Heavy metal icon Judas Priest is having a rocking year. Recently, the band embarked on a new North American tour to once again celebrate its 50-year anniversary and was finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Baton Rouge can relive the glory days with Judas Priest as the band lights up the Raising Cane’s River Center for a headbanging show next Friday, Nov. 18. Though it’s been a little over 50 years since the band started, the current members still bring the heat complete with motorcycles, pyro and all the leather outfits. Tickets for the show start at $45 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.
Before Judas Priest hit the road, 225 sat down with the band’s mainstay and bassist, Ian Hill, to talk about the band’s success, anniversary, upcoming tour and more.
Judas Priest is celebrating 50 years of heavy metal. What’s a favorite memory from your time in the band?
It’s hard. It’s impossible, really, to pick anything. There’s been great instances. From a performance point-of-view, I think of gigs we played like the US Festival in 1983. That was tremendous. There were 300,000 people who showed up to that festival, which was phenomenal. And, of course, there’s Live Aid—it was a great honor to be a part of that. Those are the two salient things, and there are loads of other stupid things that have happened.
Along with the band’s 50th, you’re also celebrating a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. What does it feel like to finally receive that honor?
It feels great. I mean, we’ve been nominated before, and we haven’t got in. … When you finally get inducted, it’s a different scene altogether, because you’ve been recognized by your peers and your colleagues. It’s not like a fan, who’s into your kind of stuff anyway. It’s someone who knows what it takes to put that together—knows what it takes to put those albums together and get up on stage and perform the way you do. To be recognized by those people, I think, is a bit of an honor. We’re quite looking forward to it. I don’t have a clue what to expect, but I’m sure it’ll be a blast.
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Judas Priest was a heavy metal pioneer, but the band also started a bit of a fashion movement, with materials like leather and studs. Are those pieces in your everyday closet, or just for on stage?
It used to be at one time, but it’s not anymore. In the early days, we were influenced by all these sort of hippie-type bands, so we were in satin, velvet and those bright colors. When we released British Steel, that’s where it changed. We found this image and thought it went perfectly with the music. A leather coat, at the time, with a few studs on the lapels and a couple on the back with jeans and a pair of trainers or sneakers. Then, it evolved into some flamboyant costumes. Even now, Rob (Halford) will do three or four or five costume changes in a show. The rest of us are stuck in the clothes we started with apart from taking a shirt off, maybe. … But I’ve got more of a regular closet these days.
You’ve gained a lot of fans over the years. Now, a new generation is getting into older music through streaming services and vinyl records. What’s it like to know your music continues to make an impact?
It’s tremendous, really. It’s funny because things have gone full circle with parents and kids. When we were bringing up, we just wanted to leave all that behind. Whatever they said, we didn’t want anything to do with it. Now, it’s gone all the way around the other way, and kids, to a large extent, seem to be really interested in the stuff that their parents listened to.
When we do a record, we always try to take a step forward and make it different from the last one. We try to improve all the time, and I think it keeps the music current and relevant to modern things. … People tried to write off heavy metal years ago and say ‘Oh, metal’s dead!’ Well, what are you going to replace it with? When you take it away, there’s a void there for an alternative. It ain’t pop music. It ain’t rap music. It ain’t country music. What’s it going to be? Heavy metal will always be there. It’s bubbled underneath all these years, and I think it’ll continue to do that in one way or another.
Which song is your favorite on the current setlist?
On the present setlist? I can’t give too much away, or I’ll have to kill you. We are bringing back a really old song called ‘Genocide’ from the second record. It’s a tremendous song, and why it’s been overlooked all these years, I do not know. It was a great live song at one time. It’s one of those things where you get a new album and you have to replace songs to make way for the new material. … That was one of those songs that was dropped a long time ago, and, for some reason, was never brought back. I’m looking forward to getting up there and playing that one.
We’re excited to have Judas Priest stop in Baton Rouge for this tour. Have you ever been here before?
Yes, we have been before, and I have fond memories of Baton Rouge.
What’s coming up next for Judas Priest?
There’s an album in the pipeline, and it’s nearly finished. Most of the music is down. Rob needs to put his vocals down, which is arguably the most important thing, but don’t tell that to the guitarist! But, he’s next, and he’ll be doing that sometime at the end of this tour now into next year. We’ll get Christmas over with and see if we can complete that. … The release date will be toward the end of next year or early 2024.