The man needs no introductions. We all know Ripper – he was the guy who got to live the metal dream, the tribute-performer who suddenly found himself front of stage in the very band he’d idolized, the man with the voice of steel, one of the friendliest dudes in metal. Well, Ripper Owens has been might busy since the days of Judas Priest and Iced Earth, working with Yngwie Malmsteen, Charred Walls of The Damned, his own band Beyond Fear and touring with Dio Disciples. And inbetween all that, releasing a solo record that basically reads like a who’s who of celebrity guest musicians. He’s been touring like mad, and starting this week, us folk down under will finally get to see Ripper on our own soil.
It was an absolute honour – and one of the highlights of my metal blogging existance – to be able to interview Ripper last week about his solo project, his upcoming NZ/Australian tour, and his local pub.
Steff: Most people are familiar with you as a vocalist with Judas Priest and Iced Earth, but you’ve been involved in some interesting projects in the last few years – Charred Walls of the Damned, Beyond Fear, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force, and your solo record. Can you tell us a little about some of these projects:
Ripper: Well, it seems that I like to stay pretty busy. I think everybody knows that! Beyond Fear had started in 2006 and right now I’m working on a new CD with that project. Charred Walls of the Damned – we put out our second CD, and that’s really Richard Christy, the drummer’s, baby – he started it – Richard was in Iced Earth and he’s on a famous radio show here called the Howard Stern show.
I’m also doing Dio Disciples, which is with Ronnie’s old band, and it’s one of the things I really enjoy the most – I love being with his band and celebrating his legacy means a lot to me.
I released my solo record (Play My Game) and do some shows here and there and I do a lot of things. I have this problem where I can’t say no to people, and I just enjoy doing stuff.
Steff: You have worked with some of the biggest names in metal, and then with your own band Beyond Fear. What made you decide to do a solo record? How did you find the writing process differs when everything is 100% controlled by you?
Ripper: With the solo record, it started when I wanted to do a new Beyond Fear CD. I have some songs I’d written for Beyond Fear – the songs “Play my Game”, “Breathe” and “It is Me” – and the record label and my manager said “I think it’s a good idea if you did a solo record this time.” I sat back and I thought, “I’d love to do a solo record.” So I did.
Musician wise, I wanted to get Bob Kulick to produce it – we wrote some songs together for it – and I had a couple of friends who I’d written songs with, and it just started from there. I was going to have a couple of guests to play on it, and I just started getting more and more guests. If you look at the whos who of who played on the record, it’s unbelievable.
Steff: You had everybody in the end.
Ripper: It started with Simon Wright and Bruce Kulick, and I always planned on having a few other guys. With John Comprix on guitar – that was the basis of it. I got all my friends and other musicians and we jammed on it.
Steff: Do you think you’ll do another solo record?
Ripper: I don’t know when. As busy as I am for the rest of this year, I’m touring so much, and the next thing I’m doing is the Beyond Fear CD. That’s already written – drums, guitars, etc – I just need to step in and put some vocals on it. So that will be the next one.
Steff: You probably don’t hear this a lot, but Demolition was actually the first Judas Priest album I ever heard. It was the album that got me into Judas Priest.
Steff: I finally got to see them last year at Wacken, and that was incredible. I wondered, as a fan, how did you first get into Judas Priest?
Ripper: I got into them on the Screaming for Vengeance album. I was actually into some hard rock, but I’d got a REO Speedwagon record that day, and my brother got Screaming for Vengeance. I looked at the picture on the back and thought, “Look that these guys. Urgh. I’m not gonna be into that.” And it a was strange reaction, because I listened to Kiss and that sort of stuff.
But then I heard “Electric Eye”, and I became a fanatic at that time – 83. I loved it.
Steff: What was your first show with Judas Priest like? How was it like seeing the fan reactions?
Ripper: It was great. The first show I did was at the Boathouse in Norfolk, Virginia, and it was great. I was confident, ready to go – I was ready to do it. I felt really good about it.
I remember going out there and getting some chants, some “Ripper!” chants, and that felt good. There were people in the crowd who were sceptical – and that happened every night right up until the end of my time in Judas Priest – and didn’t really want me to work out. They’d come to the shows and afterwards they’d say, “Oh, well … he’s pretty good.” I got that right from the start.
Steff: Going straight into a band that was so internationally recognised, what did you learn in Judas Priest that you’ve applied to your later career?
Ripper: One of the things is to always treat your fans well. And also, I learnt to take it serious – to be on top of your game, and make a great impression, all the time. That’s probably what I learned the most.
Steff: Is there any band you haven’t worked with, who you’d love to play with?
Ripper: I’ve worked with so many people.
Steff: You have!
Ripper: I feel like I’ve worked with everybody. On recording, I’d like to record with Zakk Wylde. I think that would be a nice fit. And, even though we’re friends and we’ve been on stage together, Scott Ian would be great to do a tune with.
Steff: Can you tell us a little about the “” in Akron, Ohio?
Ripper: I used to go there a lot – it was a restaurant bar – because I was friends with the owner. I did a couple of acoustic shows there, and it was so crowded and so many of my home town friends came out, I said “I think we should partner up.”
It’s a small place, but it has a nice atmosphere and we serve great food. It’s got my memorabilia all over the walls – we’ve got KK’s guitar that we recorded with. It’s a great place. Jeff Tate just did an acoustic show there – it’s just this great vibe.
Bands love to come there even though it’s small and intimate, and the memorabilia is pretty cool – stuff from touring and from my friends and music industry stuff. All of it has connections for me.
Steff: Every time I interview someone, I open the floor up to questions from readers, so the next few come from people who read my site. Do you regret anything in your music career?
Ripper: I don’t regret anything. Everything always happens for a reason. And whether it was the Judas Priest thing or the Iced thing – everything has always gotten better in my career, especially after the Iced Earth thing. I have more control and I do more. I tour more and I’ve been to more place. I really don’t regret anything.
Steff: A fellow vocalist wanted to know what do you do to warm up? And how did you learn to scream so amazingly?
Ripper: Well, the screaming was definitely something I had natural, and I worked on it from there. I just … scream, and it comes out right.
I try to warm up more now than I ever did in the past, when I was younger. But I don’t warm up as much as I probably should. When I was just with Jeff Tate in the resturant – he warmed up way way before I would, He sang FOREVER, and he even sung in the dressing room after the show. I said to him, “you just love singing, don’t you?”
But I do some exercises. I went to a doctor and he gave me some ideas. I maybe just make sure my voice is a little warmed up and ready to go and make sure it’s there. But I do a little bit of stuff.
Steff: Another vocalist wanted to know if you’ve ever had any problems with your voice? And if so, what went wrong and how did you fix it?
Ripper: In South America I got selmonella. I had to finish the tour – I had about a week to go, and I pushed it. I really just strained my voice and I sang until I had no voice at all.
I came home and I didn’t sound the same. It was really bad. I went to the throat doctor and he did a scope on it and said, surprisingly, my voice was in good shape – it wasn’t damaged. I had lost it = it still is a little different – and I have to watch it even more now, since I did that. But there was no damage done to it. The doctor was amazed that with the way I sang I hadn’t damaged it.
Steff: Another fan wanted to know you do on tour in between shows?
Ripper: Well, I don’t have much time between shows. If you look at the Australian tour, it’s pretty much bang bang bang. I’ll probably just rest.
I’d love to do something, like sightsee, but I usually just stay at the hotel and rest and get ready for the next show, and rest the voice.
Steff: Have you ever been to NZ before?
Steff: So you’re not gonna have a look around while you’re here?
Ripper: Well, I hope so. I want to. After we have a run, we have a couple of days off and then I’ll probably squeeze some things in there.
Steff: Have you heard any rumours about us kiwis that you hope are (or are not) true?
Ripper: I’ve never heard any rumours! I’ve only been in Aus one time and that was with Judas Priest in 2001 and I’ve never … no. I’ve never heard anything about the country or the fans.
Steff: Don’t really hear much about us over there, I guess.
Ripper: No, you’d think I’d have heard some rumours from the English folk about you guys, but I guess not (chuckles).
Steff: Don’t listen to them. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
Steff: What can NZ and Aussie fans expect from the upcoming tour?
Ripper: I think it’s one of the better setlists I’ve done, on the soloend it has the biggest variety of stuff, from the Judas Priest era, to classic priest, to all the bands I’ve been in – it’s just a great set. It’s going to be one of the better shows on the tour, so I’m really excited to do it. I’m trying to get ready for it as we speak, figure out what to pack, get everything ready to go.
Steff: Well, we’re really looking forward to having you here!
Ripper: And I’m really looking forward to getting there.
Steff: Thank you so much for speaking to me today, and I’ll be at the Auckland show and can’t wait to see you.
Ripper: You’re welcome. OK great, take care!
New Zealand and Australian fans: The Ripper Owens tour will be coming our way starting this week in Melbourne. Don’t miss the change to see one of the most important metal vocalists of all time, performing a selection of songs from all his various projects. Full details on each show can be found on the Official Ripper Owens NZ/Aus Tour Facebook page.
May 17 – Melbourne – The Hi Fi
May 18 – Hobart – The Brisbane
May 19 – Brisbane – The Hi Fi
May 20 – Adelaide – Fowlers – All Ages
May 21 – Perth – Amplifier
May 24 – Newcastle – The Cambridge
May 25 – Canberra – The Basement
May 26 – Sydney- The Hi Fi
May 27 – Wollongong – The Patch
Jun. 01 – Wellington, New Zealand – Bodegas
Jun. 02 – Auckland, New Zealand – Kings Arms
Kiwi’s, we’re lucky to be getting two shows, one in Auckland and one in Wellington. My friend’s band, Forsaken Age, are opening both shows (they’re releasing their debut album soon, and from what I’ve heard so far, if you love traditional heavy metal in all it’s glory, you’re going to love this band), along with Razorwyre, Sonic Altar and World War 4 in Welly, and Hale of Ashes, Sonic Altar and World War 4 in Auckland. That is a lineup worthy of a measly $45 ticket price, so get your tickets now from undertheradar or Real Groovy stores, or through the Hardline website.
Cheers to Doug from Hardline Media for jacking up the interview.