“I think all artists want to do new material, and I say that including myself,” said Judas Priest drummer Scott Travis as he spoke about the band’s new album and upcoming tour, which comes to the Prudential Center in Newark on March 20.
“We always want to come up with new things, or just play different grooves or new beats or whatever you can do. I mean, nobody is gonna reinvent the wheel drumwise — or, I’m certainly not — but it’s fun to do different stuff and new stuff. But … all musicians want to keep creating and come up with new stuff. And in our world, when this tour kicks off it’ll be almost three years since we played live. So in other words, that’s a big gap and you’ve got to do something in that time, and as a working band you’re either going to be touring in that gap or make a record, and in our case it was obviously the latter.”
Firepower (Epic Records) is the new CD, their first studio material in nearly four years. And it lives up to its name from start to finish.
“I think people will like it,” said Travis. “It’s 14 tracks and people have the leisure to listen to it if they want to, and in what capacity they want to. They should live with this one for a while, because it’s a lot to take in at first, but there is a lot of good, different stuff on there. (Guitarist) Richie (Faulkner) hasn’t done 15 or 18 Priest records like the other guys, so he obviously has a lot of ideas and input. We re-employed Tom Allom and he produced some of the most respectable and successful Priest records, Scream for Vengeance and British Steel, so he’s rejoined us and is back on board. And then Andy Sneap, who is more of a modern producer. So it is the best of both worlds, and everything came together.”
“Firepower” hits the masses March 9 and is part of a busy couple of weeks for the band who also released a lyric video for “Never the Heroes” on March 2 and will be kicking off a tour on March 13 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as well as hosting a meet-and-greet album signing on March 19 at 6 p.m. at Sony Square NYC.
“The listener has to hear what we as a band tried to accomplish and it’s up to them to say if it was great or it sucked,” said Travis. “But we as a band can’t say what the listener should feel, think or hear. That’s on them.
“This time around we went back to a more organic recording state. We went in a room with a guy with the guitar plugged in and a bass player plugged in and Rob (Halford) in the booth doing some scratch vocals or something, but we actually were playing with the guys that we were making the record with. We had gotten away from that a bit, but we brought it all back with fury.
“There’s going to be ebbs and flows with the timing and/or togetherness, but rather than correct everything on a computer with Pro Tools, where you’re ‘mixing with your eyes’ — which is a phrase that I’d never heard, it means that you make sure everything is lined up perfectly but then it sounds like it was done by a robot — we mixed with our ears. And there’s nuances in there, but we’re gonna leave them because that’s how it came across when we recorded it.”
Travis grew up in a somewhat musical environment. His mother went to Juilliard and performed often in New Jersey and his brother, who is 10 years older, exposed him to The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and Elvis through an extensive record collection.
However, he bristles a bit when asked about his influences, as he feels, for rock drummers, they are all much the same.
“I was always around music growing up and I vaguely remember some things,” he said, “but I remember seeing a drum set and I liked the look of it, the metal and the chrome, and thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s kinda cool,’ and then you see the actual movement of a drummer, whether it be Ringo (Starr) or anybody else …
“Influences? I’m gonna answer that but I find it … well, I guess everybody wants to know but it’s always the same guys if you’re a rock drummer. We all love (John) Bonham and Neil Peart and Alex Van Halen, Tommy Aldridge, Ian Paice. It’s always the same guys, and of course Ringo. Ringo was the first commercial rock drummer, long before Tommy Lee or any of those guys. I mean, that is the rock drummer who you look at and say, ‘Wow, that looks like a cool gig.’ ”
With the start of the tour looming, Travis is chomping at the proverbial bit to get back out on the road, something he very much enjoys.
“I can’t speak for the other guys, but … nobody’s getting younger in any capacity, and it’s almost three years since we’ve toured, and touring is where it is,” he said. “I like the travel, like seeing the fans’ reaction, and that’s what we live for. That’s why you started playing drums at the age of 13 for nothing! It wasn’t for chicks or money or whatever … it was because you liked to play. Then the next natural progression is to play in front of people, whether its three people or 10 people at a keg party, I’ve done that a hundred times. (laughs) Or a high school talent show. I did that, too, and everything in between. You do it because that’s what you do.
“My first gig was a middle-aged women’s fashion show. She was my neighbor. This was bizarre. My neighbor would hear me practice so she knew I played the drums, I was 14 years old. This was not a Victoria’s Secret fashion show with 20-year-old models, this was a middle aged woman’s fashion show at a country club, and she asked me to play the intermission to liven the event up, so she knew it was going to be boring. So she literally had me onstage, on a piece of carpet just to do a little drum solo. They opened those big red velvet curtains, and here I just started playing, and I played for four or five minutes and that was it.
“I literally played to wake people up at a women’s fashion show. Didn’t get paid, didn’t care.”
For more about Judas Priest, visit judaspriest.com.