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An Interview With Judas Priest Frontman Ripper Owens

By Don Sill, Contributor
Thursday, June 27, 2002 @ 9:56 AM

Owens Clarifies The Alleged Fe

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It's never easy being the “New Guy,” always having to put up with people's snide remarks and constant hazing. Fighting day after day in an ongoing battle to prove yourself to the masses and earn your bones and respect among the pact. People laughing when you trip and hoping to see you fall again and again praying for your demise and you failure. Tim "Ripper" Owens knows the feeling all to well; for 5 years he's been the “New Guy” -- a title that may never go away. Ripper isn't just any “New Guy,” he's the replacement front man of the world famous metal outfit, Judas Priest, taking center stage where the "Metal God" himself, Rob Halford, used to stand tall.

"I said that when [Rob Halford] left and did 'Two,' he left heavy metal, and that's true and that's the end of that, and what I always say is, 'Thank God he's back to heavy metal.'"
Throughout his 5 years with the legendary band, Ripper took lashings from Judas Priest die-hards and rock critics alike, always being compared to Halford and constantly walking in Halford's dark shadow, constantly having to prove his worth time and again. "I still see some people at concerts who come to watch me bomb and they hate me," says Ripper with a laugh in his voice. "I even had people sitting there flipping me off." But, Ripper would stay strong and focused and win over his critics by singing his ass off and proving that he has the talent, diversity and moxie that is worth of Judas Priest status.

Sure, Ripper had won over his critics and maybe a few of the extreme haters, but no matter how much talent he has, there will always be remnants of Halford's shadow lurking behind every corner.

Recently, [according to French Magazine Rock Hard] Ripper was accused of saying "Halford returned to his metal roots to cash-in on metals popularity." In response, Haford stated, "If Tim says that I turned my back on metal because Fight was a failure and Two was a failure, two commercial disasters, that I just went back to metal because that's where I make my money and my living… Fuck you, Tim! Because that's not what happened, and without me you would not be in Judas Priest."

I spoke with Ripper recently about still being the “New Guy” and about the latest feud with Halford…

KNAC.COM: You've been with Judas Priest for 5 years now; you've recorded 2 albums, toured with them, bonded with these guys and all of that stuff. Does it feel like it's your band now? Or is it still their band?
RIPPER: I feel like it's my band on the stage, ya know… But, off the stage I still feel like it's still their band. I mean, I've done 2 studio records and a live record and a soon to be DVD, and hopefully another live record -- and I've been here since ‘96 and it's all going pretty fast. But, I still feel it's theirs; they've done it. You know, when I start getting money from the back catalog, then I'll start feeling like it's my band! [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Do you get intimidated to voice your opinion? Like when you were recording Demolition?
RIPPER: You know what I do, actually. I still do. I tell ya, I did get to put a lot more into Demolition. I got to change some vocals on things and unfortunately you don't get credit on things like that. I got to sing at my register, the way I wanted to sing it, and I really got to do a lot more on this one. This album was written for my vocals and not somebody who could just sing like Judas Priest. But, the intimidation factor is there because it seems like 9 times out of 10 my opinion gets shot down anyway. I just let them handle it, ‘cause they're probably just thinking, "Wait a minute, we wrote the songs for 20 years and we don't care what you say. You're a kid…" [Laughs] But with this one they gave me more freedom.

KNAC.COM: You can definitely tell on Demolition that you did put in a lot more of your vocal style.
RIPPER: Yeah, and part of the reason is that I can do every style of heavy metal singing, except maybe for that sissy hard rock stuff. I ain't gonna sing like that. But, who knows, they're may even be a little bit of that in there too. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Now, I imagine that growing up you were a huge Rob Halford fan…

KNAC.COM: …And now, in the news I read that he's angry with you. Is there a feud between you and Halford?
RIPPER: No, at all. What did they say on there?

KNAC.COM: That you accused Halford of going back to his metal roots to cash in on metal’s current popularity. I'll read you what Halford said in response to this: "If Tim says that I turned my back on metal because Fight was a failure and Two was a failure, two commercial disasters, that I just went back to metal because that's where I make my money and my living… Fuck you, Tim! Because that's not what happened and without me you would not be in Judas Priest."
RIPPER: Man. See, that's just silly. Not what he said. I would have said that, too, if I was him. But, this is just silly, unbelievable stuff… I did say that he left heavy metal, that's all I said, but not with "Fight" ‘cause "Fight" is heavy metal, and I'm a huge fan of "Fight." I said that when he left and did "Two," he left heavy metal, and that's true and that's the end of that, and what I always say is, "Thank God he's back to heavy metal."

KNAC.COM: Well, I'm glad we can clear all this up because they had it like you were taking a shot at him.
RIPPER: No, not at all, "Thank God he's back to heavy metal," that's exactly what I always say. I say that everybody experiments with different stuff, and there's nothing wrong with that. When Rob left Judas Priest, he didn't leave heavy metal then. I'm a fan of Rob's and this is just silly stuff. It's unbelievable that I would say any of that.

KNAC.COM: So, it was taken out of context…
RIPPER: It has to be, because I always say the same exact thing. I say that Rob left heavy metal, that's what I say -- and he did, that's not a lie, there's nothing with that. Fine, he left heavy metal and I never will say anything bad about that, but I do say, "Thank God he's back to heavy metal," because that's what people want.

KNAC.COM: I agree. Halford went on to experiment with new stuff and he's back, thank God.
RIPPER: You know, we have had things going back and forth, and I have had things taken out of context, and I've also probably put my foot in my mouth a few times also, but, this is just silly. I mean, I met Rob and he's a great guy, you know, and why would I say anything bad about him? I might have said some things in the past, but he has to realize that I read a lot of bad things that he supposedly said about me, so I used to come back and react to these things after I read them. I used to; I don't anymore. You know what? It doesn't bother me, and if I was him, I would have said the same exact thing. He didn't really say anything that bad either. He said "If Tim said," and I didn't, so… He's got my phone number…

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