One Shot at Glory.... Ronnie Speak Out!!!
The voice and the legend of Danish Metal 'Ronnie Atkins', well known for his diverse & powerful vocal range in the one and only 'Pretty Maids' has recently released his debut solo album. Ronnie has been the front man for Pretty Maids for over 3 decades releasing such classic with Pretty Maids in the 80's and early 90's with 'Red Hot & Heavy', 'Future World', 'Jump the Gun' and in later years such albums as Sin Decade', 'Spooked' and is recent years 'Kingmaker' and their last album 'Undress your Madness' which was released in 2019 through Frontiers Records.
I managed to chat with Ronnie this week to talk a little bit about the past with Pretty Maids as well as his new stunning solo album. We also chatted briefly about his health and how he has managed to cope during lockdown. Ronnie is strong willed and I wish him all the best with his health, here is what Ronnie had to say to the question.
So go order his new album it has elements of Pretty Maids, Nordic Union and much more....
It's always a pleasure speaking to you Ronnie, how's your health these days? Your Looking good my friend. Well Id like to thank you for taking you're time out and doing this interview the last one we did was for the 'Undress your Madness' album by Pretty Maids, now were going to talk about your new stunning debut solo album 'One Shot'. But 1st I'm going to ask you some warm up questions.
"Hi Jason, good to speak to you my friend, it has been a while. When was the last time we met? (Ed: It was 'Headbangers Open Air' in 2018), oh yeah the party garden festival, that was a lot of fun. Yes I'm in good spirit thanks for asking, I've had treatment as you know and its still ongoing but I'm doing well."
So let's start by asking you, when you look back at your albums with Pretty Maids, which one was your favourite and why and also the most successful album?
"That is a tough question to answer, I would say that 'Red Hot & Heavy' is the most important album that we have done, that was the album back in 84 that gave us our sound, style and back then we had good guitar riffs and melody hooks and keyboards and vocals that whole thing really. The album 'Future World' was our most successful album commercial album and those were the days when it was mainstream and on the radio.
Having said that the album 'Pandemonium' back in 2010 that was our 2nd arising and that is when we found ourselves again, we had the spirit and fire back within the band, and started to write good songs again. I also think that 'Spooked' was a great album too from 97 and that album sadly came out when people were listening too all these sub genres like Nu-Metal, and it was hard for traditional Hard Rock & Metal bands to get their music across to the fans out there.
So in all it is difficult for me to pick one good album."
For me 'Red Hot & Heavy' is the cult classic album and song, do you agree?
"Yes I do, I think that and 'Future World' & 'Jump the Gun' are the mild stones for the band because they were out in the 80's and early 90's and I still think today that 'Red Hot & Heavy' is a great album. I haven't heard it in a long time, I think it sounded great when it came out and it sounded a little different to what was out at that time, that is when we found our path sort of speak."
So you said 'Future World' was one of the most successful albums for you.
"Yes it was, it came at a time in 87 when Hard Rock & Metal was mainstream and we got played on MTV with 'Love Games' & 'Future World' and it was a different time back then and it was the major breakthrough for us particularly in Germany and places like that, and like I said 'Red Hot...' opened up a lot of doors for the band."
I was actually listening to that album yesterday 'Red Hot...' and I would love to hear it with today's technology, have you ever thought of re-working that album?
"Well I think it was a little ahead of its time and we had a lot of keyboards back then and they are an important part of the bands sound. We spent a lot of time with a fair light computer which was pretty new back then and I liked the big choir sounding that we had on that album & I think some of the songs on that record sound pretty epic to me.
There are songs to this day that we still play live like 'Back to back' & 'Red Hot...' To answer your question about re-working the album, well you should never do that because why fix something that isn't broken?
We actually tried to do something similar when we released the album 'Louder than Ever' album back in 2014. We tried to re-record some of the songs from what we call 'The Gray Years' or 'The Forgotten Years', which was between 95 & 2002 from 'Scream' to 'Planet Panic'.
We just realized that it is difficult to get the right feel back some how, and I remember a song like 'With These Eyes' which is from the album 'Anything Worth Doing' from 99 we tried it and I really don't think it worked, I love the feeling and sound of the original version of that song and you just can't capture that feeling again, so to get back to the question, no I would never try to redo our songs from the past best leave them alone."
What did you think of the album 'Jump The Gun/ Lethal Heroes' was that a successful album? I really like that album. Why did it have 2 titles, was one of them to do with gun crime in the U.S. so the title was changed to 'Lethal Heroes'?
"Well with that album there was so much stuff going on at that time, I had bad memories of doing the album and I liked the demos a lot more because when we first recorded the album we wanted it to sound like Def Leppard's 'Hysteria' album and Roger Glover from Deep Purple produced the album for us. He wanted us to record the album more live and I think we should of done that thinking about it now. We all got carried away and it took a long time and the album was so costly and too so long to record.
We went to America to record the album and then we scrapped everything and stayed in New York for 3 weeks and then went back to Denmark and then scrapped the whole thing once again.
We had to remix the whole thing again and our drummer had a car crash which almost killed him. So the album was delayed for 6 months and when the album finally came in May 90 was the time that people were listening too GnR's and the Sleeze scene I just had bad memories. It's not a bad album at all, it's not really my album at all even thought we played and sang to perfection but in reality I think it was too perfect.
I don't know why we had 2 titles for this album, the American's wanted to call it 'Lethal Heroes' and we had the titled 'Jump the Gun'."
Why was it scrapped and re done?
"It was scrapped because it sounds like shit, the album was mixed by a guy Roger know called Michael and it sounded so boring it just took all the energy out of the songs. So Roger flew back to Denmark and we mixed the whole thing ad then it got a lot better."
So what do you think of both Hammerfall's version of 'Back to Back' and Arch Enemy's version of the same song?
(Laughing) "Well I don't want to put those guys down, I know all the Hammerfall guys and I think it's great that they did that, it's a homage to you a band that they grew up on and I know those guys grew up on 'Red Hot & Heavy' album which was part of their youth and we are a little bit older than they are and I know Mike from Arch Enemy, they also grew up with Pretty Maids also. I know this as Jacob Hansen has just done the new Arch Enemy album and I am grateful that these bands are doing our songs.
I actually heard the Arch Enemy version of our song 'Back to Back' and I was shocked to see this beautiful girl Allissa with blue hair growling to our song, Ken played me the song and I thought it was a man singing the song until I saw a picture of her. I thought how the hell can she get that sound? She looked like an Angel but sang like a Demon (laughing). The growling isn't my thing but it is really taught to sing that way, the up most respect, she did a great job so did the band."
Have you ever thought of doing 2 albums live back to back like 'Red Hot & Heavy' and 'Jump the Gun'?
"No we have never thought of doing that, we just played 'Future World' live in its whole form to celebrate its anniversary and it was released as a live DVD, recorded in Japan with a couple of bonus songs. We did actually play the whole album of 'Red Hot & Heavy' in Copenhagen in 2009/10 , but we have never thought about playing 2 albums back to back."
I notice that you always do live Xmas shows, around Xmas time as I attended one with Hammerfall supporting. Is this something you have done for a number of years now?
"Yes we have done that for a couple of years now but we didn't do it for the last 2 yrs, for obvious reasons with my health and Cronovirus. We started doing that about 2006/7 and it became a tradition for the band. Last time we played we played to 2 sold out shows in Copenhagen and we added a gig in our home town of Horsen and we also played some Swedish gigs like Stockholm and Gothenburg and it's a cozy gig to do around Xmas time."
Would you ever consider doing a concert with a Orchestra? What would be awesome, somewhere like Wacken or even Denmark?
"Well we did talk about it in the past, but it never turned out t happen."
Earlier you mentioned how successful and heavy 'Pandemonium' album was, what made you want to do such a heavy album at that time period?
"I think back then we just wanted to do a good solid album and I don't think we intended it to be a heavy album, but what happened was it was the 1st time we had worked with Jacob Hansen and he suggested that we de-tune our guitars and I think that itself gave it a heavier sound and I am glad we did as it turned out to be a great album. I don't think we planned it to be a heavy album, and I think it's one of the best albums we have ever done."
Have you actually heard any of Jacobs old bands like 'Invocator' or 'Beyond Twilight'?
"Yes I heard them vaguely and Invocator was really heavy shit!! I listened too it after we had worked with Jacob and I saw him with long hair which was kind of funny hearing screaming and yelling. The other band 'Beyond Twilight' was with Jorn Lande and I know a couple of the songs from that album 'The Devils hall of Fame' but other than that I really don't know much more about the albums or band."
Now let's talk about your debut solo album 'One Shot', why did you decide to call the album that title? Was there any other titles for this album?
"Well there could of been different reasons for the album title, the message for the album title was the situation I was in, we had one shot in life and that is basically what it is. Don't save the best for last, live for right now and seize the day and some people may think I have one shot before I pass away, but who know I could be ran over by a truck tomorrow, we all could. The positive message is that we only have one shot in life, it could be a stepping stone to another life, this is something I have to think about.
I did have other titles in mind at 1st but I thought this was the best title for the album, and I thought it pretty much fit the theme for the album which is pretty personal and emotional album for me."
How is your health these days? Your looking well my friend.
"I'm feeling OK, I'm feeling really good right now and I am still in treatment and immune therapy and so far the cancer has been at ease & solid for a year now. The diagnosis is still the same as it was last year and a year ago I wasn't even sure if I would be alive to see another day and if this album would be released.
I am not saying this to be dramatic but it is the true. It has been a year on since the album was started and I am getting great response from the album and great reviews which makes me happy. I never thought for this album as in commercial terms at all and I am very happy with the end results of the album and I feel good about the whole album."
Your voice sounds in great shape I can hear that on the new album.
"Yes it is, it's as good as ever over the last 11yrs, its even better now than it was 20yrs ago. In 2019 when all this happened with my cancer I had just done a 3 month tour with 'Avantasia' and we did a lot of festival also with 'Pretty Maids' and my voice was at the top when all this shit happened. Between January and March of 2020 I could hardly sing because my lung tissues were damaged and I was coughing a lot and it made me think would I ever be able to sing again and give it a full throttle again, but I did!!"
So the album was produced by Chris Laney and mixed& mastered by Jacob Hansen, was it an easy decision to have both Chris and Jacob working on the album? I guess having Chris in Pretty Maids has made it more comfortable for him to produce the album.
"I did all the vocals with Jacob and I felt comfortable working with those 2 guys and I knew Jacob and he knows me and the same can be said for Chris and they both knew what I wanted to achieve and they both did a great job. Jacob is awesome at mixing albums and Chris did a fantastic job producing the album. He was the string master getting all of this stuff together and Chris has been with me since I got sick and we hang out well on tours. I ahd never heard of Chris until about 5 yrs ago but we had met on some festivals that I can't remember and he is just an easy going guy and a lovely guy to work with and hang out with a good set of ears."
So on this album you have Allan Sorensen on drums, is Allen still in pretty Maids? Or is Allen Tschicaja back in Pretty Maids?
(Laughing) "We have a 3rd Allan coming into the band now, no Allen Sorensen left the band in 2019 for personal reasons and then Allan Tschicaja back in the band and he rejoined a year and a half ago. Allen Sorensen plays in another band with Chris called 'At the Movies' in which they do old classic 80's songs and also doing that is Pontus Egberg (King Diamond/ Treat) who also plays on my solo album.
Along with Pontus Norgren from Hammerfall who is also playing those show and the singer Bjorn Strid (Soil Work) is also appearing on my solo album as well. I also did an appearance on the 'At the Movies' gig when I did the song 'We Don't need another Hero' which is a Tina Turner cover from the film 'Mad Max'.
That is how it all came together and we couldn't meet as we live in different countries and so Chris mentioned we should use those musicians for the album and I totally agreed with him, so that his how the became part of the album. We also have some guest guitar players like Oliver Hartmann, Kee Marcello, John Berg, Jan Gripdtedt and keyboards done by Chris and Morten Sandager. (Ed: What is Morten doing now is he back with his old band 'Mercenary'?) I don't think he is, Morten is also a drummer and he is doing some kind of Iron Maiden band. This is also the 1st time he had played keyboards in years, and I always wanted to with him again and there's always a good chemistry between us.
Oliver came on board for this album because we had worked together on the 'Avantasia' project and his wife and him came to stay with us at our house and I played him some of the new stuff and he loved it and he asked him he could play in it to which I said of course you can, he actually played on 3 tracks form the album. I didn't meet anybody during the recordings, the 1st time I had met anybody was in September when we did the drums were Chris, Allan and Morten gathered to record the drums with Jacob and that was the only time I met anybody for this recording."
So how long did it take to record the album was most of it done during lockdown?
"Well it was recorded between May and September of 2020 on and off and we did it song by song, we didn't gather, so when I had a song I sent it to Chris and he did the instrumentation of it and I did a demo and I went to Jacob's studio and then sent it to Chris and he started to work on it and he did the solos and guitars and keyboards. This went on and on."
So what songs from the album are your favourites if you had to pick any?
"Yes I have 11 of them (laughing), there all my babies and we had a hard time picking 6 as there are not so many obvious choices and there is a lot of melodic stuff on the album that could be played on the radio, but the fact is that Danish radio only play fucking Rap music or R&B shit, we have one rock station here in Denmark. If I have to pick any songs I would say the title track 'One Shot' as it is special to me and and I like the message of the song too, and vibe too.
Composing wise the songs were wrote on a piano and you write differently when you write on the piano and it inspires you in a different way and I am really happy with that. I really can't pick one song other than the title track as there is not one bad song on the album."
Were the songs all written by yourself or was Chris evolved in the writing as well?
"No I wrote all the songs, except for 'Frequency of Love' which was written by Chris and myself back in 2018 he had the music for it and he played it too me and asked if I wanted to use the song on my solo album to which I agreed too. We didn't meet at all and I had all of the ideas and I was writing a lot of the time and he had his input and he helped me clue the whole thing together and had a big part in the arrangements of the songs."
Moving on... how would you compare this solo album to that of Nordic Union albums? Do you think there are some similarities between the 2 in terms of the melodic roots and riffs?
(laughing) "Is it? It may have some similarities between the 2, some people say it sounds like 'Pretty Maids', and when I sing on this album I am also the singer in Pretty Maids, Nordic Union and so I think it is pretty obvious. It would be close to some of the Nordic Union as Erik Martensson is also a Melodic Rock writer as well so both projects are melodic but I don't think it sounds like Nordic Union."
Just how many promo videos you done for this album so far? Also will there be any other promo videos for this album?
"So far we have done 3 promo videos for this album, I might do another one yet."
What has the press reviews been like so far and what do the fans think of the album?
"The vibe has been fantastic so far, and today I am #1 in Denmark best selling artist, #2 in Sweden, #19 in Germany and even on Billboard in America, it's just great feeling indeed. The response on social media has been great too, the fans are loving it, I am so happy."
Do you think that you maybe touring for this album this year if things improve with the cronovirus situation?
"Firstly it is difficult for me to plan anything right now, because of my situation health wise, and if there were gigs this summer then I probably would. I don't think there will be any serious big events this year in Denmark but this god damn fucking virus is coming in a 3rd wave now and countries opening up and then in lockdown it is very unpredictable right now.
I have been writing songs all the time I have tons of ideas and maybe there maybe another album in the very near future. (Ed: what about a new Pretty Maids album, any discussions about that?) There are no plans for a new Pretty Maids album, we are scattered all over Europe and we have not seen each other in a year and a half. Bands don't make money from studio work, its done with ticket sales and merchandise selling."
Well Ronnie thanks for doing this interview, I want to wish you all the best, keep safe and I hope we meet again once lockdown is over. Do you have anything to say too the fans reading this?
"Yes thank you for the interview Jason, it's always a pleasure speaking to you, keep safe. To the fans thank you for your supporting with this album and with the support of Pretty Maids, I hope you like my solo album and please be safe."
Thank you to Gary @ Redsands and also Ronnie for the interview. Interview conducted 24.3.21