Ronnie Romero must be one of the hardest working men in rock. Aside from lending his vocal talents to the likes of Lords Of Black, Rainbow, MSG, Sunstorm and The Ferrymen he’ll be releasing a solo album, Raised On Radio on 15th April. Angelina Pelova managed to grab some time from Ronnie’s busy schedule for this amazingly in depth interview…
AP: Hi Ronnie! I don’t know if you remember me? We talked last year together with Milen (Vrabevski from the Intelligent Music Project).
AP: It is really good to see you again! So much has been going on for you in the past year! You’ve done Lords of Black’s new album, the Ferrymen’s new album with Magnus (Karlsson), you toured with Michael Schenker and recorded one (I think) song with him. I actually had a ticket to come to Birmingham to come and see you but was ill and couldn’t go. Also, you are recording with Sunstorm…
AP: And you are working with the Intelligent (Music Project).
AP: Am I missing something?
RR: (smiles): Yes, my solo record.
AP: Oh yes. So, which one do you want to talk about first? Your solo album?
RR: I don’t know; I mean, everything I do is important. Its funny people ask me: which one is your main band, your main project, as to me all the things I do have the same level of importance. If not, I wouldn’t be working with them, you know. Because everything I do, I normally take with the same responsibility and professionalism that is required to work with. Michael Schenker is not the same, for example, as Lords of Black, but, on the other hand, Lords of Black is the first band that I did in Europe, so for me it’s just as important as it is to record with Michael Schenker!
AP: Wherever we see your name, we know it guarantees good quality!
RR: For me it’s not possible to record an album with somebody and to give my 50 percent, you know. Everything is very important to me and normally if I work with somebody, it’s because I choose to work with that person, because I like it, because I want it, so I got to be 100 percent professional. I would say I was busy…
AP: You are very busy!
RR: Because of this situation with the virus and the pandemic, a lot of musicians were blaming it on the virus that the business is going to die as there is no chance to make shows, but I, fortunately, feel blessed because I was very busy doing a lot of things. I cannot complain about the pandemic.
AP: I actually think this was an opportunity for a lot of musicians, like yourself, Dino Jelusick, Joel Hoekstra, and so many others who engaged in collaborative music from all over the world. You are one of the people who are so busy that it is difficult to keep up with what you do. I am guessing that Corina (Ronnie’s fiancé and manager, Corina Minda – A.P.) is probably busy organising your schedule and your diary!
RR: Absolutely! Without her it wouldn’t be possible!
Ronnie on his first solo album ‘Raised On Radio’
AP: I notice that you have used her vocals for one of the songs on the new album. How did that happen? Is she going to sing more?
RR: With this record, everything started because Frontiers were asking me to do a solo album a couple of years ago. I was not convinced about doing it. I always thought that when a singer goes for a solo album, it is for two reasons. One is because you had such a long career already, so you can bring all your experience, and what you did before, into your own album. Second one is because you are probably bored of being with your band and want to do something different. Right?
AP: Or a third one – you have something to say.
RR: Yeah. I was not that convinced. I am working with a lot of different projects; I am doing pretty much everything that I want to do, singing different styles of music: heavy metal, power metal, hard rock, more classic rock with Rainbow, more progressive with a lot of different elements with Intelligent Music, so I wasn’t kind of convinced if a solo album would bring something new on the table for the fans. And then suddenly the record label, Serafino, said: you know, how about making a cover album, so you can get used to it?
AP: So, it was them who actually suggested that?
RR: Yeah. You know, get used to working by yourself and put your name on the cover, that kind of thing; then people will start relating your name with a project and not just being “the Rainbow singer”, “the Michael Schenker singer…” So we did this cover album. I tried to show a lot of respect not only for the songs, but also for all those people I have worked with in the past, since I started making music. For example, a friend of mine from Chile plays the guitar in Bob Dylan’s song ‘All Along The Watchtower’. This guy was my first guitar player in my first band ever. I wanted to give him this present; it’s part of my roots, you know. And then, for example, in the Freddie Mercury song, ‘I Was Born To Love You’, all the guitars are made by a good friend of mine from Spain who is the official ambassador of the Bryan May Guitars. Also, I started to play Queen songs with him, so it makes sense to bring him in.
AP: So, bringing all different lines from your line into one big project?
RR: Exactly. Because this album is about how I started, about my roots. This is why we picked up such a “strange” for most people tracklist, you know. Everybody expected I would sing Dio and Rainbow, and Deep Purple, those kinds of things, and Schenker maybe, but I always wanted to bring on the table some songs that were not the ones people would expect.
About Corina’s participation in the album
AP: So, it has a personal meaning to you?
RR: Exactly. All the songs we have in the track list I grew up listening to. And then with Corina, what happened, she asked me to do some vocalisms at home, you know, for fun, and I discovered she has a great voice. She is very bluesy in the way she sings and all the things and elements of the vocal coaching she understood very fast and was able to sing. And this specific song is one of her favourite songs. We were listening to the Jimi Hendrix version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ almost every day, so it makes sense of me to bring her in to sing a couple of lines: to get used to the studio recording process and also at the same time I can show people that she is part of my career as well because she helps me a lot in my daily job.
AP: It also changes the angle a bit, as a lot of people who follow you and her on social media see her probably as “just” a pretty girl who is a model and goes everywhere with you. I really admire her, not only because I am Bulgarian, so we are geographically close, but also because she is a very clever girl (she’s got to be to be a dentist!). I remember I saw a video of her learning to dance?
AP: Is she going to do that on one of your videos?
RR: Yes. The next video we are going to release for this ‘Ronnie Romero Raised On Radio’ album is going to be her doing a choreography dance, professionally dancing.
RR: You know, what I most admire about Corina is (I always tell this to a lot of people) she doesn’t need me to have success in life! This is the most important thing. Because she’s so independent, she is so smart, she is so clever, she is so professional in what she does every day. She works all day six days a week as a paediatric dentist, and then she also has time to work with my stuff. She travels with me as much as possible, so is not only, as you say, the pretty girl by my side.
AP: So, you are basically equal partners?
RR: Yes, and I really admire how she behaves with everything, you know. She is amazing!
AP: One thing that I wanted to say to you is that it is really lovely to see a couple who seem genuinely so happy together, and you are both so humble. You both have your careers: you have become a rock star, and Corina has her online presence, but you have both remained so down to earth and humble.
About the album cover artwork
RR: We understood that. We wanted to show people that we are in the normal life, you know. You can see in the pictures, we are not like that; we support each other, and I wanted to bring this to my music. She is a very important part of my life, so yeah, I wanted to show her, and she is on the cover as well. And actually, about the cover, it is a funny story. I was talking with the guys from the label, and they asked me, what kind of cover do you want? I said, you know, I was thinking of something very 80’s, like Quiet Riot, like Whitesnake, where you have this beautiful lady on the cover, or at least with these records, like the very 80s. The guy didn’t understand the idea, so I took a picture of Corina, just to give him an example, hanging in our room, with some albums on the floor, and I sent it to the guy and said, this is more or less the idea. And a couple of days later the guy asked me: can we actually use this picture because it’s exactly what I want? So, this is how Corina ended up on the cover and it’s funny!
AP: That’s a nice story! Was she surprised?
RR: Yeah, I obviously had to ask her, can we use the picture for this. So we were taking a look at the picture and decided, yes, we can use it. We ended up pretty much with the idea we had in mind for the cover.
AP: There aren’t any original songs there, right, they are all cover versions?
RR: Yes. The idea is to make a series of cover albums: this first one which is more oriented towards hard rock, classic rock music; the second one is gonna be more metal, let’s say…
On his plans for further solo albums
AP: So there’s going to be a second one?
RR: Yeah, it’s going to be called ‘Raised On Heavy Radio’. It’s gonna be more like Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen, Black Sabbath, that kind of stuff, but we’re gonna keep this philosophy of bringing not very well known songs — like more ‘B’ sides, you know. And then the third album is going to be a solo album with original songs which we are already working on.
AP: That’s a very good plan. I remember last year when we talked you mentioned that with Lords of Black you’ve written one or two songs but you didn’t think you were good at writing. So has that changed; are you getting a little bit of more confidence? I understand that with the Intelligent Music Project you have already written two songs.
RR: Yes. For me the issue with song writing is that most of the time I don’t want to change too much the personality of the band I am working with. It happened to me, for example, with the previous album with Michael Schenker. They asked me to write music, but then, when I started to write, I realised that it’s not going to sound like Michael Schenker, you know, it’s gonna sound like something different and I don’t want to step up too much and alter that. So, for example, with Michael Schenker I did one song in the last album. We’re going to try more songs on the new album that’s going to be out this year.
With Lords Of Black, the problem is (I mean, it’s not a problem; it is what it is) the Tony Hernando personality in all the song writing. When you bring some ideas or some different lyrics, it’s not Lords Of Black anymore. He’s very good at songwriting! I don’t need that kind of “ego” stuff, like when people say: Oh, I want to write a song because I want my name on it; I want to get some rights or royalties or whatever – I don’t need that. For me, if you are good at doing it, I am not going to disturb that! I am not going to change that. If you want to do everything, it’s OK for me.
Whenever I have the chance, I normally come up with some ideas. That happens with Intelligent Music, it happens with Michael Schenker, and that’s going to happen absolutely with my solo record because it is my solo record, so I need to be more involved in that part of the process of production. So yeah, I think on my solo record it is going to be pretty much my songs and my ideas. I’m going to take care of all the lyrics, vocal lines and everything. But you will see on Intelligent Music as well: the two songs that I did are not going to sound like the typical Intelligent Music song.
AP: They’ve got different types of songs anyway, so…
RR: Yeah, and it fits really well in the album. But people are going to recognise it: OK, this is Ronnie Romero; this is not Intelligent Music writing. But it’s great. It’s a great fit. We did the same with Michael Schenker: there are a couple of songs I did; actually, in the previous album I wrote just one song, and it became a single.
AP: Yes, that was on radio in the UK, do you know that, they air it on Planet Rock?
RR: Yes, yes. So, you know, it’s just to be trying, but I don’t like to get too involved because I don’t want to change the personality of the band. It’s like, if you want it, I can write a couple of songs, but that’s it, you know!
AP: That takes some guts as well; you are having respect for them and, obviously, your ego is not that important, so that’s a good thing.
RR: No, no! For me what is important is the good product! If I cannot add anything to the song writing process that is gonna make the album better, I don’t need that. As I told you, I am not that kind of person who just wants to write something because I want my name on it, you know. Makes no sense for me. Yeah, I really respect what they do. I’m not gonna tell Michael Schenker how to write music, anyway (laughs)!
On his participation in the Eurovision contest representing Bulgaria with the Intelligent Music Project
AP: Well, you are obviously a humble guy and a good guy. That leads me onto something else I wanted to ask you. I think it is a very good cause that you are representing Bulgaria for the Eurovision. That’s probably raising some eyebrows: Oooh he’s Chilean, from Spain and Romania… Do you want to tell me the backstory of this?
RR: Yeah. You know we’ve been working with Intelligent Music for the last few years. This is going to be my third album with them, four years working together; we did a lot of shows. And suddenly this Eurovision thing showed up and we think that it would be a good idea to do it, to promote the band. The most important thing is to have this big platform out of the rock world, more on the mainstream side, to spread the message.
AP: I don’t remember which band it was but I saw somewhere that there is another European band who will be playing rock music at the Eurovision. This is great news for someone like me, as I hardly ever watch Eurovision: it’s far too pop, too crazy. How are people in Bulgaria responding to this; are they supporting it, or is this subject for debate?
RR: It’s 50:50, you know, but it’s because it’s a different world. I mean, 99 percent is: you ask Eurovision fans who I am, nobody knows who I am, you know! And when you say: he plays with Ritchie Blackmore… they ask: Ritchie who? You know??!
AP: Yeah, it is a different world.
RR: It’s because they don’t listen to rock music. It’s a different world; it’s oriented more towards the mainstream. Most of the artists who go there have a different perspective of the music business, what they want, of their careers. For me, the Eurovision contest is perfect for an artist who’s starting their career and wants to go that way, because you have the platform, you’re going to have the spot on you for a couple of months and can have the chance to record an album, to tour over Europe, and that’s pretty much OK. I don’t need it. I don’t need that, as I did that already.
But I think it’s gonna be good. It’s gonna be good for Intelligent Music. With them, we have a very important message to bring to people! We are not just another band that plays rock to have fun and parties and that kind of thing. We have something to say, so the more people we can talk to, the better for us. I think it’s a great opportunity to do that and it’s easier. For me, it’s a bit strange because rock musicians are not used to this kind of experience. It’s a little bit intense; there are a lot of opinions. The Eurovision fans are very intense because it’s a very close community. But, anyway, we are doing good, most of the people are supporting us. Most of the things that I am bringing are a lot of rock fans to watch the contest and vote for Intelligent Music!
AP: I can tell you, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be watching it this year!
RR: A lot of people are in the same situation, and I get a lot of messages saying the same thing: I normally don’t watch this, but this year I’m going to watch it, and with Bulgaria you have my vote. The Eurovision world doesn’t expect this, but probably we’re gonna get a lot of votes anyway.
AP: I hope so!
RR: It’s going to be an experience, you know, it’s going to be funny!
On future plans
AP: Definitely… So, what next now? You are doing the Eurovision in May, and until then you are just doing different concerts with them?
RR: Yeah, most of the activities are going to be with Intelligent Music because this Eurovision contest is very hard. We have a lot of promo activities. You need to promote the band a lot; I am doing interviews almost every day. You need to go to some countries to play at those pre-parties. Actually, we are going to be in London in April; will be in Tel Aviv, in Amsterdam. We have some shows starting this weekend until the end of March, and then getting it ready because we need to rehearse a lot, to prepare all the rehearsals, counting on the cameras, so there is a lot of work. We also need to work on the styling…
AP: It might be a bit more hassle than you would have liked it to!
RR: Yeah, absolutely. But it’s going to be an experience, and that’s it. I am taking this as an experience and to have fun with the guys, and that’s it.
Mostly the focus is on Intelligent Music until mid-May. I can’t do the Michael Schenker tour because it is happening in the same period of time. I am going to join them again for the summer festivals and then for the fall tour.
AP: Are you coming for any festivals to the UK?
RR: No, I don’t think so. We are doing Hill Fest, Grass Pop and something else, I don’t remember. I think we have a couple of dates with Michael Schenker in Scotland if I remember correctly. Those dates have been postponed from the last tour.
On the bad publicity from scandal with his ex-wife
AP: I am out of questions now, but it is great chatting to you. How are things with your ex-wife, is that put to bed now?
RR: Not really. It’s going to take time to solve because it is a strange situation and, obviously, very intentional to show it up right now when I am going to Eurovision. This situation was in 2020, and nothing happened until now that I am going to Eurovision…
AP: Obviously the timing is very deliberate.
RR: Of course. I still have problems talking to my kid. Last time I talked to him was like a month ago. But you know, it’s life and you cannot control what people do. We are trying to solve it in the best way possible, thinking what is good for the kid we have in common, obviously. And then we will see. I would love not to have this problem, but you cannot control people’s behaviour. Some people don’t want to see you happy. That’s very sad but it is what it is. We are taking it with the best perspective possible.
I don’t want to be that kind of person who takes revenge and goes to court, sues the other person and is in this eternal legal fighting. I think it makes no sense. It’s not good for the kid, so I’m trying to take a little distance to see what happens, if things get a little calmer, then try to talk and to solve it in the best situation. It’s going to take time because it is a legal issue and it’s going a little bit slow, so I just need to wait and see what happens.
AP: One thing she may not have realised is that even bad publicity is publicity, so she has created more publicity for the band!
RR: Yeah, we were laughing a bit about the situation because Corina told me: “You know, you are a rock star, so you must have a criminal record!” (laughs)
AP: It’s great that you have a woman by you who is supportive and understanding and that gives you all you need in life.
AP: Well, it’s great to keep chatting but I am also conscious of the fact you are very busy and have taken time out which I really, really appreciate. All the best with the Eurovision, I will vote for you!