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Nudist Fuckin' Priest, Dude 

Wednesday, Aug 25 1999
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Photo by Larry Hirschowitz
UNLIKE THEIR NEO-SATANIC BRETHREN, METAL ICONS JUDAS Priest were most concerned with the individual and the right to drink, fuck and trash respectable establishments without Big Brother breathing down one's neck. Taking metal further than anyone thought possible, Priest's epic vision encompassed spectacular motorcycle accidents, depraved macho fantasies with no mention of women, and revelry of the sort that hasn't transpired since Caesar's day. Also, there was glass-shattering screamer Rob Halford's excessive fixation on studded leather, which made more sense after he left the band and announced that he was gay, shocking thousands of homophobic, Judas Priest­adoring heshers across the globe.

Despite a couple of decades' worth of dedication to all things manly and metallic, as well as album after album of unrivaled, fiery mayhem, Judas Priest's Andrew Lloyd Webber­like melodrama and unsparing seriousness seem to invite parody. And so was born . . . Nudist Priest, a naked, beer-bellied, dangling-ballsack version of the classic tribute band, but with nearly as much chutzpah as Rob Halford, and the riffs and byzantine solos to match.

"We were drunk at this barbecue," says Nudist Priest vocalist John Ramirez, "and my friend Alex said that his friend Wampus had this idea for a band called Nudist Priest, but he's never going to do anything with it, and I just said, 'Let's do it,' and Jason from Woodpussy turned around and said, 'I'll play drums.' The only bass player we were thinking of was Foster [Los Super Elegantes], and I bumped into him at Rico's store, and he was wearing a Judas Priest hat, so he was in. Then Dallas Don [Lutefisk] heard about it, said he was interested, flaked on us last time, heard it was a shindig, and decided that he wants to redeem himself and do it this time."

A riotous mass of would-be Nudist Priest fanatics came out for the band's first gig, at Club Sucker. Someone yelled, "Nudist fuckin' Priest!" during Mongoloid's set as the Devo cover band fled the stage. Then, like a lightning bolt from Zeus, Nudist Priest ripped the place apart. The audience became a sea of two-fingered devil horns, stage divers and moshers celebrating the mastery of these hairy, butt-nekkid hellions who dared mess with the gods of metal's unholy songbook. "I know Club Sucker is an early-evening club," deadpanned Ramirez, "but we like to party all night long." The band kicked into "Living After Midnight," which featured an exceptional improvised jam. They did a sped-up version of "Heading Out on the Highway" and warned the audience, "We can't love you all tonight"; then Ramirez nailed most of the solos like a Guitar Institute graduate with honors. The show exceeded everyone's expectations, and several attendees said it was the best gig they'd seen all year.

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Noticeably absent from the show were any real metalers, that community with Defenders of the Faith patches on their ripped-up denim jackets and mullets that date back to the late '70s.

"There's something about the heavy metal culture that frightens me," admits Ramirez, "as much as I appreciate certain things about it. If we had more money, I'd like to do all the standards -- motorcycles onstage, fire, explosions, all that kind of hard-on, adolescent-oriented stuff that people really enjoy."

For the Club Sucker show, Ramirez hyped it to the extent that everyone he met knew about it a couple of months ahead of time.

"We would go to parties and shows and talk about playing naked Judas Priest songs," says Ramirez, "and people would instantly be into it. A lot of people came out of the closet as Judas Priest fans, but the actual turnout was ridiculous."

SINCE ROB HALFORD'S DEPARTURE FROM JUDAS PRIEST TO pursue a less inspired solo career, the original members have recruited "Ripper" Owens, who had previously fronted a Judas Priest cover band in Ohio, and released Jugulator, a decent album that nevertheless lacked Halford's unique masculine vision.

"The new singer did a really good job," says Nudist Priest guitarist Alex Konya, who saw them play at House of Blues, "though he'll never fill Halford's shoes. It's just not the same, 'cause I don't think Ripper would ever sleep with another man."

So, with Judas Priest in a state of disrepair until Halford decides to return, Nudist Priest is set to conquer.

"Last time I prepared myself by coming down with the flu, wrecking my bicycle, doing too many painkillers, and drinking and smoking till 4 in the morning," says Ramirez, "so I wound up sounding more like Lemmy than Rob Halford. But this time we've been practicing, and I can hit the high note on 'Exciter' about 70 percent of the time."

After spending hours figuring out Judas Priest's intricate arrangements and attempting to regain the three-octave range of his youth, Ramirez has discovered that he really digs Judas Priest.

"I was a marginal fan before, but now I'm a big fan. I've come to appreciate them. They were never the greatest band, but they were fiercely inspired."

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