The Band: Atkins / May Project, Holy Rage, Lyraka, ex-Judas Priest, ex-Bittersweet, ex-Blue Condition, ex-Halfbreed, ex-Lion
The Man: Al Atkins
Today I have the great pleasure and honour to talk to one man that… well, it’s somenthing as a dream for me and in truth I think I never believed I would have the chance to interview him. So it was kind of a surprise for me, but here it is, I only can thank him, for the time he dedicated to answer me and becasue he is a Gentleman in every sense, a Lord, something no so easy to find in this hard businness of Music, and even in the hard path of nowadays life.
Well, and I suppose you will be wondering whom I am talking about…hahaha Easy! No other than Mr. Allan Atkins! Former vocalist of Judas Priest and a great musician that has been, and still is, involved in many Metal projects and has worked with many great names of the Rock and Heavy music. Hell, I shut up and let’s start with it!
Hi Mr. Atkins, your first years as a musician you played drums, before becoming a great vocalist. Tell us a little about it? Do you still play it? May be other instruments as well?
When i first started out in the 60’s i played drums and also sang with a Birmingham band called ‘The Bitta Sweet’….it was quite a good band and we opened up for many up and coming artists like David Bowie, Elton John and Rod Stewart. I still play drums but only for my own pleasure now and use my son Adam’s electronic Roland kit which is great fun…..i also play guitar and my favourite is my gold top Gibson Les Paul.
Cool! Opening for such acts as Bowie, wow! And yes, you have good taste, as the Les Paul is a wonderful guitar. And what memories do you have of the Lyraka project? A project where you shared the micro with other big names as Graham Bonnet and Mark Boals
We are still waiting for this to be released? It was an honour for me to sing alongside these great vocalists…i played with Graham Bonnet at a gig in Hollywood a few years ago and i think he put my name forward when they were looking for a gravel voiced character called Semonet for the so called metal opera project….
Hahaha you are a box of surprises… In 2010 you released Holy Rage, a very heavy and strong project with usual collaborators of yours as Mick Hales. Will you resume that project some day?
Who knows? I put five years into this band and we had a ball …. we played alongside some great bands like Blaze Bailey, Diamond Head and Skid Row to name a few….the personnel changed a few times over the years and we recorded just the one album but we just seemed to burn ourselves out and i needed some fresh ideas so i moved on…
Of all your albums as Al Atkins, what is your favorite? Again, will the fans have some day a new chapter of Al Atkins great solo career?
I think ‘Demon Deceiver’ was my favourite solo album !! i wanted to find a local super group for this one and also use guest players and guitarist Simon Lees was recruited . (I also used guitarists Brian Tatler from ‘Diamond Head’ and Bernie Torme, ‘Ozzy ,Gillan’ . I would have liked to have taken this band on the road but Simon got called up to play live with ‘Budgie’ so i ended up playing with the brilliant ex Maiden guitarist Dennis Stratton and we toured the East Coast of the USA…i am working on a new solo album as we speak……
Demon Deceiver is a great album, no doubt. With Dreams of Avalon I was really surprised and touched by the feeling you transmit on it, it sounds kinda special. What do you think about it?
Wow, that was a while back…with the first two solo albums that i recorded for Germany i didn’t have any musical direction to follow and just wrote the songs has they came out and most of them i played acoustic guitar on, I’m glad you liked them because a lot of my fans don’t….they expected heavy metal and they were not. We all go through changes and at this time i had lots of creative ideas and songs that i needed to get out of my head….
Well, I’m an opened-minded guy and like almost every style of Rock & Metal. Let’s talk about the Atkins May Project. It has delivered three albums already, the last one in 2014, Empire of Destruction. It seems May and you understand each other very well, how do you feel about it?
When i wrapped up Holy Rage i was looking for some new inspiration and one day the phone rang and it was my old guitarist Paul May asking me to sing on a new album he was recording so i said count me in…..Paul had written and produced all the songs on an album called Serpents Kiss and asked me to guest on a couple of them…in the end i sang on all of them and we decided to put it out under the name (AMP) Atkins/May/Project. We signed a one off deal to see how things went and it suddenly took off with rave reviews around the world and the record company asking for more…….our next album ‘Valley of Shadows’ was received the same as the first and again we were asked to record another which is Empire of Destruction.
Atkins with May, presenting a just printed cd from AMP
If I had to underline something about Empire of Destruction it would be it consistency, there are no fillers, every song counts, Heavy Metal of high perfomance. In the album both of you are wonderful, each one in each role, you with rough and tough guy voice and Paul May delivering great riffs and solos. There was not ego fighting between you in any moment?
Not yet…..we both now our roles and give our best performance on all we do, Paul writes some great songs, sometimes very progressive sounding which i like and it takes us away from what most of the other metal bands are doing.
Good to hear it! Is it true that you are currently working with May in another album and that it will count with the participation of your friend Ian Hill?
Yes i am currently recording a new solo album of all my favourite songs that i have written or co written over the last 4 decades, it’s called ‘Priest to the Rage’, (songs from Judas Priest up to Holy Rage period)….Paul is playing most of the guitars but i also have some tasty guest players…..the first songs i have put down feature Ian Hill (Judas Priest) and Jon McCoy (Gillan) on bass and it is sounding very heavy indeed. I won’t mention any more guests until they have played their parts but they are top of their game players from all over the world, you might say it’s a ‘Global Gathering of Greatness’…..ha ha,
Two legends together: Atkins with Joe Mc Coy (Gillan)
Yeaaaah! It sounds great, so exciting, something not to miss, by no means, so we will be following your news. Do you tour around with any of your multiple projects?
Not since ‘Holy Rage’ you get wrapped up in writing/recording and doing videos and interviews, time just flies by… i have been asked many times to play live and i don’t have a band as such now so it would be like starting from scratch with new musicians and at this moment it doesn’t fit in with my plans…but who knows.?? I really miss the buzz from playing live.
Well, I hope you change your mind, because in Spain we are waiting for you with our arms opened. In 2009 you published a biography, “Dawn of the Metal Gods: My Life in Judas Priest and Heavy Metal”. Could you express in a few words the feelings and thoughts you printed in the book?
It started out as an insight of what the Birmingham scene was like in the early 70’s and playing in a band called Judas Priest in its infancy but the German publishers wanted more and it ended up as a biography of my musical life….i thought it would take me maybe a year to write but this is a different ball game to writing songs and in the end i asked for the help of Liverpool author Neil Daniels who was a god send….i wanted to get all the facts right and talked to a lot of old friends and roadies including one who had eventually ended up has sound mixer for Metallica for the last 20 years…Ian Hill wrote the forward notes and after a few years it eventually went to print……
I stronly recommend its reading. Let me talk a little more about Judas Priest. Everybody knows you were the first vocalist of Judas Priest, but with the perspective that time gives, how has that history marked your career as an artist?
Good and bad points…a lot of people say that i am riding on the coat tails of JP…..and i have used their name to help me, say get gigs….(AL Atkins ex Judas Priest) which some of the fans didn’t like, ….so i stopped doing it…now if i were in a tribute band to JP they would love it……it don’t make sense!!!! You can’t win but as I’ve got older i don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks anymore…..i have a great respect for JP and for what they have achieved through sheer hard work over these long years…
Well, sometimes people and life simply don’t make sense, so sad. Do you still keep contact with Judas Priest? Some beers, a lunch, some kind of cooperation…?
Mainly with Ian….he invites me and the wife over to his house every New Year to celebrate and when he’s not touring we meet up for a beer or two….
Nice! Of all the songs you composed for Judas Priest, which is your favourite? Do you still have some old material not published?
I think ‘Never Satisfied’ is one of my favourites and that’s one of the songs that Ian plays on my new album….like Victim of Changes it has stood the test of time…..I’ve just a couple of very early songs still not published which i must dig out one of the days …..they are on a cassette tape somewhere and i don’t have a cassette player anymore….?
I do have a cassette player at home… hahaha. Well, we have a clue already about the new album: Never Satisfied will appear on it, featuring Ian Hill on bass! Let’s go on, during your years in Judas Priest, what member of the band you understood better with?
Definitely Ian….lovely bloke, very down to earth guy and a bloody good bass player…
I like you mention it, because I guess he has always been the man in the shadow in JP and he makes a great work of glue inside JP that is very necessary in any band, apart of his musical skills. Your best moment in Judas Priest was…?
We played so many gigs in the 4 years i was with them, in fact over 150 in 1972 opening for top bands that included, Slade, Budgie, Status Quo, Black Sabbath and Garry Moore to name a few but my best moment was playing alongside and meeting Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy).
God, I understand you very well, the so big Lynott, we miss him so much… What was your role in the development of Judas Priest’s music?
Having formed the band i took on the roll as the main songwriter and at the time we were classed as a progressive rock band and i think you can hear it on songs like Caviar and Meths… I also wrote Winter and Never Satisfied ,all of which featured on their debut Rocka Rolla album….some of my other songs were Mind Conception, Holy is the Man and Whiskey Woman which the latter eventually got changed around and became ‘Victim of Changes’ and featured on Sad Wings of Destiny…so i hope i played a small role in their development..
Well, I guess no so small… In my opinion, and I think many people agrees with me, Al Atkins is a legend in the Metal Music. We have seen Rob Halford came back to Judas after so many years apart and you still continue fighting and delivering the goods. In the end, although you have different styles both of you are long distance runners and high class vocalists. Do you think the Metal history has treated you unfairly?
Hell no….the reason i started out in music….(a very long time ago) was that i enjoyed it so much…and i still do. I have been very fortunate to have played with so many talented and wonderful people over these long years that i don’t think for one minute i have been treated unfairly…..I have done things that some young musicians can only dream about…
So true. Have you ever thought about retirement or you still have the tank full of gasoline?
No…i still have the enthusiasm i had when i started out…..i think i will keep going until my body tells me to stop….
Another good news! We have Atkins for a while still, yeah! After so many years inside this business, how do you see the Metal scene nowadays?
Very healthy…one thing with metal music is it keeps changing direction, death metal, grunge metal call it what you want. Take melodic rock !! it has hardly changed since the 70’s..but heavy metal keeps forging ahead down different avenues….
Hahaha you are so right, melodic rock sounds the same as thirty years ago! By the way, are there any new young bands that had surprised you lately?
Lots !!! There are many young heavy rock/metal bands coming out of the UK now that look like they have a bright future like ‘The Treatment’…
What bands have accompanied you all your life, as a fan of Rock & Metal?
So many, from early 60’s bands ‘Cream’ and ‘The Who’ to ‘Deep Purple’,there are so many and all were an influence in my musical life who i still listen to today…
As a Metal renowned vocalist, how would you like to finish your career?
Hopefully i can keep going for a few more years and do a few more live tours…that’s all!!
We pray to see it. Thank you very much for your kindness, Mr Atkins, if you wish to add something…
Only to say thank you Alberto (Vpower) for the interview, it’s always a pleasure to talk about my life in metal music and if it helps any young metal head musicians then I’m a happy man…remember enjoy what you do first and if you get any breaks in life,that’s a bonus !!!
Yes, this is not the first time that I hear a celebrity talking about enjoying what you do, there must be some truth on it… Thanks Al Atkins, you are a gentleman, as I said at the beginning, and I look forward to listen to your new solo album soon, it seem it is gonna be full of surprises, great names and great songs. Long live to Al Atkins!