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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 Glorious Burden'.

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 early!

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 singing?

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.

Iced Earth - Jon & Ripper!

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 adapt it?

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.

Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden cover

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 felt.

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 to it.

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!

Iced Earth - Band shot

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 you know?

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 [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: Sean Jennings [ ]

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