Name: William Fleming
Hometown: A small fishing village called St. Vincents on the east coast of Newfoundland
When did you discover Priest’s music?
I never discovered Priest’s music until I was already 21 years old. It hit me hard and fast. The first Priest album I listened to was Defenders Of The Faith. I hadn’t experienced chills from music like that before. Not in a very long time.
My tastes before Priest included Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society and Rob Zombie, just to name a few. I went through a period were I was mostly listening to American and European industrial music. A small band from Sweden called Sister Sin brought me back to my metal / rock roots and it was shortly after that I discovered Priest. I’m a metalhead through and through now. Manowar, Megadeth, Gwar and many others are my main course. I’ve always loved the bands that created the trends and influenced other bands the most.
Do you still remember the moment when you first heard Defenders Of The Faith?
Yes, I first heard Defenders Of The Faith while I was working on another leather jacket for myself. I had a Judas Priest playlist rolling on my computer. I had heard a lot of the bands hits before, but I have always been an album guy. I wanted to hear all the deep cuts and in the order in which they were meant to be heard. I was a faithful fan after that night in my small studio.
Speaking about your hobby, making leather goods, there´s a story about your Judas Priest vest …and making a leather jacket for the Metal God himself…
The circumstances that led me to meeting Rob Halford and having made him a jacket are a mix of luck and determination. I’ve been making leather related items ever since I was 16. It started out small, but always remained a hobby.
The first time I had ever seen Priest live was in Montreal back in 2014, I believe. I had made a vest for the occasion. I was in the front row having the greatest time of my life. When the show was over, and it was time for everyone to bow out on stage, I held up my vest for the band to see, and, to my surprise and elation, Scott Travis decided to hold it up with Priest for everyone to see. I have a photo attached here of the moment taken by a youtuber. It was at that point I knew I was worthy, and was going to make Rob his own jacket, hahaha.I never knew how I would ever get a jacket into his hands, but I figured I would find out how to do that later. So the project began. The jacket I made for Rob was heavily influenced by one he wore during the Painkiller tour. It took me several months and a lot of custom die-casted and machined shop parts. I dabble in all sorts of skills. I waited until the jacket was finished to decide what I was going to do. It turns out through pure happenstance that Priest just announced several more tour dates in Canada, and one of them included a gig in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the province next to mine. So I emailed the event holders, and they got me in touch with Priest’s manager. She made an exception for me, and asked Rob if he would like to meet me, as it wasn’t an ordinary request. He agreed, and so I got to meet the Metal God. Rob told me something pretty cool too. He told me that the jacket I based mine from coincidentally went missing during the last leg of Painkiller tour, and it was the only one he didn’t own anymore. So, in a way, he got his jacket back through me, with my flavor put into it.
Making that jacket must have been extremely time consuming?
I never did log the hours I spent making the jacket for Rob. It was a lot of fun, and I tried a lot of new techniques like pewter casting various skulls, sheet metal work for the back, and I had a local machine shop make me close to 80 stainless steel JP crosses for the arm fringe. I can tell you that I had a 3 month window to make the stage wear just in time for the Halifax date that Judas Priest had been booked to play for.
Now your leather vest is signed by various band members. Was is a hard task to get the autographs?
The first 2 signatures I aquired were from Rob and Ritchie during the meet and greet in Halifax. Everything became real easy after I had got in touch with JP’s manager. Rob wanted to meet me in Halifax, and when you meet the Metal God it’s not like you are not going to get his autograph, haha. Rob was very kind and gracious. He even pointed out to me directly several other times I’ve been to their shows. The validation is something I can’t describe, but it feels pretty rad, haha.
I got Ian’s and Scott’s autographs in Ottawa a couple years later, when I went to see them play again. It was just luck that I found out which hotel they were staying in, and so I waited in the lobby the next morning with some friends who are also giant JP fans.
The last signature I got was from the Ripper, Tim Owens. I was living in Toronto around the time and I got wind that Tim and some ex Megadeth musicians had a band together, and they were playing at a small venue that I had frequented many times before. It was a 40-minute drive from my apartment, and during one of the worst snow blizzards that year. I almost didn’t go, but I’m glad I knocked some sense into myself.
How many times have you seen Priest live?
I have seen Priest live 4 times now. Sad to say I never did get the opportunity to see K.K. perform, and that blows hard. I was still a kid with no cash to travel before K.K’s departure. K.K.’s legacy and Priest is too important to me to put into words. Well hell, I got the tattoos and photos to prove it, haha.
Do you collect any Priest memorabilia?
The priest memorabilia I collect is pretty typical. I own all their albums on cd, as that’s my preferred way to listen to physical media. I own many flags, new, custom and vintage. I have tattoos, and my daily wardrobe yells Priest.
What is your favourite album and song?
Favorite album and song is waay too difficult for me to choose. I mean, one day I could slap on Ram It down and listen to that album in my car over and over for a month, and then later switch it out for Killing Machine or Sin after Sin and etc. Some notable stuff I really like off the top of my head is Hard As Iron, Last Rose Of Summer, The Sentinel, Jawbreaker, Before the Dawn, Hell Patrol…
What does the music of Judas Priest mean to you?
Judas Priest’s music is simultaneously the best escape and purest music I’ve ever heard. No other bands music has made me both blast off with high energy or cry. The music has gotten me thru the bad times and celebrated with the good.
Your message to K.K. and Millworkers?
If I had a message for KK I would just like him to know that he is undeniable, one of the greatest guitar players that’s ever lived and I love him for it. I have a lifestyle now that his music is the backdrop for. I loved his book and hope to hear some new music from him as well in the future. My fingers are crossed I get to see him perform one day with the guys. I wish him the best life has to offer, because his music is one of the best things life has offered me.
Millworkers, none of this could have happened without your help. From one fan to another, thank you. Don’t stop what you do and keep the Faith!
And now it’s your chance to ask K.K. a question…
If I could ask K.K. anything? Hmmm. What’s it like knowing that the little boy you were grew up to have influenced several generations of talented musicians and defined the sound of an entire industry? You have set the bench mark higher than even Jimi Hendrix, in my opinion, and have surpassed even your inspirators…
It is very gratifying indeed that anyone could consider me to have achieved such an accolade as me being compared to Jimi, the all time icon of the guitar. Humbly I would have to state that, even if true, it took me circa 40 years to achieve what Jimi did in just 3 or 4. However still very gratifying for that, I thank you!