I was lucky enough to catch up with Tim Ripper Owens back stage in Glasgow on the last date of their current tour. Even though he had a bit of a rough night the night before, one too many drinks down in Manchester, and only made it to the venue a few hours before the show, he still had time to give us an interview which was very much appreciated.
It was great to chat to him about the current tour, Dio Disciples, Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen, the upcoming zombie movie he’s written music for, and a host of other topics.
The interview takes place during the pre-gig sound check so there is some background noise, but you can have a laugh at me trying to shout the questions over the band. You can either listen to the sound file or read the transcript below.
Martin: This is the last date of your tour how has it being going so far?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: It’s been good, fans have been great! You know, it’s basically been eleven nights in a row so we are all kind of worn out. It’s not an easy set but it has been good.
Martin: I heard it was a bit of a long journey coming up…
Tim “Ripper” Owens: It was. We got stuck in some traffic but it was alright.
Martin: Your backing band for the tour is Sandstone. How did you get involved with these guys?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: You know, I’ve done a solo tour years ago over in Europe and they were one of the opening band that were on, actually the opening band travelling with us on the tour. I really liked them, you know, so I just kind of thought maybe try to hook up and get together and have them back makes you know they can play all of the songs. It was a good fit.
Martin: You have quite an extensive back catalogue now. How did you go about choosing the songs that you’re playing on the tour? Were they songs requested by the fans, ones that you feel work particularly well live, or just your own personal favourites?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Well, you know what, I wanted it to be a lot of the songs associated with me. I’m doing a lot of stuff from Jugulator, which they were never played live and people wanted to hear songs like that. There are a couple of classics like “The Ripper” which is obviously associated with me but “Diamonds and Rust” is kinda…I gave it my thing when I did it…but I just kinda picked the ones will be either the songs that I wrote like “Starting Over” or “Scream Machine”…just things from my catalogue and my career. It is hard to pick.
Martin: I’ve seen you perform live twice before and both times were with Dio Disciples. How did you first become involved with that project?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: You know, Ronnie and I were friends and Wendy Dio was my manager for years, she still manages me and do some stuff for me. When she had the idea to celebrate Ronnie she called me right away and asked me to do it ’cause Ronnie would have enjoyed me doing it. That’s what it was, I mean, the great thing about Dio Disciples was that great feeling on stage and celebrate Ronnie. Financially…it wasn’t a financial thing because it wasn’t a paying thing really much at all just kinda expenses, that been said, I never been as satisfied and had a feeling like singing that stuff on stage. Emotional every night, you know, it was great to do.
Martin: I heard in a previous interview that you did where you mentioned that the Dio material was quite challenging to sing. Why did you find that and is that the reason there were two singers in the band?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: No, two singers we just wanted to do that from the start because we thought we would give it a cooler celebrating thing, not like I am trying to replace Ronnie, we are trying to do this thing we wanted it to make it look like it was more of a show like that…no, I would prefer to sing the whole night because I wouldn’t have to stop and my voice wouldn’t cool down but you know, Ronnie is just a more challenging singer. He has a more powerful higher voice that he uses a lot and….
Martin: …it is quite a deceptively high voice, when you listen to him you wouldn’t think it is so high until you sing along…
Tim “Ripper” Owens: …no, because when you hear this set right now and people, most singers, would think that this will be the challenging set because “Jugulator”, “Painkiller”, “Scream Machine” but he has another type of voice and you know, I always enjoyed doing it.
Martin: I have to say that when I first saw Dio Disciples it was quite an emotional experience for me as I’m a huge Dio fan. Did you guys in the band feel like that too and what kind of reactions did you get from the audience?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Absolutely! I mean…we saw it right away, I am telling you, we felt it every night so that was the thing, every single night we were on stage we felt the emotions and we saw it with the crowd as well, that ‘s why we were doing it. I think people saw that and could see it from our stage presence, how we were on stage that we really felt it.
Martin: Do you have a warm up routine that go through before going on stage?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: I don’t. On this trip I haven’t really warmed up any. I just kinda make sure I have a voice, you know. I can say that tonight is probably the only show I have been worried about, now, you know, not sleeping well last night and being the eleventh in a row. It’s not something I usually do, that many in a row.
Martin: you can have a rest after this one…Have you now moved on from Dio Disciples completely or is it something you may return to in the future?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: No, I still do some and if they need me to sing they will call and ask me if I am available. I mean, what happened is that I just got so busy and when they said they’ve got some shows I was always already booked doing something else. I think that was kind of the issue we ran into so they had to get some other guys to do it. They still call me and ask if I’m available ’cause I’d love to do it.
Martin: You went from playing in relatively small bands to playing in one of the biggest metal bands in the world, Judas Priest, was that a bit of a shock to the system? How did you find that?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Ha! It was! The difference is though they made me feel right at home when I made the band. We kind of had a friendship, so I think that helped me out and I felt confident vocally. I felt confident singing the stuff and knowing that I was true to myself and the stuff I was doing…but, you know, it was pretty amazing to grow up in the 80’s and have that be your favourite band and then play with them. I just think that the whole experience of how first it all came about and the way we were together, it all felt natural and it made it easy for me to step in.
Martin: I presume the venues must have been bigger…standing in front of big crowds and things…
Tim “Ripper” Owens: All different…it was all different. You got to remember that when I joined Judas Priest it wasn’t a very good time for heavy metal, it was 1996-97 so every band, every metal band in the world was playing the smaller crowds or disappeared, you know…some of the bands the Testament’s, and Death Angel’s and stuff they weren’t even around at that time. When Judas Priest got to the end of the Painkiller run and they were playing the smaller, not small venues, but smaller crowds so…it was a different era though…metal is so much better now then it was in the 90’s or 1996-1997.
Martin: Testament and Death Angel are back…
Tim “Ripper” Owens: All of them are back. Every hair metal band, every band, I mean…all these great tours and it is great.
Martin: We saw Joe Lynn Turner a couple of days ago, he was in Glasgow, and he didn’t seem overly impressed by Yngwie’s autobiography. You worked with Yngwie, who by all accounts is a bit of a character, and has a reputation for not being the easiest person to work with? How was your experience with him?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Mine was good. I had fun with Yngwie, you know, even when I quit the band, I was quitting because I was too busy. He was asking me to do some shows and I wasn’t available and I felt for his best interest that he needed to find a singer who can be at his beck and call and be able to do his shows but I had a good time with Yngwie. He loves to play guitar, he sits around the house and plays all day like he has a guitar and plays blues or whatever and I kinda like that, seeing that, that somebody loves that so much. I don’t have any bad things, I met a different Yngwie as well, he was sober…he has been sober for quite a while now. You got to think that, all those guys, even the guys Yngwie was with were probably drinking and doing stuff back in the day but you know, it is what it is, he has a reputation but my experience was a good one.
Martin: I’m a big horror movie fan, particularly zombie movies, so was interested to read that you’ve been writing and recording music for the upcoming film “Hairmetal Shotgun Zombie Massacre: The Movie”. That sounds like a very cool thing to be involved in. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Yeah! I wrote four or five songs for the movie, it was cool. They just asked if I wanted to be involved and I got some music sent to me and Marzi (Montazeri) and I started writing some stuff. It is really cool, I think they wanted it to be more cheesy, hair-metally cliché, sex drugs kinda music…but I just don’t do that and so I wrote the lyrics all about the world changing and them attacking, you know, zombie kind of lyrics. So it might have went against what they originally had planned but I can’t sing about…you know, I can’t put the word fuck in music, I am not really a guy that sings cuss words, I am just like that.
Martin: That’s fair enough…the movie features cameos by Tom Araya (Slayer), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and David Vincent (Morbid Angel). Would you have been interested in a small acting role or were you happy sticking with the musical side of it?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: No, I would have, it’s funny, because at the end they said “Hey, we might be able to do a little cameo and do one more shoot” but I was just too busy to go out there, to Texas, to do it but I would do it, it would be fun.
Martin: I remember seeing Scott Ian in “The Walking Dead”…
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Yeah! Cory Taylor was just in a movie with Robert England who played Freddie Krueger…
Martin: I always imagine life on the road can’t be easy. I noticed that in September that you’re going on a cruise, Motorhead’s Motorboat cruise which travels from Miami to the Bahamas (the Bahamas which has an average temperature of around 31 degrees). That must be pretty rough on you. How do you manage to cope under such harsh conditions?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: But actually is! Because, here’s a thing, I can’t go sit around by the pool, I would have to take pictures and sign stuff all day long…to me it’s a job and I actually hate cruises. I played one cruise and I said I would never do it again, because it’s just…first of all, people look at it as a vacation, if you went to a retreat with your work to a resort where you were in meetings all day but you were at the beach…other people will go “man you’re going to this place, that must be awesome” but for me the thing is that I’m working. I just couldn’t refuse this one, but if my kids are not with me, my family isn’t with me or the good friends aren’t with me…first I would never pick a cruise to go on vacation myself, I rather be on land and do stuff but it is what it is…but yeah I did one cruise, I went on a small cruise and I tried to go to the pool, even tried to get a spot in a corner, closed my eyes and woke up and there was a guy with a video camera there, it’s just like…not my thing…but it would be fun to see all of the bands because I am friends with so many of them; Exodus, Anthrax and all these guys so it’s gonna be good…and the Slayer guys…it’s going to be a good time to see them.
Martin: You seem to be very busy when it comes to music, you always seem to be working on one project or another. What do you do to relax outside of music..apart from going on cruises?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: I hang out with my kids and family but even that is just as stressful ’cause their schedule is busy as well. When I am home it’s crazy, plus I work on putting all this together (the tours).
Martin: You don’t go fishing or golf?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: I like to golf but I don’t have time, I really don’t have much time to do it. I don’t fish, I don’t really do a whole lot, I thought at this age I would have more time to do different things but it’s actually the reverse, I have less time now.
Martin: Something which people may not be aware of is that you own your own restaurant in your home town of Akron. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Yeah, see, that’s another thing, I have a great partner there that really takes care of it. It still takes up time, I tried to get there almost every day, about ten in the morning I try to get to the restaurant, see what the specials are, check the food, look to take some photos and get up in the morning and advertise the restaurant but it’s great, it’s called Ripper Rock House. We have great food there during the week, it’s a great venue that holds about 300 people…
Martin: Do you have bands on there?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: We have great bands on. Nicko Mc Brain was just there and John 5, Jonna Liva. We have a lot of great ones…
Martin: Is that something you see expanding upon on? Turn it into a chain in the future?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Well, I would like to. We have a special thing that’s called The World Tour of Wings and has thirty-seven flavours of wings, we got things from all over the world, you can take the world tour and get them all, it’s kinda neat ’cause you have so many flavours so I can see that expanding. We just celebrated being open two years and yet we haven’t made any money my partner and I, so we are still hoping that…I think people will never realise that, when they see businesses, the owners of businesses are always reeking in money and it’s not always that you know.
Martin: You have a massive back catalogue but is there an album from your career that are you most proud of? Do you have a personal favourite?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Probably Beyond Fear, I wrote the Beyond Fear record, I always still hear to this day that I need to write my own music and I think to myself…let’s see…I’ve written for Winter’s Bane, Beyond Fear, solo, Charred Wall of the Damned, Project Rock is coming out, movie stuff so I’ve written quite a bit but people don’t know…even in this set here, someone said “I wish you would do your own music” but basically is still, it’s Jugulator, Demolition, Iced Earth. I wrote “Red Baron” which is in the set, “Scream Machine”, “Starting Over” but Beyond Fear was my first one I really got out that I wrote, like when I pick up a guitar on stage and play it, people are like “I didn’t even know you knew how to play guitar”…you know…I did write the Beyond Fear record and my solo record and over half the music on each of those records but Beyond Fear is, to me, was the one I am most proud of.
Martin: …as the guitar goes, I didn’t realize you play guitar either. Is that something you would maybe do on an album yourself or perhaps even pursue that side on it?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: The thing is I can write some of these songs but I would not say I am a guitar player at all, you know what I mean, I wanted to be a guitar player but…I write the songs, I write the music and I have a guitar player actually play it. I do wanna bring a couple of Beyond Fear‘s songs that I wrote and play them on tour and actually play the guitar on it, maybe “Save Me” or “It is Me” from my solo record, I would love to play some of these songs. Most of the songs I haven’t played since I wrote them, like, I wrote the song, put it down, recorded it and then gave it to the guitar player and never played it again, I don’t even know how they go…
Martin: Finally, do you have a message for all your fans out there who are thinking about coming to one of your shows this year?
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Yeah, well. You know what the set changes every time so if you see a set-list from this tour it is most likely not going be the same next tour. Next time we tour we were actually thinking about the idea to maybe play the Live in London DVD/CD from start to finish like the concert. I think it would be cool to do a show like that because I have been touring and playing a lot of “Jugulator”, “Dead Meat”, “Bullet Train” and so, it would maybe be cool to do some different stuff. I mean, it’s a great show and the only way metal is gonna be there is to come out to support it.
Martin: Definitely definitely! Thanks for your time.
Tim “Ripper” Owens: Thank you!