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Judas Priest


Judas Priest Got Another Thing Comin'

GRAMMY-winning metal band open up about their forthcoming album, Redeemer Of Souls, and future Broadway aspirations

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On July 8 GRAMMY-winning metal legends Judas Priest will return with Redeemer Of Souls, their 17th studio album and first in six years. In contrast to the British quintet's all-encompassing 2008 metal opera Nostradamus, their latest offering roars back with a rawer, heavier collection of anthems, ballads and epic rockers that strongly tap into the melodic aggression that has characterized the band's diverse output for the past 40 years. And listening to the turbo-charged songs on Redeemer Of Souls, it's clear that their passion and enthusiasm remain strong.

On Oct. 1 Judas Priest will launch a U.S. tour in support of the album, with dates scheduled through November. Contrary to some reports, their 2011 farewell tour was not the end of their live performance endeavors, but marked the end of extensive world touring for the band.

Ahead of the album's release, frontman Rob Halford and guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner participated in an exclusive interview to discuss the new album, bringing Faulkner into the fold and the possibility of Priest on Broadway.

The new album has a very yin and yang feel to it, with half of the songs being stripped down and the other half sounding more epic. Was that intentional?
Faulkner: I think the only thing that was intentional was to do what the band does and has been doing for 40 years, which is not have any sort of concept or rules. And if it sounds good, we'll go with it, [whether] it's an epic-sounding song or a straightforward song.

This is Richie Faulkner's first album with Judas Priest. What was the songwriting dynamic like this time?
Halford: It's different but it's the same in the respect that it's always been two guitar players and a singer pitching in together. There's no doubt that Richie's input has been incredibly energizing. Just to have a different perspective from Richie's ability as a guitar player [as] well as a songwriter did bring some very unique and exciting moments to the writing sessions.

Tipton: It was great. Richie was thrown in the deep end. The first show he did was "American Idol" [in 2011 in front of] 30 million people, then we went to a massive festival in Europe, so he had a lot of challenges initially on the live side of things. He came through with flying colors, but we never knew how [the] writing was going to work out. And it was like we've always been together. It was just a very natural thing. … He's put his own stamp on [the music]. That's the remarkable thing.

There are obviously the requisite Judas Priest fantasy lyrics on Redeemer …, but I'm very intrigued by "Cold Blooded" and "Crossfire." The former kind of makes me think of a serial killer, and I'm curious what inspired that?
Halford: Glenn is responsible for the vast majority of lyrics on that song.

Tipton: It was a sinister subject — just cold blood that runs through me. Someone who's been beaten, battered, been through the mill, couldn't have had worse things happen. They've lost all feeling. It's a sinister thing that lends itself to a metal song.

Did it make you think back to Birmingham, England, where you grew up?
Halford: Oh yeah. That's what I loved when I was noodling with the lyrics that Glenn put down. It's about isolation and it's about [how] you cannot connect to people. It has that angst in it, so I think from a metalhead's perspective, when they are listening to this track, they might [say,] "That used to be me," or "that's me now" or "I know somebody [who's] had that type of experience." That's the wonderful thing with nearly everything Priest [have] made over the years, the ability for our fans to feel as though we're touching them with the messages we have inside us.

The lyrics on "Crossfire" take on religion. Where did that come from?
Halford: Again, you look through the history of Priest with songs like "Savage" from [1978's] Stained Class, where we talked about climate change before there was even climate change. "Electric Eye" [from 1982's Screaming For Vengeance] is about spy satellites. We've always had a great sense of adventure lyrically to blend reality and fantasy, so that's just a little dig at the way that all religion is supposed to preach love, peace and whatever, but there are extremists [who] just go out there and f*** it all up.

"Never Forget" is a thank you to the fans, but it also sounds like goodbye. Is it goodbye?
Halford: No, it's not. We've done that before with "United" [from 1980's British Steel] and tracks where we've talked about that special bond that not only Priest [have], but all metal bands have with the fans [who] support them, and we just wanted to go a little deeper in sentiment with this song. … We'll play until the end.

Rob, you've mentioned carrying around a Roget's Thesaurus to come up with new words for songs. Are there any words that you have been trying to get into a Judas Priest song that you haven't yet?
Tipton: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Halford: Could you imagine? [Halford repeats the word in death metal growls.]

I was thinking of that.
Halford: I've never said "crescent moon" before. [I] just [incorporated] a simple crescent moon in "Secrets Of The Dead" [on Redeemer Of Souls]. Much like Richie and Glenn are trying to find new riffs and notes, and bend the guitar strings [like] they've never done before, that's what I try to do as a lyricist. There are some staple words in metal that you have to use because there's nothing else that has the same value. You've got to say "pain," you've got to say "fear," because there is no comparative word that carries the same essence of message. Beyond that, I work really hard to try to pick words, ideas and phrases to bring something different and interesting.

How are you feeling lately, Rob? I recall you were in a wheelchair last year when you were promoting the live Epitaph DVD.
Halford: It was a bit of a glitch. I had a back operation. It's fixed. I'm still not 1,000 percent, but I don't think I ever will be, quite frankly. At this point, who is? I went under the knife screaming in pain and woke up pain-free. I think whenever you're dealing with physical challenges, it really sorts out your personality and what you want out of life. I just wanted to get back to my job as a singer in a metal band as quickly as possible.

Have you ever considered doing Broadway?
Halford: As musicians, it's really cool to contemplate every possibility, but again you have to be careful. We're so grateful for the treasures that we've got in Judas Priest and we understand the ramifications of going too far, too left field. That can lead to some negative response. First and foremost, I think for all of us, everything that's embodied in Judas Priest is how we want to represent ourselves. Probably as [we] move on in [our careers], [we] can take more steps into different rooms, so to speak. It's the timing. … I'd love to see Nostradamus on Broadway.

Tipton: With [co-manager] Bill [Curbishley's] connections in the movie and theatrical world, we actually wrote [Nostradamus] with the hopes that at some point either we could perform it on Broadway or it could be orchestrated. I think it's a great soundtrack and a great scene for a Broadway production.

(Bryan Reesman is a New York-based freelance writer.)

Bruce Dickinson

Photo: John McMurtrie


Living Legends: Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson On Pushing His Own Limits

On his new album 'The Mandrake Project,' Dickinson's first solo release in 18 years, the metal singer engages in a magical epic with multifarious influences.

GRAMMYs/Feb 28, 2024 - 02:30 pm

Bruce Dickinson performs heavy metal and flies it through the sky. 

As the charismatic and energetic singer of Iron Maiden, Dickinson has fronted the band for most of the last 42 years. The philosophical performer has been nicknamed the Air Raid Siren — which is amusing given that he has also been a commercial airline pilot and has flown Maiden’s private plane Ed Force One on tour. 

And Maiden has certainly taken flight with few landings. The British heavy metal legends have maintained a steadfast following for decades, from their classic ‘80s albums like Number of the Beast and Powerslave (which turns 40 this year) to the recent Book of Souls and Senjutsu. Their last four albums have gone Top 10 in America. But Dickinson has also recorded substantial solo material, and will be hitting the road for a two-month European tour starting in Paris on May 26.

His seventh and latest album, The Mandrake Project, is his first in 18 years and has been a decade in the making. The album combines varied metal elements free from the distinctive Iron Maiden gallop. "Resurrection Men" has a Spaghetti Western vibe, while "Fingers In The Wind" offers a Middle Eastern flavor. The gothic closing song "Sonata (Immortal Beloved)," which started gestating 25 years ago, is a slowly churning, 10-minute epic. 

Such musical exploration is common for Dickinson. Starting with his 1990 solo debut, Tattooed Millionaire, he's employed melodic hard rock, grunge, and heavy metal elements with lyrics that he might not explore within Maiden, where historical and fantastical themes tend to reign. Dickinson’s 1998 album The Chemical Wedding — which featured Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith, when both had been estranged from the band — is a superlative  heavy metal album from the ‘90s. 

The Mandrake Project has spawned a comic book series from Z2 Comics with the same name; the first issue is out now and 11 more quarterly issues are forthcoming. The story stars Dr. Necropolis who seeks to restore his brother’s soul from Hell. The first issue includes hallucinogens, sex magic, the defiant ghost of William Blake, and a manipulative scientist named Professor Lazarus. Dickinson spun off the story concept from the album, and he also co-wrote the story for "Revelations" in the Iron Maiden comic anthology inspired by their seminal album Piece Of Mind

Dickinson spoke to about his new album and comic, his creative solo career, and how he wants to challenge himself and his audience. 

Why did you decide to re-record "If Eternity Should Fail"—  a contribution you made to Iron Maiden’s Book Of Souls almost a decade ago — as "Eternity Has Failed"?

First of all, it was written as a solo track. In fact, the [new] album was going to be called If Eternity Should Fail back in 2014, and [bassist] Steve [Harris] borrowed it [for Maiden]. It was always my intention to repossess the track. 

All I've done really is a version of it that's more reflective of my tastes than the Maiden thing. I always wanted to do the Ennio Morricone [flute] bit at the beginning. 

At the same time, by developing the comic book, I'd also moved on a story that I could import back into the words, into the lyrics. According to the story of the comic book, Eternity has failed. Death is over and done with. I quite like that. I thought we can rejig it with a slightly different emphasis on it. Put a few bits of chanty stuff at the end. Generally it's a different groove to the Maiden groove. It's more of an even type groove. 

The Mandrake Project is not a concept album but spawned from the comic, and the first video connects with the story in the first issue. 

I wanted it all to hang together. I thought, it's a waste of money doing a video that doesn't cross over from one to the other. Now the irony of that video [for "Afterglow of Ragnarok"] is that ... I went, It has nothing whatsoever to do with anything on the comic. How am I going to do this? It was a dream by Necropolis in which he's taken his acid trip using Mandrake potion, and he dreams he's at the end of the world and sees the shaman foretelling his future. There's the weird mirror that he sees himself talking to himself and sees things. The mirror can also be a portal into the other world of his dreams, and back out of it at the end. 

So I wrote that up as a treatment for a video and then [realized] there is no way we can afford to shoot that video. So I turned it into an eight-page comic as a kind of a prequel to the comic [series]. And we'll give it away just to get people in the mood for what might be coming next. I did that with [writer] Tony Lee and with [artist] Staz Johnson, so it was kind of a dummy run for what was going to be each 34-page comic. 

Then, at the 11th hour, I find this director, Ryan Mackfall, and we get on great. We love all the same types of weird folk horror movies from Britain from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and early Universal horror. He said, "I'll be able to shoot this and I'll be able to get it in on budget." I went, "That's great, mate, but what are you going to actually shoot?" He said, "Well, you've already done it. I'm going to shoot the comic." 

You were a child in the ‘60s, and that decade really informs a lot of your work: There’s the Hammer Horror vibe of your current videos. The organ work on this album reminds me of Deep Purple. Monty Python’s humor heavily influenced your two racy, aristocracy-lampooning Lord Iffy Boatrace novels. You love singer Arthur Brown, one of the original shock rockers. What is it about the ‘60s that keeps informing your work? 

I actually don't think about that. But if I had to think about it, I would say the ‘60s, up till the mid-‘70s, was a golden time because there were all these barriers being broken down in music. Nothing was impossible. Everything was possible. Everything was plausible. You had Mahavishnu Orchestra, and then on the other hand you had Led Zeppelin. Nobody excluded anything. Nobody said, "I can't listen to John McLaughlin because I listen to Motorhead." They're not mutually exclusive. It's all music. And in the ‘80s that got completely lost. Everybody was segmented up to their little silos, and it pissed me off. 

When I started doing this…the people I admired were not just rock stars. And because I effectively don't look like a rock star — tall, skinny and blonde…. I was much more about being a storyteller and an artist. Increasingly, whether it's a comic book or an autobiography, everything I do for public consumption is telling stories. And if you tell an interesting story in a way that makes people go, I didn't expect that twist, then I put that back into music. A lot of this album has got a lot of unexpected little twists that I hope bring a little smile to people's internal monologue. 

You were working on your second solo album Balls To Picasso when you heard Roy Z's Latin rock band Tribe of Gypsies recording in the adjacent studio and brought them in for your project. He's been your co-songwriter, producer, and guitar player on every album of yours since except one. Why do you two have such a great mind meld? 

Roy can be somewhat mercurial from time to time. To be fair, so can I. I’m trying not to sound pompous about this, but when we tap into something together, we tap into something that's bigger than the both of us. So as soon as that realization hits, we go, "Oh my God, put the mic on, capture that moment." But that initial moment of inspiration, when you’re both channeling something from somewhere — I don’t know whether it’s alien intelligence or whatever the hell it is — I don't question it. But you have to be there in person for it to happen and to notice it. But when it does happen with us, it happens quickly. Or not at all. 

Would it be fair to say that there's more of the arcane, the occult and the religious covered here than in Maiden? That seems to be where a lot of your personality and a lot of your interests lie. 

Definitely. I drop some things in with Maiden, but there are always some musical limits that are outside of the Maiden universe slightly. Morricone, surf guitar and stuff like that. If I said, "Steve, we need bongos, man, let's do some bongos" — he'd think I'd lost my mind. I have, but in a good way. So those are things that are expressions of my musical personality that are unalloyed by being in Maiden. 

I'm always on the lookout for some of Z’s musical textures, basically, in terms of sounds and things like that. It's a different way of working. It's more like two kids in a sandbox with me and Roy, and nothing is excluded. Ever. And anything's on the table if we want to have a go at something. 

Over 20 years ago, there were rumblings about The Three Tremors, a proposed vocal trio between you, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, and Ronnie James Dio. How did that evolve, and why did it ultimately not happen? 

We had promoters salivating and people could see dollar signs. It was a great idea, but I didn't want to do it unless it was not just a commercial great idea, but an artistic great idea. I love Rob, I love Ronnie. And why they would want me, I don't know. Then Ronnie unfortunately got sick and passed away. So it was mooted that maybe [original Queensrÿche singer] Geoff Tate might fill in. We had a few meetings with Geoff, and I think the minds didn't quite meet in the way that I thought they should, so it was obvious that probably wasn’t going to work. 

By this point, however, Roy and I had already written two tracks for a potential album which used the voices of three singers in different ways during the songs. The intention was to write a whole album of material like that. I think that would have been quite cool, but the problem was it was a lot harder than it sounds.

"Tyranny of Souls" [which became the title track to Dickinson’s last solo album] was one of those tracks, and "Shadow of the Gods" [on the new one] was another. We didn't get any further than that. I did demo versions of those songs in which I actually did little imitation voices of Rob and Geoff to give an idea of where their lines would be in the song. So when the project didn't happen, I said, "Let's just record both those songs anyway." 

Maiden have made a massive impact on the metal world. One can argue that you are as influential as Metallica. Have you thought about why people keep coming back to the music and are so loyal after nearly 45 years? 

Stylistically, Maiden are, I think it's fair to say, unique. Nobody sounds like us. Even people who copy us, they still don't sound like us. And that's because we're not perfect. When people copy things, they try to make them perfect. But if the thing you're copying is imperfect to begin with, you can't copy it. You'll never be as imperfect as the thing you're trying to copy. It’s the same with The Rolling Stones who are far from perfect, but they're so perfectly imperfect, that they are the identity. 

I don't know how this happens, but [with] the six of us now together it sounds like Maiden and nobody else sounds like us. It's instant. You can hear it. Also, because we are authentic. That's quite rare in the modern world because everybody's so desperate. It's sad in a way that streaming and everything is just ripping the guts out of creativity. So if people want to be successful, they have to try too hard. Whereas you should be able to just relax and have fun and be successful. They have to go and do this and do that, and jump through hoops and manufacture their authenticity now. 

That's the biggest curse of being a creative now. If you come up with something that's unique people go, "Oh, yeah, but your problem is it doesn't sound like everybody else." 

Living Legends: Chicago's Robert Lamm On Songwriting and Longevity

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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Lead vocalist Rob Halford of Judas Priest
Lead vocalist Rob Halford of Judas Priest performs during their 50 Heavy Metal Years tour in November 2022.

Photo: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

Classic Metal's Big Year: 8 Ways 2022 Was A Banner Year For The Pioneers Of Hard Rock

Metal gods including Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Pantera and reigned supreme in 2022. unpacks this resurgence, and the most rocking moments of the year.

GRAMMYs/Dec 16, 2022 - 02:47 pm

"Heavy metal is always going to be there," Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford once claimed. "At its core, it’s all about a primitive connection we all need to keep in our lives." Thanks to everything from supernatural Netflix hits and surprise reunions to massive tours and multiple accolades, this primitive connection now appears to be the strongest it’s been since the genre’s ‘80s heyday.

During a 2014 interview with, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford acknowledged the "special bond" that "all metal bands have with the fans [who] support them." Thanks to everything from supernatural Netflix hits and surprise reunions to massive tours and multiple accolades, this special bond now appears to be the strongest it’s been since the genre’s ‘80s heyday.

Of course, its pioneers have always maintained a loyal level of support — once a metalhead, always a metalhead after all. And there have been several instances of the sound returning to the mainstream (see Black Sabbath scoring their first ever Billboard No. 1 album nearly a half-century into their career in 2013, for example, or Metallica headlining Glastonbury a year later). Yet such feats are typically few and far between.

In 2022, however, the scene has continually found itself in the spotlight, inspiring headbangers both old and new to repeatedly pick up their air guitars and show off their best devil horns. So why exactly has this resurgence occurred?

One theory is that heavy metal in its purest form offers an unmatched sense of catharsis. With the world forever teetering on the brink of disaster, what better to unleash your frustrations than by immersing yourself in walls of aggressive noise? It could also be argued that some veterans have made a conscious effort to appeal to a wider audience with their more recent material. And those creatives who grew up listening to the likes of the Big Four (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer) are now able to pay tribute by incorporating their music into their latest projects.

Whatever the reasons, here are eight ways in which the heavy metal acts of yesteryear made a significant impact in 2022.

Judas Priest Get Inducted  

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been relatively ungenerous when it comes to honoring heavy metal. It took them until 2006 to celebrate arguably the daddies of the genre, Black Sabbath, and since Metallica’s induction three years later, they’ve swerved all headbangers entirely. Until, that is, in November when Judas Priest deservedly picked up the Musical Excellence Award.

The British veterans also showed off their famous dual guitar sound while performing three of their biggest hits at the ceremony, with guest presenter Alice Cooper describing them as the "definitive metal band ... like an L.A. earthquake."

Iron Maiden Completed A Mammoth Tour 

Few acts have done more to spread the metal word than Iron Maiden. Forty-seven years on from their formation and they’re performing their distinctive brand of British metal to millions — and carting around their giant mascot Eddie across the world.

More than 3 million people attended their multi-national Legacy of the Beast World Tour, which concluded in Florida in October. The longest run of shows to feature original vocalist Bruce Dickinson since the late 1980s, the hits-focused show began in Estonia in 2018 but, thanks to COVID-19, took four years to complete. Despite a collective age approaching 400, the band have already announced they’ll be back on the road next year.

Icons Got The Documentary Treatment 

From Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster to The Story of Anvil, the heavy metal scene has spawned several compelling documentaries. And 2022 added two more to the canon. First up, there was DIO: Dreamers Never Die, which enjoyed a brief stint in cinemas in September. Produced by wife Wendy, the biopic of ex-Rainbow and Black Sabbath frontman Ronnie James Dio is an affectionate portrait which refreshingly avoids the usual rise and drug-addled fall narrative.  

Then at the opposite end of the spectrum, This Is GWAR explored the bodily fluid-spewing, monster-costumed history of the titular shock rockers in a hugely entertaining watch which, rather aptly, premiered on horror streaming service Shudder.    

Classic Metal Acts Received GRAMMY Nominations 

The Best Metal Performance category is no stranger to classic acts, with Dream Theater, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath all emerging triumphant during the last decade. But you have to go back to 2015 for the last time two were nominated in the same year (Anthrax and Motorhead). Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi will be hoping to add to their trophy cabinet at the 2023 ceremony. But they face stiff competition from fellow survivors Megadeth and Ghost, the Swedish satanists whose bombastic riffs have drawn parallels with another veteran, Judas Priest. Metal purists will undoubtedly be hoping prog rockers Muse and hardcore punks Turnstile don’t spoil the party.   

Pantera Reunite, And Bring Friends

Pantera’s story looked to have ended in 2004 when guitarist Dimebag Darrell was murdered by a crazed fan on stage. Even more so when another founding member, Vinnie Paul, passed away from coronary artery disease in 2018. But 22 years on from their last album, Reinventing the Steel, remaining members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown announced they were heading out on a North American tour which would also include dates with Judas Priest and Metallica. Black Label Society frontman Zakk Wylde and Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante will temporarily join the group who, thanks to the likes of 1994’s chart-topping Far Beyond Driven, very nearly muscled their way into the Big Four.   

"Stranger Things" Gives Metallica Classic A Second Wind 

Kate Bush’s "Running Up That Hill" wasn’t the only ‘80s classic to enjoy a new lease of life after featuring in the mammoth fourth season of Netflix phenomenon "Stranger Things." Metallica’s "Master of Puppets" also returned to the Hot 100 thanks to the guitar heroics of Joseph Quinn’s Eddie Munson. His impressive rendition not only gave the metal giants their highest chart peak since 2008 but also introduced a whole new generation to the sound of James Hetfield and co. Admirably, the band themselves were far from precious about the whole thing, revealing they were blown away by the concept and later inviting Quinn for a Lollapalooza jam session.   

Megadeth Enjoy A Triumphant Return 

To say that the recording of Megadeth’s first new album in six years was troubled is putting it mildly. Firstly, lead singer Dave Mustaine was diagnosed with throat cancer shortly after hitting the studio with co-producer Chris Rakestraw. And then founding bassist David Ellefson found himself caught up in a revenge porn scandal which ultimately resulted in his dismissal. Nevertheless, the thrash metal legends eventually managed to put all the drama behind them with The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead! equaling the No.3 peak of its 2016 predecessor Dystopia, inspiring some critics to hail it as their finest record since the early ‘90s.

Metal Continues To Infiltrate Pop Culture 

Elsewhere, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Rob Halford were just a few of the iconic cameos in Netflix’s Metal Lords, a teen comedy about a bunch of high school outcasts who form a metal band. Black Sabbath stole the show at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony with an unannounced performance of their signature hit, "Paranoid." And Ozzfest became the first in-real-life festival to enter the metaverse, where those who’d invested in co-founder Ozzy Osbourne’s CryptoBatz NFTs could also enjoy a better vantage point by morphing into a bat. Because why not?

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Franc Moody
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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