Code-"Breaking the Law": Chris Jericho & Judas Priest: Part one

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May 11, 2010

In 1980, Judas Priest released British Steel, an album that is revered as the definitive heavy metal album and helped create the attitude associated with the genre of music. This week, Judas Priest released British Steel: 30th Anniversary Edition to celebrate the album's original release. WWE's Superstars often resonate with heavy metal music, whether through their entrance theme, their ring attire or their attitude. You can purchase British Steel: 30th Anniversary Edition by clicking here.

The latter is certainly the case with Chris Jericho. The four-time World Champion and lead singer of the rock band Fozzy brings the attitude associated with heavy metal to being a WWE Superstar.  While Jericho may claim to be "the best in the world at what he does," many in the heavy metal community consider Judas Priest as the best heavy metal band of all time. In this exclusive Superstar to Superstar interview, Chris Jericho talks with Judas Priest's Rob Halford, K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton commemorating 30 years of British Steel.

Read part two of this exclusive interview.

CHRIS JERICHO: How does it feel to re-release a monumental record like British Steel 30 years later? Did you think this would ever happen?

ROB HALFORD: Judas Priest has been going out on the road and recording for well over three decades. You're doing so much, making metal and greeting fans, when all of a sudden someone taps you on the shoulder and says, "Hey, guys, British Steel is celebrating 30 years." We all look at each other like "What?!"  But here we are, and it is absolutely fantastic. The record, the music, everything attached to it, it was the beginning of a new decade then and a tremendous series of events that lead to it. Of the many metal moments we've had making music, this is one of the coolest.

K.K. DOWNING: It feels totally great and rewarding. I think collectively we are all surprised at the acclaim that British Steel has received and continues to receive today. The response for all of our live shows has been fantastic, and the reception over the years for the album has been amazing. I really don't think any one of us expected it.

GLENN TIPTON: No, I mean, if you asked me if I thought I'd still be on stage playing British Steel 30 years on, I'd have said no. I guess a career in heavy metal will give you longevity. We always believed in heavy metal and stayed true to ourselves through it all, and we are still here. The best compliment that has been paid to us is that our music is timeless in a sense, and British Steel is a great example of that.

JERICHO: British Steel was Judas Priest's sixth album. When you were recording, did you feel that it was something special? That it would be as big as it has become, or was it just another record for you guys?

HALFORD: You always get a good vibe when you write your music. This was back in the days of vinyl, where we had about 20 minutes per side. The record label felt we had something special and asked us to deliver it on a certain date. But we were just "forging the furnace," so to speak, for about 28 or 29 days, which seems remarkable now. We went in with a few ideas, though we didn't have any clue where it would go. But the stars seemed to align.

TIPTON: It was a point where we adopted the leather and the studs, and while we were recording, the elements just clicked. The three of us wrote the majority of it and it took about 28 days to record and mix. It was around then that the band, the album, it was all unmistakingly heavy metal and everything fell into place.

DOWNING: Because we had been flying along at such a rate, we felt that we were just doing the best that we could at that time. It wasn't until after the release when we started thinking that we created something special.

JERICHO: Scott Ian of Anthrax is often quoted as saying that British Steel was the first true heavy metal album and established the genre. Do you feel his assessment is accurate?

DOWNING: Scott is a well-respected person in the industry with a great knowledge of many artists. I would certainly agree that for Judas Priest, it was the album that consolidated the band. The lyrics, the riffs, the song titles and the artwork all went together and inspired the band to don the metal and studs that would become the definitive image of the band forevermore.

TIPTON: It depends on what you classify as heavy metal. We've always been very proud of the tag, especially when other bands have disowned it at certain times because it was unfashionable. Every album Judas Priest released was different than the one before, and British Steel was no exception. You could say it was more commercial, but it really wasn't at all. I think right around that time it inspired a lot of bands, and a lot of those bands followed British Steel's lead.

JERICHO: Do you believe that British Steel marked the end of the disco era of the 1970s and ushered in the wave of hard rock throughout the 1980s?

HALFORD: We had kind of already established ourselves, but 1980 was the beginning of a new decade, and there was a rush of new wave British heavy metal. There was Motorhead, Motley Crüe and Iron Maiden, and I think everybody was looking to see what was coming next.

TIPTON: Every album we've done is like a different chapter in the history of Judas Priest; they all have their own character while staying true to the band. I think that Judas Priest went a long way to launch heavy metal into the next decade and ushered in that wave of hard rock.

JERICHO: British Steel was not only a breakthrough in British heavy metal, but it really was one of the first to be played on the radio and break onto the American music scene. What do you think caused this breakthrough?

HALFORD: It was a bit of a crash-and-burn experience, but a handful of really talented bands were able to make it through. You know, if we had made British Steel five years before, it would have been an entirely different experience. But for us, this was the first time Glenn, KK and I wrote together as a trio, and that, I think, had some bearing in the construction of British Steel.

DOWNING: I can remember feeling like a fish out of water when we first came to the States whilst playing with bands like REO Speedwagon, Foghat and Blue Oyster Cult, among others. It was very exciting to be the new kids on the block, and I am glad to say that the American fans quickly showed their support for the raw energy that Judas Priest could deliver.

TIPTON: I'm not sure what it was about Judas Priest; we used to just get together and write our music, especially for British Steel. I think we just struck a chord, particularly with college kids at the time. Everybody has a favorite Judas Priest song that they remember from a certain era. We were fortunate to strike the right chord on the east coast, west coast, mid-west, south, and we just became a part of American youth's lives, in a sense.

Read part two of this exclusive interview. (Buy British Steel: 30th Anniversary Edition by clicking here.)

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