1Which art legend did you once handcuff yourself to?
CORRECT. When you met him at an end-of-tour party at New York’s Mudd Club, before heading to Studio 54 with him.
“I think Andy was more intrigued than shocked when I handcuffed myself to him, because he’s from New York City which was a wild place. Especially in the creative world he mixed in. I always wanted to go to – but never got the chance – his Factory. But Andy was a very receptive person to everything in life and had no prejudice against anybody or anything. Everything in life was art and should be uncensored so he was a unique man.”
Talking of handcuffs, you reveal in your new autobiography, ‘Confess’ that you were once arrested for cruising Venice Beach toilets (in a case of police entrapment) – yet the cops don’t release it to the media because they’re Judas Priest fans. You came out as gay on your own terms in 1998 on MTV, but what effect do you think being ‘outed’ would have had on you?
“The police did me a favour by keeping it out of the press because it would have been big news. I always refer to that, slightly tongue in cheek, as my George Michael moment. I was lucky, because the sad thing is it makes people who don’t understand the gay community just go: ‘Obviously they’re all just a bunch of perverts’. And that’s horrible.”
“I’d like to think for the most part if that incident had broken into the press then a great proportion of my fans would have said: ‘We’ll support you and stand with you’. A few years later, when I came out on MTV, that was a proven fact because the feedback from around the world was positive – they just wanted me to continue being the singer for Judas Priest and get on with the job.”
2Which Judas Priest song did protesters in New York reportedly play over stolen NYPD radios in June?
“I can’t honestly answer this, but I have an inkling it might have been ‘Breaking The Law’?”
CORRECT. It was during the George Floyd protests.
“I did hear something about it being used. It’s mad over here in America right now and that was a horrible thing that happened to that guy [George Floyd] and I can understand the anger and why that was chosen. When we wrote that song in the ‘80s in the UK, there was a lot of unrest, rioting and pushback to the Thatcher government. There was a lot of divisiveness going on, much like is happening in many parts of the world now. History tends to repeat itself unfortunately.”
3Which pop star was originally supposed to ride on the back of your motorcycle when you headlined the High Voltage Festival in London’s Victoria Park in 2011?
“Ah yes – my lovely Lady Gaga.”
“She was bitterly disappointed she couldn’t do it, because of last-minute plans – she’s a total metalhead, loves Priest, and maybe one day we’ll be able to make that happen. I recently watched her smashing the MTV VMAs looking like the Lady Gaga I particularly love – with all those outrageous costumes and face masks. She stole the show.”
On the subject of pure pop, in 1988, Judas Priest worked with hi-NRG pop production line Stock-Aitken-Waterman (responsible for songs by Kylie, Rick Astley, and Bananarama) on three unreleased tracks. Pete Waterman always claimed all of those songs would have been surefire Number 1s, but what do you think the reaction from your fanbase would have been like?
“I agree with Pete. We would have had three Number 1s. Take the name Judas Priest off them and they were great songs. If we’d released them and endorsed them officially I think the wider British public would have been receptive, but there would have been pushback from our fans. We recorded three songs – ‘Runaround’, ‘I Will Return’, and a cover of The Stylistics’ “You Are Everything’ – and they weren’t too far away from the adventures Priest have had in our music anyway, it’s just the textures are different – lots of massive backup vocals and strings. But I enjoyed the experience and I always felt it was cool that all of us in Priest decided to try it instead of just sticking to our supposed lane.”
4When Judas Priest appeared on The Simpsons in 2014, where did the band attempt to lure Homer Simpson out of?
“You’ve stumped me on that one! When you tell me, I’ll kick myself.”
WRONG. You try to entice him out of Springfield’s Swedish consulate, where he’s hiding out after illegally downloading music.
“Exactly! I remember that now. It was great to be on that show. They called us death metal in that episode and then of course there was a huge outcry and it was cool that creator Matt Groening and the writers, in the opening sequence to the following episode, had Bart Simpson write: ‘Judas Priest is not death metal’ on the school blackboard. That was a sweet repair job.”
5During the famous Judas Priest subliminal message trial in 1990, where the band were accused of causing the suicide of a boy through inserting backward messages into your songs, what gobbledegook message did you point out that the track ‘Exciter’ sounded like backwards?
“It was ‘I – I – I asked her for a peppermint!’”
“The silliness of that was important. You had to say something like that in court to point out the whole ridiculous scenario. As terrible and tragic as it was for those two beautiful Judas Priest fans who lost their lives, you had to bring in some kind of audacity to show the judge that something was amiss – I’ll never forget his face as I suggested that phrase.”
“Had the court ruling gone the other way, I don’t think it would have been the end for Judas Priest, but the ramifications could have been really far-reaching. Especially in this understanding of the terminology of what is a subliminal message. It really was like going down the rabbit hole. If the judge had said these things are real, then before every song on the radio was played, there would have to be a disclaimer saying: ‘We refute and indemnify ourselves for any subliminal messages in this track. And now here’s the Eagles!’ (Laughs) In the end, we weren’t completely exonerated, because the judge said the prosecution’s lawyers hadn’t proved their case adequately – which left it hanging there, which I’ve never felt comfortable with.”
6Which wholesome pop entity once demanded you get rid of your whip during a Top of the Pops performance?
“Marie Osmond! Lovely Marie. (Laughs) Suffice to say, I kept it!”
“I love The Osmonds – that sounds mad, doesn’t it?! But in terms of what they represented in their world, they were the best – as far as that kind of family pop went.”
7You appear in the 2002 film Spun as the owner of a porn store. Name the two other rock stars who are in it.
“Well, Debbie Harry is in there, isn’t she? And as for the other….you may have stumped me again!”
WRONG. It’s Debbie Harry as ‘The Neighbour’ and Billy Corgan as ‘The Doctor’.
“Oh lord! There were so many edits in that movie because the director Jonas Åkerlund wanted to emphasise the hideousness of crack methamphetamine addiction and how it works in your system. To me, it’s an anti-drugs movie. I was suffering from hideous food poisoning when I did that film and felt like shit. When I got there, Mickey Rourke – who throws me against the wall in the film – came over to me holding his little tiny dog that he wouldn’t let go off and made me some chicken soup. He was a kind and gentle man – the complete opposite of his image in a lot of his movies.”
8In 1984, how much damage did Judas Priest fans cause when you played Madison Square Garden?
“There was a figure of $250,000.”
“The place was devastated by the time we got offstage! There are some famous pictures of us standing on what is supposed to be the stage – but you can hardly see it because it’s covered in seat cushions. It was enthusiastic damage! (Laughs) It wasn’t damage done out of anger or wanton pure destruction, it was just over-enthusiasm!”
“Those moments feel like a rite of passage. I tried to throw a TV out of a hotel window once but it was so fixed to the room that I couldn’t get the wires out of the back! I was drunk off my ass and in the end, the only thing I was able to do was stick the TV outside of my room and close the door. It was like Mr Bean does Spinal Tap.”
9When you performed ‘Breaking The Law’ with queercore band Pansy Division in 1997, where did you say you felt like you’d been inducted into?
“Hmmmn – is this in the book? No? (Laughs) Oh! The Rock and Roll Hall of Flamers!”
CORRECT. Close enough – it’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Flames.
“Typical me! (Laughs) Although I’ve never thought I was a flamer – I’m a bit of an old burning twig!”
Are you disappointed that Judas Priest haven’t been inducted into the actual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet?
“I’ve always admired it. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame isn’t any different from those other institutions they have in America, like the one for football, where you’ll always get some people complaining one player deserves to be there over another. Emotions always run high whenever these awards take place. But I’ve always supported it – only because of the company we’d be in. I think if any metal band deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s Priest and beyond that, there needs to be more metal there because there’s not enough.”
10Which Judas Priest song is referenced in the Tenacious D track ‘Break-In City (Storm the Gate!)’?
You’ve got me again! If I knew this was coming, I would have instant messaged Jack Black – ‘cause we’re friends on Instagram and we DM each other.”
WRONG. It’s ‘Electric Eye’.
“Ahhh yeah! They’re great guys. Tenacious D are a very unique duo and I love the fact that – like Mickey Rourke – he’s kept his feet on the ground and is a real legit person.”
The verdict: 7/10
“That’s not too bad for an old metalhead! I’m not that deflated! (Laughs)”
Confess The Autobiography by Rob Halford is out in hardback on 29th September published by Headline