I’m With The Band – Cosmo Wilson and Judas Priest

Posted on May 7, 2024

Good things come to those who wait.  A familiar old cliché? No doubt. But as is so often the case with such sayings, there’s more than a little bit of  truth to it. Just as Cosmo Wilson.

The well-known designer-programmer was a fan of metal giants Judas Priest since he was a teen. Later, when he embarked on his chosen profession, he dreamed of lighting his heroes one day. But being a much-in-demand LD, his dance card was always full, so he never reached out to the band.

Then around 2000, he got wind that Judas Priest was looking for a designer and threw his hat in the ring. His good friend Tom Horton got the job. Even though he was disappointed, Wilson was happy for his buddy, and remained busy lighting an array of other bands, including the Scorpions, who did some tours with Judas Priest.

Fast forward 19 years or so, and Wilson got a call from Horton saying that he would be leaving the band. He asked if Wilson was interested in lighting the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. The two friends got together in Florida and programmed for two nights. Then came the first show at the Hard Rock in Hollywood.

Wilson was off and running, living the dream, lighting the band he feels like he was born to light. So, good things do indeed happen to those who wait. In this case, not just for Cosmo Wilson, but for all the fans who are being treated to the explosive looks he’s creating for this iconic band.

You’ve been having a great run with Judas Priest. So, if you had to sum up your experience with the band in three words, what would they be?
“Dream, Love, Rock”

What surprised you most about the band once you got to know them?
“How absolutely nice and friendly and down to earth they are. It’s crazy when you meet your idols and find that they are just normal people. Extremely talented, but normal. I share a hug with them every single day, something I never would have imagined.”

You’ve been lighting artists for some time.  Looking at your past experience, what prepared you most for lighting Judas Priest? Who are they most like from a lighting perspective?
“Well, I am fortunate to light bands like this one, because they come from the par can days. There is a certain feel from incandescent fixtures that is necessary to translate successfully  to the modern day intelligent fixtures. You have to operate them in the old school way. So, I still run my lights like a Par can rig, and the bands like Judas Priest notice it. For me, it’s obviously about timing, but even more about the dynamics of operating the cues. While I have the looks programmed, I still run the lights by the seat of my pants, which I feel makes it more real.”

How do fans at Judas Priest shows compare to fans for others bands you’ve
“They are all similar, but as Rob Halford (the band’s frontman) calls them, they are the ‘Metal Maniacs.’ The band and fans embrace each other as part of  the ‘Heavy Metal Community.’ Judas Priest loves their fans, and their fans absolutely love Judas Priest.”

Does the band get involved in lighting? Do they offer you suggestions?
“The way it works is that Martin Walker, our Production Manager and FOH Sound Engineer, discusses ideas and the logistics of the design with me, and then he presents these ideas to Rob Halford, and then we expand upon his comments and keep refining the design until it looks good and is sensible to carry and set up every day — in addition to fitting  into the financial aspect. It’s funny, when I first started running lights in 2019, after a few shows, I walked into the Dressing Room after the show, and Rob looked at me, and said, ‘Cosmo, I can feel it! I can feel the difference! Where have you been all of my life?!’”

What is the most challenging thing about lighting Judas Priest?
“Making the show look as good as their music and performance, nailing the cues. In reality, for me, there is no challenge, except that I wish I had more time to program more looks for the show. Being a fan for so many years, and knowing each song note for note, I can ‘see’ the cues I want to make, and every single load in, I spent as much time as I can embellishing the show and making it better than the last show. It never ends…”

What is the best thing about lighting them?
“When I first heard “Breaking the Law” in a cub in New York in 1980, I was awestruck. I didn’t know who it was, and when I asked the DJ who this was and he said, Judas Priest, I didn’t believe him! I knew Judas Priest, ‘Hell Bent for Leather,’ and ‘Unleashed in the East,’ but I was not prepared for this change! I got every single album after that, and this is all before I was a lighting guy!

“I dreamed of lighting Judas Priest, but never thought it would happen, until the day it did! Funny, every night sometime during the show, sometimes several times during the show, I get the biggest grin on my face and say to myself, ‘I was born to run lights for Judas Priest.’