Drummer/Vocalist/Bassist of Therion, Dimmu Borgir, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond & Dream Evil
Interview by Lord Of The Wasteland
Snowy Shaw is a veteran of the heavy metal wars. Since first surfacing with King Diamond back in 1989, to his tenure with Dream Evil, Therion and briefly Dimmu Borgir earlier this year, Shaw’s multi-instrumentalism and ever-broadening artistic vision have kept him busy both in the spotlight and behind the scenes. Despite his wearing many hats, Shaw has always remained a unique and interesting character.
This interview, conducted initially to showcase Snowy Shaw’s joining Dimmu Borgir, was consequently forced to change direction after the rather sudden announcement that Shaw was leaving Dimmu Borgir and re-joining Therion. This shift was even more confusing given the fact that both bands were set to release their latest CDs within days of each other.
As Snowy does his best to diplomatically explain the various moves, it is clear that there is more to the story, but we will have to wait to hear that. In the meantime, enjoy this lengthy chat with one of metal’s more charismatic personalities.
It surprised many people when it was first rumored you were joining Dimmu Borgir but it was even more surprising when, just a day after you officially announced you had joined the band, it was reported you had left Dimmu and re-joined Therion. Dimmu has said nothing officially of your involvement with the band despite a promo picture being released and the only statement came from Christofer Johnsson of Therion that you were back. Can you clarify to fans of all parties involved exactly what happened with Dimmu and the chain of events that led to you leaving so quickly? Was it an amicable split, the proverbial “musical differences” or what…?
I’m fully aware that people must be wondering just what the hell happened between Dimmu and I that made me quit the way I did. I wish I could openly talk about it, but I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to really discuss or give out any details in the matter, so for the moment let’s just say that there were major misunderstandings and a severe lack of communication that eventually led to my departure from Dimmu Borgir. I’ve been extremely upset and sad that things took such an ugly turn, when at first, it seemed to be the most perfect spot for me. But…well, no use crying over spilled milk, as the Swedish saying goes. I guess everything happens for a reason and I’m just delighted to be back with my Therion family and to start the world tour for our new album in just about two weeks’ time.
Did you pursue the vacant bassist position in Dimmu or did the Dimmu camp ask you to join? When did you actually start working with the band?
I think it was in February this year, I knew the guys and had previously been working with them making props and stuff for their videos when I was working with my friend Patric Ullaeus of Revolver Film Company, and we would bump into each other every now and then playing festivals and so on. Then you could say there were a number of incidents coinciding, Silenoz wrote me and shared some comedy link on my Facebook page. I was temporarily playing bass and singing in a rock/metal covers band who’d be off to play in some ski resort in Lillehammer, Norway the following week. I saw on Blabbermouth that Dimmu was in the middle of doing pre-production for a new album and was a keyboard player and bassist short after having fired Mustis and Vortex, so suddenly it just hit me…Fuck! No one could be more perfect for this band than me. So I sent a mail to Silenoz and a few days later they called me up.
Besides I had heard they contemplated hiring me to design and supervise stage props and visual designs, so I thought it’d be both convenient and idyllic to keep it all in the family, so to speak, if they could hit two birds with one stone, just like I’d previously been hired to do with Therion, on the side of my singing duties.
How much involvement did you have in the songwriting of the new Dimmu record, ABRAHADABRA? Did you only play or were you involved with songwriting, as well?
I was the last man in and they started recording the drums the week after I got involved, so obviously all the songs were written by then. I would later record some suggestions and ideas for additional vocal parts for myself since they hadn’t really expected to find a bass player who could do the clean vocals, too. I think we ended up using my parts for two songs, but that’s about it.
Having now heard the track and seen the video for Dimmu’s first single, "Gateways," you are seen mostly in the background. Agnete Kjølsrud seems to have taken over what, in my opinion, would have been the clean vocal part that Vortex—or in this case, you—would have sung. Any idea why the band chose to incorporate female vocals in place of clean male vocals?
I love what Agnete did on this track…sounds like some wonderfully insane witch! Like I tried saying before, they didn’t expect to be so lucky as to find a bass player who could also do clean vocals, so before I got into the picture, they decided to have a guest vocalist on a track or two to keep that style of contrasting voices they had before with Shagrath and Vortex, I suppose.
Is any of Vortex’s singing/playing heard anywhere on ABRAHADABRA or is it all you?
No, I heard about all that speculation and bullshit. Sounds like people have too much time on their hands. I sang in part on four or five songs, I think.
The first look at Dimmu’s new look shows they have gone in and changed the image of the band to more elaborate outfits. Did you design your own outfit/look for Dimmu or did the band already have a pre-conceived idea for whoever filled the bassist position?
The whole new image concept came from them and most of the outfits for the three original members were already done by the time I entered. I just LOVED the idea in theory and had been waiting half my life for the right opportunity to go "white", although I realized what an enormously bold and sensitive move it would be, especially for a black metal band, since it’s bound to be met with big skepticism by the average metalhead who’d probably consider it either gay, Christian or sissy unless it’s done the absolute right way. Therefore every little aspect needed to be thoroughly planned and nothing could be left for chance. So, of course, with great enthusiasm and expectations, I jumped to it and immediately drew detailed sketches for the designer they had selected to make the outfits. But, of course being my passionate self, I brought shitloads of complementary stuff that I already had but also had additional stuff made or repainted.
The other members of Dimmu play in secondary active bands. Galder has Old Man’s Child, Shagrath splits between Ov Hell and Chrome Division and Silenoz just debuted his new band, Insidious Disease. Why did you first decide to leave Therion instead of playing in both bands?
Believe me, I had every intention of continuing playing in both bands but there couldn’t possibly have been a worse case time-wise. Both bands release new albums in September—and on the same record label—and will be touring at almost the exact same time. I mean, it’s not like I could pick and choose what tours I want to do, and tell Dimmu, “Ok guys, I’m going to sit out the tours this year to tour with Therion instead and then get back on the train after the Christmas break, OK?” Either you’re in or you’re not. So, what the hell could I do? I was left with no other choice than to make a choice between the two.
I suppose an obvious question is…why did you return to Therion again after leaving just a few months earlier? Did Christofer approach you to re-join or did you seek him out?
Like I just explained, due to the circumstances and the way things developed, I was forced to choose between Dimmu and Therion. Unless I could quickly come up with a way to clone myself, I obviously couldn’t be in two places at the same time. One day I spoke with Therion singer, Thomas Vikström, who confided to me the difficulties they’ve had finding a replacement for me and he said, “Listen Snowy, just so you know, in case things doesn’t work out with Dimmu for one reason or another, you are more than welcome back—ANYTIME.”
Look, I have no intention of starting any shitstorm here and I’m not going to violate the contract I’ve signed which prevents me from revealing any further details about all the events and incidents. For now, all I can say is, I think my actions speak for themselves. I’m back to the original plan and will be touring all over South America and Europe with Therion until Christmas.
Were there any hard feelings or awkwardness upon returning to Therion or were you welcomed back with open arms?
No, not at all. They were all very happy to have me back.
I just listened to Therion’s new record, SITRA AHRA, straight through for the first time and it certainly should please the band’s fans. Do you play any bass on the record or are you just singing?
No, just singing in various styles and voice characters. Perhaps I did some little fart fanfare in the background, hahaha!
SITRA AHRA is out now in Europe and is due to be released in late October here in North America. Were you more involved in the songwriting on the new record than just the one track—“Tuna 1613”—on GOTHIC KABBALAH?
Yeah, it was quite a similar situation back then with GOTHIC KABBALAH as it was this year with the Dimmu Borgir album. I came in late and everything was already written. I played/sang the parts and just did my thing. With Therion, I added some melody or something I thought fit with the vibe of the song and ended up getting songwriting credit for it. Very generous and a nice gesture, I must say. I certainly wasn’t expecting that.
For this new Therion album, Christofer asked me if I could write 2-3 songs, which I did and in the end we used only two of them. The third song was a bit too heavy and brutal for this album. I also contributed some vocal melodies and arrangements on a couple of his songs.
Which songs did you write on the new record?
I contributed on several of Christofer’s songs with vocal arrangements and melodies, but of the ones ending up on the album, I singlehandedly wrote “Unguentum Sabbati” and “Cu Chulainn,” or whatever it’s called. On the latter, Christofer insisted on rearranging and shortening it. As the band leader, Christofer has the final word and we had to agree to disagree on that one. I normally write all the lyrics myself and I admit it felt a bit odd and unsatisfying having someone else do that without your approval or consent, but that’s the way Therion always does it, so I’m okay with that.
SITRA AHRA is the band’s first studio record since 2007’s GOTHIC KABBALAH. Many changes have occurred in the Therion camp since GOTHIC KABBALAH was recorded, with yourself and Christofer Johnsson being the only remaining members of that lineup, so should fans expect a different sound to the new record— maybe less grand in terms of scope than GOTHIC KABBALAH—because of this?
No, I wouldn’t say so. Different yes, but not less grand. Not to underestimate by any means the influence and contributions of the other musicians involved but at the end of the day, it’s Christofer’s band and he has the final say. Every new Therion album is different from the former album, and this time is no exception. I’d say you can probably see a return to the elements that most people associate with the Therion sound—more operatic vocals and grand orchestral elements—but still moving forward, trying out and exploring new territories, while at the same time drawing most of the inspiration from early seventies heavy rock music, French chanson, schlager and, in many ways, the kind of music you’d least expect from a so-called “metal” band.
Therion did a huge North American tour in 2005-2006. It may still be too early, but are there any plans to tour extensively over here again for SITRA AHRA?
After the last U.S. tour in 2007, Christofer went public and stated that Therion would never again tour the U.S., for some reason but just a few days ago, it was confirmed that we will play Prog Power next year, so who knows what will happen? I’d love to tour the U.S. with Therion again. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
You began Snowy Shaw Productions a while back. What exactly falls under that banner in terms of your own work?
Basically, I do everything under that flag. Apart from my little record company and all the work I do as a musician, freelance and so forth, there are also all sorts of graphic design, artwork, styling and photography etc.
You remain active musically, but also do photography. Will this be a profession you will pursue full-time once you stop playing music?
Nah, first of all, I will never stop playing or making music. One may occasionally talk about it in terms of a "job" and "work," but it’s actually my life and as long as I can provide a living from this passion and hobby of mine, I consider myself very lucky and privileged, and how can I possibly retire from my life? But yes, on the side of the music I’m going to continue to work with photography as a part of the artwork and expression in itself, and do work for other artists whenever I’ve got the time and if the particular project at hand excites me somehow.
The thing is, as with most things I nowadays do so-called “professionally,” I started doing photography out of necessity rather than desire. In order to realize my visions and ideas and to have them done properly the way I visualized and wanted them, I was determined and refused to compromise with my visions. Also, it was because I couldn’t afford to pay the great skilled ones I would have wanted and the kind of photographers I could actually afford I thought sucked so bad that I might be better off giving it a go myself. Besides, it was my ideas and visions anyway and it’s often easier to do it yourself than trying to verbally translate your idea if one doesn’t share your perception or visual language. A good example of D.I.Y attitude and a certain fearlessness, I guess you could say. I’ve never had any ambitions to become a photographer per se, it was only for self-serving purposes. But then later when people who’d seen my work and liked it started contacting me asking me to do it for them I just thought, yeah why the hell not? That’s just basically how it came about.
What is the status of your glam-rock band, XXX? I remember a record being scheduled to come out but then never heard anything further.
Sad to hear that, but hardly surprising. I inked various deals for respective territories through my own record company, Snowy Shaw Productions, and ended up signing a license and distribution deal for North America with Perris Records, who, according to the information I got, had done a terrific job specializing in similar genres of music. No use pretending I turned down million-dollar offers from major labels because the record industry as we know it is practically dead, so we really didn’t have that many options and Perris seemed like the least worst of them. Supposedly it’s been out for at least a year and a half now, but if you still can’t find it, you can always order the limited-edition album straight from my label at firstname.lastname@example.org. The people who, despite the poor marketing and promotion, have managed to get a copy of HEAVEN, HELL OR HOLLYWOOD? totally love the album and, if I may say so, I do too and I’m very proud of it. The absence may have a bit to do with the XXX guitarist who’s been missing, vanished from the face of the earth for the last eighteen months, too, and the bassist’s priorities have shifted to that of a family man as the father of two newborn children, which certainly doesn’t makes things easier. I may be considered a multi-instrumentalist, but no matter how much I’d wanted it, I can’t do shows playing all instruments by myself at the same time.
Are there any other projects you are currently involved in besides Therion?
Yeah, there are a few. Since last summer, I’ve been working together off and on with this French industrial metal band on an album under the moniker of THE CNK & SNOWY SHAW. Then there’s this bombastic doom rock opera project called Opera Diabolicus that I’ve been deeply involved with both musically and visually, and I think we can expect to see a release of the album before Christmas. Two weeks ago, I did a guest appearance vocal recording for the upcoming Theatres des Vampires album. I also recorded drums earlier this summer for the first solo release of German über-singer, Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear, Gamma Ray), but that’s about it I think for the moment.
A few of us on staff, especially our Editor-In-Chief EvilG, are major fans of Primal Fear. You mentioned you played drums on PF singer, Ralf Scheepers’ upcoming solo album, so can you describe what we can expect to hear? Is it a "metal" record or does Ralf stretch his wings and dabble in some other styles, as well?
I just did a quick session job playing drums over three days, so I may not be in a position to say too much about it. I think Ralf is a fucking fantastic singer. I just love his singing and the songs were good. Some of them I loved, while others I liked a little less. To me, it seems he’s been stretching his wings a bit, doing a little broader spectrum of styles. I very much look forward to hearing the final result.
You have stepped away from some fairly high-profile gigs over the years, including Dream Evil, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and, just recently, Therion and Dimmu Borgir. Do you find that you need to keep moving from band to band and style to style to stay interested and motivated artistically?
Yeah, that’s a perfectly correct explanation. 10 points! Might be that there are other more underlying reasons for my behavior, too. I’m just not completely sure what they are, to be honest. The easiest way of summing it up and explaining is probably that, if it doesn’t make me happy anymore and if I can’t see things are getting any better despite all my attempts to fix what’s broken, then I don’t see any point hanging around wasting time and life anymore, so I get the hell out and move on to new adventures.
Many of the bands you have been involved with portray a theatrical or visual image. Notre Dame, XXX, Mercyful Fate and certainly Dimmu carry an image that is as much a part of the band as the music itself. Even in Dream Evil, you were always elaborately dressed or, "in character." Do you have a greater interest in playing in bands with a prominent visual aspect than those who are plainly dressed?
Yeah, hell yeah, it’s true! What can I say? My first love was KISS and if I hadn’t discovered them with DESTROYER in 1976 as a superhero horror comic crazed seven-year old, I might not have become so enormously excited about rock music that I would eventually pick up an instrument and force my classmates to start a band years later, and then I would probably not be sitting here talking to you today.
Prior to that, I loved listening to Nazareth, Sweet and Deep Purple but they didn’t have the same instant impact on me as KISS would, so I think it’s safe to say that I do have an inborn penchant for bands with a strong visual image and sense of direction.
I can go on forever about this whole thing about the importance of presentation, impression, surface and blah blah blah, but I would rather not bore you to death here, so I will try to wrap it up as quickly as I can on the subject. The way I see it, the actual music is just a part of a much bigger picture. I’d bet my boney white ass that a band like Mötley Crüe wouldn’t even have had a fraction of their success if they’d looked like Dire Straits, for example. Rock music represents so much more than just music and average people may not be so aware to define what it actually is that attracts them to a certain band, but that’s perfectly fine. Just why can’t it have both? Often in rock history, it’s been either way unfortunately, where bands compensate their lack of musical skills and ability to write songs with a killer image. My life’s ambition has always been to have the best of both worlds, so just like you say yourself about Dimmu Borgir, in that aspect we were a perfect match for each other.
Were you involved with the King Diamond and Mercyful Fate DVDs that King has been working on over the past few years?
I’m not been involved with editing of it if that’s what you’re asking, that’s entirely up to King but I assume I’m on there. Last time I spoke with King, he said he’d found some great old clips of drum solos with decent quality, plus all sorts of behind-the-scenes stuff. Admittedly, I’m a little anxious to see what kind of old embarrassing crap he has managed to dig up from the past, but it’s going to be interesting and fun to watch. I sure hope he won’t leave out the clips when a shitfaced Pete Blakk shat himself on stage,.. hahaha! Can’t wait to see that again.
You did some session drumming on the Eyes Of Noctum record last year (**NOTE: As some readers may know, EoN vocalist, Arcane, is the son of actor Nicolas Cage). How did you get involved with this project? Hellhammer played on some tracks, as well. Why did you (or he) not play on the full album?
I played on all but one song, I think, and Hellhammer did that one. Shagrath from Dimmu, who was like an assistant producer, wanted him to do one more of the blastspeed songs and he ended up re-doing one of mine, as well. No problem there…Hellhammer is the nicest guy and an incredible drummer. Besides, I was just a paid session drummer called in the night before on the premise I would coach the young American drummer but then they had a change of heart I suppose, because I ended up playing on the whole album, never having heard a single note in advance. But I got paid well by Nicolas Cage, I suppose.
Going back to 1998 and your band illwill, what caused the group to split up after just one record?
We started illwill in ‘93-‘94 and by 1995, the debut album was finished and scheduled for release, but for various reasons, we ran into shitloads of problems with the record labels, so by the time the album finally came out in 1998, the band had already been on hold for a year or two and the members were occupied elsewhere. Sharlee [D’Angelo] did Mercyful Fate and Sinergy, and I released my first album with Notre Dame almost exactly at the same time as illwill. We never actually talked about it or said we’d split up, it just sort of fell apart and we lost touch. I, for one, had been working extremely hard and focused for four years trying to make everything work out with illwill, but eventually I got so frustrated with the whole fucking situation and the others’ lack of commitment that I had to take a break and just walked away from it and started a psychedelic pop group with a friend instead. I love the album, though, and some of my own songs in particular were and still are fucking brilliant and a bit ahead of their time, which could very well have been the problem. Just compare my song “Whether With Or Without” to Meshuggah’s biggest hit, “Bleed” from 2008, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Going even further back, you were just 21 years old when you joined King Diamond in 1989 and soon afterward appeared in the video for “Sleepless Nights.” Do you have any good (or bad) memories of shooting that video (which is a classic, in my opinion)?
Yeah, I remember I turned 21 just a few days before flying over to L.A. where the band was based then for the real audition, which was quite fortunate because that made it all easier going to bars and shit. I have nothing but absolutely wonderful memories from that period. Landing the drummer slot in King Diamond—which more than forty drummers before me failed at—was one of the biggest and most life-changing and life-defining moments in my entire life. We played just two songs together in the rehearsal then King turned around and gave me a thumbs-up that I got the job. Then we went straight out to the Sunset Strip to party and celebrate all night long at The Rainbow and those clubs with what seemed like thousands of famous rock stars, wannabes, gorgeous girls and star-struck bitches. The whole thing was just an overwhelming and sensational experience and I was this young, inexperienced rookie who had basically never seen or done anything up to that point. I had barely even been speaking English before and sucked big time, which made me feel a bit insecure in this environment, but I sure knew how to play the fucking drums and that’s why I got the gig in the first place.
About a day or two after that, we went to this big-ass, fancy Hollywood film studio and into this awesome classic horror-style set that had been prepared for shooting the “Sleepless Nights” video. I remember my luggage had gone missing on the overseas flight and I had nothing except the clothes I wore, so Andy lent me a pair of leather pants for the video shoot. King Diamond was probably at the very peak of its career there and then and seemingly no expenses were spared. I mean, it must have cost a fortune with that kind of absolute top-notch production, huge set and film team, fantastic catering and we had these gorgeous make-up artists and hair-dressers that looked like models with fake tits and beach blonde hair in typical Hollywood fashion fixing us and doing us…favors. It was a total mind-blowing experience for me and I was in heaven. Yeah man, I think the video came out looking fantastic and I, too, just love it. It sort of represents a hell of a lot to me, personally.
Do you have any cool stories about playing/touring/recording with King?
Any cool stories? Hell yeah, tons of them…like when everybody at this after-party in Salt Lake City suddenly turned on us when they realized who we were and then chased us out of the city because they thought we were Satanists and would drink their blood or something…hahahaha! But I’ll save the best parts for later…
King Diamond has always projected this evil image, yet when I interviewed him, he is the nicest guy! With no disrespect to King whatsoever, how much of this evil image is "real" and how much is part of the King Diamond persona?
I’d say he’s as real as they come. He follows his own conviction and has pledged his whole life pursuing his own ideals and doing what he believes in. I highly respect and honor him for that. I think it lays more in the eye of the beholder and all the prejudice and preconceptions people may have. The moment they hear the word “Satanist,” they automatically think this devil worshipper wants nothing but the exact opposite of all that’s considered good and the norm. "Oh! I bet he must be happy when he drops his wallet or when his wife and kids die. Isn’t that what real evil is all about?" As far as I know, King’s a member of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan and believes in that philosophy and its values. Last time I checked, that doesn’t contradict being a nice, honest and sincere guy. The way I see it, being a theatrical singer with an alter ego like, King, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie or Alice Cooper, for example, is really no different than being an actor going into a character portraying and playing a certain role. You’ve got to have it in you and use your own experiences and big chunks of yourself in order to do it and come across with conviction and credibility, but there’s a time for everything and off stage is off stage. If you can’t keep the two apart, I’d say you’re in deep shit.
Do you miss the more light-hearted side of metal that Dream Evil brought to the table, as compared to most of your other bands? One of my favorite lyrics was written by you: “I don’t need a flashy car/No car or ugly wife”!
Yeah, sometimes I do. Not so much the music as the guys, though. We made some great music together and had tremendous fun in the process. By accident rather than design, I think we managed to bring something pretty unique to the table. A happy accident, I suppose. I’m referring to the heavy use of clichés and tongue-in-cheek lyrics in combination with this catchy, easy-listening, eighties-type of metal that was a very striking concept and good formula. Not that Dream Evil initially and intentionally was meant to be comical or a parody spun on the power/true heavy metal genre, but it just turned out that way. We certainly didn’t mean to make fun of the genre that we all loved but it is sometimes hard not to, especially if you’ve passed the age of thirty, if you know what I’m saying. As a matter of fact, I wrote both the music and lyrics for that song “The Book Of Heavy Metal,” and probably 85% of the album with the same name. That album was more or less "my album" and I worked really hard with everything about it to make the critical third album as good as it could possibly get. Except for Gus G’s fantastic solos, I even played most of the guitars, as well. I’ve got to admit that at the release party for the debut album, I was totally gobsmacked and flabbergasted when I witnessed the mass of metalheads with raised fists screaming along to “Heavy Metal In the Night!” I thought to myself, “Are these people retarded or am I dreaming?” But I wasn’t alone. It was met with a lot of resistance and criticism at first from fellow musicians and media. Heavy Metal is an honorable thing not to be taken lightly, and it’s strictly forbidden to have a sense of humor about it. To many loyal metalheads, myself included, it was sacrilege, like cursing in church. Fredrik had actually went ahead and written a song based on that well-known Gothenburg expression, Heavy Metal In the Night that, believe it or not, I came up with back in 1984 or something as a joke on how pathetic heavy metal lyrics often are. Then, fifteen years later, a song was based on that silly expression and people fully embraced without any hesitation. It was some kind of wakeup call for me I guess, and after that, we would gradually fine tune and refine the formula and concept as we went along as this new awareness was sinking in.
During my chat with Fredrik Nordström when THE BOOK OF HEAVY METAL first came out, he mentioned you have a coffin in your living room. Is this true, and if so, why?!
Hahaha! Yeah, it’s true. Well, sort of anyway, with a slight modification. You could see many a raised eyebrow on people when they came around to my house. I had this classic Transylvanian-style coffin since the early days of Notre Dame that I’d put upright in the corner of my living room when we didn’t use it on stage and so on. I’d put wooden shelves in it and used it as a bookshelf and to put the final touch and crown on the piece of art, I put a cranium on the top as decoration. It’s funny how sometimes people might react surprisingly strongly and make a fuss about certain things while you think nothing of it, like the fact that you even bring it up here. It sounds more macabre than it actually was, so hear me out. When I first decided I wanted one classic horror style coffin for my new shock metal band, Notre Dame, I could never expect it would be such an impossible task obtaining one. This was pre-internet and I would make plenty of phone calls to several funeral agencies, crematoriums and shit in search of one, until they informed me that the specific ones I wanted apparently only exist in Eastern Europe or perhaps in well-equipped film studios and theatres. So, finally, I managed to persuade the owner of an old rundown theatre in Gothenburg to sell me the coffin. I sold it last year to a young fan/friend who wanted to decorate his first apartment in total Notre Dame horror style.
How did you get the nickname "Snowy"?
It was because of my natural blonde hair, of course, and it was even whiter, like snow almost when I was a kid, so I got the nickname “Snow White.” That translates to “Snö-vit” in Swedish, which was later shortened to “Snowy.”
Do you still have that cool scythe-shaped bass you played in Notre Dame?
No, unfortunately it got stolen when there was a break-in in our touring van about eighteen months ago. Through my involvement with Dimmu Borgir, I got myself an ESP endorsement deal and on top of that would be honored with my very own signature-model bass that I could design exactly the way I wanted. This was just such a fantastic opportunity that I couldn’t resist pimping up my own model with a little extra something and decided to put the old scythe idea back in use again. I’m unsure whether ESP is going to actually go ahead and manufacture it now that I’ve left Dimmu Borgir.
Does the scythe improve the sound? Hell no, but it sticks out and looks kind of cool. Another little invention of mine…that didn’t stop a German company from stealing my idea and put into production selling replicas of the sharp metal spikes that serve as wing-nuts on the top of the cymbal stands. That I designed twenty years ago. Perhaps I ought to seek a patent for my little inventions from now on.
Of all the instruments you play, which do you enjoy most?
The main thing to me is to write music and be able to express my ideas and creativity. I like playing all of the instruments I play just as much, but whether I play bass or drums or sing is of secondary importance to me, just as long as the songs gets executed in a satisfying way and you get the message across, so to speak. All that matters is the song at hand and whatever’s necessary in order to realize the vision, that’s all that counts. I’m probably at my best as a drummer, but I prefer and enjoy singing the most.
When did you begin singing because I never even knew you sang before I heard you on Therion’s GOTHIC KABBALAH?
Hard to say. Like with so many other vocalists, I started when I got too tired of waiting for the right singer to show up, which never seemed to happen, so I got frustrated and thought, “Fuck it! I do it myself.” The first time my lead singing appears on a recording, I think, was in 1996 on a KISS tribute album where I was doing “The Oath” in my best Manowar-esque kind of style. Then some time later, I formed my own little bizarre musical vehicle, Notre Dame, in which I also sang or did all kinds of voices.
Being a fellow KISS fan, what is your favorite album? Are you still a fan of the current lineup with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer wearing Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ makeup?
Without a doubt DESTROYER and in second place, if you don’t count Ace Frehley’s 1978 solo album, it is HOTTER THAN HELL. Eric Singer must be one of the luckiest guys in the world. He gets to play with not only one, but two of the biggest and definitely the coolest American bands in modern history. From a guitarist perspective, I think Tommy Thayer is doing a better Ace Frehley than Ace himself these days. I bet they’re having the time of their lives, getting to play with their teenage superhero idols, so why can’t we just let them enjoy the ride? Of course, I can see why some people get upset about them having other musicians posing as the characters Space Ace and Catman, but personally, I have no problem with that at all. On the contrary, I think it’d be a brilliant idea to have the whole band replaced by a bunch of hungry guys now in their twenties. That way, the KISS phenomenon can go on forever and my grandchildren’s sons and daughters can enjoy this sensational unmatched circus act. How’s that for an American Idol kind of TV show, with aspiring young rockers auditioning for the role as Paul Stanley?! I normally hate those kinds of shows, but I think it could be fucking awesome and I would definitely watch it every week. I bet tons of kids are totally oblivious to who’s-who in that circus. To them, Gene Simmons is just that clown with the tongue and that’s all there is to it. The characters they created for themselves have an iconic life of its own and are way bigger than any of the persons behind the masks. They are superheroes or villains just like Spiderman, Dracula, James Bond or Batman. Having said just all that, no, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of what they’ve done for the last thirty years or so and since I was a kid in the seventies. But suffice to say, I still love and worship what they created back then even if it’s more for nostalgic reasons and the tremendous impact it had on me which changed my life forever. I doubt I want to be buried in a KISS Kasket, though.
Any final comments you would like to make to your fans and the readers of Metal-Rules.com?
What could that possibly be and haven’t I said enough already? I just joined The Rolling Stones on noseflute…
Snowy Shaw–Official Site