Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill still loving being a metal god after 55 years

Seminal rock band will play Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta on Saturday, May 11, with $25 bargain tickets available.
Bassist Ian Hill is the one member of Judas Priest to never leave the band. “I never saw any reason to,” he says with a chuckle.

Bassist Ian Hill is the one member of Judas Priest to never leave the band. “I never saw any reason to,” he says with a chuckle.

British band Judas Priest broke the laws of rock in the 1970s and ‘80s, hitting harder than what was considered socially acceptable, building what would become a genre dubbed heavy metal.

Fast forward to 2022 and Judas Priest bassist Ian Hall was on stage of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony looking both astonished and mildly sheepish as he spoke a few words at the mic.

“You know you start off all those years ago and you rebel against the establishment,” Hill said on stage that day. “You want to do it your way, you want to be different and try to be unique. You carry that through with you over the years until suddenly you realize you have become the establishment and people are rebelling against you. So here we are, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I mean, that’s the ultimate establishment, so now I am proud and honored to be part of that.”

Hill recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he didn’t expect to say anything at all, thinking lead singer Rob Halford would take up all the time for acceptance speeches.

“I can play in front of a festival of 30,000 people, doesn’t bother me, but put a microphone in front of me, it’s different,” Hill said. “I have trouble making a speech at a wedding. It was good the spotlight was on me. I couldn’t see more than two rows back!”

The band only had seven minutes to perform so they squashed three of their fan favorites together into a medley: “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.”

“You get on stage and see all these other musicians with their entourages at the tables in front of the stage,” Hill said. “Bruce Springsteen. Lionel Richie. Dolly Parton. Duran Duran. They’re all down there. They’re all loving it. You’re up there playing and you have this wonderful feeling of belonging, a fraternal feeling. Suddenly, you’re one of the tribe.”

Judas Priest’s acceptance by the mainstream rock world was a long time coming. The band was technically eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 1999, 25 years after its first album “Rocka Rolla.” But it took 23 more years for them to get inducted, 16 years after its metal brethren Black Sabbath.

They continue to tour, coming to Alpharetta’s Ameris Bank Amphitheatre on May 11, which is nearly 47 years after the band’s first stop here in 1977 at the Fox Theatre to promote its major label debut “Sin After Sin.” Concert prices at Live Nation mostly range from $78.25 and $263.40 with special $25 tickets available beginning May 8 as part of a nationwide annual sale for thousands of concerts.

Judas Priest formed in 1969 in Birmingham, England, just a year after Black Sabbath from the same town. They helped carve out a sound that spawned bands ranging from Iron Maiden and Motörhead to Metallica and Pantera.

Hill, who now lives just 20 miles from his hometown, is the one member of Judas Priest to never leave the band.

“I never saw any reason to,” he said, with a chuckle. “I’m perfectly happy with what I do. I helped start the band. It’s something I love dearly. When I’m not doing Judas Priest, I’m a family guy. I have four kids and wife. I don’t do more music at the end of a tour. Maybe when the band is really over, I’ll put a blues band together and play at local bars with my buds, nothing serious.”

At age 72, he said he’s fortunate that he is healthy enough to play as well as he did in his younger days. Unfortunately, his longtime colleague and guitarist Glenn Tipton was diagnosed more than a decade ago with Parkinson’s disease and is now limited to playing three encore songs at concerts.

“That’s about all he can handle,” Hill said. “It’s tough for him. I can’t put myself in his shoes.”

Judas Priest performed on the "American Idol' season 10 finale with contestant James Durbin.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

Judas Priest has never gotten much radio airplay on rock stations. “It was more the image thing,” he said. “We’ve always been underneath it. It’s difficult to dance to heavy metal music. If you’re at a disco or on the radio driving to work, the last thing you want to hear is ‘Painkiller.’”

But the band has continued to release new music through the years, including this year’s “Invisible Shield,” its 19th studio album. It received good reviews and hit the top 20 on the Billboard Top 200 the week of its release.

“We’re always trying to challenge ourselves and take a step forward and sometimes it works,” he said.

Hill is also happy to hear that Rob Reiner is shooting a sequel to his classic 1984 mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap,” which in part took stories from bands like Judas Priest with prop disasters on stage or getting lost backstage.

“We do casinos at Las Vegas,” he said. “You have to go through the kitchen or housekeeping. You don’t know where the hell you are!”


Judas Priest

7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11, at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre. $78.25-$263.40. 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. www.livenation.com