The Lethal heroes Return - Ronnie Atkins Speaks Out.
Denmark has it's fair shares of quality metal over the last few decades with such bands as Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Jackal, Narita, Invocator, Artillery, just to name a few and for me godfathers of Danish metal would be 'Pretty Maids', for me this band played a massive music scene in my life. Having 1st heard the band back in 84 when the band 1st released 'Red Hot & Heavy' album I actually heard the title track on the national BBC radio here called 'The Friday Rock Show'. In which I got to know my metal music very quickly and that song just blow me away. There was talk about this amazing Danish metal act throughout the UK ever since the early days of that song. And so I rushed out and bought the album, I have never looked back and continued to support the band ever since.
I can't say the band have ever done a bad album and only see in the band once at Wacken 99 I really wanted to meet them then. Sadly it has taken me 27yrs to meet this band and I finally had a dream come true in London of September of 2013, to which I made sure I took all my CD covers to be signed. Thanks to the band they certainly signed them for me cheers guys you're stars!! I managed to have a chat with front man Ronnie Atkins, to which he gladly supported me and answered all my questions. The band have recently released their new album 'Motherland' on Frontiers music which is an awesome album of melodic Heavy/ Power Metal which I highly recommend. In the meantime enjoy the interview. here is what Ronnie had to say to the following questions.
As this is the 1st time I have interviewed the band I would like to start by saying it is an honour to be in you're presence Ronnie, so thank you for that. My 1st question is, when you were growing up was there any member of you're family who inspired you to become a singer?
"Well my mother, father and brother were good singers but not in the way that I sing. My father use to play the piano but I was curious about the guitar, every time and I had been singing since I was about 10yrs old. I had a band playing 'The Sweet' covers and I use to go and see The Sweet, Suzi Quatro and Slade and that kind of glam stuff. I was also in the 60's music and my family are 10yrs older then me and I grew up with a lot of the 70's stuff they grew up with as well.
I am very devised as I like bands like 'Abba', 'The Bee Gees', and then I was 15 I got into the band 'The Police' and bands like that. (Ed: I grew up with 'The Police' too, can you remember you very 1st record? I cannot wish I could). I think for me it was properly The Sweet' or 'Slade'. Later on I got into the bands like Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Rainbow, and the Deep Purple, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Then there was only metal and today I am very diverse."
As a singer Ronnie who inspired you to sing, you are you're idols?
"Well when I got into Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal I was into singers like Freddy Mercury (Queen), Robert Plant, Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy and he might not be a great technical singer but he is a good melody maker. I also like Rob Halford and Ian Gillan and later on we toured with Deep Purple and we had the same management in America."
So what year did Pretty Maids actually get together?
"Well it was in 81, the beginning of 82. We were 1st signed to a label called 'Bullet Records', from Stoke on Trent here in the UK, but nothing really happened. CBS Records heard our music and took over the deal so the rest is history."
Looking back at the previous albums, which is you're favourite album and why? Do you also have any least favourite albums?
"Well I would say that the last 2 albums we have done are the best 'Pandemonium' and 'Motherland' are albums were we have done better stuff, but I would have to say that 'Red Hot & Heavy' and 'Future World' are the mild stones for the band. I think it is the albums that define our own sound and style so those 2 albums are very important to us. I think 'Red Hot & Heavy' sounded great when it 1st came out but a lot different to what we come up with now.
We also think the album that followed 'Jump The Gun' was a great album too. (Ed: Why did that album have 2 titles, 'Jump The Gun' and in the U.S. 'Lethal Heros'?) I think it was something to do with gun crime in the States. (Ed: It is a great album, don't you agree?) It's not one of my favourite albums, I think it became too much Americanized and polish kind of album. The demos from that album are a lot heavier than the finished album, it is a great album sound wise but I feel some of the edge was lost on the final album."
Moving on Ronnie, do you ever see any of the old band members from the past? If so are you still friends and what are they doing now? Would you ever consider doing a reunion gig or tour?
"No I don't really see any of them, I still see them from time to time and we are still friends. They all left the band after the 'Jump The Gun' album, and I did for a short time like a week and then me Ken and I started writing again. I think they were fed up as the album was very expensive to record and the record company left us with a massive touring debt. We have talked about doing a reunion gig playing the 'Future World' album but I think the rest of the guys have been out of the business for too long now. I heard that the original drummer Phil More is very sick actually from depression and I have not seen him for 10yrs now. "
For those who don't know who came up with the bands name you or Ken? What did you think of the name for the band?
"It was Ken who came up with the bands name. I think he took it from a book and a lot of people took it for the band been a girlie band but we had t shirts printed and we could not afford to make new ones."
When I see the image of the band for the 'Future World' album I think of you been a glam metal band, that is no respect as you know I am a massive fan of you're work. Do you agree?
"Yes I do, no disrespect taken. When I see the images now I think they are funny but that was the image back then. I think we were influenced by the L.A. Scene back then. We spent some time back then in America in the 80s but never actually toured there. We could of gone on the Whitesnake tour in 87 but at the same time we were doing the Monsters of Rock in Germany and a tour with Deep Purple. (Ed: Do you think you made the right move touring with Deep Purple back then as appose to touring with Whitesnake?) They were both great bands."
So who would you best describe you're music to those who don't know you're music too well?
"I really don't know, for me it's just Rock & Roll. It is Hard Rock/ Melodic Heavy Metal and there are so many different names for it nowadays."
Is everything going well with the current line up? What did you think of Morten's old band 'Mercenary'? What about Rene and Allan?
"Yes it is, there is a great chemistry between us all and for the last 3-4 years it is like a fresh new energy within the band. In 2008 we did a mini European tour and we did the odd festival here and there. We wrote a song from the 'Pandemonium' album called 'Cielo Drive' which pretty much got the ball rolling again and a lot of people mainly in Germany loved it. Well I never heard Morton's old band and he was in our band as a hired guy and he did a couple of festivals and the 2008 European tour and in 2009 we started recording so he joined the band officially, he is a great guy.
Well Rene was actually a guitarist and his old band 'Pride' were supporting us in Scandinavia and he played guitar with Mike Tramp (White Lion) also for a couple of years. We needed a bass player and he called Kenny and said he would quit the guitar and play the bass instead. Allan was once in Royal Hunt and Kingdom Come and he has been in the band since 2005."
What happened to Kenn Jackson and Michael Fast?
"Well Michael has his own management company now and I speak to him a lot of the times. I have not spoke to Kenn in a long time but I think he is in another band right now."
So why haven't you played the UK that often since 85/ 86 with Saxon, besides the 'Firefest' festival?
"Well after the 'Planet Panic' album I was fed up and our management went bankrupt and we lost a lot of money. I was getting fed up with the same old routine and I thought the albums started to sound very much alike. Then we found our new producer Jacob Hansen from ex Invocator, (Ed' I have known him since the demo days of Invocator), he is a great guy and he turned into the 6th element of the band. The Chemistry between us works really well and he has just brought something else new to the band. Jacob is a big fan of bands like Queen and The Bee Gee's so we had a lot in common and he is a cool guy."
In the past you have had a few record labels, CBS, Epic, Massacre, and now Frontiers. How is everything so far going with Frontiers?
"Well it's going ok but you don't make any money really on album sales, you have to be on the road to make money now and that can be tough enough now as it is. I have no idea were the music industry is going these days? "
Why is it Ronnie that 'Waking Up The Real World' is so expensive to buy? I paid 30 for it recently and one guy was selling it for 250 on Ebay, that is a joke!
"Funny you should mention that I met a guy in Germany recently who asked why he could not get 'It Comes Alive', and that has not been out that long. I am going to ask our label about that too."
The band released their 1st official live DVD 'It Comes Alive' recorded live in Switzerland, do you think it was recorded in the right place?
"We recorded the DVD their as it is a great place to record albums and DVDs. We have been asked to record a DVD for some time but never actually got around to it till now. We felt that we had the right band to record the live DVD and it was our 30th anniversary. (Ed: Did you ever think of having extra footage on the DVD from previous old tours?) Well we have a lot of old material lying around and yes it might end up been on the next DVD. On this tour we have been filming a lot of it. Some of it is on our Facebook page. Tomas Tjader who is doing our merchandise is also the guy who did the video for the new song 'Mother of All Lies' & 'Little Drops of Heaven'."
Lets talk about the new album, why the title 'Motherland'? Who came up with the title? Did you have any other names?
"Well we didn't have a title for the album but the artwork was done 1st by a German guy and we just thought the title after see in the artwork was the perfect title for the album. We then wrote a song called 'Motherland' we thought the artwork looked cool and there is no story line behind the artwork and title. This was the only title we had for the album. Jacob will do the next album too."
How long did it take to record 'Motherland'?
"Well the album was recorded in-between August of last year 2012 and then we went to America and had some gigs in Russia and Japan. So we recorded in -between touring actually in 3 different studios. (Ed: Why did you use 3 different studios then?) Well all the drums, rhythm guitars and vocals where done at Jacobs studio. The solos where done somewhere else & Rene did his stuff with pro tools. Some of the stuff was done by Ken at his studio too. We are very happy with the end results of the album."
Are you still the main song writer within the band then when it comes to lyrics?
"Yes I am, Well ken will write some material too and the other guys have contributed too. Allan contributed on the riff for 'Motherland', Rene and Morton are on one track."
You have only recorded 1 video so far for this album for the song 'Mother of All Lies', will you be doing another video too?
"Well we have talked about doing another video but nothing is for sure yet. If it is it might be for the song 'Why So Serious', we are not sure yet or have any concept for the video."
So where is the biggest market for the bands sales?
"Well Japan use to be the biggest market for us but now it's Norway believe it or not. well we are still pretty big in Denmark and we had the Thin Lizzy hit 'Please Don't Leave Me' which was a big hit in Denmark. (Ed: Why did you do that Thin Lizzy cover? Did you get any rights to cover it?) Well it was recorded as a b side to a bonus track and then it turned out really good. We knew it would turn out really well and somebody from the record company heard it and said it was a great song and that it should be released as our 1st single. It went to number 1 in Denmark and it was huge in Japan and that song saved our arses for the last 10yrs and we survived."
Is there any countries what you would like to play that you have not yet?
"Yes there are many countries that we have not played yet. I'd like to play places like South America and I think we will do that next year."
Ok talking of gigs, you were suppose to of played the Sheffield last night or the 'Skyfest' in Mansfield?
"Yeah we were suppose to but it didn't happen for some reason, it was at 'The Corporation Club' and they cancelled it 3-4 wks ago and I don't think the pre-sales were too good. I think there are 150- 200 here tonight. (Ed: I don't understand why people don't support you're band here in the UK). Well I don't know what our fan base is like over here in the UK. We are touring till mid December but the European tour is till October 10th I think. We are actually loosing money playing this gig here tonight but we hope to be play more gigs here at some point, I'd love too."
You played this years Bloodstock with 'Avantasia', what was it like for you and did you talk about playing there next year with Pretty Maids? You should play it!
"It was a great show I really enjoyed it and I was there as a hired gun. I didn't talk to the promoters about having Pretty Maids there."
Well Ronnie I would like to thank you for making one of my dreams come true tonight. It has been a pleasure interviewing the Danish 'Metal Gods', do you have anything to say before we finish? Best of luck tonight and for the rest of the tour.
"Thank you Jason it has been a pleasure meeting you too. Thanx to our fans for their support and we hope you enjoy the album and tour."
Thank's to the band, Gary Levermore, and Nikolas Krofta.