TIM 'RIPPER' OWENS To Young Musicians: 'You Have One Job To Do, And That Is To Blow People Away'
November 29, 2023
In a recent interview with Poland's Pełna Kulturka, former JUDAS PRIEST and current KK'S PRIEST singer Tim "Ripper" Owens was asked what advice he would give to aspiring vocalists and other metal musicians looking to break into the music business. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Pick another career. [Laughs] You have one job, one job to do, if you're a new musician or a new singer, and that is to blow people away. Your job's to go on stage, especially live, and sound like you did on the record or better. That's your job. It's not to drink beer. Your job is to blow people away. And there's nothing better for a musician, a young musician, or any musician, [than] to see the reaction of somebody's face out there when you're delivering it, when you're bringing it out. So that's your job. Everything you do, if you're a musician, you should only worry about promoting your band and delivering the best performance you can."
Asked if he would say the "live performances are the most important thing", Owens replied: "I think so. I mean, you can make a great record, but — and you don't have to go up on stage and… It's not the stage show to me, it's not running around the stage and getting crazy. To me, it's just looking like you wanna be there and sounding great, or at least wanting to sound great. You've gotta try. And to me, that's the biggest thing. I wanna hear somebody that sounds good."
Earlier this year, Owens reiterated his commitment to singing all songs like they were originally recorded, whether it's material from his former band JUDAS PRIEST or his new project KK'S PRIEST. He told DJ Ramo (a.k.a. Omar Rodriguez) of The Metal Mixtape: "Everything you hear on this record I can sing live. I'm so sick of watching singers, and I don't care — I'm 56, [and] I've seen singers in their 50s that still couldn't do it. I'm so sick of watching singers — I know they can do it, but they change their songs; they lower it, they make new melodies and they hit a high note for a second. And it's, like, 'Dude, sing what you wrote. Sing what you wrote.' I understand it gets tougher. But I can sing 'Sermons Of The Sinner'. And these songs, the KK'S PRIEST songs are harder to sing than the classic PRIEST songs, except maybe 'Metal Meltdown'."
He continued: "I pride myself on whatever I did in the studio, I can do live. I mean, listen, we open out of the gate with 'Hellfire Thunderbolt', and if anybody's heard it from these concerts, it goes 'Hellfire Thunderbolt' into 'One More Shot At Glory', and they sound like the record — I mean, close to the record. And that's the other thing about doing these vocals — one minute I want it to be aggressive, one minute I want it to be high and clean, I want it to be soft and beautiful, but I can do all that live.
"These songs are great to do live, man," he added. "I love doing these ones [on 'The Sinner Rides Again'] even better than the first record [2021's 'Sermons Of The Sinner']. 'One More Shot At Glory', 'Reap The Whirlwind', 'Strike Of The Viper' — I mean, man, they sound great live, man. They are unbelievable."
Regarding what he does so that he can perform the songs faithfully, Owens said: "Listen, I don't warm up. It really starts with, are you a good live singer or not anyways? … There's songs I've just heard recently that it sounds so manufactured. Not that it's a bad song, and it sounds great, but it doesn't even — I could just hear where it's pieced [together] and hear where it's Auto-Tuned. And it's, like, you're not gonna sing it live.
"There are some singers out there, they're like the best singers in the world, but they're just not great live singers," he explained. "They're not great live singers at singing what they record in the studio. They're still great live singers; it's just they've changed the version. They've made up their own version to make them be able to sing — which is fine, because there's gonna be times where I'll have to do that to a song or I might lower a word, but I try to stick to it. I mean, you would see singers like Ronnie Dio. He wasn't going off… If he changed the version, he probably made it harder. He would sing it live.
"I record everything at the top of my ability, and I always struggle with my material," Tim explained. "Like when I tour solo, it's pretty easy. It's pretty easy tours. It's okay tours for me, because I'm doing my own stuff. But when my rest comes [is] when I get to sing the classic PRIEST songs, and I imagine it's the same even with Rob [Halford], when he gets to sing 'Breaking The Law' and 'Metal Gods'. I mean, those things are, like — anybody could sing them, it's so easy and it's a break. But this tour, you open up with 'Hellfire Thunderbolt', 'One More Shot Of Glory', 'The Ripper'… I'm doing 'Night Crawler' — 'Night Crawler''s easy. 'Burn In Hell', easy. 'Sermons Of The Sinner' — I was scared of 'Sermons Of The Sinner', to be honest, cause I was, like, 'Holy crap, man. This is gonna be tough.' And it's actually fun to sing.
"I think all singers should be recording to the top of their ability. So my songs are always harder, and that's why, but some singers just can't reproduce it. This record, I had a better feeling I would reproduce easier even than the first, because I sat here [at home] and did it myself. I wasn't told what to do. I was told what the melody is, but I'd use my own voice to do it. But some singers, they don't sing exactly what they do live. I mean, that's just how they are."
KK'S PRIEST, which features Tim alongside another ex-PRIEST member, guitarist K.K. Downing, made its live debut on July 6 at Downing's KK's Steel Mill in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.
Owens and Downing are joined in KK'S PRIEST by guitarist A.J. Mills (HOSTILE),bassist Tony Newton (VOODOO SIX) and drummer Sean Elg (DEATHRIDERS, CAGE).
KK'S PRIEST has been performing tracks from "Sermons Of The Sinner", plus new material from "The Sinner Rides Again", as well as many a PRIEST classic thrown in for good measure.
In a separate interview with "Paltrocast"host Darren Paltrowitz, Owens was asked how he keeps his voice in shape after so many years. "I think I'm just lucky and fortunate," he responded. "I do take care of it. The one thing I always wanna do is sing as good as I can and sing in as many styles as I can. And I think I'm just fortunate that it's held up pretty good throughout these years."
Asked if his routine involves vocal cooldowns and having to sleep a certain number of hours and drink a certain amount of water every day, Owens replied: "There's no warming up or warming down with me, really. On the KK'S PRIEST shows, I warm up singing [the opening song] 'Hellfire Thunderbolt' on stage. So I don't warm up or warm down. I don't talk a lot. I drink a lot of water. I show up and do my show and then get to the hotel as soon as I can. And then I wake up every day hoping I'm gonna be able to sing."
He added: "The voice is a weird thing. Sometimes you just don't have it. You just wake up and it's not there, and there's nothing you can do about it."
"The Sinner Rides Again" was released on September 29 via the Austrian rock and metal empire Napalm Records. The nine-song effort was produced and written by Downing and mixed/mastered by Jacob Hansen.
KK'S PRIEST recently completed a U.K. headlining tour.
"Sermons Of The Sinner" was released in October 2021 via Explorer1 Music Group/EX1 Records.
Owens joined PRIEST in 1996 and recorded two studio albums with the band — 1997's "Jugulator" and 2001's "Demolition" — before PRIEST reunited with Rob Halford in 2003.
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