At this point in time, Judas Priest is not just a band, but a British institution. One of the forefathers of the movement that came to be known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, they are now more popular than ever. Having been through ups and downs in the music industry, lineup changes and all kinds of hardships that any band goes through, they always seem to come out stronger. Evidence of that can be demonstrated by the fact that they are ready to embark on the third North American leg of the current tour, promoting the critically acclaimed 2018 album Firepower.
Kicking off on May 03rd at the Hard Rock Live Event Center at The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, the upcoming 32 dates will have Uriah Heep as the opening act, and will count on different production and different setlist than the previous treks of the Firepower tour. The band has been very vocal about the fact that they are digging deep into their catalog to bring out songs they haven’t played in a long time, or maybe never before. Quite frankly, if you’re a half respectable metal fan, this tour is one not to be missed.
One of Rodrigo Altaf’s long-standing dreams was to interview Judas Priest, and this Sonic Perspectives collaborator had his dream come true when he spoke with their bass player Ian Hill about the upcoming tour. You’ve already read our review of Priest’s amazing album Firepower here , and now you can check out the chat with Ian Hill on the link below. Listen to their conversation or read the transcript, and subscribe to our Podcast in several platforms to listen and be notified about new interviews and contents we publish on a daily basis.
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Interview made possible by The Hard Rock Live Event Center at the Seminoles Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, where Judas Priest will be kicking off their “Firepower 2019” tour next Friday May 3rd at 8:00 PM with Uriah Heep as special guests. Tickets for what promises to be a great night of metal are still available at this location.
Ian, thank you so much for talking to us today – how are the preparations for the upcoming dates in North America?
They’re going really well, thanks! I’m in my own studio at home at the moment, just going through some of the songs that we were going to be playing. We have a bit of time before we get together as a band and kick all the new songs that we’ve been learning around and then see which ones we’re gonna fit into the set.
There’s been talk of you guys playing some deep cuts on this tour, right? Is there a song in particular that you’re looking forward to play?
Oh, there’s a whole load of them! [laughs]. There’s some stuff we haven’t played in a long time! Then there’s the new record as well, which I’m very much looking forward to playing. Hopefully we’ll get them all in, you know, we have ten or eleven new songs here. We want this to be a fresh experience because we’ve already been to North America twice on this tour. The production going to be different too, you know, so it will be something very new.
For me it’s amazing that FIREPOWER is such a solid album at this stage in your careers – the songs you play live from that album fit like a glove with the older material, right?
It fits right in, yeah! It’s a very strong album. I remember when I first heard the rough demos of the album, which I got from Glenn [Tipton, guitar player], Richie [Faulkner, guitar player] and Rob [Halford, singer] and thought to myself ‘this is going to be a great album!”.
Will Glenn be travelling with the band this time around as well? How’s he doing health-wise?
He’s about as good as you can expect him to be. The problem with Parkinson’s disease is that at the moment it’s uncurable. New treatments are coming through all the time, but it’s not something you can control. As far as the tour goes, Glenn will come out when he can and when he’s feeling fit enough. I can’t say for certain, I don’t want anybody going ahead and buying a ticket based on me saying he’s going to show up. Because he might not being able to, you know. He will when he can, and will come out and play some of the encores maybe, but I’m afraid I can’t promise.
You’ll have Andy Sneap filling in for Glenn on this tour – what’s the plan for his role? Are there talks of making him a permanent member at some point in time and have him and Glenn contributing?
It’s early days at the moment. He’s doing great work, but his first calling is as a producer. I know he’s put a lot of projects on the backburner while he’s filling in for Glenn on this tour, and obviously he’s going to have to fit those in sooner or later. However, when it comes to Priest, it’s up to him, really, if he can afford the time. I don’t know how many years we’ve got left [laughs], but he’ll make a decision when the time comes. He really jumped into the role, and had two or three weeks to get a complete set of songs together and he pulled the rabbit out of the hat and did a tremendous job. He’ll be filling in on this North American leg and we’ll take it from there – we’ll sit down and talk, and see what he wants to do.
Looking back on such a lengthy career, you’re the only guy from the original lineup – do you find that through the years your role in the band has changed? Meaning, do you think you have more of a say in the decisions than before?
Not at all. We’ve always been a very democratic band. Ideas come forward from all of us, and we sit down and discuss it. If someone’s really adamant about doing something or about not doing something, we’ll go with it. In general, the majority votes and that will be it. However, no, my role hasn’t changed at all.
I’m curious as to why you never released albums with other bands, or did any side projects? Did you ever feel the need to branch out and maybe play other styles of music?
I didn’t really. If I did, I’d probably go back to my roots and play some blues, because that’s what I was brought up on. If I ever feel inclined to do something like that I’d put together a blues combo and release something along those lines. You never know! [laughs]
In one of the North American legs you had Saxon and Black Star Riders as support acts, on the next one there was Deep Purple and The Temperance Movement, now you’re bringing Uriah Heep. I need to ask you because this would be my dream lineup – what would it take to have Priest, Maiden and Saxon on the same bill?
Probably divine intervention! [laughs]It really would be great to get a bill like that together. It would be absolutely tremendous to see three iconic British bands like that together touring. It’s something that has been talked about for a long time now, and we never had the chance. Again, you never know!
You probably have so many memories of amazing crowds – Donnington, Rock in Rio – would you be able to pick a favorite show, or the highest point in your career?
It’s a tough call! We played some immense shows. We played the US Festival in California back in 1983 and around 350,000 people showed up, and that was absolutely immense. Then of course, there’s the Live Aid thing we did in Philly. On the other hand, we want to get to the smaller places and get close to the fans, which is what we’re doing on this leg. We’re looking forward to getting that energy from the fans.
Is there any album in your discography that you look back on and think it could have come out differently?
That’s another difficult question. Going back to any album there’s always things you’d change here and there, but you never know unless you have a time machine and get back to the time you recorded it [laughs]. Obviously, things like our first album Rocka Rolla could have been mixed better, let’s put it like that. There’s always things you would like to have been done better.
How would you compare yourself to your contemporaries such as Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Chris Squire – do you think about music in those terms, as a competition?
Not at all. We do what we feel and what comes from ourselves. I’ve been very lucky in as much as our fans enjoy what I do. However, I don’t look at other players and think “oh, he can play quicker than me, or he can play a different scale” or what have you. I do what I do and what I think is necessary for the song and go from there. Otherwise, everybody would end up being in a jazz band [laughs]
This upcoming tour is the third North American leg, and you’ll probably have some rescheduled dates touring with Ozzy soon. Can we expect a follow up to Firepower being recorded this year still?
That’s very much in the cards, we’re already discussing that. If I know Glenn, he’s already sitting at home knocking riffs and chord sequences out! We might get back home to an album’s worth of material [laughs]. Yeah, and there were some very strong ideas that were left out of Firepower which we never got around to completing. So it’s very much on the cards. When that will happen, I don’t know. We’ve got this leg to come and the Ozzy shows as you mentioned which have been rearranged to February. Next year is going to be our 50th year celebration, so probably some time after that. We’ll see when we can get our heads to it.
Ian, thank you so much for your time today, and I wish you a great tour ahead!
Thanks Rodrigo, bye for now!