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Heavy Metal outfit HAIL! is one act that’s not to be missed at this year’s G-Taranaki. Frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens has a highly impressive Heavy Metal CV having been a member of bands such as JUDAS PRIEST, BEYOND FEAR, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN and ICED EARTH. HAIL! sees Ripper united with some of the Rock world’s finest and for G-Taranaki the band boasts a special line-up comprising Tony MacAlpine (guitar), Tony Franklin (bass) and Scott Travis (drums). NZRock caught up with Ripper to find out more about the band and its debut New Zealand performance…

G-Taranaki is just around the corner! Have you ever been to New Zealand before and are you going to have time to take a look around as well as kick some ass with HAIL! when you’re here?

Well hello there!!! I haven’t been there yet… really unbelievable, I mean it seems in my music career I have been everywhere! I would love to look around a bit, but it depends on how my voice feels, I have always been one to worry about my voice and my performance! But really looking forward to the show. And my friends and myself will kick ass for sure

The HAIL! line-up visiting New Zealand is different to the one you’ve toured with recently. It’s exciting that we’re going to witness something unique at G-Taranaki. How’d this line-up get chosen?

Yea… Strange that we called it HAIL! haha! I mean this is like HAIL!, it is a SUPER GROUP… so freaking strong. The core of HAIL! is Andreas Kisser (SEPULTURA) and David Ellefson (MEGADETH) and our Manager Mark Abbattista but we have a lineup change because only Abba and I can make it LOL! So in the HAIL! spirit we called some friends and made it happen, and I got a say it is gonna be great. You guys are really getting something special that no one else is ever gonna get.

Your press release for G-Taranaki says “We want to keep it fun, exciting and unpredictable but still in a consistent way that is characteristically HAIL! and in doing that we have a very special treat planned up for the wonderful people of New Zealand.” I’m sure it’s top secret, but can you give us any clues about what you’ve got planned for this show?

Yea, our manager is gonna dress up as Paul Stanley and sing Love Gun all night and tell stories of Life and RnR!! haha! Really I cant say anything, but we got a few new tunes in there and a few GREAT surprises in store for you all.

Everyone in HAIL! also has other projects in the background, like you have CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED and Tony MacAlpine has SEVEN THE HARDWAY. Has this special line-up had a chance to jam prior to G-Taranaki or will you rehearse most of the material individually before the show?

Well not sure… we all could just get up there and do it, but I think it would be great to rehearse the day before, just to make sure we are all on the same page! I mean I tour solo most of the year and have a different set list with every tour. Then I tour with Hail (Which is a lot as well) and we change the set list! Then I did Charred walls and some Yngwie Shows….SO I cant remember what set I am doing..hahahha So a rehearsal would be great!

You’ve just done a run of shows with CHARRED WALLS OF THE DAMNED in Canada and the US. What was the response like being the first tour for the band? And how was the grand finale with DREAM THEATER?

It was real good. It is harder when you are touring with a new band and a new cd and that is what you are playing, HAIL! shows and my solo shows are much easier to work crowds… And the last show was great and great to See Mike P. But I really was fried at that point, my voice was shot, it was the 6th in a row and the last show so it was a shame that i stunk it up haha!

Condolences on the loss of HAIL! bassist Paul Gray in May. How were you able to get James LoMenzo to help out with bass duties at such short notice?

Thanks, it was a sad loss, he was a great guy and I feel for all is family and friends. Well James was availible with him leaving Megadeth and we had talked with him before about doing HAIL!, so in this tragedy, we where able to call him and he came and saved the day, and what a blast we had.

David Ellefson was your bassist prior to Paul, what were your first thoughts when he told you that he was re-joining MEGADETH and were you concerned about finding a suitable recplacement at all?

Well I think David is still with HAIL! IF he is available, if not then we get someone else…I love David and Jamming with him and look forward to more HAIL! stuff

You released the album ‘Play My Game’ last year. I really dig the monster riffs on tracks like ‘Believe’ and ‘It Is Me’. When did you write these songs and what was the inspiration behind them?

Thanks, I loved doing the cd and had some great players on it. Those songs I wrote at different times, It is me I wrote when writing for Beyond Fear but decided to keep it for a solo cd and Believe I wrote for the solo cd and really that tune is just saying believe in yourself, you can do anything you want. I like to write songs about everything from personal stuff to everything else!

You’ve said before that you like to be as broad as possible when it comes to the topics covered in your lyrics. Even with so many things to write about have you ever had writers block?

Oh yea I do, so I pick up the paper or get on the web and think of something. But we got so much shit going on in the world that there is always something to write about, if not, then it looks like it is a monster or car time hahaha!

With so many people involved in the album’s creation what measures did you have to take to keep the overall sound of the recordings from varying?

It was mostly me making the decisions..for good or bad!! hahaha I would have liked to do things a bit different but that is life.

I read somewhere that you had worked on material with Andreas Kisser but he wasn’t able to record it for the album because of other commitments. Is there any chance that you’ll get into the studio and record that music in future?

Well I wanted him on the CD, but I asked him last minute, I wanted to have him on the title track, Play My Game, but he was going on tour. We do want to do something someday, I just love his playing! But I got Neil Zaza on the track and he is just a great player and a friend as well.

Having released the album are there still any other musicians that you’re keen to collaborate with?

Oh yea, I’d love to work with Scott Ian and I’d love to work with Tony Iommi. But you gotta look at my resume. I think I have worked with everyone!

Looking back over your career what are your proudest moments to date and what are some of your favorite pieces of music that you’ve ever created or participated in?

Well I am proud of my JUDAS PRIEST time… great friends great CDs and great times. The 98 Grammy nomination was great, but I love my BEYOND FEAR and solo CD, I mean it is me writing the tunes and putting myself in it.

You probably get asked about this all the time but I didnt realize that the movie Rockstar was inspired by the story of you being recruited by JUDAS PRIEST. What’d you think of the movie and did it help increase your respect in the industry? (As a side note, Myles Kennedy (ALTER BRIDGE) who played the character Thor in that movie will be performing at G-Taranaki too so you’ll be able to hit him up about it haha!)

Well It was loosely based on a New York Times story about me… then Priest didn’t care for the direction and pulled away from it. I wish we didn’t so I could have made some money haha! I didn’t care for it that much, loved the people in it, like Wallberg and stuff but the music was lame and the direction was lame! But I am honored and now a movie would be much better. What a life I have had and now in the movie there would be a movie being made haha!

Few vocalists in Metal can say they’ve had as much vocal experience as yourself. When did you discover your talent for singing and what steps did you take in order to progress with it?

Pretty young… singing in choir and singing to my metal favorites. Just something I was born with and then worked on it to make it better (and I still do). But I wish I was born to be a Brain surgeon or the best golfer in the world haha!

Is there anything you’d like to say to the people of New Zealand who are eagerly awaiting HAIL!’s debut performance?

You better be ready for a good time and a few laughs and a few pints! I cant wait.. Also check out my sites for up to date info on me and some great merch like T Shirts and Baseball hats and autographed stuff. Check out the links below…