The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Tome On The Range

Body Metal: Judas Priest’s Rob Halford On The Trouble With Piercings At Airport Security
The Quietus , October 15th, 2022 08:33

In an exclusive extract from his new book, Biblical, the Metal God discusses why metal is not just for listening to – it can also be worn, or inserted into your genitals

Huge numbers of heavy metal devotees don’t just listen to metal – they also scatter the element liberally among their everyday vestments. Even more impressively, the most devout and evangelical disciples even incorporate metal into their actual bodies.

The metal world was, beyond question, the first music realm fully to embrace jewellery. It nurtured and developed the look of metal rings, chains, studs, and piercings, and then other forms of rock such as goth and emo followed in its wake.

The classic metal jewellery that everyone knows features skulls, snakes, wolves, or devil insignias. Basically anything to do with the dark side of mortality. Those symbols have a long historical place in our culture, ever since pirates flew skull-and-crossbones flags on their ships.

I think it’s fascinating that rock fans and metalheads utilize the imagery of death in this way. The skeleton rings basically say that we are all just walking skeletons. Are we cheating mortality by flaunting this insignia? Is it a pushback against wanting to live forever?

As a teenage music fan, I loved all the extravagant rings that Hendrix used to sport purely because they looked so cool. I wear rings and chains in everyday life, and always if I’m having photographs taken, for exactly the same reason – because it looks more interesting.

When you take a photo, you want to engage the person who will look at it. If I didn’t have my Judas Priest rings and crucifixes and spiked wristbands on, the photo would be more boring. I’m expected to look a certain way, and I’m happy to oblige because I love it.

It’s the same as when I first grew a goatee beard and somebody asked me, “Why have you done that?” I said, “Because it makes my face more interesting.” Likewise, why did I start wearing biker shades or leather caps? To liven things up. We’re meant to be entertaining people.

Most metal jewellery concerns itself with looking powerful, potent, and masculine. It tends to use alpha male–type imagery. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be beautiful. Some specialists craft heavy metal jewellery from pure silver. It sells for hundreds of pounds and it’s worth it.

I don’t wear exclusively metal insignia. Living in Phoenix, I have some gorgeous turquoise jewellery that I bought from local Native American tribes in Arizona. I often wear it because, like the skull rings, it makes a lifestyle statement that I can embrace.

I’d love to say that I also get all of my metal jewellery from such exotic sources, but I’m afraid most of it comes from China via Amazon Prime! Some days, I have a ring on each finger and every one of them came by that route. All of modern life appears to be made in China.

Every few months I go online, search out rings I don’t have, and order them. I have hundreds, in Phoenix and Walsall, because I’m always giving them away to fans. It’s never a premeditated thing. We’ll just be chatting and I’ll hand them a ring as a memento.

I think it’s fair to say that, all through my life, I’ve always liked to go one step further. Wearing rings on your fingers is one thing. Inserting metal into your body is a different matter entirely.

When I was out of Priest, playing in Fight and getting heavily tattooed, I also got into body piercing. It had intrigued me for a while. I felt that the connection between playing metal and putting it in your body needed to be properly investigated.

My tattooist-bassist Jay Jay was also my portal into this world. He knew friends who ran a Phoenix body-piercing company named HTC, and I went down with a couple of mates and had my nipples pierced. God, the pain was excruciating – but what a fucking power trip!

It hurts to put nipple rings in and it sure hurts to take them out! They had to be removed for my prostate cancer surgery in 2021, and they hadn’t been out in three decades. The memory of three nurses, with forceps and pliers, struggling to extricate them at 6 a.m. still makes my eyes water.

This is because your body is constantly striving to push piercings out, if it can. It sees them as foreign invasions into its tissue, although it will tolerate surgical steel a little more. I had to go see my current Phoenix piercer, Marilyn, to get my nipples pierced all over again.

You’re probably not surprised to learn that I indulged my penchant for going one step further by getting a Prince Albert in my dick. It’s largely a sexual thing. Having it put in was as painful as you would expect, but probably not as bad as the nipples, because it was over so quickly.

A weird thing about body piercings is that you always want bigger jewellery. You want to go up to the next level, the next gauge, of the piercing. Marilyn has done all sorts of size adjustments and stretches to my cock piercings since I had my Prince Albert put in.

One occupational hazard of putting heavy metal in your body is going through airport X-ray body scanners. I regularly set the machines off. The security officers ask: “Have you got anything in your pockets, sir?”

“No, it’s body jewellery.”

“Oh, OK.”

They wave their wand over me and it bleeps around my nipples and my cock. Some guards nod me through at that point, but sometimes a buff security officer will ask me: “I’m just going to put the back of my hand against your body part for a second – is that OK?”

It’s fine by me, mate! Take more than a second, if you want! Cop a good feel!

Some metal fans take body piercing way further than me and become, quite literally, metalheads. I met one guy who had a flexible stainless-steel ruler inserted into his scalp. How much must that have hurt?! He waited for it to heal, then had three metal spikes screwed into it.

There’s also a famous guy, The Enigma, who used to be in the Jim Rose Circus and has toured with various metal bands. He is covered in exotic piercings, has coral implants in his skull to look like horns, and has had his eyes tattooed so that the whites are black.

I’m not judgmental towards people like him. Why would I be? I’ve had enough piercings done myself. Just last year, I went to see Marilyn, my piercer in Phoenix, again, and got my septum pierced. Since then, I’ve been back to get the next gauge up.

It really winds up some people. I read them online, saying, What the hell is wrong with you, Halford? You’ve got that stupid fucking beard, you’ve just had your septum pierced, and you are seventy years old! Just grow the fuck up!

I think those (over-)reactions are hilarious! Body piercing, like tattoos, is all about personal self-identity, self-empowerment, and expression. I’ve had my septum pierced at seventy because it is my body, my choice, my life. And I can’t think of anything more heavy metal than that.

Extracted from Biblical: Rob Halford’s Heavy Metal Scriptures published in hardback, eBook and audiobook by Headline Publishing Group on 1st November