In celebration of Pride Month, JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford connected with Apple Music's Hattie Collins to talk about being a young gay musician in the late 1970s. Rob shared the difficulty of social pressures holding him back from coming out, writing "Raw Deal" inspired by the idea of Fire Island, and his unplanned coming-out story.
Speaking about what it was like to become the first metal icon to announce he is gay in 1998 during an MTV interview, despite knowing about his sexuality since he was 10, Halford said: "It was beautiful. It was very unplanned. It was one of those things where I'm at MTV in New York, I'm talking about a project that I was working on called TWO, with myself and John 5, the amazing guitar player. I was doing the rounds in New York City and ended up at MTV talking about this project. And in the casual course of the conversation, we were talking about the overall music, and the direction, and the feelings. And I said something to the effect of, 'Well, speaking as a gay man… blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' And then I heard the producer's clipboard bounce on the floor. It was one of those gay sharp intakes of breath, 'Oh my God! He's come out.'
"And so that was it. So it was very simple. I think if I'd… I still say today, if I'd have really thought this through, like today's the day I'm going to come out, maybe I even wouldn't… maybe I may not have come out per se, because it's still a big moment for so many of us, with a close friend, with someone at school, with Mum and Dad, with whomever, to actually say, 'Hey, I'm a gay guy or I'm a gay girl.' It's just a big, big deal. It's just a glorious, glorious moment."
He added: “So there I was, and I did the interview, and then I walked back to the hotel, and went back to my room, and [I said], 'Well, that's it. Now everybody knows.' And then, of course, it hit the news wires and that was that.
"So wow, it was just this enormous feeling of freedom, and the pressure was gone, and there's no more talking behind your back because you have all this ammunition of power as a gay person now, as an out gay person. Nothing can hurt you because this is it. You can't throw insults, you can't throw rumors, you can't say anything negative about me because I am who I am. So that's my wonderful memory of my great coming-out day."
Last October, Halford spoke to New York's Q104.3 radio station about his recently released autobiography, "Confess", in which he described in detail how was advised to be discreet about his homosexuality given the macho hetero nature of the metal world, even though his PRIEST bandmates and their management knew he was gay and were accepting.
"When I read the audio for 'Confess', that's when it really started to hit me emotionally," Halford said. "'Cause it's one thing to read the words, but when you speak 'em out… Man, I've been on some of the most incredible journeys and experiences.
"I'm not unique in the issue of finding your own sexual identity, but certainly the way I've tried to balance that in my professional working life as a musician was tough; it was difficult," he continued. "And we go into detail how I couldn't go to clubs or bars for fear of recognition and that hitting the press, and blah blah blah, just because the world was a different place then. Of course, the long-term discovery, when I did come out, famously on MTV in the [late] '90s, when I was in the 2WO band with John 5, was that it was the most perfect example of the way the metal community is so accepting and inclusive and welcoming people from all over.
"There are no labels on us in the metal community; we're just all together," Rob added. "I think that's kind of attached to the fact that metal, for the longest time, was, like… In rock and roll, everybody was kicking heavy metal music: 'Oh, man, what is that stuff? It's nothing. It's got no value.' But we knew, as metal maniacs, this was our music; this is how we expressed ourselves. We love to listen to this music, be with each other at home listening to it. Most importantly, going to shows together. Man, please bring back those days as quick as possible. So, all of that is discussed in detail in 'Confess'."
"Confess" arrived in September via Hachette Books. It was written with Ian Gittins, co-writer of "The Heroin Diaries" by Nikki Sixx.