Unleash The Beast Interview With Ian Hill & Tim Owen's.
The return of the ‘Metal Gods’ is over, with their outstanding new album ‘Jugulator’ for SPV the band are about to unleash the beast from east. Over 20 or so years Judas Priest have become one of the most influenced bands in the world, which isn’t surprising with such classic albums as “Screaming For Vengeance”, “British Steel”, “Stained Class” and so on...It’s been 7yrs since the last album “Painkiller”, and now Priest are back ready to take on all. the world, and as the “Jugulator” say’s ‘He’ll Rip Your Spin Out’.
The starts the interview off by speaking to Ian Hill, time long bassist and new vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens to talk about the new album & future plans for the band. The interview took place whilst on tour last year, when I started by asking Ian “Why Rob actually left the band and how things developed with “Ripper” Owens. Here is what they had to say.
Ok Ian I’d like to start by asking you why Rob left the band, was it to do with ‘Fight’ and heavier music”?.
“Well that’s what he said, it’s strange because it started out as a solo project and he just wanted to do an album. He just asked everyone if we minded if he did a solo lp, and none of us minded at all, we wished him well”.
Then he started to drift further away to the point were he screwed up a couple of deals with our manager. His excuse was that he was very influenced by ‘Pantera’ and I think he wanted to go down the same road as them. I really don’t know why he left and he started to slagging off the rest of the band publicly & privately. He was saying that the band was over and without him they were finished”I think it was a combination of reasons why he left, think once he made too much of a move there was no point in return & he could not leave the band”
It’s so strange why he left, because the new album is so heavy, I bet he’s kicking himself now he’s no longer in the band?.
"Yeah I know it is strange, and I bet he is kicking himself & I think he’s feeling a bit of a prat at the moment”
My next question is, what is your opinion of what Rob will thinking of the new album”
"I think he will regret leaving the band although I do not think he will admit it. I think he will be kicking himself and I think if he’s honest with himself then I think he’ll love this album and wish he would of been apart of it."
Do you think that you would have Rob back in the band if ‘Ripper’ decided to quit the band?
“I don't think so, I think there is too much water under the bridge now, we just drifted too far apart. I’m talking personally with Ken, Glenn & Scott and I don’t think we would have him back. I think if Tim left then we would look for somebody else”
When we met at the studio last year, we spoke about the auditions, you had something like 1000 applications, which were narrowed down to just 12.. Can you remember who they were?
"To be honest Jason, I really can’t remember, and it would be unfair to bring up any names because they didn’t get the job”.
Ripper was in a “Judas Priest” clone band as well as “Winter’s Bane”, what did you think of them?
“I thought his old band were pretty good. It was a little rough around the edges, but I through it was a decent album. What made us pick Tim was the fact that we couldn’t believe that Tim was singing. We then flew him to our auditions, were we got some multi tracks from the studio from a show we did in the U.S.. So we took off Rob’s vocals and Tim sang over them. He did “Victim Of Changes”, and as soon as he hit the first note we knew we had the man for the job. Then he did the song “The Ripper”, and that’s were he got his name from."
When you did the pre-productions demo tape for “Jugulator” did any tracks not make it on the album?
"All of them were on the album. They were primitive versions of the album, which were - “Bullet Train”, “Deathrow”, “Burn In Hell”. It was just to see what these new vocalist’s could do with the new material. The old material would be easy, no disrespect to Rob, but we wanted to see how well the new guy could sing our new material. With the new fellow he would have to make his own contribution to the band, not to just sit there and to be told what to do. Tim was more than capable of sorting out his own melodies. (Laughing) It’s funny because Ken & Glenn use to guard Rob and I know a lot of the melodies were actually worked out by them .
They also pointed Tim in the same direction as they would of pointed Rob, so that’s were the similarity comes from. I don’t think that Tim has gone out to sound like Rob, I just think it’s down to the arrangements. You are right, there maybe parts that sound like Rob. I don’t think Rob’s spirit is helping Time, more like the opposite”.
In the period of finding a new singer, what did the rest of ‘Judas Priest’ do?. I know Scott did the ‘Fight’ thing with Rob and Glenndid his solo CD, so what about Ken & yourself?
“Well I renovated a house and my wife had a baby who’s is how 5yrs old and at school. My wife is American & we have been moving from the USA & the UK. I’ve been quite busy. I didn’t do anything musically. I don’t think Ken did anything musically either. He was working on a country golf course”.
Getting back to the projects, did you at any point in time think Scott would leave the band, if so who would you have had to replace him?
“Well I don’t think we ever thought about it. We were in touch with Scott all the time through the ‘ Fight’ thing & we’d call him & he’d call us to re-ensure us that the place in Priest is still open for him for when we get back together. I don’t think that Scott would ever turn us down. He got caught up with the ‘Fight’ thing and it started out as a Rob Halford solo project and we were a little bit annoyed that he asked Scott really, because we thought if it was going to be a side project, then why take Scott with him. I mean he could of found a different drummer, without asking Scott”.
So now let’s talk about the choice of studio’s for the new album is this the first time ‘Priest’ have recorded in the UK for any album”?.
“No it’s not the first album we have recorded in the UK. It’s the first one in a while. The last one we did was ‘British Steel’. This new LP has been recorded in the last 9 months, but Glenn and Ken was working on the material before then, but the recording started at the end of 96 until September of 97”.
It seems like a long time Ian for an album doesn’t it?
“Yeah your right Jason, but we had to get it right & we could not get anything wrong with it. We’ve re-recorded some of them to get the right sound”.
Where there any other countries were you would of recorded the new album?
“Well maybe, but I think I was temporally based in the UK at the time, but we still have homes abroad as well. You saw the studio for yourself, and we fitted out that studio ourselves. It was perfect for what we wanted and it wasn’t a flashy studio by no means, but we put the top class equipment and stuff we needed in there.
Half the time you rent studios which cost £1000 a day & half the equipment you never need. So we put in there what we needed and fitted it out ourselves. The live room was perfect and we recorded the drums & guitars and bass & it turned out great!. Like you said it was in the middle of nowhere with no distractions & it was a great atmosphere”. I noticed that you never used Chris Tsangarides for this LP, wasn’t you happy with the production on ‘Painkiller’”?.
No it wasn’t that!, I think we just fancied a bash at it ourselves. Apart from that, it did take a long time to record and to have a producer for that amount of time would of cost a lot of money and it’s also difficult as well. But the main reason was that we thought we’d have to go at it ourselves."
Glenn & Ken produced the album with Sean Lynch, what do you think to the overall production?. Also how do you see this as a progression from ‘Painkiller’?
“I think they did a great job and I have to take my hat off to them for that . I think it’s 3-4 steps from ‘Painkiller’ & without getting thrashy, I think it’s a perfect bridge really between the stuff that we were doing and the more recent stuff from the newer bands. I think we have the best of both worlds, I think if we would of done 2-3 lps in the meantime this is were we would of ended up anyway!. I think we have taken a huge leap”.
Do you feel that ‘Priest’ have delivered the new album at the right time now that Metal is coming back?
“Well touching wood it’s looking like we have but I think it’s more by look than judgment. We were worried how people would react to it. It’s been 7yrs since the last one & we thought that everyone would of forgotten us. So we may have to break the ground again. But the reception we have got & feedback from all-over the world has just been fantastic beyond everyone’s expectations. I think that people have had enough of the Thrash/ Death stuff and there is a huge gap between that & the ‘Spice Girls’, and there’s been nothing between. There’s been a few, but most of them have stopped doing it”.
Don’t you think that you’ll team up with the ‘Spice Girls’ for a song together, maybe a Metal version of ‘Wannabe?
(Laughing) “I don’t know about that?, we’ll have to consider that one!”.
OK Ian, what are your favourite tracks on the new album & why?
“Well that’s a difficult question really. It’s really hard because I like all of them. I think ‘Cathedral Spires’ is probably my favourite, it’s a classic Priest track, a heavy ballad we use to do like ‘Dream Deceiver’ or ‘Blood Red Skies’. There are not any song’s that I don’t like, everyone is a classic”.
In your career of 20 odd years, you’ve do some classic LP’s, out of all of them, which is your least favourite & favourite LP’s in your career & why?
“I don’t know really. it’s a difficult one. Everything you do at that time is your favourite LP, I think it would have to be ‘Rock n’ Roller’, and it’s not so much because of the material of the songs, because they were good songs. Basically it was down to the original production of the album. We were all disappointed really. I think one of my favourite LP’s is ‘Screaming For Vengeance’”.
Some people seem to think that the band can not play with big arenas, because of a new singer & that Rob is no longer in the band, what is your reaction to that?
“Well we’ll see about playing the arenas. I know it is hard breaking in a new vocalist, but I think most people will accept Tim. I think if the album takes off then we will be able to play the bigger places”.
On another subject, have you been listening too any decent albums recently?
“Well I listen too all kinds of stuff. I’ve been listening to White Zombie, Fear Factory, Machine Head, and all that stuff. I like Ozzy’s last album, I also listen too the classic stuff like Hendrix & Cream. It all depends on what I’m listening too at the time”.
So what do you think of the bullshit review that ‘Kerrang’ gave you, rather sad to say the least right Ian?
“Well Glenn went apeshit!!. I really don’t know what’s wrong with them?. I think it shouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that we are old time rocker’s. If this album would of been recorded by say ‘Machine Head’, then they would of gone apeshit over it, no disrespect to M.H., but it pisses me off. It’s all wrong (ED: I totally agree with you). I’ve always hated the new image, were everyone wants to copy everybody else and with all the names that are going around now for ‘Heavy Metal’ is ridiculous. It even confuses me!. I think ‘Kerrang’ are trying to be trendy to younger audience”.
Well Ian has to leave now, so the interview is carried on by Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, a long time friend of mine in the days of ‘Winters Bane’.
Hi Tim, how’s it going my old friend?. I’d like to say that you did an excellent job on the album with the vocals, just to hear those high notes are killer!!
“Well I’m glad you like the new album Jase, it’s good to finally meet you after all this time we’ve known each other. I love to hit those high notes and to get the best reaction from the stage at a live show. It’s like having someone to be dared to put their head in a loud speaker and to blow their heads off is funny”.
Briefly I’d like to ask you a little bit about your old band Winters Bane’, are they still together?
“Well there still playing. I think there trying to find a new singer. When I left the band it was hard for them to succeed right away because I took the drummer & bass player with me, when I did the ‘Priest’ cover band. You know about ‘Winters Bane’, so Lou was left by himself and throughout the years he’s tried to keep the band going and he’s really stayed to the same Metal format and the problem was that he had to dump all the other songs because he became the singer & he couldn’t sing them.
So really he tried to do it again & the crowd wanted him to sing ‘Heart Of A Killer’, but unfortunately he couldn’t sing any of them. I think he should of changed the bands name to start all over again. I think Terry is fixing instruments, he has a degree in electrics and I think he’s playing some stuff still”.
The music in ‘Winters Bane’ seem to be related to ‘Cohegan’, who is he?
“Well ‘Cohegan’ was a judge who we made up, Lou made him up originally. He was a judge who sentenced somebody to die and the executioner had a heart attack, so ‘Cohegan’ got the killer’s heart”.
Is it still hard for you to believe that you are the new ‘Priest’ singer, do you think it’s still a dream?
“I think it will always be a dream. It’s always nice to keep it that way. There great guys, as you know when you met them in the studio last year Jase (ED: You are totally right - there the best!!). It’s nice to get around a bunch of guys who are totally professional and cool guys. We hit it off straight away and that helped me out. It will always be a dream but they are my all time favourite band, it’s amazing!!”.
Do you feel that it could be all a dream & you’ll wake up?
“God I hope not!. That would be one mean trick if somebody played that one on me. There’s still a lot of hard work that comes with the dream. It’s not as if your into something all of a sudden”.
Besides Rob Halford, who else inspired you as a singer?.
“Well I would say Bruce Dickenson, Ronnie James Dio with Sabbath & Rainbow, Joey Belladonna and Geoff Tate”.
OK Tim, let’s just say if Rob came back would you stand down?
“Not not at all!, unless there was a good reason. I don’t see why I should, I’m the singer now!. I would if the band asked me to leave if they didn’t sell any records”.
Would you still class Rob as the ‘Metal Messiah?
“Well he was at one time the best, he’ll always be known for that but he decided to leave the music & pursue other things. Now I don’t because he doesn’t sing Metal, I’ll never say a bad thing about the guy, he’s great!!”.
My Next question is, how nerve wrecking was it in the studio for you?
“Well it wasn’t too bad. Although I didn’t have a hand in writing I still had the chance to do a lot in the studio that I wanted to. The guys in the band are real easy to work with. What’s great to them is the fact that they have always recorded albums the same way before I came into the band. It was great & I got pissed a lot though. It’s like you’ve been singing for 12hrs straight and you’re tired and you don’t have much of a voice left, but you can get this one piece finished and your ears are dead and I couldn’t quiet hear the part I wanted too.
So I would get really mad and punch the walls, but at the end of the day you would get a pint of beer and eat something, so that was worth it in the end”.
Looking at the song titles they seem very morbid, in fact I get the feeling that ‘Cohegan’ is still haunting you, who’s idea was it to come up with the title?”.
“I guess you could say that ‘Copegan’ is still there. Glenn came up with the titles & he wrote the lyrics. I read in a review that somebody said that the song titles were dated. First of all this is ‘Heavy Metal’ music & what are we going to write about?. Are we going to write about falling in love with your lover and singing about flowers?. I don’t think so!. Metal is in your face, brutal with balls & heavy to the extreme”. It’s strange because you never know what the next LP will be like, it may have acoustic parts, I’m not sure”.
Tim, now could you tell me what the tracks are about if you know what they are about. Let’s start with ‘Jugulator’?
“Well that song is about a monster who rip’s out the spines of people, a typical metal song. Next is ‘Blood Stained’, that’s kind of a political song, like the song say’s Blood Stained Lies, They Wage There Wars, Such Profiteers”. Basically it’s about people saying something and they don’t do it. Next is ‘Dead Meat’, that’s a great song. I Guess it’s like a “Breaking The Law”, you have to watch yourself or you’ll pay for what you do. Next is ‘Death Row’, I guess the title of that songs say’s it all. ‘Decapitate’, another gory title, that’s about some where in the world were they’ll put you in prison for stealing, like the Middle East, they’ll cut your hand off for stealing, so that’s what that song is about.
Next is ‘Burn In Hell’, that’s about paying for your sins. The lyrics for that song is “Do You Have A Gun?, Do You Remember Well, Who You Used It On - Your Going To Burn In Hell!!”. It’s about a guy who didn’t commit a crime, but he got screwed over, so now he want’s revenge. Next is ‘Brain Dead’, that’s about having friends who you think are your friends, but behind your back they are back stab
bing you. It’s also about a guy who is laying there & he can’t do anything about it as they stab him, I love that song & Glenn wrote that song. Next is ‘Abductors’, that’s about Alien abduction, & that stuff is really big. I was told by K.K. that England has Alien insurance, and I was freaking out about it. I think I’ll open up an Alien insurance agency when I get back to the States- ha!. Next is ‘Bullet Train’, that is a song that Glenn wrote whilst on the Bullet Train in Japan. It is to do with the speed of the train, how fast it can travel. The last song is ‘Cathedral Spires’, that is about how big Cathedrals are. It’s like your soul can rise to the top and look down from the spires and see what’s going on”. say they are. In my opinion it’s a pussy Magazine ‘Friday 13th rocks!!’. I am from the States, and we have a lot of crap Mags”.
Before joining the band, what are your favourite Priest LP’s & why”?
“I would have to say ‘Sad Wings Of Destiny’ and ‘Painkiller’ because they are great LP’s. They just show the growth of the band. Their the two LP’s that stand out to me”.
"Ripper, rumours have it that you won’t be able to play the big venues with you been the new front man, what is your reaction to that?
“I really don’t think it has anything to do with me!. Fuck Rob went out there and played massive venues, so why can’t I play them too!”.
Well Ripper, it’s good to meet you again my friend and as always it’s time to finish here, but before we end the interview do you have anything too say?. Thanx Ripper and best wishes to you & the Metal Gods!”.
"Yeah thanx for the interview Jase. To our fans thanx for their support & believe in us & support ‘Friday 13th’ as well as keep supporting ‘Priest’, were back!!”."