen, quite honestly. I think it’s still very much a young musical force. I mean, this music only goes back about 12 or 15 years.
What we’re seeing right now is a total resurgence and acceptance for heavy metal music, in a very, very big way. I think the strength of any music’s ability to maintain itself is based on its audience, and I think heavy metal audiences are one of the most dedicated that you could ever wish to be involved with.
We have people that have been with Priest right from the early days. They’re consistently showing up at our shows and buying our records. And of course we have a new element of people that are visiting us on this particular tour–very young people who are getting involved with heavy metal for the first time. So I’m sure that they’ll be carrying the flag long after we’ve been declared too old to rock and roll.
So you don’t feel that the overly aggressiveness of heavy metal has negative effects on young, impressionable kids?
Well I think it’s no more aggressive or riotous or rebellious than rock and roll has been over the years, since it first began. I think it depends on what form of aggression you’re talking about.
I’m talking more of the leather and studs aspect.
The image side of it? Yeah, well I would agree to a certain extent that the aggression comes from the stage. I mean, it is a very powerful, larger-than-life form of music. But I don’t think it’s ever been there to the extent of creating worry or concern. Because, for the most part, those people that do come to heavy metal shows, their perception of aggression is different than someone on the outside with a suit and tie.