When initially introduced to vocalist Tim 'Ripper' Owens via the Judas Priest 'comeback' Jugulator (1997), I found myself entirely dumbfounded. Unsure of what to expect after the departure of the legendary Rob Halford, the resulting sonic onslaught (most notably the title track and the oft-incendiary gem “Cathedral Spires”) would ultimately be embraced by all but the most pessimistic of purists. Despite this, his tenure would prove short-lived as he would amicably depart the group in 2003. Fortunately for all parties involved, Owens wasted little time exploring other opportunities via Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen and an ever-morphing solo career. Now, with the success of the Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin (Jag Panzer, Riot) and Sean 'The Hell Destroyer' Peck (Cage, Death Dealer) co-led Super Group The Three Tremors, Owens is once again the focus of intensified recognition.
Todd: How did you become involved with The Three Tremors? Who proposed the idea of an original recording?
Tim: “I had done a tour with (former Accept frontman) Udo (Dirkschneider), (ex-Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane vocalist) Blaze Bayley and (former Loudness and Yngwie Malmsteen frontman) Mike (Vescera) and I also did a tour in South America with (ex-Queensrÿche vocalist) Geoff Tate and Blaze Bayley, but it was always us doing material from our own catalogs, ya know? This is really Sean Peck's brainchild. He asked me if I'd be interested in doing it where we'd be doing original material. ...It wasn't 'Let's go out and play our songs', ya know? He wanted to write a record and do it over the top. It wasn't like we were making something that was a cheesy, easy way out. It's a full-on Power Metal and Heavy Metal record. Sean had the ideas and the visions to do this thing.”
Todd: How involved were you in the songwriting process? Were you able to add onto it or was already finished?
Tim: “Because he was working on it for so long, he already had all the ideas. The great thing about this is that Sean already has the band Cage, so we were able to do it with the band. ...I think his first ides was to have an all-star band and get different guys to work with, but it worked out really well because he could do all the songwriting and be in the studio in his hometown, ya know? ...Sean basically had all the song ideas and then sent it to us. With me, I just did it at my studio, so I was able to do whole songs at once, which was kind of great about. There were no pieces or parts, which was why we were able to release The Solo Versions (2019). That wasn't the idea at first, but when Sean sent me the songs, I started making my own version. I'd use his template, but I would sing it using only my voice. I was able to do a lot of layering and a lot of different styles, ya know?”
Todd: When you've been able to tour in support of The Three Tremors (2019), how is the material 'delivered'? Are all three of you simultaneously onstage together or are you each playing a separate set of the solo versions?
Tim: “We do the songs all together. We try to do them like they were on the first version, ya know? We switch off during the songs like they are on the record. ...I don't think we're gonna do the solo versions of a songs, but who knows with Sean. It's all three of us up there at the same time. We do throw in a couple other songs, you like we almost always will throw in “Burn In Hell” from Jugulator and we might throw in a song from (the Judas Priest classic) Painkiller (1990) and we'll also throw in a Cage and Jag Panzer song as well. Plus, we usually throw in a special song like “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath (from Heaven And Hell, 1980). But we mostly just do the album version of the songs and it's just great. We've each got a lot similarities in our voices, so it's actually a lot of fun. These songs are very, very demanding and they're very hard because there's a lot of very high, crazy stuff. It's nice to have all three of us up there doing it because it's much more demanding if we do it all by ourselves. And I also like it because if Sean and Harry are on fire on a particular night, I can look over and say 'Can you sing my part?' because it can give me a chance to get rest. I'm totally fine with that.”
Todd: From the perspective of a fan, it's great! It gives them the chance to experience so much music all at once.
Tim: “It's nice because we're all from the same genre, ya know? It's a package deal with the voices, the band and the artwork. It does all makes sense. ...In this day and age, it's really difficult for people to only be in one band. It's especially hard if you actually wanna make a living because unless you're Judas Priest and you're that big of a band and can make a living from it. I'm able to work by having people come at me with different types of projects. If you look at the three records I put out last year, they're all very different. They're Hard Rock and Metal, but they're all different, so it's not like I just keep putting out the same type of stuff. It's nice because I'm in demand and I get asked to do a lot of work. This year could possibly be one of the biggest years of my career. It's hard to top being in Judas Priest and being nominated for a Grammy but this year, there's a lot of surprises and a lot of things where people are gonna go 'Holy crap'. ...I'm definitely calling this year the 'Holy Crap' year.”
Todd: At this point, do you have plans to record a second solo record? Play My Game (2009) was well-received.
Tim: “I've actually started working on one. I love the A New Revenge record so much because it had elements of all the things that I wanted to put on a new a solo record. I went to (guitarist) John Comprix (ex-Dave Felton, Ringworm, Winter's Bane) who wrote the Beyond Fear (i.e. Beyond Fear, 2006) record with me and wrote some of my solo record with me. I also went to (guitarist Keri) Kelli (Alice Cooper, Night Ranger, Vince Neil) who did the A New Revenge record with me so I can incorporate those styles into it and make it great. The next one won't have guest musicians playing on it that much. You don't get paid to make records like you did years ago, so... But I will have Keri Kelli write it and John Comprix write it with me and I think we'll be able to make a really great sounding CD. I think most people have been wondering why we've never done a new Beyond Fear record, but my solo record was kind of the same thing. If I have time this year, I'll get on it. I'd actually planned on already doing it, but so many other things have come up, I don't know if I'll even have the time to put it out.”
Todd: How was A New Revenge initially formed? That is an incredibly experienced and varied group of people.
Tim: “A New Revenge started with as a band called Project Rock. We did a lot of shows in Russia where we would play songs from Judas Priest and all of our other bands. ...We had (bassist) Rudy (Sarzo), who has been with Ozzy, Quiet Riot and Whitesnake and Keri was with Alice Cooper and then we also had (drummer) James Kottak, who obviously has with the Scorpions, so we had this really big, eclectic set list. But then Keri said 'Hey, I think we should write a record'. He started sending me songs, we started writing a record and it's probably one of my favorite records. And I think the great thing about that record is it has all those different influences. Because of Keri had been in Slash's Snakepit, I hear some Slash type stuff and I also hear some Alice Cooper influence in those songs and it's also a bit more melodic. There's a lot of melody going on with it. ...And I just saw Keri. As you know, he's played in Night Ranger for years now and was just in town for a show. He said there's a demand already and people and labels have been asking if we're gonna do another record. I'm certain we won't be on the record label that put it out last time (i.e., Golden Robot Records). We just wanted the record out. Basically, we gave it to somebody for free and basically said 'There you go. Take this and put it out'. We probably could have made some money off of it, but we finally just said 'Let's get this thing out.'”
Todd: How do you look back on your time as a member of Iced Earth? Obviously, as a member of Judas Priest, there were many comparisons to their earlier work. Were there a lot of comparisons with their frontmen as well?
Tim: “It was great. It was a lot different from Priest, ya know? I've always said it was still like being in the major leagues, but with a bands that more of the AAA team, you know? Judas Priest was the real major leagues, but they still had some amazing crowds and amazing venues. I loved singing the stuff on the records that I did with them. My favorites are The Glorious Burden (2004) and Gettysburg (1865) (2005). The Gettysburg piece is one of my all-time favorites, but Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part I (2007) is just amazing to me. And we had a good time. It was nice to do it with a little bit of a different fan base. ...You're always going to get those type of comparisons. You always can expect that, really. I got it with (Judas Priest frontman) Rob Halford and I got it with (former Iced Earth vocalist Matt) Barlow. Matt was the voice of Iced Earth and he has a very, very unique voice. But he's such a great singer, so I never really minded people doing that, ya know? What I don't like is when they won't even give me a chance. If anybody ever says 'Well, he's no good', I always think to myself 'I don't know if you've ever listened to what I've done', ya know? ...It's always made me wonder about it”
Todd: Was it difficult for you to transition from Iced Earth to Yngwie Malmsteen? While both groups obviously have similar elements of epicness, they're also very different. Has it been difficult to emulate your predecessors?
Tim: “Whenever Yngwie discusses his favorite singers, he always mentions (late Black Sabbath and Rainbow frontman) Ronnie James Dio. ...Knowing that let it do the little things that he liked. He liked it because I could sing a little bit in that style. ..I joined his group for two reasons. One was I got to play with somebody who changed the face of guitar playing. Yngwie is amazing and in the '80s, he changed the way people play guitar. To me, that was a big deal. Secondly, it was a different fan base. I thought 'Maybe I can get in there and get myself some new fans'. I'm lucky to have had that time, ya know? I enjoyed my time with Yngwie. I just got too busy with myself and had to quit. I really enjoyed doing it and I've always left the door open and didn't burn a bridge with him because I would definitely do another record or tour with him. I'd love to do another record with him. ...There has been some challenging stuff, absolutely. There are a lot of different types of voices, ya know? I'm gonna sing it like me, but luckily, my voice fits well with so many different styles so I'm able to sing so many different style music. I think that's why I'm in such high demand. I can sing in a lot of different styles. I can sing on records using a Pantera-like or Sepultura-like voice, so when people say 'Hey, Ripper can you come and sing for us', I don't even have to try and be somebody else. My voice is totally all over the place, ya know?”
Todd: How does your involvement with such groups differ from your time with Charred Walls Of The Damned?
Tim: “If you look at that line-up, aside from the singer, you have (drummer) Richard (Christy) being in Death and (bassist) Steve (Di Giorgio) was obviously in Death, Testament and all those other groups. It's definitely a powerhouse Thrash line-up. It's incredible stuff. I just loved the last record (i.e., Creatures Watching Over the Dead, 2016). It had shorter songs that weren't as crazy. All the records are fantastic, but that one was my most favorite. ...And guitarist/Producer) Jason Suecof (All That Remains, Dååth, Trivium) is unbelievable, too. Holy crap! What a guitar player. Unfortunately, we can't really go on the road with him being in a wheelchair. It's impossible for us to do any touring, but he's so damn good. ...There's some amazing guitar parts on the records.”
Todd: At this point, how do you keep your voice in shape? Do you do a lot of 'warm ups' prior to going onstage?
Tim: “I actually do not. I just probably should be, ya know? It does get harder. The bad thing about me is that talking is what gets my voice out of shape. The more talking I do, the worse it gets. I keep saying I'm supposed to be resting. In December, I was supposed to rest, but I ended up doing shows and singing in the studio, so I actually did no resting. I do need to rest, but instead I just drink a lot of water, try to not talk and try to get my sleep, so I stay at the hotel. Every singer is different. Some singers can go out and talk, but I can't do all of that.”
Todd: The Three Tremors was released without label supports. Can you really make things happen on your own?
Tim: “It depends how you wanna do it, ya know? I could probably put things out myself and work it, but it all costs money. You've got to know people to promote your record, so you're gonna have to spend money. With The Three Tremors, Sean started up his own label Steel Cartel Records to put it out, so you're definitely able to do it yourself nowadays. But if you wanna. make money when you do it, it's still a good idea to get a label to help get it out there, ya know? Labels have ins on other people, so it's always nice to have somebody. But it's different now. You used to get a pretty good upfront wage to make your record good and you don't really get that anymore. To me it's like 'Okay, I've got the money to help make the record, now you don't wanna do it', ya know? People just don't buy music like they used to. The big artists still sell a lot, but they still only sell half as much as they used to. It's so hard to sell now. It's almost easier to make some CDs and sell them at your shows.”
Todd: Having survived the per-digital era of music, it seems like modern fans are missing out on the Old School experience of waiting to buy new music in physical form the day its released. There's just no charm to it all now.
Tim: “It's just not the same, ya know? We don't have the Rock Stars like we did before and that's really because everyone just streams music. Plus, you also have things like YouTube and you have Social Media. You just didn't have that in the '80s and even in the '90s. In the '80s, you wouldn't even hear a new song until it was debuted on the radio, ya know? You'd here that Judas Priest “Locked In” (from Turbo, 1986) was being debuted so you would tape record it. You would go to the record store when the record came out and you would get it, ya know? Now, they're playing snippets of the new songs on Social Media, which is cool, but... When I was young, you went out and bought a magazine and you read the article, you took out the poster or you cut out the pictures and put them up on your wall. Or you'd sit up and wait to watch Headbangers Ball and watch the videos. That's all you had. Now, everyone they just goes and look at pictures on the internet. All of that's gone. And it's not that this era is bad. In fact, I think it's fantastic. I just feel bad because they've lost all of that. Back then, you had to sneak around to find out when a tour bus was coming so you could maybe watch or see where their hotels were. Now, the fans expect the musicians to come out to them. They're like like 'Hey, shouldn't you guys be out meeting your fans?' But that's what made Rock Stars Rock Stars back then. They didn't hang out at the bar with their fans all the time because they were Rock Stars. It's just so different, ya know? We couldn't wait until that record release day so we could go get it. And you still have that on Social Media. I buy all my music on iTunes, but I don't stream anything because one million streams gets an artist three cents. I buy all my music on iTunes, and I probably buy seventy-five more just because when I'm at the gym or driving on tour, I go 'Oh man, I'd love to get that new Foreigner record', ya know? They still have release days and you can still go get it, but it doesn't have the same sense of excitement of going the record store to get it. You know what's funny? This year is the first year that physical vinyl has outsold CDs. ...Vinyl is truly going to outsell the CD. How crazy is that?”
The Solo Versions (2019)
The Three Tremors (2019)
Spirits Of Fire (2019)
A New Revenge (2019)
Creatures Watching Over The Dead (2016)
Cold Winds On Timeless Days (2011)
Charred Walls Of The Damned (2010)
Play My Game (2009)
Perpetual Flame (2008)
Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part I (2007)
Beyond Fear (2006)
Gettysburg (1865) (DVD) (2005)
The Glorious Burden (2004)
Live In London (2002)
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