KK’s Priest – Interview met Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens (vocals)
Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens: “I think I was able to add more character to the record, more light and shade as I like to say”
Judas Priest gitarist K.K. Downing ging in 2011 op pensioen en stapte uit de band. Als één van de oprichters van die legendarische heavy metal band had hij heel zijn leven aan Judas Priest gewijd. Toch heeft hij nog een zwak voor ons geliefde muziekgenre. Vandaar dat KK’s Priest nu terug is met een tweede studioalbum ‘The Sinner Rides Again’ en verdorie, dit is topmateriaal! Vandaar dat we op jacht gingen naar een gesprekspartner en die vonden we in zanger Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, net voor hij naar Europa vertrok voor een tournee met KK’s Priest.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 9 oktober 2023
Congratulations with the second album with KK’s Priest, but let us start with a question of the past. Of course you have been singing in a lot of bands, like Judas Priest, Iced Earth and Beyond Fear, how did you end up being the singer in KK’s Priest? How did that happen?
Well, KK did once a show with Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson under the moniker MegaPriest in 2019 and I think after that show, KK realized that he just wanted to do a record. Three months later he called me, I listened to the new material and I said yes, this is great stuff, absolutely. It would be awesome to be back with KK and do it. So that was the start in 2019, the show was in 2020 in January, when he finally thought: let us do something and that’s when we started hang out together.
Then the first album ‘Sermons Of The Sinner’ came out, but it was in the middle of the pandemic, so I guess you had to wait for a while before going on stage…
Yeah when we recorded it, we had dates planned and doing a lot around it, but then covid-19 came and we had to delay everything, but the time that we thought to do some shows, we thought it would be better if we made another record, so we have two records out.
That’s true, because this year you have headlined several festivals in Europe, like Alcatraz in Belgium…
Yeah they were great, so it was really a challenge. Festivals are different and harder to play than your own shows, because it is a different crowd there, but the festivals have been just amazing.
Several things a different on this second album ‘The Sinner Strikes Again’, because not only KK has written the material, but second guitarist AJ Mills also contributed to two songs during the writing process…
AJ has been friends with KK for a long time and he was in a band Hostile and Ken always helped him out and kept him going. He had a lot of song ideas and different parts and ideas for songs. He got together with Ken, they are neighbours, so they started writing songs together. He is just an outstanding person and guitar player, so it is really great that he is in for the writing process.
Where does your artistic view come in sight? Are you only performing the vocals or do you have any input on the rest as well?
Ken is handling the melodies. He sends the melody ideas and the lyrics and this record I recorded in my studio at my house here. I was able to add a lot of different dimensions. Since I was recording here, I was able to change some parts or I tried to and send them some different ideas that I might have had. So I was able to approach it a little bit different than the first one.
Yes, I like this one better than the first album. It is tricky to say from a band with veterans, but you have grown on this song material…
Yes I think I was able to sing a bit more aggressive this time and I like to sing like that. I think I was able to add more character to the record, more light and shade as I like to say and I think sitting here at my house recording let me do that.
Then you are more at ease and relaxed of course…
Yeah if I sent an idea and KK did not like it, I just redo it.
It is also a very epic sounding record in my opinion…
I think it is too. The sound of the record, all the instruments, they are sounding so good and the last three songs on the record are so epic. Although ‘One More Shot At Glory’ is also very epic. That is one of my favourites.
And that song should refer to a Judas Priest song on ‘Painkiller’?
The title has a connection, but I think the song really doesn’t, but the title does. Ken is connected with these songs in his career. He likes to stay connected with what he has done and that was his life, doing that. I love that he stays back in action.
One of the songs that stand out is ‘Hymn 66’. Can you tell a bit more about that?
It is a great song indeed. We just released the video, so if anyone wants to check our videos out, they are on YouTube. You can check out four videos released for the record now, and they are all a little bit different. Each song is a bit different.
There is a kind of creepy atmosphere in the seventh song ‘Keeper Of The Graves’.
It is. It has got that great kind of slow beginning, straight forward vocals, a lot of feelings, the verse has got real heaviness. Yeah it definitely has an atmosphere to it. A bit doom-like atmosphere too.
On the other hand, the next song ‘Pledge Your Souls’ has a kind of big arena feel… correct me if I am wrong…
I agree. It really has that feel, with some extra epicness. And then right after that is I think the most epic song on the record: ‘Wash Away Your Sins’. I think that is my real favourite on this record. It’s got a little bit of everything, like impressive choirs and acoustic parts. I love the beginning, but then I really like the verses because they are heavy and chuggy and catchy.
Did you already play one of the songs live or is that strictly why you are going to rehearse now?
We played two new songs we already had delivered on video before: ‘One More Shot At Glory’ and ‘Reap The Whirlwind’. We only play the songs that people could have heard and now we are going to play ‘Strike Of The Viper’. That will be in the set list because the video is out, it has got over 600000 views, so people have heard it. ‘Hymn 66’ is just out, it will probably be played on the next tour.
Was there a certain reason why you gave the mix and mastering to Jacob Hansen in Denmark this time?
I think it was Tony’s idea (Tony Newton – bass – Vera). He was delighted with a previous mix for him and Ken said: ‘maybe we should have someone else, outside of the family, doing this’ and Tony said: ‘I know the perfect guy, he is just amazing.’ So that is why we decided to do it.
Now you are signed by Napalm Records, that is also different from your debut album… I think they have a very big influence in Europe too…
They are a great label and I think it is going to be a great relationship. I think we needed to branch out with something different, someone who is more into what we do and I think it is a great relationship. The former label was a new label starting and friends of Tony and we thought to try something new and for the second one, we thought, we try something different.
The artwork is done by Andy Pilkington. Can you tell anything more about that?
Yeah it was great to see it come along. Ken would send me different versions of the cover that was coming along and nice to see it developing by changing small things. There were different things in his hands: first a sword, then a stab, the character changed a bit, it was great to watch. He does such great artwork, so it was really exciting to see how this one evolved. It is a fantastic cover.
Did you stay several days in Belgium after Alcatraz or was it just a fly in fly out?
We travelled right away. We came in for the show, but then we ended up doing a last minute replacement at Bloodstock, so the next day we actually played at Bloodstock. Helloween fell out and it was just three days before that we were booked to do it.
I hope that you can tour in the US as well? Are there plans in that direction?
Yeah I think there are plans to tour everywhere.
You are a busy man. Are you now focusing on this only or are there still other things in the pipeline?
Right now I am spending all my time on KK’s Priest, but I have a solo tour coming up in South America from the first November on. Ten or twelve shows are going to take place in South America, solo, and I have some American dates in February in Texas and maybe in Florida as solo artist, but my real focus is on KK’s Priest. I want to be available for whatever we need to do to get out there. I will be working on the follow-up to my last solo EP ‘Ripper – Return To Death Row’ which did really, really well and was received well. It has gotten great reviews, so I think I probably do a ten songs record as follow-up to that. I probably start recording some stuff when I have time, but at the moment I am just pushing KK’s Priest and trying to get this out there.
Of course you knew Ken a long time, but did you know the other guys in the band as well before you entered this band?
Sean Elg, the drummer, did a lot of solo dates with me and he is the drummer of The Three Tremors that I put two records out with. Sean has been friends with me for a while and he played with me, that is why I recommended him and AJ I have known for years. Mostly when I play solo in the UK and I play close to Ken, usually Ken and AJ come out to the shows, so I have known AJ for a long time. Tony I have met in 2019, he was actually running sound for the first show I did with Ken and David Ellefson. So I met Tony then. But it is great, they are such great musicians and we are such great friends. It is a strong, strong line-up, that’s for sure.
Never thought about moving to England then?
No, no… I am happy here in Akron, Ohio. I love England, I love the Midlands and I love where Ken and AJ live, I love that area, but I would never move. Who knows who tough I would be as roommate? (laughs). All my friends and family is here, so I am happy here.
Are you still in contact with some guys from other bands you are or were involved in?
Yeah some of the guys from The Dio Disciples. I don’t see a lot of people. I see the guys from Beyond Fear every now and then, but I really don’t see them weekly because everybody is busy doing their own thing.
So there is still a chance for a next Beyond Fear album? They still exist?
Well, it would be good, it is just hard financially to do it and trying to find the time to do it. The debut album is one of my favourite records and the guys in the band, John and Eric and all of them, they are all so talented and nice guys. I would love to put one together some day.
Time will tell. Now it is time for the tour with KK’s Priest!
Yes we start at the seventh of October in Birmingham. We do about five shows in the UK and then we have a show in Malta and then we go back. Then I go to South America to do the solo tour, but there are more KK’s Priest shows coming up after that.