JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford and his “beer aficionado” brother Nigel have teamed up with Backyard Brewhouse from their hometown of Walsall, a large industrial town in West Midlands County in England, U.K., to make the Hails & Horns modern English bitter Halford ale. The beer will premiere exclusively at this coming weekend’s Bloodstock Open Air festival.
Halford, who celebrated the 35th anniversary of his getting sober in January, spoke to “Across The Board”, the podcast series hosted by songwriter/producer Emiko and producer Mike Exeter (JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH), about how he manages to stay clean on the road. “It’s not easy,” he said. It’s very much a day at a time. You’re given all the tools and resources from your rehab experience. I use ’em every day. A lot of it is just like mental notes — talking things through. Sometimes I speak ’em out; a lot of it is internal. So that’s really vital on a day-to-day level of sobriety.
“When I was in rehab [in 1986], there’s anonymity in rehab, but at the same time, you have to tell everybody your life story, so everybody knew what I did. And I remember we talked about the fact that I’m gonna go back to this world of sex and drugs and rock and roll and booze. I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to cope, because it won’t be a gradual reimmersion into society, so to speak. I won’t be able to go tiny steps; I’m just gonna go straight into the deep end. I cannot go to work and say to my bandmates, ‘You can’t drink. You can’t do this. You can’t do that,’ because it’s control. Accept your powerlessness.
“I don’t think we ever in the band had a sit-down conversation about this, but I think that there was caring and understanding — as there still is,” Halford continued. “But I’d be the last person to say that I have to set a set of rules, because then this whole business of living my life on my terms [turns into something] you push on to other people: ‘Well, now, you can’t do this,’ ‘You can’t do that.’ That’s just hypocrisy on the highest level.
“Even now, when we’re flying after a show, and the guys are having a beer or a cocktail or whatever, man, I would love that cold beer. I would love a slug of Jack and Coke. I can smell it, ’cause we’re in a plane together. It’s like this little angel on one side and the devil on the other side. My instant thought is I never wanna be sick again. I never, ever wanna feel that bad ever again. I never want to be in that terrible, dark, lonely place ever again. So it’s fleeting. But, again, it’s always there.
“When I’m home, especially [during] this COVID thing, [my longtime partner] Thomas doesn’t drink. When I first met Thomas, he quit drinking. So that’s a support to me. I’m never really around alcohol that much, or drugs, when I’m not working. But, yeah, when my fans, or when PRIEST fans come to see us, yeah, they’re gonna have some drinks; they might have a couple of spliffs [and] do whatever else recreationally. They’re entitled to. And they are living their lives and they are partying and they are having the time of their lives, as they should. They don’t have an alcohol problem; they don’t have a drug addiction. There are people that can enjoy these things in life and it [has] no effect on them, in a physical sense and in a mental sense.
“So, it’s an absolute miracle,” Halford added. “I can only say it’s a miracle that I’ve got that far from January the 6th, 1986 to December the 1st, 2020 without slipping once. And I’m not boasting, because it’s all the past — that’s the past; it’s gone. I live in the moment. I don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow; I’m living now. But I’m grateful that I’ve been able to get this far without failing. Not failing — that’s the wrong word. Without a slip off the wagon — whatever the term is. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to get this far and stay clean and sober. Because if I didn’t, who knows where I would have gone and where I would have ended up?”
Halford previously credited his belief in a higher power for helping him in his recovery. “When I got clean and sober, that was a major change in my life,” he said during an appearance on HATEBREED frontman Jamey Jasta‘s official podcast, “The Jasta Show”. “And part of my recovery is just having this higher-power belief. And it works. It works, man. It really, really is important.”
Halford added: “There probably will be people listening to [this] podcast who don’t have anything like that in their life, and that’s great; it’s all about acceptance. But I always say to people, if you’re thinking about it, the simplest thing I do is I pray. I pray quite a bit, actually. And even if you don’t believe in prayer, just have a go. Pray for a good day, or just pray for your friend, or whatever it might be. And it’s amazing, man, ’cause it absolutely works. I guarantee, it genuinely does work. And now I’m sounding like [American evangelical Christian evangelist] Billy Graham, but I’m just trying to express some of the things that are important to me on a day-to-day basis that make me able to walk out on that stage each night and do my work.”
In an interview with Classic Rock Revisited, Halford said that he quit using substances because he “was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I will always remember the first show I did clean and sober… It was in New Mexico, in Albuquerque,” he recalled. “I literally felt elevated, as everything was coming with such clarity. I was able to really… enjoy the performance of JUDAS PRIEST without having all of the other things in front of it. Since that day, it has been a miracle.”
Halford added, “Everybody has to face things in their lives at some point. It [doesn’t have to] be booze and drugs. You can eat too much, or you can not exercise, or whatever… It is not easy staying clean and sober in rock and roll. There are temptations galore from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, especially when you’re on the road. [But] I think we’re some of the strongest people, my friends and my sober brothers in metal.”
Rob‘s autobiography, “Confess”, arrived last September via Hachette Books. It was written with Ian Gittins, co-writer of “The Heroin Diaries” by Nikki Sixx.
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