Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
>Judas Priest's New Lead Singer, Ripper Owens
MAN OF STEEL
THREE YEARS AGO, TIM "Ripper" Owens was working as a purchasing agent at an Akron law firm by day and acting out his heavy-metal fantasies each night. "They called me Clark Kent," Owens says of his bosses, who tolerated his gig-by-moonlight singing of Judas Priest songs for a heavy-metal cover band called British Steel. "They said I would come into work and look all nice, and then I would go out and show off my tattoos."
Now, after 10 years spent imitating Judas Priest—he liked the notorious British metal band so much, he had the group's emblem tattooed on his arm in 1991—Owens is a member of the real Judas Priest and the featured vocalist on their latest album, Jugulator (CMC International). Obsessed with the band ever since he first heard their 1982 LP Screaming for Vengeance, the 30-year-old, divorced father of one made the unlikely leap from wannabe to genuine article after a pair of Rochester, N.Y., fans offered to send a homemade video of British Steel to an acquaintance, Priest drummer Scott Travis. He and fellow members Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing were searching for a singer, the fans said, to replace vocalist Rob Halford, who quit the group in 1992. In February 1996, Owens received a call from Tipton, inviting him to London for an audition. "He sang one verse of 'Victim of Changes,' and we knew immediately we'd got our man," Tipton asserts.
At the same time, Owens, who now commutes to London and will lead the group on a world tour beginning in February, earned his new Priestly name. "In the audition, they said, 'What do you want to sing?' and I said, 'Let's do "The Ripper." ' That was always my favorite song. After that, everybody started calling me Ripper."
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