Tim Owens rose to immediate fame upon being drafted by Judas Priest to
fill the shoes of Rob Halford. The story of the vocalist from a Priest
cover band ascending to the helm of one of history's most legendary
metal acts was a fairy tail that not only led to significant press in
the mainstream media, but was the foundation for the Warner Bros. film
'Rock Star'. Despite the fact that most Judas Priest fans longed for the
return of the Metal God, few could argue that Owens did an admirable job
of defending the faith. And when Halford did return to the fold last
year, it thrust Owens into free agent status. Elated Judas Priest fans
celebrated the reunion, but knew that there was an underlying story
waiting to unfold. They wouldn't be left waiting long. Behind the
scenes, Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer wasted no time in snatching Owens to
replace longtime vocalist Matt Barlow. It was a move that made so much
sense that we should have seen it coming. The Metal Update phoned Tim
Owens shortly after the release of his first post Priest recording 'The
METAL UPDATE: How are you doing? I haven't woken you too early I hope?
TIM OWENS: Oh no, I have a seven month old baby so I'm up bright and
MU: Ha Ha! OK, 'The Glorious Burden' was recorded originally with
vocalist Matt Barlow and it turned out Jon [Schaffer, guitars] wasn't
happy with his vocals, but did you hear the original mix with Matt
TO:: I did yeah, that's what Jon sent to me - with Matt singing. It was
kind of a nice way to do it. I've never had that luxury of having
something to learn off what had already been done, which was good. And I
could tell there were things that needed to be changed 'cos of different
styles of singer.
MU: Do you know what Matt Barlow's next move is?
TO: He's done, he's quit. He wanted to quit last year and I think he's
doing some paperwork shuffling stuff now. He's cut his hair off. . .
unfortunately - I wish he had given me some of it!
MU: What were the main differences between the two of you?
TO: I think he didn't capture a lot of the emotion this time around. In
truth, it didn't sound that bad to me. But I guess it took so long to do
it, for Jon, and it just wasn't right when he mixed it. I couldn't tell
all that much but we have different voices. I myself like the style of
my lower voice compared to Matt's and the slow emotional parts so I
think that was probably it.
MU: So, you didn't have any conscious way of approaching it to try and
make it different to Matt's recording?
TO: No, you know all I needed to do was just learn the songs and the
melodies and sing with the songs. When I would sing with them it was
just me singing. With Rob Halford, we have similar voices so when I
would sing along with his stuff it would sound very much like him.
Sometimes I had to try not to sound like him, I had to sing a little bit
different. Now I just sing along and it's nothing like Matt - yet I
still get compared to Rob!
MU: Well, I was going to ask you, in the early days, before you were
even singing Judas Priest songs, was your voice just that way or did you
TO: It might have been - it's progressed throughout time. My voice has
changed a lot through the years. I get a lot of influences, vocally. Or
I've grown as a singer. I was always a fan of Halford, Dickinson and
Dio. The thing I got to do with Priest was show what I can do with my
voice, but I think with Iced Earth I get to show it a little more in a
singing aspect. I think people get to hear a higher natural singing
voice. Rob doesn't have a high natural voice. He has up to a mid range
voice, then he sings falsetto, whereas my natural voice goes higher -
more like a Dio or Dickinson. Or, you know, a huge influence of mine is
Chris Cornell. He has that old metal type of voice - whether it's good
or not. Even the songs on the Audioslave, he has this high cool voice
that he can use. I'd sing along to "Jesus Christ Pose" and
'Badmotorfinger' when I was younger.
MU: In those days he really went for it more.
TO: Yeah, I mean, "Outshined" and all those songs were awesome tunes.
But that's what I got to do with Jon, and the way he writes is to sing
more. I even got to write a couple of tunes with the band, and that was
something I was never able to do in Priest. I wasn't even in Iced Earth
and Jon offered for me to rewrite three songs. I always had to study. He
wanted to do it about Attila, Waterloo and Red Baron, and I was like,
"You might know all about your history but I don't!" So, I had to study
it and I rewrote the "Red Baron" and it was cool. I did the vocal for
that song in about half hour, 45 minutes and then it was done.
MU: I personally think you sound quite different on this album to
anything you had done with Priest. Was that because of the nature of the
material or have you changed within yourself?
TO: The funny thing about this album is I think its some of the best
vocal work I've done in a long time and my vocals were recorded in only
five days whereas Judas Priest it was months and months. So I was
attracted to these songs before I went in and I knew them before I went
to record them. With Priest songs, I never knew beforehand. But Glenn
[Tipton] and Jon are just two different writers who write in different
ways. There's no doubt about it that vocally Jon's much more melodic.
Priest was never a big melodic band. They're more of a niche band with
the catchy choruses and so on. I love the way Glenn writes and the stuff
I did with them, but it was a different style. I think if I wrote
something myself it would be in between the Judas Priest and the Iced
Earth stuff. But Glenn loved to work with me 'cos he loved to find out
what he could actually make me sing like. The engineer used to go, "What
are you doing? He keeps asking you to do something and you do it! You
sound like a bear one minute, then you sound like a dog and then a girl!
Stop doing it you know. . ." It was funny man, Glenn was like a kid.
MU: Obviously he doesn't sit down with Halford in that way. Do you think
he is very aware of Rob's limitations, but with you he was just testing
to see what you could achieve?
TO: I think it was that, yeah, and that was the fun of it. It wasn't a
huge test. I think the album which was most different was 'Jugulator',
being much more brutal. 'Demolition' had a lot more melody.
MU: You've said you want Judas Priest to be successful now that Rob's
back. Is there an element of understanding as a fan of the band yourself
that perhaps they needed him back at this point in time?
TO: No! (laughs) No, I think they were just as good a band with me
singing as they were with Rob. I want them to be successful 'cos I like
the guys. I'm friends with all of them. It's hard work writing and
recording albums and touring and they're getting close to 60. I want
them to go out as close to the top as they can. I'm glad that I'm not
there because I'm doing better things now than sitting home having time
off, which I had before. There was a lot of downtime with Priest. I just
want things to work out well - they are good friends of mine - as they
want things to work out for me. I do think this is where Rob deserves to
be. It's good. People always like to see the singer come back, you know?
And they just need each other. Judas Priest needs Rob now and he needs
them - period. There's no way either of them at this time can go on
without each other.
MU: Why would you say that is?
TO: Well, album sales are a big part of it. Neither one of them sold
anything on their last records. I think it was just time. The fans
wanted it. I wanted it - not sure if the entire band wanted it but. . .
everybody's happy. They're busy now. It's going to be an exciting year
for them. I'm really looking forward to it.
MU: How did you make the transition to joining Iced Earth? Did you know
it was the choice you had to make?
TO: To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure what I wanted. Jon asked me
about a day after I left Priest and it took me about a month to decide
'cos I wasn't sure what to do. I could easily have done something a bit
more modern 'cos my voice can do that. I like some of the stuff. I could
have changed. I'm not an old looking guy.
MU: I did read you say though that you were 36 years old and even though
you liked some of the newer rock/metal you couldn't feel integral
singing a more modern form of rock or metal.
TO: Yeah, I don't think I could. I could have fun getting on stage with
friends, but to make that my living, I would always know I was doing it
for the wrong reasons. It just wouldn't be me. And I never thought I'd
joined Iced Earth when I did the album or leave Priest you know? My wife
and me were driving home from Indiana and we were listening to the
'Glorious Burden' album and I said, "Man that's good stuff. I did that
in five days and that's pretty good." I remember having this feeling
about it then. I just never thought about it. Then I crunched numbers. I
looked at their sales - they were on SPV. I knew that if I joined with
being on SPV in the past and me and Iced Earth's first album, I knew it
was going to be pushed and it has been. The album sales so far are
double the last album. For Iced Earth to be in the Billboard 200 is just
incredible. So, I had these kinds of feelings that it might be right. I
knew it wasn't going to be mainstream or on the radio - I knew all those
things - but neither was Priest. That's what people say to me, but I've
probably been on the radio 'round here more with Iced Earth than I was
with Priest. Priest was by far the best thing that could have ever
happened to me, but at this time having the choice to join Iced Earth
was just right. For me staying true to metal and having the European
support was important. I don't care about being the person that's
recognized everywhere. I just want to make a living in music and that's
what I decided after Priest - I'm now going to make a living in music.
to do that, all I had to do was stay true to heavy metal.
MU: What did you learn from Judas Priest now that you have some distance
from your time in the band?
TO: Well, it taught me afterwards that I've got a lot to learn in the
music industry, even now. One thing it taught me is to take care of
myself - especially on the road - to sleep a lot, things like that. I've
learnt more about the industry since I left Judas Priest than I did the
whole time I was there probably 'cos I didn't ask enough questions. I
grew up with Judas Priest - not just as a kid - but when I joined them I
joined the industry. They gave me everything they possibly could. It was
good for us to get along so well, for us to make friends. What they also
taught me was to be a good guy. When I first joined them, they tried to
make me this hard, angry guy with the image you know? I'm not that guy
though. . . so it was about being nice to the fans and stuff. But it was
just a great ride, it was amazing. They introduced me to a lot of
people, too. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in Iced Earth. I
wouldn't have met half the people I have.
MU: Did you disassociate from the fact you had liked the band from the
outside for so long and suddenly you were on the inside? It doesn't seem
to have been spoken about very much just how surreal that must have
TO: Yeah it was pretty strange for a while. After being with them though
I was just one of the guys, it became a job. I found out it was hard
work. It wasn't this "rock star" thing going on. It wasn't parties with
drugs and everything. It was hard work with a lot of sleep afterwards,
so I think that whipped me back into shape. Obviously, when I made it to
the band, I wasn't the kid I was in the 80s 'cos then I had their
posters up everywhere. I was just a fanatic you know? Fortunately for
them, that was twelve years before I made the band. If it wasn't, they
would have been in trouble. I would have been that crazed fan! (laughs)
They are still my all time favorite band. It was amazing to walk in and
meet the guys.
MU: How does it feel now when you see the albums with the Priest logo on
it in stores and you know you sang on that album?
TO: It's pretty amazing! I'll always be proud of the records and the
tunes I have. I was part of it from 1996-2003 and that's a pretty big
chunk out of their history. You think about it, up to that point Rob was
in it from like '74 to '91 and then I was from '96 so that's a huge
part. I mean obviously a big part of the pie was Rob, but just to be
part of it. . . and I thought I succeeded singing. I thought my vocals
were good. But just to think that I didn't lose out on being in Priest
through not fitting in or singing bad. . .
MU: Do you feel satisfied that you kept to your own personality? You
never tried to play up to an image - you stayed true to yourself? Do you
feel proud of that?
TO: Yeah it was a good feeling. The more I toured with the band the more
I was myself. People can see that on the 'Live In London' DVD, we joked
a lot and it was nice. The last American tour, Glenn and I would do as
much as we could together. We would go play golf together every day. We
could go out - probably 25 times - and onstage it was the same thing.
The DVD doesn't exactly show what I was like on stage because,
unfortunately, we flew in from Japan the night before. I was totally jet
lagged and I was worried about singing, so I didn't have the energy that
I usually have onstage. A lot of singers will go back and overdub stuff
to get the sound perfect, but I didn't want to. I wanted it totally
live. If you get any bootleg CD or tape of the last tour you would see
exactly what it was like.
MU: There's been some talk about you doing a side project for a while
now. I saw it described by you as a cross between Sabbath and Priest.
Where are you currently with the project?
TO: It's just demo stuff but obviously it's going to have my vocals, so
it's going to be a Priest-ish, Maiden. . .you know what? I don't know! I
wrote the guitar parts, so it's not rocket science. The way I look at,
it is good playing heavy metal music - verse / chorus / verse chorus /
bridge or down section - not this progressive metal which I like, but
that's not how I write. I can't, you know. . . or I probably would be a
guitar player. These are just songs that I've written and it just
reminds me of stuff that I liked, Sabbath, Priest, Dio, a hint of
Soundgarden maybe, who knows? My thing is just to make good basic old
style heavy metal music. I just want people to listen to it and groove
MU: Is this what you think you can bring to Iced Earth and maybe what
you already have contributed? For the songs you rewrote, for instance,
is your input just to add to Jon's theatricality with good basic metal
melodies? What's your creative input?
TO: Well, it kind of is how you said. You can hear on "Red Baron" which
I wrote, it's different than some of the other stuff on the album. It's
got more of a classic style vocals on it. That said, I don't know what's
going to happen. Jon has different ideas for different albums. Obviously
this one is historically-themed, but the next album won't be. It's just
this one. The last one was about horror themes. We'll see what it's
about, who knows?
MU: Personally I think your vocal performance sounds particularly
heartfelt on this album - very clear and emotive. Was there a specific
way you had to approach the material?
TO: You know what? You just get into the song and sing it with feeling.
Something like "Gettysburg", if you can't sing that with feeling then
you're fucking brain-dead. 50,000 people dying, that changed the way I
live. These people at that time, fought with no shoes on and walked
everywhere. They didn't get in no damn van and drive to the next battle!
It's just an amazing piece of history, so to not put feeling into that
song, or all of them is. . . it's easy to sing with passion, it's just
the way I am.
MU: Was that one of your pre-requisites that the lyrics had to have some
meaning to you or was it not important?
TO: No, it would have to be. I've had some people say to me, "You know,
I don't know about the history thing." But I think it's great. The only
history I hear is people singing about their ex-girlfriends or the car
they have, or the dog died. That's cool to sing about, but I don't see
it. It's nice not to sing about a motorcycle or a beast, which I love
singing about, but, you know, I don't care what I sing about. I don't
want to sing something that's stupid like a Limp Bizkit song or
something, but I don't really care. The only thing I don't want to sing
about really, myself, is songs about sex. I really don't. I'm an adult
you know? (laughs) But other than that, I'd sing about a turd!
MU: So, you wouldn't sing about sex but a turd is ok?
TO: Yeah as long as they're not together - not a fetish! It would have
to be a historical turd though - it would have to be petrified.
MU: OK, well talking of lyrics let's move on to presentation. Iced Earth
has always been a band that's packaged things really well, will there be
a deluxe box as there was with 'Horror Show'?
TO: Oh yeah, it will be very limited though.
MU: I've seen you say before on the subject of downloading music that it
does get to you. Some people can't be bothered to go out and buy the
album. Do you think, given Iced Earth has always made an effort with
packaging, that it's an extra incentive for people not to do that?
TO: I would hope so, but I had a friend who was telling me the other day
that he was online on a site for music downloads, and he said that there
was a queue of a hundred people waiting to download 'The Glorious
Burden'. Why would you sit and wait like that to get something that's
not the same quality, no packaging, its kind of strange. I tell people
if you don't want the deluxe edition you can spend $13 to get the CD.
$13! You get the packaging, you get everything. Then you come home and
you want to burn some copies because you want extra copies, then that's
what should be done. I think if you want to download a mix CD and you
want one song from a band, that's a neat idea 'cos no-one's losing much
money when you're just downloading a song. But when you download
somebody's album that's cheap - unless it's Britney Spears then it's OK!
MU: Would you really say, what with the band going into the Billboard
chart - do you think you'd have sold even more without people
downloading the album first?
TO: Oh there's no doubt, everybody would. I'd probably say definitely
the first week, there would have been over a thousand downloads. I don't
really know numbers, but I'm thinking if at one time period there are
100 people doing it, imagine what it was for a week? A lot of these kids
downloading music, I think it will be funny when their dad loses his job
'cos a computer has taken over for him so they can't go to work on the
factory line or an office building because there's a program that does
that job and they're not needed anymore. So then these kids' parents
don't have a job while they've downloaded music the whole time 'cos, you
know, it's not only taking jobs from musicians, it's taking jobs from
people who work at record stores. It's just amazing that people do that
MU: Do you think there's an argument for another side? From a $13 CD the
band gets maybe one dollar. Do you think the whole corruption stems from
the record company side of it and the fact the bands don't really get
their due anyway?
TO: No that's not the reason. If that's the case then the people should
especially not do it 'cos the band's not even getting the dollar then!
OK, some record stores are too expensive, I agree, that's not the
label's fault - and just don't go to those fucking record stores.
There's other ones that sell it cheaper, go to those. It does suck
whatever the band gets from the album, but the people who download sure
can't use that as an excuse because then nobody gets anything. People
are greedy and are doing it for themselves. That's just the way it is.
These days if they're not given the CD, they're going to go and download
it 'cos they just don't want to pay for it. I guarantee somebody's out
there right now downloading a CD, smoking a pack of cigarettes and
they'll go spend money on tobacco or beer, but they won't buy music. It
amazes me because it's such better quality to go buy the music. It's not
even in comparison the quality of a burnt CD to a regular one. A regular
CD lasts longer it has the cover, the artwork, it just amazes me.
MU: Well it's been great talking to you and good to hear your opinions
on that kind of issue. Thanks a lot for your time Tim.
TO: Yeah it's been great thanks and we'll see you on tour, huh?
Iced Earth interview - March 12, 1999
review of Iced Earth 'The Glorious Burden'
review of Iced Earth 'Tribute To The Gods'
review of Iced Earth 'Horror Show'
review of Iced Earth 'The Dark Saga'
Interview: Paul Stenning [ email@example.com ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ email@example.com ]