05/10/2013 12:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Epitaph : A Conversation with Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Plus Agnetha Fältskog and Fortress Social Club Exclusives



Agnetha Fältskog might be best known as "the blonde from ABBA," but her musical prowess did not stop when the Swedish pop band ended. After decades of releasing some of the most compelling pop hits like "Dancing Queen," "Waterloo" and "Fernando," Agnetha is back with her first recorded material in over 10 years. Earlier this year we saw the release of her video for "When You Really Loved Someone" and today, for the first time anywhere, you can hear a darker side of Agnetha's songwriting in her song "Bubble," the audio exclusive presented here. Both will appear on her new album entitled simply A, which will be available May 13th.

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A Conversation with Judas Priest's Rob Halford

Mike Ragogna: Let's talk about the new DVD/Blu-ray Epitaph, which represents a kind of summation of Judas Priest's works to this point, right?

Rob Halford: Yeah, I think it's definitely a reflection on all of the wonderful things we've been able to achieve. I think it's important for any musician to kind of pause and reflect. First, we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was to play a cut from every one of our records. We wanted to try and capture the musical adventures that we've been through, right from that first recording, Rocka Rolla, all the way to Nostradamus. It was very exciting to play on tour because one minute we would be in the '70s, then we're in the'00s, then the '80s. It was just a really solid moment for all of us, and it was nice to look back at almost forty years.

MR: The fact that all this material stood next to each other, regardless of what the era was, speaks volumes for the solidness of the catalog.

RH: It's just amazing. You're doing all these things--writing, then recording and releasing an album, then you're going out to play--you're never really aware of all of the things that are coming back to you. People call it a journey, and I think that's been very true in the case of Judas Priest. The road has had its potholes, but we've always seemed to find the road and get to the place that we're trying to get to.

MR: Since it is called "Epitaph," are you going through some kind closure, maybe making a few discoveries about the band and yourself in the process?

RH: Yeah, it's a bit like lying on the heavy metal psychiatric couch. It's very cathartic. Of course, a lot of the emotions don't really come to the surface until you say goodbye to your road crew and everybody goes back to their respective homes. I think that's how we all felt. I think, more than anything, it was a very evocative and stimulating sense of realization. It was very empowering--I think that's the word I'm looking for. It was all good things, nothing on the down side came through.

MR: How did your band mates react? What were some of their thoughts?

RH: First of all, as a singer, I'm amazed by their playing. I just don't know how all that remains in your memory banks, and you're able to replicate it with such precision night after night. I'm just very proud of being in the company of such talented players. We've gone from hypothermia in the back of a van in Stuttgart, to standing onstage together at a sold out Madison Square Garden. All of those things run through your mind, and you're overwhelmed, really, with the memories and the information.

MR: Are there any songs that you particularly enjoyed playing during the tour?

RH: I think the track from Sad Wings Of Destiny called "Victim Of Changes." I always looked forward to performing that song. I always loved that track because it has all the elements of metal. It's just got all the great attributes of heavy metal expression in one track.

MR: Tell me about your fans because they've been growing with you for forty years as well. Can it be as familial with them as it is with the band?

RH: Yeah, you can't do anything without the fans--I mean, you can sit down and write, but musicians need to go onstage and show off what we do. Today's world is so full of talent, for a young metal fan to pick Judas Priest as their favorite metal group is a tremendous thrill. That's one of the great things about our concerts, is that you could see a sixteen year old metal head sitting next to a sixty year old metal head, and it feels legit.

MR: And with a band that has your longevity, you see the love of your music passed down from father to son, etc.

RH: The great thing about that is that those emotions and that connectivity is world wide. It doesn't matter where you are--Japan, Venezuela, London, Toronto--anywhere. It's just a very cool vibe that exists. You might not be able to understand the language where you are, but the metal language is universal, and that what makes the whole thing so fulfilling. I love that metal continues to embrace every segment of society--male, female, gay, straight. It's just got this very unusual attribute that makes it appealing and approachable to all walks of life.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

RH: Enjoy yourself. Don't be content with anything less than your best. Keep it simple, but at the same time dream big. Be prepared to work hard.

MR: That's great Rob. Thanks for the conversation and and I wish you all the best in the future.

RH: I've really enjoyed speaking with you, Mike. Good luck and I hope we see each other sometime later this year.

MR: Me too, you got it.

Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney

photo credit: Emily Ibarra


Premiering today is the video for "I Had To Laugh" which will appear on Fortress Social Club's full-length Dreamin' The Life, released June 18th. The group includes musicians who have recorded and toured with artists like The Matches, Maniac, Billy Ray Cyrus, Oh No Not Stereo, and The Bellrays.

In 2012, the newly opened Fortress recording studio in downtown LA provided Shawn Harris (vocals/chromatic harmonica) and Mykul Lee (guitar) the opportunity to test out their collection of vintage recording equipment. Creating what they coin as "Summer-of-Love-Fantasy Rock 'N' Roll," Fortress Social Club was born. In addition to Harris and Lee, Fortress Social Club includes Harris' sister Jo (vocalist/B-3 Organ, Mellotron), Johnzo West (lead guitarist), and Justin "Bird" Andres (bassist).

With a love for the music of John Lennon, T. Rex, The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones, Harris sums up the group by saying, "We're not trying to pretend that we are from another time, we are just creating the sort of music that has always sounded the most human and timeless to us."

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