Danish metal band, Pretty Maids was formed in 1981 in Horsens, Denmark, by vocalist Ronnie Atkins and guitarist Ken Hammer. The band has been going strong for many years with absolutely no signs of slowing down. With their classic sound of guitar driven, melodic hard rock and metal, Pretty Maids has made a name for themselves with metal fans all over the world. Following the highly acclaimed album, Pandemonium, which was released in 2010, the band has been touring pretty much non-stop and their live album, It Comes Alive (Maid In Switzerland) was released this year in celebration of the band’s 30th anniversary. The band is currently on tour overseas, with only one date scheduled in the United States. The metal masters will be performing at ProgPower USA Festival on September 15, 2012, in Atlanta, Georgia.
In a recent discussion with Pretty Maids guitarist and co-founder Ken Hammer, he talked about the band’s longevity, the music business, the band’s latest album and much more. Hammer is a very down to earth, funny and friendly person. As far as the band’s longevity he said with a laugh, “If I knew why we’ve been around so long, I’d bottle and sell it…I don’t know. This may sound like a cliché, but it’s fun. There are so many assholes in this business that you have to have fun.”
From the age of 14, Hammer had always known that he wanted to make a career out of playing music. “I started out playing the drums, but I didn’t want to be stuck in once place. I picked up the guitar and I’ve loved it ever since,” says Hammer and sited his earliest musical influences to include Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and KISS.
When Pretty Maids formed in the early ‘80s, the guys tried to come up with a name for the band but monikers can sometimes come back to haunt you. The band’s name came from a book called, Pretty Maids All in a Row written by Francis Pollini; even Hammer feels the name just isn’t “cool” and confuses people but once you’re known by your name, it defines you, it goes down on your “permanent record” so to speak. “The band name is another big fuckin’ mistake,” Hammer heartily chuckles, “If I could, I would’ve changed it before I came up with it! I must have been so drunk at that time…I guess it could have been worse…we are still going strong!”
The songwriting process is different for everyone; some start with lyrics while others hear a tune in their head and make that their starting point to formulate the lyrics and melodies into cohesive music. Hammer talked candidly about the band’s songwriting process and where they get their ideas. “Everything I do starts with the guitar riff, and then I base everything off that…we don’t really have a standard procedure when it comes to writing,” states Hammer. According to him, a lot of song ideas come from sound check, and these are the songs that really turn into something big. Currently, his favorite song to perform live is Little Drops of Heaven, which was the first single from the critically acclaimed Pandemonium album, and described playing it live; “It makes me feel so good…it’s got a good kick!” One of his other favorite songs to perform live is the Sammy Hagar cover, One Way to Rock. “We’ve played it since the ‘80s and I’ve always loved playing it live.” The song is also covered on Pretty Maids’ tenth studio album, Planet Panic, which was released in 2002.
The state of the music industry has long been an issue, which Hammer isn’t too happy about and isn’t afraid to hide it. “People don’t buy albums anymore and it’s just sad. It’s a live industry now,” states Hammer. “The business is ruining people’s careers…selling albums should be so important.” And he’s right. Hammer feels very strongly that for up and coming musicians, it’s important to first and foremost have a good lawyer. “It might sound stupid, but it’s not so far from the truth…I’ve been screwed so many times,” he explained. Pretty Maids never fully broke out in the United States, and no one is sure just why. One thing is for sure, the music business is a fickle world. In 1987, their song Future World from the same-titled album, produced by the legendary Eddie Kramer (Led Zeppelin, KISS, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles), was a huge hit for the band in the U.S.
Although Pretty Maids may arguably be one of the more underrated metal bands of all time, they have still enjoyed a long and satisfying musical career, one they’re not close to being finished with.