Interview conducted August 05 2017
Interview published September 20 2017
Metal Covenant met up with Pretty
Maids' keyboarder/guitarist Chris Laney right
after the show at Sweden's Skogsröjet festival in August and took
the opportunity to also propose some questions about his past achievements
with bands like Shotgun and Randy Piper's Animal.
"But before that, shit had already hit the fan big-time between
me and Piper. He met a woman who tried to convince him that I tried to
screw him over financially and stuff and he believed every word of it."
Tobbe: Why did you decide to join Pretty
Maids last year?
Chris: Because I was asked to. [Laughs] It's
that simple, really. In 1983, and I have argued with Ronnie [Atkins,
vocals] over this actually because he says that it was in 1984, but
I claim that in 1983 I was watching a TV program, on Danish TV, in Helsingborg
[Sweden] you could watch Danish TV, that was called Heavy Metal and
they had a special about Danish bands, Mercyful Fate and Pretty Maids,
and they played the song Fantasy [1983 Demo] and I just knew that I
wanted to hear more from that band. So, my love affair started there.
I have liked them for a very long time and therefore the decision was
so easy and, you know, even my wife likes them.
Tobbe: And the Kingmaker album, that was
out in November last year, how much were you involved with that one? Even
if it was just pushing a button on the board.
Chris: I can tell you exactly what I did. The
only thing I did was playing and co-writing the solo on the song Kingmaker.
Because I came in so late in the whole process. I was asked in April
if I knew someone who played keyboard and guitar and who could sing
and I said "I can do that." and they said "Yeah, right!".
But it didn't take that long before Kenneth [Ken Hammer, guitar] called
me and said he had been talking to other people and those guys told
him that I was the right guy.
I didn't do anything more at all, but I was sent rough mixes and since
Ken knows me as a producer he wanted my opinion of the song order and
which song I thought would be the single and stuff like that. We didn't
fully agree, but it is what it is. [Laughs] And that's why you hire
a producer, because of his opinion, you know.
Tobbe: How do you look at your own part
in the band? I mean, the two older guys [Ken and Ronnie] have been around
for 35 years and what can you do to put forward your own ideas, even if
it's first and foremost in the live environment right now?
Chris: You know, it has come pretty natural,
even if I at first was kind of laid back. It actually started with:
Before I joined the band I was supposed to go on a try-out for 3 gigs.
That's the way it was. You know, I hadn't played the keyboards in many
years and it's also about how you are as a person. If you fit right
in and so. I mean, you will pretty much live together and we've already
made almost 70 gigs this year and I meet them more than I meet my own
family at home. So we headlined a festival in Bulgaria in front of 8000
and I almost shit my pants.
A few weeks later we were going to the USA for
a Monsters Of Rock cruise, but when we were going to the airport it
was very important that only I, Kenneth and Ronnie went there, because
they took me to their local pub and suddenly they took a tray full of
shots to the table and "Do you want to join the band?". So
things happened faster than I expected. So I had kind of a family meeting
at home. Well, I said yes to the guys immediately, but I pretended that
the other's opinion would make a difference. [Laughs] No, things went
just fine, really.
So, my part from there is I've been given the
chance to grow into it and in the beginning Ronnie didn't want any guitars
almost and he just wanted keyboards. In his head every Pretty Maids
song is a whole lot of keyboards, but if you listen to the albums it's
really not the case and especially not the old stuff. Like when I play
the song Rodeo, I play a whole lot of keyboard even if it is a guitar
based song. So it's been kind of hard for us to decide what I should
do, but now Ronnie is like "You know, you should probably play
guitar on this one.". Because it's cooler, even visually. And since
I play both guitar and keyboards it opens up the possibility to try
to play other songs and that's what we're talking about now, what we
will do, and it's really fun.
Tobbe: But isn't it more fun to hold a guitar
in your hands and be out on the stage, rather than standing behind the
keyboards in the back?
Chris: I thought so in the beginning. With hand
on heart, the keyboard was a necessary evil to play with Pretty Maids,
you know. But I actually don't think so anymore because I like the combination.
I will be really honest, and if you go back through my history, in 1986
we played as support act to Treat for the second time with my old band
Scratch and when I saw Anders Wikström play both keyboard and guitar
I decided to play guitar. So I was a keyboarder in the beginning and
it's something that shouldn't be forgotten. So keyboard was one of my
first instruments and I played it for many years before I played guitar.
I think people are used to see me as a guitarist or a bassist, so maybe
people have more problem with it than I do. But to me it was more to
get back into it again, so I practiced so fucking much and on our vacation
last year I brought a keyboard to Turkey and when the kids were swimming
in the pool I was on the balcony with a Gin & Tonic over Pretty
Maids songs and a keyboard.
Tobbe: You have played with quite a few
bands over the years and why have you never become deeply rooted in one
band? You know, like Ronnie and Ken have pretty much been in the same
band the whole time. There's probably more than one reason to it, I guess.
Chris: Yes, there is. I mean, it was really easy
for Ronnie and Ken because they could pursue a career out of it. But
to begin in, let's say in the 2000s, I mean, we started Zan Clan, you
know, and no one knew what the kick-ass rock 'n' roll or sleaze thing
was, and that's why we did it. You know, kind of like "Let's bring
back Shotgun Messiah!". I mean, kind of like that, and not a fucker
understood a damn thing, you know. We had some followers there, but
then I got some other offers and, you know, if no money comes in you've
got to look for a place where there is money or one further step in
your career and in this case two guys ended up in The Poodles.
I mean, it's the way things work, you know. I
could have been stubborn and just kept on going, but I also have to
make money and I have a family as well. So after all attempts I've done
I took a decision to go back to being a producer because I still can
make money there. I had pretty much given up on my career and I started
to get to know these guys in another way than being a musician in the
Tobbe: If you're not an actual musician
you will have more of a solid income, hopefully.
Chris: Yes. That's right. You never become rich
by playing rock 'n' roll. I mean, there's only a few who can actually
live off their music. I have been having the luxury to live on the music
for almost 20 years. But during the last 5 years it hasn't been possible,
you know, and then it's a luxury to be able to do this with Pretty Maids
Tobbe: A couple of years ago you were doing
some shows with Shotgun and celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first
Shotgun Messiah record, even if you didn't play on it, and have you thought
about making a 30 years anniversary as well?
Chris: Will never happen. Will never
happen. But I'm a little bit sad that it didn't become more. We got
an offer to do a full European tour, but under the circumstances that
adults can't work with. If we had been 25 we would have gone out, you
know. But it wasn't okay, you know, money-wise. I mean, we would have
to take 5 weeks off and earn piss, you know. But that's what bands do,
who wants to promote something to sell it, but in this case we weren't
going to sell something, but we were going to celebrate something. So
that's a huge difference and we all agreed on that decision and like
"Oh, we can't do this.".
everything is recorded, in order to make a DVD, but we haven't come
so far yet. We put out the live album [Live: Down Decadencia Drive.
Out May 2016], but all the material for a DVD is there. So maybe some
But it's not so strange, because when you celebrate a
record you capture the moment and we can't play Bop City - 26 years,
Tobbe: Obviously you're out with Pretty
Maids now, but what's happening with your other bands at the moment? You
mentioned Zan Clan and will anything happen there? Or maybe Gathering
Of Kings, for example.
Chris: Gathering Of Kings is a project where
I have contributed with some songs and I have played keyboards and done
backing vocals on a few songs as well. I don't have to be so involved
there because Plec [Thomas Johansson] is the producer. Initially I was
going to produce and Plec was going to do the mastering, among other
stuff. But there was no time for me to do it and unlike him I'm not
in a recording studio, but a mixing studio, and I would have to pay
for some recording studio time somewhere and that would have been expensive.
A lot of things like that, you know.
I think it's great and I'm excited to see what
happens because right now I don't really know what it will be like.
So much has happened since I joined Pretty Maids and I haven't really
had time for something else. But Zan Clan is no more. Well, maybe if
I and Zinny
[Zan, vocals] You know, he's my best friend. We're
so tight and we keep in touch every month. If I was on my death bed
and my family would need a 100000 bucks, he would make it happen, you
know what I mean? A friend like that.
But, you know, we had our thing and unfortunately
it didn't turn out better in the end, but what we did we're really proud
of. I would have no problem with going out and doing a one-off gig,
but then it would have to be with the original members. It would be
really fun, you know.
Tobbe: We must talk a little bit about Animal
too. On the album Violent New Breed  the other band members got
songwriting credits as well, so how much of the album did you personally
Chris: Everything. I entered that process like
this: Because I didn't want any bullshit I told them that we would share
it in 3 equal parts and that it doesn't matter who comes up with ideas
as long as the songs are good. And that was it. It wasn't like "I
must also write a song." and then that song comes out not as good
as the rest and gets thrown in the trash. That record was done before
I went to the USA. So I went to Cincinnati and recorded Rich [Lewis,
vocals] and [Randy] Piper [guitar].
on the second record [Virus, 2008] Piper actually wrote half of a song
by himself, which is a really good one I think, Shoot To Kill. But then
I brought in Rich's son, who unfortunately has passed away with cancer,
and he wrote the lyrics to one of the songs. Add then Piper's son actually
were rapping on one of the songs. So it became kind of a family thing.
I wanted them to realize, like "C'mon, guys. This can be fun.",
Tobbe: I can't say that you copied old W.A.S.P.
stuff, but it definitely ended up in that layer.
Chris: Yes, absolutely. It actually began with
me hearing a record called 900 Lb. Steam [Animal's debut record. Out
2002] and I think it so completely sucked. I was so fucking disappointed,
so I contacted Piper and said "You fucking idiot. You must sound
like W.A.S.P. That's what people want from you.". So the whole
idea was to make the W.A.S.P. album that W.A.S.P. doesn't do today.
So that's why it sounds so much like W.A.S.P..
Tobbe: Didn't it feel kind of odd occasionally
to write music in the same vibe as another band?
Chris: But that was the whole plan, you know.
My idea was: "If W.A.S.P. would reunite, they would make one song
like Wild Child, one [Animal] Fuck Like A Beast and they would make
one I Wanna Be Somebody and I wanna make those songs then and we will
do it as close as we can.".
Tobbe: I think a lot of people who listened
to the band don't realize that it actually was you who were the band's
driving force and might that be a little bit frustrating to you?
Chris: No, absolutely not. That was the whole
idea. The band was called Animal in the beginning and I was the one
who wanted to chance the name to Randy Piper's Animal. He didn't want
to do that, but "Who gives a fuck about a band called Animal?".
I mean, when it said Randy Piper too we suddenly had a sales spot and
he was like "Uh.".
Tobbe: But you guys actually had a period
where you were getting some recognition in 2007.
Chris: What happened was, and I will be totally
honest, without looking at the relation between me and Piper and just
seeing it from a business perspective first: Piper was always nagging
about Violent New Breed wasn't released in the USA and it was frustrating
to him because he wanted to grow in the USA, you know. So I got us a
new record company that was called
I don't even remember what
the hell they were called. But never mind. They had an office in New
York, one in Germany and one in London. Everything went really great
and we signed the papers, but then it started when the front cover came
back and it didn't look like the one I sent to them. So they had changed
the whole cover. And they had misspelled stuff and there were no pictures.
I have a cover, with a picture on my daughter.
The cover has the same colors and stuff, but it has a kid with a teddy
bear and a gasmask. That's my daughter. That's the Virus thought. You
know, a little scary. But then there was some fucking, I don't know,
lung and "What the fuck have they done?". So I was totally
furious, but they just said that they had already sent stuff for pressing
and otherwise it wouldn't work in the USA. That was their answer, but
the day after the record was released, and this is completely true,
the record company went bankrupt. So the record is released and just
dies. Totally dead, and that broke me down completely.
before that, shit had already hit the fan big-time between me and Piper.
He met a woman who tried to convince him that I tried to screw him over
financially and stuff and he believed every word of it. But as I told
him when I first met him, and I must openly say this because I think
people wonder since I even sued his band W.A.S. as well. Anyway, this
is how it works: When I met Piper I was going to transfer some money
to him and I asked for his bank account and he was like "I don't
have one. The I.R.S. are after me.". So I told him "Then how
the hell can you complain about Blackie [Lawless] never paying you,
you idiot? How the hell will you get your money if you don't have a
And then I landed us a gig at Sweden Rock Festival
and told him that we were going to play right before the national anthem
when the place is packed with people and Piper just went "3 o'clock,
afternoon? How about the lasers and shit? Aren't we gonna have a laser
show?". I was like "Who said that? What decade do you live
in?". So right there it started and then that woman totally manipulated
him to the great extent that he became enemies with everyone he knew.
It's really tragic, you know. For real. But now he has met a new woman,
has become religious, looking really good and I hope that he's doing
I have met the guys who played in W.A.S., who
I sued as well, because they put out an album with the same songs as
our album. I have met Stet Howland [drums] and the whole bunch and we
keep in contact and it's just Piper that I don't have any contact with.
So they have figured out that he unfortunately can't be trusted. But
deep within he's really a sweet person, but I believe that the rock
'n' roll lifestyle destroyed too much. That's what I can say. I loved
him in the beginning and we all had a good time.
Tobbe: Where there never any jealousy in
the band, considering that it really was you who were behind pretty much
Chris: Never. I think because Piper was so convinced
he was right about everything and did everything, I think he even believed
that he wrote the songs. And that's why there was no jealousy. I mean,
you know, it's so simple, really. [Laughs] But there was no bullshit
song-wise and he was like "Hey! This is a fucking good tune.".
On Violent New Breed he played 5 solos and the rest was I and on Virus
I think he maybe did 5 as well and then Love [Magnusson] from Dynazty
played one and then I played the rest of them. I tried to make my solos
sound like Chris Holmes. You know, I'm such a fan and I will always