Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens of KK’s Priest talks about the expanded scope of ‘The Sinner Rides Again,’ growing up around metal in Ohio, and building the perfect setlist

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOUB) – Founding guitarist of Judas Priest, K.K. Downing, has had a long and storied career of heavy metal greatness.

He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and contributed to Judas Priest’s most iconic run of albums in the ’80s and early ’90s. K.K. left Judas Priest in 2011, in an official statement citing  “…an ongoing breakdown in the working relationship between myself, elements of the band, and the band’s management for some time.”

After the departure, K.K. formed his own band, KK’s Priest, to continue making the classic heavy metal that made him an icon. He’s joined by Tim “Ripper” Owens who was briefly the lead singer for Judas Priest from 1996-2003 and released two albums with the band, Juggulator and Demolition.

KK’s Priest put out their first record in 2021, Sermons of the Sinner, quickly followed up with 2023’s The Sinner Rides Again. With callbacks to K.K.’s history and a continuation of the lightning-fast classic metal sound, KK’s Priest has quickly grown in popularity, proven by the multiple sold-out shows across their inaugural tour of the United States.

That tour comes to the King of Clubs (6252 Busch Blvd) Saturday. Find more information, as well as a full list of tour dates, on the band’s website.

WOUB’s Nicholas Kobe interviewed KK’s Priest vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. Find a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity, below. 

An image of KK's Priest performing on stage in a rock show environment.
KK’s Priest. [Photo by Sam Singer]
Nicholas Kobe: How would you described KK’s Priest in one sentence?

Tim Owens: Pure metal. What we do on record is what we do live.

Last year the band released The Sinner Rides Again. Now that some time has passed since recording and releasing that album, how do you feel about that record?

Owens: It’s a great record. I like it better than the first album [Sermons of the Sinner] for different reasons. I think it’s a little darker and a little heavier, but it’s got great songs. You can tell because they go over so well live. Being a new band – although K.K. and I have a history – but putting these records out, it is just amazing watching the fans sing them as we go along.

Speaking of your history with K.K., could you point to any differences in your experience working with him in the context of KK’s Priest as compared to the time you spent working together in Judas Priest?

Owens: Well, it’s just really no different. We’ve always been great friends and it’s just nice to be around him again. He’s super nice to everybody. It’s nice to be on stage with him, and look over and have him to my right all the time – everything’s so natural. It was natural when I was in Judas Priest, and it’s even more natural now. We’re doing our thing and it’s great.

Were there any key differences in how you approached recording The Sinner Rides Again as compared to Sermons of the Sinner? 

Owens: Well, a big thing was that I recorded the vocals [for The Sinner Rides Again] at home. I had more time to live with them. When I record at home, I can attack something and then I can take a break from it, and do it again. Not that I can’t do that in the studio – and it’s easy to record with Kenneth [K.K.] in the studio, but I’m so used to recording at home now. I think it lets me put more character and different voices into the songs, things I might not have done if I were in the studio. So I think that’s the big difference.

How has the U.S. tour been so far? 

Owens: Touring the States is great. The crowds are just as good as anywhere else in the world. We’re going to have five sellouts so far, Columbus, OH being one of ’em. Hopefully, Cleveland will sell out, but we’ve got an awful big venue there to sell out. I mean, the shows have been amazing and the crowds have been amazing – and LA Guns and Burning Witches have been fantastic every night and the people are enjoying it.

Absolutely. Speaking of location, I understand that you’re from Ohio originally.

Owens: Yes, I still live in the Akron area. I’ve never moved. I’ve been here my whole life.

What about Ohio, or the Greater Akron area in particular, has kind of shaped your musical identity or your relationship with metal?

Owens: I mean, I grew up with all the metal and rock that everybody grew up with in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s just a great area for musicians, we’ve got so many talented musicians, both local ones and ones that have gone on to make it. It’s just a great scene. It’s always been a great scene. Times are a little different, but it’s a great scene. I talked them into putting Cleveland on the bill and at first it was the worst-selling show, so I was like, “Well, of course, it’s the biggest venue and the worst-selling show.” But – I have all these people in Ohio that are always wanting me to play Ohio. So now’s their time to come out and support.

Yeah, absolutely. Looking at the tour’s setlist so far, there’s a mix of new and old stuff. Do you have any particular philosophy behind what tracks you choose to put on a set list and why?

Owens: Well, I think a lot of this setlist was originally put together for the festivals last summer. We will probably put more of my Judas Priest-era songs in the set eventually. Obviously we’re going to be playing more KK’s Priest songs coming up, but right now we’re still playing off of that set list. When you make a festival setlist, you have to try to do it for a wider audience because a lot of the festival crowds aren’t there for you. You’ve got to make a setlist that’s got a little bit of everything.

Some people complain that they don’t want to hear Breaking the Law again; and to be honest, I don’t want to hear Breaking the Law either, but when you’re on stage and you play that song, and you see the reaction of the crowd? That’s what’s funny, the diehard KK Priest fans and Judas Priest fans, they’re sick of that song, but the weirdest thing is that when you’re on stage and you go into that song, the people, in general, just go crazy. So you have to make a setlist that’s going to make everybody happy. We’re doing half K.K.’s Priest songs and half classic Priest songs that K.K. wrote.

You were just touching on it, about your two records with Judas Priest and incorporating that more into the set list. How do you look back on those records, especially within the context of KK’S Priest?

Owens: Well, they were great records and it’s funny, one of the biggest complaints I seem to get from fans is that they want to hear more of my Judas Priest-era songs. I think one song that will go in the set in the future is One-on-One, which is one of my favorites off Demolition. It’s a great fit for everything and it’s nice that the fans want to hear those songs.

What’s next for KK’s Priest? 

Owens: Well, right now we’re just touring. The rest of this year is basically on the road. I think we’ve got some of April off, and then from there on we’re pretty much chockablock full of touring – and so that’s – right now – what we’ve got coming up in the future.