Few events were as important to metal’s cultural development as the coming out of Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford. By revealing he was gay to the public, Rob forced heavy metal to examine its own hangups with masculinity and sexuality, and consider that there were prominent gay members within the scene (for the record, metalheads did quite well with it, shrugging and declaring that it really didn’t matter). Now, in a new interview, ex-Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing claims that Halford’s sexuality was never a secret to the band.
“We always knew Rob was gay,” K.K. told Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn on his No Fuckin’ Regrets podcast. (transcription by Blabbermouth). “Because the thing is back in the days — in the ’60s and particularly early ’70s, when everything was still kind of behind closed doors and stuff like that — people felt a bit more comfortable around us because we would hang around in groups and gangs and we would always know that that guy is different to us and that girl is different.”
Downing says that not only was this not really a problem for the band, it was actually welcomed by them: “Obviously, to me, Rob being gay, apart from [having] a great voice, I thought Rob was gonna stay in the band forever, and he’s obviously gonna be theatrical, he’s gonna be obviously articulate with words — and he was; he was all of that,” Downing said. “Sensitivities and all of that, and the showmanship — so all of these ingredients [were] great attributes to have as a frontman. And I proved to be right.”
Not only that, but Downing makes it clear that in the late ’70s, during Judas Priest’s rise to fame, gender was meant to be bent.
“I actually looked like a girl — let’s be honest,” he said. “When I was, like, 17 [or] 18, I had hair down to [my waist]. And I can remember being at a jukebox once in a bar, and I must have been 18, and this big trucker came up behind me and he put his hands underneath my arms to feel my boobs. I was, like, ‘Excuse me, mate,’ as best as I could. He groped what he thought was a girl. But pretty much everything was androgynous [in those days].”
Check out the full interview below:
Words by Chris Krovatin