Judas Priest’s Ian Hill Discusses New Album, Metal Classics, Hall of Fame Induction

With an increasing amount of veteran hard rock and heavy metal acts opting for retirement, it will be assuring to longtime metalheads that not only is Judas Priest still very much in business, but they are still offering up highly inspired new tunes – as evidenced by the release of their 19th studio effort overall, Invincible Shield.

On record, Priest’s line-up is comprised of singer Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. But due to Tipton’s ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease, Andy Sneap (who also serves as Priest’s producer) fills in for live performances – which he will be doing once more on the band’s upcoming tour.

Hill spoke with AllMusic shortly before the March 8, 2024 release of Invincible Shield, discussing the new album, his picks for favorite and most underrated Priest album, and if a 20th studio album is a possibility.

How does Invincible Shield differ from previous Judas Priest albums?

Hill: “As we usually do, we take a step forward and try and make things better every time. We’re still learning – after all these years. So, we try and improve on what we did previously. It’s been an ongoing thing now since about 1974. Whatever bell or whistle there is, we’ll give it a go. If it works, great. If not? It’s discarded. It’s a step forward from Firepower.”

What are some of your favorite tracks on the new album?

Hill: “At the moment, probably the title track – it’s got a lot of parts to it. It goes back to those early, sort of ‘Victim of Changes’ type things – with the different turns, and bits and pieces to it. Other standout tracks are ‘Panic Attack,’ and ‘The Serpent and the King’ – that’s just a real ‘hang on and save it for the end of the set’ kind of song. It’s a real fast one, a real exciting song.”

How is Glenn currently doing, and how much of a role did he have in the writing and recording of the album?

Hill: “He’s doing about as well as anybody can – given the situation. He’s got a horrible disease there. It’s preventing him from coming on tour. He just hasn’t got the strength to do it. Although he can do [guest appearances] – just last fall we did that thing in California, Power Trip, and he did the encores. But his brain is still working – he still comes up with these ideas and suggestions. So, he’s still got a huge part to play – although he’s unfortunately not on the road anymore.”

What does Andy Sneap bring to the band as a producer?

Hill: “His talent – in a simple answer. He’s a very, very clever bloke. His knowledge of metal is unparalleled. He’s shown his talent on the last album and on this one. He’s a very particular man. He won’t settle for anything. He’ll keep going back and doing things, and remixing, and tweaking this and tweaking that – until he thinks it’s perfect. And he brings out perfection to Judas Priest. He’s a great asset.”

Sonically, what do you think of modern day metal albums compared to ’70s or ’80s metal albums?

Hill: “Oh, well even we don’t sound like ’70s metal albums anymore! [Laughs] Well, it’s improved, hasn’t it? The way things are recorded and the equipment that is available these days, you have greater quality there, for one. The instruments are better, the strings are better, the amplification is better, the recording equipment – everything has improved. It’s changed beyond all description since we started in ’74. It sounds completely different. And the other thing is the endless amount of tracks you can put on a record. When we started in the early ’70s, it was I think eight tracks…it might have been sixteen. But definitely no more on the first album [1974’s Rocka Rolla] – on the second album [1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny] it might have been 24-track. And then the last of the tape recordings would have probably been 48-track.”

How does the songwriting work in the band today compared to earlier on?

Hill: “Pretty much the same. Up until recently, it was Glenn and Ken [KK Downing] would put the music together and Rob did the lyrics. Then of course Ken’s spot has been taken over by Richie, and the quality is at least the same – if not better – with the songwriting. That’s the way it’s always been, pretty much. There was a time when I’d throw a few ideas together – but not for a long time now. The lads do a great job, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Which Priest songs did you have a hand in writing back in the day?

Hill: “I had a hand in writing ‘Winter,’ and I think the last one I wrote was ‘Invader.’ And ‘Dreamer Deceiver,’ I think. But nothing since about ’78.”

Which Judas Priest album is your favorite and why?

Hill: “It’s probably Defenders of the Faith. It was the end of that road, really. You can trace the roots of that album all the way back to Rocka Rolla. After that, we did the pretty much experimental Turbo – with guitar synthesizers. And then we ran off on a harder edge altogether – with Ram It Down and Painkiller. I think that’s probably still my favorite from all those years ago – as a whole.”

Which Priest album is the most underrated?

Hill: “Probably Point of Entry. We were slighted with that – people were saying, ‘Oh, it’s really commercial.’ But at least it got us through to a more mainstream audience. If you get a song on…it used to be ‘AM radio,’ which is now ‘mainstream media’ I suppose, you get yourself a track on that, and your audience expanded by a gazillion. Whereas just keeping it on the rock channels and the metal channels – again, the audience is there, but you’re not trying to get yourself across to any new fans. So, that’s one. And the other ones are the Ripper albums [1997’s Jugulator and 2001’s Demolition]. Especially Demolition is overlooked.”

Are you still in touch with KK Downing and would you ever consider working with him again?

Hill: “I think he’s gone a bit too far for that now. I gave him a couple of chances to basically say hello, and he blanked me. So, he ain’t going to get another chance. It’s a pity the way it’s turned out. But things are what they are.”

What are some memories of when Priest was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022?

Hill: “Surprise, I think. I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be. I was expecting maybe a little presentation ceremony. I never knew it was going to be as big a deal as it was. I was leaning two ways to begin with to start with – take it or leave it. But I’m so glad we did it. At the end of the day, it was just a great live show – all those different bands getting on a stage, playing completely different music for the most part. And everyone at least appreciated it for its musical value. You might not like it, but…I almost got rap! Almost got it, but not quite. It was just a huge event. I was amazed at how huge it was. I’m glad we did it in the end.”

Do you think by Priest finally getting inducted, it may open the doors for other heavy metal bands, like Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, and Slayer?

Hill: “That’s what I hope for. We’ve been overlooked as a genre for a long time now. Maybe this will – maybe it will crack the ice a little bit.”

What can fans expect from the upcoming tour?

Hill: “It will be the usual big Priest production. All the essential parts will be there – lights, flashes, bangs, cinemas…all the components of a Priest production will be there.”

Was the Power Trip performance and experience on par with the US Festival?

Hill: “That’s a difficult one, because it was a different concept. The US Festival went on for about three days [in 1983], and there were a hell of a lot of people there – there was something like 300,000 people at that one. That’s not to take away from the Power Trip Festival we did – because that was amazing, as well. And when you think there were only six bands on, that made it all the more special, I suppose. I don’t know what the up-and-coming bands thought of that, seeing as they didn’t get a piece of the action, but again, it was another great thing to do. I fully enjoyed it. You’re mixing with all the old guys, as well – I spoke with the Metallica lads, a couple of Maiden lads came over, as well. It was good to see them, it really was.”

Invincible Shield is Priest’s 19th studio album overall. What are the chances of a 20th?

Hill: “Oh, we’ll see. There’s no reason why not at the moment. We’re going to play this one first, and then take a breather, and then see where we go from there. It would be a nice number to finish on.”

For more info, visit the Judas Priest official website.

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