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Partying: Rob Halford

Were you a party animal at the height of Judas Priest’s fame?

Oh, we had a roaring time. You know, it was the eighties.

Were the band as wild as Mötley Crüe?

We got up to the same antics that Crüe did, I tell you. But we didn’t have the need to exploit it and make sure there were paparazzi waiting for us when we came out of a club, the way American bands do.

You admitted recently to Classic Rock that you were “a raving alcoholic and drug addict”.

I was like that for years. When I think back I can’t believe I kept going for so long.

But you got clean in 1986. Do you feel lucky to have survived?

I do. I’ve seen it so many times with people that get stuck in that world. If you’re in a band, that kind of lifestyle is like a rite of passage.

Is the kind of insanity you went through simply a by-product of the rock’n’roll life?

Absolutely. Being in a band can be like waiting for a train; you’re at the platform for a few hours and then suddenly you’re doing a hundred miles an hour. Depending where you are in your life it can be quite a shock to your system.

You’ve done the rock’n’roll and the drugs. And on the subject of sex, you also revealed that you’ve experimented with women.

Yes, I’ve done that. And they don’t have to be like Victoria’s Secret models. I hate it when people say shit like: “You’re a fat woman and you’re not beautiful.” That’s rubbish. All women are beautiful.

Are you a feminist?

I think women are far more powerful than men. They’ve got the upper hand. And they let us know it. My sister does.

Long before you revealed your sexuality in 1998 you were rocking that famous ‘gay biker’ look. There was that great photo in Sounds in the late 70s where you posed in the full black leather ensemble outside a council house, alongside Classic Rock’s Geoff Barton.

That was on the Yew Tree Estate in West Brom. A bunch of us used to live in that house. I’m standing outside with all that gear on, and all the neighbours are looking through the net curtains: “Ooh, he’s at it again.” Is that metal, or what?

As the man who wrote the song Grinder – from Priest’s classic album British Steel – how did you feel when the gay networking app Grindr was launched five years ago?

It raised a smile. The first time I heard about it was when one of my mates said: “There’s a new app called Grindr.” I said: “How is it spelt?” They said: “G-R-I-N-D-R.” I said: “That’s alright then.”

Have you used the app?

Yes. I joined Grindr for a bit. I’m on a couple of sites. I don’t get my cock out, but I’m on there.

It gives a new meaning to the lyrics in the song: ‘Grinder, looking for meat…’

Ha! Well, that song was not a sex song, it was about the establishment. I viewed the establishment as a machine that grinds people up. But of course I can see the satirical value in it.

You’re sixty-two now. You’ve had a serious operation on your back and you’re about to have another op to cure an umbilical hernia. Is there life in Rob Halford yet?

Oh God [laughs]. I told ABC News that I needed this operation, and suddenly it was viral news: ‘The Metal God has an umbilical hernia’. That was weird. The news was everywhere; it was almost tabloid, and Priest has never been a tabloid band. But I’m sure it’s genuine concern. And yes, I’m fine. The Metal God lives.

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”