A third Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination for Judas Priest has frontman Rob Halford indulging himself in all sorts of possibilities if the iconic heavy metal group gets the nod this year.
“I know you’ve seen this year’s selection, and it’s crazy,” the Metal God tells Billboard via Zoom from his home in Arizona. “My mind’s going, ‘I must do a duet with Dolly Parton! I must do a duet with Kate Bush!’ If Lionel [Richie] and Priest get in, I think we’ll both be dancing on the ceiling, together.
“It’s wonderful. As we’ve said before, it’s a blessing and it’s a rush — it’s still a rush to be nominated for the Hall, especially when you’re in the company again of such an eclectic bunch of fellow musicians.”
First eligible in 2000 and long considered one of the Rock Hall’s most significant snubs, Judas Priest was first nominated in 2018, then again in 2020 and did well in the fan voting but has yet to make the final list of inductees. “You go ‘Meh. Meh. Next time,” Halford says, while bassist Ian Hill — the sole remaining member from the band’s original 1969 lineup — adds from his home in England that “your enthusiasm tends to curb a little bit when you’ve been turned down twice. The first time we were absolutely over the moon, and of course we didn’t make it and that was disappointing. We didn’t make it the second time, either, and if we’re turned down again, I’m sure we won’t be as disappointed as we were the first time around.
“But,” Hill adds, “It’s an honor. If we did make it into the Hall of Fame, we’d be over the moon about it.”
For now, the group has adopted a “third time’s the charm” mantra, which has given Halford some additional reason for optimism. “I googled it and apparently it’s a British expression, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s useful.’ As I sent that off I thought about the Grammy; I said that about the Grammy, the third time’s the charm, and I think we got it [Best Metal Performance in 2010 for ‘Dissident Aggressor’]. And three’s a lucky number in numerology, so it’s got a lot of karma and good vibes hanging around those three digits. So maybe it will be the charm.”
If induction happens, Halford and Hill both say they’ll also be happy to stand alongside founding guitarist K.K.Downing, who parted ways with the band acrimoniously in 2011 and now leads his own band, K.K.’s Priest. “It’s not a problem to us, no,” Hill says. “Ken was an integral part of this band for a very, very long time. He deserves to be there along with the rest of us.” Halford predicts that, “It won’t be as awkward as Ace and Peter [with Kiss]. I don’t think it’ll be awkward at all. I think you have to let all of that go because it’s the night that matters. It’s the moment that matters — but, again, the proverbial saying, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Priest will be busy while the Rock Hall voting is being conducted, of course. The group is slated to resume its Covid-interrupted 50 Heavy Metal Years tour on March 4 in Peoria, Ill., with North American dates through mid-April. The band heads to Europe in May and June, and it’s eyeballing other territories for later in the year depending on the status of the pandemic. Guitarist Richie Faulkner has made what Hill calls “a famous recovery” from the ruptured aorta he suffered during Priest’s September 26 concert at the Louder Than Life festival in Kentucky, which required surgery. “Richie is bored stiff and is rarin’ to go,” Hill reports, adding that Faulkner and drummer Scott Travis, who both reside in Nashville, have started working on Priest’s next album, which Halford doesn’t think will be ready until 2023.
The upcoming dates will also feature a quintet lineup with producer Andy Sneap back on guitar after Priest announced last month it planned to tour as a quartet, without him.
“That all came from me, it didn’t come from the band,” confesses Halford, who considered that since the band was founded as a four-piece it would be appropriate to return to that for a 50th anniversary celebration. “Of course, that blew up in my face, didn’t it? To have done something like a four-piece now would’ve been just not right, ridiculous, insane, crazy, off my rocker, have a cup of tea and relax. It’s kind of water under the bridge now. I think my heart was in the right place, but I’m not the first musician to have a crazy idea.”
Priest also weighed in on the current Spotify controversy in the wake of other artists removing their music to protest Joe Rogan’s polarizing podcast. He predicts that the band will not take its music off of the service but — with the caveat that he prefers to keep music and politics separate — says that, “I applaud Neil Young for standing up for what he believes in so strongly. I think each of us are dealing with the circumstances of this drama as we see fit. I don’t believe in sending out misinformation or disinformation about something that has taken so many lives when the scientific facts speak for themselves. Everybody has an opinion — did [Young] do the right thing? Did he do the wrong thing? You know what? Your opinion doesn’t matter. He did the right thing for him.”