Rob Halford: “Metallica were very beautiful guys, just like we all are in metal”
Few metal stars are as in love with metal itself as Rob Halford. Judas Priest’s singer has long been a champion of emerging bands, and Metallica were no exception. We talked to the Metal God about his long relationship with the San Francisco thrash pioneers, their music and their epic legacy.
What did you think when you first heard Metallica?
“The first few albums are still my favourites, Kill ’Em All, Ride The Lightning, …And Justice For All. It was great: here was a band from America, on the West Coast, who are part of the world that… maybe this will sound ridiculous, but when I was growing up, San Francisco was this hippie place. Beads and sandals and all that kind of stuff, and then you get these metal maniacs making this incredible racket! Wow!”
Do you remember the first time you met them?
“I saw them when they came and did some shows in Phoenix. They were very beautiful guys, like we all are in metal; you look at the other guys in bands and you don’t even have to say anything, you know you’ve lived the life. And then there is the respect. Kirk came up onstage with us [at Louder Than Life festival in September] and was like a kid in a sweet shop – ‘I can’t believe I’m up onstage with Priest playing The Green Manalishi!’”
How important were Metallica to 90s metal?
“If you look at the history of Metallica, much like if you look at the history of Judas Priest, it’s a band that’s responsible for an incredible surge of attention to metal. Their slightly controversial Black Album… it was never meant to be called The Black Album, it was just meant to be called ‘Metallica’ with the snake on the front, but that was like Priest’s Turbo album, because they cut their hair and they started to sound a little bit commercial. But really, that’s never been the case – it was just the band flexing their musical talent and having a great producer behind them. And extraordinary things came from it.”
What was it like performing with Metallica in 2011, during their 30th anniversary celebrations?
“I did Rapid Fire, they love that song, it was one of their favourite moments on British Steel. I got a call, I dunno if it was Lars who called me, but they said they were doing this thing in San Francisco and would I come and have a jam with them. I got on a plane by myself the next day and had a run through the next afternoon, got a hotel, did the show that night and flew back to Phoenix the next day. You just run with it; it’s just a beautiful opportunity to grab ahold of something when a band celebrate this kind of milestone. We’re all clocking in on the mile-o-meter now, aren’t we?! Getting our MOTs! It’s a beautiful thing.”
Published in Metal Hammer #355
Photo: provided by LouderSound