Most Iced Earth fans probably expected that the band would leave Century Media Records at the end of 2002 but few could have predicted that Matthew Barlow, the band's voice since 1995's deliciously angry Burnt Offerings outing, would depart not only from the band but from the music industry as a whole. And fans probably never thought he'd be replaced with a veteran of Tim Owens's caliber.
Although Barlow had recorded the vocals for the band's first album with its new label (SPV), The Glorious Burden it became, according to reports, quite clear that his heart was no longer in music. Barlow exited the band.
Schaffer invited Owens, then still very much a member of Judas Priest, to complete the album's vocals. Owens agreed but didn't become a member of Iced Earth until after former Priest frontman Rob Halford rejoined that band. With everything ending well, Schaffer, Owens and the other members of Iced Earth now stand ready to release The Glorious Burden, an album that promises to stand as one more Iced Earth classic, joining the ranks of Alive In Athens and Horror Show.
Including the 32-minute epic "Gettysburg (1863)," chronicling the famous battle from the American Civil War, the album has already received strong reviews from several publications and promises to give listeners exactly what they've come to expect from Iced Earth: quality metal played with passion and integrity.
Jedd Beaudoin caught up with Tim Owens in early December to talk about the album and his role as the new vocalist for Iced Earth.
Sea of Tranquility: How did Jon Schaffer first approach you about working with Iced Earth?
Tim Owens: We were talking about doing a side project. We were in contact and he was already in doing this record. One day, [Iced Earth's] manager called and asked if I'd be interested in doing the vocals for the record. The album was done, Jon was mixing it and just wasn't happy with the vocals. They just didn't turn out like he wanted them to. They'd worked really hard at getting them down in the first place and it started as a sideman deal, no strings attached. I gave the music a listen, thought it was really good and put my vocals on it.
SoT: Was it a little strange to walk into a situation where everything
was done or did it make your job easier?
TO: It is easier. That's not a question. But you still have to figure out how you're going to put your own stamp on it. I did get to write lyrics and melodies for "Red Baron." It was nice to be able to write a song without even being in the band. Jon actually gave me the opportunity to rewrite three songs but we just didn't have the time. The other ones were "Attila " and "Waterloo" and to study up on Waterloo and then to try and write a song wouldn't have done it justice, really. But it's wasn't bad. I got to put my voice on it. I sang the melodies but I sang them in my own way. That was quite fun because Matt and I have pretty different voices.
SoT: There was a little bit of confusion early on about whether you were just doing the album or if you were joining the band. What's the word on that?
TO: I did the record when I was still in Judas Priest, so I never intended to joining this band. Then Priest and I split and I still wasn't going to. That was the whole controversy. We didn't [publicly acknowledge], until like August, the fact that I did the vocals on the record. After Priest and I split, I waited about a month, month-and-a-half before I decided to join. I wanted to make sure that it was the right thing. I had so many different options at different phases with different musicians to choose from and I had to decide what was going to be the right one for me. I want to do my own thing also and I wanted to see when it was going to be the right time for that. It was just really about what was best and the Iced Earth thing was.
SoT: I suppose there's also something to be said about joining a band where the players are already in place as opposed to assemble a band from thin air.
TO: There is but there were offers from bands who had players in line also. There were new bands who had major label deals and major management with everything behind them. They made good offers but I think the thing about Iced Earth is that they're a classic metal band who's established and getting bigger, not going the opposite way. That's the thing. Look at the sales and you'll see that every record for the past five years has sold more than the previous. That's great. And the numbers from Horror Show are the best. That's pretty amazing. Also, the album was done, Jon and I get along great and that was the deciding factor. Now, if he'd called at the same time as all the other bands and asked without me having done the record or without me ever having gotten together with him, I don't know what the outcome would have been. I could have joined, you never know. But it was important to me that we'd already gotten together.
SoT:Were you a big Iced Earth fan before Jon called?
TO: I liked Iced Earth. I liked the music and I liked the songwriting. Matt was an awesome singer, but he wasn't the exact kind of singer that I got into. That probably held me back from listening to them as much as I might have. Everything he did was awesome. That wasn't the thing, it was just the style of singing. It was more the style .... I just listened to Alive In Athens, which is a great record and he just wails on it. It just wasn't something that I wasn't into. But then again, every record got better, especially musically and although it wasn't one of Jon's favorite records, I really liked the Horror Show record a lot. Even when I joined the band, I went back and listened to those records. I'd heard the stuff in the past but not as much and as I started listening to it, I studied it and made sure that I wasn't going to join just for this record. I had to listen to listen to all of it and make sure that it was going to be the right move.
SoT: Now you'll be touring in 2004 and obviously you'll be doing some of the older material. Have you thought about how you'll adapt things that Matt did for your voice?
TO: You know, I don't know. I had to do it on The Glorious Burden, so I know that I can do it but the whole thing that'll happen is that it'll be sung the same but some parts will be done in different voices. It's just how it is. The good thing is that I met Jon and Matt back in '98 and Jon would call me from time to time and he'd say, "Man, I always write songs with a voice just like yours in mind." He's told me this for years now and still, when we tried to get together to do this side project he said, "Your voice and me ... that just goes together. That's what I write for." So, I think the fans really need to know that part that this is what Jon has always thought of when he wrote songs. He's real excited. [But, overall], it'll be different than when I was in Priest. It'll be a lot more fun singing these songs because my voice was so much like Rob's at times that when I would sing like myself people thought I was trying to sound like Rob. A lot of the things I did in that band, the way I sang, my stage presence that I had to change because I didn't want to be too much like Rob. It was a funny thing. My whole life, my natural things were similar to Rob's, just because of who I am. Now, I won't have that. I can do whatever I want and it's going to be a lot of fun. I think.
SoT: [Laughs.] One of the things I've always liked about Iced Earth and Judas Priest as well is that there are character songs. Do you look forward to doing that in Iced Earth?
TO: That was a lot of fun in Priest. Even if the songs were about a character, Glenn always liked to write in character, so I sang in some sort of character voice. Jon's got it but Jon also has a lot more emotion, a lot more melody, so it's really enjoyable to do it with Iced Earth. Jon's really an amazing writer. He's a really great songwriter. So it's fun to do those pieces, especially the Gettysburg piece where you get to put all that emotion into it.
SoT: What was it like recording that track?
TO: Luckily, it was split up in threes. There are really three songs in there. There were three days in the Battle of Gettysburg, so I think, originally, it was supposed to be one song, no breaks. Thank God they did. It's a bear to go find something when it's 28 minutes into the song. That's what I had to do at first, get my fast forward button going. It was great recording it. Just because of what it was about. If people weren't familiar with Gettysburg before, they'll listen to it now and get familiar with Gettysburg. It's just amazing. Just an amazing song. So much emotion.
SoT: With so much of this record dealing with history, were there things that you learned while recording these songs?
TO: Definitely. I was familiar with Gettysburg and had seen the movie. People might think it's cheesy to say that but it's a good learning experience and good movie. But doing it, singing it, you learn so much. We went to Gettysburg after we'd done the record to do a photo shoot and it was amazing to walk around there because I knew so much about it. I knew where Pickett's Charge was and where the Devil's Den was Little Round Top. You know what happened there. Just from the song, you can get it. Jon's such a history buff. That's what great about this. This is something that Jon studied ... but he knew this stuff going in to make the record. He has a collectibles store that he's just opened up called Spirit of '76 and it's like a museum. It's an actual passion of his. And not just American history, history. He's into different wars and different figures from throughout history. I got a lot a learnin' to do.
SoT: What are some of your favorite overall moments from the album?
TO: "Gettysburg" is a favorite just because it has so many different types of vocals. It's almost like listening to a soundtrack, you know. I actually like "Hollow Man" and ... it's different every time I hear the record. I like "The Reckoning," just because I think it's a different type of song. I don't sing every song that way on the album. I actually wasn't going to sing that way. I had a different way of singing it planned out. I was going to do a higher natural voice, Dio-type of voice and then we decided to try a falsetto-y kind of voice and it came out well and sounded really cool, so that's a favorite. And the memories of doing it? I had a blast. There's a little studio in the basement of Jon's house where ... Jim Morris from Morrisound in Florida came and did
it and we had a great time. We did it in only five days even though we had two weeks.
SoT: Everybody in Iced Earth is spread out geographically. Have you had a chance to play with the full band yet?
TO: I haven't. We'll rehearse for a tour in February. Jon and I shot one video and we got together with the rest of the guys and did "The Reckoning" video. We've been together a few times but we haven't jammed yet and I'm sure it'll be a fun time once we get together to do it.
SoT: What's it like to be in an American band after having been in a British band for so long?
TO: There's not a whole lot of difference. I was good friends with the guys in Priest and still am good friends with the guys in Priest. That's the main thing, that you have a friendship and when you get together, you enjoy being together. I never understood their jokes.
TO: It's kind of nice now that I'll understand the jokes. I'm thinking that as time goes on it'll get a lot easier on me. Even right now, if I want to get together with Jon, I'll hop in the car, drive four-and-a-half hours and see him, instead of flying over the ocean and going to England. That's a big difference.
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