Judas Priest's Real-Life Rock Star


Ripper Owens' life is the stuff of movies . . . well, sort of
Posted Sep 20, 2001 at 12:00am
Quick synopsis of the current hit movie Rock Star, which stars a long-haired, Eighties-looking Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston: Wahlberg plays the lead singer of a cover band that he forms to pay tribute to his favorite group, Steel Dragon. Through twists of fate, he becomes the lead singer of the real Steel Dragon.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. It's based on a well-publicized New York Times article about Ripper Owens, an Akron, Ohio singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who, in 1996, was selected to be the new lead singer of the heavy metal legends. But that's where the similarities end.

In Rock Star, Wahlberg's character trashes hotel rooms, rides a motorcycle though a hallway and drinks up a storm -- in short, lives the rock-star lifestyle. That couldn't be further from Owens, who has short hair, plays golf -- he's a ten handicap -- gets excited about having coffee with Megadeth, and is close to his family members, who were the first ones he told about getting the Priest gig. The story, as he tells it: "I get off the plane in Cleveland the day after I got the job, and I handed my mom an autographed picture that I signed too and I said, 'Mom, this is Judas Priest's autograph.' She said, 'Maybe some day it will be.' I said, 'No, this is it. This is the band. This is all of them.' She started crying."

Considering the differences between himself and his cinema "alter-ego," it's little wonder that Owens wants to distance himself from the production. "We have nothing to do with it," he says. But he wouldn't object if someone wanted to make the real story. "I think it would be more interesting if someone would buy it and make a real movie, because it's a very interesting story about a normal person -- not the rock & roll cliches of sex, drugs, rock & roll," he says. "It's unfortunate they have to make it Hollywood though, because what's better than having a guy who lives in the same town he grew up in and has the same friends and actually gets married?"

However, Owens confesses that the scene in which Wahlberg can't contain a smile at a photo shoot rings true for him, because -- after five years, two albums and multiple tours with Priest -- he still can't mask his wonderment about being the lead singer of his favorite band.

With the release of the band's new album, Demolition, it's becoming more real though. "This album was written for my voice this time," he says proudly. After hooking up with the group, he and the rest of the band went straight into recording 1997's Juggulator, an album that was written for someone who could sing in the Priest style, but not necessarily Owens. "After doing the Juggulator album, [guitarists/songwriters Glenn Tipton and KK Downing] knew what they had to work with, which is the main thing that's different."

Tipton and Downing were able to tap into Owens' self-professed love for diversity; Demolition covers an array of styles, from the opening speed metal tracks to the ballads "Lost and Found" and "Close to You." For Tipton, who produced a Priest album for the first time with Demolition, the role of producer brought him a special kinship with this record. "This album is very near to my heart," he says.

An eloquent Englishman with a profound love for music and a soft-spoken nature that belies his twenty-five years in the gruff world of heavy metal, Tipton has been through the highs and lows. After years of headlining arenas around the world, playing to crowds of tens of thousands, Tipton is more interested in the process of making the album. "We had fun making this album," he says. "That's the most important thing to me. That and we can be proud of the fact we made a Judas Priest album."

For the fun, he credits Owens, whose enthusiasm is contagious. "Ripper brings young blood into the band," Tipton says, "and it shows on stage. He loves being up there performing for people."

What does Owens feel he brings to the band? "Obviously, I bring looks," he says, laughing. "Seriously though, I bring an aggressive stage presence. Also, I bring humor."

After a quarter of a century of defending the hard rock faith, Judas Priest are having fun and even laughing, the difficulties with ex-lead singers and lawsuits a thing of the past. That's a story even Hollywood couldn't come up with, but it's something people are paying to see.

Written by STEVE BALTIN for RollingStone.com News

Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Arch Enemy Premiere Cover of Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” — Listen (10/23/2014)
Arch Enemy and Kreator have teamed up for a North American tour that kicks off tonight (October 23) in Baltimore. The bands are commemorating the tour with a limited edition split 7-inch single. Side A will be Arch Enemy’s version of Judas Pries...
Judas Priest's Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner Talk New Album, 'Redeemer of Souls' (7/30/2014)
This is an excerpt from the September 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Dan Auerbach's off-beat guitars, Eric Clapton and his new J.J. Cale tribute album, 17 Amazing practice amps, columns, tabs and reviews...
Judas Priest Premiere New Song, "Redeemer of Souls" — Listen Now (4/28/2014)
Are you ready for some new Judas Priest? The legendary U.K. metal band have unveiled several details about their upcoming studio album (their 17th), Redeemer of Souls. You can check out the album art — and stream the title track — below. Be sure...
Greatest Rock Singers of All Time Readers Poll, Round 1: Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) Vs. Rob Halford (Judas Priest) (9/24/2013)
Why should guitarists have all the fun? Today, GuitarWorld.com is launching a new poll in partnership with Samson — the Greatest Rock Singers of All Time! We're certain that, even though our core readership is mainly made up of guitarists from d...
Hear Isolated Guitar Solos from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," Deep Purple's "Highway Star," Judas Priest's "Painkiller," Metallica's "Fade to Black" and More (9/5/2013)
Below, check out the isolated guitar parts from Brian May's solo on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Ritchie Blackmore's solo on Deep Purple's "Highway Star." But wait, there's more! If you keep listening to the playlist, you'll hear several mor...
Judas Priest Guitarist Richie Faulkner Talks Gear and 'Epitath' DVD: "It Wasn’t the Last Tour" (5/23/2013)
Since joining Judas Priest in 2010, Richie Faulkner has been no stranger to the big stage. He made his live debut with the band on American Idol, played countless shows on Priest’s Epitaph tour and witnessed the debut of Priest’s Epitaph concer...
Judas Priest's Rob Halford talks Epitaph DVD, new album, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (5/14/2013)
Read more about Judas Priest's Rob Halford talks Epitaph DVD, new album, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame at MusicRadar.com Rob Halford has viewed his own image plenty of times on video screens through the years, but the release of Judas Priest's new ...
Video: Judas Priest Release Trailer for 'Epitath' DVD/Blu-Ray (4/18/2013)
Judas Priest will celebrate their 40th year as recording artists May 28 with the release of Epitath, a new live DVD and Blu-ray. The release, which precedes a new studio album by the band (The guys are reportedly hard at work at the moment), wil...
New Judas Priest Live DVD Coming May 28 (4/3/2013)
Judas Priest celebrate their 40th year as recording artists this year with the release of the live concert Epitaph. A unique live career retrospective, Epitaph will be released on Blu-ray and separate DVD on May 28 through Legacy Recordings, a...
Members of Judas Priest, Dream Theater, Deep Purple and More to Appear on New Who Tribute Album (9/14/2012)
Members of Judas Priest, Dream Theater, Deep Purple, Mountain, Def Leppard, Yes, Asia and more are scheduled to appear on Who Are You: An All Star Tribute to The Who, which will be released October 2 via Cleopatra Records. The compilation album ...
Interview: Rob Halford on the 30th Anniversary of Judas Priest's 'Screaming for Vengeance' (9/6/2012)
When Judas Priest convened at Ibiza Sound Studios in Ibiza, Spain, to record the follow-up to the previous year's Point of Entry in early 1982, the band were not yet the heavy metal juggernaut that would play to more than 300,000 fans just over ...
Judas Priest to Release 30th Anniversary Edition of 'Screaming for Vengeance' with Live 1983 US Festival DVD (7/20/2012)
Judas Priest will release a special 30th-anniversary edition of their 1982 album, Screaming For Vengeance, on September 4. This new special edition will contain re-mastered and bonus tracks, plus a live DVD from the May 29, 1983, US Festival sho...