I arrived at my hotel fairly early. Luckily, those “nicer”, more expensive hotels are more likely to have a room available even if you show up early, so I kept my fingers crossed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have anything, but we got all the paperwork done and they asked me to come back around noon. That was still 3 hours earlier than regular check-in time, so I call that flexibility and good service.
I went to the little cafe in the back behind the elevators, to grab a croissant and a cup of tea and thought I’d be able to hang online for a while – but since the room wasn’t ready, I wasn’t “officially” checked-in, which in turn meant that I had no room to charge it to. So, I went back to the reception. One of the girls took a quick look around and whispered: “If you don’t tell anyone, I’ll give you this for free“. It was a £10 worth Internet code for 24 hours.
I’m lucky on this tour with the free internet. It was the same in Hannover, the hotel charged 1 euro per hour and the older lady gave me a 1 hour code. That didn’t last long – so I went back to the front desk and this time there was a young girl there. I told her that 1 hour was nothing for me, I was online like…ALL the TIME. She smiled, looked around and said the same as this lady today: “Here. It’s a 48 hour code, for free. Shhh….“.
I must look like someone who REALLY needs it, haha! But I appreciate it so much. Those kind ladies deserve a hug and a medal! WiFi when you’re out travelling is a lifesaver in so many ways – as an information source and as a way of killing time and getting in touch with people. It SHOULD be for free for travellers…! Always!
Anyway, my room wasn’t ready at noon but the same girl who gave me the free internet code, helped me once again. “I have a different type of room available if you don’t mind being on the 4th floor instead of ground floor?” I took it.
The talks about the music industry walking on their knees financially wasn’t evident there at ALL. On the contrary. The ladies at the reception had me sign in and I got my visitor-ID. “Please sit down and someone will come for you”.
There were lots of screens up in the ceiling, showing music videos, it was VERY spacious, had modern, leather couches, red designer swivel armchairs and wooden floors.
I was given a guest WiFi code so I could kill some time. Nice touch.
Eventually, a young lady with an orange file that contained a bunch of papers showed up and asked the guys next to me if they were there for the Judas Priest album-listening. There were 7 of us, some guys from Finland, one from Metal Hammer Germany, a radio station from somewhere… I don’t remember now but I recognized all those names/publications. “Follow me”, she said. And like a line of ducks, we followed her through the Sony offices, like through a maze. She stopped a few times to make sure everybody was still following.
We eventually reached a room with a huge, sliding door that she slid open, and it looked pretty heavy. I walked in, and it was a big room, very modern and very expensive looking. Three leather couches, placed like an “U” around the table, looked like brand new, a big beige thick rug and a low black sofa table. On one wall, there was this huge flat-TV (a Sony, of course) and speakers. When she turned up the volume, those things almost blew my ears out…! Not that I complained…!
We all took our pens out to make notes when she turned the new Judas Priest album on and left the room. After a few minutes she came back with the track-listing, but the paper also said that we weren’t allowed to take it with us. I wonder what the point of that was, as the tracks have already been revealed on Blabbermouth??
It was just a weird thing to experience a brand new Priest-album in the company of strangers and like THAT. I’ve always made sure that my “first time” hearing a Priest-album was in a relaxed environment (=my home or my car) but this was…different. Some songs sounded like they were off Painkiller. Some were so-so and some were absolutely killer. My verdict, all in all, is that I will love this album.
I wasn’t a super fan of Angel of retribution and I definitely wasn’t a huge fan of Nostradamus either. But THIS I do like! Rob’s voice is still great and because he can’t sing those high pitch songs anymore, he’s found a different way to sing and THAT makes it new and interesting! He does some “clean” singing on one or two songs, and he’s got such a beautiful, soulful yet powerful voice on those. It was such a pleasure to hear that. I must have smiled there in my left corner of the couch.
I quickly got a favorite song, which I can’t WAIT to get so I can blast it on repeat: Secrets of the dead. LOVED it!! A few seconds before the last song had finished playing, our hostess sneaked into the room again (if there’s one thing label people are good at – it’s keeping track of TIME…!)
Some had interviews scheduled for later, some didn’t. I think that out of the 7 of us that listened to the album, 4 had actual interviews. The guy from Metal Hammer had a chat with Rob, Ian and Richie at the same time (personally I prefer one person, eye-to-eye). Another one said he was talking to Ian and Richie. So I’m guessing I was the only one who “got” the Metal God himself- Rob Halford – only…..
After the listening-thing, I asked if there was somewhere I could work (wanted to polish my interview a little) and she took me through the whole office once again (I think I would need a compas to find my way around there…!) and to the lunch room.
And when I say “lunch room” I don’t mean a tiny room with five tables. It was HUGE! Like an art gallery/industrial building type of huge, very bright with a ceiling that I wasn’t sure if it was actual daylight or “fake” light, but it was bright… Video screens playing music videos everywhere – a big billboard Elvis-sign in one corner, a slate that people “doodled” on… People having meetings in glass offices when I looked up and around… A very dynamic and cool workplace, I would have loved to work in a place like that.
I finished writing down a few more questions, when I looked around the lunch room and saw some blonde, long-haired dude. I thought it was Richie but wasn’t sure. Then I saw Ian Hill, elegantly dressed, getting himself a Fanta. And a few seconds later – there’s Rob Halford as well. You can’t miss him anywhere. A tattooed bald guy with tats on his head and arms, and sunglasses. It was the Metal God alright. And there I was, trying to look casual and cool. Oh,I don’t care, it’s just some BAND…. Yeah, right…! I honestly didn’t know where to look. My gosh.
When they finished their lunch, they left – and I sat there for another 2 hours before it was my turn. The Metal Hammer guy kept me company for a while, talked a bit about festivals and the Priest album and stuff. I told him I was also going to the Gus/Marty show and he said he had no idea they were playing. He also happens to be writing for a German guitar magazine. I told him to go check out the Symptom of the universe cover from Tampere that I had on Youtube, if he wanted to know how those two guys sounded together and he seemed like he actually really wanted to see and hear that so… I think that if he hadn’t had his ticket back paid already, he would have gone to the Guitar Universe thing as well.
And THEN……..the girl came to pick me up and “take me to a room”. She showed me to a tiny room that had a TV, DVD, a conference call phone, two leather couches but no windows. Then she left with the words: “I’ll go get Rob for you”. And there I was, alone. It’s like waiting for a doctor. You’re in there getting nervous as f**k…!
I couldn’t sit, I walked back and forth getting more and more jumpy, getting a stomach-ache and the whole deal. Why, I don’t know. I’ve met Rob so many times, I’m a jaded rock journalist (pah…! I SHOULD be by now!) yet I get this way every damn time when it comes to any Priest-member…! ESPECIALLY Rob! I guess it has to do with the huge impact they’ve had on my life. No other bands have that kind of importance.
The door opened and there he was! He entered the room with the words: “Hi, it’s nice to see you again!” And all the nervousness just went away. He has a very calming effect (believe it or not) because he’s just so easygoing, so easy to talk to, no rockstar bullshit at all, no “are you an idiot or what?”-vibes. You can ask him anything, so far I’ve never seen him as much as frown, and it’s been 25 years since the first time I met him for an interview.
He spotted a chair and said he prefers that, for his back. And we went straight to business as to not waste any time. The interview will be published eventually, so I’ll just skip what the conversation was about. But I will say, that this man really makes me happy in so many ways. With the music he has brought to my life since I was a teenager, with his voice, his performances and the inspiration that he is as a person. I so enjoy talking to him, and I would love to just be able to sit there for hours and just talk.
You just feel very relaxed and comfortable with the man, and he has an interesting way of looking at things. Sometimes he says things here and there that just makes me smile. I mean, his attitude to stardom, life and whatever, is inspiring and sometimes while he’s sitting there talking, he says something that just makes me want to hug him!
Needless to say, it felt like we only just BEGUN when a label-guy knocked at the door and said: “Last question!”. My first thought was: “What?? We only just got STARTED!” Even Rob was slightly annoyed, rolled his eyes and sighed “oh my god, aaah – never mind, ask me another question…!” But at that point I just felt like I had a million things to ask and I was nowhere NEAR being finished, which meant that I had no idea which question was the most “important” one. I just took whatever was right under my nose, about one of the songs I had heard three hours before. Suddenly it wasn’t a relaxed conversation anymore, it was stresssssful.
But I guess, looking back – Rob deserves a break. He had been talking for a few hours himself so if he had to be stuck with enthusiasts like me all day long, he would never get a breather…! We took a few photos with a CD that was released through Sweden Rock Magazine, that included an obscure, unreleased Priest-song. He was happy to pose and help getting the best picture. Once again, no sign of stress – everything cool, just take your time… Did I mention that I love the man??
He asked where I was going next, I said I was going back to Sweden, but first I was going to see the Gus G/Marty Friedman gig here in London. “Gus G? Give him my love. I love his style!” Those were the last words he uttered before he left the room.
The label guy once again entered and asked me to wait outside so I could be escorted to through the building (thank god, I had no idea where I was).It still annoys me a bit – it’s such a privilege to talk to Rob Halford. I think that even if I hadn’t been a fan (which is hard to even imagine) I would have loved the conversations with him. I was just so glad that I got a good interview – for as long as it lasted, that I went back to the hotel to relax – and smile.
Today, I’m switching hotels and looking forward to the last Gus/Marty show of this tour (well, they’re finishing tomorrow but I chose London as my final destination).
There will be more stories to tell.
– Daniela P.