Beyond Fear is the new band formed by Iced Earth and former Judas Priest front man Tim “Ripper” Owens. Their self-titled debut release is a solid and heavy as hell album that is sure to make them a household name and score legions of fans. Signed to SPV Records, the band first made it’s appearance on the “Metal Insurgence Tour” in 2005 that placed them on the stage with John Oliva’s Pain and Chris Caffery. Recently, Ripper and guitarist John Comprix were in town to meet with the Press to discuss the band, the album, touring and the immediate plans for the future. Below is the transcription of our entire conversation.
KP: First of all congratulations on the absolutely killer recording debut of Beyond Fear. Tim I remember when we first met back at Iced Earth in NYC that you said you wanted to do a solo record if you had time and when I asked if it would be heavy you replied “oh yes it will be Heavy”. It’s great to see this come to fruition so how does it feel to have the record done and ready to be unleashed on the Metal masses.
Ripper: Well it feels good to me but unfortunately my first choice C.C. DeVille wasn’t available to play guitar (Tim’s referring to some off recording ribbing we were doing prior to the session) so I picked John. Actually John was always going to be in the band and I always felt it would be comfortable for me to have John Comprix on one side with C.C. Deville on the other for backup rhythm.
Comprix: Yeah that would have worked really well.
Ripper: Flying scissor kicks and head twirls. Seriously though I am very excited because to me this is something that means a lot and it’s exactly what I want to hear and its music that I like. So to me it means a lot to get this out for people to hear.
KP: John what were your thoughts on this being out?
Comprix: Ecstatic man, you know I’m ready for it. For me personally it’s exciting because Tim got to live his dream and now it’s my turn.
Ripper: Now it’s my nightmare (laughs).
Comprix: You know what I feel blessed to be able to jam with Tim; I’ve wanted to play with Tim for years in a band. I’m a big fan of his; I think the guy is easily one of the best singers in Metal.
KP: Easily, and I am not just saying this since he is in kicking distance of my head (laughs).
Comprix: I’m really having a ball with it and I think it’s a solid album that I can’t wait for people to hear.
KP: So you guys are totally impressed with the final result or now that it’s done is there anything you find that makes you go “ahh, I would have done this……”
Ripper: You know it’s weird because you do think that a little bit but I am as happy with this as anything I have ever done, and I have done this in way less time. I think I spent the same amount of time doing my vocals on this as I spent doing them on “The Glorious Burden”. Close actually, about 4.5 days on “The Glorious Burden” and 3.5 days on this but when I listen to the whole product we did it really quick. Yet that is because we were very prepared. The fact that we were a band and were actually working on parts left us prepared to do it. You’re always going to hear something that leaves you thinking that you would like to change it a little bit but I don’t hear that on this. The songs are how they were written and how they were meant to be and we didn’t screw with them like some others have done. Their done and they finish the album and then they start going “oh let’s take this out and move this”; they start building these things too much and they become these giant piles of crap. The way we completed this was exactly the way we wanted to do it and I think that is why I am happy with it.
KP: I was happy to see it because talking to you before and having you say you are planning to do a solo record while you are on a tour with Iced Earth for what is pretty much considered the bands most defining album. It’s nice to hear you are going to work on it and all of a sudden here it is. John what are your thoughts on that. On having the album done and ready to go.
Comprix: OK, I usually don’t listen to a lot of stuff that I do but then again a lot of the other bands I have done are pretty brutal. This was a breath of fresh air for me so on it being done I wouldn’t change a thing. I think it’s great and I love it.
KP: While I am sure that the whole record is special to you guys I would like to know what you think some of your favorite pieces would be.
Ripper: You know there are just different reasons but I think lyrically “Dreams Come True” would be for a reason that it started off being when you dream everything will be great. You can just close your eyes and dream and everyone is healthy and alive and blah, blah, blah because of the dream. Yet as the song went on it got more personal and by the last verse it was very personal. So it wasn’t a song that started off being personal and I’ve told people this a lot lately that when I talk about and start thinking about the last verse of that song I envision so much in my head. Me being a child; my Parents live in the same house as they did when I was a kid and the backyard now is a small green backyard with no trees and when I was a kid it had big giant trees in it and there was hardly any grass and my Brother and our Friends and I would run around and play. So I just envisioned this when I closed my eyes. I see this dirt backyard with trees and a swing set and me bleeding and being a kid. Everyone is running around and the Parents are healthy you know, so that song means a lot to me in a lyrical sense. “Scream Machine” means a lot to me showing that I can do those styles of songs as well. Lyrically and melody wise, they all mean different things but those two mean a lot.
KP: John what’s your side of this?
Comprix: I like “Scream Machine”, “Words Of Wisdom”, “Save Me” is killer, I don’t know honestly.
Ripper: It’s hard.
Comprix: I can literally put the CD on and listen to it from front to end and find it pretty cool because it is just all over the place and what I mean by that is that is a Metal album. It’s heavy, it’s got groove to it, it’s got breakdowns ha-ha it’s just all over the place and its cool man.
KP: I made the mistake of playing it very loud for my first listen because sometimes when the promo comes out you get something that is not as in your face as the final product. So I sit down and get the volume of the stereo on like 5 or so and literally was almost knocked out of the chair. Now that’s a good effect to have on the listener. Anyways, what led to the name Beyond Fear because it’s very easy to find yourself as a performer of your status already to just put out “The Tim Owens Project” or “Ripper Band”.
Ripper: Yeah I agree and you know what it was probably thought of when John and I started it was that it was going to be called “Ripper” or “Rip”. I always liked “Rip” or something like that which was associated. Not “Ripper Owens Band” or “Rip” which I always thought was cool but then I thought that I didn’t want it to be that. I wanted it to be a band and that’s how it came out for this first record. Going forward it will probably be referred to as “Beyond Fear featuring Tim Ripper Owens” because obviously I was in Judas Priest and I’m the singer for Iced Earth and that has to be in there but it is still “Beyond Fear”. You look at the band photo and in the booklet which comes with the CD, which was important as well…..there are only pictures of me and none of the band (laughs).
KP: But John has such great pink hair (laughs….as he really does not)
Ripper: So you open it up and you see a picture of me, next page is a picture of Dennis, of John, a band photo and another. I’m not bigger than them and none of these things you would expect. It’s all from this book and the publicity that this is a band and I just thought that if I was a fan of music that I would want that. I would take it more seriously. I think that when you do solo stuff it comes across as a notch down or you always look at it a notch down. If I’m going to do a solo album it’s going to be something different. You know, I’m gonna make it uhm….Country (laughs).
KP: Ron Keel did that.
Ripper: But people do that you know but I didn’t want that for a second – I wanted it to be a band and I thought the label would work it harder if it was a band and people would look at it differently as a band. You know, we practice twice a week when we’re at home. We’ll get together for dinner and some beer and something like that. I haven’t practiced twice a week in fifteen years and it’s been a long time since I could go to a practice and have a couple of beers. Because now when I practice with Iced Earth or Judas Priest you fly everybody in from everywhere a week before you tour and you can’t drink during a rehearsal because you are doing this two or three times a week rehearsing your set or a day rehearsing your set. You take it serious. Now we practice you have a beer you relax and go through the set, ok it sounds good. It’s a nice feeling and that’s the whole band thing. If not I would just practice with myself. If it was just Tim Ripper Owens I would play with myself all the time (laughter)
Comprix: Or maybe you play with yourself too much, so there you go. (more laughs)
KP: So what does “Beyond Fear” actually mean. Is there any deep-rooted significance.
Comprix: WAYYYY beyond scared Dude!
Ripper: It’s funny because it seems like it has that but I did it because I liked it. I liked the way it looked and the way it sounded. It went well with the band. In Europe they are all like “sooooo is it etc etc”, and in a sense it is because I don’t have a fear of doing this project and putting it out there but it’ not why we did it. It’s kind of like “Scream Machine”, in Europe they say oh is the song kind of about you, are you coming to take over the town as the new Metal monster. No, it’s just about a silly screaming machine. I dunno, I’m not going to rip your heart out and eat your children. Just because I say I’m going to kill you and rip your heart out……..
KP: So how comfortable was it recording the album with the lineup and I mean everybody really kicks ass and it’s a great story on how you are using people from your history. It’s kind of like that movie, what was it called, “Rock Star”. Is this part two.
Ripper: Yeah this is “Rock Star” part two. We got all the guys together and had a good casual meeting over a couple of beers. Actually these giant 30 ounce things and some Mexican food and even at the first meeting it was what the band was about.
KP: Mexican food and beer, ok.
Comprix: Our bodies hate us now.
Ripper: Dennis probably drank half of them. He lives in a beer.
KP: You realize I’m going to type all of this out.
Comprix: That’s fine, he won’t care.
KP: It’s great to see Ohio showing such a force for Metal today.
Ripper: Well, you have Canton, Akron and Cleveland which is this line of where when you hear of a lot of acts coming out of Ohio they either come out of one of those three. We decided not to get anybody from Barberton which was foremost what we didn’t want to do, you know trailers and cars with no wheels but seriously overall it’s a great area of music. Dennis is the best bass player and not just the best bass player in our area but he is probably the best bass player I ever played with. So I probably couldn’t get any better musicians out of here than I could have anywhere.
Comprix: We were a lot cheaper also (laughs)
Ripper: Yes, and I decided to get the best playing, ugliest band that I could. I figure if I get a bunch of ugly guys and not pay them and their really good – it’s a win-win situation. (this is all laughter here)
KP: Ok, so the reason I was asking this was because here you are someone who has been doing this for years and you kind of destroyed the myth that you need to be in New York to make it or you need to be in Los Angeles to make it. You guys have really shown that areas that are not 100% known for putting this kind of stuff on the map are indeed possibilities. I feel you give a lot of hope to other musicians like yourselves from areas like this.
Ripper: Well look at Slipknot coming out of Iowa who would have thunk it.
Comprix: We have some pretty good bands, we have Mushroomhead, and we have Chimaira.
Ripper: I think it’s a different era. Obviously in the late 80’s and the early 90’s Seattle. The Eighties period, everybody had to move to L.A., it’s what was said even if it wasn’t true and all those guys that I know that moved to L.A. to make it are back in Ohio playing in local bands and all. A lot of them came close to making it though, Mark Matthews in Sweet F.A. who is an amazing musician.
KP: I remember them and loved that first CD of theirs.
Ripper: Yeah and then they lost the deal and that’s what happened to so many of them. Slammin’ Glady’s and all these bands there were so many of them that came close.
KP: You keep naming all these groups that I have in the CD collection.
Ripper: They came close and now it’s a different era. I mean I made it because someone found a video tape. Then I made Priest and it was lucky shot to make it. Now you don’t hear that, you don’t hear of the L.A. bands. You might have a New York hard core scene which is probably more popular than anything compared to the L.A. scene but now its just bands from everywhere. You don’t have to move anywhere, actually you have to move to Ohio.
KP: Yeah but you already put the band together so unless you are looking for backup guys.
Ripper: Well I’m just thinking that if anybody wants to get popular now, they can start the band up and move to Ohio. You know they tried that back in the day, when I was with Winter’s Bane, Massacre Records out of Germany tried to make a trend and get Cleveland bands and say there is a Seattle scene, well here is a Cleveland scene. We had “Spudmonster”, we had “Small Ritual”, “Winter’s Bane” and you had all these bands and you’re trying to get from the scene. They forgot that they didn’t pay the bands and screwed us but they tried to build it.
KP: How long did the material take to write?
Ripper: It’s really weird since it was spread out kind of and once we started going on a roll it seemed quicker but we had to spread things out a little bit and I think this was a great thing because that’s what made it have so much flavor in my opinion. You have songs that were written maybe a couple of years ago and that was it, only written. Then when we got on the road over the past year and a half it changed, I mean “Scream Machine”, “Words Of Wisdom” all the last songs. “My Last Words” which is different since it was still written at the end and it’s almost like the up-tempo songs started coming in at the end. And it was as those last three might have been the last ones that were written and they were fast and up-tempo songs.
Comprix: “Play My Game” was the oldest.
Ripper: Yes, “Play My Game” is the oldest and it’s not on it. That might be a bonus track somewhere on a bonus release with two extra songs. You heard it since you saw the shows, but all in all about a year and a half was when we really started writing it all. We were not even going to have ten tracks on it originally then it became, John do this, John try this. Or write me something that’s like this. He would come back and say “Oh I got something”, he actually wrote this one thing that’s not on it which will definitely be on the next record. It should have been on this one and if we didn’t have so many songs it could have. There was an acoustic song that he gave me and I put vocals to it and played it for Jim Morris and he loved it.
KP: One of the other aspects about this album that I had a question about was what made you settle, well not settle in the term it can be taken more as what made you decide on this brand of the genre. It’s very steeped in a traditional style yet it has a lot of the aggression of some of the newer bands. It’s not “Nu-Metal” but it’s a traditional based really Heavy Metal.
Ripper: You nailed it, that’s exactly what it is. We grew up listening to Maiden and Priest and Sabbath but we’re not stuck there. I can’t stand it when a band doesn’t have an open mind and they are stuck in that era. Those are some of the best albums ever but you have to move on, which is what I stressed to John. Hey tell him some of the Rap bands that influenced you.
Comprix: Uhmmmmm right!
Ripper: Here is how it goes, our influences are for me all the way from Black Sabbath to Judas Priest and him as well being a guitar player. You start venturing off into other stuff.
Comprix: I’ve said it a thousand times I’m a mess. I come from the Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio, Ozzy to the late eighties Thrash movement which is what I just loved to death. You know the Metallica, Kreator, Testament, Exodus but then I also love hard core too so I love Madball, Full Blown Chaos, Hatebreed so ya know I mean I love all that just the same. For me it is not just one genre, I love it all. I’m a Metal guy, I love Metal and I appreciate it all.
KP: You are really an excellent guitar player, are you ready to start taking some of the covers of these guitar magazines now. I feel you deserve it after this recording because people are going to here this and honestly folks know what they get with Ripper. He is simply one of the best Metal vocalists in the business, he had a pounding drummer and a solid bass player and here you are with some riffs on the guitar that make you say “Wow, where has this guy been”.
Comprix: Thanks, I really appreciate that.
Ripper: Yeah that’s why he is here in New York with me and I have said this all along that after people hear the record and see us on tour that the pieces will come more together and they’ll know that John and I have this thing together. Until that day comes because people haven’t heard it or seen it so they cant exactly feel it, so I said we have to get John to New York and start him talking to people now because it is going to happen anyway so why wait. The ball is going to start rolling really hard when it hits and whether it rolls over him and crushes him I dunno,.
KP: Once again the need for the backups in Ohio. So you reference that I know some of the material since I caught the band on the “Metal Insurgence Tour” . What kind of thoughts were going through your head with that because here you guys with this technically new band at the time. You’re playing with Chris Caffery and Jon Oliva and you’re presenting material that has not been recorded for anyone to know but you did it anyways. Now I remember being glued to the floor when you were on and I was trying to take some pictures of you and not have Ripper swat me because of the flash (Ripper and John laugh) I did sense it coming once or twice so I moved over where you were John.
Ripper: Well, it’s always scary with new stuff and it could be the same way with the Anthrax tour we are doing. I mean only 30-40% of the crowd is going to have it downloaded by then but it’s the kind of music that you can bring across without people hearing it before. Not everything is like that but this is and it’s basically “right there”. We don’t need smoke and mirrors because this music is right in your face and you can sing with stuff. I mean “Coming At You” they were all singing and they don’t even know it. Neither did I at but that’s because it is that kind of music. It’s heavy, choppy guitar groove music that is just there.
KP: I agree that it is very “live” stuff and that showed very early.
Ripper: Well we play it well and we’re tight and there’s a big difference between when we played that loose and when it was tight. It is a debacle, but we practiced and rehearsed it all. We didn’t fly everybody together for that tour or for the first gig, we didn’t do things like that. We didn’t sit there and try to get together. We rehearsed songs and think you can tell. I mean we weren’t sure that particular show you were at was going to go on because the place was a disaster. I mean the P.A. was as big as my ass and it really was. We took a picture with my ass next to it and the soundboard was as big as my ass.
Comprix: It was the biggest board I ever did see (laughs)
Ripper: And there was a light bulb hanging there and they said the power supply wasn’t good enough for everybody’s stuff. So I said “well, we’ll play” , because you guys think this is a nightmare, well we got the kind of music that we will just set our amps up and we will have it come through and just do it. When we had gotten set up, the other bands came around and said alright we’ll do it. It wasn’t like it sounds as oh Tim is going to do it so we will, but it’s like we can do it. It might not have all the frills and stuff but overall it ended up with everybody sounding great that night.
KP: Yes despite the number of dreadful conditions around that show and everyone who wrote about it said the same thing. Chris commented on it, my own work and so on that despite all this everyone shined through. The bands all came through in the end because you’re not always going to play a great place and sometimes everything that can go wrong does.
Ripper: Yeah it was a good night, despite all the “Angel Of Retribution” record being played before I came on stage. I was like what are they fucking doing man I mean I am on two Priest records and an Iced Earth one and I mean its fine to play it but come on, I am going on stage to the new Judas Priest record. (Ripper belts out the “Judas Is Rising” line)
KP: Hey at least we know he can still fill in if need be.
Ripper: Yeah but the pay will need to go up now.
KP: So the touring that you are talking about is going to be with you and the reunited Anthrax lineup, have you managed to catch any of their shows yet to gauge an idea how it can go.
Ripper: No, I haven’t because they never came through our area, they came to Columbus.
KP: It’s been impressive and when I caught them I was thrown back to the time when that material was at its strongest. It seemed like everyone around me also enjoyed themselves.
Ripper: I’m excited because I toured with Anthrax when I was in Judas Priest and they had John Bush on vocals. I am a giant fan of Anthrax with John Bush but I’m also a giant fan of Anthrax with Joey Belladonna. So I grew up with A.I.R. and I am a big fan. Good stuff but then you have Anthrax with “Only” and “Black Lodge” and all this other great shit that they had with John Bush. Two totally different singers you know, and if you could mix those two together you would have one of the best singers in the history of Metal.
KP: My personal view on what might work on this tour is because the new record is so steeped in traditional Metal and your touring with Anthrax who are revisiting this 1986 era material. Of course they’re older and more seasoned now but listening to those songs brings you back. So I think your material will appeal to the audience since they are already in that mind set.
Ripper: I think it’s a perfect combination and I can’t wait. The tour is set to run through all of April in Europe so if you start rowing that boat across now you will be there in time for the shows. Like I said this is a whole tour of people not knowing the material because the record is not out yet, but on the other hand this is one of the best promo tours you could ever have hoped for. The album hits on 5/9/2006 in US and 5/11/2006 in Europe. We don’t know officially of any touring possibilities for the US right now but hopefully it will be a little better than the last one we did here.
KP: Who would you want to tour with if you had to pick an artist.
Ripper: Well if I had the chance to pick it out I would still love to tour with Oliva and Caffery because how great was that setup. Great music, great guys, great bands. Watching them all every night was a blast. Of course I would pick just about anybody but I would rather pick someone who is going to bring in ten-fifteen thousand people. So maybe we need to open up for Celine Dion because I don’t know who draws that otherwise nowadays. We can go on the American Idol tour perhaps (laughs).
KP: Ozzfest perhaps? Or even Gigantour?
Ripper: Our management is run by Wendy Dio so I don’t think Ozzfest would happen. Gigantour would be good and we would love to do it and she is working on all that stuff right now. Essentially though, we will go on any tour that our Management can get us that is worth us doing. We don’t want to do a tour where the main band draws 500 people we want to make sure it is a good tour.
KP: Does Beyond Fear’s existence now pose some issue to working in Iced Earth?
Ripper: If it’s done right it shouldn’t. John’s writing and working on stuff for the new record. Because once Iced Earth gets up and rolling again everyone knows that I do Iced Earth. When it is not touring then I focus on Beyond Fear. The next time we do Beyond Fear it will be a lot more touring and I would imagine all Summer if possible. The label knew this and if they had put it out a month earlier like I wanted them to we would have had a month more touring to do. Or we could have done the Anthrax tour and the album would be available for the audience. Yet it was pushed back, but there is no problem because it’s great that you can get out there. It’s great for Beyond Fear for when I get out there with Iced Earth I am playing for a lot more people and that many more will be able to know about what we are doing in Beyond Fear.
KP: You said there is also enough material for a 2nd album already.
Comprix: Well, nothing finished but all I do all day is sit and come up with riffs.
Ripper: I told him start throwing some ideas around with verses and choruses like we did for the first album. Even when I go on the road now I can just take a CD and listen to it; especially if I have my laptop with me. I can always put a vocal line down whether I am whispering or not. I can capture the ideas I have right then and there. As a matter of fact I was on vacation when I wrote either “Words Of Wisdom” or “Scream Machine” because I had my laptop with me. I did all my vocals in the bedroom and then it all comes together. That’s why when Iced Earth gets done, we will already have some stuff to work on.
KP: I guess my last question will be what your hopes are for Beyond Fear in this state of Metal we find in the world today.
Ripper: To survive, yeah and to take it one step at a time. I mean this is such a great record and we want to get it out there and to headline stuff. I think the other big thought is to be accepted. I mean I hate the idea of having to hunt people down and kill them and that’s really what ends up starting. It’s a whole foreign death type of music where they actually kill people onstage. Bring them on stage and do sacrifices.
KP: Remember we rated 9/10.
Ripper: Well you don’t meet the requirement then because you are one of the providers. That’s one of the nice things about you.
KP: I guess I am “Beyond Fear” (ouch…corny).
Ripper: John what’s your idea on that.
Comprix: I want this album to appeal to people who really love Metal again. The people that used to love the music that had more than one riff in it. None of the battering the low E string all the time. Back to singing again where you can actually put in the disk and hear the words and know what someone is saying. So that’s it because of the amount of Heavy music that is popular right now that they still love good old Metal. I listen to so many classic legends in the music like Motorhead, Dio and that brotherhood is what I want to listen to us. The same person that plays these guys I want to be able to have them put in the CD of Beyond Fear and say oh man this is kick ass and appreciate it for what it is.
Ripper: That’s the Metal fan there when you have someone who listens to all those bands it goes in a kind of line, Motorhead, Slayer, Dio, Iron Maiden…..it doesn’t veer off and go to Poison, Slaughter etc.
Comprix: I want it to also appeal to those who like guitar playing and singing and essentially those who just want to hear it.
KP: Make sure you get Beyond Fear guitar picks because I have a feeling the kids are going to be starving for them when you play.
Comprix: I have them ready to go.
KP: Guys thanks for the time and once again best of luck on the debut release for the band.
After the interview the group of us left Times Square for some adventuring into Greenwich Village for dinner and drinks. Several slices of pizza and a couple of beers later led to a great bunch of other stories from Ripper and John. Sorry, we can’t post them here since it’s not part of the interview we conducted. Watch for the album and find the Metal once again; “Beyond Fear”, the self-titled debut is available on SPV Records in May all around the World. Do you feel it, it’s coming at you.
Official Website: http://www.timripperowens.com