the scars of success
Throughout the middle to later years of the 1960s, a musical revolution of sorts started to surface in rock ‘n’ roll. Premier bands of the era, such as Cream, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin, began to parlay a heavier playing style that was combined with maximum volume. The originators of this approach helped to define and shape heavy rock—which eventually evolved into what is commonly known as “heavy metal”—into all of its full-blown power.
One British band that has best sustained the true spirit and tradition of the heavy rock sound, while also expanding the scope of that sound, is Judas Priest. Consistently remaining at the vanguard of modern-day metal, Priest might possibly eclipse every other heavy metal act in terms of longevity, originality, and performance.
Although the topic of the following piece is the career of Priest’s resident drummer, Dave Holland, a concise history of the band’s rags-to-riches 14-year odyssey is necessary. The origins of Judas Priest date back to 1972, when its founders joined forces around the industrial city of Birmingham, England (where members of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath also hailed from). During those lean years, Judas Priest was a badass heavy rock outfit (the phrase “heavy metal” was not in general use at the time) playing to a tough, biker audience at gritty live shows. Priest’s leather-clad image mirrored its fans, and through captivating (and often sug gestive) performances and lyrics, the band provided escapist entertainment. The image has mellowed over the years, but the band still projects what could be identified as a “healthy decadence”—more musically than conceptually—that pervades Priest’s thrusting, energetic, volcanic eruptions.
Judas Priest’s transcendent musical catalog during the ’70s is vast. The premier release in 1974 was entitled Rocka Rolla, which was followed by Sad Wings Of Destiny, Sin After Sin, Stained Class, and Hell Bent For Leather (released as Killing Machine in the U.K.). The landmark live Unleashed In The East, released in 1979, set the band on a steadfast path for glory. It’s notable that, throughout the ’70s, the group experienced the “revolving door” syndrome with its transient drummers, having had several at that post (including a very young Simon Phillips during the Sin After Sin period) until discovering Dave Holland in ’79. With that acquisition, the lineup was solidified.
How did Dave become involved with Judas Priest? “I auditioned for the band when I heard that the job was available,” he answers. “At that point, I was still with my previous band, Trapeze. But we hadn’t worked for about a year, so it was time to make a move. I think the guys only auditioned six or seven drummers—mainly people they knew of—but I got in there and did it. About three weeks later, Glenn [Tipton, guitar] called me up and said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve got the job!’ Obviously, I was thrilled.
“I started with the band on a trial basis. The other members wanted to see how it would go. From my point of view, joining a band that went through five drummers before me didn’t appear to be the most secure job in the world,” Dave laughs. ” So that was on my mind a lot in the beginning, but things worked out really well.”
Since Dave joined Priest under precarious circumstances, I ask if he was given any clues as to how to outlast his predecessors playing-wise. “No, it was actually quite hectic,” he responds, “because when Glenn called me, the band was just about to embark on an American tour, and there was a European tour to follow that. I only had five days to learn 17 songs. So it wasn’t really a matter of anyone saying, ‘I want this or that from you.’ It was a matter of just getting it done. Of course, when things settled down a bit after the tours, we got into a good working routine. After being around for seven years now, I’d like to think I was the sort of drummer the band was looking for.”
Because of the remarkable chemistry between guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, coupled with the arresting vocals and inimitable stage presence of Rob Halford, the atmospheric drumming in Priest is often overlooked. But Holland’s relentless push ing rhythms, along with the bass playing of Ian Hill, provides the foundation for the other energies. The way that Holland slouches over his kit with an unaffected expression, combined with the fact that his sound is such an integral, but unheralded, facet of the music, brings to mind the Rolling Stones’ drummer. Has Dave ever thought of himself as the “Charlie Watts of Heavy Metal”? “Thank you for the comparison,” Dave laughs. “Basically, I’ve always been quite content to sit in the back, get the job done, and not play the role of showman. I never did learn how to twiddle the sticks and all that business.”
While “feel” is not a word closely associated with heavy metal drumming, it is certainly evident within Dave’s spacious riffs. “I lock in with everybody, really,” he explains. “I’m the kind of drummer that feeds off what everybody else is doing, and everyone else works off me as well. Any band that’s going for an extremely tight sound has got to function on that principle. That applies to any kind of music: The foundations must be solid. In heavy metal, though, the drummer must remain a bit more regimented in comparison to more free-form types of music where the drummer has more creative scope. Rock music in general is definitely more regimented, and it’s often in 4/4. I’m not saying that I don’t have the chance to experiment a bit, but I’m doing it within the boundaries of what I’m expected to do—not just what is expected of me from others, but what I expect of myself.
“I sort of look at what I do in comparison to baking a cake,” he laughs.’ ‘Unless the base is good—that sponge bit on the bottom— what you put on top of it isn’t going to matter. So I just lay it down, and I tend to work off everybody in the band.
“I’m not a solo-type drummer, either,” he continues. “If I wanted to, I most certainly could take a solo. But to be honest with you, I’ve seen and heard a lot of solos, and a lot of really good drummers take them. The thing that gets me is that I’ve seen very few original solos; they all sound very much the same. It seems that, no matter how good the drummer is, the solo is often rather boring.
“If I were to do a solo, I’d like to be able to do something totally different—something more interesting. Then again, as I said, I don’t consider myself a solo drummer, and I don’t particularly like listening to drum solos as such. I don’t really buy any drummer-type albums. Personally, I like drummers who are truly part of the band. When I listen to a record, I listen to everything, not just the drummer. Therefore, I appreciate drummers who do a good job within their slot, as opposed to someone who is technically brilliant but who doesn’t necessarily play well within the band.”
Prior to Priest, Dave wasn’t involved in a heavy rock band. But he says that, although his musical tastes are varied and refined, he always loved metal.” I listened to Priest, of course, and I was very fond of Led Zeppelin in its heyday,” he recalls. “I’ve always listened to a wide variety of music, and I suppose I like a lot of people. I did go through phases where I preferred this or that. But I’ve always prided myself on variety, and it’s been a help to me. I’ve never been narrow-minded musically.
“I like good music; let’s get that clear,” he asserts. “I don’t care if it’s pop, rock, soul, heavy metal, or classical. Speaking of classical, it’s quite strange, but there are a lot of classical composers who wrote music two hundred to three hundred years ago that, in power and dynamics, is quite similar to a lot of rock music today. When you think of it, those musicians were the pop/rock musicians of their day. One of my favorite composers is Haydn, and some of his work is unbelievable! A lot of heavy metal bands would be proud to play stuff as heavy as he did back in the 18th century! There’s so much genius in classical music.”
Although music is his job, Dave can’t get enough of it. He admits that he surrounds himself with music almost constantly. “Another thing,” he adds, “is that to me—and I think a lot of people feel this way—music is for different moods. There are times when I want to listen to metal, and nothing else will do. But there are other times when metal is the last thing on earth I want to hear. So music is a mood thing. When I’m at home in England, the first thing I put on in the morning is Chopin. I’ve got a lot of classical works, but I’ve still got a long, long way to go. I’ve got a lot of stuff I still have to listen to.”
A heavy metal gig can be as far away from the serenity of Chopin as you can imagine, and Dave has the scars to prove it. In fact, Dave didn’t have an easy show the night before this interview. A piece of glass was hurled at him, as well as a bottle, resulting in Dave getting a slice of metal wedged in the corner of his eye and having rib-cartilage damage. Holland seemed to take the incident in stride, though, despite the fact that his lungs were affected by the rib damage, and he was in obvious pain.
It’s no revelation that some fans get totally out of control at all kinds of rock shows. But when it comes to the controversial subject of heavy metal, this type of behavior helps to perpetuate the negative connotations that metal has always been associated with. “In certain parts of the country, there is a problem with people throwing things on stage,” Holland remarks, “and a drummer can’t dodge them. You expect to have T-shirts and the like thrown at you, but a few things that land up there are really dangerous. It’s only a small minority of the people, and it’s not only directed at us; people in the audience often get hurt as well. It is quite dangerous, and we obviously don’t condone that type of behavior. It does get you angry at the time. You’re up there trying to perform, and midway in the show, some idiot throws a bottle or some type of fireworks at you. It’s disturbing. Early on in the tour, I got hit in the face with a huge metal belt buckle. I just can’t understand the mentality of people who do that.”
The prejudice against metal in the music press is rampant. Most journalists who strive for “respect,” dismiss this music as simply a bastardized offshoot of the blues, influenced by ’60s acid-rock gone bad. Dave philosophizes that the illegitimacy that heavy metal has to bear has negatively affected the band’s potential appeal. “I’ve felt that way since I first joined the band,” he says. “It is unfortunate that we’ve been labeled, judged, criticized, and condemned by people who have never heard our music and who don’t know what we’re really all about. We are unlike 99% of the heavy metal bands out there. For a start, I don’t like categorizing music. But if we are heavy metal, then most of the bands that are labeled heavy metal are not. And if they’re heavy metal, then we’re not,” he laughs.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” he adds, “because we’ll put out a single—as we did with three songs off the Turbo LP—that will be commercial, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t get air play. We are strongly disappointed with the fact that a lot of program directors, deejays, or what have you, will pick up a record, see ‘Judas Priest,’ and say, ‘Oh, we can’t play that.’ They’ll put it down without even listening to it! That’s very disheartening. I think there’s a lot of material on this album that’s more conducive to radio than a lot of the stuff that is getting played on the air. It’s a battle to get people like that to hear us and say, ‘Hey, this is really good music.’ It’s modern, up-to-date, heavy metal music, and you can’t say that about a lot of the other heavy metal bands as far as I’m concerned.”
Anyone who has witnessed a Judas Priest performance has had the pleasure of hearing the band through a high-clarity sound mix. Holland’s drum sound is booming and flawless. According to Dave, it’s the people behind the scenes and the band’s painstaking preparations that contribute to the excellent live mix. “A lot of it has to do with the fact that we have the best heavy metal sound engineer in the business. We call him ‘Gungi’ as a nickname,” Holland laughs, “but his name is actually Gordon Patterson. He is, without question, the best sound mixer in rock. So I do owe a lot of my live sound to him.
“We use some triggered sounds on the bass and snare drums. Especially with the new songs, we tried to get as close as possible to the drum sounds on the album, and I think we achieved that. I can never go out in halls and hear what I actually sound like, but from what everybody tells me, it sounds even more powerful live than it does on the album.
“Also,” he continues, “something a lot of drummers tend to overlook, which is very important, is that, when you’re playing in a loud band such as this, it’s crucial that you tune a drumkit so it mikes up perfectly. The sound out front is the most important thing to consider. Although my drum roadie, Des, doesn’t play the drums, he does tune very, very well. Obviously, I taught him, but that’s beside the point; he really knows what he’s doing. I let him change and tune all the heads, and then I go in and make adjustments. I never leave anything to chance; I check the drums every day and sometimes twice a day.
“I’m not a great believer in soundchecks, to be honest with you,” Dave admits, “because you’re trying to achieve a certain sound in an empty hall. When you go in there in the evening and it’s filled with 20,000 people, it has no correlation to the way it sounded in the afternoon. So even if we do a soundcheck in the afternoon, I always go back about 15 minutes before we go on and do my own monitor check. I’m usually there when Des does his line check for the outfront sound, so we doubly check and make sure that my drums sound good. We don’t leave anything to chance.”
Judas Priest plays pretty extensive shows—a minimum of two hours per night. Dave feels that kicking a nasty cigarette habit has definitely contributed to his performance, or rather, his post-performance. “I don’t think it’s the playing for two straight hours that physically tires you,” he comments. “Normally speaking, I’ve been okay as far as stamina goes, but now that I’ve recently quit smoking—I smoked for a very long time: 27 years—I have noticed a difference. I had tried to knock that habit on its head in the past, but I never had that much success. It’s been only seven weeks now, but that’s six weeks longer than I’ve gone before! Since I’ve quit smoking, I don’t have more energy on stage, but I’m able to come off stage with a little bit of reserve. Before, I sometimes came off on all fours! Now having said that, I also want to say that I never smoked on show days, and likewise, I never have a drink on show days. I’ve always gone on completely straight. It’s the only way to do it—at least for me, anyway.
“I suppose a lot of kids think we have a few drinks before we go on—that we all get blasted before we play,” says Holland. “But of course, if you think about it logically, that’s not how to give a good performance, especially when you start getting older like this lot. We’re not exactly spring chickens anymore. The things you could do at 21 take a little bit more effort nowadays. But touring and playing are still enjoyable. It’s still nice to get up on stage in front of 20,000 kids and know they’re there to see you.”
In contrast to touring, Dave explains that working in the studio is a flexible situation, with his participation beyond doing drum tracks dependent upon circumstances in the studio at the time. “On Turbo, we used a lot of techniques that we hadn’t used before,” he says. “We recorded in digital, and with the drums, we used sampling and triggering. We triggered the acoustic drums off the electronic drums as well as doing it the other way around. The whole experience was very interesting for me, because I love working with machines. I’m not one of those drummers who says, ‘Ah machines! Take them away.’ It’s.hard to believe that people still feel threatened by them. When used properly, they can maximize your sound—not take your job away!
“Getting back to whether I stay with a project all the way through: Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. It just depends. This time, the mixing was done in the States, and I was in Spain at the time. But when it’s possible, I like to stay around while someone’s laying down a guitar track, a vocal track, or a bass track. I like to hear what’s going on. Everybody in the band respects the way each of us works, and we’re all interested in what’s going on.
“We had a lot of fun doing Turbo. As for a routine in the studio, we don’t really have a set way of recording. We take each song as it comes and decide on the best way to go about it. On some tracks, like “Hot For Love,” we all set up our gear and cut that live. Sometimes you’ll have certain songs that feel better with everyone playing together, whereas something else will feel better by putting the drums down with a click, while still another song will work nicely by putting the drums over a guitar track. We’re all pretty open-minded in that respect. It’s more conducive to creativity. When you set down too many rules, you start to have problems, because you’re basically saying that you’re not prepared to consider someone else’s point of view. And if you want to keep a band together as long as this one has been, you’ve got to listen to everybody else.
“When you have five individuals in a band, you often have five different opinions on something. You’re bound to face conflict to a certain extent. Since we all get on great together, the conflicts we experience do not have any long-term effects. When you’re recording for three months or when you’re on the road for a seven- or eight-month tour, you spend an awful lot of time together. So you have to know how to get along, or life will be a misery.”
From the way Dave speaks about fellow musicians, associates, friends, and people in general, it’s obvious that he places a high value on relationships. When he speaks about his family, it becomes clear where he got a lot of those positive values. Unlike the rest of the band, who are native to the Birmingham area, Dave comes from Northampton, which, he explains, is a middle-class town in the center of England that was once famous for its shoe manufacturing. As a young boy, Dave basically got turned on to playing music through his family’s encouragement.’ ‘My introduction to music began at six, when I started playing the piano. I wasn’t very good mind you; I could only play in one key. You see, my grandparents had a piano in their house, and I’d sit down and start tinkling around on it, eventually listening to records and copying them. Both my parents and my grandparents were keen for me to continue with the piano. But after about two years, I was suddenly striken with an obsession to play the drums.
“I was one of those lucky kids,” he explains. “I had a lot of encouragement from my parents and my grandparents, who in fact, got me my first set of drums. From the age of ten, I started playing in workingman’s clubs. They’re these clubs in England that are for the average workingman and his family. Since my parents used to belong to one of them, I got a lot of exposure to three-piece bands—piano-and-drum-type bands that played all the ’30s and’40s stuff.”
At that time, Dave didn’t have any one influence in particular, but he was listening to everything available to him. He cites traditional jazz and Dixieland as being general musical influences on his playing style. He continued playing the music from the ’30s and ’40s in the clubs until he was 13, when he joined his first band, which was appropriately called the Drumbeats. “I stayed with that band until I was 17,” Dave says. ” I actually left school right on my 15th birthday. The staff at school wanted me to stay on because I did pretty well in my courses. In the ten years I spent in school, I probably received a better-quality education than most people get going to school for twice that long.
“I quit school simply because I wanted to play the drums,” he remembers vividly. “At that age, most kids would be told by their parents, ‘Look, you’ve got to get an education first, before you pursue what you want.’ But my parents said, ‘Do whatever it is you really want. We’ll back you up all the way!’ That was fantastic; I’ll never forget it. I had the most tremendous support from my parents that anyone could have wished for.
“You know,” he continues, “when you tell young kids of 15 or 16 not to do something, they’re going to do it anyway—and probably with a grudge. It wasn’t as if my parents gave way to everything I wanted to do—quite the opposite. When I did something wrong, I knew about it, and I got a few smacks around the head in my time. They weren’t strict, but they didn’t namby-pamby me either. They simply trusted me—a fact that I still have the greatest respect for. And if you’re allowed to do what you want, you better consider yourself lucky and not take advantage of the situation.
“My parents continued to help me out whenever I needed anything. I went through a really bad time during the last years of Trapeze. We weren’t earning any money, and my parents looked after me financially during that time. In fact,” Dave laughs, “even today sometimes, my dad will say, ‘How are you doing for money, boy?’ They’re incredible.”
In the mid-’60s, Holland belonged to a group known as Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours. The group enjoyed a modicum of brief success in Great Britain. It was sort of a novelty band—one of the many “one-hit wonders” of the time. “Pinkerton’s, yeah,” Dave laughs, at the mention of his former band.’ ‘As I said, I turned pro at 17, joining a band called The Liberators, which was in the process of having its name changed to Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours by its management. The manager had the idea of dressing us up in colorful clothing and having us start right off with a hit record. I joined in October of ’65. By January of ’66, all of a sudden we were out on the road touring, and the record, ‘Mirror, Mirror’ was in the Top Ten!
“Now remember, I was just 17 at the time,” he says, “so I thought, ‘Well, now I’ve made it!’ Probably the best thing that happened to me was that the band didn’t stay in the Top Ten. That really brought me down to earth with a bang. You see, it doesn’t matter what kind of person you are, if you’ve got a record in the Top Ten and you’re on Top Of The Pops every week hanging out with the Stones and the Hollies, at 17, that’s going to have a pro found effect on you. It certainly did have that effect on me. I thought I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 20. But the follow-up record only made it to number 20 on the charts, and the third record only got to about number 35. So in other words, things started off great but gradually went downhill. It taught me at a very early age that you can never take success for granted. You may be experiencing it at the moment, and it could last, but there’s a chance that you can be down in the gutter just as quickly as you got up on that pedestal. So for the future, that was the best lesson I could have learned.”
Holland’s next stop was the band known as Trapeze, which featured future Deep Purple bass player/singer Glenn Hughes. Trapeze was not well-known in most of the U.S., but the trio did accrue a strong following throughout the South and the Southwest. The group was also considered to be a “musician’s band” and a critic’s favorite. Dave traces the specifics of Trapeze: “I had joined a band from the West Midlands after Pinkerton’s called Finders Keepers. The same thing essentially happened with Finders as with Pinkerton’s: I joined in October of ’68, and by February of ’69 we’d formed Trapeze and had gotten an album out. It included Glenn, guitar player Mel Galley [Whitesnake], a couple of members from another local band, and me. We started gigging, and soon after we were signed by the Moody Blues to that group’s record label. The guys in the Moodys had come to see us and liked us. Eventually, we ended up as a three-piece, and as a trio, we released two albums –Medusa and You Are The Music, We’re Just The Band. Of course, after that album, Glenn left to join Deep Purple. So Mel and I carried on as Trapeze with two or three different lineups.”
The association with the Moody Blues led to a friendship with Justin Hayward, and eventually, Dave played with Hayward on a tour and on his solo releases. “I think it was in ’74,” Dave says. “Justin and John Lodge decided to split up the Moody Blues, at least temporarily. They cut an album called Blue Jays, which was very successful in England. Though I didn’t have anything to do with the album, Justin and John asked me to do a Blue Jays tour with them. It was just a one-off tour of Britain, but it was very enjoyable. After that, Justin made a couple of solo albums, which I had the pleasure of playing some tracks on. Although I don’t like everything he writes, I do consider him to be one of the world’s finest contemporary songwriters. There’s a spine-tingling quality about a lot of his work.”
Talking about Dave’s work outside of Priest (his other sessions include working with British guitarist Robin George) brings up the business aspects of music. Dave feels that a key to survival for the working musician is be versed in the fiscal area. “You have to be a businessman whether you want to or not,” he says. “Just about everyone gets ripped off in the early days of a career. So after you learn that lesson, you become a ‘businessman’—for want of a better word—because you need to protect your own interests. Let’s face it, the music is the most important thing and all that, but it’s our occupation—our bread and butter. Therefore, it’s like any job. Whether you’re an entertainer or you sweep the streets, if somebody is ripping you off during the course of your job, you’re going to have to do something about it.”
Judas Priest’s Turbo album has been criticized as being a pretty business-minded venture itself, due to its more commercial sound. The modified sound is partly due to the utilization of all types of available technology. There was also an influx of electronic drums on the LP, compared to past albums where Holland used a primarily acoustic kit. But Dave maintains that the ratio of electronics to acoustics is minimal. “Yes,” he admits, “there are electronic drums on there. I’ve got a Tama Techstar kit that was used, but there are a lot less electronics on the album than you would probably think. All kinds of sounds were used to enhance the drum sound. For instance, there was a particular snare drum sound on one track that was made up of three or four different sounds—an electric sound, synthetic sounds, one or two acoustic snare drums, and even a vocal sound.
“We didn’t use sampled sounds for everything,” Dave continues. “When something sounds good as you actually lay it down, then that’s fine. But the nice thing about technology nowadays is that you can lay a track down, and if the feel is good but the sound is not what you want, you can alter the sound afterwards. You can replace that snare drum with another—just take one off the shelf, so to speak. That’s why I liked working on this album; we used the technology for the optimum sounds. I know it’s frowned upon to a certain extent for heavy metal bands, but even the most basic, raw heavy metal band can use technology to its advantage. And that’s what we did. I don’t think it comes across as being overly produced. A lot of people said, ‘Oh synthesizers,’ but there are no synthesizers on the album. There are guitar synths on there, but there’s not one keyboard-played instrument used.”
Many people contend that the use of synthesizers is the first deadly sin of heavy metal. But I mention that Deep Purple has utilized a maximum of keyboards since the band’s inception, and therefore, equating the use of keyboards with non-heavy rock is an absurd notion to begin with. “I agree with that completely,” Holland acknowledges. “It’s totally closed-minded. I do like to think I’m open-minded in every respect—in music as well as in life in general. But as you know, so many people are not that way.” He pauses for a moment and then adds, “And I think that may extend to a good portion of our audience. I don’t mean that in an offensive sort of way, but the fact is, that is the way a lot of these kids are. But a lot of these kids, who wouldn’t dream of listening to a band with keyboards in it, aren’t going to be listening to heavy metal at all in about five or six years. They’re going to move on to something else. It happens; a lot of kids go through phases, and many don’t listen to much music after they grow up, get married, and have kids. It doesn’t happen to everybody, thank God. But I do think that happens with heavy metal more than other kinds of music.
“The other day, Kenny [K.K. Downing] and I were discussing bands like Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues, and the fact that their fans have grown up with them. If you go to one of their concerts, you’ll see a lot of adults there. If you’d gone to a Priest show, say ten years ago, you’d have seen mostly 15- and 16-year-old kids. If you go to one now, you’ll still see 15- and 16-year-old kids, and even younger ones. It will be the same way in ten years’ time. Believe me, the kids from back then are not the same kids today. They didn’t stay 15,” Dave laughs. “Metal generates new fans every so often. It’s obvious that a lot of these fans eventually fall by the wayside, because if they didn’t, with all the fans we’ve gotten over the years, we’d be selling about 15 million albums with each release. I can assure you we’re not doing that. Nevertheless, there are some older fans left over from the earlier periods who do come out for our shows, and that gives us a very nice feeling. And as I said, we seem to generate new fans every couple of years. The kids that come up to us now probably weren’t even born when the first album came out!”
Holland has appeared on five Priest LPs over the last seven years: British Steel, Point Of Entry, Screaming For Vengeance, Defenders Of The Faith, and Turbo. Which one is Dave’s particular favorite? “At the moment, I would say that the Turbo album is,” he answers. “I’ll always have a great feeling for British Steel, I suppose, because it was my first Priest album. There was a lot of excitement and rawness there—for all of us—and it was recorded very quickly in comparison to the new album. I am really pleased with all of the albums, actually. I very much like Point Of Entry as well, although that fell by the wayside as far as a lot of fans were concerned. To me, that album was a little bit ahead of its time. Maybe it was too drastic a step to take right after British Steel. Maybe we should have saved that one and released it after Screaming For Vengeance. But when you look back at that album, there’s some really great stuff on there.”
Part of the reason why Dave is so impressed with Turbo can be attributed to his satisfaction with his drum sound, which packs a formidable wallop from start to finish. “I think that, on the production side,” he says, “Tom and the guys did a fantastic job, and it really shows.”
And what equipment does Holland use to get the job done? “I play Tama drums,” Dave explains, “and I have two kits—both black Imperialstar kits. One is used for Europe and Britain and the other for America. As I mentioned earlier, I am also using the Tama Techstar electronic kit. My acoustic kit is comprised of two 22″ bass drums, 13″ and 14″ concert rack toms—the ones without the bottom heads—16″ and 18″ floor toms, and a 6’/2” rosewood snare.
“All my cymbals are Paiste, and going from my left to right around the kit, I’ve got a 13” 2002, an 8″ 602 bell, a 20″ China-type—that’s all on one stand—and then either a 20″ medium or a 20″ Rude crash-ride. In the center, I’ve got 16″, 14″, and 22″ Rudes, and a stand with an 11″ 2002 splash on the top and an 8″ 2002 bell cymbal on the bottom. Next to those is the oldest cymbal I’ve got—a really beautiful 2002 ride that’s about 13 years old. Then I’ve got an 18″ Rude, ending up on the far side of another 20″ China-type. The Rudes that I use also record really well—something that I think a lot of people overlook.”
The immediate plan for the band is another live album, which was recorded on the Turbo Fuel For Life tour, and which could possibly include some of the extra tracks that were cut during the Turbo sessions. The group will undoubtedly tour to support the live album. But as Dave says, “We tend to take things one day at a time nowadays. Nothing is definite, but things do look promising for a live album and an ’87 tour.”
Dave resides in both England and Spain, on the island of Ibiza. That locale is also where the band has recorded three albums. “I like the place very much,” he says, “and last year, I spent about six months on the island. There’s quite a comprehensive 48-track recording studio over there, which, incidentally, I’m one of the partners of. There’s a lot that attracts me to the island apart from the business side, so I do try to spend a lot of time there.”
Dave recently started to do some songwriting at his studio— something that he hasn’t had much experience with in the past. “There are Priest songs that we all had a go at together. I can be really ingenius when I’m in a working situation with other musicians. The other guys will come in with an idea for a song and ask me to come up with a tempo that will work well. But I do get a lot of ideas for songs—not stuff for Priest, but ideas for commercial sounding stuff. Recently, I started writing songs with a guy who was working in the studio in Ibiza, whose name is Alfred Dubell. We put together some songs that are really quite interesting. We’re still in the initial stages of putting things together—looking for people to record them, shopping them around—but I think we have a couple of hit records there.
“It was really quite funny how this whole thing got started. Alfred brought in a tape of some songs he was working on at the time, and one song really interested me a lot. There was some free studio time for a couple of days so we got together with the head engineer, who was a bass player. Alfred plays keyboards and guitars, so we recorded it. When it came down to doing the vocals, Alfred, who’s German, said he didn’t have any words, although he had been singing some sort of lyrics while he had been playing on the tape. I said, ‘What do you mean you don’t have any lyrics? What were you singing on the tape?’ It turned out that he sang English words that just sounded good, but didn’t necessarily mean anything because his knowledge of the English language was not that comprehensive. He basically sang words that rhymed, and I hadn’t really noticed until I actually listened and realized they didn’t make any sense at all. So I ended up writing the words to that song out of necessity. But it’s taken off pretty well, and it got me started in all that. It’s a bit of an odd way to start writing, but it’s been pretty interesting for me.”
What are his plans if and when Judas Priest calls it a day? “I don’t know really. To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. I can’t see it happening for a long time. I suppose I’ll always stay in the music business, or at least I’d like to. Having the studio in Ibiza has been great because I very much like recording. I’ve started doing a little bit of production work of my own, so I’d probably eventually like to get into production work for other people, too. I want to stay in the business as long as I can, regardless of what happens with the band. I mean, obviously the band is not going to last forever—although it might. We’ve done a pretty good job so far,” he laughs. “I love playing drums, and I want to continue to do that as long as I can. I don’t know about being out on tour for the rest of my life. I don’t particularly want to be out on tour when I’ve got a pension book and a walking stick, you know? But I’d like to think that I’m going to be involved with what I love for a long, long time to come.”