Judas Priest’s Rob Halford shares why legendary coming out almost never happened

Judas Priest Rob Halford

Judas Priest singer Rob Halford has recalled the “enormous feeling of freedom” he felt after he came out on television more than two decades ago.

The heavy metal legend told Apple Music’s Hattie Collins on Sunday (6 June) that he never planned to reveal his sexuality to the world in 1998. Halford described how he was at an interview with MTV in New York, talking about a project he was working on when he casually came out as gay.

“And in the casual course of the conversation, we were talking about the overall music, and the direction, and the feelings,” Halford recalled. “And I said something to the effect of ‘Well, speaking as a gay man, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah’, and then I heard the producer’s clipboard bounce on the floor.”

He continued: “It was one of those sharp intakes ‘Oh my God, he’s come out’, and so that was it.”

Halford admitted to Collins that he “may not have come out per se” if he had “really thought this through like today’s the day I’m going to come out”. He added that coming out is a “big” and “glorious” moment for “so many of us” in the LGBT+ community.

Rob Halford shared that his “simple” coming out moment in the 1998 interview resulted in an “enormous feeling of freedom” because of the “pressure” to hide his sexuality.

“So there I was, and I did the interview, and then I walked back to the hotel and went back to my room and go ‘That’s it, now everybody knows’,” Halford said. “And then, of course, it hit the news wires and that was that.”

The Judas Priest frontman continued: “So wow, it was just this enormous feeling of freedom, and the pressure was gone, and there’s no more talking behind your back because you have all this ammunition of power as a gay person now, as an out gay person.

“Nothing can hurt you because this is it. You can’t throw insults, you can’t throw rumours, you can’t say anything negative about me because I am who I am.”

Rob Halford also opened up to Collins about the difficulties of hiding his sexuality as Judas Priest’s popularity gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s. He remembered how he would return to his hotel room after performances because he was worried about being outed by the paparazzi before he told his bandmates and family about his sexuality.

“As a youngish guy in a thriving heavy metal band, it was difficult because I was in that place where a lot of us protected everybody else,” Halford said. “[I thought] ‘Oh, I better not come out because it will upset my mum and dad. I hadn’t better come out because it will upset my friends, I hadn’t better come out because it’ll upset my band and my fans and record company’.”

He told Collins that he “had all that riding” on his shoulders as Judas Priest was “really gaining headway, particularly in America”. Halford explained: “Mentally, on top of being the gay man in the closet, I had all these extra pieces piled onto my life at that time.”