During a recent appearance on the “Who’s Your Band?” podcast, former JUDAS PRIEST singer Tim “Ripper” Owens was asked how long it took him, after he joined the legendary British heavy metal legends, to feel comfortable enough to voice his opinion when he disagreed with how they went about doing certain things. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Well, I mean, I don’t know if I’d ever really do that, just because it was JUDAS PRIEST. These guys have done it for so long. I always gave them the respect of who they were. Who am I to tell them [what to do] at times?
“It was a really funny thing. When we first started rehearsing… We would rehearse… This is hilarious. I remember Glenn [Tipton, guitar] and Ken [K.K. Downing, guitar], they’d go, ‘Hey, Tim, is this right?’ Because they hadn’t played songs in so long that they knew that I probably knew ’em. They would be, like, ‘Is that part right? Are we doing that right?’ It was really funny.
“But I went with the flow on… I know I got in some talks with them about what I should wear and stuff towards the very end,” he recalled. “Of course, then I was fired right after that. But I would talk to them about, ‘I don’t know if I wanna wear that jacket. That’s not my thing. I’ve gotta be me.’ But they treated me so good, everything felt natural. So if I really had to say something, I could say it without feeling like I was stepping on toes. But on purpose I would sit back and just be, like, ‘I’ll let these guys call the shots.’ I mean, they got here for a reason. I sat back and learned from ’em — let’s put it that way. I sat back, and what they did, whether I thought it was right or wrong… If they did something I thought was wrong, I would learn… I don’t know if that was the right move. Turning down Ozzfest. Turning down touring with [IRON] MAIDEN. Just little things at the time I thought might have been some bad moves. But 99.9 percent of the things I learned off of them was good and positive and helped me out in my career.”
Owens joined PRIEST in 1996 and recorded two studio albums with the band — 1997’s “Jugulator” and 2001’s “Demolition” — before PRIEST reunited with Rob Halford in 2003.
Two and a half years ago, Halford said that he would love to see PRIEST join forces with MAIDEN for a tour. “I think both bands would look to do that,” he told Consequence Of Sound. “It’s all about the timing of doing such a thing. We’re good friends.”
He added: “When we talk about rivalry, healthy rivalry, it’s like the Arizona Cardinals and the Raiders or the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. It’s that kind of rivalry, a good rivalry. It’s a fun rivalry. But I think both bands have admired each other throughout the metal years, and it would be a spectacular event — PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN together.”
In 2018, Downing told SiriusXM‘s Eddie Trunk that the contentious rivalry between PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN developed when the two bands toured together in the early 1980s. “We’d just finished the ‘British Steel’ record in England, and we were going out on tour [in early 1980 with IRON MAIDEN],” he recalled. “And then the next thing I know, I read in a music paper that [IRON MAIDEN said] something like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna blow the bollocks off PRIEST,’ or something like that. And I went, ‘What the hell is this shit?’ We were still in the recording studio, tidying up the last mixes or something. And I said, ‘Well, who are these guys?’ Why should we have [them] on tour if they’re gonna create this type of vibe before we’ve even met them, let alone done a show together?’ I said, ‘Let’s get rid of them and get somebody that really appreciates the gig,’ of which there would have been an awful lot of bands. But anyway, everybody talked me into going with it, and I said, ‘Well, fine,’ obviously being democratic. And the next thing I know, we were at the rehearsals at some theater in London somewhere, and this bunch of guys walked in and just sat down in front of me. And I said to my guitar tech, ‘Who are those dudes there?’ [Laughs] And he went, ‘Oh, that’s the support band.’ And I said, ‘Well, who the hell invited them into our rehearsal?’ I was thinking about what I read in the papers. And I said, ‘Well, just go and tell them that they weren’t invited and they need to leave.’ I didn’t see an invite; nobody told me they were coming in — when you’re trying to work out songs and this and that and the other. So that’s what happened.”
Downing continued: “Anyway, we went on tour [together], and can I just say they didn’t blow the bollocks off JUDAS PRIEST — we were pretty well established at the time, and those guys were coming up through the ranks. So that happened. But it wasn’t a good atmosphere on the tour, and it’s not something I like to have happen — it shouldn’t be that way. And next thing I know, somebody [said], ‘Oh, IRON MAIDEN is opening up for you on their first U.S. tour [in 1981].’ And I went, ‘Oh, no! Not again. Can we just not have those guys on [the tour]?’ But they came on the tour [anyway], and they created upsets, is what they did, for different reasons and it led to a confrontation and it got a bit ugly. I don’t know how it all happened, but I did meet [former IRON MAIDEN singer] Paul Di’Anno so many years later, in about 1995, and he said, ‘Hey, K.K., we’re sorry about that quote in the paper.’ And that’s all you need.
“But, anyway, like I said, it’s all water under the bridge,” K.K. added. “Those guys were young, coming up through the ranks, a bit delinquent, but at least they had balls, they got on with it, they knew what they wanted to do.”
In his autobiography, Di’Anno claimed that he was the main reason old feelings of rivalry existed between MAIDEN and PRIEST during the early 1980s — something that Downing later denied. “Paul apologized personally to me — what a great gesture,” K.K. told Rock Hard magazine in a 2003 interview. “But he wasn’t the main reason for the rivalry. At the time of ‘British Steel’, PRIEST was the bigger band and MAIDEN was the supporting act. They were saying that they [would] blow us off the stage without any problem — well, I thought their behavior wasn’t very nice. I’d have loved to send them home to take another band with us, [one] who would have appreciated the chance. But we were told not to do it as it would have looked like we were frightened by them. So we kept on going… but they were very arrogant. And I remember the main rehearsal before the tour when there were a few guys hanging around in the room who didn’t say a word and watched everything we did — every step we made and every move of the stage lights. I wasn’t very pleased and asked the guitar tech to tell the guys to leave the place. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not too good not to play in front of the supporting band — but they could have asked, at least, if it was okay to attend the rehearsal. We went on tour and they didn’t blow us off the stage, of course. I watched quite a lot of the MAIDEN shows, but the reaction of the audience wasn’t very explosive — because the fans were waiting for us. Okay, MAIDEN became one of the biggest bands of the metal scene — and I’m proud of them. We made a big mistake by focusing more on the U.S. than on Europe after releasing ‘British Steel’. [I mean], we lost a lot of attention at home. In the U.S., we were quite big — and MAIDEN asked us for a support slot on our U.S. tour. We said yes — and the same old story happened again. It had a lot to do with rivalry and jealousy.”
When asked what he would say to Harris if they bumped into each other, K.K. told Rock Hard: “I’d buy him a beer — because it’s an old story. Like I already said, I’m proud of what MAIDEN achieved and of what they did for the British metal. It might sound stupid — but it’s true.”
Owens is currently in a new band called KK’S PRIEST with Downing, along with guitarist A.J. Mills (HOSTILE), bassist Tony Newton (VOODOO SIX) and drummer Sean Elg (DEATHRIDERS, CAGE).
KK’S PRIEST‘s debut album, “Sermons Of The Sinner”, was released on in October via Explorer1 Music Group/EX1 Records.