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Interview with Rob Halford of Two By Roger Scott
photo © John Eder

March 1998

Former Judas Priest frontman, Rob Halford, a restless singer who speaks of his artistic journey like a heroic quest of self-discovery, has begun anew. After over twenty years, and two distinct bands on his résumé (Judas Priest and Fight), Halford’s intention of breaking away from the restraints of the Heavy Metal genre has lead the outspoken Englishman to his latest project, the band Two, and its debut album Voyeurs (under the creative collaboration of producer Trent Reznor).


NY Rock:

Let's just lay the ground work for a second. 1995 – Fight was one of the best bands out there. What happened?

Rob Halford of Two:

I don't hear that a lot. [Laughs.] That makes me feel good, 'cause that's part of the journey from there till now. When I put Fight together, I wanted to maintain the momentum. I didn't want to kinda disappear for five years and then come back. I was just so ready to break away from where I was before and just start the journey. To just fulfill and realize these dreams that I carry in my head.

NY Rock:

So how soon after Fight did Two come about? Was it something that you were consciously developing or was it just something that sort of happened?

Rob Halford of Two:

It was just synchronicity at work, I think. I was at the Foundation Forum a few years back and a journalist friend of mine told me about John Lowery, the guitar player. John and I got in touch. We spent a few days together in Los Angeles and we started to just sit around with some guitars and write. It's as simple as that. The beginning was very uncluttered, very unspecific, very kinda "let's just write some tunes," you know.

NY Rock:

When you're writing, do you ever say to yourself, "yeah, that's good, but it's too much like Priest. I can't use it"?

Rob Halford of Two:

No, I rarely write by myself. I was writing with people that particularly didn't have a feeling for that kind of music. Both [original producer] Bob [Marlette] and John [Lowery] don't really come from that kind of background. They're more broad-minded open musicians [who] just jump from one song to another. And that's how the music of Two is perceived. It's like, if you pull out one song by itself – think of something that's pretty extreme, [the pop-tinged] "Deep in the Ground" – that's not what Two is about. That's just one fraction. Because after "Ground," you've got [the caustic] "Stutter Kiss," and [the Metal-esque] "Leave me Alone," and [the NIN] "Bed of Rust." It's going all over the place. So I think everybody's excited about a band doing this kind of very undisciplined throwing things out there, as long as they're working, you know, as long as it sounds good.

NY Rock:

How did Trent and Nothing records become involved?

Rob Halford of Two:

It was pure coincidence. I was in New Orleans at Mardi Gras a couple of years ago with some friends. I pointed out Trent's studio and I just knocked on the door... as simple as that.

NY Rock:

I hear he's a huge '80s Metal fan.

Rob Halford of Two:

I thought he had a dislike of Heavy Metal. I've been saying to people that Trent hates Metal and I've actually been saying the wrong thing. See, I don't know Trent on a personal level; I only know him as a musician.

We just clicked musically… when he called me up after listening to the demo, a few months later, he said, "Do you want a record deal?" I was like, "Ahhh... yeah... that would be great." But I couldn't understand why? And then he told me that he had been listening to the music and he had a vision. He could hear them in a different way. And could we take them and break them down and build them up again, with his interpretation?

NY Rock:

There was some critical back-lash against David Bowie when Reznor produced him. Trent's got a very distinct musical identity, whether he's producing Marilyn Manson or Prick. Were you ever concerned that his influence might be a bit too much for what you were doing?

Rob Halford of Two:

No, I didn't think about it. I just accepted his involvement because I didn't really know what was going to happen, honestly. I just knew that this was somebody who was a visionary, an incredible talent, and he was in his own exclusive world. It was such an unusual thing to contemplate that I was excited about what could take place. But by the same token, I think that everything Reznor's done outside of Nails is pretty different. There is separation; there is a musical identity that lets itself come forward.

NY Rock:

Do you think that Two will take some of your older fans by surprise, in terms of what some of it sounds like?

Rob Halford of Two:

There are some members of the music public that are very conservative. They only want one kind of thing. And that's fine, but don't put me in there because I'm not that kind of individual. I'll always have a totally open mind to endless possibilities. I want to do a dance album. Not Techno, but a record that's exclusively designed for people to dance to. That whole dance genre is kinda into its own world. I'd just like to get in there and mess around with that.

NY Rock:

What's going on with this whole "Metal Nostalgia" movement right now? Ratt [mid-'80s glam metal band] and Twisted Sister are touring again, the Kiss reunion, the Van Halen debacle; Judas Priest has a new disc out...

Rob Halford of Two:

It's a human necessity; it's affection. You establish yourself as something that you look back on as you move forward. You think of a moment in your life when you felt right and you identify with that moment. You want to keep that moment living inside you emotionally. And the best way to do that is to have the thing happening in front of you on a stage or on a record.

Human beings are nostalgic creatures; we all behave that way. It's a comforting place to be: you feel okay there, you're not irrationally confused and panicky. People grow up and live in the same city forever; people stay in the same apartment forever; people stay in the same job forever; we're creatures of habit.

That's how I was for a portion of my life and it took me a while to realize that if I did that, I'm not going to go anywhere else. I wanted to go to other places. I wanted to have different experiences. And the way you can do that is to go from this room, open the door, and go into another room – it's so close... it's like you can't see the wood for the trees. When you're an artist, especially. It's very comforting to be successful. You've got money in the bank. Your music keeps selling. There's people coming to your shows... everything feels great, you get complacent.

NY Rock:

I have to ask the inevitable... at some point, you must have been asked about a Judas Priest reunion?

Rob Halford of Two:

I would never do it. I'm not just saying that now and five years from now I'm gonna be on stage with Priest again. I value my personal creativity and my integrity more than a few dollars in the bank. It's never the same the second time around, especially when there's something more attached to it than the music. Reunions smack of big dollars, instead of people feeling that they want to go out and play music together. That's not to dis some of these people who have gotten together: I love Fleetwood Mac. It's still to me, the same thing. There's something about that band and that music, that defies time, but doesn't make it cheesy. Some other bands with the bulging waistline, and the receding hair... let me get my old videos out. That's being bitter and cynical, and so be it, but that's just the way it is from my perspective.

NY Rock:

So Two is it for now. There's no turning back and from what you've been saying, it sounds like who knows what's next?

Rob Halford of Two:

In the truest artistic way, yes, it's pleasing yourself. And some people view that as a very selfish statement, but it's not. Artists have to be true to their own beliefs, wishes, dreams, and desires. You don't do for anybody else, otherwise you become a product. Just another loaf of bread on the shelf. You have to go out there and go, "This is representative of where I'm at, at this particular time."

I'm very, very grateful and I feel very, very lucky that I've had a career. A lot of musicians don't. Put on MTV right now and I guarantee 60 to 70 percent of those people will be gone by the end of 1998. And that's the whole, hard, cruel, brutal fact of the industry. Those of us who worked hard, that have a talent, that have a gift, that were supported, and nurtured – and "nurtured" is the very important word – will have more than one record, will have more than one video, and will go on to do different things. I just count my blessings. I'm a very lucky man.


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