“In those days, you didn’t talk about those kind of things”. Rob Halford's reaction to becoming metal’s first gay icon

Rob Halford at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony, 2022
(Image credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

Rob Halford has long-earned his nickname of the Metal God. The Judas Priest frontman helped to map out the blueprint of the sound and look of metal throughout the 70s and 80s, and a decade later he became the first openly gay metal frontman. Speaking to Metal Hammer in the early 2000s, Halford looked back at the period when he came out and the pressure that came with it.

“I think that kind of experience is something that every gay guy goes through – feeling isolated and feeling that you’re the only person in the world who has those kind of feelings. In those days, you didn’t talk about those kind of things,” he said. “It wasn’t talked about in the media, in soaps or on TV. And, I mean, for me it wasn’t until my late 20s that I felt I was actually part of something bigger y’know?”

Halford is a trailblazer in that regard, and told Metal Hammer that he’s glad he helped to break assumptions about gay people working in metal. “There’s still a very bigoted attitude towards homosexuality. I know it’s a little bit easier now, but it’s still tough, especially in the world of heavy metal. Although, that said, I like to think I’ve exploded that particular myth.”

Halford doesn’t see himself as a gay icon, though – to him, he’s a heavy metal singer in a band. “Just because my sexuality isn’t considered to be the norm, it seems to always carry a bit of extra media interest.” He finds it amusing that he has no relationship with the gay media, he stated, opining that they can’t struggle to connect with the world of heavy metal. “I’ve never been approached by any of those kind of publications because I think heavy metal is still viewed by the wider media as still being this very macho, male environment,” he said, “and the gay media still treats it with some detachment.”

Last year, in his stirring speech at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Halford pointed to metal fans' acceptance of his own sexuality as evidence of metal's capacity to be a place where all are welcome.

"I'm the gay guy in the band," he began. "You see, that is what heavy metal is all about. We call ourselves the heavy metal community which is all-inclusive, no matter what your sexual identity is, what you look like, the colour of your skin, the faith that you believe or don't believe in. Everybody's welcome."

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.