THE FALL OF
A METAL GOD:
1998 was a rough year for the relationship between Judas Priest and Rob Halford.
The members of Priest remained quite angry and hurt over Rob's departure, and
there had been an exchange of words between Rob and band members throughout the
years in the press, though there was no personal communication between the
members and Rob:
"We really haven’t communicated since 1992 and some
days, for the life in me, I can’t figure out why. After so many years we
kept our distance. But they have a new singer now and a new album, maybe
there is a good chance that we can sit down and have a good time like all
those years we’ve been in Priest."
- Rob Halford,
Naked Highway, 1998
Now the band was back in action with a new singer, when Rob
struck a blow to the heavy metal community...
It started after Rob's Fight disbanded in late '95. Drummer Scott Travis
returned to Priest for vocalist auditions and Rob found himself "Out In The
Cold" - Judas Priest would not have him back:
was always evolving. Can Rob Halford sing those tunes out there? NO!!!
Listen here, I was auditioning Rob in 1969, I've heard him over the years, I
saw his voice change, and, just trust me, he simply can't sing those tunes
His voice was going down... have you heard
him during the Painkiller tour?"
"We are going forward, and we will push the
boundaries. It's a different world, and it's a different band now! We don't
have the same guitars, and we don't think Rob fits this band anymore! Rob is
out of the way, and what he sings now is not metal. And the whole Fight
And now, Rob keeps spitting all this
fucking shit out on us..."
- K.K. Downing,
The Sentinel, February 14, 1998
"I don't think,
with Priest, the fans would have accepted just another singer. We had to find
Ripper, and it took us four years. And he's a better singer. He's the best
singer Priest ever had, and we're not ashamed to be saying that."
- Glenn Tipton, Goldmine Magazine, June 5, 1998
"...Rob was losing it a bit towards the end. In
hindsight, he probably did everyone a favor when he left the band..."
- Ian Hill, Music America, 1998
slotted straight in, and he can handle all of what Rob did and more. He hasn’t
flavored the band that much, if you know what I mean...
"Whether Rob can’t do it or whether he’s not bothering
to do it, I don’t know, but he’s not doing it, and I think that’s the point. The
thing is, Rob is a bit of a legend. He’s been with the band and he’s been at the
forefront of metal now for twenty years. If you’re gonna do the first album
without him - and like, Tim is not going to come into the band and be a legend.
He’s got a lot of work at it as well. That’s not to say that Tim is not as good
of a vocalist as Rob, because he is. He surpasses Rob, especially what Rob is
doing now. He’s as good as Rob was twenty years ago. That’s how good Ripper is,
and he’s gonna get better as time goes on. And as time goes on, people will
start to accept him as the face of Judas Priest. I mean, Rob was the frontman,
wasn’t he? You got Ken and Glenn up there as well, but at the end of the day, if
you’ve gotta pick one member out of Judas Priest, it was always going to be Rob.
Tim’s gotta work at that. He’s a great vocalist and I’ve got every confidence in
that happening. I think in time that the old Rob die-hards will turn around at
the end of the day and say, 'Well, yeah, this guy is just as good, if not
- Ian Hill,
Prime-Choice, January 21, 1998
"I did an interview with a
radio station from Cleveland on the phone. After I got done, they played a song
from Rob Halford's VOYEURS album. It really pissed me off, but I'm glad they did
play it, because that album fuckin' bombed."
It was a frustrating and confusing time for Rob, but he hooked up with a
guitarist whom he met at the Foundations Forum a few years back named John
Lowery (better known as John 5 in Marilyn Manson's band afterwards). Together,
they formed a band that after a couple of incarnations became known as "Two".
The music Rob and John created would retain a guitar edge, but it would not be
the heavy metal Rob had built his legacy on. Keyboards, sequencers and
electronic drums would play a vital role in the sound - a sound that was as much
inventive as it was driving, and with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails producing,
a sound that was decisively industrial...
Rob Halford and John Lowery
The sound and approach of Two was quite a shock to long time fans of Rob Halford's career, but what came
next was a blow no one expected would ever come from the Metal God, when at the
end of '97, Rob
told then Metal Edge magazine editor Gerri Miller that "Metal is dead", and told
others that he would never return to Priest:
"Metal is dead and I am done with it."
- Rob Halford, Metal Edge, 1997
"Nostalgia is a
human necessity; it's affection. You establish yourself as something that you
look back on as you move forward. You think of a moment in your life when you
felt right and you identify with that moment. You want to keep that moment
inside you emotionally. And the best way to do that is to have the thing
happening in front of you on a stage or on a record.
Human beings are nostalgic creatures; we all behave that way. It's a comforting
place to be: You feel okay there, you're not irrationally confused and panicky.
People grow up and live in the same city forever; people stay in the same
people stay in the same job forever; we're creatures of habit. That's how I was
for a portion of my life and it took me a while to realize that if I did that,
I'm not going to go anywhere else. I wanted to go to other places. I wanted to
have different experiences. And the way you can do that is to go from this room,
open the door, and go into another room – it's so close... it's like you can't
see the wood for the trees. When you're an artist, especially. It's very
comforting to be successful. You've got money in the bank. Your music keeps
selling. There's people coming to your shows... everything feels great, you get
"I would never do a Judas Priest reunion. I'm not just
saying that now and five years from now I'm gonna be on stage with Priest again.
I value my personal creativity and my integrity more than a few dollars in the
bank. It's never the same the second time around, especially when there's
something more attached to it than the music. Reunions smack of big dollars,
instead of people
feeling that they want to go out and play music together. That's not to dis some
of these people who have gotten together: I love Fleetwood Mac. It's still to
me, the same thing. There's something about that band and that music, that
defies time, but doesn't make it cheesy. Some other bands with the bulging
waistline, and the receding hair... let me get my old videos out. That's being
bitter and cynical, and so be it, but that's just the way it is from my
- Rob Halford,
Rock, March 1998
Rob would later recant his quote about the state of heavy metal:
think I didn't express myself quite clearly then. What I meant - and I
pointed that out a little later - was that in the metal genre, big changes
aren't possible. Classic metal has defined itself in the '70s and '80s and I
didn't see any outstanding new bands. Look at the bands on the cover of your
magazine: Metallica, Thin Lizzy, Running Wild, all bands that exist for many
years. Of course metal isn't really dead, I'm not so stupid that I would
really claim something like that, but I don't expect in the near future some
mega-bands will appear. And I can't imagine that a young musician will
create something really new out of the old influences which has the same
musical meaning. Maybe I'm wrong and there is somewhere a sixteen-year-old
new Randy Rhoads genius who proves me to be wrong. I hope so. I wish nothing
more than to see the new Sabbath, Priest, Maiden or Metallica - a bunch of
kids who blow everything away - very young bands who have the
characteristics of classic metal in them."
- Rob Halford, Rock Hard magazine, April 2000
"I tried to fudge my way out of that 'metal is dead' statement
by saying, 'I didn't mean that really, what I meant was the metal where I came
from, bands like Priest and stuff, there's no more bands like that',
when in reality, there are bands of that ilk from Europe. I think that just
went to prove my emotional state of mind at that time. I remember I was sitting
on the bus with Gerri Miller. I was just so frustrated and not settled, and I
made that ridiculous statement that metal is dead, which is a fucking stupid
thing to do.
"I've been confronted all over Europe by that
statement, and I've just been making amends by saying that I was off my John
It was a stupid thing to say, and you've got to be able to admit your mistakes,
and that was a big mistake on my part.
"Metal fans are extremely loyal, devoted people, and if
you rub them up the wrong way, like I did, you've got to step up to the plate
and put your hands up and go, 'I'm sorry.' "
- Rob Halford,
Launch, August 23, 2000
"I totally regret having made that statement.
What a bloody stupid thing it was to say! At the time, it was a stupid,
prima donna, petulant thing to do, I'll tell you what happened. I was
on the bus, about to walk on stage and do a show in LA at the Palladium
with Rammstein. I was with Gerri Miller from Metal Edge and she was
pissing me off, she was getting me a bit irate. I was about to go on
stage and she said, 'Can you do a quick interview?' So I said, 'Okay
then'. I think, in all honesty, it was an off-the-cuff thing, you know?
Again, borne out of frustration of 'Why don't I feel better about where
I am?' So I said 'Metal's dead...' whatever, and then it's all over the
place! I bet she couldn't wait to get home and get on the internet! It
did a lot of damage, and I regret that because regardless of whether it
was off-the-cuff or not, I have to be really careful about what I say.
I've always been very open and honest with everything that I do. I
don't conceal anything; what you see is what you get. I was honest
enough to admit - as I've done now- that it was a stupid thing to say."
- Rob Halford
As if Rob had not shattered the hearts of many Defenders enough, more trouble
was stirred up when Rob told MTV that he was gay.
While it wasn't really news to most fans who had speculated as much long ago
(the Village People biker outfits of the '80s and a press conference on MTV in
'92 where Rob denounced rumors that he had aids following Freddie Mercury's 1991
aids death were pretty obvious clues in themselves), it
did come across to the members of Priest as an attack against their new revival,
bringing another controversy to have to deal with as well as the potential to to
lose many fans, especially in America where they had just started up a comeback
tour. Glenn and K.K. felt it was a secret that didn't need to be
brought up at this particular time; even Rob himself had maintained silence for
the several years after he had left the band of his own free choice:
"Rob wasn't encourage to reveal his secret to the public.
It's fair to say we were happy with Rob and with his image. We didn't want
anything to happen that was gonna change that."
- K.K. Downing, VH1 BEHIND THE MUSIC, 2001
supported Rob for 27 years. He quit the band in 1992."
- Glenn Tipton, VH1 BEHIND THE MUSIC, 2001
"...And he only just
recently made this statement. I think that answers the question."
- K.K. Downing, VH1 BEHIND THE MUSIC, 2001
"There's no two ways about
it, Rob's coming out was a cheap shot. We were in New York for some really
important comeback shows and Rob was all over the press. It's a shame the way
things went with him as he's totally denounced heavy metal... it's sad because
he's left the fans behind."
- K.K. Downing, Total Guitar, 1998
But Rob felt now was the perfect time to get it all out in the open, not to
cause trouble for Priest, but to meet the needs of a changing society:
"I think that
most people know that I've been a gay man all of my life, and that it's only
been in recent times that it's an issue that I feel comfortable to address, and
an issue that has been with me ever since recognizing my own sexuality.
"It's something that I've been comfortable with
forever, something that I feel has a moment, and this is the moment to discuss
it and to go into the reasons, and the whys and the wherefores as to the
statement, the so-called coming out phase.
"A lot of homophobia still exists in the music world,
in all kinds of music. I wouldn't say it's any more phobic in metal or rap or
whatever this music is that I'm doing now, but thatıs just something that I
think we all have to address in our own lives. If we have a problem with it, I
think we should seek help and find out why we do have a problem with it.
"I think it's difficult for everybody, you know, in
making the decision to come forward and be who you are, based on peer pressure,
especially if you're a teenager. That's where a lot of the anxiety begins, and
so maybe people like myself and others that do step in front of a camera and let
the world know, maybe it's of some help, where there's an individual that's been
successful, that's been able to achieve dreams and visions and goals in life and
not let the issue of sexuality be something to hold them back, so I think it's
an important thing."
- Rob Halford, MTV News, February 5, 1998
"It just so happened that
the whole thing came out through interviews I was having in Europe. But I have
since been talking
seriously about being a gay man. If the question had never been levied at me
like it has at MTV, I would never have said it. But it happened in such a way
where the message got out to as many people in the shortest amount of time. I’m
kind of glad it happened that way."
- Rob Halford,
Naked Highway, 1998
"I think I was angry at
myself. I thought I was sexually dysfunctional, that I didn't fit in because I
was still the gay man in an exclusively straight rock world."
- Rob Halford, BANG YOUR HEAD, 2002
"I really dwelled on it so long. What am I gonna gain?
What am I gonna lose? I think it's true, when you become successful in the music
world, you probably go more in the closet. You get under the rug in the closet
because of the phobia that still exists in rock music. You could lose a record
deal, a fan base. It's really difficult for any musician to come out.
"Had I considered coming out five years ago, it
would've been very difficult. But right now I'm experiencing the same emotions
that my friends have told me they felt when they came out: this great clarity
and this great peace. There have been no repercussions, no hate mail. I think
people have had so many good times with my music that my coming-out is easier
for them to accept. It's like, 'Well, look at the great music, look at the great
shows - does it really matter?' "
- Rob Halford,
The Advocate, May 12, 1998
"If you’re straight, you
can’t really perceive what a gay man goes through, but it’s important to get
through the psychological aspect of this closeted environment and free yourself
of a lot of personal pressure. It just sets you free, and is a wonderful thing
to do. It was a very spontaneous moment, I didn’t put any forethought to it, it
was just something that slipped out while I was doing an MTV interview. It took
a lot of the pressure off of myself. As far as backlash… there’s been absolutely
no fallout from it. It hasn’t affected my record sales, or my show attendance.
For some people, it was the worst-kept secret, other people couldn’t care less.
I think that people had to address their own phobic issues and realize that
sexuality has nothing to do with the music."
- Rob Halford,
Philadelphia City Paper, October 2000
"I imagine that some fans,
upon first hearing the news, must have thought, 'I've got all these records by
this band I love, but I don't get along with gay people. Oh God, what do I do?'
"If I felt it was too much of a risk or danger to the
band I would not have done it. When speaking in the context of Priest, I always
felt that these types of issues are private. When speaking as an individual,
it's vital for gay people to come out so we can rid ourselves of the prison bars
and take away the ammunition of the detractors. For all those years in Priest, I
believed that if I came out, I would be utterly rejected. But now I feel
that assumption presents a misconception about the metal community. It's a myth.
- Rob Halford,
New York Daily News,
July 13, 2004
"It's a myth that I
received any flak from the metal community over my decision to come out. I have,
in fact, received numerous positive responses from fans, as well as e-mails from
people who were going through much the same thing. It's horrible to keep
something like that secret, and I felt I had to make it public. I discovered
that I was gay when I was about nine or ten. I did go out with girls for a
while, but it didn't last."
Eastbay Express, July 28, 2004