Rob Halford has revealed who he thinks is the first ‘definitive’ heavy metal band. And it’s Judas Priest

Judas Priest in leather and studs
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Ask a dozen people who were the first heavy metal band, and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Now Rob Halford – a man who knows a thing or two about the subject – has weighed in on this eternally thorny topic. And his answer? Judas Priest.

In a wide-ranging and fascinating interview on comedian Marc Maron’s hugely popular WTF? podcast, the Priest singer is asked by the host about the genesis of heavy metal as a genre.

“Some say there was the great band called Blue Cheer, Summertime Blues was a really heavy song,” replies Halford, referring to the cult late 60s US heavy rock pioneers. “Some people suggested the name heavy metal was from a Steppenwolf song, ‘heavy metal thunder’ [from Born To Be Wild].

“But as far as the sound, this is the great debate. Using Sabbath as a primary example… I’ve always pushed that Sabbath were a heavy metal band, but my friend Tony Iommi will always go, ‘No, we’re like a rock band, a hard rock band. I said, ‘No, you’re heavy metal.’ ‘No, no…’

“So, I will take that trophy that Judas Priest were the first ever, definitive heavy metal band. So that‘s a big thing to say, cos when this podcast cos they’ll say, ‘Halford says that Priest were the definitive heavy metal band…’. I stand by the statement for a lot of reasons.

He continues: “It’s a definitive sound, it’s a well-honed craft that came from these guys in the band that all had their own definition of what this heavy sound, this heavy experience should be.”

In the same interview, Halford talks about his industrial-metal band Two, which he formed during his hiatus from Priest in the late 90s, revealing that veteran music mogul and label boss Jimmy Iovine almost refused to release the X-rated video for the band’s single Pig because it wasn’t explicit enough.

The video was directed by porn filmmaker Chi Chi LaRue, who offered his services to Halford. “We met up and he goes, ‘Oh my god, you got a new project going on? I must make a video,’” recalls the singer. “Fast forward  two weeks and we’re in a lot somewhere in Hollywood, and he’s got all of his porn friends… It was pretty risque.”

The finished video featured assorted porn stars and models of various genders enacting an orgy, albeit a non-explicit one. Halford sent the clip to Nothing Records co-founder Trent Reznor and Jimmy Iovine, president of parent company Interscope. The latter was less than impressed.

“Jimmy said, ‘I’m not releasing this. There’s no porn in it… You told me there was going to be porn stars.’ I said, ‘There is all porn stars. If you look at ’em and you know porn, there’s Bridget The Midget, there’s blah blah blah.’ ‘Yeah, well they weren’t doing the fucking and the sucking and all that.’

“It would never have got played! It would have been banned. ‘You want me make a video that’s gonna be banned so the music isn’t listened to, so there’s gonna be silence? Silent porn? Just a black screen?’ ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted!’”

In the same interview, Halford talks about life as a gay man in the 80s metal scene, his decades of sobriety, Priest’s infamous subliminal messaging trial and why you should never piss off 50-year-old metal fans.

Priest themselves recently returned to the fray with their new single, Panic Attack, taken from new album Invincible Shield, released on March 8, 2024 via SonyMusic.

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