Tim “Ripper” Owens of BEYOND FEAR
Interview by Luxi Lahtinen & “The Sentinel” KILLgast
Live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Thanks to Sari Ikolampi for the help with transcription
The legendary New York Speed/Thrash Metal patrol Anthrax visited to Helsinki, Finland 21st of April on their “Cursed Earth” Euro-tour, bringing along Beyond Fear with them; a new band fronting no less than Tim “Ripper” Owens (ex-Winters Bane, ex-Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Brainicide). As most of you should be aware of the band by now, the band has been built around 5 experienced musicians off which two members, John Comprix on guitar and Dennis Hayes on bass, have also won their spurs in Winters Bane whereas Dwane Bihary (on rhythm guitar) has previously played in Missing Skin and Eric Elkins (on drums) destroyed his drumkit in such line-ups as Cyptkicker and All You Fear.
As Beyond Fear´s self-titled debut album has already been impressing a large number of metal fans all around the world with its straight-forward, heavy, somewhat Priest-tinged yet honest modern sounding Heavy Metal approach, it became way too tempting to avoid meeting Mr. “Ripper” here in Helsinki, and ask him about the ground reasons for forming Beyond Fear. And that´s what we did eventually; sat down comfortably at the dressing room of the band and started inquiring a fair number of things about the band in sheer excitement.
Here´s the whole conversation with Tim “Ripper” Owens in its entire lenght yet uncencosed form in which we couldn´t completely avoid asking about Priest, Iced Earth or Winters Bane either.
You played in Gothenburg, Sweden the other day. How were peoples’ reactions in Sweden about the Beyond Fear show?
It was great. It’s been a good response in all of the shows. It´s just a good bill to be on, there’s just pure metal fans out there, you know, so its been a really good show. I was not sure what to expect because of not having the album out yet but it’s been great.
How would you say this tour has overall started for you? At least you have great touring mates on this tour with you, the legendary Anthrax!
You could say it’s a good combination, as we all know each other so it’s nice to have that on tour, you all get along really well and all. The music fits really well and it’s just been a really good time. And we get help us out you don´t have an album out to tour with. There´s so many that like Anthrax, y´know, it makes the bill enjoyable instead of worrying about other things other than, y´know, we have nothing to worry about. Off-stage we are all doing great.
About these Beyond Fear songs, how early have they been written? Were some of them meant for Priest albums, for example?
A few of them do go back. I think the song “Save Me” might’ve been one that’s written around the “Demolition” time for that record. “The Faith” actually might’ve been… I’m not sure if it was yet or not. But I’ve slowly started writing songs, probably at that time, but there was only a few written at that era. My goal was to slowly make songs for an album because I think that it makes the album better that way when it’s not all thrown together at one time. It´s kinda ´spread out´. So it started back then but the majority of it was written within the last year, year and a half.
So it’s new all stuff?
Yeah, new stuff.
What, kind of a process is the song writing in Beyond Fear and how would you compare it with bands such as Winters Bane, Judas Priest and Iced Earth?
It’s actually different than all of them. Winters Bane probably would still have been the same, but nowadays you can have John Comprix record song ideas and then give it to me on disc. Then I put it on my computer and put vocals down to it and so we actually built a demo right then and there. Some of the early stuff, probably four or five songs, I think total of six songs – not on the record but there’s a few bonus tracks coming out that I’ve written the music in – something I never did in the past until this album. I mean, songs like “Save Me” and “The Faith” and “Coming at You”. That’s something that I never did in the past until this album.
“The Faith” is actually one of my favorite songs…
Thank you! Yeah, it´s a good one. It´s definitely one of the ones that lyrically mean quite a bit for me.
Could you tell us next, how did you find the all the members for Beyond Fear? Was it an easy task for you to get these guys to play in the band?
Well, I’ve known John for quite a while and he was in a band called Spawn one time in Ohio when I produced one of their albums and I just loved his style of guitar playing and writing. I always thought he had this more aggressive style with him, so this style will win always good melodies overtop his music. Dennis the bass player was in Winters Bane with me. The other two guys John had known from his hardcore band. I was looking for the best musicians who could be crunchy and tight and mean, that’s all I wanted. And it worked. Even our tour manager is the ugliest and the meaniest tour manager.
(“I´m the meanest…” – the tour manager)
I´ve once heard a Spawn track called “Louder than Hell”, a Mötley Crue cover…
Yeah, they were really good band, Spawn. If they had stuck together, I think they would have become something. They had the heaviness of Pantera -thing going on, y´know, maybe a little older feel style of signing. Lots of John´s influences are in old school metal, but with a mixture of probably like Exodus and other things like that.
Yeah, Testament – all those heavy sounding old school metal bands. I´ve been watching Testament´s live DVD on the buss right now, what it is called…?
“Live in London…”
Yeah, that it was. There´s a bunch of “Live in Londons” out there, isn´t it?
You recorded this album at Morrisound Studios in Tampa with Jim Morris. Was Jim’s studio the first option for you where you wanted to record this album – and did you get any useful tips from Jim during the recording process f. eg. for your vocal lines, or how the drum’s sound should be in the final mix, or what parts might need double (or even triple!) guitars for the background of some certain song – and so on?
Jim was definitely whom I wanted to record with because he brings out a good sound, whatever sound the musician wants. It´s funny when you think about Jim, he doesn´t have a certain sound; he can make it sound different. This album sounds different than THE GLORIOUS BURDEN. I just wanted Jim to make something for me that you could hear everything; you can hear the bass and the guitar and the drums. You know, not have something buried. And he’s good, I mean that he’s a very smart producer. He would give me ideas of harmony and stuff but he didn’t have any certain tips, we just told him how we wanted to sound like and he did this with certain microphones and whatever, I mean. It´s definitely him. He worked us this certain sound what we wanted to get for this album. He was definitely the first choice for us because he gave what I wanted out of the recordings.
Were there actually some sort of sound you were after for? Did you give him a CD of some band that this is what I want?
I gave him a couple of CD’s and I told him that it must sound better than these! I´m not going to give any names, but that was kind of my goal. My goal was just to make it sound a well-produced, raw album, if you know what I mean. You hear albums like some old Sabbath, you hear some BRITISH STEEL and it´s a very raw record, but produced well, y´know. That´s what I was going for, and with nowadays production and sounds. But I just wanted it to sound modern but still very good and raw.
How did you end up naming this band as “Beyond Fear”? Did your label (SPV) arrange any contest for naming your band as reported on your website?
I tried to make people to name it but it didn’t really work out. I had these different ´Beyond-this-and-that´ -names in my head and I liked the sound of this one. Beyond Fear just seemed to be a good name. I also like the way it looked. I thought it fit our music, y´know. I just liked the name.
There has already been a bunch of reviews about your album published in many different publications – and all these album reviews have been overall very good for your album. I was just wondering does it somehow irritate or annoy you when some reviewers basically tend to concentrate on telling like a half of the review about how your voice is like in the songs, and kind of not putting enough effort to describe the music around your voice a little bit more, too?
I did want to do a vocal driven album as well. It’s always gonna be that but what upsets me is when people actually don’t give me enough credit and say that I sound like myself when I do. They’re always trying to compare me with Rob Halford or someone else. That comparison has to be over now because this is the first since Winters Bane when I’m totally myself and have nobody to tell me what to do. This is probably the first time ever really. I mean, they like an album first for a certain reason; they like it because of the vocals. I mean, I would hope they like the vocals because, you know, when a singer writes most of the album it’s probably gonna be vocal-driven, I guess - but the guitarworks and drumworks kick ass as well.
I think the thing is that they look at it as Beyond Fear with Tim Owens right now. Eventually it´ll change a little bit. I think it’s under a microscope a lot more now than if it was just somebody else and that gives pressure. As long as they like it, that’s all right.
What’s the biggest compliment you have ever heard about your voice and whom it came from and when exactly?
Probably Ronnie Dio saying I was one of the best singers out there right now. That’s pretty cool coming out from someone like him.
Ronnie’s a wise man, right?
Yeah, he’s amazing really. And he´s got one of the metal best voices, too. That is good now as it has ever been. Someone like that to say that is pretty cool.
Your self-titled album has also been compared to such ´works of metal´ as Halford´s CRUCIBLE and Bruce Dickinson´s CHEMICAL WEDDING, what would you say about those comparisons? Can you also find some elements from your debut record that actually do remind you of those two particular albums in one way or the other?
That was pretty cool, but the thing is to remember about this album that it’s not a solo record, mine’s a band, you know. I put a band together so we could hang out and practice. As long as they’re comparing it to something they like… then at least I’ve done something right.
Do you have any plans to shoot a video for one of the songs of this album?
We have actually started the process, we shot a video for “And You Will Die”. We filmed some of the show in London and had a camera guy with us for a couple of days. So we’re kind of in the middle of process.
I think it’s a perfect video song. The song, the falsetto, lows and the crunchy guitars and everything about it. The title is a little bit harsh for a video, but I think it’s one that best represents the band.
So, when people might have a chance to see it?
Uh, actually I don´t know yet. I mean, we need to get it done now, and give it out there now, y´know, so… I just heard we are gonna record some of the show in Hamburg, Germany as well, so the label can use some stuff for a footage for the album.
I know it may be too early to speculate yet, but the line-up you have in the band right now, do you believe this is the steady and firm Beyond Fear line-up to record the next Beyond Fear album?
Yeah, definitely, dude! That was the whole goal since the beginning. John Comprix and I really put this thing together ourselves and then we got the other guys to complete this line-up which was the whole goal really. I mean, somebody moves on and to do else is definitely the band, y´know, definitely us guys. That´s the goal of it.
I noticed you guys don´t have an official Beyond Fear homepage up and running yet…
No, it´s just http://www.timripperowens.com. It´s the one you need to look at for the news of Beyond Fear. We will probably get it up eventually here, but right now just stick with it http://www.timripperowens.com. Usually people go to search for Beyond Fear, and that page comes up and they can just go there to look and get all the info about us.
If there´s gonna be some sort of a Beyond Fear website some day, have you possibly been thinking through already, what kind of stuff you would like to put in there? Any ideas?
Not yet, but I think it would be pretty much the same as http://www.timripperowens.com. I just move it over with Beyond Fear, and keep it in the same shape.
What are your thoughts about your musical past? Have you any ambitions towards performing, for instance, Ripper -era Priest songs? As a fan of yours, I myself would go nuts if you played songs like “Death Row”, “Bullet Train”, “Cathedral Spires”, “Feed on Me”, “Hell Is Home”, “Bloodsuckers”, “Metal Messiah” and so on.
Yeah, it’d be good to play all of them. There’s just gonna have to be time along. We’re gonna do a little medley tonight with a few songs. Just a little taste of “Burn in Hell…” a little bit of “The Red Baron” from Iced Earth… a little bit of…, well, we try to do what we can, but it´s gonna be a little bit hard because we have got only 45-minutes. As long as the set gets the more, we can kind of thrown in. I love my era in Priest, so I´d definitely love to play that stuff, too. We actually tried to learn the very beginning of “Cathedral Spires” and then going into “Bloodstained” or something like that but we really didn’t have enough time, we had to shorten our list. But that was the original plan to get them included into our set. I think it was like “Cathedral Spires”, “Bloodstained”, “Burn in Hell”, – y´know, do all those, but then we had to shorten our set. Maybe we´ll do just a different one every time we tour or something. If we come back to the festival issue, we´ll probably do a little different one.
Talking about your former band mates in Priest, I’m just curious to know do you still keep in touch with any of them?
Not too much. Glenn (Tipton) and I e-mailed back and forth the other day… They’re just busy doing their thing. If they come around town where I live I’ll go check ‘em out and, talk to them; have beers backstage or something like that. We don’t talk too much anymore, not for any reason, it’s just because we’re all busy and stuff.
What do you think of the latest Priest’s album, ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION, by the way?
It was good, I didn’t listen a whole lot to it. I know I didn’t like the first track on it, but it’s a good record, I thought.
What about your management deal with Wendy Dio, how has it started?
Well, it’s going great with her and I. I sent her an e-mail and asked her if she’d be interested. That´s all I did and she got back with me about a month later and asked for a demo so I sent it to her and it kind of just went from there. So it’s pretty amazing how it all worked out.
She’s doing great and she loves the album. When she heard our demo, she really liked it a lot. So that was a really big key to having that; to having someone to like it, y´know.
Is she a big metal fan then?
Well, I know she likes Dio and Beyond Fear, so… but yeah, I imagine she is because she just likes the album. She heard it and that´s what is amazing. She was more excited than anybody when she heard this record. So that was definitely getting somebody to bleed in it to do it, so she was definitely the right person for it.
How was it like to be in the Roadrunner party? I heard you sang a couple of very cool songs there, am I right?
Yeah it was great. We did “Alison Hell” (Annihilator), “Curse of the Pharaoh” (Mercyful Fate) and “Abigail” (King Diamond). It was fun being there with a bunch of friends like Scotty (Anthrax), meeting Jeff Waters (Annihilator) and meeting all the people there. Everybody was really cool and nice. The guys from Slipnot, Corey and all were super-nice. We had a good time. It was a good performance, that was a good thing. I had a good night and it was a good show and I sang well. It was just a great big party really and get all these bands together. It was a good time, definitely.
And you met Glenn Benton (Deicide) there, too…
Yeah, he was super-nice, too. It was just fun, y´know. It´s always fun to get hang out and meet all these musicians there. It´s definitely a good time.
You met Ville Valo from H.I.M. there, too. How was this rather famous Finnish ´Love Metal´ rocker like in person and can you still remember what kind of topics you were discussing about?
He´s out there, isn´t he? He’s actually really nice. We took pictures the same; I put a beer on his head and he smiled. He´s a really nice guy actually. That’s the kind of guy my nephews were more interested in. All my friends have never really heard of him but all the young, little kids know who he is.
Just regular American kids. He’s got popular but they don’t know what he sings. They don’t really hear his music all that much but they know him and his logo. It´s kinda funny, but… he was cool, man. He was great. I mean, it was meeting him – definitely, after seeing him for a long time and hearing from himself. It was pretty cool. That´s what is fun, man. I mean, meeting all these people is just a blast except the purpose of the business, y´know.
I’ve read that in a long tour… a good night’s sleep is the best way to keep your voice in a good shape. Do you have any other tricks or tips (like if you’re having a bad singing day or a cactus in your throat…)?
No. I don’t have many tips I just hope I have a good night. Maybe a little bit of black licorice, a lot of water. I don´t have a whole lot of tips. I just hope I can sing good.
Do you smoke at all?
No. I used to smoke up to the times when DEMOLITION album came out. I didn´t smoke before when I´m onstage; I smoked after. But y´know, the older you get, the more you have to watch that. There´s no way I could do it now again just because I really have to watch it.
Still a bit about touring… According to your own homepage, your European tour with Beyond Fear is about to end on 29th of April in Italy, at Temo Rock. Do you have any plans to continue touring in the States as well; or maybe some other continent even?
We are going to try doing some festivals here, y´know. We are doing the Rock Hard festival; we were just confirmed that are gonna do the Graspop festival, too. So we are trying to do a couple of more weeks in Europe and do something like that. We are going to do as much as we can. I hope they get us something in the States because eventually Iced Earth will start back up, so I really plan on this whole summer through August-September being my time for Beyond Fear which will still last 5-6 months. But then we are gonna have to get Iced Earth going, so it´s pretty much touring for us as much as we can.
So how’s it going with Iced Earth anyway?
Good. I mean, it´s going great for Iced Earth. Jon’s working on his new CD which is his ”Something Wicked” -concept. So it gives me enough time to do this ´til the summer – and I´ll get back when we start working on it again. I´m gonna get back when I will go home for a week. I just kinda bring ideas around, and then I get back after touring we start working with the new stuff for Iced Earth.
Last time when Iced Earth was supposed to play in Finland, they had to cancel the whole tour because of John´s back…
Yeah, it was bad. He had a back surgery since then, and he has had a lot of things happened, but now he´s back and definitely feeling better, so all looks good, I hope. Going on a tour is a whole different situation; that´s the problem. Touring is pretty bad on a back, so we´ll see what happens.
Let´s hope for the best for him anyway. Do you personally like the old Iced Earth?
I like the music a lot. Matt was a great singer as well although there’s a tone to his voice that I really didn’t get into, the sort of Paul Stanley tone and I thought he was over the top sometimes. But he’s a singer. He had all the vocal talent, he just had some styles in his voice I didn´t care too much about. I don´t like him over-singing; it just sounds fake whe he over-does his singing sometimes. But he´s a great guy, too and he definitely was a great singer. I’d imagine he still is, but of course, he’s a cop now so. He´s singing First State Force Band nowadays.
I think he looks like Ralf Scheepers from Primal Fear these days…
(*laughs*) That was a good one. I think Matt has a little bit of his red hair left. He just didn´t shave his head totally. He´s like OB and Barney mixed together. Am I getting into troubles now by saying this? I´m always in trouble, he-he!!
If you should choose five best songs of your career, what they would be? From Winters Bane to Beyond Fear…
Wow, that’s a hard one there. I think I’d say:
1. “Cathedral Spires” (from JUGULATOR)
2. “Bloodstained” (from JUGULATOR)
3. The whole “Gettysburg” piece, that counts as a one song, ha-ha!! (from THE GLORIOUS BURDEN)
4. “Nightshade” (from HEART OF THE KILLER)
5. “And You Will Die” (from BEYOND FEAR)
I like one Winters Bane demo song called “Eyes of the Deceiver”. I think it´s a pretty good song… I like the melody in it.
Oh yeah… it´s a pretty good song. It´s like going back home…
Now it’s time for some real interrogation, are you ready?
I wanna hear your thoughts about the following voices in Heavy Metal. I don´t know if you know any of these, but anyway the first one is this ´young fellow´ named…
a) Ronnie James Dio
He’s definitely one of the best, probably ever because he has the classic, very powerful voice yet it is a very feminine voice at the same time again – very lightened and eerie. And he’s maintained it throughout the years and that’s a big thing. I mean that characterizes you as being one of the best singers ever as people can sing as good close to it now as you could answering live!
b) Sully Erna from Godsmack
I like Sully, I think he’s just the typical type of singers that came out with a grungy sound in a way, but he’s pretty good. I mean I think he takes it a little bit beyond and little bit heavier and little bit higher than his natural voice. He´s pretty good.
c) Sebastian Bach
He’s really good. He’s fast and he´s good, but I think he’s overlooked a lot of times and underestimated sometime even. He’s got the classic metal style voice he does, and he´s really good.
d) King Diamond
He’s definitely original and that’s a thing that makes singers cool when they’re original like that. He’s got a very original voice. Both his highs and lows are very distinct. He´s a very distinct sounding, so he´s definitely cool in my books as a metal singer.
e) Corey Taylor from Stonesour/Slipknot
I’ve never listened to a whole lot of them but he’s definitely good. I mean he’s really heavy but he goes beyond that… kinda like Dio but with a modern way. He´s good. And the slow songs he does in Stonesour which they are popular for.
f) Chuck Billy from Testament
Chuck´s classic, man. He just gets heavier vocally throughout the years and he’s very distinct. You know when you hear Chuck you can definitely tell it’s him. He´s got a great singing style. I like Chuck a lot because he´s one of the heavier guys out there singing a great way. I really like his style of singing a lot because he still comes across very cool.
What is your Heavy Metal menu for our readers? What bands have you been listening to lately?
I really don’t listen so much. Last night I was actually listening to Iced Earth, but I don´t listen to much music anymore.
I guess that´s it, so thanks a lot Tim for this moment for chatting with us and all the best for your gig tonight.
Thanks to you guys. C-ya guys at the gig later.
“In wee -style we all trust…”
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