Interview by Danny Coleman
“I think all artists want to do new material and I say that including myself we always want to come up with new things or just play different grooves or new beats or whatever you can do. I mean nobody is gonna reinvent the wheel drum wise or I’m certainly not but it’s fun to do different stuff and new stuff but the creative side for all of us, again, all musicians want to keep creating and come up with new stuff and in our world when this tour kicks off it’ll be almost three years since we played live. So in other words, that’s a big gap and you’ve gotta do something in that time and as a working band you’re either going to be touring in that gap or make a record and in our case it was obviously the latter,” says Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis as he spoke about the band’s new release and upcoming tour.
“Firepower” (Epic Records) is the new CD, their first studio material in nearly four years and it lives up to its name from start to finish. “I think people will like it, it’s 14 tracks and people have the leisure to listen to it if they want to and in what capacity they want to. They should live with this one for a while because it’s a lot to take in at first but there is a lot of good, different stuff on there. Richie (Guitarist Faulkner) hasn’t done 15 or 18 Priest records like the other guys, so he obviously has a lot of ideas and input. We re-employed Tom Allum and he produced some of the most respectable and successful Priest records, “Scream For Vengeance” and “British Steel,” namely those two so he’s rejoined us and is back on board and then Andy Sneap who is more of a modern producer so it is the best of both worlds and everything came together.”
“Firepower” hits the masses March 9 and is part of a busy couple of weeks for the band who also released a lyric video for, “Never The Heroes” on March 2 and will be kicking off a tour on March 13 in Wilkes-Barre, PA. as well as hosting a meet and greet album signing on March 19 at 6 p.m. in NYC at Sony Square. “There was a big gap between the last time we toured or released a record so it’s natural for people to say; hey where ya’ been? We’re not exactly social media stars so people wonder; hey what has the band been up to? Obviously we made a record and with this new album I can definitely say that with Richie, Glenn (Guitarist Tipton) and Rob (Vocalist Halford); it’s the songwriting. We didn’t specifically set out to do it any one way, I think it’s the process. Making a record has stages, the songwriting and then there’s the performance part of it and then the combination of the guys behind the mixes coming up with ideas of their own and helping us produce it. It is definitely a collaborative effort. So if we as a band achieve what we’d hoped, then that’s what we wanted to do. A lot of bands can say they want to do something; how many actually can pull it off? The listener has to hear what we as a band tried to accomplish and it’s up to them to say if it was great or it sucked but we as a band can’t say what the listener should feel, think or hear; that’s on them. This time around we went back to a more organic recording state. We went in a room with a guy with the guitar plugged in and a bass player plugged in and Rob in the booth doing some scratch vocals or something but we actually were playing with the guys that we were making the record with and we had gotten away from that a bit but we brought it all back with fury. There’s going to be ebbs and flows with the timing and/or togetherness but rather than correct everything on a computer with “Pro Tools” where you’re,”Mixing with your eyes,” which is a phrase that I’d never heard. It means that you make sure everything is lined up perfectly but then it sounds like it was done by a robot. We mixed with our ears and there’s nuances in there but we’re gonna leave them because that’s how it came across when we recorded it.”
Travis grew up in a somewhat musical environment, his mother went to Julliard and performed often in New Jersey and his brother who is 10 years older exposed him to The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and Elvis through an extensive record collection. However, he bristles a bit when asked about his influences as he feels, for rock drummers they are all much the same.“I was always around music growing up and I vaguely remember some things but I remember seeing a drum set and I liked the look of it, the metal and the chrome and thinking yeah that’s kinda cool and then you see the actual movement of a drummer whether it be Ringo or anybody else and you see it first hand and yeah. Influences? I’m gonna answer that but I find it, well I guess everybody wants to know but it’s always the same guys if you’re a rock drummer. We all love Bonham and Neil Peart and Alex Van Halen, Tommy Aldridge, Ian Pace; it’s always the same guys and of course Ringo. Ringo was the first commercial rock drummer, long before Tommy Lee or any of those guys. I mean that is the rock drummer who you look at and say, wow that looks like a cool gig.”
With the start of the tour looming just days away, Travis is chomping at the proverbial bit to get back out on the road; something he very much enjoys. “I can’t speak for the other guys but I can’t wait to get back on the road,” he said with enthusiasm. “I don’t know if you’ll get this emphatic answer from the rest of the band but nobody’s getting younger in any capacity and it’s almost three years since we’ve toured and touring is where it is. I like the travel, like seeing the fans reaction and that’s what we live for. That’s why you started playing drums at the age of 13 for nothing! It wasn’t for chicks or money or whatever or you were thinking you’re going to buy a boat or something; it was because you liked to play. Then the next natural progression is to play in front of people, whether its three people or 10 people at a keg party, I’ve done that a hundred times (Laughs) or a high school talent show, I did that too and everything in between and you do it because that’s what you do. My first gig was a middle aged women’s fashion show; she was my neighbor, this was bizarre. My neighbor would hear me practice so she knew I played the drums, I was 14 years old. This was not a Victoria’s Secret fashion show with 20 year old models, this was a middle aged woman’s fashion show at a country club and she asked me to play the intermission to liven the event up so she knew it was going to be boring. So she literally had me on stage, on a piece of carpet just to do a little drum solo. They opened those big red velvet curtains and here I just started playing and I played for four or five minutes and that was it. I literally played to wake people up at a women’s fashion show; didn’t get paid, didn’t care. So, yeah, me personally; I like being on the road.”
Travis feels that when the band does go on the road, they need to satisfy both old and new tastes; walking that line between the classic hits versus the new material. “On tour it’s a fine line to walk because you should play the classics and of course if you have a new record you want to play some of that; you need to satisfy everyone as much as possible.”
To discover more about Judas Priest, their upcoming release, the tour and/or the album signing, please go to www.judaspriest.com.
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)