|Dennis Ward - Pink Cream 69 - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Matt Phelps|
|Sunday, 24 February 2013 03:30|
Six years on since last album 'In10sity' and Pink Cream 69 make a welcome return in 2013 with album number eleven, 'Ceremonial'. I caught up with bassist/songwriter/producer Dennis Ward recently to talk about what's on the hard rock horizon for the German five piece. And with Dennis also being the four string force behind Place Vendome (who released my favourite album of 2009) and Unisonic (who released my favourite album of 2012) I could think of no one better to speak to for my first interview of the year than Dennis so I could get the low down on all three bands current statuses.
No problem at all.
I guess we're here to talk about the new Pink Cream 69 album 'Ceremonial'. The first new album for six years. How are you feeling about it right now?
So far pretty happy with it. Usually for me when I do a production when it's done I've had enough. I'm just glad it's over but I'm really happy with the results so far. Of course there's always something that I think I could have done a little better but that's life, it's just the way it goes. But all in all I'm quite happy with it.
Excellent. It's a new line up this time with Kosta (Zafiriou) having left last year. Chris Schmidt now on the drum stool. How did that change the dynamics of the writing for the album?
Um, not much at all to be honest. Alfred (Koffler), myself and Dave (Readman) all write independently then come together and throw ideas at each other. So we are the three main songwriters and always have been. Kosta would give input as well as an arranger and stuff but we're fully capable of getting stuff done without him so it was not a real big change. There was no big difference for us. Chris of course had his drum input and a lot of good ideas and it all went rather smoothly this time. No problems at all with the dynamics so no real difference to our previous work.
So it was easy to slip right back into it after a six year absence then?
Well we're always writing for other stuff and Dave is always performing. I have my other projects too so I'm constantly writing. So it's just like continuing it's not like having to get back in the game. Just going back to where we left off.
I believe the album title 'Ceremonial' is such because the album is a celebration of all the different styles of music you grew up with...
So how would you say the album differs to some of the previous Pink Cream 69 albums?
Well the main thing is we purposely tried to back up on production a bit. We tried to get a little bit rawer, a little less buffed. Mainly less keyboards. We felt it was not necessary for the songs we have now and we wanted to really try and reduce it, which we did do so I'm really happy with that. We wanted to make a guitar album, make it less produced and compared to the last album 'In10sity' we've definitely accomplished that.
What are some of your favourite songs from 'Ceremonial then? If you could take us through a few.
'Land Of Confusion' is definitely one of our favourites. As is 'Special' and also 'The Tide', I really like that one too. I also really like the way 'Right Or Wrong' turned out. There's quite a few, 'I Came To Rock' is also really cool.
Will you be supporting it with a tour?
At the moment we only have a single show lined up. But we are just starting to make plans for some more single shows and if that all goes well we'll have those shows around May then get into the festivals in the summer. We may be a little bit late with our release for that but we're still hoping we can get a slot here or there. If that goes well then we'd like to plan a tour for the Fall. We don't know whether we'll do a double headliner or support though. Probably more along the lines of double headliner. I don't see us doing a headliner right away unless something goes really well in or favour.
Do you feel having different backgrounds goes towards setting yourselves apart from other German bands to any great extent, with yourself being American and Dave English?
Well, considering I've lived here in Germany for so long and Dave is also pretty much completely integrated I don't think it makes all that much of a difference because we all live here. I just think as a band and as people in general that happens naturally and makes us stand out if you will. We were never ones to really follow trends. Although I will admit that in the mid nineties we did try to hop on a bandwagon which definitely did not work out for us. In this day and age we've got the attitude that we'll write the songs and do the stuff that we feel good about and that's it. We're not gonna pay attention to trends or what have you, what's popular or not. That doesn't matter to me anyway to be honest, in Pink Cream 69 we really just write what we like and don't consider stuff like that. We don't let it influence us put it that way.
I suppose that's one of the benefits these days of having labels like Frontiers where they're prepared to just support the artists to do whatever they want as opposed to maybe the mid nineties when labels were pushing bands to change to fit in with trends and tap in to particular markets.
Yeah that was the case, it really was. It is true now that we really do have the freedom. Back then though the expectations too were so much higher for a lot of obvious reasons. I remember that selling eighty thousand copies would have been considered a flop but today you sell eighty thousand albums and you're probably gonna go platinum in a lot of countries. Times have definitely changed. Now we're happy for the freedom but on the other side, and I hope this doesn't sound too arrogant, we pretty much figure we're gonna do whatever we want to do anyway and if nobody likes it then we really don't care. We don't have anything to lose to be honest. We've really come full circle now to the point where we say when we make music we're gonna make it with heart and soul, we're gonna be dead serious about it, we're gonna do our very best and do what we think is really good. We're gonna be critical, we're not just gonna write a generic album and say that's it we've done it but we're also not gonna be influenced by anything else that's going on or what other people say. We're not like the most popular band in the world and we don't have a lot of success at risk so we can do what we want to do, we have nothing to lose and that really makes life easier for us. If everybody enjoys it as much as we do and enjoys listening to it that's a big big bonus for us. But if nobody's really into it then we can't change it anyway. We only do what we can do and that's it. A band is the chemistry of everybody involved and I just made the example earlier today that if you ever went to a pub and saw a cover band performing one of your favourite bands and the musicians are playing it almost to a T, the notes are right, the lyrics are right, the style is right but you think it sounds nothing like the band you know. The band chemistry brings the song over. We wanna be true to ourselves so we only do stuff that we think we can do really well. We're not gonna try and do stuff that we think other people want to hear because it's in or because it's kind of a trend. We're just not influenced by any of that and we have nothing to lose. Absolutely nothing.
Yeah I think that kind of honesty coming back into music has really helped us see such a resurgence in this sort of melodic rock over the last, what, ten years?
Yeah, there's a lot of stuff that sounds quite similar.
It's a good day to be talking to you as I just saw earlier that your own website finally went live today. So congratulations on that. I was looking at all the different projects you've been associated with over the years production wise and stuff. I had no idea it was so much.
(Laughs) No, me neither. Half the stuff I'd forgotten I'd been involved with. There was a phase about four or five years ago when I was working like I was on some sort of factory line. Sometimes though I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing at times and that wasn't good. I've decided now that I'm not gonna work like that anymore and if I do something I'm gonna do it as best as I possibly can with all the pleasure I can put into it as well. But yeah I have done a lot of stuff, I'm grateful. Even the bad stuff I've done has always been a good learning experience. I can only hope that it continues.
If we could just take a minute to talk about one of those projects in particular, Place Vendome. Those two albums are easily in my top five albums of the last ten years and I believe there was talk recently of the possibility of a third album coming sometime soon?
Yes, it's coming out this year.
Excellent. How's the writing going for that? I mean you wrote a lot of the first one but used different writers for the second.
Yeah I didn't have a lot of time around the second one, I was quite busy. This time there have been a lot of songs offered, however I am going to sit down and try and offer some songs myself. If I'm lucky I'll get three or four in there too. I've actually only recently started writing again because I was on tour and then I had a large production with Krokus that I've only just finished as well as working with Pink Cream at the same time. So since Christmas I've been trying to endeavour with some new song writing and I've got quite a few ideas. That's easy to say but sometimes they come out well and sometimes you say what the hell? (laughs). But I'm actively writing now and I'm hoping it's gonna be some stuff for Place Vendome. There should also too be a new Khymera album coming out and I'm just trying to keep as much going on with the song writing as I can. So it's all very busy.
Last year was just as busy for you as you spent a large part promoting Unisonic. How are you feeling with the reception that Unisonic has gained?
Very good. So far we really can't complain. It's turned out better than we expected. The tour was very very good, we had lots of shows and some great festivals so all in all it was a complete success. That motivates us to want to start the next one as soon as possible when Kai (Hansen) gets back from touring with Gamma Ray. First of all Mandy (Meyer) and myself will start writing and I'm hoping that by the end of the year we'll be recording the next album.
Unfortunately we in the UK didn't get a chance to see the band on that tour. Do you know if there's any hope you could make it over here next time?
There's always hope (laughs). It's always a logistics problem, where to play, who to play with, who wants to have us, you know? So far the reception has been very good world wide but I have to be honest and say it has been better in places like South America and Asia and that's where we've really done quite well I think.
Going back to the role you have in Pink Cream then, when did you first realise that bass was the place for you?
Well, I actually never wanted to be a bass player per se. I started off playing a lot of different instruments, acoustic guitar being one of the first. I loved Big Band music, when I was in High School I played many different types of horn instrument. My passion was the trombone, I really enjoyed playing the trombone. Then I got into the double bass, the contrabass guitar. I was learning to play with a bow, really classical, enjoyed it to death and the school had a real nice instrument which I unfortunately destroyed in my stupidity. And you just don't go and buy a new one when they break. The band director looked at me and said well we've got this Yamaha BB100 that I could play with a Rosac 4x10 inch combo amp and I was basically forced to start playing bass. Which was OK because I was into all music. For example I loved disco cos of the bass right. I just thought that back then in the seventies the cats that played bass in disco they were top notch. They were so disciplined and they were so round and so dominant that it always fascinated me. So I started playing electric bass in High School and after I started playing I started paying attention to other musical styles that I hadn't really before, like rock and whatever. I came to the conclusion that in rock music, at least in the early eighties, bass was probably the most boring thing that existed. In the seventies it was pretty cool, in the eighties it was like the bass player was usually the guy who played guitar the worst. Then I discovered Rush and my world was over. Geddy Lee was like something else. He was like look, you can play this instrument and be cool too, you know. Then all of a sudden in less than a year I was totally turned on by the electric bass and I rehearsed a lot, started some little bands going and stuff. So within my third year I was already playing on a professional circuit, a club circuit and that took me to a lot of places. I had to learn a lot of cover songs. When you learn a lot of cover songs the benefit you get is that you simply learn how music is brought over. I was pretty happy I did that even though at time I thought oh my God playing this shit again in front of these people again but at the end of the day it made a lot of sense. It was a benefit more than anything else.
So it was natural that you'd take the bass position with Pink Cream then?
Actually when Pink Cream was formed they had another bass player. He was actually a guitar player, a very good guitar player by the way, he still is an excellent guitar player and has his own studio. He was basically just there to help out until they found a bass player. They were just getting started and I did an audition, they seemed to like it but for three months I heard nothing, there didn't seem to be a real interest. I kinda gave up on them and then they called me back and said we'd like you to join the band, we need to rehearse for a couple of months and then we're gonna be going into the studio to record some demos with producer Dirk Steffens in Hamburg. Of course I was overwhelmed and happy, we started on the songs and the rest is history.