As frontman for heavy metal acts Judas Priest and Halford, Rob Halford is known as the genre’s most unapologetic defender. But on the 14-track Halford IV: Made of Metal the legendary vocalist delivers a more diverse sampler, alloying expected heavy weight tracks with bombastic hooks and riveting guitars such as “Undisputed”, “Speed of Sound”, and “The Mower”, with the auto-tuned “Made of Metal”, country-fried “Till the Day I Die”, Latin-infused “Matador”, and balladic “I Know We Stand a Chance.”
Produced by Halford guitarist Roy Z and recorded over recent downtime between shows, Made of Metal is perhaps Halford’s most intimate release. Songs like “Fire and Ice”, “We Own the Night”, and “I Know We Stand a Chance” chronicle romantic highs and lows, and “Twenty-Five Years” delineates the singer’s ongoing fight to remain sober after a quarter century.
Halford is currently treating fans to their new material on a 30-date tour—their first outing in eight years. I spoke to Rob Halford, just back from several successful dates in Japan and South America, and on the heels of the North American leg of Halford’s co-headlining tour with Ozzy Osbourne, about life on the road, the new album, and his 25 years of sobriety.
Crawdaddy!: You’ve been touring pretty relentlessly since summer. How is touring today different than it used to be?
Rob Halford: I’ve just come back from doing a number of shows all over the place. I played Japan and South America in just under 21 days. Of the venues I played in South America, some were clubs, and others were theaters and larger event spaces. I just experienced something last week that encapsulated everything a band does when they just begin. Most bands start off in clubs or pubs, and then as they progressively grow the venues change shape and size. But as you move forward, the essence of what you do doesn’t change. I’ve been in a dressing room smaller than a closet, and I coped with that. I’ve been in dressing rooms the size of a penthouse. But none of it matters. All that matters is what you do when you get onstage. Some stages are tight and restrictive and some are the size of Madison Square Garden. You’ve got to prepare for every possibility. I love it all, quite frankly. The tight intimate club can be very electric and smell good… or bad. When you play big venues to 40,000 in Japan, it becomes distant. But music is still happening, and the band has to connect with every person.
Crawdaddy!: This time around you’re focusing on Halford. What considerations are present when you choose to release an album and tour as Halford, as opposed to Judas Priest?
Halford: The source of the ideas is different. When I’m writing with Priest, it’s more “Ok, ok, ok,” but Halford is more as a single writer. Normally I collaborate more, and I haven’t written on my own in a long time. I would let Roy Z know what is going on and after he’d hear the early ideas, would say, “These are great, keep writing and when you think you have enough to lay them down as demos, we’ll see where we go from here.” What was unusual for me with this release was that I told myself, “Let your heart lead you and don’t think about anything else,” with what I wanted to say, and instrumentally, with the arrangements. Then it’s very pure and uncluttered and not tampered with. It’s important to listen to criticism and other points of view and let the reins go.
Crawdaddy!: I read that this was one of the fastest albums you’ve ever recorded.
Halford: It can take two months or two years. But I was doing some shows as Halford for the first time in several years, and thought, “Who wants to hear songs from seven years ago?” I wanted to play songs that are relevant to what I’m doing now. So I went into writing mode in between everything else, subconsciously waiting for this to come out.
Crawdaddy!: The album is named after the track “Made Of Metal.” What does it mean to you to be made of metal?
Halford: I suppose it’s a determining point of who I am, what I embody, and what most people know me for. I’m a musician, who writes and records heavy metal music. It’s all those attributes combined.
Crawdaddy!: Listening to the album, I felt like you were shedding your metal armor and getting to the heart of who you are as a person.
Halford: That’s a cool way to think about it. I would suggest that metal armor is probably part of the overall mix of things. Even now metal has its detractors. But we’ve survived by uniting behind the shield of heavy metal. That’s where the armor plating comes from. We use music as a wall and protective force, which is kind of peculiar to the heavy metal genre. Of course the realms of metal are filled with that sort of imagery, as well.
Crawdaddy!: The song “Made Of Metal” seems to be about heroism. Who are your heroes?
Halford: I would say, musically, John Lennon, because of what he stood for with his music and peace ideas. In terms of perseverance and determination, Ozzy, Lemmy [of Motorhead], and the late Ronnie James Dio—people who have gone through the fire… People like Lady Gaga, who stand up for their beliefs with a daring attitude. You have to have balls of steel to survive in the entertainment industry. And you can’t forget Michael Feinstein, who’s a tremendous hero in the music world. Michael is a wonderful musician, with a wonderful voice, who’s committed to preserving American culture, musically.
Crawdaddy!: I don’t think that most of your fans would ever imagine that you’re a Michael Feinstein fan.
Halford: A true musician should be open-minded and have their blinders off. I’m just as motivated by heavy metal as I am by Cole Porter and George Gershwin.
Crawdaddy!: In “Twenty-Five Years”, in which you open up about your sobriety, you sing, “They say it makes you stronger / But I feel so weak.” Is it still so difficult for you to remain sober after all these years?
Halford: I think that any of us who are addicted to booze, drugs, porn, or food, try to control it, but can never completely control it. But acknowledging your sense of failure helps you stay more focused. If you don’t feel fallible, you’re going to make a mistake. I know that, because I’m still around booze and drugs. It’s like having an angel and a devil on each shoulder, with the angel telling you to stay sober and the devil telling you that you’ve been clean and sober for 25 years and can have just one drink. You have to deal with that on a daily basis. Most people acknowledge that, and I do it with my words, which was not as painful as I thought it would be. But with my solo activities, I can be more personal. It was time for me to do this one, to give people another insight into who I am.
Watch: “Made of Metal” [at youtube.com]
Halford Tour Dates:
Nov. 29 – Baltimore, MD – 1st Mariner Arena with Ozzy Osbourne
Dec. 01 – New York, NY – Madison Square Garden Arena with Ozzy Osbourne
Dec. 03 – E. Rutherford, NJ – Izod Center with Ozzy Osbourne
Dec. 04 – Allentown, PA – Crocodile Rock
Dec. 05 – Cleveland, OH – Quicken Loans Arena with Ozzy Osbourne
Dec. 07 – Grand Rapids, MI Van Andel Arena with Ozzy Osbourne
Dec. 09 – Chicago, IL – House Of Blues
Dec. 10 – St. Louis, Mo Scottrade Center with Ozzy Osbourne
Dec. 12 – Minneapolis, MN – Target Center with Ozzy Osbourne
Dec 13 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues
Dec 15 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theater
Dec. 17 – Los Angeles, CA – Wiltern Theater
Dec. 18 – San Diego, CA – 4th & B
Dec. 19 – Anaheim, CA – The Grove of Anaheim