Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner Talk New Album, 'Redeemer of Souls'

by Jeff Kitts
Posted Jul 30, 2014 at 5:13pm

This is an excerpt from the September 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Dan Auerbach's off-beat guitars, Eric Clapton and his new J.J. Cale tribute album, 17 Amazing practice amps, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Epiphone, ESP Guitars, Visual Sound, Blackstar, G&L Guitars, Ibanez and more, check out the August 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

When Guitar World sat down with Judas Priest guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner and frontman Rob Halford in New York City earlier this summer, there was a palpable sense of excitement and confidence in the air as we talked about Priest’s new return-to-form album, Redeemer of Souls.

It felt like a fresh beginning for a group that, just a few years earlier, had seemed on the verge of imploding.

In December 2010, more than 40 years after the group’s formation in Birmingham, England, Judas Priest had announced that their Epitaph World Tour would be a farewell jaunt.

When, a few weeks later, Rob Halford said in an interview, “I think it’s time,” and asked fans to “not be sad” and “celebrate and rejoice over all the great things we’ve done,” the heavy-metal community took it as a sign that the mighty Judas Priest were finally hanging up their studded leather belts.

With the internet abuzz over the uncertainty of their future, Judas Priest went into damage control mode and quickly issued a statement that read, in part, “This is by no means the end of the band. In fact, we are presently writing new material, but we do intend this to be the last major world tour.”

For much of their career, the band members’ comments about Judas Priest’s future probably wouldn’t have caused much of a stir. But in today’s 24/7 feeding frenzy known as the internet, it’s a very different story.

“It does make you choose your words carefully,” Halford says. “With today’s speed of communication, you’ve only got to get one word wrong and the whole place blows up. In retrospect, there probably should have been a different way to project the whole Epitaph experience.”

Some additional turbulence shook the Judas Priest camp in April 2011 when longtime guitarist K.K. Downing announced that he was leaving the group just two month’s ahead of the Epitaph tour. The band wasted no time announcing 31-year-old British guitarist Richie Faulkner as Downing’s replacement. Faulkner’s debut with the band took place on national television on May 25, 2011, when Judas Priest performed live during the season finale of American Idol.

After the completion of the 120-date Epitaph tour in May 2012, Judas Priest took some much needed time off to regroup and begin work on a new album. They made a few public appearances, and a couple of best-of packages found their way into the marketplace, but otherwise things were fairly quiet on the Priest front.

Then, this past April, the band announced a July 15 release date for Redeemer of Souls, its first album of new material since 2008’s poorly received conceptual double album, Nostradamus. Wisely, the group issued a free stream of the title track alongside the announcement. From its opening chugging riff to Halford’s distinct voice intoning, “It’s time to settle the score,” to Tipton and Faulkner’s searing solo trade-offs, Redeemer of Souls makes it clear that Priest has not only survived the past few years’ unrest but also regained the fire in their belly that had been missing for quite some time.

GUITAR WORLD EXCERPT: Back in 2010–2011, there was a lot of speculation that Judas Priest were on the verge of disbanding. But with Redeemer of Souls and new tour dates on the horizon, it seems as though the band has a renewed sense of energy.

Rob Halford: I think it’s very natural for a band that’s had a long career in rock and roll to become a little bit philosophical. That’s just human nature, and we weren’t afraid to talk about it. But I don’t think we ever said specifically “This is the end.” It was probably the “Farewell Tour” that gave people that impression. We probably should have called that something different. We called it that because it was our way of saying that this is the end of the big, massive world tours. We’re still going to go out and play, but it’s not going to be these big two-year schleps, which are grueling for any band.

But there’s definitely a change in tone around the band these days, and a lot of that is because of this guy right here [points to Faulkner]. Richie has brought something to this band that is very infectious and vibrant, and I think you can sense all of that great feeling coming through in these new songs.

Glenn, did you feel that there was a negative vibe swirling around the band during the Epitaph tour?

Glenn Tipton: I don’t know if it was a negative vibe around us as much as it was a little bit unsure of what the future held for Judas Priest. For me, the Epitaph tour was one of the most satisfying and gratifying tours we had ever done. It was a grueling task to go out and play for two and a half hours every night, but to play a song off every album brought out a lot of sentimental feelings, and I think we all rose to the occasion.

But you’re right in the sense that there was a little bit of uncertainty around the band—what we were going to do next, that kind of thing. And it wasn’t until we started writing the album and really getting into the meat and potatoes of it that we realized, Hold on, this is going to be more than just another album—there’s something special going on here. And that starts to breed enthusiasm. You look forward to the future. You look forward to playing these songs onstage. So I think the band has evolved since the Epitaph era into a different way of thinking. We’ve never been more content, and we’re excited about the future.

Halford: In light of the Epitaph experience, if and when the final note is played, we certainly won’t be announcing it. I think it’s just going to happen one day, and that’s probably the nicest way to do it. You take very small steps back until you’re done, and I think it’ll be that way for us. But the fact that Priest’s music will live forever, the way Beethoven and Bach’s music lives forever, that really is the most incredible accomplishment that you can dwell on and feel proud of.

After the Epitaph tour, did you feel as though there was unfinished business within the band? Like there was more to accomplish?

Tipton: I think we’ve always felt that way. We’ve never been satisfied with one record—we’ve always wanted to do another. It’s the same with touring: you know that at some point you’re going to want to go out and do another tour. Even with this record, we recorded 18 songs. I mean, where did that come from? So there’s plenty left in this band.

Richie, what was it like for you around the time of the Epitaph tour? Was it disappointing to join a legendary band like Judas Priest and suddenly have people speculating about the group’s demise?

Faulkner: When I came onboard and was welcomed into the family, I was very aware of where the band were in their career. Not that I wasn’t already aware of it, since I’m a fan of the band, but it certainly wasn’t something I was going to pass up just because there’s a chance that the band was coming to the end of its career. And maybe if there was any sense within the band of winding down, maybe I’m the one who’s keeping them going. And some people out there might not like me for that, but what was I going to do? Not join the band? Sometimes you just have to take the bull by the horns. And as a result, here we are with 18 new studio tracks and a new Judas Priest album.

Were you involved in the songwriting for Redeemer of Souls from the get-go?

Faulkner: From day one, it’s always been a family of creative people. It’s not one or two people calling the shots and you just show up, play a gig and go home. From the rehearsals to picking the set list to the stage production, it’s a very inclusive process, and that transcends right into the songwriting for the album.

Priest have always had the vocalist and the two-guitar-player writing team, and it was the same this time. I was taught to write metal songs by these guys. When you're 14 or 15 years old, you listen to Screaming for Vengeance and use that as a model for writing songs. So, for me, when you’re now in the studio writing songs with these guys, you don’t have to put on a different hat or write songs you wouldn’t normally write; it comes from your heart, because it’s what you’ve been brought up with. So it was a very organic and intuitive experience for me to write songs with these guys.

Photo: Jimmy Hubbard

This is an excerpt from the September 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Dan Auerbach's off-beat guitars, Eric Clapton and his new J.J. Cale tribute album, 17 Amazing practice amps, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Epiphone, ESP Guitars, Visual Sound, Blackstar, G&L Guitars, Ibanez and more, check out the August 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.


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