Founder and original Judas Priest vocalist, Al Atkins, is out with his new album and Blackmoon had a quick chat with him about the new album Reloaded and the first few years of the metal monster that is Judas Priest.
GK: Congrats on the new album. It’s a great and hard rocking album! You’ve got your old friend Ian Hill playing with you on the album, how did that come about?
AA: Thanks. Over the years I have remained good friends with Ian and he always said that if I wanted anything just ask….I never have until now when I had the idea for re-recording all my old favourite songs that I had wrote or co wrote over the last four decades. He wrote the song ‘Winter’ with KK and myself back in the 70’s and I thought it would be good for him to play on that song and maybe Never Satisfied too. It came out sounding great!
GK: Are you still friends with Ian Hill and KK Downing from your days in Judas Priest?
AA: Yes, we have all remained friends, but I don’t see KK much these days. He’s too busy with his golf course. I went to see him a few months ago just to say hello and catch up on things…
GK: Can you tell me about the bonus track “Mind Conception”? Do you have any more “treats” lying around from your Judas Priest days?
AA: I put this song ‘Mind Conception’ (well a section of it) on for the Judas Priest fans who are always asking for stuff on my facebook page. It harks back to the beginning of the band in 1970 and gives an insight into what we sounded like then (bloody awful) and how Judas Priest have progressed into the metal beast they have become over the last 40 years. I love this song and put it on ‘Reloaded’ but an up to date version…I have more old songs lying around somewhere I think…I must sort them out.
GK: Can you tell me about how you started Judas Priest and who came up with the name?
AA: ‘Judas Priest’ was actually first formed in 1969 and the line up was Ernie Chataway (guitar), Bruno Stapenhill (bass), John Partridge (drums) and myself on vocals, Ernie, who sadly passed away two years ago with cancer, had jammed with a band from Birmingham called ‘Earth’. He said that they had changed their name to ‘Black Sabbath’ which we thought was awesome and we decided to try and come up with a similar double barrel name. Bruno came up with ‘Judas Priest’ which he took from a song from Bob Dylan’s album ‘John Wesley Harding’, the song was titled ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest’. This line up lasted just about a year when Bruno was offered another job in Denmark and our record company had folded but I wanted to carry on so I formed another line up. This time with K K Downing (guitar), Ian Hill (bass) John Ellis (drums) and myself on vocals…
GK: Where and when did you play your first gig as Judas Priest?
AA: This second line up played a small club at Essington UK, just outside Birmingham…
GK: Did you tour in the early days or was it just gigs around Birmingham?
AA: We toured non stop, playing up and down the length of UK starting out in smaller clubs and building up to bigger venues has we progressed over the years….we played over 150 gigs in 1972 opening up for top bands like Thin Lizzy, Supertramp, Spirit, Gary Moore, Status Quo, Slade and Budgie to name a few. Tony Iommi took us under his wing in 72/73 and booked us into even bigger venues like The Hippodrome, Birmingham (opening for Family), Liverpool Town Hall and The Palace Lido. Isle of Man…these were the biggest gigs to play at the time…
GK: What happened that made you leave Judas Priest?
AA: I was the only one married with a daughter to support and the bigger we were getting the more overheads were too and we were getting very little money so I decided to leave and get a 9 to 5, paid job.
GK: Many of the songs you wrote with Judas Priest ended up on the first couple of albums with Rob Halford singing them. How similar were they on the albums to the way you used to play them?
AA: ‘Never Satisfied’ sounded very much the same, ‘Winter’ got slowed down and a sounded different with the production that they used on it, ‘Caviar and Meths’ got cut down to a small instrumental and Whiskey Woman got changed the most by adding a new intro ,adding a slow ending and changing the title to Victim of Changes….good move !!
GK: My favourite Judas Priest song is Victim of Changes, hands down. What is yours?
AA: ‘Painkiller’…but favourite album is ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ still.
GK: Can you tell me something that no one knows about Judas Priest? A fun-fact.
AA: In those old days of the 70’s you were lucky to own just the one guitar and at one gig we played, Ian forgot his bass and 100 miles from home!!! He thought the roadies had it, but no, ha-ha. Luckily the band we were playing with kindly lent him theirs or the show definitely wouldn’t have gone on… I don’t think he would have that problem now though…