RONNIE ATKINS (PRETTY MAIDS): “The Fact That I Was In Pretty Good Shape And My Positive Mindset Is What Kept Me Alive”

Ronnie Atkins

Not long after Pretty Maids released Undress Your Madness, lead singer Ronnie Atkins suffered a devastating cancer diagnosis. Far from hiding away, Atkins set to work and wrote and recorded his first solo album, One Shot and now he’s just released a companion EP, 4 More Shots which includes a stunning new song, “Carry Me Over,” about his battles with cancer as well as a trio of acoustic reworkings and an orchestral version of the title track. Mick Burgess called him up to talk about his new EP and his first solo album as well as talking candidly about his health and hopes.

First of all, how are you feeling at the moment?

I’m OK. I’ve been pretty stable for some time. I’m still getting treatment but I’m good at the moment.

How has Covid impacted on you in terms of keeping yourself safe from infection and actually getting the treatment you need from hospital?

There were a lot of restrictions like wearing masks and social distancing but I was still able to go into hospital to get treatment. Over the last few weeks, things have opened up more here In Denmark. We don’t have to wear masks anymore and the restrictions have been lifted. It’s not over, we still have Covid here but hopefully we’re coming out of the danger zone. For me, when I had the last diagnosis that was just as the whole Corona thing so that was a pain in the ass because I couldn’t see anyone and when I went to the hospital it was problematic and I had to avoid people but now I’ve had the vaccine so hopefully I should be covered.

Have you played any shows since the lockdown was lifted?

I haven’t played anything. I haven’t been on a stage since early September 2019 for many reasons really. For me it’s pretty hard to plan anything. I don’t know where I’ll be a year and a half from now to be honest, not to sound morbid or anything. I want to go out and play, that’s my dream for next year. A lot of tours in Denmark have been pushed so it’s pretty difficult. I’d love to go out and play some of my own stuff but I’ll have to put a band together. I have some plans and will be making some decisions in the next couple of weeks. Promoters know I’ve been battling cancer so some of them may be a little uncertain but I’d love to go out and play. If I want to tour however, because of my condition, I have to seek permission and they have to check my medical records before I can go. If I have been suffering from pain in my shoulder or something a few weeks earlier, I may be able to travel but they won’t insure me. It’s a lot more complicated for me to travel now.

On to better news, you have just released a new EP, 4 More Shots (The Acoustics). How do you feel now that you’ve released it?

I’m really pleased with it but it was really only meant as four bonus songs for streaming. I didn’t expect it out physically but people were asking for it so we decided to put it out as a limited-edition release. I feel good about it. These recordings were done over a year ago when we did the One Shot album.

The EP features one new studio track “Carry Me Over”. This is a beautiful but very personal song to you. That must have been very emotional for you to sing?

It’s a little awkward for me to listen to as that was the very first song I wrote and because it’s so melancholic and the lyrics kind of sad but I can defend it because that’s exactly how I felt when I wrote the lyrics about a year and a half ago. I thought it was a nice song and wanted the fans to hear it.

This was originally done at the time you were working on your solo album, One Shot. Why did you leave such an incredible song off that album?

I didn’t want to put it on my album as I didn’t want to signal that this was my last song and I didn’t want to tip the balance of the album. When we recorded the acoustic songs, I had no idea if I’d be alive when it was released but here I am. I used it as some kind of therapy. What can I say, I praise God and I’m grateful that I’m still here. At the end I say that I hope for a miracle. My diagnosis hasn’t changed but the immune therapy and the fact that I was in pretty good shape and my positive mindset is what kept me alive. You have to believe in miracles. If you look at the statistics for cancer that has spread to the bones, it’s like 4% to 5% that would be alive after 5 years so I have to believe that I am among those 4% or 5%.

I try not to think about it too much unless I have a pain somewhere and the first thing you think is, is it back? I’m not living every day like I’m sick. I won’t let the cancer rule my life. Of course, it’s there 24/7 in your subconscious but I do feel good at the moment. I’m confronted with it every day but when the album came out, I decided to be open about it as every one in three of us will get cancer at some point and that’s a horrible statistic. My Mum had the same sort of cancer at the same age as I got it and she lived with it for two and a half years before dying in January 1st 1988. Then it was something you didn’t talk about but it shouldn’t be hidden away as so many people will get it. I talk about it to bring awareness to it. I wouldn’t post pictures getting treatment in hospital as that’s a little too personal but I don’t mind speaking about it.

Thankfully Denmark has a good healthcare system for their citizens to help with your care.

I know we pay high taxes in Denmark but we have an excellent welfare and health system and of course, when you need the treatment that I’ve been getting you’re grateful to have that available. If you get sick in somewhere like America, you can be in big trouble unless you’re insured really well.

There’s also three acoustic reworkings of songs from your solo album. Why did you pick those songs in particular to record in an acoustic format?

I don’t know why really. I think I just thought they’d sound good in an acoustic format. All three songs were basically written on acoustic guitar so it was pretty obvious really and thought they were suitable for acoustic versions. I always say that if you write a song on acoustic guitar or piano and it sounds good then there’s something to it and they were just the most obvious tracks to me.

“Picture Yourself” works really well in the acoustic format?

A lot of people have said that they think that the acoustic version is the better version. That’s how it is with certain songs. Anders Ringman, who co-produced the album and played instruments on the record has done a fantastic job and he has a great set of ears for these kinds of things. Linnea, who did the female vocals on the first album, sounds fantastic on this too. The funny thing about doing ‘One Shot’ is that I used female backing vocals as I used to do them all myself and I think having Linnea’s voice on there gives it an extra dimension. Her father is Thomas Vikstrom who sang with Therion and her grandfather was a very famous Swedish Opera singer, so it runs in the family.

Do you tend to write acoustically when you write or do you jam out ideas with the full band?

Those three songs on the EP were written on the acoustic guitar and “Carry Me Over” was written on the piano. Most of the songs I’ve been writing recently have been on acoustic guitar and sometimes on electric guitar. It inspires you in different ways. If I write on the piano, it inspires me to be more melancholic. It depends but usually the melody comes first then I’ll add the chords to it. I’m not a great guitarist, I’m no Yngwie but I can play a little.

In Pretty Maids you write with Ken Hammer and in Nordic Union with Erik Martensson. Who is your writing partner for your solo work?

I don’t really write with anyone else. I tend to write all the parts on my iPhone and send them over to Chris Laney, who was the producer and he can also throw things into the pan if a melody came up but the core of the songs are mine. I wrote one song on the last album with Chris Laney called “Frequency Of Love.” This was more Melodic Rock than it was Hard Rock or Heavy Metal. When I write with Ken his guitar will always be there and he always likes to have a good riff and we always have arguments over it being too Pop or being in the wrong key or something. It’s always great when someone puts a stick in the wheel but that’s what makes great songs sometimes. This time it was easier as it was more melancholic and Chris said that I could send the ideas to him and he’d do the instrumentation and he did a really great job. He has been my collaborator and brother in this project for sure.

Did any of your Pretty Maids bandmates wish they could have used something like “Picture Yourself”?

The thing is, I’ve only seen Ken once in the last two years because of the pandemic and the band hasn’t met together since September 5th 2019 after which the shit hit the fan when I got sick and we had to cancel the tour just as when we had a brand-new album coming out. It was very frustrating really. We haven’t written anything together yet and I think Kenny is working on another project. If it was going to be, it was going to be now for me to do a solo record.

For the first four songs on the EP, you have taken a stripped-down approach to your songs but the final track One Shot is totally at the other end of the musical spectrum with its dramatic orchestral and choral arrangement. Why did you decide to rework One Shot in this way?

When we mixed the album, we had an obligation to provide the Japanese version with a bonus track. I didn’t want to give them a brand-new track as I felt that was cheating on the European and American fans so we always used to do a remix or something of a song on the album and we did that with the Pretty Maids for many years. Jacob Hansen who mixed the album said that he knew a young guy called Lars Vinter, who did orchestrated tracks and asked if he should send him something. So we sent him One Shot and we got it back within 24 hours. It sounded awesome; I was blown away. That song can really carry that, it’s so big and epic. So, that became the bonus track on the Japanese version of One Shot. We asked the Japanese label if it was OK to use it on this EP and they said it was, so we were glad to be able to include it as I think it’s a great version, I love it, it’s almost like music from a film. He did a great job.

Would you like to rework the whole of your album in this way or was this just a one off?

I might not do a whole album like that but I’d like to do more versions like that.

Have you had any thoughts about doing a low-key acoustic tour in some intimate settings?

I’m thinking of a lot of things but I don’t know if I can carry them out. When I can, I will do some of them and an acoustic tour has been mentioned so that is a possibility.

It looks as though the EP has sold out already. That must be good to hear?

Yes, it is, but maybe they should have made a bigger limited edition. I think it should be available for anybody that wants a copy.

Erik Martensson recently said that he’s been talking to you about a new Nordic Union album. How far down the line are you with the follow up to Second Coming that came out in 2018?

It’s something that we talked about earlier in the year. I think it will happen but I don’t know if Erik has written anything for it yet. He’s doing a great job at the moment with Eclipse but let’s see. I can’t say too much about it now but we’re definitely in dialogue it so hopefully it will happen soon.

What about the Pretty Maids, your last album, Undress Your Madness came out in 2019. What is the current state of play with them?

There may be some shows but there’s be no talk about an album at all. We just did one but we couldn’t tour behind it because of what happened afterwards. In the case of Pretty Maids, we don’t have to put out albums every year or two and people still want to hear the old stuff. We literally haven’t met as a band for quite some time but we’ll make some decisions about that before too long. I believe there’s offers from festivals but it all depends how I am and I don’t know as I haven’t been on a stage since my diagnosis but I can’t wait forever. We have to make some decisions. We can certainly do some festivals next summer, if I’m around. It just sounds so morbid to say that but that’s my life now. I can’t just sit back and wait to be sick again, I need some outlet whether that’s writing or playing live. My biggest dream is to get back out on stage.

Do you have any other projects lined-up or guest appearances on anybody else’s albums in the pipe-line?

I’m still writing and I hope there’ll be more music to come from me and I’ve actually started recording but I don’t know when it’ll be coming out yet. I feel that I don’t have any time to waste so I’ll write a song and I’ll send it off to Chris and we’ll talk about it and he’ll do the music and I’ll do the vocals. That’s how we roll. I’ve had requests to write for other projects but I kindly declined the offers as I have enough on. The most important thing for me now is to write songs that come out by myself so I write songs with myself in mind. It’s also difficult for me write lyrics at the moment because of what is affecting me 24/7 so it’s difficult for me to write about sex, drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll at the moment or dungeons and dragons. I’ll just be concentrating on writing and recording my own material rather than writing for anyone else.

4 More Shots is out now on Frontiers.

For more on Ronnie Atkins visit and Frontier Records at

Interview By Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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