Judas Priest singer Rob Halford says work on his upcoming memoir is “underway.” He first revealed plans for the book nearly a year ago; he tells UCR fans can expect it to be an honest look back at his life.
“There’s no point in putting a book together if you don’t have full disclosure, in my opinion,” he says. “Since I’ve been clean and sober, I’ve probably been more honest and truthful about myself than I ever have been. You only get a chance to do it once and do it properly.”
His current point-of-view is a shift from comments he made in 2015, when he said he had no interest in telling his life story. “I know that my own life, my own experiences, have something in them that people could learn from [and] could really help somebody,” he said at that time. “And that it could be written in a way that needn’t be exploitative or titillating. But I’m a private person, and I can say right now it won’t happen.”
Halford admits he’s still a bit unsure about how to approach the project. “I’m excited, but I’m also kind of apprehensive as we move along,” he says. “Because you don’t know what you [should include]: Should I say this, should I say that? I don’t know.”
But he does have an idea of what he wants the basic framework to look like. “I don’t want it to be an autobiography — I want it to be more of a memoir,” he explains. “It’s going to have a lot of things in there that you’re going to go, ‘Oh, I’m not really interested in that.’ You’re also going to go, ‘Oh my God, I never knew he did that!’ But it’s going to make you feel happy, it’s going to make you feel sad. It’s going to make you feel angry, it’s going to shock you. It’s going to have all of the things that I think have been in most people’s lives.”
As to how far along he is in the process, Halford says the book is currently being mapped out. “The work has actually started,” he says. “It’s coming together and it’s exciting, and I think we’re hoping for it to be released sometime toward the back end of 2020, hopefully.”
Right now, he’s still basking in the glow of the positive reception to Firepower, Judas Priest’s 18th LP that came out in 2017. “With any album, you just don’t know what the reaction is going to be,” he says. “You just have to go in the studio with all of the right intentions and beliefs and work really, really hard to make it happen. We do that for every Priest album. I don’t know what it is — it was just that everything was right. Everything felt right. All of the pieces were in the right place. The writing that came from Glenn [Tipton] and Richie [Faulkner] and myself was just at a really strong level.”
“Roy Wood has a song [with Wizzard] called ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday,’ and I think a lot of us wish it could be Christmas every day for various reasons,” he says. “But hey, it’s never too soon, and especially in today’s world, to get the festive holiday spirit up and roaring before the Big Man starts to arrive.”
Celestial, which will be released on Oct. 18, began to take shape as Priest were working on Firepower. Halford reached out to Mike Exeter, who was helping engineer the album sessions, to see if he’d be willing to come on board and shepherd the holiday project. The producer quickly said that he’d love to be a part of it.
Listen to Rob Halford’s ‘Donner and Blitzen’
The hard-charging first single, “Donner and Blitzen,” finds Halford blazing in full metal voice. It’s one of several new original new songs on the album. “I thought it was important to get that balance across, apart from the classic standards like ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘The First Noel,’ whatever,” he notes. “Those are songs that are always around us and will always be around us. So to actually get some fresh new holiday songs was an important part of the project.”
Working with a cast of family and friends — including his brother Nigel on drums, nephew Alex (son of Priest bassist Ian Hill) on bass, his sister Sue on bells and the twin-guitar assault of Robert Jones and Jon Blakey — Halford was quick to give them credit for being a big part in Celestial‘s birth.
“There’s very little about me on this album,” he explains. “It’s all about what the guys did. I was away working with Priest on the Firepower record. This whole thing took about two years to come together in bits and pieces. These guys have got full-time jobs. They come home from work and then they find the time to see each other in the studio and put these songs together. I think [Celestial] shows the talent that musicians of this nature and style have got. Because the world is full of really talented musicians that never become professional. They just love making music, and they’re so good that they’re able to make very cool, fresh and original tracks.”
As fans look to build their own holiday playlists, Halford is happy to be able to add some new choices to the mix as he reflects on his love of holiday songs while growing up. “As a kid in the U.K., for most kids, wherever you are in the world at Christmastime, there’s always music playing,” he says. “For us, it was all over the place in the Halford house. It was generally stuff on the radio, with some things that were on television [too]. It was definitely not metal!”
Halford’s personal playlist is still “all over the map, from way, way back, to more recent times,” he notes. But he loves the timeless quality of songs that are regarded as classics. “Holiday music is really special because it tends to kind of stand the test of time. A good holiday song will last forever.”