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Interview by Chad Bowar
The Tim "Ripper" Owens story is a rags to riches one. After singing in Judas Priest cover band he was chosen to replace Rob Halford. He spent six years in the group and left last July when Halford returned. He's back with Iced Earth. It started off as being a side project when band founder Jon Schaeffer wasn't happy with Matt Barlow's vocals and asked Owens to step in. He later became a permanent member of Iced Earth.
The Glorious Burden is Iced Earth's 8th studio album, and a concept album about world military history. Song topics include Valley Forge, Waterloo, Red Baron and Attila the Hun. The album culminated with a 32 minute epic about the Battle of Gettysburg that features the 55 piece Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
Chad Bowar: How did you hook up with Iced Earth?
Tim "Ripper" Owens: Jon and I met back in '98 at a Priest show. This past year he called and asked if I might want to do a side project. He was sending me some songs and I was listening to them and the next thing you know he said "I was in the studio mixing the new CD and it just didn't work out. Matt's vocals just weren't what I wanted. His heart wasn't there." He asked me if I would be interested in doing the vocals. I said sure, I'd definitely be interested. It seemed like a no-brainer.
Were you into Iced Earth's music before?
I was into it. I didn't listen to it all that much, I was familiar with it and had the records. I noticed they seemed to get better all the time. You get so busy it's hard to listen. The problem was having the time.
Iced Earth's music is more power/progressive metal. Was there much of an adjustment for you vocally?
It's definitely heavier, but the singing is more melodic. It's a lot more singing, a lot better vocals. It's more of an attraction vocally.
It also seems a lot more diverse vocally than Judas Priest was.
The Priest stuff had a lot of different voices, but they were really quick. With this one I use a voice a lot more. It seems like there's a lot more different singing where there might have been more characters in the Priest stuff. It was just shorter or background stuff or a small part in the song. You didn't get to hear it as much.
Are you more comfortable singing the lower register or higher register vocals?
The low stuff is definitely easier to sing, and I'm used to singing it. I think the middle of the road stuff is my favorite.
What's the concept behind the new album The Glorious Burden?
It has a history theme. Jon is an absolute history buff, as big as they come. It's his passion to write about history.
When you came in to re-record the vocals, did you have much creative input?
I did. I actually rewrote "The Red Baron," both the lyrics and the melody. Jon offered for me to rewrite two others, but I didn't have time. I had the melodies, because Matt had finished it, so I would listen to it and sing along. Obviously Matt and I have different voices so I would sing the way I thought would fit the record.
What was the timeline in doing the vocals for this album, leaving Judas Priest, and then joining Iced Earth as a full-fledged member?
I did the vocals the first week of July, 2003. About a week later Priest and I split. I had already been in negotiations with Iced Earth and talked to them about doing the vocals. I had a sideman contract made up. It was good timing with everything happening. It all happened for a reason. Both sides were excited about what was going to happen. We both knew that Priest needed to get Rob back and I needed to spread my wings and do some other stuff. Having that on the table made it quite a bit easier. Not that I had to join Iced Earth, but I knew I had a product that was going to be released that was damn good. The day that Priest announced that they got Rob back I could have announced that I had an album done with Iced Earth.
When you joined Judas Priest you were an unknown. Now people know who you are, but may not know Iced Earth. Do you think your presence will help them get more exposure?
I think it will help them get some advertisements, some interviews. It will open up a few more doors. Iced Earth has done it on their own for years and haven't tried as hard in the U.S. as they probably could have. I think they're ready to do that now. Hopefully we'll be doing an American tour towards the end of April.
Did you shoot any videos for this album?
Yes, we did a video for "When The Eagle Cries" and we did a video for "The Reckoning." Hopefully someone out there will play the damn things.
Do you think outlets like Fuse and the new Headbanger's Ball will help energize metal in the U.S.?
Yes, it has. There are a lot more festivals and a lot of other shows that are being played. I think Uranium and Headbanger's Ball are definitely big things.
Are you looking forward to writing songs with Iced Earth in the future?
Definitely. I think it's going to be great. It's going to be a lot of fun. We get along well and have a really good chemistry. I think it's going to be really cool to write.
Was not writing with Judas Priest one of the down sides of being in the band?
Yes, that was, but I understood what their angle was. There were reasons why I didn't write. I gave them some lyrics, but they never really wanted them. I was hoping to write with them, but it didn't work out. It didn't hurt our friendship and feeling that I have for the band, so that's the main thing.
Did being 28 when you joined Judas Priest help you deal with the sudden fame, or does age matter when it comes to that?
You still get swept up in a little bit, but I did know that I had to be professional. I took it as a job and took it really seriously. If I was 20 years old it may have been a little different.
Do you still have plans to do a solo album at some point?
I'm still going to do it. I'm going to start putting an acoustic song down tonight. It's definitely going to be done. I'm going to hopefully get it out by the end of the year. I'm doing a demo tape now. I'll shop the demo around and see what happens. I'll shop the demo around and see what happens.
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