Interviewed by Wrathchild
Date: March 17th, 2006
As a completely unintentional (yet totally cool) early birthday present, I got a chance to catch up with Tim “Ripper” Owens to talk with him about his upcoming self-titled debut album from his most recent project “Beyond Fear”, the current state of heavy metal, and free coffee. Here’s what he had to say.
Hi, Tim! I want to thank you for doing this interview with me.
What’s really cool about the timing of this interview is that my birthday is tomorrow, and what better birthday present than to talk with Tim Owens about a new record?
(Laughing) Happy Birthday!
Beyond Fear has got an album coming out, and the way that the world’s been lately, what was influencing you most during the writing process?
You know, it’s funny, because there’s… it’s just a little bit of everything.
You do have songs that, probably politically, have something to do with telling lies.
I think that a lot was written when the presidential election was going on… I don’t want to necessarily say it was my point of view, but watching the TV and seeing who’s lying, oh, he’s lying, and people are dying… and it was just kind of funny, especially when you watch two different TV programs, and you would see one side of the fence and then the other side of the fence. Like I said, it’s not necessarily my point of view; not sure if it is or not, but you know, more of watching TV.
The human race obviously was influenced in the same way; by a politician on TV saying that it’s not the same world, and everything’s different; which I agree with, but then he went on to say it’s not his fault, and I thought, “Well, that’s kind of a strange statement to say, that it’s not really his fault,” it was kind of that, but you know, it wasn’t all that…
The fun thing about doing something like heavy metal is you can write just about anything, you know, whether you want to write about a monster or you want to write about a politician, which I guess could be the same thing (laughing) but, you know, you could write about anything.
So, you’re going to be touring Europe with Anthrax next month…
That’s going be cool…
That’s going be great, you know, they’re friends and I’m a big fan, so it’s going to be a good tour.
Is that tour going to make it to the States at all?
I don’t think it will. One reason is because I think that Anthrax already toured in the States with the reunion lineup, so I don’t think it will because of that. Obviously, we still want to get back to the States. You know, it’s kind of funny; it’s almost like doing more promotion doing this tour without a record out. The record’s not released until May 9th, and… I think May 8th over there, and we’re doing promotion for it on the tour, but I hope to come to the States and tour as well.
A question that I personally like to ask all of my heavy metal heroes is, what do you think about the future of heavy metal? Because there’s been a major change, both sound-wise and style-wise, over the last ten or so years…
Yeah, well, you know, I guess it has to do that. Everything changes, you know? We don’t wear the same clothes as we did ten years ago, and the cars have changed, and it’s just… everything changes. Obviously heavy metal’s more aggressive now.
It sounds a lot angrier.
It is a lot angrier. It’s weird that it would change like that, but I think that everybody has to do their own thing. We still have bands out there that sing-.you have Disturbed, and you have Avenged Sevenfold trying to, you still have them out there, it’s just that it’s a lot more aggressive.
If I were twenty years old, twenty-one years old, I probably would listen to it and love it. When I was young I listened to pretty aggressive stuff as well; I would listen to Priest and Maiden and Dio, but I also listened to Exodus and Testament and Slayer, and that was looked at as, “Holy mackerel, what is this?”
I really hope that the older school of heavy metal starts coming back and being more in the mainstream, and you know, that’s just my own taste, but do you think that there’s a chance of that happening?
Well, I think it’s actually come back a lot more than it was. You know, even when I first made it into Judas Priest it wasn’t really around, hardly at all. So it was really an uphill battle to try to get it going on, because you were coming off of grunge and you were doing all that, and so it was hard then, and now it’s a lot better. There are a lot more European bands playing here and with the other style, so I actually think it can. I mean, a lot of these younger bands, first of all, are influenced by Maiden and Priest and Metallica and all these bands. So, I think with that, it helps because even though these bands are heavy and I don’t listen to them, they’re out there wearing Iron Maiden shirts, and hey, I love Maiden, and so it makes the kids go back and listen to Maiden. And really, Maiden and all these bands’ ticket sales have probably gone up a little bit in the last five years, where they were pretty small for a while.
I hope it does come back. I mean, I hope it does more in the fact that younger people are playing it. I don’t care to just go to concerts and see the old guys doing it all the time. I’d like to see a band of twenty-one-year-olds that has that sound, and not just that of Priest and Maiden - I can only take so much of watching the old veterans up there - but I would like to see the young guys doing it as well.
Exactly, and you know, you take a band like Nevermore or Edguy, who have really only been around for ten or so years, and they’re doing a really good job of shaking things up.
Yeah! They do, and I think that’s it. You know, with Iced Earth’s tour, with Children of Bodom and Evergrey opening, we were selling out as many shows as I sold out with Judas Priest, and this was really Iced Earth’s first time headlining a bigger tour like that in the States. You know, they’ve never really opened for a lot of people, never really done a lot in the States, and they’re more from the older school as well, strictly older school.
Something I was going to ask your opinion on: there are a lot of the unsigned and underground heavy metal bands out there that have opted to stick to their guns and stay with the old-school feel. There are a few that I know of personally who feel like they’re being overlooked by the industry just because of the “newer” metal phenomenon. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Well, probably, I mean, Beyond Fear’s material is definitely influenced by older metal. I mean, it’s definitely a Black Sabbath / Judas Priest with Pantera into it.
You know, there are a couple things that happen there in the industry. One is that people aren’t going to want to sign an old-school-sounding band that’s like me, who’s 38 years old and still doing that. I mean, if they are going to sign you, they’re probably going to want you to be a younger act, and that’s a big thing.
It’s a business. The labels, they gotta look out for it. If Priest and Maiden have a hard time selling records in the business, how is a new person going to start off doing the same thing?
Even though we love it and we love to do it, it’s hard.
You know, it was hard with this project, it was a little more aggressive, but once people heard the CD and it started off, it’s been a lot easier. It’s hard, I mean, people do get overlooked, and I guess you would probably get overlooked also if you had the New Wave sound and you were a forty-five year old fat, bald guy. (laughing) The labels don’t care; it’s all about what can you do for them. It’s a whole different ball game. It’s probably true, if I do get overlooked, because you do the music you love, but I think it’s a great thing, because I do think it’s coming back. I think people are starting to sign more acts who have the older school style, and it’s definitely as big now as I’ve seen in the past ten years.
I’m hoping it keeps going in that direction, personally.
Well, and Ozzfest has some of those classic bands headlining with them now, and it’s great in my opinion to see a lineup on Ozzfest that’s got Priest, and then maybe you’ve got a Godsmack or maybe you have a Dimmu Borgir, or whoever. Even if you’re not gonna like some of the bands, that’s the great thing about metal; there are a lot of flavors to it.
It seems like it’s really started to get broken up lately into a bunch of genres and sub-genres. Remember when it was just METAL?
Yeah, definitely, I mean, you had a few of them; you had death metal, heavy metal, and hard rock. It was kinda like just those things, and now it’s nu metal and this metal and hardcore and blah blah blah… it’s really all the same.
That’s why I get mad when people put down Disturbed, because there’s a heavy metal band out there who’s pretty original, pretty good I think, and selling millions of albums. Why would you knock it? They’re the closest thing we have to an older school metal band and they’re selling a lot of albums and keeping metal out there in the light, and people are like, “Eh, you know…that’s a sell-out.” I guess if you sell a lot of records you become a sell-out. (laughing) Every single band that ends up selling a lot of records eventually becomes a sell-out because you’re selling a lot of records.
When you were growing up, what bands really, did it for you? Who made you sit up and take notice and say “Okay, that’s what I want to do”?
Well, Judas Priest did, obviously, KISS did when I was younger, but I never thought I would do it. I just think, you know, the whole movement of metal. Priest was the first big one that made me think, “Wow, this stuff…I can sing this. This is me.” I think all of that. Dio and Iron Maiden and Chris Cornell have all been music that I have just loved.
Have you given any thought at all to putting together a DVD package that would span the history of your career, from your early works up through Priest and then Iced Earth and Beyond Fear?
Yeah, I think it would be great. I just want to see how many bands I can actually be in first. (laughing) There could be a few more yet. I need to put up on my web page everybody that I’ve worked with, because even on all the tribute albums I’ve done, I’ve not met the people (because I always do the vocals in my home town) but I’ve gone all the way from Yngwie to Dio’s whole band, to Michael Schenker, to George Lynch, to Mike Inez, to Tommy Aldridge, I mean I’ve just got this giant list… (laughing) It would be a pretty great DVD, to just show the history of it. It’d be awesome.
I’m certain that you’ve had this question thrown at you far too many times, but I’m going to ask you anyway… The movie “Rock Star” was clearly based on your story as far as going from being in a tribute band to being in the band you were tributing. Where did that film sit with you when it came out, and what did you think?
Well, I was pretty excited when it first came out, just the fact that originally, they called me and originally they wanted to make a movie based on me.
As it went on, Judas Priest pulled away from it… I’m not sure why; I still to this day don’t think we should have. We probably could have made it more accurate, because then they had to really take the big stretch and start changing it, but when I saw it, it obviously didn’t sit as well with me for the fact that people are always going to associate the movie with me, and besides the tribute singer making the band, there’s little similarity factors… somebody just reminded me that he [Mark Wahlberg] has some kind of a “Dreams come true” line or something in it, which is a line that I said to my parents, so you know, little things were similar, but most of it was just so far off and made up, that… (sighs) just everything.
The very beginning of the movie was accurate, besides him being like a freak stalker fan kind of a guy, you know, because the fact is that when I made Judas Priest, I wasn’t even in the Judas Priest tribute band; I was doing a Seattle tribute band for a year, so it was kind of funny, because if they had showed me when Priest called, I was wearing regular clothes onstage, not the whole…thing, you know. And with the tribute band, the shows were small, and there was no one there, and so it was kind of funny how they made it look like this big production, and yet I’m the only one dressing up in the band when I did that, and so…It just wasn’t very accurate.
I’m still flattered, I mean, obviously anybody would be; I would have been flattered more if I would have got some money from it… (laughing) …then I would talk a lot better about it.
Somehow, I don’t see you winding down your career playing at a coffee shop.
No, I don’t either, and the funny thing is that I think that was one of the best songs on the movie, (laughing) sadly enough. You know, they should have played that song earlier in the movie with the leather on, instead of waiting until the end. I hope I don’t wind up like that but I guess if I do, I better at least get free coffee.
Hey, we’ll still come see you. Moving along, you’re an American-born heavy metal guy, and you’ve spent a lot of time in Europe. American heavy metal scene versus European heavy metal scene: which do you think has a larger following?
Obviously, European does, but I think it’s always smoke and mirrors really. I think people always put it up there because in the nineties, that was the only metal scene at one time, and America didn’t really have one, and now it’s kind of gotten a lot closer.
I do shows here in America that are just as good as the shows in Europe, but as a whole, it’s just a whole different scene in Europe. The people are different, things are different there, so I think metal can relate better. In America, we’re a little more spoiled, and I also think that America moves on a lot more, which I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing, and Europe stays in the past on that.
You go to the shows and it looks like you’re in a time warp, I mean you got people who are dressed like they would have been dressed in the eighties, and like I said, things do have to move on, and I think they have as well; they have a lot of different bands that now come over here and play, and I think that America has probably caught up a lot more, and I like the American scene as well.
You’ve been a big inspiration to a whole new generation of metalheads. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who didn’t wish that they could be in their favorite band at some point. Is there anything that you’d like to say to the newest legion of metal warriors who are reading this interview?
Just get out there and do it! It’s metal, you know? Heavy metal is always the best. You can relate to it a lot more. Just get out there, and believe in metal. Believe in hard rock. It’s the most true music out there. I think that’s the best thing about it.
Oh, and get the Beyond Fear CD on May 9th. Buy it! Buy it!
Anything that I haven’t asked you yet that you want to throw out there before we wrap it up?
Just… Thanks! Thanks to everybody for keeping me around, and like I said, May 9th the Beyond Fear CD comes out, which is more of a true, basic throwback; it’s a Black Sabbath / Judas Priest “British Steel” type of music moved up to the year 2006. It’s a straightforward heavy metal record. May 9th it should be in stores.
Awesome! Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me…
…and I hope you enjoyed it; hopefully we’ll talk to you again real soon.
Good luck with everything!
You have a good birthday!
Thank you, and you take care, Tim.
You too, thanks.