Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: January 2008
Brian Rademacher: Hi Al and Welcome to RockEyez.com.
Many younger fans of JUDAS PRIEST really never knew that Rob Halford was not the original vocalist; does that bother you at all that you are like the fallen PRIEST member?
Al Atkins: No, it doesn’t bother me at all it was a long time ago and life goes on.
Brian Rademacher: : Did you come up with the name JUDAS PRIEST after first taking the name FREIGHT?
Al Atkins: The original band of JUDAS PRIEST was formed in 1969, a year after BLACK SABBATH came on the scene and we actually signed a 3-year deal with London record company ‘Immediate Records’ but they went bust before we could record anything for them. This line up later split up over musical differences, I wanted to take the band into the heavier side of rock but they wanted to keep a bluesier feel. After teaming up with KK Downing and Ian Hill in 1970, I suggested using the JUDAS PRIEST name again because I didn’t like the name they wanted to call the band, which was FREIGHT and luckily they both, agreed.
Brian Rademacher: JUDAS PRIEST was really a bluesy type rock band before you headed in the metal direction, was that partially your doing?
Al Atkins: Yes it was the direction I wanted the band to go and the guys didn’t take much persuading, KK was heavily into Jimmy Hendrix and Ian was also already into the heavier music of the time.
Brian Rademacher: You opened for THIN LIZZY back in the day; do you have any impression of those guys when you opened for them?
Al Atkins: They were a great bunch of guys and what a great band to listen to and Phil and I shared a nice joint before the gig at Stafford Hall, UK.
Brian Rademacher: Now did you actually leave JUDAS PRIEST or were you asked to leave because of Tony Iommi’s company, IMA?
Al Atkins: No, I left them because after 3 years of touring and still not securing a record deal I basically couldn’t survive with me being the only one married with a kid to feed.
They carried on for another year with Rob at the helm and eventually signed a deal with independent label ‘Gull Records’ on a condition they bought in another guitarist to give them a bigger sound and in stepped Glen Tipton.
Brian Rademacher: Did you know Halford around town and did you have impression of him if you did?
Al Atkins: No, I had never met Rob until he took my place in the band and he seemed a cool guy.
Brian Rademacher: You recorded a demo in 1971 with JUDAS PRIEST
- Good Loving Runs Deep
- Time After Time
- Nothing's Lost
- Victim of Changes.
JUDAS PRIEST recorded Victim of Changes and you gave your version on your own release titled Judgement Day. Do you feel Rob Halford gave that song justice?
Al Atkins: Actually ‘Victim of Changes’ was two songs put together, ‘Whiskey Woman’ written by myself and ‘Red Light Lady’ written by Rob. I wasn’t impressed with Rob’s voice when I first heard him sing but over the years, he has become the best metal vocalist in the world in my opinion.
Brian Rademacher: You left JUDAS PRIEST in 1973 and formed LION? Was that band in the same genre as JUDAS PRIEST?
Al Atkins: Very much so, the line up was Bruno Stapenhill (bass) from JUDAS PRIEST 69’ line-up, Harry Tonks (guitar), Pete Boot (drums) ex-BIDGIE and myself (vocals). We played together for about 5 years and had a massive following in the U.K. Even our sound engineer name Mick (Zoom) Hughes made a name for himself and now works for METALLICA/SLIPKNOT. I think we split up too early because having ridden the storm of Britain’s punk explosion playing along side THE STRAGLERS and THE SEX PISTOLES we called it a day and it wasn’t long after the NWOBHM came about.
Brian Rademacher: You were also in BITTA SWEET, BLUE CONDITION, & HALBREED (1967-1973) Can you give us any background on these other bands?
Al Atkins: BITTA SWEET was one of my first bands and formed in 65’ and we played together for a few years opening up for bands like Cat Stevens, HEINZ and the WILDBOYS, David Bowie and Robert Plant’s BAND OF JOY. It was a good learning stage for all of us, we split when one of our guitarists left to immigrate to Australia.
Brian Rademacher: 2007 you released “Demon Deceiver,” which received good reviews, are you planning another release in 2008? If so, can you tell us anything about that?
Al Atkins: I would like to record a new album with my band rather than another solo project and we have a few ideas and songs written down and we have three record companies in Europe already interested in signing us so let’s wait and see.
Brian Rademacher: You’ve been in the music business along time now, what is the biggest highlight of your career?
Al Atkins: There have been quite a few highlights, like touring the East Coast of USA with ex-IRON MAIDEN guitarist Dennis Stratton in 2004, we had a great laugh and got on together very well. Another was back in the Seventies, sitting down, and jamming on Peter Greens old Gibson Les Paul with another one of my favorite guitar players Gary Moore.
Brian Rademacher: During your tours what are some of the things you ask for on your rider in the past?
Al Atkins: We don’t go in for all that stuff some bands ask for, but a bottle of Jack Daniels is always nice to get.
Brian Rademacher: You’ll be going out on tour in March with Al Atkins’ HOLY RAGE what can fans expect and how long will your set be?
Al Atkins: Our set list is songs from the old metal and some songs from the new album, it’s strange what we are asked to play from the JUDAS PRIEST albums but I usually stick to the old songs that I wrote when I was with them like ‘Victim’ and ‘Never Satisfied’. There are three bands on tour so our set list will probably be limited by time given.
Brian Rademacher: Do you feel with MySpace and the internet does a band really need a major record company anymore?
Al Atkins: There are a lot of smaller record companies feeling the pinch, if you know what I mean. I can’t see them surviving because of all the free downloading that goes on, which is a shame but that’s the road the internet is taking the music business but as long as people pay for their songs then yes it can be good for all.
Brian Rademacher: Will you be playing any shows in the US?
Al Atkins: We have just played at ‘The Knitting Factory’ in Hollywood, California with Graham Bonnet and the TAZ TAYLOR BAND which was cool and we go on tour in the USA again in July but no dates have been confirmed yet, all I know is that it will be on the East Coast.
Brian Rademacher: Through the years, what musician made the biggest impression on you?
Al Atkins: Not really one musician but I think super group CREAM with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, they set a very high standard of musicianship combining Blues/Jazz and heavy rock music I had never seen the like of before in the sixties.
Brian Rademacher: Great talking to you Al.
Al Atkins: Thanks
Co-founder and former lead singer of JUDAS PRIEST (1969-1973)
Judgment Day (1989) Dreams Of Avalon (1990) Victim Of Changes (1998) Heavy Thoughts (2003)
Latest CD: “Demon Deceiver” - Available to buy now!
Thanks to EXTREME MUSIC AGENCY (EMA) Rob Grohl R.G. Concert Promotionz