Allison Robertson and Maya Ford - The Donnas - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney -

Still riding high on the success of the smash hit album ‘Gold Medal’, The Donnas are set to bring their hard rock edge back to the masses later in the year, which is sure to be music to the ears of rock fans all over the globe. The Donnas, who have been ridiculed and praised by critics worldwide, finally proved that they are a musical force to be reckoned with when they released ‘Gold Medal’ back in 2004. Since the albums release the girls had their hit single ‘Fall behind Me’ used to promote the American Snowboarding team and the 2006 Winter Olympics and have played to sold out audiences across America, Canada, Europe, Japan and right here in Australia, once again leaving the Australian audiences hungry for more. After almost ten years together the Donnas are still going strong and have no intentions of slowing down as I recently found out when I spoke with the most down to earth rockin' girls in this industry; guitarist Allison Robertson and bassist Maya Ford. We spoke about the success of Gold Medal, life out on the road, Video shoots, what’s install for Donnaholics worldwide and much more. It’s time to kick back and ‘Spend the Night’ with The Donnas!

Metal Fanatix: Hi girls. I want to thank you both for taking the time out to answer a bunch of questions for our readers! How are things going?

Maya Ford: Things are pretty good. We’re on a plane headed for Chicago right now, keeping busy writing songs & trying to organize my apartment so it’s not a total war zone.

Metal Fanatix: I want to congratulate you both on the success you have received over the eighteen months with the release of 'Gold Medal'! Both fans & critics have praised the album. No doubt you were happy with the outcome?

Maya Ford: Thanks so much! Oh yes I’m very pleased with ‘Gold Medal’. The songs are really fun to play live; they have a little more depth & emotion than some of our older goofier songs. It was exciting for me to play a little different musically, mix things up & experiment.

Allison Robertson: Well, to be honest, we've gotten a lot of great reviews & praise over the album as well as some pans, from fans & reviewers alike, but nonetheless I'm proud of the album.

Metal Fanatix: Maya you have said that when you recorded 'Gold Medal' you didn't want to restrict yourself & threw away all the old rules. Up to that point did you feel restricted in yourself as an artist or was it more the pressure from the record company telling you what you can & can’t do etc?

Maya Ford: I don’t think we felt restricted by our label; it was more that we always had the mentality that you have to put an album out every year. We would do it really fast & it kind of felt like being a machine or a robot. Ok you have one month to write fifteen songs, then go record it, do press then off to tour. There was never time for reflection or growth. We never really had the chance to say “Oh this song’s really amazing” or “are we just trying to finish the record & get it out on time so we can go on tour?” Make money so we can still be a band. So with ‘Gold Medal’ we kinda decided to take a little more time & create something we’d be really proud of & connected with.

Metal Fanatix: I know you guys approached recording 'Gold Medal' in a different way to past releases, what were the major differences this time around.

Maya Ford: Well, instead of tracking all the bass & drums for all the songs first, we did it song by song. We’d get the basic tracks done & then do extra stuff; vocals followed the next day. So you could really focus on that one song, give it attention & make it special. We also used a different producer Butch Walker & he brought some different techniques to the table. He was a blast to work with.

Allison Robertson: The biggest difference I think is that we decided to go with songs that we felt were natural, not trying to impress anyone or fit any mould in particular, as opposed to going with our normal instinct of trying to keep our style the same through each record cycle like we had been doing before. We were under a lot of stress, being rushed to make a release date as Maya said & we just felt like instead of trying so hard to craft something similar to ‘Spend The Night’, we wanted to do something relaxed & simple.

Metal Fanatix: Why did you guys decide to go with Butch as the producer when you could have picked almost anyone?

Allison Robertson: We didn't know Butch at all previously, but we had bad luck with a producer we had initially selected in pre-production. When things didn't work out with him, we called up a few more people to have meetings with & Butch came up. We clicked with him right away & knew we would have a good time making a record with him.

Metal Fanatix: When you guys prepare to start work on a new album, what comes first the lyrics or the music?

Allison Robertson: Usually everyone's got something up their sleeve, I've got music, everyone's got loads of lyrics, & we just start sharing info & working it out.

Metal Fanatix: Are you currently working on any new material? Can you share any working titles with us?

Maya Ford: Yes, we are working on lots of new material but its all top secret sorry [laughs]!

Metal Fanatix: Oh, you have to share something with us [laughs]!

Allison Robertson: We have about twenty songs finished & we're working towards thirty before we start the album process, demo-ing etc. Usually we're in such a hurry we write fifteen songs maybe a few more & then just cut a few when we're done recording, but now we finally have time to stretch out & try new things, so the more the merrier. That way we can select 13 -14 tracks that really stand out from the others & hopefully the quality of the songs will be high & we'll feel much more accomplished.

Metal Fanatix: Awesome, that’s great news. How about plans for a DVD this year? Is there anything in the works?

Maya Ford: Not sure yet. Maybe!

Allison Robertson: We've wanted to do a video collection for ages.

Metal Fanatix: Now I have read on many occasions that you are all self taught musicians. Allison did you always want to be a guitarist?

Allison Robertson: No, I wanted to be David Lee Roth when I was little [laughs] then I wanted to play drums. I had a keyboard when I was about five. Then I got a bigger cooler keyboard from my grandma when I was about eight & it was a whole new world. I could program drumbeats & bass lines & layer tracks. I wrote some great songs back then. Then I started getting interested in guitar later, around the age of thirteen. I just picked up an old acoustic lying around & learned old R.E.M. songs with Maya.

Metal Fanatix: So what was the first guitar you actually owned?

Allison Robertson: My first guitar was a Mexican-made black Fender Tele. I took it apart & it never sounded the same. I ruined the pick guard trying to paint it & make it look "cooler" [laughs]. I replaced the pick guard eventually but I sold the guitar to get my first Gibson a few years later.

Metal Fanatix: How about yourself Maya, did you always want to be a Bassist?

Maya Ford: Nope I wanted to be Cyndi Lauper, a bear or a pirate [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Maya Ford: I always wanted to be a performer though. I played bongo drums & the recorder when I was really little & always loved dancing & singing. I got a guitar first & it was too hard so I bought a bass & let Allison play guitar because her dad is a guitarist.

Metal Fanatix: Oh, I didn’t know about that. Tell us who some of your biggest influences are as a bass player?

Maya Ford: Oh, I love Mike Mills from R.E.M. & Colin Moulding from XTC. Sid Vicious is also pretty cool.

Metal Fanatix: Girls, let’s talk about life on the road! What is the one thing you miss the most when you’re touring?

Maya Ford: My friends & family that aren’t with me on the road. I miss doing normal stuff like baking brownies & riding my bike, sleeping in my own bed, being in my own apartment, having all my clothes, toys & shoes.

Allison Robertson: My boyfriend.

Metal Fanatix: Do you do anything specific to warm up & prepare for a show?

Allison Robertson: I don't. I just try to stay away from anything stressful or hard on the brain, & we usually play music backstage that gets us pumped. Maya: Sometimes I’ll do some shoulder stretches & touch my toes. Chug a few beers & have a dance party backstage then we hold hands & say something inspirational. I say a Jewish prayer & we all scream Shalom and then run on stage while Cinderella is blasting thru the club!

Metal Fanatix: What has been the best show of your life so far?

Allison Robertson: Probably an outdoor show we played in Atlanta a few years back. It was a free outdoor radio show & thousands of people showed up. I know they weren't all there for us, but the reaction was so wonderful & our performance was great because of it, so it felt like our own huge show.

Maya Ford: The Alaska state fair was pretty amazing. It was my first time in Alaska & it was outside, the setting was gorgeous. But I dunno, there have been a lot of good shows it’s hard to say which one was the greatest. New Zealand was pretty neat too.

Metal Fanatix: And what’s the worst?

Maya Ford: Rockorama in SF. I think we were eighteen? It was totally unorganized, a fiasco! The police made us stop playing fifteen minutes into our set. A complete embarrassing waste of time & the people that put the show on were morons.

Allison Robertson: We've had a lot of bad ones [laughs], but I think most of us would agree the Bernie's debacle in Ohio was pretty bad. The water pipes were falling down from the ceiling above the stage & people were violently pushing each other & falling onto our equipment! We had to end early cause it was too rough on the audience.

Metal Fanatix: When the time comes to work out the set list, do you find it hard to choose the right songs; I mean there will always be fans who want to hear the old stuff & the occasional obscure song in some cases, even covers & of course you have to play new tracks. Do you find it hard to make a set that is going to please all fans & yourselves?

Maya Ford: Yeah, making a set-list is always hard because we have so many songs & we don’t wanna ignore requests but some of our songs just sound bad live or they aren’t fun to play. So we try to pick out some old favorites that we are comfortable playing & bring them back to spice up the set-list once in awhile. Personally, I’m always excited to play brand knew songs.

Metal Fanatix: You have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most & can you share a funny story from the tour?

Allison Robertson: We enjoyed touring with Rooney, the Smugglers, Maroon 5, Slipknot, & The Hives. All are great & fun to hang with.

Maya Ford: I had a lot of fun touring with Rooney. One day when we were on Lollapalooza together, Louis Stephens their keyboard player had the brilliant idea to steal a golf cart & go joyriding, we were pretty wasted & it was pretty fun until we got caught [laughs]. We drove in to the festival grounds & were trying to cause trouble. I think we ended up getting away unscathed. Some good pranks went down on that tour. I also set my bass on fire with a blowtorch in the parking lot.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] You guys have been to Australia a couple of times now, played to sold out crowds & put on kick ass shows, are there any plans to return soon?

Maya Ford: Oh I hope so! I love Australia it’s the best place to play. The crowds are amazing & the wombats too!

Allison Robertson: If we could have it our way we would tour there more than anywhere! Our shows Down Under are always insane & we can't get enough of the entire continent! We aren't touring anywhere at the moment, but trust me, first chance we get we'll be back & you wont be able to get rid of us.

Metal Fanatix: What memories do you have from the last Australian tour?

Allison Robertson: The great weather, the Koala Sanctuary, the coolest & nicest people, good times!

Maya Ford: Um, partying with The Hives, System of a Down and Slipknot a lot [laughs]. Eating lots of hash cookies & wandering around the festival. Making my manager Molly go on the scariest longest carnival ride ever, fearing for my life, also having a rambunctious Michael Jackson dance party with my drum tech in a backstage trailer and holding a Koala bear & a wombat. Oh yeah & getting my second tattoo of a candy heart on my wrist that says right on, then wandering around the streets of Australia feeling like an escaped mental patient cause I had bloody plastic bandages on both wrists.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Of all the albums you have played on in the past, which is your favorite to listen to & why

Maya Ford: ‘Gold Medal’ because my bass lines sound really good. And over all its just fun to listen to, there aren’t any songs you have to fast forward through.

Allison Robertson: ‘Gold Medal’ for me too. I've gotta go with the latest album always because we progress every time, we learn & develop, & it's hard to be proud of something when you feel like you can do better. The most recent always seems to be closer to where we're at, but at the same time, the new songs we're working on kick ‘Gold Medal’ in the ASS!

Metal Fanatix: Awesome, just like other Donnaholics I can’t wait to hear some new material. In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that hard rock & heavy metal music has taken over the last few years?

Maya Ford: I think it’s weird! I’m confused by it. I don’t really listen to very many knew bands because I just don’t get it. It’s too angry & everyone is taking themselves too seriously.

Metal Fanatix: What advice do you guys have for up and coming rock/metal bands?

Allison Robertson: Don't listen to other people unless you really respect them. We listen to our family members, friends & co-workers who believe in us, & we mostly listen to ourselves. No one else matters because like it or not, music is an art form & not everyone likes the same art. That being said, try to treat other bands with the same respect you would want from them, even if their music blows. You'll have more friends when you need them. If people don't dig your music that's their choice, but no one deserves to treat you like crap because that's what you like, what you play & what you create. Stand up for yourself!

Metal Fanatix: That is great advice! Being members of such a successful band I would imagine you get asked some pretty weird questions from time to time. What’s the strangest/scariest question you have ever been asked?

Maya Ford: Oh, do you shower naked together? And another that comes to mind is will you sign my penis?

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] really? Wow I’m staying right away from that [laughs].

Allison Robertson: Oh yeah, we get asked if we've seen each other naked & if we get our periods at the same time, which is disgusting. We also get asked about “being girls” in a man's world all the time, which is the most frightening question of all because it's so old fashioned & sad.

Metal Fanatix: Maya, I want to ask you about the film clips you guys have made. There have been some great clips such as ‘40 Boys In 40 Nights’, ‘Strutter’, ‘Fall Behind Me’ & ‘Take it Off’. Many bands openly state that they hate making clips but as we know it's a must in this business. Take us through a typical day on the set of a Donnas clip?

Maya Ford: Wake up early go to hair & makeup then to wardrobe. You feel ugly cause you have zits & need to dye your roots or just got a bad haircut & none of the clothes fit you so you try to wear your own & then someone gets mad & tries to convince you to wear something hideous [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: Sounds like loads of fun [laughs]!

Maya Ford: Oh yeah! You sit around a lot waiting for shots to get set up. Basically you feel insecure & awkward all day. It all really depends on the director & the hair & makeup people you are working with. If it’s a really relaxed crew of your friends, its fine & it can be a cool experience but more often than not you get stuck with someone who makes you uncomfortable & it’s a bummer.

Metal Fanatix: What has been your favorite clip to date?

Maya Ford: I like the video for ‘Fall Behind Me’.

Metal Fanatix: I am a huge fan of many of the songs you guys have covered over the years from ‘Living after Midnight’ to ‘Speeding Back To My Baby’ & my personal favorite‘Too Fast For Love’. Is there a song you have always wanted to cover but just haven’t gotten around to doing?

Maya Ford: Thanks! We talked about doing ‘Jessie’s Girl’ awhile ago & Nazareth’s ‘Son of a Bitch’
Allison: I always wanted to cover ‘Jessie's Girl’ by Rick Springfield but it was too low for Brett to sing in the verse, & we didn't feel like changing the key. We also tried ‘Wild Child’ by W.A.S.P. but it sounded pretty bad. That was when we were still in school though, so maybe we should give it another chance someday.

Metal Fanatix: Oh I would love to hear you guys cover ‘Jessie’s Girl’. That would be amazing! There are so many killer songs, how do you guys decide on what to cover? Do you put it to a vote, get into punch ups lol?

Maya Ford: We all have similar tastes & we know what works for us & what doesn’t. We all have weaknesses & know there is some stuff we can’t pull off.

Metal Fanatix: There has already been so many highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?

Allison Robertson: Probably playing on Saturday Night Live, because they only have a few bands a season & they're selective. Also, inspiring kids to play an instrument, that’s a great achievement for us!

Maya Ford: I agree, I think playing Saturday Night Live is a pretty huge achievement.

Metal Fanatix: Maya, Ten years on what goals have you set for yourself these days?

Maya Ford: I’m living on the edge, I don’t have any goals, I’m just gonna see what happens. The world is always changing so who knows where I’ll be in ten years. I don’t like making plans. I’m a spur of the moment kinda girl; maybe I’ll join the circus [laughs]

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] In a few words, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the following songs!

Gimme a Ride

Allison Robertson: Great solo! Judas Priest-y vibe & I've wanted to play it live lately as we never have before.

Leather on Leather

Allison Robertson: Highway to Hell with slutty lyrics!! A classic!

Maya Ford: Sexy, sleazy, risqué fun

Out of My Hands

Maya Ford: Heart ache being on tour & missing your boyfriend.

Who Invited You

Maya Ford: Spilt beer, emo jerks fighting!

Allison Robertson: About all those people who want to spoil our fun because they can't have any!!! Playful of course. Apparently it didn't do so well on radio over here because it 'sounded too similar to ‘Take It Off'. Hoot Hoot.

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be and what would you call the band?

Maya Ford: Tom Keifer, Graham Coxon, Bill Berry, Warren Di Martini & Bootsy Collins. I’d call it Sonica Sudsies!

Allison Robertson: David Lee Roth on vocals, Prince would switch off with him. Ace Frehley on lead guitar/fiddle, switching off with Tom Keifer, Tommy Lee on drums, Bootsy Collins on bass, Rod Argent on rock keys, me of course, on whatever I want! We would be called Shove It.

Metal Fanatix: Prince and Ace Frehley in the same band, now that would be weird [laughs]! What is the one band you never want to hear again & why?

Allison Robertson: Anyone with a singer who sounds like Stevie Wonder / Jamiroquai, but isn't either of them. These bands with lame songs that wish they were soulful & funky but are super light. Leave the funk to the masters!

Maya Ford: The Donnas, just kidding!

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Allison & Maya it has been a pleasure speaking to you both today. I want to thank you again for taking the time out to speak with us & hope to catch up with you guys when you return to Australia. Do you have any last words for our readers?

Allison Robertson: Be nice to each other. There are enough problems in the world; no one needs a stranger to make them feel bad about themselves on top of it!

Maya Ford: Sleep more, eat more tacos, play more music, have fun, buy our last album & the one before that & come to our shows and support our band! It’s a guaranteed good time!

To keep up with all the latest news, tour dates & much more on The Donnas check out the following sites: - The Donnas Official Site - The Donnas Myspace Site - Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music

© Cameron Edney May, June 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.