Judas Priest - Broken Up!
By Martin Popoff

"It's coming along fine, yeah. Ken, Glenn and Rob are hard at it. Or they were, because they've sort of broken up for Christmas now. Rob has gone back to the states for Christmas and we'll reconvene in January. The material is pretty much written and it just needs to be routined now, i.e. get into the studio and put it down."
That's the word from Priest bassist Ian Hill, on the assemblage of the reunion album with Rob Halford, Hill adding that "it's going to be typical Priest. We're going to carry on from where Rob left off. You know, a step forward from Painkiller. It will be a varied album. There will be slow, fast, heavy, light, the usual cross-section of music that we have on our albums, a good variety."
But while the band shockingly remains broken up for the holidays, you'll have the Electric Eye DVD to warm your decorative balls. Electric Eye features a whopping 13 production videos, an '86 concert comprising 19 tracks, plus the real gem of the thing (and the only previously unreleased part), six tracks recorded at various times from '75 to '80 for either Top Of The Pops or Old Grey Whistle Test.
Ian is most bemused by the clothes the band wore on those early TV spots. "We went through many, shall we say, contemporary images (laughs). The leather and studs really came in about British Steel time, about 1980. Before then, it was a whole catalog of different looks and styles. It was cool at the time, believe me. I know it doesn't look like it, but it was cool at the time, high-heeled boots, satins and all the rest of it. We were individuals. There wasn't any real coherent plan. We didn't sit down and say, this is the image we have to portray. We just got on with our own images. It wasn't until the leather came along that it sort of fit perfectly with what we were trying to do. The leather and studs and heavy metal were really made for one another."
"Top Of The Pops, everyone used to mime on there," explains Hill. "Basically because there were so many acts on it, it would have been logistically impossible to have everyone playing live. You'd spend a week trying to record it. But Old Grey Whistle Test was live. You would set up in the afternoon, do soundchecks. And I think there were only a couple of bands on. It wasn't too much of a nightmare getting in there with changeovers. There are pads put on the drums and you use plastic cymbals. And then there was a playback, not too loud. We were never really good at miming, I must admit. We were a live band and we hated doing it. It was against our philosophy. On the two occasions when we did Top Of The Pops, we were playing our hometown, Birmingham, on the same evening. And on both occasions we were late. They forgave us the first time, but I don't think they ever forgave us the second time, the following tour, when exactly the same thing happened. They say, we'll get you on first, we'll record your part first, and you'll be able to get back. Because obviously, the recording was in London at the BBC studios there. And the last time, they had helicopters and aircraft standing by but the weather was bad. It was a nightmare really (laughs). We were a good couple of hours late. But the audience, God bless them, they sort of sat there and waited for us."
And with respect to the Turbo tour concert? "I can remember that tour vividly," recalls Hill. "It was a great production. That was one of the reasons we used the tape. We wanted to portray a full Priest production show in all its glory. And that was one of the best tours, with the robot, lights, lasers. Sometimes there were problems. A large robot would come out in the back of the stage, behind the drum riser and it would actually pick up Ken and Glenn. And on a couple of occasions, things would happen and they would be left hanging up in the air. There were a few hairy moments."
Finally, Ian offers a few Michael Jackson-style pictures from the fairly extensive video canon of the band, offered in all its sometimes amusing glory on the DVD package. "Videos are more grueling than you think. You tend to be sitting around for ages doing nothing punctuated by a few minutes of intense activity. I think I remember on the 'Don't Go' video, I remember Rob throwing up into his space helmet one time (laughs). He does this flying thing in a spacesuit and he's up on wires and they're spinning him around and all this business and he actually threw up in the helmet (laughs). That was quite an event. And yes, on 'Hot Rockin'', Rob set his boots on fire and he couldn't put it out; he had all this jelly stuff on his palm, I think. And he couldn't get his boots off because they were hot. He was running around there until somebody found a fire extinguisher."
All that money spent on videos (not to mention the singed hairs!), is worth it though, figures Hill. "I mean, it helped to promote the album. You can add a few thousand album sales on there. So whatever you spent on the video, you would recoup it. And of course, there's always the opportunity to release the video in its own right, as we're doing now with the DVD."
A couple of European festival dates are already set up, preceding what Ian says will be a world tour. Best estimates from Hill put the release date of the first Priest album with the Metal God at the mike in over 20 years as June-ish, basically just before the summer tour cranks up. Keep watching this space for regular updates.