July 15, 2003

Former JUDAS PRIEST singer Tim "Ripper" Owens says that he was on a road trip — in a minivan visiting out-of-state relatives — when his former bandmembers made the announcement last Friday (July 11) that he was being replaced by the group's longtime frontman Rob Halford.

"I wish I could have been in town, but I didn't know exactly when they were going to make the announcement," Owens, 35, told The Beacon Journal Monday (July 14).

"I discussed it with them months back, so I wasn't upset that they were going to do it."

Owens told the paper that big-money offers for the reunion tour had been coming for some time but had previously been turned down.

"Halford was out there doing things, but it wasn't as big as he probably wanted and it probably wasn't as big as PRIEST wanted either," Owens said. "And money eventually talks, so my feeling was, 'Why not now when it's best for all of us?' "

Tim says that since the band's last tour ended in the fall, he has been working on solo demos and has just completed vocal tracks with a well-known musician he declined to name. Owens described his upcoming original work as GODSMACK-meets-PANTERA-meets-PRIEST.

"It's still hard-rock-metal style, like PRIEST," Owens said, "but moved up to this era."

To keep his vocal and stage skills sharp, he has been playing solo acoustic shows and occasionally sits in with the local cover band THE SICKNESS. Owens is scheduled to play with the band July 25 at Mangos in Alliance, Ohio.

Among Owens' few complains was the fact that PRIEST chose to tour on their own as opposed to teaming up with other bands and playing in front of larger audiences.

"I wanted to go out on package tours," Owens said. "Nobody goes out alone nowadays but us. You'll see four, five, six bands touring together and they all have platinum records. Even those tours draw only 8,000 to 10,000."

With respect to his lack of songwriting contributions on the last two JUDAS PRIEST albums, Owens said, "Obviously, I didn't get to really write, but I was all right with that. In the last year, I've kept every idea for myself.

"Now the good thing is I didn't write anything. If people consider that things [with JUDAS PRIEST] failed with me, it's not mine. Everything you heard would have been there anyway."

Owens says that he has no intentions of playing JUDAS PRIEST material on his own.

"I won't sing them without the guys, except in a local band. But I think there are people who will want to hear those songs," he said. "You never know what would happen if they play Cleveland... I know I'll be backstage," he joked. "I know where they keep their beer."

Tim, whose life was the inspiration for the 2001 movie "Rock Star", says that he is ready for the movie sequel to his life story.

"My story is so much better than the movie," he said. "If you hear the live CDs, you'll hear those songs sung as well as they've ever been sung live. They're not overdubbed like a lot of live recordings were in those days.

"And since I've joined the band, I've gotten (re)married and had a son," said Owens, the father of a 14-year-old daughter and month-old boy.

"I'll always be indebted to PRIEST for my lucky break. This is a happy ending. Life goes on and I go on."

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