JUDAS PRIEST - “There’s My Turbo Lover”
January 31, 2017, a year ago
Well, everybody stumbles at one point in time in their life right? We all have, we all will. You pick yourself up and dust off! But do you really know or realize the circumstances around a fumble. And aside from football, does anybody really know what that fucking means? On the turf a whistle is blown. But in real life, it’s more emotional and opinionated. And for some it’s not a fumble. So that’s the crux of the conversation. Is Judas Priest’s follow-up to the vicious and revered Defenders Of The Faith, Turbo, a fumble or just another piece in their treasured history. Hell, some say Point Of Entry was a fumble. Same with Ram It Down. But c’mon, who in heavy metal can compare with the four-plus decades of Judas Priest. Collectively it’s an output unmatched. Yeah, Sabbath might have been first, but after Gillan left that was pretty much it. Judas Priest keep freewheel burning it well to this day. A topic that was frowned upon prior to this in-depth interview. Yes, there is a new record looming. But let’s keep the turbos firing until later. And keep in mind, Rob Halford The Metal God and I have had a cool relationship for decades, hence the loose feel to this chat. So I will present it as it was. Rock hard, ride free!
BraveWords: There’s my “Turbo Lover”!
Halford: “I don't feel like one of those. I've got the worst fucking flu. The worst flu in living memory. Oh man.”
BraveWords: Well that can't be good for the voice?
Halford: “Actually my voice isn't too bad. It's the bronchial chest pain. Has it been through your part of the world, this flu epidemic?”
BraveWords: No, not really, knocking on wood (my noggin’), but we’ve had a helluva winter. Well happy new year to you, there are lots of exciting things going on in Judas Priest land.
Halford: “Well happy new year to you as well.”
BraveWords: The focus of this conversation is yet another anniversary. Judas Priest is just loaded with anniversaries it seems.
Halford: “I think they are good, but what do you think about all this Tim? I think about value. I was kind of hesitant. Like, what is the point of this? But I understand the point of detail in terms of referencing, particularly for a band like Priest. To put things into focus you have to adjust the lens often just to contemplate everything that you've been through and that you've done. And so you know, British Steel and Defenders, now Turbo. It's all overall good for the big window of Judas Priest that I feel. So here we are about to have some fun with Turbo.”
BraveWords: Since you brought it up, there are some people questioning these releases and in this case, a Turbo reissue with bonus tracks came out just over 15 years ago. So what are bands going to do when these landmark albums like Defenders Of The Faith or British Steel turn 50, or even 100! But as you age, you try to look at things half full instead of half empty and I'm sure there are generations of fans that didn't grow up with this material like you and I did. So perhaps this is a wise move. Of course the record labels think it is. It still shines a light on an important part of your career, albeit a little bit controversial.
Halford: “I will tell you what is also important. This isn't about selling units, it's more about need and an opportunity for the fans that you just mentioned to investigate the record for the first time. And I think the way it is being presented, especially around the live performance in Kansas. That's a storming show. It's on fire that performance. It was kind of difficult for me to listen to it at first because it was all going too fast. But that's where we were at at the time, everything was going a million miles an hour. How old were you in ’86?”
BraveWords: Well I’ve turned 50 so you do the math (laughing out loud) … the ripe old age of 19!
Halford: “Well that was a whole different vibe the way we were taking in music. All kinds of music, not just hard rock and metal. I was just watching a really cool show on CNN and the other night about the ‘80s, which was referencing music. What an amazing decade it was musically. It was all wrapped up in that video explosion with this brand new thing called MTV. It was a colossal decade from the beginning of the ‘80s until when Nirvana surfaced. Anyway, we were in all of that good times vibe. Because that's what it was. There wasn't really anybody blowing anybody up, as far as I can remember. The world wasn't a particularly turbulent place. They didn't seem to be a lot of angst going on, all of which gets fuelled into music. It was just a different sentiment and atmosphere and we were caught up in all that.”
BraveWords: What do you want to call it controversy or growth, Turbo was a big change from Defenders Of The Faith.
Halford: “It was, but the only thing I can reference about that; as you know we were hurtling along at a million miles an hour, doing all these records, being in the studio then going back on the road. I think Turbo was the first time that we were able to take life a little bit easier, have a little fun with it. And that's all over the record, isn't it? There's nothing extreme in terms of content or aggression. Nothing remotely like that. Songs like "Private Property" were done in a way that wasn't being vindictive.”
BraveWords: What kind of band conversations did you have? There was a noticeable, almost glammed-up change in your look, showing off your beautiful blonde mane! And how coincidental was it that two of the greatest heavy metal bands of all-time tested the waters with guitar synthesizers in the same year. But Turbo was released a few months before Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time.
Halford: “Here's the thing. I can vividly remember the day that we were in Marbella (Spain), we had rented a house on the beach, and I remember Glenn and K.K. talking about these new guitar synthesizers and ‘should we or shouldn’t we?’ There was definitely part of a consensus that we really shouldn't go there; ‘we are an electric guitar driven heavy metal band that shouldn't really mess with this type of thing.’ But at the same token, you really don't know what you're going to get. You give it a try, if it doesn't work it doesn't work. So these machines arrived and we plug them in and then all these amazing sounds started to happen. And like anything in the creative process, it gave us a burst of new ideas. And they became an important and integral part of the overall sound didn't they? That opening thing that Glenn does on “Turbo Lover” is just worldwide, everybody knows what that means. Same with “Out In The Cold”. So as we proceeded the attitude was let's go for this. If it doesn't work it doesn't work, we can always revert back to the truer sense of the guitars. But it just seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. And now of course in the landscape of everything, it's still the most controversial release we've ever had. But it's also the band that brought you Painkiller. So it is what it is.”
BraveWords: But to take it to another extreme, did you actually look at yourselves and go synthesizers? Depeche Mode and Ultravox are using synthesizers. A rock band should be doing that.
Halford: “That's a valid comment, but in all honesty I don't think we've ever put ourselves in an uncomfortable place. Because somebody else has experienced that type of atmosphere and environment, with these kinds of gadgets and inventions, that we don't go there. That's crazy. It's your head, it's your fingers. What you are going to do with this specific idea could be light years away from this same opportunity. But it's coming from a different head in a different place. That's the joy of making something unique. And that's when I feel we were able to do with Turbo. Is there any other band that you can think of in comparison, with the sounds and textures of Turbo. I haven't been able to compare it with somebody else.”
BraveWords: (Note: keep in mind I wasn't expecting this question from the Metal God, so this was the first album that sprung to mind). I remember distinctly after those first two Fastway records, the third (1985’s Waiting For The Roar) featured this disastrous cascade of keyboards, replacing those legendary “Fast” Eddie Clarke riffs.
Halford: “Again, you and I talked about every Priest album under the sun and I think we need to stay in this area that we always maintain, which is we will always try our best to give you and ourselves primarily, an album with really sound legs, that stands apart from everything else. There is no doubt that Turbo did that and it still does.”
BraveWords: Many people are hypocrites, and I’ve told you this story before. I was in the fields of Wacken and Judas Priest were headlining in front of 100,000 people and when Glenn’s first notes from “Turbo Lover” echoed, the entire crowd erupted! The lighters went up in the air, people were headbanging and dancing! It was one of the top moments of the show.
Halford: “Didn't that quantify everything to some extent? No matter how much you talk, dissect, explore and investigate, the real moment is when you play a song live. It has to be live. It's the only moment that you are really able to understand the power that a song has. I know exactly what you are saying. Why on earth should be we be putting Turbo in the set list? It's for that reason alone. It's a crowd pleaser. It's like the black sheep of the family. We wouldn’t touch Turbo with a long pole during the Painkiller time and everything else. Now suddenly it's embraced, it's nostalgic, it makes you feel good and it's got a groove. It has a great live groove definitely.”
BraveWords: No doubt about the humour and fun, but there's a lot of sex appeal with Turbo. And I must ask as a gay man who hadn't come out yet, how much was that tongue-in-cheek. What was going through your head, especially with the album artwork.
Halford: “Well the bulk of the lyrics, we all chipped in together, but I was having a helluva time with my drug and alcohol abuse. I wasn't able to work to be quite honest. So everybody kind of pitched in and I think the reference to PMRC, “Private Property” and the Turbo thing. I think Turbo came from me if I recall. I know “Out In The Cold” came from me lyrically. But the actual tone of the record, you weren't able to reference any blood and guts and so forth. It didn't really lend itself to that type of vibe. And again, going back to the guitar sound and how they made you feel. When you hear “Out In The Cold”, that takes you emotionally to a deeper place in terms of relationships. "Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days" referenced all the crazy stuff we were doing at the time. Lyrically it was child's play to some extent.”
BraveWords: Going back to your blood and guts comment, it might not be a go-to album for someone like Slayer’s Kerry King or Emperor’s Ihsahn, who we've talked about in the past as being huge fans of Judas Priest.
Halford: “Absolutely not. I know that it's Kerry’s most hated Priest record of all time. We often joke about it. You know, Rocka Rolla, Sad Wings Of Destiny, Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Point Of Entry and on and on, it's got its place hasn't it now. It's just there in the big long juggernaut which is Judas Priest, even with all these things attached to it.”
BraveWords: And you've touched upon an interesting point, because you mentioned that it was such a marathon in the late ‘70s early ‘80s to get to Defenders Of The Faith. And when that marathon ended, you headed to the pub to celebrate. And Turbo was the party after the marathon.
Halford: “Yes that is a very, very good reference. But we would've had more than a beer, we would've drank the place dry. It is what it is Tim, and I think that we were having a blast and really enjoying the great success that our fans were giving us. And that was 1986, which was a fantastic time to be around music.”
BraveWords: And to finish off our conversation, how is that other current event that I'm not allowed to ask about going?
Halford: “Ha ha … we are currently tracking and it's going to be fucking great man. You're going to love this one. I'm not just saying that, but I know really well, you are going to love this one.”
BraveWords is giving away signed lithographies of Turbo 30!!! To enter the contest you must "Like" BraveWords on Facebook and then send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “I’m Your Turbo Lover“. The winner will be chosen at random. Contest closes February 10th. Please include your snail mail in your email!
“Rock You All Around The World” (live):
“Locked In” (live):
“Out In The Cold” (live):
“Turbo Lover” video:
(Classic Turbo-era Judas Priest photos by Ross Halfin)