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AL ATKINS formed a band... He called it... JUDAS PRIEST
While the Dinosaurs of Metal Judas Priest glimpse into the future with the theme of their new album "Nostradamus", STALKER looks back to the pre-history of the band: When singer Alan John "Al" Atkins teamed up with a certain K.K.Downing and Ian Hill in 1969, he suggested to call this new band Judas Priest (named after the Bob Dylan song The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest), some years later Al was replaced by a certain Rob Halford... Now Al is back in the scene, with a band (HOLY RAGE), a CD (Sin Sessions "Demon Deceiver") and his autobiography "Dawn Of The Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal " (written with Neil Daniels) that will be released in autumn 2008 by Iron Pages.
What band were you in prior to the formation of Judas Priest?
Late 1968.......... I was in a band I named ´The Chapters of Life´, but our agency thought the name was too long and retitled us ´Jug´, and has they were supplying us with our gigs I didn´t object. One night at a gig we were playing with ´Spooky Tooth´ and ´Slade´, I was approached by another band named ´Evolution´ who were managed by ´Black Sabbath´s´ manager Jim Simpson, and they asked me to go on a three month tour to Morrocco, which appealed to me, and so I left ´Jug´.
Not long after joining up with them, Jim Simpson told me apart from singing in ´Evolution´ I also had to drive their tour bus, so I told him to stick it, "I´m a singer not a fucking roadie", I told him.
By then my old band had split up, so I formed another one with some members that I had played with before, like John Perry (guitar) Bruno Stapenhill (bass) and John Partridge (drums).´This was the beginning of ´Judas Priest´.
When did Judas Priest form? How long were you with the band?
Judas Priest formed in 1969 , it didn´t get off to a very good start because John Perry (aged 18) commited suicide. We auditioned for another guitarist, and one young guy who came along was K.K Downing - or Kenny, as we new him by then - but he lacked experience and didn´t get the job. It went to a lad name Ernie Chataway.We toured the UK and did some recording demos of some of my songs and landed a three year contract with ´Immediate´ records in London, but not long after signing the contract they went bust. We eventually split up and I formed ´Judas Priest´ MK2 in 1970 with a bit more experienced by now KK (guitar) and Ian Hill (bass), on drums was John Ellis. After touring up and down the motorways and opening up for bands like ´Budgie´, ´Status Quo´ ´Black Sabbath´ and ´Thin Lizzy´ - to name just a few - and going through three drummer changes, which was Alan Moore and Chris Campbell, I eventually left them in May 1973 and was replaced by Rob Halford.
Al and early Judas Priest
You were with the band "Lion" in the seventies. How was this experience?
´Lion´ was the best band I had ever played in, they were a great bunch of guys and brilliant musicians, Bruno (bass), the original Judas Priest bass player, Harry Tonks (guitar), Pete Boot (drums) - ex Budgie, and myself on vocals.
What was it like touring with the Sex Pistols? Did you like their music or Punk rock?
We never actually toured with them, we played with them just the once at ´Barbarellas nightclub´ in Birmingham, can´t remember much about the gig, but my band ´Lion´ opened up for them, and then we left the club and went for a curry in town. I never liked punk music that much, hence that´s why we left the club early.
Essentially you were the dominant force behind the classic album "Rock a Rolla". What were your ideas for the recording of these classic tracks?
I was the main writer in the band and some of the songs like ´Winter´ came about from touring Scotland in the freezing winter of 70´ and getting stuck in a snow storm at night on a mountain and having to be dug out the following morning.
´Caviar and Meths´ was our big finishing 10 minute finale when we played live and was just about two peoples different lives, one had all the luck and money, the other had a hard life with none. ´Priest´ cut it short on ´Rocka Rolla´ but I don´t know why. I recorded the full version on my ´Heavy Thoughts´ solo album.
´Never Satisfied´ is just about our ever changing lives.....i wrote this in 72´ and Rob recorded it ´Live at the Crucible´ a few years ago. It was also covered by LA band ´Armoured Saint´ but I haven´t heard their version. K.K was writing his first ever song when i left them in 73´ called ´Run of The Mill´.
On ´Sad Wings of Destiny´ was two more of mine ´Dreamer Deciever´ and ´Victim of Changes´ , ´Victim´ was made up of two songs, mine was ´Whiskey Woman´ and Rob´s was ´Red Light Lady´ which the band joined together and retitled it and it is now an all time classic.
Did you like the cover versions of your songs by Steel Prophet and Armored Saint and others?
Yes they were brilliant covers of my old songs that Judas Priest had made famous over the years.
Holy Rage: Alex Renolds, Chris Johnson, Al Atkins, Scott Dallow
Now to your recent CD: when were the tracks for Sin Sessions recorded and who were your band mates for these sessions?
´Demon Deceiver´ (the sin sessions) was recorded over two years in 2005/06 and was finally released last year in 2007 (in the UK, the ed.). The main recording band was Simon Lees (guitar) from Budgie, Pete Emms( bass) from the ´Vaseline Rats´ and Mick Hales (drums) from ´Dante Fox´. Other session players included Brian Tatler (guitar) from ´Diamond Head´, South African guitarist Mike de Jager and my own guitarist Chris Johnson from my new band ´The Holy Rage´. I also sang a duet with Johnny Lokke from Kansas on one of his songs called ´Drown.
Sin Sessions presents two Judas Priest classics Victim of Changes and Dreamer Deceiver that were your compositions. Were these re-recorded for inclusion on the CD?
Yes, I decided to re- record them especially for the new CD . Maybe it was a bad idea, but I thought it would appeal to some of Priest fans who would buy it. Never the less I thought they sounded pretty good, but that is the last of me recording any old Priest tracks again - even though I wrote them.
Author: John Wisniewski, transl. K. Weber, photos: alatkins.com Date: 2008-06-21