Thursday, July 16, 2009

Judas Priest's Glenn Tipton: The Cream Interview

Posted by on Thu, Jul 16, 2009 at 6:06 AM

click to enlarge glenn_tipton_sm.jpg

In honor of Judas Priest's upcoming performance of British Steel in its entirety--which will be going down at Municipal Auditorium next Wednesday--I've decided to post my Q & A with guitarist Glenn Tipton "in its entirety." I interviewed Tipton for this piece that I wrote in the current dead-tree edition of the Scene. Mr. Tipton was extremely nice and gracious, but, like most bigger artists, was pretty hard to get off of his script. Nevertheless, this should be of interest to any Cream readers of the hesh variety. In other Priest news, Municipal Auditorium is offering a buy two tickets get two tickets free deal for the show next week. You can purchase those through this link.

Nashville Cream: How's the tour going so far?

Glenn Tipton: The tour is fantastic; it's really been well-received. As you know we're playing British Steel in its entirety and that's fantastic. Supplemented with other songs from that era....

NC: What are some of the songs that you've been doing that aren't off British Steel?

GT: We've been doing "Rock Hard Rock Free," "Hell Patrol," "Another Thing Coming," the original version of "Diamonds and Rust," "Freewheel Burning" and "The Ripper" to name but just a few.

NC: Do you change it up from night to night, or do you keep it the same?

GT: We keep it more or less the same. We're doing "Victim of Changes" and we started doing "Rock Hard Ride Free" unless we're doing "Hell Patrol", but basically it's the same. We have to keep it the same for production really. The production guys need to know what we're doing.

NC: What kind of things should we expect from production?

GT: Production is fantastic. We've got the bike of course, the Harley comes on stage. An incredible lighting rig this time that all moves around. It's quite incredible, really. We really were surprised in production rehearsals at how good it all looks We've got lasers, we've brought lasers back. It's a great live show, great production.

NC: So when you play the record do you just play it in order from start to finish?

GT: We do except we play it in the European order and this it quite funny because we didn't realize there were two running orders one was released in Europe and the American running order was slightly different so we're actually doing the European running order.

NC: Do you think the fans are familiar with that?

GT: Well, they will be once they come to the show.

NC: Is there ever a loss of spontaneity that you notice when people know what the next song in the show is going to be?

GT: Not really, I mean it's the same question are you going to fed up with playing "Living After Midnight" or "Breaking the Law" the fact is once you get on stage when you hear the roar of the audience it's just like the first time you played it, it's just as exciting as ever. It's the same thing with running order people in a way know what to expect it's even better because they anticipate what's coming next and it's exciting for them.

NC: Right, how would you say the British Steel record has aged after three decades?

GT: Well, hopefully not very much. I mean one of the best compliments that's ever been paid to Priest is that our music is fairly timeless and I think [British Steel] falls into that category. We can still go on stage and play "Steeler" or "Rapid Fire" or "the Rage" and the audience really enjoys it, so I suppose in a sense we're very lucky that our compositions have stood the test of time.

NC: Do you feel that the band gets better critical reception now than it did 30 years ago?

GT: I wouldn't say it's a better reaction now, it's as good, but you know we've always been a live act. It's never been us and the audience, it's the whole thing and if you're going to watch a Priest show you know the audience sings along with the chorus, the verses, and even the lead breaks. So, we've been fortunate, the reaction has always been good for Priest.

NC: The short film Heavy Metal Parking Lot obviously cemented your audience as part of rock 'n' roll lore, 23 years later how is the audience you see at your shows today different from that audience in 1986?

GT: Well, we've been very fortunate that we've had a lot of young people coming to the shows and we've got the older Priest fans that have been there from day one and have been very loyal throughout the years, but we've got a lot of young kids in the audience and some are brought by the parents or turned on by the parents but others have discovered the band in their own right and it's really surprising just how many young people are at Priest shows.

NC: Do you get to meet a lot of the fans at the shows?

GT: We do on occasion. Not always, I mean obviously we come and do our job and then go, but when we need to or if there's an opportunity we certainly do meet with the fans.

NC: Your brand of metal music has become widely accepted a this point as classic rock, and this year Metallica was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. What do you think the chances are of Priest being inducted?

GT: I have no idea. I mean I don't really know if there's a jury that votes people in or how they decide who goes in or why. I would think after over 35 years of flying the flag for heavy metal we might get in there one day, but we'll wait and see.

NC: So you don't really think about it?

GT: I don't really think about it, no. I mean, you know, if it happens it would be nice but it's not the sort of thing you sit around waiting for.

NC: Do you listen to any contemporary metal bands?

GT: I listen to everything really. I listen to everything across the board: melodic music, pop music, heavy metal, classical music, film themes. There's not one area of music I concentrate on. I've always been the same, I have a very wide attention span, if you like, for music and I pull my inspiration from many areas.

NC: On British Steel I noticed there are a lot of elements of other genres besides metal, even reggae comes to mind. What would you say the band's most un-metal influence was?

GT: You know it's difficult to say because obviously there are three main writers in the band, Rob, K. K., and myself and we're very fortunate that there's a very unique chemistry there on a writing level and we all draw inspiration from different areas you know. I can't speak for Ken or Rob, I know that my tastes are very diverse; I listen to film themes and things like that, so I think that's the secret really. It's quite magical when we get in a room together because we all have such diverse influences and we draw from many areas, so when we get together there's a massive selection to draw from and some pretty magical things happen when we get together.

NC: I noticed you did a double record last year.

GT: That's right, yeah, Nostradamus.

NC: Are you playing some songs off that at the show?

GT: Yeah, we're doing one at the moment. We use an intro, which is "Dawn of Creation" and we play "Prophecy" but obviously that isn't what this tour is all about, this is a 35-year celebration of Priest and that's why we're playing British Steel. As we've said before in one or two interviews the ambition, the intention we have is to at some point play Nostradamus in its entirety. It's something we'd really love to do. It's an mammoth task and we'd need to do a lot of rehearsals, production rehearsals, but it's something we really would like to do possibly next year or the year after.

NC: I see you guys are putting out a live record next week?

GT: That's right. It's basically all the Priest tracks that we've recorded that have never been released before. So, that's about to be released.

NC: Are you going to be selling that at the concerts?

GT: I doubt it, I have no idea, but I doubt we'll be selling it at the concerts.

NC: That seems like it would be a good place to sell it.

GT: Yeah, I could stand on the steps just prior to going on stage. Two for the price of one (laughs).

NC: Have you played the game Guitar Hero?

GT: I haven't played it myself, no...I've never played the game, but I think it's a great idea. I think that in this day and age when you get video games that advocate bad things like guns, violence, and drugs a lot, I think it's great to have these games based around musical instruments like the guitar and to encourage kids to pick up an instrument you know. I'm very much for that and it's a great way to introduce kids to our music. It's an excellent idea.

NC: One of the versions of the games has a character based on your look?

GT: Yeah that's right, the same look I'm using at the moment on the British Steal tour, what comes around goes around, right?

NC: How does it feel to be putting on the leather and all that after 30 years?

GT: It's great, I mean you know as individuals we're all different people in Priest and we come from different areas and have our likes and dislikes but when we go on stage we don the leather and become an entity and that entity is Judas Priest. It feels very comfortable and natural for us, the right thing to do, and we go on stage and hammer out some heavy metal.

NC: I have a couple reader submitted question for you.

GT: OK, yeah!

NC: One reader wanted to know your thoughts on the Mark Kozelek song "Glenn Tipton," if indeed you've heard it.

GT: I haven't heard it actually, but I did know there's a song about me, I hope it's good.

NC: Yeah, I believe it compares you and K.K. Downing's friendly rivalry to that of Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston.

GT: Oh, great!

NC: The next reader wants to know if you have any preliminary plans for the next studio album, and how many more albums you think you guys have left in you.

GT: We haven't got any plans at the moment, but only because we never do. We always finish a touring cycle first and this one will finish in Japan in October and then we'll probably take a break through Christmas. Then next year we'll sit down at the table and decide what we're going to do next. How many more albums have we got in us? I'm not sure, you never know what's around the corner but at the moment we've got a lot of energy and enthusiasm and we love every minute of it. So, I'd be quite optimistic about that, but I can't say at the moment we never do plan ahead, we've always been very spontaneous.

NC: Another question from a reader, well first of all, have you seen the movie Rock Star?

GT: We saw some shorts from it. We were asked when the movie came out to write some material for it, but when we saw the shorts we decided to distance ourselves from it. It was obviously based on Ripper [Time Owens, Rob Halford's replacement during the '90s] who was in a band that played cover versions to get to the real thing. The real story is amusing and dramatic and there are some very funny stories to recap there. We just thought the movie [was typical Hollywood] and didn't represent anything really that we were about so we decided to stay clear of it.

NC: Okay, that pretty much answers his question, because he wanted to know how similar to the real account of the band it was.

GT: Oh no, not similar at all really. I think that the true story was a lot more interesting but there you go.

NC: Did they ask for your input when they were writing it or anything like that?

GT: Like I said, they asked us to get involved with the music but we decided to stay well clear of it.

NC: Given all these things like Guitar Hero and the movie and all that stuff, what would you say the bands legacy is at this point?

GT: I just hope that people think of their favorite Judas Priest song and it takes them back in time to a great year in their life, a great time in their life. Our music seems to reflect a lot of memories for people and I hope they're all good memories, they seem to be, and that would be my aim really.

NC: What's your best memory?

GT: My best memory? I've just got 35 years or 40 years of magical memories touring the world and playing heavy metal, I mean, what better life could you ask for really? It's just been fantastic.

NC: What's you favorite place to go and play?

GT: It's difficult to say. It's really an impossible question to answer because every country has its own character. The Latin countries are very wild. Even places like Chile and Turkey have thousands of metal fans, it never ceases to surprise me really just how popular metal is. We can go to Chile and 15,000 to 20,000 kids show up, go to Turkey 15,000 kids show up, parts of Russia, the far East, America obviously. So, people don't underestimate the popularity of heavy metal. Each country has its own character and in its own way is enjoyable.

NC: Thirty years ago did you image you'd still be this popular?

GT: No, absolutely not. Thirty years ago if someone said I'd still be on stage I'd say, "your crazy" but I'm here and enjoying it.

(Thanks to our editorial intern Rachel Warrick for transcribing this.)

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