Monday, 2 October... after a few hours of sleep, with the echoes of UFOR II still in our ears, we sat down with Ronnie Atkins and Ken Hammer of Pretty Maids to talk about the new album "Wake Up To The New World" and other things!
Pretty Maids had a few "silent years" after their previous release "Planet Panic"...
Ken: We've been touring and making albums constantly for the last 20-25 years. you know, we just needed a little break because of some personal problems, not in the band but in our personal lives. It just took a little longer than we exptected. We had decided to take a break for a year or year and a half, to begin with. But different circumstances occured, like illness within the band and stuff like that, that just postponed the whole thing and everything was delayed... Actually all this took 4 years but the album was written in 4 months. We got a new drummer Allan Tsichaja last year and then we started seriously work on the album in October. Around February - March we were finished.
Was there ever a danger that Pretty Maids would have ceased to exist?
- Ken: No, no. We just needed a break. A lot of shit happened and we got fed up with all that, e.g. we had problems with the management and our record company... We just got tired with all this. I think it actually did good to the band to take a break. Not necessarily for 4 years but the idea was good. It lead us to where we are today, to the new album "Wake Up To The Real World".
- Ronnie:This new album is very much by coincidence lseading towards the 80's, it's heavy but still melodic. It's a bit more Pretty Maids than the previous album "Planet Panic". I don't think it's bad album but some fans found the songs hard to relate to. But it was the album we wanted to do at the time.
I thought that "Planet Panic" was a bit short on the melodic songs...
Ronnie: It was a little bit more nu-metal... No really nu-metal but leaning that way. We tried to experiment. I still think it's melodic album. The mixture of the songs could have been better. Back then I'm sure we thought it was a strong album. The new album is probably more old-fashioned in a good way and in a good sense.
Your albums have always been kind of two-sided affairs, with the melodic stuff and the really heavy stuff. How does the songwriting work out, does Ronnie write the melodic stuff and Ken the heavy songs?
- Ken: No, no. We both like both kinds of music, two sides of the same coin. We both write the melodic stuff as well as the heavier stuff and that's why we're still writing songs after 25 years... I used to say that Pretty Maids is a combination of hard, strong guitar riffs and good melodies, and I still think it is.
-Ronnie: I don't think this album is too far from what we've done in the past, by coincidence. We didn't sit down to write an 80's album. I think the fans are gonna like it.
You have a new label now, the Italian company Frontiers. Did they try to steer you to a particular style?
- Ken: We talked to a few record companies who wanted more keyboards and stuff. We just said fuck off, we're not gonna sign. We don't want any record companies to tell us how to write the songs. After 25 years we don't want anyone to interfere with our writing. The record company should trust us that we know what we're doing. Frontiers never asked what we were doing and we had complete freedom.
What was the case with "Jump The Gun" album? It's my favourite Pretty Maids album, because the songs are mostly in the melodic hard rock style. Did your label at the time had any influence in that?
-Ronnie: No, the songs just turned out that way. Some of the demos were a bit heavier than the recorded versions. I think that it is a great album and the best souding album we've done. It took a long time to do it but in the end it was almost perfect. At the same time this took a little nerve out of some songs. It could have been a bit more heavier.
You didn't play anything from it yesterday...
- Ken: It was a short set, 60 minutes only. We've done 16 albums and it's impossible to include songs from all albums...
Are there any plans for more touring?
- Ken: Hopefully. We're working on it at the moment. We'll do some gigs in Denmark and then start the European tour next year,at least I hope so. We'd like to play in as many places as possible. And cover some new territories. We haven't played in Scandinavia, in Sweden, Finland and Norway since 1992. Sure, we'd like to play in those countries.
What about the new album. Which are your own favourite tracks from it?
- Ronnie: "Brave New young Breed" is my fabourite and it has the 80's feel to it. "Wake Up The Real World" is one of the good ones. Ken came up with the riff at the rehearsals, I started sing the melody and the song practically wrote itself. "Such A Rush" turned out to be real good song too. Good ballads there too.
Ronnie, Here's a confession... back in the eighties, when I first heard your albums, I thought for a while that you had two different vocalists. That's because you have two distinct voices, the rough one and the clean one. How do you do that?
- Ken: he has schizophrenia!
- Have you ever had any problems with your voice?
- Ronnie: Yes, of course, I have had problems in the past when drinking and smoking too much but that was my own fault. All singers have problems on tour when there are many gigs in a row. You have to take care of your voice. I quit smoking and that helped a lot. I don't drink much either.
Did you see any other bands at UFOR?
Interview & photos by Kimmo Toivonen,
and Mira Suutari-Toivonen,