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Judas Priest's Rob Halford Sets Out to Dress the Metal Gods

Renata Espinosa
October 01st, 2009 @ 5:13 PM - New York

While it might seem like a difficult task to reinvent that fashion staple of heavy metal music fans, the t-shirt, if anyone has the right credentials for the task it’s Rob Halford, lead singer of legendary metal band Judas Priest.

Halford just launched Metal God, his signature brand of t-shirts that have all the soft-worn appeal of a vintage concert t-shirt but with all-new original graphics that he’s betting will appeal to die-hard metal fans and aspiring rockers alike.

“The imagery is simply an extension of what I do with my music,” explained Halford at a preview of the collection on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at a New York hotel in the East Village, not far from dive bars where heavy metal music aficionados like DJ Lady Starlight spin Judas Priest classics. “Metal God” refers to the nickname given to Halford by fans.

“Quite simply, Rob Halford invented heavy metal style,” said DJ Lady Starlight, who writes a fashion and music blog chronicling the history of hard rock and airs a heavy metal podcast, “Metal for Muthas,” on American Apparel internet radio. “The biker and leather boy look Halford adopted for promoting 'Hell Bent For Leather' in 1978 became the look every metal band emulated going forward.”

At Wednesday’s preview, Halford was sporting one of his own designs. “If you see something like this thing I’m wearing, with this fantasy mythical creature with a guitar, it says something strong and powerful,” he said. “That’s just been a natural progression over the years in rock and roll, to try and find a way of saying something about yourself with the item of clothing you’re wearing.”

“A metalhead is rarely seen without a t-shirt or at least one patch or badge of their favorite bands,” said DJ Lady Starlight. Other signatures of heavy metal style, she explained, include studs, spandex, lace and most definitively, elements of fantasy literature and art like chainmail, armor and other Medieval and Renaissance influences.

As such, many of the Metal God t-shirt designs feature mythical creatures, like the Cerberus, a ferocious three-headed dog that guards the gates to the underworld in ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Fantasy in heavy metal, said Balford, is “a cool association.”

“You can see I’m covered in tattoos of dragons and all this other mythical imagery, and that’s again a part of my background as a lyricist,” he said. “I’ve got a very vivid imagination and a lot of characters I create are made up in a fantasy kind of way. They always carry realistic virtues and attributes. So if I’m writing a song like ‘Painkiller,’ it may be, like, about, this really evil, menacing guy, which is the persona of the creature that you create, but he’s doing good. I always have a lot of fun with that.”

So far, the collection only features t-shirts, for both men and women, retailing between $55 and $65 – but eventually Halford hopes to branch out, albeit dependent on the economy.

“I think that you have to have a little bit of a leash on what you do, otherwise it’s chaos,” he said. “But we always see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think we can suddenly stop, Don’t make records, don’t make clothes, don’t make movies. I think we have a responsibility to try and keep that creative optimism going, no matter what we do.”

Halford’s confident that his particular take on things – he is the Metal God, after all – will distinguish his brand of rock-related apparel.

“I think that my connection is a little bit more personal than some of the other great things that are going on around me,” said Halford. “This is a direct connection to me. It’s called a ‘Metal God’ t-shirt. I think we’ve all got a bit of Metal God inside of us.”

He’s also hoping to extend the heavy metal spirit beyond just music fans.

“I was talking to someone earlier and they were saying, it’s like everybody wants to be a metalhead, but people are like, ‘Can I really be one? I don’t really know what this is about, but I see it, and I look at what they where and the shows they go to, and I see it on VH1 Classic Metal Mania, and I’m like, wow, it looks so cool,’” said Halford. “But if you’re into that rock and roll, edgy, exciting type of passionate world, then I think that these t-shirts and this initial launch have a way of connecting to you as a person.”

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