Interview with Snowy Shaw

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Interview with Snowy Shaw

by JP


Tell us a bit about the development of your new 25th Anniversary album, THE LIVESHOW!  Was it hard to pick which tunes to play live?

You mean the DVD/CD box. Naw, not at all, I just picked my favorite songs, although the hardest part was obviously all the ones I had to exclude in the set. But I made up for some of it for the second show where I selected a bunch of other songs, apart from the customary classics and hits that the audience expects. I’ll add more long forgotten, obscure and rarely performed numbers in the future, and that’s the charm of this concept. However, I couldn’t possibly include all the songs we played live on the DVD/CD. It was a matter of Killing your darlings, but not even me would stand a 5 hour long DVD,.. even if it was KISS ´76 or Manowar ´84.

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Who played on the DVD/CD and did it take a long time to rehearse everything?

Rehearsing is for cowards. Well, that’s the tongue in cheek motto we had back with Dream Evil, which may also explain why we sucked so bad live besides the consumption of alcohol of course, but more about that later.

For this kind of project you can’t have anyhing but top notch musicians, and I’m happy to say I’ve managed to select for my namesake band, not only some of my personal favorites, but some of the best, most qualified and versatile musicians there is in the world. Namely Kristian Niemann, Mannequin De Sade III, Mark U Black, Petter Karlsson, All super musicians well known from former bands like Therion, Notre Dame and Dream Evil. This sure ain’t no easy task, and few are capable of pulling off that wide range of styles. You may have the fastest shredder lead guitarist on earth who can deliver one face melting solo after another but if he can’t play a mean rhythm guitar, as more often than not is the case, then he’s out. Same with drummers, you may have a guy whose feet as so lightning fast that I lose my breath, but if you can’t play a simple 4/4 and make it groove along with a click, it’s a no-no.

And on both occasions I insisted on having female bassists who would also handle the required female vocals on few songs in the set. First out was Hellinor, that was recommended to me after I’ve looked all over Europe to find the right girl. A fabulous singer but unfortunately not even close as competent as a bassist. Then for the second line-up in 2012 I hired my good and long time friend Vikki Valkyrie who used to play in the all female thrash metal act Ice Age back in the day.

Then of course we had a vast array of special guest stars included like Andy La Rocque, Michael Denner, Mike Wead, Opera Diabolicus, Hal Patino, Mats Levén, Pete Blakk, Kee Marcello, Gus G, Thomas Vikström etc.

I mentioned earlier that Dream Evil motto. Obviously that statement is to be taken with a grain of salt, but the truth is that personally I haven’t rehearsed regularly on a weekly basis since ´86 -´87.

Logistically and practically it’s impossible when people live in different cities/countries and have families and other duties. In my world I expect everyone to do their homework, at home. learning the songs etc. Then we just put it together on our get-togethers and make sure everyone’s got it right and finetune intros and outros, transistions in the live set and stage show and straighten out any question marks etc. I think we set off 3 full days rehearsal + one day production rehearsal per show. Might seem a bit on the slim side I can admit. All the preparations, arrangements, mandatory backing tracks etc I fix in advance and provide my musicians mp3 files for them to learn. Hadn’t it been for the level of professionalism within my band this would never have worked. I can be quite demanding but make no mistake, I demand about 5-10 times more from myself.



Was it difficult to get the rights to play and record the songs of other artists?

 As long as you register and credit the songwriters and rightful owners there is no problem. Especially since in 60% of the cases I was the composer and lyricist.

I noticed there are many gorgeous fan packages and deluxe versions of your new release.  How important is physical packaging in this day of instant gratification from downloads?  I know it is important to you because yo have done it but it terms of profitability and a from a manufacture ring and production process, is it still worth it these days?

 Nothing’s worth anything these days, but if one get trapped in that kind of thinking one might as well lay down and die. I may be a sample of an endangered species in this sense but what I’m trying to do is bending backwards to offer my fans something unique and special, just the way I would have wanted it if I was a fan of me. The same way I was back in the day with KISS, Manowar and so on.


 You are a multitalented, multi-instrumentalist.  What is your favourite instrument to play?

Thank you. I like it all. I get this a whole lot and as much as much I appreciate the complementary comments I feel I must set the record straight and say that it’s a bit exaggerated this whole multi-instrumentalist thing. Sure I sing and play guitar, drums and bass, but quite honestly I have no ambition other than to be able to write and play my own music and that’s the reason I’ve learned to play them. Although I may occasionally rip out some Ace Frehley-esque pentatonic rock solo with attitude every now and then, I’ve never harboured any ambitions to play any flashy arrpeggios or anything like that, but I’m a mean rhythm guitarist and you’d be surprised to find out how often I’m the one playing all the guitars and bass on recordings although I’m not credited.

With everything I’ve got going in my life there might be several months between the times I so much as touch an instrument. I may be out touring for long periods with Therion as a singer and then unless I have a studio drum session scheduled in between legs I don’t touch them for 6 to 12 months and vice versa about singing when I was drumming for Sabaton for a full year. And that’s not hardly how I picture a highly competative multi-instrumentalist who’d practise their instrument all the time. Naturally you get a bit rusty and your chops and technique may suffer from the absence but that’s basically just muscle memory and luckily I’m very confident of my musicality and musical understanding which stays intact regardless. I wish things were differently and that I’d have more time to actually play and sing more frequently to keep my skills in good condition but that’s just the way that it is and hopefully I’ll have more time in the future.

I know many people who are completely obsessed with their instrument and some even sleeps with it, like loveable Thobbe from Sabaton for instance who frantically practising scales and when we were circling above Los Angeles awaiting permission to land and might be forced to emergency land or crash. His biggest concern wasn’t for the lives of himself and the rest of the passengers but for his beloved Fender. That while I tend to look at the the instrument is in its original meaning of the word I guess, as a tool. A tool that’ll help bring out and express my little ideas and creations. I like playing them all as pieces in a puzzle especially when writing and recording so it turns out the way I imagined it would, then what instrument I end up playing in a live situation is really of lesser importance. Just wanted to say that…

Do you find you have to adjust your mindset as a performer when you work in so man different genres, Black Metal one week, Power Metal the next week?

 Not really, or not at all actually. I’m just myself although I do to some extent allow certain influences come to use and shine through for the various occasions, or however I should say. A bit like an actor I suppose, using their own life’s experiences to portray and illustrate a character or role.

But no, I don’t need to adjust as it just happens automatically. It’s no more difficult than that the style and mood of the music triggers certain moods and modes within you, and then for example I use a voice that I feel fits well and enhances the type of emotions and vibes one trying to bring across in that type of music.

For example a really wide vibrato tends to be a bit over dramatic and pompous and fit wonderfully perfectly with certain types of music meanwhile it’s it feels a little constipated and out of place in more straighter punkish rock, and vice versa.

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 Do you ever get frustrated that your main band Notre Dame doesn’t get as much recognition as your efforts in other bands?

 No, that’s just logical and makes a lot of sense since it’s now been 10 years since I put Notre Dame to its eternal sleep and nailed the coffin shut. The underground cult following however just keeps growing bigger and bigger though.

Speaking of Notre Dame, it has been 10 years since your last album.  Do you have any plans to resurrect that project?  We hope so!

 Hmm, I think maybe a little explaination is in place here. The initial reason I put this whole “Snowy Shaw plays all his favorite songs by all his former bands” thingy together was because in recent years it just kept escalating and wherever I went in the world I’d constantly meet fans who’d beg me to reunite Notre Dame, others would say things like “As much as we like what you’re doing with Therion, we’d love to see you play drums again with King or Mercyful Fate, can’t you go back to that? That while a third person would say, please make peace with Messiah and make another album with Memento Mori,. and the fourth guy requested I’d go back to illwill or Dream Evil and so on and on. Normally I would just smile and shrug it off but it got to a point where I could no longer just say thank you and laugh it off, because whether or not I would have wanted to reunite or return to some of my former bands, there was no way I could please them all at the same time. Besides I’m no big fan of reunions per se and I much rather take on new challenges and move on in life. By doing these super shows, I managed to combine it all and hopefully please them all, last but certainly not least myself that is. Without going into details, Notre Dame was my brainchild and as from now on I will be doing my own stuff I’m convinced that parts of the new music I’ll be putting out will be to great delight for the Notre Dame fans.

Do you keep in touch with the various bands that you have worked with/toured with?

 Most of them yes, at least sporadically. Many I even still consider some of my closest friends although we’re not playing together any longer, whatever that has got to do with anything. Life goes on and although you may have been close like brothers or a family while working closely together for years, then one quit or something and just like every relationship, it needs nutrition and maintainance otherwise you inevitably drift apart. Everyone’s keeping occupied and busy with their new bands or whatever goes on in their life and there’s just not time enough to keep up the relation I guess. I always say that in this business hanging out backstage at festivals is like attending the annual corporate event or company party.

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This is a bit of an odd question but do you feel that an artist like Rob Zombie has maybe taken the style and image that you pioneered and not really acknowledged you as a source of inspiration? I see many similarities in his product and presentation to your earlier work.

 Hahaha! Hell yeah, he stole it all from me that SOB. I was actually saying in another interview the other day on a similar topic that we’re brothers of different mothers, and the father is Alice Cooper.

 The final and most predictable question is what are your plans for the immediate future?

 To stay alive actually. I’m totally stressed out and burnt out here from literally working 24/7 for,.. as long as I can remember actually. I’ve hit the wall before but never as hard as this, and my stress tolerance isn’t what it used to be, besides we’re not getting any younger. Anyway, amidst everything else I never anticipated I’d be doing the inevitably grabbing the bull by its horns thingy quite yet and started my own record and production company, but as the president and posterboy of the DIY community what the hell could I expect. Anyhow, as soon as I’m done with all the remaining work with the promotion, distribution deals and whatnot for this live DVD/CD Box and I’ve had a chance to recuperate and recharge my batteries I will lock myself up and work on my studio tan recording all the new music that I’ve waited a lifetime to record. At least that’s how it feels.


Thank you!

No, It’s me who should thank you. Thanx-A-Bunch!