Is this really the end of Judas Priest?
Apparently it's not. According to lead screamer Rob Halford, the Epitaph Farewell Tour is merely the band's last nonstop worldwide trek before he and his metal minions enter semiretirement. Still, though, as we at New Times have shouted lo so many times: You really shouldn't blow this not-so-final shot to squeeze into your leathers, scream "Living After Midnight!" and ride bitch behind Halford on a hog to Hades.
Last week we spoke with Old Leatherneck about heavy metal, American Idol, and the epitaph that'll end up on his band's gravestone when the Grim Reaper finally arrives to claim the Priest.
Judas Priest's Epitaph Farewell Tour at Klipsch Amphitheater December 1
Judas Priest's Epitaph Farewell Tour, with Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy. Thursday, December 1, at Klipsch Amphitheater, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com. Tickets cost $20 to $75 plus fees via livenation.com.
New Times: When Judas Priest announced the Epitaph Farewell Tour, a lot of fans got confused. You even had to clarify that the band is not totally done. What's the difference between farewell and goodbye forever?
Rob Halford: You can't really say it's the end. Because it's not. I think farewell is like see ya later, whereas goodbye has an absolute finality attached to it. We wish we could've found a different word to express what we were trying to do on this Epitaph tour.
What's the future for the Priest? Will you do small tours?
We will go back to certain places later on. We don't know exactly where. There may be certain parts of the world that we may never go back to again for various reasons. We'll come back to the States, for example. We'll take a break. We'll just do Europe. And then we'll take a break.
For almost 40 years, we would lock the doors to our houses and go off for about two years at a time. We've absolutely loved it to death. But mortality is kicking in. [Laughs.] We're no longer spring chickens. We're old rock 'n' roll buzzards.
So the fat lady has not sung. She's tied to a flag post somewhere, struggling to break free.
There were metalheads who thought that Judas Priest appearing on American Idol was lame. Why did you do it? Were you looking to convert America's tweens to heavy metal?
There was kind of mixed reaction to the American Idol appearance from our fans. But from day one, all we've ever wanted to do with Judas Priest is what we call "Fly the flag for heavy metal!" And that means if there's any opportunity with tremendous value and importance in terms of exposure, then we'll do it. That's exactly what American Idol provided.
We're also huge fans of [former Idol contestant] James Durbin. We're very excited about James's new record. But it was also, "Hey, do you want to be in 35 million American homes for four-and-a-half minutes?" Uh, yeah! [Laughs.] We'll go anywhere to spread the metal gospel.
Now, when it comes to this tour, what is this ultimate metal experience? Pyrotechnics? Chopped motorcycles? Beelzebub himself?
Yeah, all of that! All of it! We do whatever it takes. We plug in and play, then back it up with some fireworks. But it doesn't really matter at the end of the day 'cause the most important part of Judas Priest is the music. If you can't back up a big theatrical performance with really good songs, then you might as well forget it, pack up, and go home.
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We're literally playing four decades' worth of music. This is an extraordinary set list. It's 40 years of Judas Priest condensed into two-and-a-half hours.
Finally, because it's called the Epitaph tour, what do you plan to inscribe on Judas Priest's gravestone when the time comes?
Well, we'll all have our own inscriptions. But mine should be "He screamed his lungs out." Or maybe "Old Leatherneck lies here!"