How does legendary Judas Priest banshee Rob Halford know that his new company, Metal God Records, is working? Easy, he laughs. “I’ve been using myself as the guinea pig.”
In addition to new albums from his side project Halford — “Live in Anaheim” and a forthcoming “Halford IV — Made of Metal” — he’s been reissuing catalog classics from his other outfit, Fight.
He says, “I think we’ve proved that we’re able to make a good physical product. It’s just a little indie label and we haven’t signed anybody yet, but now I think we’re ready to actively start looking for talent.”
Metal God — a nickname the leather-clad bandleader acquired back in the 1970s — has grown to include a line of exotic rock-themed apparel, designed by renowned illustrator Mark Sasso.
“He just basically listens to the music, then invents all this great imagery,” says the singer, currently on a Halford tour that hits the Regency Ballroom on Saturday, just as a rip-roaring new single, “The Mower,” is released. “Or he’ll take a word or a phrase like ‘Pray for rock and roll’ and just make an entire T-shirt out of that statement. And the irony is, in some areas of my business, the merch is doing better than the music!”
Halford has become quite the clever entrepreneur.
To publicize his local tour date, Halford held a contest to find an opening act, with his personally picked winner (Cylinder, from Santa Cruz) netting $500 for the prestigious gig. “Who knows? They could wind up on the Metal God label,” he adds.
One thing’s for certain: He’ll be running it old-school, with an emphasis on artistic development. “New talent’s musicianship is like working in a garden,” he says. “You’ve got to keep sustaining it with support and guidance.”
Almost as soon as Judas Priest wrapped its recent “British Steel” 30th-anniversary juggernaut, Halford, a physically fit 58, started feeling antsy. When the members requested a year-long breather, he sprang into solo-tour action.
Keenly aware of the toll illegal downloading has taken on his career, he says, “I’ve got to keep myself and the record company on the radar, particularly in America. So it’s nice to be able to bring some new music like ‘The Mower,’ which is me at my best, absolutely raging about everything in life.”
It’s the Brit’s ultimate bottom line — a good, granite-hard tune.
“I still get excited, more than ever, to potentially begin a day with nothing and end it with a track that could be around a lot longer than you will be,” Halford says. “Writing music? It’s the best feeling in the world.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $37 to $40
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com