Interview with Tim "Ripper" Owens
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 27, 2023
Tim "Ripper" Owens has been in many bands but, of course, most people first became aware of him as the lead singer for Judas Priest from 1996 to 2003. Even though he filled Mr. Halford's large boots well, people were conflicted about him being the best fit for Priest back then. Despite that, he's first and foremost remembered for his stint in Priest, singing on such underrated albums as Jugulator (1997) and Demolition (2011).
Since his Priest days, Tim has been in many bands, from Iced Earth to Beyond Fear to Dio Disciples, which says something about his magnificent vocal skills.
Tim got involved with KK's Priest in 2019 with K.K. Downing and A.J. Mills on guitars, Tony Newton on bass, and Sean Elg on drums. The band's highly anticipated debut album, Sermon of the Sinner, was released on EX1 Records on October 1, 2021, and was received very well among metal fans all over the world.
The band's follow-up album, The Sinner Rides Again, will be released on Napalm Records on September 29, 2023, with nine new metal anthems on it. The Metal Crypt got to talk to Mr. Owens about the making of the record, current and future touring plans, what's up with his solo band Ripper, any signs of life for Beyond Fear among other things.
Thanks to Jamie Roberts of For the Win Media (www.forthewin.media) for setting up the interview.
Hey, Tim! How's it going?
Tim: It's going well. How about you?
ALBUM NO. 2 – THE SINNER RIDES AGAIN
I'm doing fine, cannot complain really. Life's good. Anyway, to get this conversation started right off the bat, The Sinner Rides Again is the follow-up album to KK's Priest's debut album, Sermon of the Sinner. As the band's debut album was so well received among the fans of the band, did this put any extra pressure on your shoulders when you started composing new material?
Tim: Not really. The big part for me is Ken is handling everything. It's a big thing for Ken to really want to do this. He wants to take a lot of control because he's spent his whole career in a band that they all were doing it. I think for him, it's a big moment in his career, to really handle a lot of stuff and do a lot of different things. I think he was probably even more comfortable with doing the second album because he got the first one out of the way and it was well received. I have a feeling that the thought with all of us was the next one's going to be even better because we're all more comfortable, and I think it just made it even easier to do. To me, it is an even better record. It has more flow. There's something about it that's just a great record.
Were all of you equally involved in the songwriting process of this new album or did some of you have bigger roles?
Tim: I think we all had a little more say in this one, but still, Ken, gives us the meat and potatoes, and we run with it. I definitely hear everybody's character even more on this record. You can tell Sean on drums was let loose more. He could just play like Sean. Vocally, the first one, we really wanted to just make it a good classic metal record. This one I wanted to be more adventurous and be even more ripper. The great thing about me singing is, I don't sing in one certain style all the time. I could sing just about any way.
I grew up loving singers like Ronnie James Dio and Jon Oliva and Rob Halford and David Bowie, who sang in a lot of characters. This record I recorded here at my house in my studio in America and it took a lot of time, a long time to talk to Ken and for him to let me do that. I kept saying, "I can spend more time with it, I can live with it and do it again." I think there's more aggression and more passion in this record than the first one. I think everybody was able to put their own things into it. Ken had the idea, and then we were able to put ourselves into his ideas.
So basically, each of you threw your own little spices into this soup, and you got some great things brewing after that.
Tim: The thing is, I've been doing this for so long now. When you hear me sing, when people try to compare me with somebody else, I'm always like, "Listen, I'm Tim Ripper Owens. I've been doing it for 30 years." I sing like me. I don't think I sound like anybody, and no one sounds like me, and it's great. For this record, I could really just put myself into it. It was a lot of fun.
Did you feel your recording sessions were pretty relaxed and went smoothly this time around because all of you are, of course, seasoned musicians and know how to work in a studio environment?
Tim: Yes, I think so. What's great about everybody in this band is they're so good, they're so pro. I enjoy doing it here and was happy when Ken finally said, "All right, Tim, you do it there. You don't have to come here." We all know we're all good at what we do, or we try our best at what we do, let's put it that way. We are all professionals. I've always said there's a big difference when you're a professional musician and that's what you do. It just came together so well. This record is so good.
In which studio did the recordings sessions take place? Did you use the same one as the record?
Tim: We did a lot of stuff at Ken's studio. The drums, I think they were again recorded at Steve Harris's studio because Tony Newton has the connection with Maiden where he mixes a lot of their live records. He's the engineer for their live records and mixes them, and there's a big connection there. Vocally, I did my studio work at Ken's last time. I do love it. I had an option to go to other studios to do it, but I opted to do it at Ken's last time because I like the homey, fun vibe. When you're done, you can eat and sit and chill. I record so much music here. My solo record, the Ripper, Return to Death Row record, I did my vocals here at my house. I like to record here.
It's a different era. You can just record your stuff and send it. Especially a singer. A singer has a better option to do that. Drums and guitars, you want to be together and do it.
The song named "Hymn 66" caught my attention due to the title. I'm curious to know what this song is all about, lyric-wise?
Tim: Well, Ken wrote the lyrics. The thing about the lyrics is most of them can be interpreted in so many ways. I guess that's what good lyrics do when they're written well. I think that's the whole point. People can put a religious spin or a heavy metal spin and really interpret them their own way. I love the lyrics on this new record. For "Hymn 66," we shot a video. That's going to be one of the videos coming out soon. It's really cool.
CHARLIE – THE VIDEO GURU
Now that you mentioned videos, you have worked with Charlie Smith from Mind Art Visual to do those couple of promotional videos for this new album. Can you tell us about them?
Tim: They're all attacked a little differently. Some have a green screen. We do a lot of live shots, obviously, and he did the ones off the first record as well. Charlie's great. Charlie's a good friend of the band now and great to work with. Almost all the stuff we do, we shoot at the steel mill. We go in there for a week and shoot them. We did them before the last rehearsals for the last three festivals we did. We shoot them all day. It's a lot of work. "One More Shot at Glory" and "Reap the Whirlwind," those were long video shoots. Charlie likes to shoot a lot. [*laughter*] I'm always like, "Dude, you took 30 takes of me singing this song." I'm in the video for like 20 seconds. It's great. I really look forward to what we shot for "Strike of the Viper." It's one of my favorite songs. It's short, right to the point, just a great metal tune. I'm really looking forward to that one. It's going to be a live video. We do a little bit different. It takes a long time to do them.
What are some of Charlie's best assets for visualizing what KK's Priest is all about, from your point of view?
Tim: He likes to shoot us live. What's also great is on the new "Reap the Whirlwind" video, the green screen stuff is amazing. We really look like we're standing on cliffs and standing in the mountains. He's got state-of-the-art software now and he's really, really good at everything he does, and he's got great visions and great ideas. It's really fun to work with him. I think that's it. Like I said, Charlie's just a good friend of everybody. He tells you what he wants you to do, and he really does have a vision, and he never does it in one or two takes.
I think it's got to be really hard for him to put these videos together because he's got so many takes. I'm like, "Charlie, man, you have to sit there for hours just going through the material." He's a great professional and great at what he does.
Because I'm into spoilers, can you tell what are some of your favorite songs off this new record and what makes them so killer for you?
Tim: I love "One More Shot at Glory" a lot. I really love that track and I think it was the perfect one to come out with. I've been so busy with touring that I'm trying to come up with the titles of the songs. Like I said, I love "Strike of the Viper." I love the last song on the record. I need to get the song list because you would think I'd have it doing all these interviews every day, but we've been touring so much. The last song on the record is my favorite. It's very epic. A.J. gets to start off singing the song and then I come in. I think it's definitely my favorite track on the record. I'll have to get the--
You mean "Wash Away Your Sins"?
Tim: Yes, that's the song title. "Wash Away Your Sins." This song is just epic. It's so good. The vocals and the music. I hope we shoot a video. I actually think this would be a great song to make an epic lyric video for because it's great. I love the fact that A.J. gets to sing a little bit on this record. With that song, the way he starts off and he has this, [*sings*] "Demons from..." and then I come over, [*sings*] "And now you must feel the pain..." It's got this great vibe. "Strike of the Viper" I like so much because it reminds me of that old-school two-and-a-half-minute song that just comes at you...Bam! It's just a great song amongst so many great songs. "One More Shot at Glory," starting off as the first release, I think, was perfect.
OF TOURING MATTERS
This summer you have played at some bigger festivals here in Europe, like Leyendas del Rock in Spain on August 9 and at Bloodstock in the UK on August 13. Would you say playing gigs is the band's lifeblood? I mean, without all of those live gigs, things might get a bit boring and tedious for the KK's Priest camp...
Tim: It is. It's very expensive to go on tours. Our production is pretty big. We've not put this together to just go out and play mediocre shows. At the Bloodstock show, here we are, and Helloween has to pull out. Somehow, we were able to go. We were playing in Belgium the night before. We're like, "We'll do it."
The Alcatraz Festival.
Tim: Yes. It's a big show, big production, flames, pyro, big screen. We pride ourselves, and I do especially, on bringing it live. Right now, I'm probably singing as well as I've ever have in my life. Being 56 years old, it's pretty amazing to think I'm singing better than I ever have. We really pride ourselves on it, and it's going to be the same thing with our own shows. This is the goal. We wanted to come out of the gate and play big shows to let people know what to expect and to book a solid tour around the world. Right now, our agent, TKO, is trying to piece good tours together. Again, it's big production and it's not cheap, so it's hard to just get out there. You can't just get out together when you have sick people on the road, you know what I mean? Whatever we have out there, it's crazy. It's a big show and Ken's not going to do it any other way.
There's always a lot of planning to be done to pull off a proper show...
Tim: Yes, tours do need a lot of planning and Ken's working his tail off to do it. I'll tell you, after doing these last three fantastic festivals and the response from the crowd and the reviews that have been over the moon, we're really looking forward to the UK run of shows.
After your UK tour this October, you have the Monsters of Rock Cruise coming up in March next year. What else do you have in the pipeline as far as your forthcoming live gigs are concerned?
Tim: We have a festival on the 1st of December in Mexico. Then like I said, it's trying to piece everything together. We need to get the offers in, and we wanted the world and agents to see what we're bringing, that it's a show and how good we are and how much it means to us, to be honest. I'm excited about the UK run of shows because it's our own show. Paul Di'Anno and Burning Witches are on the bill. I'm really looking forward to it.
Do you see all this touring as an important factor for the band, you know, to reach bigger crowds, which in the best scenario, will mean better album sales and all that stuff?
Tim: It does. I think a big part with these festivals is we got a lot of new fans. When you play festivals, they're hard sometimes, even if you're headlining because it's not just your fans there. Especially somewhere like Bloodstock, where we weren't even on the bill until two days before the show or whatever. They've been fantastic, and I think that's a big part of it, but you have to get out. If you can, financially, you must get out and do this touring for the lifeline, like you said, to sell your merch and to sell your records and to get to work. These festivals have meant a lot to us.
Musicians prepare themselves for a show in so many different ways, like 2-3 minutes privacy before going on stage, or telling jokes to their band members and/or crew to get that relaxed mood and spirit. Do you have any personal rituals that you do before you go on stage?
Tim: I really don't. I just don't leave my hotel room too early before the show. I don't like to hang out at shows, just go in and get out. I don't like to do interviews the day of shows. I rest my voice and do it, but I don't do a lot. I go in and I do some stretches and do some exercises and chew gum and drink my water. I drink some vitamin water. I don't do a lot. I don't do a lot of warming up or stuff like that. I just keep it quiet and show up and do my thing.
Fans always want to meet their idols, so what's your take on meet-and-greet sessions?
Tim: I think they're good. I think people complain about paying for meet-and-greet, but nowadays bands have to do these to be able to go on the road. You have venues taking half your merch money. I don't mind them when they're done right and they're not very big. It's really good for the people getting them and it's worth it for them. I don't think Ken likes them, so I don't even know if we'll ever do them, to be honest. I'm all right with it.
I don't like to do them before shows if I don't have to, but I think it's probably the best time and I don't really mind it. I know there's a lot of people that don't want to do paid meet-and-greets. I'll do paid meet-and-greets, unpaid meet-and-greets, whatever it is. If you want to sustain being on the road, sometimes you have to do it. At the moment, I'm still trying to talk Ken into it.
Alright. My time is pretty much up, but I still have one more question about Beyond Fear. Are you done with that band?
Tim: Yes, I think so. It's hard to get it out. I think the main thing that I'm going to work on after this, when there's time, is my solo band. The Return to Death Row EP was six songs. I think what we'll do now is a 10-song, full-length with Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), the guys.
Cool. That's nice to hear.
Tim: I would love to do Beyond Fear, but it's so hard financially to do it. The guys in the band are my friends and it's still one of my favorite releases. I'd love to have them maybe even getting involved with my solo record, it would be great.
It was a pleasure to have a chat with you. I'm wishing you all the best with the band's forthcoming comings and goings.
Tim: Thank you. Stay in touch, and if you have any other questions, message me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook. Send me a message and we'll hook up again and stay in touch.
OK. Thank you so much again, Tim.
Tim: All right, buddy.
|Other information about KK’s Priest on this site
|Review: Sermons of the Sinner
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