There are two main ingredients to the beast that is Judas Priest. They are the vocals of Rob Halford and the guitar tandem of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing. Back in 1994 when Halford left Priest, Tipton took the opportunity to release a solo record, Baptizm of Fire. He put together a trio with The Who bassist John Entwistle and former Rainbow/Sabbath drummer Cozy Powell. Fate took a turn and Glenn ended up working with some other well known musicians such as Shannon Larkin, Billy Sheehan, Robert Trujillo, Neil Murray and Don Airey. Recently Rhino/Warner re-released the record on CD, along with some other original sessions in a separate package. Both records are really, really good and as I later admitted to Glenn, I am embarrassedly surprised at how strong they are. Baptizm… sizzles throughout all the tracks. His vocals, while not polished, exude a vital part of authenticity and the songs would not sound nearly as good with another voice involved. And the songs are all top notch. Cuts like "Enter the Storm" are among the best Glenn has ever penned. The other record, Edge of the World, is completely full of the tracks with Entwistle and Powell, which is less virtuoso and has more of a band feeling.
It was a very giddy Priest fan (me) who spoke with the guitar legend recently to find out how the records came to be.
antiMUSIC: Baptizm of Fire is a re-release. Why are you putting it out along with Edge of the World back out at this time?
Glenn Tipton: Well, that's a really long story, Morley. I'll give you the shortened version. Basically when I did "Baptizm…" back in '94-95 and back then as you know, there was no Priest. The future wasn't looking good. We hadn't found Ripper yet or anything. So I just did a bunch of songs. Atlantic was interested at the time so I went there and they liked what I had done but in their own words, they thought it was a bit "old-school". They encouraged me to go to LA and work with some young guns, which I did and Baptizm of Fire came from that. It was a great album. And the original batch of songs got put on the shelf but I always thought they should see the light of day. Recently Warners was interested in re-releasing Baptizm… because it was deleted. At the same time, I played them the other tracks and they agreed it should be released…for John and Cozy's sake really so people can hear their playing. So I didn't want to re-release Baptizm… without putting some bonus tracks on there because it had already been out there. And I thought it would be good to give something extra. So I put on two tracks. One which is "Himalaya" which is a great big…I'm totally into film themes and I love the dramatic size of that track. And the other "New Breed", I wrote with my daughter and my son played drums on it. So that's how that came about and they just decided to release them simultaneously. And I think it's a good plan really, to re-introduce the records.
antiMUSIC: Did you have some of these songs ready to go for a while or were they all written for this record? Did you feel that these songs were not quite appropriate for Priest?
Glenn Tipton: I just wrote and wrote. When you do a solo album, it should b e done for the right reasons. At the time, there was no Priest and I'm a fairly prolific chap so I got itchy fingers after awhile and just wrote. I had no idea initially who I was going to work with or the direction that it was going to go in. The only thing I knew was…the second reason you should do a solo album…I didn't want it to be Priest-like. There is no point in trying to emulate a band I could never come close to. I'm just a fifth of Judas Priest, in the immense amount of talent within that band. Arguably one of the best metal bands in the world. Particularly in the vocals…I could never come within a million light years of Rob. So the last thing I would want to do is an album like Priest. I couldn't. And I think that nails on the head with a solo album. You have to explore areas that you couldn't do with the band you are in, both musically and lyrically. So I think that both of these records, although they've got different characters, they're a good step away from Priest. So I just wrote this original batch of songs and then I sort of wrote another batch and the latter batch became "Baptimk of Fire" and that's how they were born really.
antiMUSIC: You had been conditioned to writing a certain way for so long. Now you had a clean palette. Did it seem strange?
Glenn Tipton: Yes a little bit because obviously Rob and KK and I had been a writing team. We're so lucky that we have just a great formula, you know? It magically just works. And it's harder by yourself. It can be very lonely in the small hours, sometimes. A lot of self-doubt creeps in. And you just have to believe and work hard and keep[ writing. I think it's just as important to discard as well as actually produce. If you keep writing stuff, sometimes you struggle to make a good idea into a song but all it takes is a good idea and if it doesn't develop you should discard it and move on. And that's the way I try to do it. Although sometimes an idea will call me back and I'll try again but a song usually materializes right away. I have moments where I'm fairly prolific and that's when I try to put my ideas down. Sometimes I just don't touch the guitar for months. I'm just that sort of character. I play the guitar when I'm hungry to play and when I'm hungry to play, that's when I get most of my ideas.
antiMUSIC: What are some of the first songs that came out?
Glenn Tipton: Now you've got me. I've got the world's worst memory. "Give Blood" was one of the first ones. The first ones I wrote are in all honest, Morley, the ones I discarded. It takes awhile to find an area that you find comfortable. Particularly with me doing vocals, I'm lucky that I can write the songs around my limited vocal range. And so, as I've only done backing vocals for Priest, and quite rightly so, it took me awhile to come to grips with my own voice and the strengths of it and the weaknesses of it really and to steer away from those and to find character in it. I've heard my voice described in many ways (laughs). I think "distinctive" is one of the best adjectives that has been used. But I use it like another instrument, you know? I'm lucky I've got the ability to tailor my songs to my vocal ability. So it was a case of finding my way really, so I think it's best if the early stuff were never to reach the light of day.
antiMUSIC: The rhythm section for most of the records is John Entwistle and Cozy Powell. How did these sessions go?
Glenn Tipton: First of all, Cozy because he was a friend of mine for a long time. And I think one of the best rock drummers in the world. To work with him was a joy. If you asked Cozy to play a fill, he played a fill. He was thunderous. And you couldn't go wrong with him. If he was driving a track, there was not way you could play a bum note. You couldn't. He'd just lock you in. A tremendous drummer and a tremendous talent. So I played the songs for Cozy and he said he'd love to play on them. And actually Cozy always preferred the first batch of songs to be honest. And then we thought about bass players and a lot of names cropped up. And in the end, I though of John.
antiMUSIC: Cozy I can see, but how did you ever hook up with Entwistle? I mean Boris the Spider is slightly metallic but this seems sort of out of character.
Glenn Tipton: Well, you know, he was bass player with The Who. I knew that he was great. We had the same manager. So I got in touch with him and sent him some tracks and he phoned me up and said he'd love to work on them. And we went to a little studio and I've told this story many times but I'll never forget this. Me and Cozy were in the studio and John turned up. He had about four or five video machines and 12 bass guitars. A total eccentric. But he started to play bass and a giant grin spread across the faces of Cozy and myself. There was no other bass player that was so right for this. He had such a unique style and sound. We just knew then that for better or worse, richer or poorer, there was a magical formula there and it just seemed to work and we did the first batch of songs and it was great. John blew me away. He was so versatile. He was a total musician, John was. He was a total fanatic about his bass and sound. I was blown away. I was familiar with his work with The Who but I just didn't realize how good he was until he set foot in that studio and started to play.
antiMUSIC: Where were they recorded?
Glenn Tipton: We did them in a little studio --- this is the first batch of songs. We did a couple in John's studio and recorded some and mixed it in my studio.
antiMUSIC: Did you throw them all down in a short period of time or was it broken up over days or weeks?
Glenn Tipton: We got them down pretty quickly because me and Cozy had kicked them around for a good long time so we knew them and it was just a case of John getting familiar with them. It didn't take him long at all. But we didn't do it all in one go. We did it a week here and a week there. It was done over a lengthy period of time but the actual recording didn't take that much time.
antiMUSIC: You say that the record company foisted Billy, Robert, Don Airey and Shannon on you. Did you know any of them prior to that?
Glenn Tipton: No, I went to LA and worked with Billy Sheehan and Robert Trujillo and Mark Dodson who co-produced the record with me was pretty instrumental in digging up some of these guys like Brooks Wackerman who was just 18 at the time and Shannon Larkin. And the engineer of the studio, a guy called CJ de Villar, played on some of them and turned out to be a fantastic bass player. So I just mixed and matched it. It was great to work with these guys. Shannon Larkin, I always remember did as fantastic take on one track. I said, "That's great. We've got it." He was like, "No let me have another go. I've got some more ideas." So I let him go and that was even better. And I said "That was great." And he said, "Wait, I thought of something else. Let me try again." Their enthusiasm was just a joy. And they were all so talented. And these young guys keep you on your toes. I think it was a mutual respect thing. I think they enjoyed working with me. And I certainly enjoyed working with them. It was just a privilege to work with everybody, really.
antiMUSIC: Did you ever tour behind either of those two records?
Glenn Tipton: No, we didn't and it's tragic really because going back to when we did the tracks, our intention was to go out as a three piece and get on the back of some tour and go out and show what we could do…and just enjoy ourselves. But as you know fate took a hand and tragically John and Cozy aren't with us. And Priest reformed. Shortly after that, Cozy went out with Sabbath. So a series of events stopped us from doing it and it's a pity but at least it's down on record for everybody that wants to hear it.
antiMUSIC: You mentioned being apprehensive about doing the vocals. Did you do ever do any lead vocals in any pre-Priest bands or thought about it in Priest?
Glenn Tipton: No when you're in a band with a vocalist like Rob Halford, there's no way in the world I would come close to being in the same universe. Rob is such a talented vocalist. I'll cover background vocals. There's no way in the world I'd attempt to compete with Rob. But yeah, pre-Priest bands. I was in a band called the Flying Head Band. And I still have bad dreams about this. We went out in Europe and actually supported Deep Purple playing 20-25,000 seaters. I went from that to playing to about 200 in a club so that was my real baptism of fire. But we pulled it off. We played our hearts off and everybody could see that and we had great reactions and I still go red with embarrassment when I think about being out on that stage at that point in my career but after that, most things seemed easy so it was a good thing to do.
antiMUSIC: Was it a good feeling to lay down the guitar tracks without having to collaborate with Ken about splitting up the lines and solos or did it seem weird?
Glenn Tipton: Again, they're two different animals. And I have every outlet that I want to with Judas Priest. We've got the dual guitars. We've got Rob's vocals. We've got thunderous bass and drums. We've got a magic formula in that band and there's no way that I would try and compete with that or again try to make out that I'm any where near a major part of Judas Priest. Because I'm just a fifth part of Priest. On a solo level, it was important to just have the one guitar. If I worked with another guitarist it would be KK. There would be no one else. It would be pointless really. And to do something different to Priest. Something that I was comfortable with, where I could explore different lyrical and musical areas. It's all about the songs really. It's not about me as a guitar player. They should be good songs.
antiMUSIC: You produced both discs. Obviously with Edge of the World you've got 20 years of more studio experience. But what was your confidence level like going into to produce Baptizm of Fire?
Glenn Tipton: It's a lot of pressure because obviously singing, and playing on the record, you know there's people watching and paying attention and you want it to sound good. You don't know if you're doing the right thing sometimes. In all honest, I've always been someone who's open to experimentation. I try different things. I read a review about Baptizm… and it said it was one of the under-rated albums of our time and anybody who can finish a rock and metal album on a banjo note must be really brave or stupid (laughs). And that's exactly what goes through your mind, you know? Was that a good idea? Every album should have a tongue in cheek sense of humor running through it, It shouldn't all be deadly serious. There should be moments of humor in there and experimentation. Sometimes they're brave steps and you get condemned for it and people don't always see what you're trying to do and that's fair enough. Because maybe you are wrong on some decisions. But at least you try and that's all you can do.
antiMUSIC: Before you go, I just have to ask. Were you surprised at the reception given to Angel of Retribution?
Glenn Tipton: It was fantastic. It was very special when we reunited. And I'll never forget the day we did it. We were at Rob's in England. We had no intention of discussing the reunion. It just cropped up and before you knew it, we had reunited. When we started to write, you know it's magical when we write because we don't really know what we're going to come up with. But what we decided to do…obviously there was a big expectation after 14 years. People, even if you did something really good, can be disappointed, because they're over-anticipating. So we decided to take the pressure off us because the whole world was watching us. The whole metal world anyway. And we just decided to enjoy. And we did that. We'd get together and just kick ideas around until the room lit up and we just enjoyed ourselves. And I think that comes across with Angel of Retribution. It's a comfortable album. It retraces steps from back away but it has some new things in there as well. It's very much vintage Priest.
antiMUSIC: Can you see the next record being very much in that same vein?
Glenn Tipton: Well, we're going to start writing this month so we've all got our ideas together. We always get our individual ideas together first and then we pool them. I have a feeling that our next record will surprise everybody. I think it's going to be something special (*you can almost see the sly grin through the phone).
antiMUSIC: Thanks so much for taking the time. And all the best of luck with these records. I know they'll do really well.
Glenn Tipton: Thank you, Morley. It's been a pleasure talking to you.