Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest: Defending the Faithful for Over Thirty Years!

By Jeb Wright

Sony Legacy will release a 30th Anniversary edition of their iconic 1984 classic album Defenders of the Faith on March 10, 2015. 

The original recording, on LP and cassette tape was released on January 4th, 1984 and the album appeared on CD the following July.

As Priest always does with their back catalog, they have gone above and beyond simply remastering the disc and sending out press releases.  They have included with the remastered Defenders of the Faith a double-disc of a show they played on the tour for the album recorded at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1984.

Okay, it does not take a Spinal Tap historian to see that 2015 minus 1984 is 31 years.  Priest has been busy, so give them some slack.  Besides, once you feast your ears on the concert and the original album, you will forgive the slight bit of tardiness.  This is, simply put, some bad-ass Heavy Metal Rock ‘n’ Roll here.  The live album features all but one track from Defenders, as well as many of their most famous tunes.  Defenders of the Faith includes “Love Bites,” “Freewheel Burning” and “When the Night Comes Down.”  It represents Judas Priest’s most successful era.

Guitarist Glenn Tipton sat down with Classic Rock Revisited to discuss the re-release of the album, the classic songs contained on it, as well as what it is like to be a living and breathing guitar god… and just why Judas Priest is still regarded as one of the best Metal bands in the world, even four decades down the road!

Read this bit of British metal discourse, and then run out and purchase the 30th anniversary reissue of Defenders of the Faith in March. Makes a great St. Patrick’s Day gift…

Jeb: I remember buying Defenders of the Faith back in the day…  You did a great job with this package. I know the fans like looking back on this era, but I wonder… do you as well?

Glenn: Absolutely.  I never really listen to older albums, as I am always forging ahead, but every now and then, you look back for obvious reasons, whether it is a boxed set, or something like this, a remastered re-release, and it just brings so many memories back, like the way we recorded the songs.  It takes us back to that era, and it is really interesting to do.

Jeb: I like the way Priest does things, nothing is ever half-assed.  The band makes sure every release is up to the standard Priest fans deserve.

Glenn: As long as it’s in our hands, we do that.  We, obviously, want it to sound good and look good.  You have to let it go at some point, and there are still certain processes you go through and there is always a bit of your finger’s-crossed at some point.  We always listen to them at that stage to make sure we can improve from the original. 

Jeb: On the original tour, as the bonus live disc proves, the only song you didn’t play live off of Defenders of the Faith was “Eat Me Alive.”  Are you going to sneak some more songs into the current live set from this album?

Glenn: On this tour we are.  We are doing “Love Bites” and we are doing “Jawbreaker.”  There is a little bit of “Defenders of the Faith” and “Heavy Duty” as well.  We are revisiting Defenders quite a lot on this tour. 

Jeb: Was there a lot of pressure on Priest to come up with a great album following the previous release, Screaming for Vengeance?  If you look back, Priest followed up the mighty British Steel with Point of Entry, and a lot of Priest fans were upset with that release.  I love Point of Entry, but some said it was too commercial.  Then came Screaming and now you had to follow it up with another great one, or the fans might be upset again. 

Glenn: We never take any album lightly.  We discard a lot of material.  The songs have to be good enough to go on an album and if they are not good enough, then we will discard them.  Screaming was a successful album.  We tried to better it with Defenders of the Faith.  If you look at the songs on the album, “Freewill Burning,” “Jawbreaker,” “Rock Hard Ride Free,” “The Sentinel,” “Love Bites,” “Some Heads are Gonna Roll” and “Heavy Duty” it is a very, very strong album. 

You mentioned Point of Entry.  In a small way, we were sort of experimenting with Point of Entry.  If we hadn’t done that we would have never come out with songs like “Solar Angels,” “Desert Plains” or “Hot Rockin’.”  You have to push the boundaries.  When you come out with an album like Screaming, it is about doing something a little bit different that is just as good. 

We like to think that every album Priest has done has been different, but is also unmistakably recognized as Judas Priest.  We like to think that we’ve entered a new territory again and pushed the boundaries further, which helps bands like ourselves to have more room to maneuver. 

Jeb: Redeemer of Souls continues the legacy.

Glenn: Redeemer, itself, was a challenge at this stage of our career—to come up with an album that is exciting, unique and unmistakably Priest.  It is a challenge, but we rose to the challenge and we’re very proud of it.

Jeb: Let’s talk about the bonus live concert from the Defenders era that comes with the new anniversary of the album.  Has that been lying in the vault all of these years?

Glenn: I’m not sure.  Sony has the archives and the library of the back catalog of everything we’ve done over the years.  They have really been a great record company.  There is always someone there who is a great Priest fan and they take it very seriously.  They love Metal and they love Priest.  The live album really captivates what we were doing back in May of 1984.  The Long Beach Arena gig was a great gig and we’re really, really happy with it.  

Jeb: I have spent more time listening to the concert than I have to the remastered studio album.

Glenn: Really?  That’s great.  It is very nostalgic to listen to it as it brings a lot of good memories back. 

Jeb: You have treated Priest fans with excellence. 

Glenn: We all like our fans.  They have stuck with us and supported us through the years.  They’ve driven us to reach these heights and they have just been fantastic.  We wouldn’t be here without the fans.  

Jeb: Priest was now the biggest Metal band in the entire world. Did you think, “We’ve done it?  We’ve conquered the world!”

Glenn: No, we’ve never really felt that’s the case, to be honest.  We’ve just done our best and along the way we’ve inspired a lot of musicians and people and had a good and positive effect on their lives.  We’re not trying to be dramatic, but that is all we’ve ever wanted to do.  We genuinely love Heavy Metal and our Judas Priest style of Heavy Metal, and as long as other people get inspired by us… that’s all we want to happen.

Jeb: Do people make too much over competition between bands?

Glenn: We are not competing, as there is no point in competing.  We do our best and we hope people relate to it and enjoy it.  Fortunately, for us, that’s the case.

Jeb: There are some challenging things on Defenders.  What was inspiring those riffs?

Glenn: [chuckles] I can’t really remember, Jeb, as that was a long time ago!  I just keep my ears to the ground and I listen to a lot of newer bands.  I get inspired by not just other bands, but classical music, film soundtracks and big production stuff and small production stuff.  When the Punk and New Wave era kicked in, instead of competing with it, we learned from it.  What I learned from that was that someone who can only play three chords can write a great song with great energy.  We actually got inspired by the energy that the bands were putting out at that time and we were inspired by their energy.  We learn from everybody.

Jeb: When you create something of the magnitude of Defenders, you still need to get that feedback from the masses before you know how great it is.

Glenn: We travel around and we listen to the fans opinions on everything, and ninety-nine percent of it is very positive.  It just makes you feel proud that throughout your career you’ve done a little bit, to a certain extent, of shaping the way Metal goes.  

Jeb: Talk about producer Tom Allom.  What influence did he have as the producer of the album?

Glenn: Tom is fantastic to work with.  Not only is he one of the nicest guys in the world -a very generous and boisterous character, I have to say- I probably think, at the time, we actually underestimated what influence Tom did have on us.  We knew he was a fantastic producer and he worked really hard with us to produce the albums.  

Jeb: He was almost like another member of the band.

Glenn: We did a lot of albums with Tom and we got very close with him.  He is a great guy and a great producer.

Jeb: Your tours were a spectacle. You had to do a ton of pre-production for that size of a stage show.  You had the big monster that was on the album cover up on the stage, too… I don’t think people realize how much work it takes to plan, prepare and execute that presentation flawlessly.

Glenn: It takes a lot to do that.  We’ve always put a lot of thought into our production.  We learned very early on that, although the most important thing about Priest is the music, you can still drive the point home harder with a great production.  There is more value for the money, and if you are coming to see us in these big arenas, then it is not just these five small dots on the stage.  You’ve got a big, dramatic production.  We have always based a lot of importance on that and we’ve always put a lot of time into that.  We sit down with our lighting guy, our set design guy and our sound guy to come up with a great show for the kids.  They pay good money for tickets and they deserve a good show.  We are all heavily involved. 

Jeb: You know I have been nice and not even mentioned that this is really the 31st anniversary of Defenders, not the 30th.  In the time left, let’s talk about the songs one by one.

Glenn: [chuckles] okay. 

Jeb: “Freewheel Burning.” 

Glenn: I just remember a video where Rob sat in some sort of racing car.  It was the first time we worked with Julien Temple.  It’s just a great song.  We wrote a lot of songs that were designed to be listened to while riding along in a car.  “Freewheel Burning” epitomizes that. 

Jeb: “Jawbreaker.”

Glenn: We are actually doing that now, on this tour.  When you can go back 30—or 31 years, actually—and bring a song back on stage and it still has that great energy, then that is a great song.

Jeb: “Rock Hard Ride Free”

Glenn: That just means punching the air.  You’re just doing what the song says, ‘Rocking hard and riding free.” 

Jeb: “The Sentinel.”

Glenn: “The Sentinel” we’re not playing on this tour, but we’ve played it on many tours.  It is one of my all-time favorite songs.  I love the breakdown in the middle where it comes down and kicks back in again. 

Jeb: Rob Halford is amazing on that song.  Many people probably say Rob shines on “Love Bites,” but I think “The Sentinel” is one of his best. 

Glenn: Yeah, it’s brilliant.  His voice is just as good now as it was then.  He has an incredible voice.

Jeb: “Love Bites.”

Glenn: We are doing “Love Bites” at the moment.  That song has a really strong character.  I mean, “In the dead of night, love bites.”  It is really heavy.  It is a lot heavier live, actually, than it is on the album. 

Jeb: Was that an obvious one to make a video for?

Glenn: I think it was just slightly different, and that is why we liked it.  It has a different kind of vibe, but it’s still Priest.  We like that.

Jeb: “Eat Me Alive.”  Tipper Gore got you for that one. 

Glenn: I’m afraid so. 

Jeb:  Getting Tipper on your case was a status symbol.

Glenn: It just happened to be at the time when all of that Parental Guidance was being slammed down everyone’s throat.  We’ve never written songs to encourage people to take drugs or be violent.  Our fights are these Galactical battles, or whatever.  We knew we would come under fire for that one a little bit.  Our songs can be misconstrued if you look at the titles, but in actual fact, we’ve never incited people to do bad things.  I think our lyrics have helped a lot of people.  There are some bands that do exploit sensationalism and the lyrics do create the wrong impressions. We have to expect it.   

Jeb:  The fans… we just cared about that riff.

Glenn: Yeah, it’s a great song… a great song.

Jeb:  “Some Heads are Gonna Roll.”

Glenn: That was written by Bob Halligan, Jr.  We played that a lot live and it is a really heavy song.  We’re not doing it at the moment.  I think you’ll find with Priest that some songs, like “Turbo,” might not come across very heavy, but when you see us play it live—even though it’s from another album that we’re talking about—it is very, very heavy.  I think that is the same with “Some Heads are Gonna Roll,” that they are far heavier live than you think they are going to be. 

Jeb:  “When the Night Comes Down.”  

Glenn: There was a concert we did once, it was a big outdoor festival, and the sun was just going down and it was the absolute perfect song to be playing at the time.  We peaked into “When the Night Comes Down” just as the sun was setting.  It was brilliant. 

Jeb:  “Heavy Duty.” 

Glenn: That is a great song.  We are actually using part of it in the show as we go into “Defenders of the Faith.”  It is all good stuff, really.  That is a very heavy riff.

Jeb:  “Defenders of the Faith.”

Glenn: That is a typical Priest anthem, and we get the crowd to sing along with it.  It really is just a great anthem.  We’ve always tried to include anthems on every album.  I think “Defenders of the Faith” is above-all, a real anthem. 

Jeb:  Last one: We all dream about being that guitar god on stage.  You are that guitar god.  What is it like when you are the one standing on that stage?

Glenn: It is fantastic, Jeb.  We’ve never regarded a Priest concert being all about Priest—it is always about Priest and the audience.  It is the whole thing that counts.  It’s an event and it’s something we all take part in. That is why we like to get them to sing along with
“Defenders of the Faith.”  Our fans even sing along with the lead breaks!  It is what we always wanted.  We didn’t want to be up there as just a band.  We want to be part of an event with the audience.  That is what is important to us. 

Jeb:  Other than the fact that you have great songs, is what you just said why you think Judas Priest has remained at the top when it comes to the world of Metal?

Glenn: I think it’s two things… it is that, the fact that we join forces with the audience every concert—they know that we’ve got such faith in people that have been with us for so long.  It is the loyalty element as well, that is the second thing.  It has brought this band through forty or fifty years.  They have been there with us.  Those are the reasons we are still around.    

Jeb:  One more:  Redeemer of Souls was a great album.  Fans like me want another album as soon as the new one hits the streets.  Will there be another one? 

Glenn: We are touring until August, and after that we will take a break and we will see.  We enjoyed writing this album so much.  Richie [Faulkner] was a big, big part of this, as well. He came along and he fit in, not just with the band, but with the writing process.  He has given us a lot of renewed energy.  It was destined to be, and it really is a small miracle.  I feel there is a good chance there will be another album.