A Conversation with KK’s Priest Vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens

Tim “Ripper” Owens is best known for his 2 record stint fronting the mighty Judas Priest. Former Priest guitarist KK Downing is back with a new band called KK’s Priest and brought along his one-time singer to front the band. Their debut record, Sermons of the Sinner, is out October 1 and Ripper recently took some time to talk about the band, the record, and much more.

Please press the PLAY icon for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Ripper Owens –

On keeping in touch with Judas Priest members after he left the band – We did keep in touch. I kept in touch with all the band, but Ken (KK) I especially did. I would do a lot of solo shows, touring through England, and I got a great band from Ireland called Sandstone that backs me up. We did great tours, and Ken would always come out, KK would always come out to shows. Most of the time it was about two hours away from where he lived, but he always drove out, would bring some friends with him, and hang out, and it was always a good time. Out of all the band members, Ken and I stayed in contact the most. 1:21

On if the early lineups were a test to see if KK wanted to come back – No, I don’t think it was the test at all, I think he just wanted to jam. I think he jammed before that, at Bloodstock with Ross The Boss. I think what happened, was David (Ellefson) was playing KK’s venue, and then he asked KK, “Do you wanted to come up and jam with us?” KK said, “Yes”. Then somebody said, “You used to get Ripper to come”, and then they got me to come. Then Les (Binks) got involved and then AJ (Mills) came aboard, and it just kind of became a jam thing, I think after that, he really got the fever to play again because we had a great setlist, not only stuff from Jugulator and Demolition, we did songs like “Before the Dawn”, which Ken said he doesn’t think he’s ever played “Before the Dawn” live, and he was like, “Man, it’s just pretty awesome”. Then I think after that when he realized it wasn’t that he wasn’t gonna do the 50th Anniversary show, I think he was like, “Yeah, I think it’s time to do something”. 2:26

On whether the name KK’s Priest bothered him – There’s a lot more I gotta worry about in life than the name “KK’s Priest”. Here’s the whole thing. First of all, it’s not called Judas Priest. I don’t understand why people say, “There’s another Judas Priest”. It’s not called Judas Priest. It’s not like you have two Great Whites or you have two of this band or that band. It’s called KK’s Priest. Listen, is it the absolute best in name the world? Probably not. There are bands out there named after diseases, like Anthrax, and that’s probably one of my favorite names of a band ever, and his name at for a disease, which I guess my next band I’m gonna call is gonna be called Covid. But I got more to worry about. I think it’s funny when somebody says, “I’m not gonna listen to it ’cause I don’t like the name”, or, “Les Binks isn’t involved now”. I feel like we should get KK’s Priest pacifiers and hand them out to the crowd nowadays because. Well, I guess those people won’t be there, so I don’t have to worry about it, but I get it. Listen, I get it, people don’t like the name, people don’t like names. But it’s not Judas Priest and KK Downing was an original founding member of Judas Priest, which there’s one left, and he’s got the right to try and connect the dots without making it called Judas Priest. I don’t think Ken was over the moon with his name being in it. I think he would have been just fine with it being just called Priest. I think at first he was kind of like, “Man, I don’t want my name on it”, but you gotta deal with labels and management. I don’t think KK came up with the name as much. He was part of it, but I think the management was gonna be the one pushing for things because they got to market the band now. We’re not looking for a 20-year career, KK’s 70, and I’m in my mid-50s. I’ll take his 20-year career, but we gotta hit it right now… If people say, “These songs kind of sound like Judas Priest”, it’s because he wrote songs for Judas Priest. Know what Judas Priest songs these don’t sound like? The last couple records, because KK is not there any longer. The last record, if it didn’t have Rob Halford singing, would it even sound like a Judas Priest record? No, but obviously you got the Metal God singing so it’s gonna sound like it. KK was the driving force in songwriting as everybody can even tell even more now. It’s KK Downing, I say KK can do whatever he wants. 4:00

On writing for Sermons of the SinnerWell, (KK) did more on this one because he had already started. Once he got the idea, he started writing stuff. I think this is a statement record for him. I think from what it sounds like in the interviews, in the book (Heavy Duty, Days & Nights in judas Priest), and talking to Ken, he was getting less and less of his ideas thrown in there. He wanted to do this, I think he was a statement for him coming out of the gate. Obviously, it was written for me to sing, but it was Ken’s ideas that he really wanted to do. In the studio, he was all like, “Change whatever, do whatever you want”. But I tried to really keep it on the same path that he was writing in the first place. 7:28

On returning to “old-school” metal with this record – Ken’s lucky and he knows when he works with me, I can sing anything and he wants me to sing. Whether it’s a Sepultura kind of a thing or Pantera, or if there’s death metal or clean vocals or raspy vocals, I’m gonna be able to do anything. I think that’s the big key. The good thing about this record is the most high notes are probably on the first couple of songs that were released. We came out of the gate saying, “Here, we’ll give you the extreme right away. “Hellfire Thunderbolt” and “Sermons of the Sinner” are definitely the heaviest and straightforward, then we have “Brothers of the Road” and “Raise Your Fists”, which are more of the straightforward rock kind of songs. This is what we wanted to do. We wanted to do things that the fans would like. We’re out there to get new fans, but we need to get new fans that like this kind of music, we’re not gonna go get someone who doesn’t want this. We can’t re-invent the wheel, this is what we do. I can do different forms of this kind of music, I released A New Revenge and it was like a hard rock kind of record, which is one of my favorites I’ve ever released. I’m still singing the same, it just has different melodies. Our approach to this was, we just have to make ourselves happy and the fans happy, we can’t reinvent anything at this age. 9:08

On if quickly recording a record of original material was important – Absolutely. After we did that show, we had offers to do everything thing, cruises, and festivals and big money offers rolling in like crazy. Ken said, “No. No, we gotta put a record out”. I’ll tell you, that’s all he talks about. It’s funny ’cause we were just texting back and forth last night and we were saying, “Let’s do “Never Satisfied”. I wanna do it. you wrote it with Al”, so we got Al Atkins and KK Downing writing a song and we’re doing it, maybe we can get Al out on tour with us, or he can get in the studio and do it. I’m just excited to do some of this old stuff. His thing is, we have to play the record, we have to release this record and play the record. We were talking about, “Hey, let’s say we go open for somebody on a big tour, what are we gonna play?” He’s like, “Well, we’re playing all the songs off the record”, I’m like, “We gotta do something else”. He just wants to do that. “Before the Dawn”, I would like to keep in the set. We did “Take on the World”, I think doing some things off of Rocka Rolla, maybe “Never Satisfied”, maybe “Winter” or whatever, I think that’s a no-brainer for us to do. 11:07

On what an upcoming tour might look like – Hey, I think whatever is best. It’s not gonna be a small stage, it’s gotta be good venues, big, big stages, big production. There’s no way (KK’s) going up there and playing small stuff, and I can do that all year long solo, so there’s no reason. I wanna do something big as well with this, it has to be big. I mean co-headlining events, supporting big tours of bands, whoever it may be, I don’t even know what it would be, but that would be a perfect scenario to go out and do some of these big arenas and take things with some tours like that. Big sheds. It’s hard, it’s a hard situation right now that even book anything. We’re trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. That’s up to management. I can tour right now, in November, I’m going to be touring in America with the Three Tremors, we’re gonna do an America Tour. We can do that because we’re playing smaller venues, we’re playing the Empires in Akron and different things like that, so we can hit these kinds of places. KK’s gotta be way planned way in advance, and who knows what’s going with the Covid thing. We never know. Pretty soon, we’ll probably have to stick some kind of flashing light in our butthole to walk around and make sure we’re showing everybody that we did this, that, and the other. I am vaccinated, but I myself called myself a super spreader because I feel like us vaccinated people are out there, spreading this thing around like crazy, we’re allowed to do everything. Obviously, the unvaccinated people are gonna get sicker, but we’re gonna be spreading it like crazy, but there’s a point where you’re gonna have to start doing things. We can’t live in the dark, People have to go by rules, we have to do stuff when we wanna get out and tour. So listen, that’s why I got vaccinated. I’m all for wearing a mask. I’ll do anything to go out there and rock all over America and the world again. 12:51

On whether the band has been able to play together – We did once a couple of months ago. I flew to England, and Sean (Elg, drums) flew from San Diego to England to record two of the videos. We were the record “Brothers of the Road” and “Raise Your Fists”. So we finally were able to get together and it wasn’t that difficult. England’s a lot stricter than America, you have to get tested three days before you went, you had to get tested two days while you were there, and then get tested before you come back. It’s a lot, a bunch of paperwork, but it wasn’t overly difficult and so hopefully we’ll be able to get it going on. 15:20

On whether he and KK would join Judas Priest’s 50 Anniversary celebration – I really don’t know. I love Judas Priest, but this is the same camp that he threatened me for a promoter using the Jugulator cover for a flyer. When management threatens me for that, making a tour flyer with the Jugulator cover, I really don’t know what’s gonna happen. (KK) said what he said, should he have said it? I don’t know, and I don’t care. The problem is truth hurts. When you say things that are truthful, especially nowadays on social media, look what happens, you say something’s truthful, next, you know you’re called every kind of name in the world. I think it’s silly they’re doing a 50th anniversary, and Jesus was gonna be 30 anniversary for me pretty soon, I think it sucks that (KK’s) not involved. I gotta be honest, if he called me tomorrow and said, I can’t do KK’s Priest because I’m going to do the 50th Judas Priest tour, I would be at the shows, I think it would be fantastic. Then maybe they’d call me and say, I could do it too. 16:46

On Jon Schaffer’s situation – I didn’t have contact before. It’s funny, everybody comes out of the woodwork and said, “Tim’s just like John”. He kicked me out of the band five days before Christmas. I don’t hate the guy, but it’s not like we talk. John messed up and he’ll pay the price. Everybody knows my belief on riots that are still going on in Portland over America all the time, that everybody still seems to think are fine. Any time you break the law and you riot or have an un-peaceful protest it’s wrong, I don’t care who you are and what you are. It’s wrong. It’s funny how we still talk about January 6 all the time, but we don’t talk about everything that’s still going on in America, non-stop. Portland’s a fucking train wreck and they took over city blocks and we act like it’s fine. It’s all wrong. John was wrong like everybody else is, he’s just as wrong as the people burning down mom and pop stores in Baltimore, they all put them in the same category. If you’re breaking the law, you’re breaking the law. That’s when I look at. When anybody sticks up for any side, I think they’re breaking the law, listen, Jon could have stood outside and protested all he wanted. That’s fine. Stand outside and protest all you want. Once you guys go inside and once you do things, you broke the law, and that’s just the way it is. Jon did something wrong and he’ll pay the price forever for it, but still, you know what, people are still buying this record, so he’ll still have his big house and his cars, it’s gonna be a little different. 18:46

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