Snowy Shaw interview (04/2018)


With: Snowy Shaw
Conducted by: ScreamingSteelUS (e-mail)
Published: 17.04.2018


Prolific multi-instrumentalist Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Therion, Dream Evil, and many others) will be releasing his debut solo album, White Is The New Black, next month on his own label, Wunderwurld Music. I sat down to talk with Snowy about that (in our own separate, respective houses, at different times and through e-mail).

SSUS: Howdy. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us here at Metal Storm.

Snowy Shaw: Hey there -

SSUS: After all these years, you have dozens of recordings with as many artists to your name, yet White Is The New Black will be the first studio album you've released under your own name as a solo artist. What drove you to embark on a solo mission at this particular point in time?

SS: I've been on this so-called mission for a few years now, playing shows and festivals under my own name and releasing videos and of course my live DVD/CD box, 25 Years Of Madness In The Name Of Metal, a couple of years ago as well as a couple of singles and live albums digitally. But yes, this is my first studio album, that's correct. The first of 7 that is,… More about that later. I guess with my kind of personality it was bound to happen sooner or later.



White Is The New Black cover


SSUS: You have made a name for yourself as a journeyman musician, having joined a great number of artists in the studio, onstage, or as a full-fledged member. After spending so much time playing music in collaboration with or under the direction of other artists, do you think that has an effect on your own sound - how you write, how you play, or what styles you lean towards?

SS: I think we're all a product of our experiences and what you go through in life whether it's positive or negative stuff, and that's what shapes and forms your personality. With that said, I honestly don't know how much of my sound have been affected by my involvement with them though. In a way I think I had a pretty clear vision of what sound and formula I wanted to achieve and create for my own music in my late teens, years before I even joined any of those bands. I was however influenced by Mercyful Fate already by then, and when I later joined King Diamond I realized that he and I share a lot of the same influences, like Alice Cooper, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and so forth. Undisputedly, what I've picked up are tons of routine, business know-how and once again experience from 30 years in this crazy rock n´rollercoaster.

SSUS: I know you don't like to mince words about genres, but could you tell us about what your goals were in recording White Is The New Black? What would you want fans to know going into this album?

SS: My heart and soul... and my lifeblood, that's what goes into making my own music on these terms I do it. Not to sound overly dramatic but as I'm financing everything from my own pocket, and in this day and age when the chances for a musician to make a living from his/her art, let alone earn any money whatsoever, are next to zero, I'm actually putting my life on stake here by investing all my savings into my own solo career take off. I'm not saying this to earn your pity or compassion, but just to state how important it is that fans support the bands and artists they like by buying the albums, t-shirts and stuff. Otherwise we won't be able to produce any more music. Rant over.

Anyhow, on a less dramatic note. On this album you get to hear many different sides of me and my music from brutally aggressive and heavy dark and doomy to more sensitive and moody. For the uninitiated newcomers I'm positive it'll give a good coherent and well-balanced overview of my music, whereas for my older fans, regardless whether they are fans from the days of Notre Dame, King Diamond, Therion, Dream Evil and so forth, I'm sure there is music that suits their taste.

As you know I've been with bands that style-wise range from black metal to glam rock and everything in between, and that for no other reason than that in my life I need to have musical diversity and an outlet for various feelings and moods. That's also why I have joined and left so many bands in my career, because if I do one thing only for too long I tend to gradually lose interest and feel creatively unstimulated. On the flipside I actually think the variation benefits each individual style and direction. It's not so much that I try to please a potentially wider audience as to satisfy all different sides of myself.

Like you say, I'm not so hung-up on genre categorization and basically the only distinction I do is between Good music as opposed to Bad. Artistic freedom and integrity is very essential to me and that's why even as a solo artist I've decided to allow myself that privilege and liberty. Even if it means that I'm bound to have my own label, Wunderwurld Music, and take care of all the business myself too.



A normal day


SSUS: The press material I received states that the album "is a collection of songs that will be expanded into upcoming releases." Could you give us some more details about what that means?

SS: Crazy idea or ingenious? From my point of view I think it's both. The 12 songs on White Is The New Black, consist of 2 songs each from 6 different albums with a specific theme, direction or concept that I intend to put out annually. In essence, you could say it's an Essential Snowy Shaw in reverse and as a matter of fact I initially intended calling it The Greatest Hits... (Of Songs You've Never Heard Before) as a bit of a joke obviously for someone's debut album, but luckily friends managed to convince me that it was bad idea that would only confuse people and would be massively misunderstood as though my record debut was in 1990 as a drummer with King Diamond.

SSUS: I was very excited to see Joakim Brodén and Niklas Stålvind, among others, announced as guests on White Is The New Black, but you seem most excited about the presence of Ross The Boss. I'm looking forward to hearing the results, as a big Manowar fan myself. How did this collaboration come about?

SS: Hahaha! I'm sorry if I gave away that impression, as I'm equally grateful for each and every one of my guests' contributions. That's my attitude at least, but I guess I can't hide the fact that having my own teenage superheroes, such as the forefather of shock rock - Arthur Brown, the God of Hellfire himself, and the Manowarrior, Ross The Boss, has a little extra impact on me. What KISS meant to me in the '70s, Manowar did in the '80s. And like I said earlier, we're all products of our experiences as well as our influences.

SSUS: Are there any other artists you'd especially like to work with in the future?

SS: Sure, one of the main ingredients in the concept for one of the six albums called This Is Heavy Metal, Plain And Simple from where "Family Feud" and "Alcoholocaust" are taken, features guest appearances by Joakim Brodén (Sabaton), Ross The Boss, Niklas Stålvind (Wolf) Jake E (Amaranthe) Niklas Isfeldt (Dream Evil) and I have already a long list of people, fellow musicians and some of my all-time favorites lined up waiting to participate on selective songs on this future release. I won't name names and ruin the surprise but I must say I'm humbled by having some of these big names willing to bless my album with their presence and grace. It's quite remarkable actually.

Originally "Family Feud" should have, in accordance with its lyrical concept, harmonic melodies and overall character, had King Diamond and Messiah Marcolin (Candlemass) and myself sharing the vocals, but due to contractual circumstances we had to take a raincheck on that one, unfortunately.

SSUS: Back in 2004, you recorded an album under the name Snowy Shaw and the Star-Spangled Banned, which was meant to be your solo debut, but that project was shelved. What became of those recordings?

SS: True, but with some modification. Let me tell you. In 2003 after yet another heated argument with my then label I sat down in anger and wrote and recorded an album, a Notre Dame album that was supposed to be the last on my contract. But after 7 years of working hard day and night on Notre Dame and for the last 3 having been constantly butting heads with this label, Osmose, you could say I was sick and tired of it all and I just wanted out. What came out and the reason I decided to shelf that album, was in straight contrast to what one might think. First of all, I thought it was far too good an album to waste on them and secondly, it certainly wasn't a Notre Dame album. What came out was more glam-punk-rock-metal or something.

I loved the material but it was so different from what the fans of Notre Dame would have expected and that's why I opted to put it on the backburner in the meantime with the possibility of releasing it under my own name down the road, and instead forced myself to write another album. A Notre Dame album. If you don't count the live album Creepshow Freakshow Peepshow that I released postmortem on my own label, White Trash Records, in 2005, recorded on New Year's Eve 1999/2000, Demi Monde Bizarros became not only the last Notre Dame album on Osmose but the last one overall. Because I was so sick and tired that I needed to do something else and decided to kill the band with one last show on Halloween 2004.

With this long and winding introduction, yes I intended to pick that other album up and continue where I left off and I did release one music video from it called "Le Masochiste" (or "The Fashionista"), which I love, but I wasn't in a condition to pursue or carry through yet another band on my own at that point and basically just let it slide for the time being. Anyhow, years and years went by and I was fully occupied working with other bands but I have now in recent years returned to it and added and reworked some of the material from that now 15-year-old album. Among those aforementioned six albums represented with two songs each on White Is The New Black are the songs "Wunderkind" and "Evil Twin" ("I don't wanna argue - Do you wanna arg-me?").


The Viking about town


SSUS: What challenges do you face as a solo multi-instrumentalist? Is it difficult practicing or writing songs or synchronizing tracks without a full band behind you?

SS: No, as you can tell from the what I just explained in the previous question I'm actually more used to working alone, without a band. I actually think it's far more difficult and complicated to work in a band-type situation when it comes to writing and arranging and that I have basically ruled out since... well, forever. That's not how it works really. Like with every band I've played with since King Diamond in 1989, the band usually practice together for a couple of days before a tour or show, in the best of cases that is. But when it comes to the writing and recording process that's very rare and unusual. 9 times out of 10 each member records their parts individually over a time-coded click track, or preferably over the drum tracks, usually recorded on top of a click track. I for example have done session drum jobs here in Sweden with American bands that I have never even met in my life, or even talked to as a matter of fact. We just send in the files recorded with help of a synchronized time code then patch it all up in the studio. Does it sound unromantic? I'm sorry if I ruin your illusion here but these are my experiences and simply how it is. You'd be surprised to find out how often I play all rhythm guitars, and sometimes the bass, etc. on albums I've written despite being listed only as a drummer on the sleeve. Call it occupational damage but to me this is all so natural that I've actually forgotten that the average person still thinks that bands make albums like they did in 1970 when everyone played together in the same room. Come to think of it, I don't think I've rehearsed regularly with a band like 2-3 times a week since 1986-87 actually.

Believe it or not, I never practice my instruments. If I had the time I probably would, but unfortunately I'm far too busy running the business, organizing and administrating all the shit that comes along with it. Having one's own record & production company, webshop, studio and so forth. Besides, writing songs and creating those small worlds are my main thing and what I consider my biggest passion in life and... I don't know how to express this properly in an understandable way but I have no ambition to be a super instrumentalist and my songs doesn't require so much of that really and I have over the years developed and honed my own kind of technique and style of playing to what I need in order to express my music basically. I know for a fact that my song structures and guitar playing for instance seem very unorthodox and highly complicated and advanced rhythmically for my live musicians and they have to tremendously work hard to pull it off. It's a different mindset I suppose and I reckon it's because I'm a drummer playing guitar. The best example of that is definitely a song like "Whether With Or Without" that I wrote and recorded with IllWill back in 1993, with a riff based on a polyrhythmic drum fill I ripped off from Vinny Appice in the late '80s and transferred to a kick drum pattern and then invented a way to play it on guitar. Unquestionably Andy La Rocque is a phenomenal guitarist, no doubt about that, but I guess in a more traditional sense and he could never get his head around it. Well, neither could anyone back then until Meshuggah released "Bleed" some 18 years later…

SSUS: Some years ago, you played with Kee Marcello's K2 when they made their run at a slot for Eurovision. What was that experience like? Do you have any desire to take another shot at Eurovision?

SS: Hahahaha! No, not at all. Kee had to wiggle quite a lot before he managed to persuade me to do it, but I certainly don't regret it or anything. It was an interesting experience, study and a lot of fun actually but I have no desire to appear on that mainstream scene really. As a matter of fact, the following two years after I appeared with Kee Marcello and Alannah Myles on this Swedish edition of the Eurovision song contest they called me up from the administration asking me to participate with some other acts. The payment wasn't so good to begin with and when they wouldn't let me hear the song at first I thought it preposterous and declined. I don't know how well informed you are about the details regarding this farce of a music contest but these days everything but the actual lead vocals are pre-recorded in advance, so what they actually wanted was not a musician but a dancing monkey, or if you will a colourful character. They just assume that everybody are dying to be on TV and would do anything to be famous. The second year the called me back I told them to stop calling me and instead look for some flamboyant wannabe or media attention whore without a shred of integrity.

SSUS: You have been quite outspoken about your support for animal rights, and a couple of years ago released a lovely song/video entitled "Be Kind to Animals - Or I'll Kill You." Could you tell us a bit about this project?

SS: Thank you. I've always loved animals all my life and few things upset me as much as animal cruelty and how assholes take advantage of poor innocent animals for their own twisted pleasures. As a kid I used to beat up stupid kids who'd throw rocks at swans and so on. Anyway, the reason this campaign and all came about is a coincidental fluke really. One day I just had enough frequently seeing clips posted on Facebook of animal cruelty and just used a picture of myself looking extra vicious and grim while holding an axe and added to slogan Be Kind to Animals or I'll Kill You, that I guess I've heard somewhere and then posted it on my private FB page. When I logged in later that night I just went What!? In 10 hours or so it had basically gone viral and I received so much mails and comments etc that I couldn't believe it. What surprised me the most though, was that people saying stuff like: They were highly impressed that a person like me would make a stand for such a thing - respect & love. These people were obviously paying me compliments but what did they mean by "a person like me"? Do they think of me as an evil person who enjoy torturing pet animals or what? Talk about old prejudice and having preconcieved ideas about heavy rockers in general. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of them suggested I'd print posters or T-shirt with this design that they would happily and proudly wear. At first I was kinda reluctant as this wasn't my intention at all when I posted this pic, but some time later I figured: What if I'd sell these shirts from my webshop and donate all the profit to charity, dog shelters and various animal rescue groups and organizations. Said and done, I went ahead with it and in a non-calculated way I found myself having written a song with that slogan in the chorus. I then figured it could work as the theme song for a more elaborate campaign and shot a video for it and the whole thing just snowballed. It bothered me tremendously that average people had such a warped view of heavy metal people that I thought I'd get others aboard for the campaign. First of all I contacted King Diamond, who besides being the first outspoken satanist also is a big animal lover. Believe it or not, but he has actually cancelled big tours because he haven't been able to find someone reliable to look after his cats. He was all in on it, and I contacted other friends and colleagues in the scene to participate and many of them were all for it, but it became too complicated and time consuming for me to organize and carry it through all the way I'm afraid. I still sell, promote and donate the income from these shirts and posters though.


We like animals here.


SSUS: Do you have a favorite among the bands you have played with, or an album that you consider your best work?

SS: I rarely listen back to what I've done in the past, and since I'm mostly all about the creative process, once it's done and I know I've done all in my power to make it as good as I possibly can I move on to the next project and doesn't look back. The only time I listen is when I need to refresh my memory and relearn a specific song that I'm gonna play live. I think Dimmu Borgir has a great musical concept with the combination of symphonic orchestra and atmospheric black metal. Not necessarily any big "hits" from the album I did with them though. I was fan of Mercyful Fate and the first couple of King albums before I was in the band and I like Secret Of The Runes with Therion, also before I was in the band. Never thought of it like that but the albums I've been involved in I can't really see them objectively. You brought up Kee Marcello earlier and what hit me when I listened back to the album I did with him was that it was probably the best drumming captured of me on a recording. Other than that I'd say that The Book Of Heavy Metal sticks out and where I was the main creative motor and wrote the bulk of the material for those sessions. Also Notre Dame's Vol 1: Le Théâtre Du Vampire is a great piece of work. Another sadly overlooked and underrated gem is the second album of Mad Architect that I produced, co-wrote and sang and played drums and bass on, that has some absolute stellar moments. The IllWill we did between ´93 -´95 is almost a criminally overlooked masterpiece, but it was too much ahead of its time and was tragically universally ignored. Personally I'm very fond of the XXX - Heaven, Hell Or Hollywood? album, where I could express and have a creative outlet for my fascination for '70s glam & glitter rock á la T-Rex, Sweet, Ziggy-era Bowie etc. I don't wanna go into the extreme birth and recording difficulties of it here, but for being lightweight bubblegum glitter punk it was everything but that... and I'm sure as the hands-on project leader seeing the project through from start to finish has very much affected my view of it. I used to call it Operation: Saving the Ship From Sinking, While Surrounded by Sharks.

SSUS: Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts. Do you have any last words for our readers?

SS: First I would like to thank you so much for this opportunity and to all the readers, I would highly recommend that you do not under any circumstances miss my Live Streamed Release Party on the 21st of April via my official YouTube channel.

It's most likely the first in its kind, and nothing you have ever witnessed before. Put a X in your calendar for Saturday 21st . 9-12 (CEST time) and spread the word to all your friends on your social medias etc.

If you can't wait til the party you can go right ahead and pre-order the album or limited edition white vinyl LP Fan-Pack from www.snowyshaw.net/webshop and you get a whole month before it hits the stores... numbered and autographed, of course.

See you all Saturday 21st, then we can talk more in real time as I'm inviting the whole wide world to my big party at my house in Gothenburg, Sweden.



flier for the release party



 



Posted on 17.04.2018 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 2   Visited by: 112 users
17.04.2018 - 10:08
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Glad to see how in-depth he was willing to go on everything. Compare that to the recent Satyricon interview
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19.04.2018 - 14:46
Darkside Momo
Retired
Great interview and most definitely an interesting read! Thanks again to Mr Snowy Shaw for the ansewers - and the "Be Kind To Animals" T-shirts (on a related topic, the Tardy bros from Obituary run a cat shelter in Florida, too)
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"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you" - Ray Bradbury

"I've lost too many years now
I'm stealing back my soul
I'm awake now"
Abney Park (Letter Between A Little Boy & Himself As An Adult)
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