Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Judas Priest’s Rob Halford talks about ‘coming out’ 12 yrs ago

While on the road with his band - Halford - Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford has been opening shows for Ozzy Osbourne across North America for the past six weeks.

While Ozzy’s tour pauses for a break, Halford forges on with a series of headlining shows across the Midwest and California this month.

A longtime San Diego resident, Halford spoke to Bianca Waxlax of the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News ahead of his show there this weekend.

Here’s a bit of that interview:

SDGLN: You came out as gay in 1998 on MTV. How have things changed since then?

Well, musically they have not changed at all. On a personal level it has changed dramatically. It’s like when any of us step out of that closet and we set ourselves free there is a tremendous feeling of elation. You can be who you are without having to hide, without having to lie…and it makes you stronger, and more complete as a person. That’s the main thing that I was able to experience when I made the announcement, and from that point on my life, my personal life which has always been kind of a public life anyway, was finally revealed, and it was a great lot of pressure lifting off of my back. It really was the best thing to do. It is the best thing for any of us to do if we find that we are able to step out and be who we are without having to be something that we are not.

SDGLN: When you came out, you were working on music with your band at the time called Two. You had been working with Trent Reznor. I heard in an interview where someone stated that it was easier for you to come out in the industrial music scene as people were more accepting. Did you find it easier to come out in the industrial music scene as opposed to the metal scene?

Well, that is an interesting question. I don’t personally think that the location that I was at musically would have made any great difference. I think that what I was probably trying to say was that because I was away from the main band that was filling my life, Judas Priest, because I was always protecting Judas Priest, protecting the music, protecting the fans, protecting everybody except myself. I wasn’t able to say and do the things that I wanted to do until I was away and having these other musical adventures. So, I guess regardless of where I was musically at that time. The fact that I said and did what I did on that day wasn’t really much of an issue musically. But, anyway, I think it is fair to say that I would have been probably more difficult. I probably would have not made the announcement had I been in Judas Priest at that time. Second, because as I said when you become protective of everybody else, you don’t protect your own needs. So, things happen in life for a reason, and that was the case with my coming out at that time.

There are areas of music that are more compassionate, more tolerant, more open, more accepting and more aware. What I think I have done is destroy the myth that heavy metal bands don’t have that capacity. It’s a different world now. Heavy metal now is a completely different world compared to heavy metal in 1980. The gay and lesbian world is very different now as it was in 1980. We have all grown to some extent. There is still a long way to go. There are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed, but I think slowly but surely our lives are getting better.

SDGLN: Do you feel that your heterosexual fans received you well when you came out?

The vast majority of them did, yes. Those that didn’t were the ones that have difficulty accepting people’s sexual orientation in general. I think I made some people confront issues they were not ready to deal with, perhaps.

SDGLN: Now some fans that completely idolized you had to come to terms with their metal role model and idol was a gay man. How do you feel this affected them?

I think that it kind of demystifies this issue of masculinity. To say that if you are masculine you can’t be gay is ridiculous. Again, I can’t really say. That is a question you would have to ask my fans that felt this way. But, the vast majority of them were completely accepting of me, and it was tremendously powerful.

SDGLN: Do you feel like the gay community received you well? Do you feel like you gained a larger fan base for Judas Priest, Halford, and the projects that you were working on?

No, it didn’t change a bit. I am sure I picked up some gay fans due to my coming out. As far as anything changing dramatically, things stayed as they were.

SDGLN: Being a legendary metal front man, when most people thing of metal and rock music they think, “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” How did this expectation or stereotype play out for you as a gay man?

I had the drugs and the rock ‘n’ roll, but I was not having the sex. That is how it worked out for me. (laughs)

SDGLN: Did you feel like you had any pressure, from groupies coming around, and did other men in the bands wonder why you weren’t hooking up?

Everybody in the band knew I was a gay man, and everybody in my crew knew I was a gay man, and those were the people that I associated with on a working level. So, those questions never really arose.

SDGLN: Now it seems to me that your rock ‘n’ roll style is very reminiscent of the leather community. Can you shed some light on that?

Yeah, that is the irony, if you want to call it ironic, that there is a portion of the gay and lesbian community that lives that type of lifestyle, and I never was. I never was into that leather lifestyle. I just chose that kind of look because heavy metal for many, many years didn’t really have the visual connections and their power connected to the music. So, I just kind of experimented and felt that particular image was more sensible and worked. So, that is something that is only an assumption. So, what I am trying to say is first that is the irony, and it is also a little bit disrespectful to look at somebody like that and there is an assumption that “oh they must be gay.” Personally I think it is disrespectful, not from you, but from people who are stating it that way. I think that that is all about stereotyping. And what we try to do consistently in the gay community is break away the stereotypical imagery of how we are perceived to be by straight culture. So it’s kind of an irony tinged with stereotypical assumption. But there I was you know, and suddenly some straight people were saying, “We should have got that all along, because look at what he’s dressed like.” I think that is very insulting and very narrow-minded. But that is all just part of the equation, of who I am and what I do.

SDGLN: I can see that because the whole development of the musical persona, take Alice Cooper, Ozzy or Marilyn Manson, they all have some kind of look to them, and it may not mean that they are any particular sexual orientation or anything like that, but this just might be how they express themselves from an artistic point of view.

Exactly, and again you know that is just the public talk of persona that you have no control over. The only way you can control it is confront the comments.

Check out the full interview at the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News here.

Halford – Made Of Metal (2010)