The rise of Tim “Ripper” Owens from the working-class milieu of the Ohio club scene to the forefront of one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time occurred without assistance from social media of any kind. I know that might be difficult for some of you to fathom, but it’s the truth. He didn’t have a YouTube channel, he wasn’t a contestant on American Idol, and he never used Twitter as a means for shameless self-promotion. What he did have was a ravenous work ethic that put him in a position to succeed at a level that most musicians can only dream of.
Sure, there was luck involved in getting a videotape of him performing with his Judas Priest tribute band, British Steel, into the right hands, but everything that happened before and after that was the product of someone whose determination refused to let the dream die. His story was so inspiring that Hollywood took a halfhearted crack at adapting it in 2001, a project that Owens admits had very little interest in capturing the real person. The reality is that his journey wasn’t a cliche-ridden cinematic fairy tale, it was a day-to-day struggle against a changing cultural tide (i.e. grunge) that nearly caused him to hang up his leather and studs for good until he got the call from Priest drummer Scott Travis.
Since leaving Priest, Owens has been involved in so many different projects that it’s hard to believe how his name manages to elude people outside of the metal scene. Unlike Mark Wahlberg’s character in the film, Owens wasn’t burned out after years indulging in the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. He carried on with Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, Beyond Fear, Dio Disciples, and a host of other groups that proved that his best was yet to come.
I caught up with Owens recently to discuss his past and how his new group, The Three Tremors, promises to bring a memorable metal experience to Evening Star Concert Hall in Niagara Falls, NY on March 5.
MNOD: How did The Three Tremors project come about?
Owens: A few years ago, Sean Peck mentioned it to me and said that it would three singers making a record rather than just touring based solely on our back catalogs. That’s what got me into it. I had done a tour with Blaze Bayley (Iron Maiden) and Udo Dirkschneider (Accept) in South America as well as one with Blaze and Geoff Tate (Queensryche) in the US, but they were nothing like this. I thought actually making a record together was a great idea. Also, the style of music on this record isn’t something that I always do. The over-the-top power metal lyrics and imagery interested me. It’s a nod to my past, but something unique at the same time.
MNOD: How did the recording process compare to others that you’ve been a part of?
Owens: I approached it pretty much the same way I always do. I recorded the vocal parts at my studio here in Ohio and just sang whatever style I thought would fit the music. Sean wrote the stuff and then sent the parts to us. All three of us sang in a different way on this record without spending too much time figuring out who would sing what part. We just attacked the whole record, which was a cool way to do it.
MNOD: You’re involved in so many different projects at any given time. Which do you feel satisfies your creative side the most?
Owens: They all offer something different. For Spirits of Fire, I wrote all of the material with Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and that was a rewarding process creatively. Writing wise, I really got into the lyrics on that record. Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes I can’t get a lyric right away, but I love everything I’ve been involved with. I have three CDs out featuring three different types of music, so the diversity ensures that it never gets old.
MNOD: When you look back on your time with Judas Priest, how would you like the two records you made with them to be remembered?
Owens: My time with them was great. That’s what made my music career and allowed me to do what I’m doing now. I miss hanging out with the guys, because we were like a family. With the fans, especially, I think those albums are appreciated, because I get messages from people all the time saying how much they love them. I play stuff from “Jugulator” and “Demolition” in my solo shows, and the response is always great. I think they’re great CDs and I’m proud of them, but, in the bigger picture, I don’t think my time with Priest has really gotten its due.
MNOD: The 2001 film “Rock Star” with Mark Wahlberg was loosely based on your time with Judas Priest. How did you feel upon seeing the film for the first time?
Owens: There was a New York Times article written about me and that’s how the filmmakers initially became aware of my story. They ended up twisting the facts around so much that Priest pulled away from the production. We had plans to include songs in it and everything, but there were so many things that we didn’t like about the way the movie was going. There’s nothing that’s true to me in the finished product. I guess they changed it so that they didn’t have to pay me.
MNOD: How did you become a part of Dio Disciples?
Owens: Wendy Dio actually managed my band Beyond Fear for a while and I was friends with Ronnie. He was my favorite singer, so the chance to celebrate his music on stage was a great opportunity. I could perform solo shows every night and still make a living, but the Dio songs hit me every time I perform them.
MNOD: What is the proudest moment of your career thus far?
Owens: Being nominated for a Grammy with Priest was cool, but the fact that I’ve been able to sustain a career after Priest is what I’m most proud of. I can control what I do and have never stopped working in the music industry. I have so many projects going on at once that I don’t really get a lot of down time. My life outside of music revolves around my kids and family. I’ve been teaching my son to drive, which is kind of scary that he’ll be on the road but also a relief that he’ll be able to drive himself from now on.
MNOD: What can fans expect on the upcoming tour?
Owens: Not only are we playing every song from the new record, but we’ll also be including songs from each of our catalogs. When you’re a fan of heavy metal, you already know that the majority of the music will never get played on the radio, so the passion that fans bring to each show is always amazing.
The Three Tremors featuring Tim “Ripper” Owens, Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, and Sean “The Hell Destroyer” Peck will be at Evening Star Concert Hall in Niagara Falls, NY on March 5.
The debut album from The Three Tremors is available now wherever music is disseminated, but do us all a favor and pay for a physical copy.