Ronnie Atkins, best known as vocalist with Danish rockers Pretty Maids, expands on his singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs.
Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer in a band?
Well there was a lot really, but in particular singers like Ronnie Dio, Robert Plant, Ozzy and Freddie Mercury had a big impact in my early days, I guess. Later on I got into the more R&B bluesy inspired singers like Paul Rodgers and Steve Marriot etc. In principle I was always inspired by singers with very distinct voices. I’ve been singing since I was a little kid really, but later switched to drums, guitar and bass and basically played all instruments in several bands in my youth. Eventually I always ended up being the singer in the individual bands I was in since I was the only one that could sing [laughs]. Maybe that was a good deal after all, LOL.
Have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any other notable bands?
No I have not! I’ve been asked a few times in the past to join or go auditioning for other bands though, but never had any interest in doing that.
Having seen you recently at The Indoor Festival in Hamburg I thought you were singing great. Have your recent health problems affected the way you sing onstage?
Well thank you. I did indeed really doubt that I would ever be able to sing again when I was told I had cancer and had to have parts of my lungs removed; in fact after the surgery and a lot of radiation, I couldn’t for a long time. I coughed a lot and every time I reached for a high note it just got worse but then suddenly I got my voice back somehow. I think it has changed a bit, but can’t really explain how. But something has changed and I’ve had to adjust my technique a bit I guess. But that said I’m humble and grateful my voice is still there. It could have been much worse.
Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip top shape all these years?
Well there’s many different philosophies on that and I guess you just do what works for you!
I never took a singing lesson so I’m a self-made man, so to speak. I often wish I had but back then there were no vocal coaches around so I’d have to go to Copenhagen and take lessons and I simply couldn’t afford that in 1981/82. However it worked for me for 40 years so I must do something right [laughs]. I’ve had vocal issues in the past touring though and I guess I always did what you shouldn’t do in some sort. I was a heavy smoker and if I gargled in anything it would have been Gin & Tonic [laughs]. But seriously it’s an individual thing really. Some singers warm up all day, some an hour before showtime and some they just shut up. I personally just warm up by doing some weird sounds with my voice prior to walking on stage, normally accompanied with a glass of red wine or two, haha. Then it’s important to get some 6-8 hours of sleep...but I was never really good at that.
Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?
I love singing onstage and offstage! Always did. The singing really worked as therapy for me through all the crap (illness) I went through the past years. The hours on stage is what you’re waiting for all day. The encounter with the crowd, that’s what makes it all worth it!
What was the reasoning behind changing your name to Ronnie Atkins from Paul Christensen when you became a singer?
Basically because our back then English record company wanted us to. We didn’t think too much about it back then and just did it for the sake of a record deal. Young and naive you know, haha. I definitely took my first name from a certain Dio but I don’t recall where the hell I got the Atkins from to be honest!
What’s the rock scene like in Denmark these days?
I’m not really too familiar with that so I can’t really answer. I know there’s a lot of younger bands out there but I guess they’re much heavier. The growling thing which never really wasn’t my thing, but there’s a scene!
You have appeared on a great number of albums. Do you have a favourite and why?
No particular favourites really. I’m happy for the Pretty Maids albums we’ve done in the last 10-12 years since they proved we were still somehow relevant and had a certain consistency. Also the two solo albums I did in recent years since they proved I could still pull it off (At least to myself, haha)
Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?
Never really thought about that! Paul McCartney maybe [laughs].
The last Pretty Maids album ‘Undress Your Madness’ was released in 2019 and contained a strong set of songs. Is there a possibility of new music in the near future?
There’s absolutely nothing in the cards. We haven’t met since September 2019. There’s no communication between most band members, no chemistry at all really. So I don’t see that happening. But never say never! I really don’t want rule anything out as such, but it would take some serious talks though.
With the live circuit opening up again, is there a possibility that we could see you performing some live shows in the UK either solo or with Pretty Maids?
I certainly hope so, and that is my plan as a solo artist. I actually intended to set something up this Fall/Winter but there’s simply too much going on out there right now. Partly due to all the pushed tours because of Covid, the general uncertainty because of the damn war, the inflation etc. As for touring next year it also depends a lot on my own health situation and the outcome of my scans that are mandatory every third month. So it’s indeed a little complicated to plan too much for me. I hope for better times and a continuing good health on my own behalf.
Interview by Stuart Dryden