Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Gimme a Ride
Allison Robertson: Great solo! Judas
Priest-y vibe & I've wanted to play it live lately as we never
Leather on Leather
Allison Robertson: Highway to Hell
with slutty lyrics!! A classic!
Maya Ford: Sexy, sleazy, risqué
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
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.