Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest: “This could get a bit morbid”

Glenn Tipton has seen a lot in his time. The now 68-year old Judas Priest guitarist has been a member of one of the UK’s biggest metal names since 1974, with his career looking all but over at the moment. The band, fronted by the menacing Rob Halford, released new album Redeemer of Souls back in mid-2014 to critical acclaim, and will be touring it throughout Europe for a special show which has been dubbed a ‘greatest hits’ tour. We spoke to Tipton about the new music, still packing out massive venues and filling free time between shows.

We speak to Tipton as he and his band are getting ready to perform in Vancouver, where the band took to the stage at the city’s Hard Rock Casino. The guitarist, now 68, sounds very relaxed and calm as we begin our discussion. He starts off by telling us more about Priest’s upcoming European tour, which kicks off in Tilburg on 17 November. The show, dubbed a ‘greatest hits’, has been extended so that the band can fit in as many classics as possible. “We’re playing stuff that everyone knows, as well as stuff that people haven’t heard before” begins Tipton, adding that the band have “brought back some songs that we played a very, very long time ago, such as The Rage and Screaming for Vengeance”. The fact that extremely old songs will be played for the first time in ages is an exciting idea to grasp for baying fans, many of whom have stuck with the band since their 80s heyday. Tipton explains to us that the band will never stop playing the real classics, giving good reason for this. “If I go to see a band there are certain songs that I want to hear. As a band, we have to adhere to these rules and please our fans” he starts, still claiming that you can’t make everyone happy. “Everyone has their own favourite songs, but there are always some people whose favourite songs are left out”. On the subject of which classic songs Tipton himself can’t wait to play, he declares that Painkiller will always be a “great song”. Newer track Dragonaut is also one Tipton looks forward to playing, noting that some songs on 2014’s Redeemer of Souls are already being treated like classic Priest songs. One of these is Dragonaut, whereas Halls of Valhalla is also being received extremely well by fans old and new. He further notes that the earlier these songs become extremely popular, the better the signs are for a song’s own longevity. “It’s only early days, but these songs are being received extremely well” he calmly adds.

Aside from the music, though, Judas Priest are planning on bringing a spectacular show with them. “The stage will be full of LED screens, something which is quite different for Priest, yet still spectacular” he tells us, adding that Priest are a band used to playing theatrically and that it’s something they revel in. Earlier this year, Judas Priest played a big set at the legendary Download Festival, sub-headlining Slipknot on the opening day. Tipton tells us that Download is definitely one of their favourite festivals to play, also noting that Wacken Open Air is another favourite festival of the band. They may have been touring since the mid-70s, but there are still places which Judas Priest still haven’t managed to reach. One of these is India, apparently a country which the band would quite like to go to. The guitarist continues by talking about how there are always new places they go to where they discover a whole new legion of Judas Priest fans. “You can go to the far corners of the Earth, such as Chile, and there will be 15,000 kids showing up with leather jackets and studs. It’s the most amazing feeling, because metal is a very underestimated genre nowadays”. He continues, “what could be more rewarding? Something that you enjoy so much which enables you to travel the world and mean something to someone”. He sounds extremely grateful in his manner of speaking, stating that “the best comment you can receive is that, after all these years, our music is still timeless and relevant. We’re very lucky”.

Metal may be very underestimated in Tipton’s opinion, but he still thinks that modern day metal is great. He may have claimed to not be able to pronounce the names of many new bands, but he does say that the whole band “keep their ears to the ground”. “I like bands that I can’t even pronounce the names of, but we like them a lot and they inspire us”. He immediately claims that this isn’t in a plagiarizing sense, but in a sense of being given fresh, new ideas which can keep the Judas Priest train rolling. The one question which does loom, though, is how long this train can keep going. According to Tipton, it’s very much up in the air. “There comes a day where I’ll sensibly say that I have to hang my hat up”, adding, “I don’t want anybody to hang it up for me”. When asked for a slight estimate, he chuckles and says, “This could get a bit morbid, Jack”. Regardless of how long Tipton thinks the band could go on for, though, the band are still at the top of their game right now. Touring life is obviously going to take its toll to an extent, with Tipton telling us that time off between shows is now reserved for Netflix sessions on the tour bus. “We just get through it” he says, adding, “The hotels, the buses, we get through it by watching Netflix or other movies. We also like to get out and have fun, because the dead travel time can kill you”. When asked whether or not it’s different to their 80s heyday, Tipton laughs and claims that “we were forced on the road all the time”. He doesn’t see this necessarily as a bad thing, though, claiming that “pressure is a good thing, because you do things and get them done well”. The band are still doing things well today, albeit just under less pressure than before. Instead of relying on a busy summer of festivals to get by, the band take their time and work on playing a few festivals over the course of the summer months. “We go out on tour in our own right, and then we’ll do some summer festivals”. “Priest in a small venue is unreal, but then you have to replicate that on a big stage, which is something we do live. We exaggerate things very well”. Tipton sounds proud when he tells us this, adding that “everything needs to be bigger and better”. Will 2016 be even bigger and better, though? “Who knows”, says Tipton, “we’re definitely going to do some writing. If we have stuff which matches Redeemer of Souls we’ll consider recording it”. The next question, as Tipton himself claims, is “do we tour?” Only time will tell, however right now Judas Priest are at the top of their game with very little to worry about.

Judas Priest play the
013 in Tilburg on Tuesday, 17 November. Listen to Painkiller below.