When Two Scandinavian nations come together, they become a Nordic Union. Ronnie Atkins speaks out.
Nordic Union is the new project put together by Swedish mastermind Erik Martensson from the band 'Eclipse/ W.E.T.', who has had lots of success of recent and recently met up with Danish Metal God Ronnie Atkins from the band Pretty Maids, to form a project known as 'Nordic Union', which Frontiers put to two together tow rite this epic melodic AOR/ Hard Rock album. I managed to have a word with Ronnie about the project, Pretty Maids as well as Avantasia.
This project is getting rave reviews and it would be nice if this project could ever tour, only time will tell. So here is what Ronnie had to say about 'Nordic Union' and other questions put to him. Check out the album, it's a good AOR Hard Rock album.
Hi Ronnie, great speaking to you again, was great see in you in Denmark in December, my 1st visit to you're country. So let's start by asking you how was the mini Pretty Maids tour for you that month?
"Hi Jason, it was good see in you too again. That tour was good, we had 2 sold out shows with 7 dates and we did some dates in Switzerland & Germany and they were very good attendance. We are now about to start work on the next album in a couple of weeks, recording basic tracks with Jacob Hansen once again. (Ed: Are you happy working with Jacob, he is one of the top producers in Denmark). Yes of course we are, we have been working with him for 5 yrs now and we started working with him on the 'Pandemonium' album and he has brought in fresh ideas for the band. My son's band has been recording there, his band is called 'Low rider Betty' and he is the singer, they have not released anything yet and it's a little like 'The Foo Fighters' kind of thing. I helped with the lyrics and did some backing vocals too."
How is Ken these days, he's been unwell for some time. Is he OK?
"Well he hasn't been well for some time, he fell and he can't feel one of his fingers right now, so he is a little unwell, but he should be OK. He has some heart problems too in the past but he's ok now."
What new ideas do you have for the next Pretty Maids album, is it going to be heavier?
"Well we don't have any songs wrote yet, but it will be a continuation of what we have done with the last few albums. Ken and myself with do ideas together and show the band what we have come up with, put the pieces together and if anything I think it's going to be a little heavier."
You are a band that really doesn't do little material anyway, I mean look at you're debut 'Red hot & Heavy' in 84,a great album which showed some heavy elements anyway.
"Yeah I guess we have, we do like to play melodic metal with the heavy side of metal too."
When do you except to see the new album? Any titles for the album yet?
"No titles yet, we plan of having it released in the fall of 2016, it wont be out unless it's good."
OK Ronnie, as we are talking about the project 'Nordic Union', how did the concept come to be with Erik Martensson from 'Eclipse/ W.E.T.', who's idea was it to put the two of you together?
"Well basically it was a request from Frontiers when the label approached me at the Frontiers festival in 2014 when they asked if I wanted to do a project at 1st I was a little reluctant to do it but I said unless I hear some songs I'm not doing it. So I was given 2 songs from Erik, 1 was 'Hypocrisy' & 'When Death Calls', which I thought were great. I said if we can keep that standard I said if you carry on writing songs like that I will do it. So the songs were sent on a mp3 file and I listened too it and I sent back my ideas and spoke on the phone. I later booked some time in the studio and that was it."
The same thing happened to Magnus Karlsson when I interviewed him last year, when he released his solo album, Frontiers found the vocalists for his solo album. The label seems to be good at pairing up musicians and singers don't they?
"That can be true, I told the label I wasn't going to release something to make a fast buck, it would have to be a good release and good material if I was going to do a project. I wanted quality not quantity. In Pretty maids I am the main song writing and the funny thing about this was that the songs were already who I just had to sing them. I put my own identity on this record but I didn't have as much impact with this release, it was an easy going thing. Erik is a great musician, he plays everything on the album besides the drums, there are some guest guitar solos on the record. At 1st I declined on doing the record as I wanted to concentrate on the new Pretty Maids album, but in the end I did it."
Erik does a lot of productions doesn't he? I interviewed him last year when Eclipse played in the UK.
"Yeah he does, he does a lot of productions for various bands, he is a good producer too. He does a lot of writing for other bands too."
I guess the name was pretty easy to have with both of you coming from Scandinavia, Sweden meets Denmark, a perfect name for a project right?
"Yes you are right, we had other names but they seemed to sound too much like Heavy Metal names (laughing). I came up with the name and we consider people from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark as our brothers and sisters. It was like a nordic union thing. (Ed: did you ever consider having the 2 flags on the album cover?) No not at all, we had a German guy who does the Pretty Maids covers who did this one, his name is Kai who came up with this and everybody liked it. We had no other covers in mind, we liked it and so did the label."
Moving on... are there any songs on the album you like and why?
"Well I like 'Hypocrisy' and that was something special to me, I like 'Wide Awake', 'When death is Calling' and the ballad 'Every heart Beat', it's a great album indeed."
It's a good album, I feel that there is more of an Eclipse sound in the music more than Pretty maids, do you agree?
"Yeah I do, a lot of people think so too. If you had to compare it to my band I would say the more commercial and lighter side of Pretty Maids. I think my voice is what they compare it too mainly. I agree with you, and a good song is a good song."
How long did it take to record the album, did you go to Sweden to do the vocals are did you do them with Jacob once again?
"No I didn't go to Sweden, I did them here in Denmark with Jacob Hansen and Erik did the rest in his studio. All my stuff is done at Jacobs studio and I never met Erik before until we shot the video but we have shared the same stage together at festivals in Germany & Sweden. We never had deep talking session and he is a great guy too."
What's the video you have recorded, what is the concept within it? Do you think you will be doing another video?
"Well it has a lot of northern landscapes in it with use playing live in the studio, with Erik & I in Swedish forests, it's a nice video. I don't think we will be doing another video, we have no plans and I'm going to be very buys with Pretty Maids from now on."
The big question is... will you be doing any live shows for this project?
"No we will not be, this is because I will be busy with my own band. We have not even talked about it, we have to see how the album sales and we haven't even talked about doing a second album, I am busy with Avantasia so it not realistic now."
How have the album reviews been so far for this project?
"Well they have been great so far, I haven't seen a band one yet. I'm amazed how good it is."
Talking of Avantasia, tell me more abut the tour.
"Well it kicks off in beginning of March for 9-10 weeks around the world, Russia, South America, Japan, Europe, London and many more. There is a lot of singers on this tour, Jorn Lande, Bob Catley, Eric Martin, Michael Kiske to name a few. At the moment is filling in visas that we have to do, prepare for the rehearsals and tour."
At the beginning of this project was you asked to stand in for a singer or was you asked to join by Tobias?
"No I was asked to join the project by Tobias, in 1999, and I declined as I was only doing my own band back then. I didn't even know who he was or even know the band, and in 2013 we toured together, everybody was cool no egos, band was great band crew & singers."
Do you think there will be a live DVD for this tour?
"I really don't have a clue sorry, all I know s that I am going to sing on every night on the tour, I think I will sing about 3-4 songs, and it will last about 3hrs each show."
Well Ronnie, thanx for doing the interview, always a pleasure speaking to you, love the Maids. Do you have anything to say to the people reading this?
"Yes I hope they like 'Nordic Union', it was great making this record. Come see Avantasia, and look out for the next Pretty Maids album. Thanx Jason, take care.