Rich Catino of Metal Asylum recently conducted an interview with ICED EARTH/ex-JUDAS PRIEST vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:
Metal Asylum: So before we start talking about the forthcoming ICED EARTH album "Framing Armageddon", I wanted to ask how your other band BEYOND FEAR was received by both fans and critics?
Owens: It went good, man. Probably that was one of the best reviewed albums I had been part of. I know I really liked that debut album. To go over how well it did with the fans and critics was great. We didn't get to tour as much as we would have liked, guess since it was our first album, but it was a good surprise. The next one is gonna be even better. We're gonna do what we did with the last one, take the best parts, and continue on.
Metal Asylum: Do you think you may try something different on the next album?
Owens: It will always be classic metal, but I think a lot of the later songs that we recorded for the debut, like "Scream Machine", became favorites for fans. And lyrics to a song like that were not so serious and more cliché metal lyrics, you know about a metal machine. (Laughs) so I think some of the new songs may go in that direction. We are still gonna have songs like "Save Me", but I think it will probably have some more aggression. We have been writing now, John Comprix [guitar] and I, for a while. I have a lot of ideas and melodies in my head that I really can't use anywhere else (laughs). It's nice I get to use 'em for BEYOND FEAR. I mean, I have been a writer for many years but I don't get to do it as much as I would like, and ICED EARTH just keeps me so busy, but it's nice that every once and a while I get to do my thing with BEYOND FEAR. And we get to take our time with this band and practice together. I mean, that's what I want to hear with all my influences on one album that's what I like to do with FEAR.
Metal Asylum: Do you find that "Framing Armageddon" is closer to what the fans, and critics, expectations may be for ICED EARTH than what came our of "The Glorious Burden"?
Owens: I don't know, really. (Laughs) To me it's the same type of thing that happened when I was in JUDAS PRIEST. And it's the fact the I'm in a band that has never really been the same with every record. I mean, with ICED EARTH musically you could tell, but musically things changed — choruses were different, moods were different. But I think this one as a whole is more back to the roots of ICED EARTH and taking everything they have done up till now and mixing it in one record. You know, people say ICED EARTH is really a heavy band but they do have a couple balls out heavy songs per album, and then you have a couple slow ones, and then there are the mid-tempo ones. I think "Framing Armageddon" is a great CD and I can't see an ICED EARTH fan not liking it.
Metal Asylum: Since "Glorious Burden" was the first ICED EARTH album you sang on, what is different the second time around now for you as a singer.
Owens: It's similar vocal-wise because Jon [Schaffer, guitar] has always said he always writes the same. He said he always wrote for a singer like me. He said in a lot of interviews that Matt [Barlow, former singer] use to write lyrics but Jon writes all the melodies and vocal parts. And he doesn't write 'em for the singer in the band at the time, he writes them the way he thinks they should be sung. I know I naturally have a higher voice but I do wish I could sing more of the lower parts. I know with this album I was there when it was written, I went in there and did the demos and sang the parts. Jon said, "Here's the lyrics and melody and I want you to deliver it. Here's what I would like you to deliver it like, but you do what you feel." So that's what was cool about this album. "The Glorious Burden" was probably an easier album for me to sing than this one, even though it was already written when I came into the band. But when I go back and try to sing some of the stuff on "Framing Armageddon", I'm just like, "Holy shit, what did I do?"
Metal Asylum: Speaking of what you are singing on "Framing Armageddon", I was going to ask was there anything challenging to do on this record?
Owens: Definitely. I think there is a difference between a songwriter and a singer and Jon is a songwriter and I think he forgets sometimes that I have to breathe. (Laughs) And I do to I have to remember also in the heat of the moment while I am in the studio recording, so it's my fault, but then again when I have to go back and sing some of this stuff again, you know… It's like, "Ten Thousand Strong", that's just balls-out and when we were doing it in rehearsal I was like, "Man, this is tough." It's a natural high voice with no room to breathe; it's fun and challenging. There was stuff we did for BEYOND FEAR that was the same way but the difference is we rehearsed those songs first before we recorded those. I mean, with the new ICED EARTH album there are some registers that Jon has me reaching that I don't use that often, that I used in the past but not so much of recent. Two singers that were always like that were Bruce Dickinson [IRON MAIDEN] and Ronnie Dio, those are two guys that were always tough to do.
Metal Asylum: Do you think the ICED EARTH fans at this point have become more comfortable with you as the new singer?
Owens: I don't know. I mean, the real ICED EARTH fans know that Jon Schaffer was always the driving force of the band. And Matt Barlow [former ICED EARTH vocalist] was a great singer, but decided to make a career change. If they don't accept me, then listen to someone else, I guess; it doesn't really hurt my feelings. I know Jon is doing exactly what he wants to do and it's still classic ICED EARTH. I mean, people have to realize that I followed Halford in PRIEST and coming into ICED EARTH now doesn't hold that much pressure.
Metal Asylum: Contributing vocals to any other projects?
Owens: Not right now. ICED EARTH keeps me pretty busy, but I would like to. I would love to do a project with maybe Scott Ian from ANTHRAX, Vinnie Paul [PANTERA, HELLYEAH] on drums. I mean, there are so many people I would love to work with. You know, someone else I would love to work with down the road is Jon Oliva [SAVATAGE, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA]. I mean, his style and my vocals would be a phenomenal mix, I think. I mean, imagine Jon Oliva, myself singing, Scott Ian doing rhythms and bring in Chris Caffery [SAVATAGE] on leads. That would be awesome!
Metal Asylum: Now that you mention Jon Oliva, I think you would sound great singing the old SAVATAGE stuff. And have you ever considered doing some vocals on a TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA album?
Owens: Man, I love that old SAVATAGE stuff. If they ever get it back together again, I would love to jam with them. Concerning TSO, I did speak with Paul O'Neill [TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA mastermind] but he just didn't pursue the idea. It was really surprising. I mean, I think it would work pretty well and I would sing what fits TSO's music. That band has some great singers that travel with them as it is. I mean, I would love to be part of that.
Read the entire interview at www.metalasylum.net.