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Ian Hill: My 50 years with Judas Priest

Ian Hill onstage
(Image credit: Scott Legato / Getty Images)

Judas Priest celebrate their 50th anniversary with a new photobook. 50 Heavy Metal Years collates photographs by Ross Halfin, Neil Zlozower, Mark Weiss, Fin Costello, Oliver Halfin and others and is available in four different formats, including a limited edition to raise funds for The Glenn Tipton Parkinson’s Foundation. 

The basic version retails at £79. There’s also a Leather edition, which sells for £295, and a £495 Metal edition, which as already sold out. Both Leather and Metal editions are signed by the current line-up of vocalist Rob Halford, guitarist Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill, guitarist Richie Faulkner and drummer Scott Travis. The book ships in early December. 

Ian Hill, the sole original member continuously in the band from their beginning in 1970, talks us through his time in the band.

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You’ve been with Judas Priest as man and boy. You were, what… 18 years old? 

Seventeen, I think. So many others dropped by the wayside. I don’t think about [the longevity] at all unless somebody mentions it. But I suppose doing the same job for fifty years is an achievement. 

This half-century anniversary must resonate with you? 

Yeah, of course it does. Most bands don’t last that long. We are among the golden few, I suppose. 

How would you describe the journey? 

Ultimately, it’s been enormously enjoyable to do a job that I love. Some parts were less fun than others, but from sleeping in the van in the freezing cold at the beginning, until the present, well… each day I count my blessings. It’s been a pleasure to do it with people I consider friends, and not just colleagues. 

All the same, there must have been very big highs and frustrating lows. For example ninety-one to ninety-six, the years between Rob Halford leaving the band and singer Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens joining? 

Rob’s leaving could have been avoided if it had been handled differently. There were factions [that made things worse]. We knew that Rob wanted to make a solo album, and nobody minded, but one thing led to another and we know what happened. But everything’s a learning curve. I also enjoyed those several years spent with Ripper in the band. 

COVID-19 has delayed the fiftieth anniversary celebrations. How has lockdown affected you? 

Well, I got out the train set again [laughs], and I’ve exhausted all of the jobs that needed to be done around the house. Everything has been shifted till next year, but even then things don’t look too promising, do they? 

Back in January it was announced that Rob, Glenn and Richie had begun writing a follow-up to Priest’s 2018 album Firepower. How far down the line are you with that?

A lot of the material is already done, but with just six people allowed to be together at one time I don’t know when we can record it. We will probably get the anniversary celebrations out of the way, and then when there are no distractions make a start on it. Some great songs were left over from Firepower and we might use a few of those. They weren’t omitted as inferior, they just didn’t fit Firepower.

We hear you’ll be using the same production team as last time, Tom Allom and Andy Sneap. 

All being well, that’s the plan. Tom and Andy did a tremendous job with Firepower. We’re in good shape with the next album. 

Last year Priest were once again nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Rob seemed gungho to be included, but when the band didn’t make the final cut a disgruntled Richie Faulkner fumed: “The rock hall holds no credibility for me and never has.” 

I agree with Richie. These accolades are okay for a bit of back-slapping, but they don’t change a band’s stature. And [because of the panel’s anonymity] nobody knows who voted for you anyway. Should it happen it would be nice, but nobody’s losing any sleep. 

Did you play a part in the compiling of this new photobook? 

Other than helping to pick out a few of the pictures, no I didn’t. That was done by the publishers. But going through the photos made me feel very nostalgic. There were so many things I’d forgotten. 

Allan Atkins, the band’s original singer, posted disappointment at the removal of an introduction that he had been asked to write, suggesting the book should be re-titled ‘47 Years Of Heavy Metal’. 

To be honest, I wasn’t aware of that. It will have been a management or publisher’s decision. But basically it’s a picture book anyway. 

Have you read Rob’s autobiography? 

No, not yet. But I was there for most of it [laughs]. 

He doesn’t seem to have held anything back. 

No. But that’s Rob for you. I will definitely get around to his book in due course. 

As the man there for every step of the way, a book from you about Judas Priest would be fascinating. 

I’ve thought about that, and maybe mine would concentrate on the early years – up until the release of the first album. The band’s story is now pretty familiar, but a lot of stuff was never told. Some of it is hilarious.

More details about Rufus Publications' 50 Metal Years.