Entrevista en Castellano                          Interview in English

There are few musicians who achieve to reach the top in more than one instrument. Among those are even fewer the ones who have left their footprint in several mythical bands. And in between this people, I’m pretty sure that there is only one person who didn’t end up being an arrogant asshole. Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce you the incomparable Snowy Shaw.

Despite the fact that I believe that everyone with a decent taste in music should know such a transcendental character like him, here you have a short summary of his never-ending curriculum.

Since 1989, when he joined as a drummer to King Diamond, this restless Swedish has never stopped, jumping from success to success, and what is more important: always innovating. From heavy to doom to black even glam the genre for him has never been a barrier, neither the instrument, having taken every single position in a band. He has been in Notre Dame, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Memento Mori, Dream Evil, Therion, Dimmu Borgir, Sabaton and many others that I all encourage the readers to discover and enjoy the unmistakable mark of  this genius.

AB - First of all, where the hell do you find the time to do as many things as you do? It takes ages only to read in the bands you have played. And talking about your projects, what are you cooking now?

SS - Lately I’ve been keeping very busy editing and mixing all the material for my upcoming live DVD/CD, besides negotiating with various companies etc etc. Not that I have a schedule really but if I had I’d be very much behind it and now I’m trying my best to catch up. People’s been waiting a long time for its release but a ”little something” called Sabaton came in between and then I was out touring the world with them for a full year. Now however I have quit all bands and routinely decline all kinds of offers for 2014 in order to focus on all my own projects that had to be put on the back burner in the meantime.

As for being an overachieving bastard and a helpless/hopeless time optimist, I’m doing the best I can to find time to do all the things I wanna do, but it sure ain’t easy and I’m usually stressed out of my mind, but that’s the way I like it. One thing I’ve learned over the years in order to get to do things I value as opposed to waste precious time & life on bullshit I don’t give a flying fuck about, is to keep the latter to a minimum and make certain sacrifices I guess. For instance having hangovers and maintaining old relationships just because we used to have something in common 20 years ago. I haven’t talked to my sister for about 6-7 years now, since we have nothing in common except being siblings basically.

The DVD/CD will contain the best stuff from these two shows I did in 2011 and 2012 with my eponymous band Snowy Shaw where I performed ” All my favourite songs by all my former bands” alongside with friends and occasional guest stars from those bands. I’m sure you’ve already seen the showreel on Youtube and purchased the live album Snowy Shaw is Alive! ,.. right?

AB - For those who inexplicably haven’t seen the video yet or bought the CD, (which inevitably happen after watching the video) here I leave here the links:

AB - Do you feel, in a way, like Phil Collins or Dave Grohl, jumping from the battery to lead a band? Well, maybe Phil Collins is a bad example because he ruined a band like Genesis and ended up singing Disney Songs (just joking)

SS - Hahaha! Haven’t thought of it that way, but I must say I prefer the Dave Grohl comparison before that to Phil Collins, although he’s probably an amazing artist and song writer in his own right with massive selling hit records. Unfortunately that last part hasn’t applied so much to me,.. yet. :-)  Nothing wrong with having your music used by Disney though, I’d love that, and so would my bank account.

What can I say, since I persuaded my semi-reluctant classmates to form a rock group in 7th grade I’ve always been the creative driving force and band starter kind of guy, but much to my dismay the bulk of those bands soon deteriorated as we could never find a singer, and consequently couldn’t take it any further as to do shows or recordings. And since the other guys rarely had any song ideas of their own I gradually had to learn to play a little guitar or bass just to bring my ideas across, but we still had no one to sing so it always ended up the same old situation. As much as I liked playing the drums, it wasn’t the ideal choice of instrument as a band leader.  Many are the times I’ve cursed myself for not picking something else initially as having a drummer singing might not be the best thing from a number of reasons and to be honest, because of that it never really crossed my mind that I should try singing until about a decade and a half later.  

AB - From all the things you have been involved in, from which are you the proudest? Do you prefer the projects under your whole control or you are more comfortable being one more within the crew?

SS - Both ways has its charms and benefits definitely. Obviously it’s way more convenient and less exhausting being one in the crew, like you put it, and I like the variation but in the long run it’s not really my true element. Hard to say what I’m the most proud of. I sure hope that’s somewhere in the future, and as much as I’m grateful and appreciate all the experience obtained from all the stuff I’ve done in the past I really don’t look back and wallow much in nostalgia. 

AB - In a moment when black and dark metal were starting to lose great part its originality, starting to be too comfortable with itself, becoming almost mainstream, appeared Notre Dame. Original and extremely refreshing both musically and in concept. How did you come up with the idea for the band?

SS - It’s very simple, I just did exactly whatever I wanted to do without a second of concern for what anybody else would think or expect ( coming from illwill where I felt I had to meet half way in compromise and get the other guys approval to some extent). Whereas for Notre Dame I’d be stirring down all of my influences and ingredients I thought would make a nice tasty bitches brew. Over the years I’ve discovered that my approach to music on a whole differs quite significantly from most other musicians. There are no rules, and if there are, they are meant to be broken. When trying to describe music making for ordinary folks I’ve found that I often compare music to sex which makes it easier to relate. If it feels good, it is good, end of story. I do music to please myself and if others like it, I consider it a bonus and a blessing. In that sense, working with my very own little monster Notre Dame was like masturbation.  

Having said that, it also pleases me to bring food to my table, so one could say that I’m occasionally a bit promiscuous, selling musical favours like a simple whore. That’s not entirely true but it sounded fun :-)

AB - What did Notre Dame lack to be an smashing commercial success? Because, honestly, I have no idea (I still have shivers when I listen to the song ‘Dusk’, for example)

SS - Thank you, I still think Dusk is a fabulous song and had great potential. As a matter of fact when Andy La Rocque and I were mixing the live recordings just before X-mas he was blown away by that song and asked me what band this was ( because with the conceptual show I’m doing all my favorite songs by all my former bands) and he couldn’t believe it was Notre Dame because of the diversity and his preconceived ideas of what N.D represented. That’s perhaps the downside to allowing myself to have a broader range of styles and moods. Anyway, I think loads of the music and songs I made under the Notre Dame flag are well written and brilliant but to answer your question I think the sound production is somewhat poor, and that comes down to A) the lousy budget and B) the complexity and difficulties of the diverse nature of the music. Not to mention the shortcomings and limitations of the record label in terms of distribution and marketing. Then of course, it was pretty difficult to tour with that line-up of imaginary freaks, even if I would have wanted to, which I didn’t for a long long time.

AB - How is it working in a super band like Therion? How did you manage to make your space there?

SS - Hmmm, I don’t know, never thought of it really. I’m just being myself and with the risk of sounding like a self-centered prick I demand a certain space and say in things otherwise I won’t feel comfortable or happy. I know I do have a lot to offer artistically and one must be a blind fool not to take advantage of my skills and talents. Christofer certainly is no fool in direct contrast to the manager of Dimmu Borgir who would do all in her power to put me down and sabotage the relationship between me and the original members with her downright evil and vile power games. 

I’m immensely grateful for my time with Therion and I for the first couple of years it was a wonderful journey. Maybe it’s just the restless nomadic kickseeker in me, I don’t know, but gradually the amusement started to wear off and it started feeling more and more like a job. Coincidently that occurred parallely with me not exactly being super excited about the direction the band was taking on the last few records and tours. I have a great deal of respect for Christofer and what he has accomplished with his band since he founded Therion in 1987. I must add that he’s exceptionally generous with letting members contributing but in the end it’s his band and he has the final say. Also I must say that it’s extremely rare, next to unheard of that an established band like Therion are willing to put their ass on the line time after another rather than just keep dishing out the same kind of album year after year more or less, giving their fans what they think the fans wants and expects. That while Therion is bold enough taking risks by allowing themselves to change and evolve, jeopardizing everything they’ve built up in order to do so, kudos to that. I may not necessarily agree of all the newest directions but Christofer gotta keep following his heart and conviction and so do I.  

AB - Your way of singing is quite peculiar. You have built it up from scratch or you are influenced by others? I have to say I was very surprised with your work with Mad Architect, with a style that I haven’t heard you before (In moments reminding me to Rob Halford)

SS - First of all thank you. I was just listening repeatedly to a link someone shared on FB with this song called Floating from that album and it hit me  that it sounded a bit like something from the Sad wings of Destiny/Sin after Sin period with Judas Priest, so you got a point there. In certain places my vocal arrangements are very much inspired by Halford.

Anyway, what I do in general terms is sort of visualize what type of voice, style and character I’d like to hear on that particular piece of music that would enhance the vibe and make it as good or interesting as possible. Then I do the best I can performing the parts like I picture them in my head. Naturally on my own terms and with the capacity and conditions I have. In a way you could say I’m like an actor who takes on the role with an approach that I find fitting for the project at hand.

You ask if I built it up from scratch or I was influenced by others. Aren’t we all to some extent just a product of our mixed influences and likes?
There are tons of singers I love and admire, and that has influenced me a lot. Halford is just one ( but then again, he’s probably the metal singer who has influenced the most singers and who actually wrote the book on: How to sing heavy metal ) Another huge influence was Eric Adams of Manowar, as well as Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, David Byron of Uriah Heep, Axl Rose, Klaus Meine, Arthur Brown and the list goes on and on.

It’s funny, in the past I was primarily a drummer but my favorite bands as I was growing up had some of the crappiest drummers, like KISS, Manowar and Scorpions. In retrospect I can see that I was always more into good songs and good singers before technically advanced drummers.

AB - You have been touring with Sabaton, and you made a stop in Spain the last summer at the Leyendas Festival. What was your feeling about the festival and Spain?  Because if I’m not wrong, you didn’t came to Spain with Therion in 2012.

SS - I love Spain, as a matter of I’m contemplating moving to Spain. Can’t remember if I was present on that particular tour with Therion actually, it’s all a bit blurry. And so is the Leyendas festival due to the circumstances. We were constantly touring and playing shows all over the world, and if I’m not mistaken this was the time me and my friend/temporary drum-tech would be flying in from Gothenburg but the plane hit a bird which damaged the plane so that so our trip had to be rerouted with severe delays as a result. Sabaton were one of the headliners and playing pretty late in the evening but it was worse for Nashville Pussy that we teamed up with sharing the same flight, their show was in jeopardy of being cancelled. We arrived like 30 minutes before showtime and I had to help my uninitiated first time tech to built my borrowed kit then we played the show, had beers and partied backstage  and at the hotel with the other bands, slept a few hours then headed for England and the Bloodstock festival. So that’s about all I remember. Yeah, that’s true, the old school spanish metal pioneers Baron Rojo was playing that night and we talked a bit and took some photos. For years I’ve been saying that I should try learn spanish which I think would be very useful and a good investment on my tours in Mexico and south America, and Spain obviously, but so far unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the time.  

AB - Two of the last works you have in the market, with Opera Diabolicus and with The CNK are quite different from each other and also from previous works. More surprises for the future or any new genres you would like to explore?

SS - Opera Diabolicus is not that much different I’d say. In my opinion it’s perfect mix of Memento Mori, King Diamond, Therion, Notre Dame, Candlemass with a touch of Dimmu Borgir.

The CNK & Snowy Shaw constellation was however a pretty odd, and not necessarily a very good combination, but then again when I was approached in early 2008 by my friend Rheidmarr of this really cool french industrial metal act and was asked me to sing duets with him on an album consisting of various spiced up classic covers, it sounded like a cool enough little friendly side project but now with the advantage of hindsight it was a big mistake and something I regret doing. There was nothing but quarrel and arguments and the choice of songs and over all direction wasn’t at all what I previously pictured or signed up for.
That we would do spiced up industrial metal versions of unpredicatable guilty pleasure duet classics like Islands in a stream and Ebony and Ivory would have been hilariously awesome. Not to mention the 60s hit J´Taime mon non plus with two guys instead of boy/girl would be a lot of fun and quite controversial.  That’s what I had in my mind, not doing contrived versions of songs by Slayer, Guns N´Roses, Rammstein, Mötley Crüe and so on. Frankly I failed to see the market value of it and told them so, but they wouldn’t listen...

AB - Despite the wide range of bands in which you have played or collaborated, it's difficult to find in them political or social protest songs (correct me if I'm wrong).
Do you think music loses, in some way, part of its "essence" when it is used as a kind of speech? Or on the other hand, it can give more sense to a song?

SS - It all depends on your intentions and purpose with your music of course.
In my case Illwill had a lot more bleak everyday, social awareness type of lyrics than Notre Dame for example, because I want to keep it homogeneous and consistent according to the style.  One thing I learned from King is that one should never preach or impose your political or religious views on people.

I’m not interested in being a political protest singer. I’m generally more into escapism from the grey harsh reality. For the same reason you go watch The Lord of the Rings or a feel good movie rather than a depressing documentary about the conflicts in Ukraine or something. The world is so immensely depressingly fucked up today that I actually have to struggle hard not to deviate from my principles of venting my frustration, anger and political views and standpoint.    

Dream Evil
Whether I want it or not it’s inevitably that my views on the world get spilled out and can be read between the lines in my lyrics one way or the other. Then how you interpret them is all up to you.  

I think Bruce Dickinson summed it up really well once  when he got the question on why Maiden mainly wrote fantasy and historical lyrics rather than reflecting on the situation in the world today. I can’t quote him word for word but in essence he said something like ”Our fans are mainly working class kids who have to struggle everyday to survive in this wicked world and when they go to an Iron Maiden concert we can offer them a sanctuary from their ordinary lives for a few hours”     

AB - Reading your biography, you say that you as a youngster were a fan of Heavy, Horror and Super Heroes Comics. Which recommendations would you do in this three genres to a nowadays youngster?

I wouldn’t know, we’re talking early/mid 70s here and back then the world was a very different place with extremely limited access to anything. The one channel TV would broadcast Disney cartoons about once a year on Christmas and then everyone was watching. Compare that to nowadays and I don’t think the things that blew my mind would have anywhere near the same sensational impact on the kids today. I was a sucker for all sorts of  horror articles, classic films and Marvel comics like Werewolf at night, Tales from the Crypt, Dracula, Shock, Eerie, Frankenstein, The Swamp Thing, Batman, Spiderman, Tarzan,Ra-Han etc. Try imagine something as striking as when I discovered KISS - Destroyer in 1976. The artwork, the music, the production, the über strong image. To me it was one of those before/after moments right there and it changed my life forever. It was almost as if a shiny new chrome Lamborghini would slide up in front of your neanderthal cave where you sit dressed in rags gnawing on a bone. I’m exaggerating a tad but you catch my drift right?

Sweden was very liberal though, and quite impressed with anything american, so regardless of how massive the impact was on me it’s probably mild compared to that of Gene Simmons, who grew up in a shack on the sandbanks of Israel where he first heard rock n´roll, had his first Coca cola or saw his first cowboy movie on a screen in the desert. He loved all of it and it all had one thing in common, Made in America. Then his mom decided to pack up and move to New York City! That’s really one remarkable helluva story, and I love it.- KISS !

AB - You have played in bands with a strong relationship with Satanism. The obvious one with King Diamond and his fellowship of the Church of Satan. What is your personal point about the subject? 

SS - I’m an atheist and wish we could ban all religion world wide tomorrow. I can comprehend that thousands of years ago people chose to when they didn’t know any better and science wasn’t what it is today, but I can’t believe for the world how people in this day and age can cling on to such nonsense, might as well worship Spiderman.
More than 20 years ago King and I had a very long talk about satanism and the philosophical views and aspects of it according to the La Vey doctrine. Turns out we shared opinions and views to about 99%.  So as I went to bed that dawn I was asking myself, Am I a satanist? Naw, I prefer to keep calling it common sense.   

AB - In this age of the information, with all the media with a wide access to almost everybody, the musician are always a point of interest, and some sort of stories (true or not) are spread and become myths.
Any about you? Anything you would like to confirm o deny?

SS - Hmm, not that I can think of right off the bat. But if you have any questions just fire away. 

AB - Not really, and you have been so sincere and direct all the interview, that maybe this question was out of place.
You have been for so long into music, and you have the same energy as newcomer. What's your secret? Maybe it is not get stuck in a single band and then not ending up getting bored of it? 

SS - I think it’s called the Peter Pan syndrome... naw, just kiddin´
I think you’re right about that. Had I just remained in King Diamond all those years I’d probably be bored out of my skull, if I’d still be playing that is. And this has nothing to do with K.D per se, it’s just that it wouldn’t have been stimulation enough for me and I would have to have another creative outlet on the side like drawing or so, and that besides having a normal day job as K.D haven’t been that active touring or working in general.   

AB - If we talk about drummers I don’t know if you follow Metallica’s career but, for the old followers of the band, Lars Ulrich (being nice) lacks some of his old energy. What’s your professional opinion? Is it an example where the fame weights more than the music or is he just being misunderstood by old fans? And more important, is it something that might happen to you? 

SS - Well, we all get older and one’s priorities change and you re-evaluate things, that’s just natural. It’s such an open goal and I don’t wanna join the army of haters who slam Lars mercilessly. Without Lars - No Metallica. In my opinion he’s always been an immeasurable asset for the success of his band, and then I’m not even talking about the drums.  From a drummer’s point of view, all he ever had was the energy and passion.

You ask if this could happen to me. Yes, a big chunk of the passion I had for drums was forever lost during the infamous recording of The Eye in 1990. Unless I’m on tour, like last year with Sabaton I don’t play a whole lot of drums these days. We never rehearse and I never practise but when I do play I do it out of passion and inspiration, and I always improvise to keep it exciting for myself. I thrive on inspiration so when in the studio it’s essential that I try to capture the mood and nail everything within 2-3 days tops, because after that I tend to get bored with the same-same rut of playing drums all day long and my resources are emptied so I need to do something else for a while. 

AB - I have to make this question because I am really curious… The ABBA tattoo? Simply for being a fan or is there a story behind?

SS - Yeah, I intended to tattoo my boyfriend Abbath’s name but then I realized I didn’t have enough fingers,.. so ABBA had to do.

No seriously, I’m a big ABBA fan but it’s also a statement of course, on many levels and aspects. KISS would be too obvious and predictable and as a swede I’m very proud of the legacy of ABBA who went against the grain and created fantastic music and put Sweden on the world map next to Volvo and Björn Borg, although they were regarded as capitalistic commercialism incarnated by the widespread conservative socialistic leftwing convention and music movement at that time in Sweden. 

I went to the ABBA museum last year, they wouldn’t give me any discount at the entrance but they took pictures of me doing a fist and they loved the fact that ABBA fans come in any shape or form and apart from the tattoo I didn’t quite fit the description. And that’s sort of my point, I don’t like when people who doesn’t know me personally wanna put a label and categorize me. I’m a huge fan of Baccara from Spain too.
I have mixed CDs in alphabetical order, on B there is Black Sabbath, Burzum, Baccara, Behemoth, Bowie and so on... 

AB - You, who are a man with a powerful style and a powerful moustache, what do you think of the modern trend of the beard lumberjack-hipster look?

SS - hahaha! thank you for noticing, but I guess it’s hard to miss that garden snail like Hank Shermann put it. As with every other trend that’s been popping up over the last couple of decades I honestly couldn’t care less. Same kind of insecure herd mentality packet solutions as with everything from religion to music or fashion fads, designed to create a false sense of belonging for those in search of approval, identity who lack personality.
Next question please. 

AB - I'm a big fan of your Halloween concert. Besides the release of the DVD you have plans to do a full tour with this idea?

SS - 

In some shape or form yes, that’s the idea sort of, to perform the kind of concerts that I would love to attend and always keeping it interesting adding new songs and old classics that has never or rarely been performed live before like I did with songs by illwill, Memento Mori, Notre Dame, Opera Diabolicus, XXX as well as obscure numbers and mandatory hits with occasional guest stars. After all these years I’m not so easily entertained, not to say jaded and I can’t hardly think of anything more boring than attending metal concerts. I wanna put up great cutting edge shows like you never seen them before. There’s no shortage of groundbreaking ideas, that’s for sure, but it’s a question time and money that’s required to deliver those kind of big productions and that’s what I’m struggling for.  

I’m taking time out to finish up and catch up on all my various projects this year and so far I’ve turned down a handful of requests for festival shows for 2014 because as soon as I’m done with this live DVD/CD that I’m currently working on, I will enter the studio and start recording my own new material. I’ll be available again for 2015.   

AB - Speaking of the diverse kind of bands in which you have played. Why someone would call a band XXX? 
What are fans going to find when they search this name in Youtube or Google? I can assure you that the first thousand references are not going to be about the band (maybe worth checking, though) 

SS - .... that was kind of a joke at the time.. ” look guys, we’ve only existed for a month and if you make a quick Google search on the name we’ve already got 100.000 million hits!”  hahaha!
It’s an awfully long story behind that band and how it came about. In order to help my increasingly desperate friends I volunteered to produce a 3 song mini CD and got deeply involved trying to shape up this glam/sleeze band called Loud n´Nasty . Out of compassion I figured I spend a few weeks on it fixing the flaws. On the back of that recording the band then was offered a record deal in Japan, or more precisely I was. Then followed loads of twists and turns but without going into too much drawn out detail, certain circumstances meant that the name had to be changed, and as we were again a three piece band I suggested triple X,. spelled XXX.   

Diseño para XXX
In the context of this three piece band and concept I was playing around a lot with ideas on trinity subject such as, The God, The Bad and The Ugly, and Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, and the album Heaven, Hell or Hollywood? with Marvel comics drawing of us three distinct characters representing one of each. Handsome Rob is so vain he fit the description of Hollywood, while Xhris is sort of pious and quiet and with my kind of fiery personality I was of course Hell... etc. I really enjoyed having an outlet for my long time fascination for early 70s glam & glitter rock like Sweet, Bowie, T-Rex, Suzi Quatro etc. I think in the end the album came out great and I’m very proud of it, let alone that I managed to save the ship from sinking. Instead of spending a few weeks on it as was the original plan I ended up spending two years or so, and it was more or less my band where I became the main guy who were calling the shots and being the most prolific. The band never broke up but the reason we haven’t been active in recent years is because guitarist Xhris has been disappeared for about 5 years now....

AB - Any band which has surprised you recently? It doesn't matter if in a good or in a bad way, sometimes it is better to know which bands you have to avoid than which ones to hear.

SS - I’m sorry but you’re asking the wrong person. Anyhow, I would recommend the swedish artist Miss Li. She’s probably the most interesting artist I’ve heard in years... Lo and behold, I even went to her concert. ;-)

AB - And a last question. After this will you continue accepting interviews from crazy fans that assault you in social networks?

SS - Oh! so that’s what you are? A crazy fan as opposed to a proper magazine/webzine journalist hahaha! You sneaky bastard, you conveniently waited until the end of the interview with this info didn’t you.  ;-) ;-)

( you’ve obviously got more talent than most journalists I’ve come across in the last few years though,.. ”Eh whattayamean doing research and preparing questions? I basically just wanna get a VIP backstage pass and to be seen next to cool rockstar guys and if I’m lucky I might get picked up and fucked by one of them so I can brag about it to my less fortunate girlfriends and become somebody”     

AB - Anyway, a pleasure to share this words with you, and now, if you want to add something more to your Spanish-speaking followers.

SS - Fuck! Like I was saying, I really haven’t had the time to learn any spanish yet which would have been very appropriate right here.   Los amo a todos, y espero que sea mutuo - Stay true! and in the loop, I’ve got shitloads of cool stuff coming up for you in the near future, and the sooner I can bring my show to your beautiful country, the better. Muchas Gracias!  

AB - If you want to know more about Snowy Shaw check his webpage or his Facebook page, and of course his webshop where you can find tons of very interesting material:

1 comentario:

Von Gornov dijo...

Great interview, thank you!

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