Hanna Tsepesh: Hello Chris Johnson and Al Atkins! Thanks so much for accepting this interview I know that you guys are little bit busy at the moment! First of all: how are you guys and how are the things doing with your concerts?
Chris Johnson: Hi Hanna! Things are very hectic at them moment which is great! Being a busy band is always good! With Al’s book “Dawn of the Metal Gods” and the new global CD release things are looking pretty excellent.
Al Atkins: I'm good, concerts are coming in now and next year looks positive with some new promoters working with us that will see us touring Europe and USA ,some dates are already confirmed for Dallas.. Chris and myself are busy doing other media stuff too with interviews like this and lots of radio . I would still like to see us play some of the big fests in the UK like 'Download', that would be great .
Hanna Tsepesh: For those who do not know Holy Rage could tell us a little how it all started?
Al Atkins: The band started out as the 'Al Atkins Band' to promote my 5th solo Demon Deceiver album in 2007 and went through various member line ups until we got to this one which is Chris (guitar), Scott Dallow (bass) Mick Hales(drums) and myself on vocals. I decided to give the band a title and came up with the 'Holy Rage' .
Chris Johnson: Holy Rage essentially is (or was) the Al Atkins Band. Al decided to change the name as, hey, none of us will be doing this forever. So if there was ever a lineup change a new singer would not have to change his name by deedpole! I met Al a few years ago, discovering we were actually related! My wife (Al’s cousin) introduced us. A few months later Al asked me to record on Victim from Demon Deceiver. After becoming good friends as well, we soon discovered we had more history than we thought. My uncle was actually Rob Halfords partner, I grew up with the guys from JP in the Yew Tree estate in West Bromwich where it all started when I was young, it is really weird that 30 years later I would be playing for the guy who started it all.
Hanna Tsepesh: What inspired you the most to create the lyrics for Holy Rage? The band writes the lyrics first or first the band creates the riffs to comply with the lyrics?
Chris Johnson: A bit of both really! For instance with Give them hell, Al came up with the lyrics and song in his head, came to the studio and said, it goes like this, I jammed a riff to his idea and BANG we had a great song! The guy is a genius!
Al Atkins: I usually write the songs , i write the music first and lyrics to fit and the band add that great wall of sound which makes the songs sound much heavier.
Hanna Tsepesh: What are your favorite bands?
Chris Johnson: ABBA! (laughs)
Hanna Tsepesh: (laughs) Good one!
Chris Johnson: nah seriously, I have been very lucky to meet quite a few. Graham Bonnet being one of them. I loved him in Alcatrazz with Vai and Malmsteen. Skid Row is another.
Apparently I am not allowed to mention Nickelback as people threaten to hit me. Eh Al?
If I had to say ONE BAND, I would say Whitesnake. Again Vai played his part but 1986 has to be one of my all time favorite vinyl’s.
Al Atkins: I am a big fan of 'Black Label Society' ,Zakk Wylde is a great guitarist and i have just added one of their songs to our live set list 'Suicide Messiah'.I also like 'Slayer' a lot .There are so many bands i like, too many to mention but mainly all heavy metal.
Hanna Tsepesh: Chris, when you start to play guitar? Any musician inspired you to pick this instrument? Also can you talk little bit about your career?
Chris Johnson: My influences. Ok I would say: Vai was most influential on me. He is just one amazing musician. As for my musical career I never really had one! Yes I was in many bands in the 80’s. Nothing to speak of. However my passion for guitar was realized when I opened the first (as far as I know) guitar sample website in 1998 for collaboration purposes. That was just mental, 2 million hits in 2 years, I was on god knows how many CD’s, in sampling mags in places like Australian and USA, my mailbox was always full!
I took it down after 5 years. It really took up too much time!
Hanna Tsepesh: Oh, very cool Chris! Al Atkins, I would like to know, how do you keep your vocal ability after all these years and also you have any singer that you admire the most?
Al Atkins: My voice has got more grittier with age it's all down to the whiskey and cigarettes over the years but i stopped smoking a long time ago now and i am hitting some more high notes again , in fact i like the feel of my voice now more than i ever did before.
I admire singers who continually sing year in , year out touring the world and still keep that great quality in their voice and still hit those high notes like: Bruce Dickenson and Rob Halford.
Hanna Tsepesh: About the past with Judas Priest, I would like to ask what was the big and worst with Judas Priest?
Al Atkins: One of the bigs was playing alongside the great Phil Lynott and 'Thin Lizzy' at Stafford Borough Hall, UK in 1972...a great gig to remember the man by. One of the worst was travelling across the Irish Sea in bad weather to play the 'Palace Lido' in 72' on the Isle of Man , we were all sick overboard , we played a great gig but didn't fancy the return trip.
Hanna Tsepesh: Some of my readers ask me to ask you why you left Judas Priest band. To clarify the things can you answer this?
Al Atkins: I was the only one married with a child who i hardly saw, in 72' we played about 150 gigs up and down the country and the bigger we got the more overheads we got and without that record deal we hardly made a living out of all our hard work. So in May 73 things came to a head with me and i decided to leave the band for a normal 9 to 5 job, I was replaced by Rob Halford. I next formed a band called 'Lion' with Bruno Stapenhill (bass) ex JP1, Harry Tonks (guitar) and Pete Boot (drums) ex Budgie and started out just playing weekends so I could hold down my job for the extra income I needed with a family to feed but within a year I turned pro again band due to demand of work, 'Lion' were one of the best bands I had ever played with but we never got that lucky break and finished around 78'.
Hanna Tsepesh: You co-write many of Judas Priest biggest songs. Of all the songs that you co-write, what is your favorite and why?
Al Atkins: It has to be Whiskey Woman, a song about a fallen lady I wrote in about 72', when Rob took my place he bought in some of his own songs, one being called 'Red Light Lady' which was in the same vein so the band joined them together and re titled it 'Victim of Changes' and 'Classic'.
Hanna Tsepesh: You recently write a book called “Dawn Of The Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal”. Can you talk little bit about this book and what you want to accomplish with “Dawn Of The Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal”?
Al Atkins: The book is about myself growing up in and around Birmingham with the 60's and 70's music scene that influenced me and lots of other musicians at the time and how they all evolved like 'Earth' dropping their bluesy sound for something more sinister in 68' and changing their name to Black Sabbath, it covers the story of how Judas Priest first started out too in 69' and how KK Downing didn't make it through the first auditions for them. Their are lots of interesting facts and what I wanted to accomplish with the book was to set the records straight for the first time about certain things like who ,what and where in the Judas Priest early history.
Hanna Tsepesh: Your last solo album is “Demon Deceiver”. What is the big different for you between this album and the previous one? You have some Judas Priest old songs in there, right?
Al Atkins: I think my albums have got heavier with each one I've done and I like to use various musicians on each one like Brian Tatler (Diamond Head) Simon Lees (Budgie). This album is now being released by Angel Air Records which comes out on August 10th with two added bonus tracks by my new band the 'Holy Rage' which are even heavier, one which features Bernie Torme (Gillan, Ozzy) as a guest player. Yes there are a couple of Priest songs of mine on there and if I'm honest I thought it might help push the sales of the album, sometimes things like that work for you and sometimes against.
Hanna Tsepesh: How has the response been to the album by the media and fans?
Al Atkins: Great but it only got distributed across Europe first time round by a Swedish Record Company and now I have handed it over to Angel Air Records for worldwide distribution.
Hanna Tsepesh: If one of our readers wants to buy your album safely, what they can do?
Al Atkins: It will be available from 'AUGUST 10TH' on Angel Air Records or you will be able to purchase it from usual outlets or our websites: www.alatkins.com and www.myspace.com/alatkinsholyrage
Hanna Tsepesh: When we can wait for a Holy Rage album? Can you talk little bit about that?
Chris Johnson: “Demon Deceiver Plus” really started it all for “Holy Rage”. As I said I played on Victim and was a core member of the band by then. But things started to change a little, we wanted a heavier, with a BIGGER sound. We achieved this live, however with the release of the CD we needed two bonus tracks. So now those two tracks are pure Holy Rage, Give Them Hell and Void to avoid which features a cameo solo from Bernie Torme. You should be aware that Demon Deceiver itself was a 4 year project. And a damn fine CD it is too.
Al Atkins:I have started writing more songs again recently (time permitted) I now have 5 kids and two great grand kids who i tell not to shout out Granddad in public. (Laughs). I think you go through times when songs seem to dry up and then times like now when you are full of ideas for them. I would love us to record a Holy Rage album so lets see what happens.
Hanna Tsepesh: The band is thinking about a European tour? You guys have plains to include Portugal in your tour or something?
Chris Johnson: Only if I get lots of free Port! (laughs) I would love to come to Portugal. The problem we “had” was relying on a promoter that just could not pull anything decent off. There were many attempts and guarantees, all failed. It is a tough life for musicians to be able to get out there you know? I am sure many readers will agree! We are at this point looking for a band promoter, media we got covered thanks to Willy Forrest.
Hanna Tsepesh: For sure you have many fans in here that will give you Porto wine Chris (laughs)! And, yes i know is really sad that situation and i hope some promoter in here make that happen...
Al Atkins: We will play anywhere and would love to go to Portugal so if any promoter is reading this...'BOOK US TO PLAY PORTUGAL.'
Hanna Tsepesh: He really hope that too Al! Do you want to send any message for your fans?
Chris Johnson: Absolutely, if you come to a gig and spot me, buy me a beer! Don’t be shy! Stay safe and I am sure we will see some of you soon!
Al Atkins: Yes, Thanks for all the support out there from 'metal heads' everywhere and we hope to see you on the road very soon.
Hanna Tsepesh: Thanks o much for your answers and time. THE GATES OF METAL wishes the entire band a big success and luck for the future concerts! We hope to see Holy Rage very soon in here…
Al Atkins: Thanks very much Hanna for the interview, hope to meet up with you one day for a beer or two. And everyone out there 'KEEP THE FLAG FLYING FOR METAL MUSIC’ Thanks.
Chris Johnson: Cheers Hanna! STAY METAL!
Hanna Tsepesh: You guys are very welcome and thanks so much for your words and for sure we will meet in here to drink some beers and Porto wine (laughs)! All the best...
By: Hanna Tsepesh
To listen to some HOLY RAGE music’s and for future information’s go at:
Al Atkins page:
Chris Johnson page: