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BEYOND FEAR


Beyond Fear - Metal is What I Do 

By Dr. Abner Mality


By now, we should all know about Tim Owens "Cinderella" story...how he rose from being a local band singer to the replacement for Rob Halford in the world's most influential heavy metal band, Judas Priest. Been there, done that. Yet it still amazed me that people questioned Ripper's dedication to heavy metal after all his years in the business.

Question no more. Ripper is clearly the captain of a new metal vessel called Beyond Fear and his grip on the wheel is tight and firm. He is fully at ease with Beyond Fear and his piercing vocals...among the very best ever in this genre...have never been better. The BF debut is a creation of stainless steel that hearkens back to the classics while maintaining a modern edge. It is something for Tim to be proud of and he most certainly is.

Following is my conversation with Ripper, where we cover the birth of Beyond Fear, his tenure with Judas Priest and some tidbits about the new Iced Earth record he is working on...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: How did your recent tour over in Europe go?

TIM OWENS: It was really good. A great trip and it went really well, I can't complain about any of it, you know.

WC: Did you get along pretty well with the Anthrax guys?

TO: Yeah, we've always gotten along really well. I've known them for a while and they've had a good relationship with us.

WC: I remember seeing them open up for you when you were with Judas Priest, at the Riviera in Chicago. That was a memorable show.

TO: Definitely. A very good one!

WC: Is there any special meaning to the name "Beyond Fear"?

TO: No! I just liked it That's really what it boiled down to. I just liked the sound of it, I liked how it looked and I thought it was best for the band.

WC: Was Beyond Fear something you had been contemplating for a long time or did it come together quickly?

TO: It came together actually quite quickly, but at the very end, I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to put it together. I think that was the big thing,..trying to decide what exactly I wanted to do. Whether it would be a solo thing or an actual band. Finally, it worked out how I wanted it to work out.

WC: Were you tempted to try any other forms of music besides heavy metal after you left Judas Priest?

TO: No. Metal is what I do. That's just it for me, you know. I could never see myself doing anything else besides metal.

WC: Is it pretty fair to say that heavy metal is the most challenging outlet for a male vocalist today, as opposed to country, rap or pop?

TO: Yeah, I think there's no doubt it is. It really depends on what style you are singing. You could do an easier style, a more straightforward style, if you wanted. But man, I've got every style of singing there really is...sometimes in just one song! There are some songs we do that have four or five types of singing in it. It's fun, because it's one of the only types of music where you can actually get away with doing that!

WC: It also seems to me that metal fans are more open to other types of music than some other genres are, who look down on metal.

TO: Yeah, I agree! That's the fun thing about metal,...you can do a lot of different things.

WC: Hank Williams III does a show that's half country and half metal. The metal fans are very polite when he does the country part, but when the metal part comes up, the country fans flee like their lives depended on it. Now, can you tell me something about the other guys in the band,,,their background, where you found them?

TO: The bass player Dennis Hayes and I have known each other quite a while. We both used to play with Winters Bane. He's one of the best bass players I ever played with. John Comprix the guitar player, he and I go back quite a ways. I produced one of his old band's CDs. It's probably been over 10 years since I've known him. He's just an awesome, awesome guitar player and songwriter as well. John brought Eric and Dwane in with him...they were already playing with him in another band. It was a perfect fit...they were great musicians. It's about a year and a half ago that they came aboard.

WC: It sounds like a really tight unit and you get along well.

TO: We do get along well. That's the great thing. It's nice to have that in a band.

WC: What's the songwriting for Beyond Fear like? Are you the big wheel or do you do lyrics...

TO: On this record, I wrote probably close to half of it. The other songs John and I wrote together. That's probably what most of the next record will be like. There will be a lot more of John and I doing it together. What gives this first album such a great sound and a great texture is that both of us did it together.

WC: It's got to be satisfying for you to silence some of the critics who said you were just a "hired hand" for Judas Priest and Iced Earth by putting out a record of this quality.

TO: Yeah, it definitely is. You nailed it there really. That was the big thing I wanted to do. It shows every body who said "well, he doesn't do any writing for Judas Priest" that I definitely am a songwriter.

WC: Your song "Dreams Come True" seems very autobiographical. It sounds like you put a lot of heart into that one. Could elaborate on some of the thoughts that went into that?

TO: It is definitely autobiographical. It was a song that started out not being that. It started off with me just singing about dreams coming true in general. My grandma died...she's in my dreams, the grass is green and everything is perfect. And then as the song goes on it really starts to dwell more on my life...which is like anybody's life, really. The key to that song is that last verse, which speaks volumes. It's exactly my life. It's looking back on my life. Playing in my back yard with my old friends. I see my parents, they're as young as me.

WC: That line about the parents, that's the one that struck me the most. I think it will strike most listeners the same way.

TO: It will, and that's the thing. When I sing that last verse, I picture my parent's backyard with a couple of big trees., all these dirt paths and not a whole lot of grass. Now I look at it and it's all grass, there's no trees...it's so different. But when I picture that verse, I see that yard the way it was when I was a kid. I picture myself back there running around, I picture myself going to the baseball field with my parents, who are healthy and younger. I think every body can get into that last verse because they can see their own past.

WC: Would you say that was your favorite song from the new album?

TO: I don't think it really is. Lyrically it's a good one but I don't think it's one of my favorites musically. I think a song like "The Human Race" is a really good vocal song with a great style to it and good melodies."Coming At You" is another one of my favorites.

WC: I think mine was "My Last Words".


TO: That was another very good one lyrically.

WC: I almost interpret that as being the last thoughts of somebody on United Flight 93.

TO: It was actually written before that, strangely enough. It was written when Payne Stewart the golfer died. He and his crew had left a tournament in Orlando and were going cross country on a jet . Something happened and everybody on the plane died yet the plane continued to fly across America until rescuers caught up to it and brought it down.

WC: I remember that! That was one of the strangest incidents in the history of aviation!

TO: Could you imagine if somebody was alive in that plane while it was flying? Somebody flying across the United States knowing they were going to die. That was the original idea I had for that song. I took that story and changed his death to somebody being alive yet knowing they are going to die. Then a year or two later, 9/11 happened so it's very, very strange. It's funny because most people think I wrote the song about 9/11, but it was already written.

WC: You can relate it to other situations. The recent mining disaster in West Virginia is one. The miners who died had time to write out their last words before they passed away.

TO: Yeah, exactly.

WC: As time goes by, do you think your years with Judas Priest will get the respect they are due?

TO: I don't know. I would hope so but you really just don't know.

WC: At the time you made those records, were you pretty satisfied with how they turned out or would you have done some things differently?

TO: I think it's fine. I was very happy with how things worked. I would have loved to have written more with them. I think that's why I did the song "Scream Machine" on the new Beyond Fear, to show that I can write a strong metal song as well. That's really what I wanted to do. But I'm really happy about all my time with Priest, it was a great time.

WC: What song that you did with them are you most proud of?

TO: Hmmmm...."Bloodstained" was one of my favorites.

WC: I always thought the tune "Cathedral Spires" was great. It had a real epic sound to it, like the old days of Judas Priest.

TO: Yeah, that was a great one as well.

WC: Do you think Rob will ever try some of your tracks live?

TO: I don't see why not. "Bloodsuckers" would be a perfect song for him to do. I would hope so.

WC: You're now in Iced Earth. Do Iced Earth and Beyond Fear share equal priority for you?

TO: Well, Iced Earth is gonna have more priority a lot of the time, really. They're the bigger band. My goal really is to get Iced Earth as big as Judas Priest.

WC: Are there any scheduling conflicts between the two bands?

TO: Not yet! Not yet, I don't. We just hope it stays that way. I think there's plenty of room for both of them.

WC: What's it like working with Jon Schaffer? I hear he can be tough to work with.

TO: Nah, he's great, man. He's a good guy, a great guy to work with. And that's what's nice. We have a good friendship and a good working relationship so I look forward to doing the next record and getting it on.

WC: Do you have any tidbits about the upcoming Iced Earth product?

TO: There's nothing really specific yet. Jon's working on the stuff right now. The main thing is just getting Jon to write his story. It's his baby, you know.

WC: Will it have a historical theme?

TO: It's going to be the "Something Wicked" story, that's the main thing. It's a continuation of that. That's why it's his baby. If it was different, we'd collaborate a bit more. But this is something he's got in his head so it's all his.

WC: Are you thinking ahead to the next Beyond Fear record?

TO: I'm trying not to. I'm saving all my resources and energy for the next Iced Earth CD right now. As we go on, we'll probably start thinking a bit more about Beyond Fear. We'll see how things happen.

WC: What was the last CD you picked up just for your own enjoyment?

TO: Huh! Man, I don't know. I think maybe it was the new Disturbed CD. I just don't know for sure!

WC: What was the last gig you checked out from another band just for your own enjoyment?

TO: Um...last concert...I can't even tell ya. I can't even tell ya the last concert I went to just for myself.

WC: Is there any sort of a Spinal Tap moment from your long career you'd like to share with the readers?

TO: I guess my biggest "Spinal Tap" moment was watching the movie "Rock Star"! I've never really had a whole lot go wrong. The whole thing is kind of Spinal Tapish, you know. I've seen some pretty funny things backstage at big festivals. But knock on wood, I haven't really had any major Spinal Tap moments!

WC: You've been doing pretty good for as long a career as you've had!

TO: Yeah, it's weird! I've never fallen or missed a show. Now I did call Toronto, Canada "Toledo" at one show! (laughter)

WC: Any final words for your fans out there?

TO: I say to everybody, go out and get the Beyond Fear CD, and the reasoning is, it's not fake, it's not somebody trying to put something out that's phony. I put something out that I love. This is a true heavy metal record made from the heart, it's something I believe in. I went into the studio and made the exact kind of record I wanted to make and when people listen to it, they'll be able to tell that.

Steamhammer Record's label Website

Ripper Owen's Official Website