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Rob Halford on 40 years with Judas Priest; new album and tour

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It's rare to spend 40 years at any position especially when that job is in the unpredictable and less than secure world of rock and roll. Rob Halford has been fronting the pioneering heavy metal band Judas Priest since 1974 (minus an 11-year stretch when he'd left to form his own group). Halford says he is grateful for having been granted a commission and a purpose by the group's fans to keep singing for Judas Priest.

This summer, 'Redeemer of Souls' (Epic/Columbia), Judas Priest's 17th studio album, debuted at #6 on the Billboard top 200 album chart, giving the band their first top 10 album in the United States.

A 'Redeemer of Souls' tour is scheduled to begin on Oct. 1 in Rochester, NY with dates set for Montreal's Bell Centre on Oct. 6 and the Tsongas Center in Lowell, MA on Oct. 14. Thirty-nine shows have been scheduled to date.

As he reveals in the following interview, Halford is excited about the new energy in Judas Priest, but he admits that it's time to scale back from the heavy schedules of the past.

Dow: Rob, congratulations on 40 years of Judas Priest. The new album harkens back to the vintage Judas Priest sound. Was that intentional or just something that happens when you put the members of the band in a recording studio?

Halford: It's a very natural thing for us now. We also have to recognize Richie (Faulkner, who succeeded original Priest guitarist K.K. Downing), our new guy. Richie has been with us for three years now. His energy, enthusiasm and particular take on writing metal with Glen (Tipton- guitarist) and myself is very potent very strong. He was a hardcore Priest fan before he hooked up with us. The transition of Richie's input and writing has been seamless. He was ready to get down, get jamming and put together the metal heart of Priest for 'Redeemer of Souls.'

Dow: It must have been a dream come true for Richie to join one of his favorite bands. If you could step outside of Judas Priest and front another band for a day, who would you choose?

Halford: I've already had that opportunity, Mike. I fronted Black Sabbath a few times(Halford has handled lead vocals for Black Sabbath on three occasions twice in November 1992 when Ronnie James Dio refused to open for Ozzy Osbourne and again in August 2004 at an 'Ozzfest' show in New Jersey when Ozzy was ill with bronchitis).

We're all from the same neck of the woods and have known each other as friends and musicians since we all began. We're like the 'old guard' of heavy metal. Without a doubt, it would be Sabbath.

Dow: You're getting over a back injury is that right? How do you feel these days?

Halford: Yes, thank you for asking. I'm doing good. When you have this kind of injury, you never get back to 100 per cent but I'm grateful for my doctors and neurosurgeon, Spencer Harland, back in the U.K. for doing such a wonderful job. It's just wear and tear, Mike. When you're out on the road every night in different beds, buses, planes, vans, Harleys every kind of transportation - it takes a toll. Due to the skill and professionalism of these incredibly talented people in the medical world, they put me 'to right.'

Dow: There was a rumor that Judas Priest was going out on a farewell tour. Has there been a decision to scale back on the number of shows that you play?

Halford: We are scaling back, yeah. The whole point of that 'Epitaph' tour was to be kind of retrospective and nostalgic. There really was intent at that time to pull back considerably, but I have to say that with Richie's involvement and with this amazing record that we've all worked hard to put together for all of those wonderful metal-heads who've given us this life in Judas Priest for so long, we've just got to keep doing it, man. We don't want to stop. We're on top of the world right now and are very excited to get back out on the road to play for all of our hardcore fans once again.

Dow: During your time away from the band, what do you listen to for music?

Halford: Oh, I'm all over the place. Mostly metal but I also love my classical music. There are certain areas of pop that I like. I unashamedly acknowledge people like Lady Gaga. I think she's got an extraordinary voice a singer's singer. I like Michael Buble he has a great voice and those are difficult songs to sing. I like Tony Bennett. All of these people that are outside my metal sphere, I can appreciate them. I love to hear a great singer singing a great song.

'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' can be heard on Big 104 FM The Biggest Hits of the '60s, '70s & '80s - airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast), 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor)

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