An interview with the "vampire"
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From: Gotheburg (Sweden)
Estilo: Heavy Metal
Discography (solo albums):
- «… Is Alive!» (2011)
- «The Liveshow: 25 Years of Madness in the Name of Metal» (2014)
- «Dusk» (single) (2014)
- «Fire» (single) (2014)
- «Live In Hell» (2015).
- «White Id The New Black» (2018).
- «Be Kind to Animals or I’ll Kill You» (single) (2018).
Record label: Wunderwurld Music
Youtube: Snowy Shaw
Spotify: Snowy Shaw
Author of the interview: El Puli de Cádiz
Our colleague El Puli de Cádiz makes his debut in this world of interviews talking with none other than the legendary and very talkative Snowy Shaw, who recently published his autobiography, entitled «The Book of Heavy Metal», whose review we hope to bring you soon to this Website.
For the clueless, Snowy Shaw‘s fame began as he played drums in King Diamond‘s «The Eye», and then he has served as drummer in multiple bands, such as Mercyful Fate, Dream Evil or Sabaton. He has also shown his singing abilities in Notre Dame and Therion, played the bass in Dimmu Borgir, and now he runs his own band where he plays all the instruments. Moreover, he illustrates, takes photos, designs stage clothes, produces records. A «hard workhaolic», as he says.
When El Puli called, Snowy was about to heat up his dinner. A little bit embarrassing, isn’t it?Our colleague forgot to push the «record» button, so the greetings and a bit of the small talk at the beginning are missing. Nevertheless, it’s a fun, long and interesting interview which covers various aspects of the Swedish musician’s career.
Here you have the video of their talk on Skype, with subtitles in English, Spanish and even Swedish, and below you can find the transcription in English, if you prefer to read quietly.
Part I: On "The Book of Heavy Metal"
Puli: Good evening, Snowy. Here’s Antonio Pulido, from Esquirlas de Metal, calling from Spain.
Snowy: Good evening. I thought you’d call me later. I’m heating up my dinner. But there’s no problem.
(Editor’s note: A little bit of small talk followed and then we began the recording).
Snowy: Did you grow up watching Professor Baltazhar on TV?
Snowy: It’s a Czech Republic cartoon. This professor, when he is trying to come up with great solutions or ideas, he just walks around all the time while he is thinking, you kow, like in circles. I have noticed that I’m doing quite the same, you know. I just walk around when I’m thinking.
Puli: You’re very influenced by this cartoon…
Snowy: No, it’s not about the influence, just how the thought process is going, you know. To “jimble” around… Quite eccentric… So you’ve ben reading the book?
Puli: I’ve been reading your book. I began a couple of days ago, I’ve read almost 40 pages… It’s very interesting the way you choose the position of the chapters beacuse it’s like flash forward and flash backward with time…
Snowy: I chose to do it like that because I thought that writing it chronologically, starting “I was born…” and then just continue it, it would be a little bit too boring and I’ve read some reviews where they really appreciate that it still keeps the thread. It’s sort of like the story going, looking back and moving forward and so on, and they said it ties up in the end, just like Pulp Fiction, that movie. It’s a good example, a comparison, I should say.
Puli: Yeah, it gives it dynamics, it’s an interesting read because of that. I’m liking it as I’m reading it.
Snowy: Thank you very much. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s getting those astounding reviews. I’m just over the moon with happiness and gratitude, of course, because people seem to like it. I mean, I’ve spent so much time working on this. I needed to get sort of my inner demons, you know, to make peace with that or whatever. When I hit 40 I had like this serious or severe midlife crisis I needed to either jump from a bridge or spend my money on a screen for the next decade or so, but then, since I’m this sort of guy, I needed to solve the problem myself… You know, I had this kind of impulse or unstoppable urge to write or to put black on white, to be able to step out of yourself or just see things in perspective, because I was so… I hadn’t been out on tour with Therion for a whole year and it was… coming home … yeah, I just hit 40, turned 40, … I needed to sort of come to terms with myself and my problematic streak, whatever you say… That’s how it started.
Puli: It was a good decision, I think, if the other option was…
Snowy: Jumping from the bridge, yeah…
«When I hit 40 I had like this severe midlife crisis (…) I had this kind of impulse or unstoppable urge to write or to put black on white, to be able to step out of yourself or just see things in perspective»
Puli: The other option is quite worse.
Snowy: Yeah, but… Being in the music business, everything is been centered, since the inception of rock music, it’s all been a youth culture, youth revolution, or something like that, and you think that you’re gonna be young forever or whatever, but when you hit 40 there’s no escaping: “OK, fuck, I have to face this, I’m an old man”, you know, and it turned out like “Wow, what have I accomplished? What have I achieved in my life? I can’t see anything positive”. I thought I’m the biggest loser ever, I might also kill myself, because I can’t face it, those kind of demons or thoughts, really… But once I got a little bit of perspective on things, I realized that “OK, I’ve done pretty good, good fot myself, … I’ve been touring all over the world and releasing albums, and playing with some of my favourite artists like King Diamond and so on. I guess I should be a little bit happier at least”, you know.
Puli: You must think “my inner child would be proud of what I’ve done?” And I think…
Snowy: Yeah, but like I’ve said, after I’ve been writing day and night for like five weeks and I started to get to hang and started to appreciate things and then I could see “OK, I might not have accomplished what Kiss have done in the seventies or whatever, but who has? Nobody, noone after them”. And I’ve been doing pretty good for myself at least, and you know, without compromise, I always followed my heart because I never followed the money or anything like that. I just did what I had passion for. You know, to me, I try to combine it all, doing art, designing album covers, stage props, you know, into photography, and writing and playing all the instruments… You know, all the crap that I like. So I don’t have any hobbies. I was giving that interview and they asked me “what kind of hobbies do you have?” “Ah, fucking, maybe?” (laughs). I managed to combine it all, I mean, everything I like, in life all my passions, fascinations or whatever, so I put it all into a big cauldron and stir it around, so it’s like a mix of everything that I like.
Puli: So, you’re answering almost half of the questions that I’d prepared…
Snowy: I’m sorry (laughs).
«This is a limited deluxe edition, so it’s like a hard-case or we call it hardback, 464 pages. (…) I’m dedicating it to the buyers and I autograph it and it was also numbered in the past. So I put my heart and soul into it, I bled into it, so that’s what they’re getting.»
Puli: That’s good! Well. How’s the book selling? Is it selling well? I know you’ve had a good feedback from the press…
Snowy: Yeah, It’s going really great. People were saying that… because this is a self published book, I had no previous experience at all from the book business, but… I thought it should be pretty similar to the record industry, and the record industry is kind of dying, you know. I mean, physical products are not selling so much and everything is, you know, streaming online, digital and all that, and so I wasn`t sure that I was even going to get in touch with any book publishers or anything like that, I don’t know, so I decided to do it all myself like I always do, basically.
I mean I’ve come to this conclusion: at least they started throwing millions after me, I won’t sign any record deal with any of the companies, because after all these years of being so much involved and taking care of so much stuff myself, I would say that I have pretty good insight and routine and lot of experience and all that, which not a lot of those people working at the record companies and stuff… they don’t neccesarily have as much experience as I do. So why should I fucking let them have 50% of the money and they’d do a crappier job that I would do working before breakfast (laughs).
So I figured out “I’m just gonna publish it myself”, and basically I’m selling it through my webshop and shipping all over the world, you know. I just shipped today to Canada a couple of books, and to Greece and Czech Republic and Sweden too, but you know I’m just sending it all over the world, so it’s all really great. And it’s my core fans, you know, people that are following me on Facebook and all that social media, those are my core fans I suppose, and they’ve been buying it, so things are going really really great.
Puli: And have you thought about selling or distributing your book though other channels so it reaches more public?
Snowy: Yeah, but think it: This is a limited deluxe edition, so it’s like a hard-case or we call it hardback, 464 pages. I mean, you’ve got the PDF, I mean that is for promotion only and interviewers and journalists and all of that. But It’s kind of exclusive. I’m dedicating it to the buyers and I autograph it and it was also numbered in the past. So I put my heart and soul into it, I bled into it, so that’s what they’re getting. But I’ve been thinking about like so, this is a limited edition, it’s only 1500, a thousand for me shipping all over the world from Sweden, but they have 500 in America too for the US market. I’ve paid to have them shipped… They’re shipping for a minimum in the Americas… otherwise they’ve been complaining in the past if they wanted to buy my DVD box or whatever: “Wow, the shipping is more expensive than the actual product”. Yeah, but it’s not my fault (laughs). I just try to keep it as low as possible. So I have 500 books shipped to San Diego, and they sell them all over America.
But after that I figured “maybe I should contact, since the sales are going so good, so great, and receptions is so overwhelmingly good, I should contact a regular publisher or something to get it out in… all the airports” (laughs). But then it would be like a paperback version, it’s like a little cheaper version of that, you know. So if you want to get your hands on the real deal, this is the exclusive thing, it gets dedicated and signed and all that, just get it from my webshop.
«I’m kind of doing two or three bands at the same time for the last 25 years (…) but since a couple of years ago I decided to go solo and play all the instruments and do my own music, because that’s the only band I can’t quit.»
Puli: Now I would like to make some questions about your life, if it doesn’t spoil too much of the book. You can always say “read it on the book”.
Snowy: I’m like an open book. I just tell it as it is and that’s not an exception for this book. I’m not keeping anything inside. I’m telling things the way it is. This fucking business is just wrapped up in all this deletering glam, and people think it’s like so glamorous being in this business but I’m telling it like it is. I’m spilling the beans and revealing the dirtiest side of the business, I gotta say. And I think it’s about time, because, I mean, I have friends who have been playing in bands and stuff, you know, when we grow up they ask “OK, when you are up on tour, how many millions do you earn?” It doesn’t quite work like that (laughs). Unless you were Metallica, but it’s even hard for them as well.
Puli: I guess. A lot of musicians have regular jobs aside from (the music business).
Snowy: Yeah, but I sort of managed, I mean, I gotta say that in this book. I decided when I was gonna turn 20 “fuck this shit”. I had 12 jobs in 2 years and I got fired from all of them (laughs), so I decided “fuck this shit”. Otherwise… If I’m not gonna follow my heart and do what I want with my life I might as well kill myself right away. I told my mum and, from then on, for 30 years, I’ve been, you know, I managed to earn my living basically all from music, so doing what I wanted to do. If you’re willing to roll up the sleeves and work hard… I’m kind of doing two or three bands at the same time for the last 25 years or something like that, but since a couple of years ago I decided that “OK, I keep quitting all the bands because I’m fed up with that or I need to explore new things or new adventures or whatever”. And that’s why I decided to go solo and play all the instruments and do my own music, because that’s the only band I can’t quit (laughs) unless I die or…
Puli: You should then change your name or something, to quit the band (laughs).
Snowy: Or cut my hair.
Puli: Your hair is always changing, no?
Snowy: Yeah, but, you know, I don’t know… Change is healthy I suppose, and you get tired of yourself. I mean, I get tired of seeing myself in the bathroom mirror every morning… To change every once in a while is good.
Part II: On becoming King Diamond's drummer
«You know, they asked me twice, I could not possibly turn it down. Yeah, I got the job.»
Puli: So, you’ve said when you were 20 yearls old you had been fired from 12 jobs in a couple of years or something, and then Mikkey Dee asked you to be his substitute in King Diamond.
Snowy: Not his substitute, but his replacement.
Puli: His replacement, yeah. That’s the word.
Snowy: He sort of reached me when we were partying on Chistmas day. He was home from Los Angeles, because King Diamond were living… had moved two years ago to Los Angeles because it was a good melting pot for the industry back then. And he was home in Sweden over Christmas and I was living out of town and came over. And we were partying or just met in the club or whaterver, and he said “I’m gonna quit King Diamond. You should take my spot, because you’re perfect for that job”. At that point I wanted to do my own stuff, I just wanted to do my own music and stuff, and I thought we were both kind of drunk, so I thought it was alcohol that did the talking, basically.
But anyway, a couple of months later Pete Blakk had his eye on me because he wanted to have me as a drummer in his solo band and stuff, and he contacted me sending me postcards and stuff like that and he said “I’m gonna be back in Sweden, Gothenburg, tomorrow or two days later and I want to meet you up because I’ve got something to talk you about”. And then he came back from LA where they had been auditioning for over 40 drummers, according to him, and they were real famous guys and well stablished, from all over the world, and they’ve been flying to try for the slot in King Diamond, and he said that they couldn’t pull it off, you know, so he said… [Sorry I’m gonna take my pizza from the oven, (laughs)]. So he was saying “I think you should take the spot, to get some routine, get experience and all that”.
And I figured that, once I got home after being away for a year studying in a fucked-up school, I realized that, coming home to Sweden, or to Gothenburg again, I mean, that kind of hair Metal thing that I so much despised had become even worse. I mean, it was impossible to find the right members for the thing that I wanted to do. So I figured “I fucking gotta move away from this country to America or something like that”. And I started thinking “maybe I should go to PIT,” you know, like music institute of technology like so many swedes did back then. But “what the fuck I’ve been just kicked out of school so why should I try”, and so I figured out “OK this is the best opportunity ever and since it happened twice”. You know, they asked me twice, I could not possibly turn it down. Yeah, I got the job.
«King was like a guy singing in falsetto about Satan, he looked like even a weirder version of Alice Cooper. I thought ‘wow, that’s really cool’.»
Puli: That’s good. And you knew the music of King Diamond, you were a fan of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, no?
Snowy: I was a fan of Mercyful Fate from way back when I discovered them in 1983, on a compilation album whith that song “Black Funeral”. It was a lot of up and coming american bands and I just figured they were american because back then it wasn’t so common that… you know, all bands were basically from either England or America or maybe Germany. And I found out a few years later, because this was waaayyy before internet, of course, that they were from our nighbour country Denmark, and King was like a guy singing in falsetto about Satan, he looked like even a weirder version of Alice Cooper. I thought “wow, that’s really cool”. Yes I really liked… I really got into Mercyful Fate from the “Melissa” album right away. Yeah, but then also followed King Diamond, and I was not so much a die-hard fan, but Mikkey Dee I’ve known him since I was 13, and Andy LaRoque I knew kind of briefly too. I mean, they were both from Gothenburg, that’s a good connection.
But, you know, this is exactly what I like, I mean, me and King, even though he’s 12 years older than me, we had the same influences, like Alice Cooper, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep in particular. We shared the same, you know…. To be out with that band doing this kind of “Welcome To My Nightmare” Alice Cooper kind of thing “wow”, with the House of Amon and all that, I mean, it was just fantastic. So basically it’s an overnight sensation, I would say, such a weird transition from coming from nothing, playing the fucking youth center or something like that, into a headliner tour across America for 3 months…
Puli: It’s like a rush of energy…
Snowy: Yeah, … it’s hard to grasp it all, I mean, it’s such a huge… just overnight, you know… It was pretty cool.
Part III: On how to turn a drummer into a singer
Puli: And you began, as I’ve been reading in your book, you began being a drummer, because you liked the band Kiss a lot, at that time when you were younger it was your favourite band, and you began playing drums because of them, but then you moved to playing bass guitar, guitar and singing. How is the moment when you decide to put yourself in front of the crowd instead of being back behind the drums?
Snowy: Yeah. You could say I started my own band Notre Dame like in 96, 97 or something like that, and I don’t want to rebuild that much of those details but I was the frontman and singer just because… it was a necessity because I couldn’t find a proper singer. It was so hard to find. You could have tons of guitar players, but finding a singer was impossible. But of course I had like high expectations. I was kind of naive, like you are when you’re young, and I was like “I’m gonna find a singer like Eric Adams of Manowar just living in the suburbs here in Gothemburg or something, hopefully with a little bit of Rob Halford”, you know. It was impossible to find that kind of …(laughs). In a way, I was like high demands and big expectations,
So, in the end, I’d been working with a lot of different bands: I had Memento Mori and Illwill and all that, and I guess I reached the point when I got so pissed off that I thought “oh, fuck it all, I gotta do it all myself”. That’s when I figured out I had to sing myself, you know. Years later I had the offer to join Therion as one of the singers and, you know, that’s when I really got out there and we were out touring all over the world and they were hughely popular, almost Beatle-Mania, in Latin America and South America, that was a really cool experience. I didn’t have much experience from fronting a band or talking to the audience or anything like that.
But I’ve got to say, I mean, it might seem a bit strange to do that kind of transition from being in the back to step forward like that, but if you look at it, Bon Scott was originally a drummer, Iggy Pop was originally a drummer, Dave Grohl obviously, Mick Anderson (Editor’s note: here, we suffered a bit of problems in connection)… a lot of singers, they were originally (drummers)…. Phil Collins, of course, but also Mick Anderson. So I guess there’s a connection there, if you get tired of being in the back, I suppose (laughs). I don’t know.
«I got a lot from Mikkey Dee, because I just started playing drums when I got to know him.»
Puli: I’m tired of hitting the drums, give me the fucking microphone…
Snowy; Yes, it is… I don’t know, I don’t know. I couldn’t say. I also got a lot from Mikkey Dee, I suppose, because I just started playing drums when I got to know him, because he was 5 years older than me and had been playing for as long as I had lived back then, and he was playing in a local band and they were rehearsing at my school at the auditorium. And I was really impressed by him because “wow”, he was such a good drummer and had been playing for such a long time and had that huge Pearl Chrome Kit like Peter Criss or something, which I had never seen in my entire life… “Wow” I was so impressed. But also that is something I didn’t realize until maybe 10 years ago. I told him “wow, you’ve been a great role model or influence on me, because you were the star in the band”, even if he was in the back. Just because you’re the drummer in the back you don’t have to be Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. I mean, usually it’s the singers and guitar players who get all the attention, and drummers, they are basically the timekeeper in the back, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Puli: You can sing in many different textures, I think, from high pitched vocals to very low range or something… Did someone tell you that you could be a singer before you decided to sing in Notre Dame because you couldn’t find any other?
Snowy: Not Really. I mean, people had being saying that I had a talent for it, because I could mimic Klaus Meine “whoooaaaahhh” (laughs) or whatever… but you could read about that in the book. I mean, that’s a very interesting chapter, because most of my influences I had a hard time singing along to their songs, like Ronnie James Dio, for example, or Eric Adams or Klaus Meine, like I mentioned, or Bruce Dickinson or all that, because they were singing in such a full voice in a high top range, like you do in Metal, basically, you know, and when I try to do that I had to struggle really really hard. So I got really frustrated when I tried to do that, you know, and when I tried to start singing. And after a while it was like I’m getting hoarse in my voice and all that.
So a friend said that maybe I should go to a vocal coach. So, OK, I did. And he said “yeah, you have a great baritone, bass, voice, a low voice like that, and maybe you should just accept what God has given you, basically, nature. But I never listen to people (laughs) I have to learn it my own way, by making mistakes, I suppose. But he told me that, because I’m so tall I have longer vocal cords, and those guys I look up to, like my favourite singers, they are basically like half a meter shorter than me, like Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson and all those guys, so they are, by nature, by default, they are tenors “aaahhh” with a high voice like that, you know. It kind of makes sense. (Laughs)
Puli: It makes sense, but you’re still giving those high-pitched vocals here and there.
Snowy: I don’t listen to a good advide (laughs)… I was just like “whoooarrrggh” (laughs)
Part IV: On theatricality in Metal
«I grew up with Kiss and if they would have looked like Budgie or some other band, I wouldn’t have cared about them, because it was the image that attracted me, and it was like the full concept, the whole thing.»
Puli: OK. So this question is about…. In almost all the projects in which you have been involved, theatricality has a lot of weight. Have you ever thought of acting or interpreting some play in theater, cinema or TV or something? Or is it still an unexplored territory?
Snowy: Ahhh. For years, people’s been saying to me that maybe I should try to be an actor or something, but I never had any desire to go into that. But I don’t know. Maybe down the road.
The thing is when I was hired as a singer in Therion, on the side of that they wanted me to be in charge of the presentations … the visual presentations, and the stage props… Because, in the past I suppose they were always that mix of Opera and Heavy Metal, and kind of pompous and symphonic and all that, but they didn’t dress accordingly, they wore their street clothes and they, you know, jogging pants (laughs) and all that. And I think “why not dress accordingly and try to give the audience a full experience”, like if you go to the opera, for example, you don’t wanna pay to see people in jeans (laughs) and stuff like that. I mean, you want something for the eyes, and the ears, and the whole atmosphere.
I mean, that’s how I grew up. I grew up with Kiss and if they would have looked like Budgie (laughs) or some other band, I wouldn’t have cared about them, because it was the image that attracted me, and it was like the full concept, the whole thing, I suppose. So, anyway, I did that in Notre Dame and stuff, because it was like a horror, Shock Rock Metal thing, like an extension of… inspired by everything from Death SS to Alice Cooper, obviously, Arthur Brown, and all that …
Because, I mean, that’s what I like. I think, if you wanna create an atmosphere or a vision for the people to really get into the whole thing, you know, so that’s what I did also. But I never had any desire to become an actor or anything like that. Let’s see… maybe a pornstar (laughs).
Puli: In this sense, about theatricality, and the customes, stage clothes and so on, I guess we will never see you play in a stage without costume or without make up, in jeans or jogging pants or something like that.
Snowy: Not with my own band, because it’s part of the character, I suppose, but I can jump on stage (sorry, I’m having my dinner) just jamming out. I mean, then I’m dressed like I am now, jeans and t-shirts I suppose. But if you wanna go into the role… like I was saying, it depends on what kind of thing. It doesn’t have to be make up and stuff, it all depends. If people wanna spend a lot of money, hard earned money, on seeing a show, I think they want to have a little bit of escapism, you know, like going into a fairytale land and get into the whole atmosphere. I think that’s an important role. I mean, you don’t wanna go see King Diamond when he’s standing in his base-cap (laughs) and just blue jeans, because he is King Diamond with the make up and all, and same thing with Kiss or whatever it is.
Puli: Yeah. But, for example, you know, a Thrash Metal band, they usually go up there in jeans…
Snowy: Yeah, but it’s part of that, they also have a fucking dress code.
Snowy: Tennis shoes or basket shoes and a leather jacket ….
Puli: Or a vest with lot of patches, yeah.
Snowy: It’s just like… I remember, I think, Metallica, they were kind of trying to go against the grain when they first came, because then all the bands looked like Iron Maiden with stripped tights and all that … More punk and more street, I suppose, but that was also sort of a conscious choice or design, so that kind of created the way you should look when you play Thrash Metal. It was like anti-poser, but it was also a pose (laughs), because everybody was the same thing.
Puli: I know what you mean.
Snowy: Yeah, I mean, there are all those different genres. I mean, there’s an Indie Pop whatever, a specific genre they call Shoegaze, they’re supposed to be not extrovert but introverted and stand, you know, looking on your shoes, to be sort of “oh, I’m not… I’m so…” (laughs)
Puli: “I’m so saaad”…(laughs)
Snowy: OK, but if you want to go see your band, you want some sort of action going on there, but you choose then with your back to the crowd and stare at your shoes and be depressed. Ok, good for you (laughs). Different genres, I suppose.
Part V: On what is a producer
«Sometimes people ask me ‘what instrument do you prefer, since you play so many of them?’ I don’t give a crap basically. I mean, to me it’s just tools. Just like you would ask a carpenter ‘Which is your favourite tool? Is it a hammer os is it a saw?’ «
Puli: Well, you told us before that you, aside from the music, you also paint illustrations or cover artworks for other bands, and you also make photographs, and the stage clothing for Notre Dame and Therion. Are there any more noteworthy facets or aspects of your art?
Snowy: Yeah, I’ve been trying pretty much everything just out for curiosity or to see if that’s worth the effort. I’ve been producing bands. I mean, coaching bands, writing songs for other artists… I still do it occasionally. But, you know, you just got to try to make the ends meet or earn your fucking money to get food on the table. So I mean, if it’s in the field of my own interests or if I have expertise or knowledge about it, you know, I’ve been producing bands, like that I’m helping them out, writing their songs, designing, and being a coach basically.
Puli: So you’ve produced more records than Notre Dame and Memento Mori?… I thought you produced 2 records of Memento Mori and the complete discography of Notre Dame, but there’s more…
Snowy: Let’s just say I don’t even know what … I’m not so hung up on titles. I could silly call myself a record boss, record label manager, and a producer, and a stylist or illustrator or… I don’t know, all those kind of titles I don’t give a shit. I mean, I’m just doing a lot of stuff (laughs), that’s basically what I mean. If I’m a songwriter, if I’m a singer, if I play bass… I mean, to me it doesn’t really matter. Sometimes people ask me “what instrument do you prefer, since you play so many of them?” I don’t give a crap basically. I mean, to me it’s just tools. Just like you would ask a carpenter “Which is your favourite tool? Is it a hammer os is it a saw?” I don’t give a shit. I mean, they’re for creating music (laughs). So I don’t care too much about what I’m playing as long as it turns out in the end the way I envisioned it in my head.
Yeah. So, I produced, I mean, when I’m doing my own music I’m producing that, of course, myself, whatever that means. But you gotta understand that, if you compare it to making movies there is a director that is more the equivalent of, in music, being the producer. And that can mean a lot of things.
I’ve been involved in making albums, and then the studio engineer said “yeah, I’m gonna get the credits as a producer”. “Not really”, I said, “because, I mean, I am the visionary here, who tells people what to do and try to have the…., sort of sum out and have a full picture, create in a specific direction, what you want to accomplish and achieve with your music… You’ve been pushing the buttons, start and stop, basically. You’re more like a studio engineer”, you know. Not having the full picture or vision. So it can mean anything, basically.
Ah, people hired this guy, “Chips”, a swedish guy who’s really competent and produced a lot of stuff, but he cannot run the machines at all or put up the mics, he’s not so much involved in the sound. So then he had other people more suitable for that, for putting up the mics or something. He can just sit “no I want a thicker sound, I want blah blah”. So it can mean just anything.
Puli: Different styles of producing a record and so on.
Snowy: Yeah. I mean. My favourite is… When I discovered Kiss when I was a kid, it happend… Because I was such a die-hard fan of horror comics and superhero comic books and all that, and I was listening to, maybe, Sweet and Nazareth and Deep Purple, a little bit, yeah, it was good, yeah.
But when I discovered Kiss, I mean, you had the whole vision, the perfectly good transition for me into the great world of Rock and Roll, if you want. Cause they looked apart and also Kiss‘ “Destroyer” had this phenomenal album cover, illustrated, painted in oil, like a great horror comic book or whatever, and the sound it’s like so cinematic. If you close your eyes it’s almost like you can listen to some dark horror or action movie or something, because there’s children crying, cars crashing and all those kinds of things going on in the music, it’s not just playing Rock songs recorded in the studio. It’s more like painting a picture, I gotta say.
And that’s under Bob Ezrin, who’s a phenomenal producer. He’s basically the guy behind Alice Cooper, and also produced Pink Floyd‘s “The Wall”, for example. He’s a really great imagination and vision and he knows exactly how to paint with the music, I guess, you know. That’s the way I like it, you know.
Part VI: On the sacrilege of covering certain songs
Puli: That’s quite good. Ahh. Another question that I have here is: You took part in the album “Les Fleurs du Mal” of Therion, the french covers album. It was a bit controversial between the fans. But my question goes about the experience of singing in french, because I think you don’t speak french, do you?
Snowy: No, no.
Puli: Anyone in the band did speak french at the time?
Puli: It was just Christofer Johansson‘s idea to sing in french…
Snowy: Yeah. Actually, you can read about that in the book. I mean, because I was so much against it. I was probably the only guy in the whole band that can like this music from the late 60s with Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg, (I don’t really know how to pronounce his name),… And I think Christofer had this crazy idea, a weird idea, that he should do remakes of those songs from that time period in France, like late 60s early 70s, to make it Metal or something like that, Metal music.
But, if Rammstein would have done it, for instance, it would be… they would add something exceptional, I suppose. There’s a great combo, or the best of two worlds, I suppose, you know. But the way I saw it, it’s that he basically picked out the songs, learnt the songs, and played them on a distorted guitar instead. I mean, it’s basically the same thing (laughs). I didn’t see the point, so I was like so against it. We were out on tour and every evening I was like “I don’t understand why, why you wanna do this, I mean I don’t see the point, I mean you just can’t destroy the original songs”, I said. But, you know, it’s his band, so “OK, fine, you do what you wanna do”. So why was it controversial?
«If Rammstein would have done it, for instance, (…) they would add something exceptional, I suppose. There’s a great combo, or the best of two worlds.»
Puli: Because in the Internet there was… in the chats between fans there were people talking shit about that record, people who think this record shouldn’t be part of Therion‘s discography, no? But, well, I really liked it, anyway, maybe because I don’t know the originals.
Snowy: I don’t know it’s all your friends but “bluuu blaaa bla blablabla…” (Editor’s note: He sings a melody) however it is. I mean that’s a fantastic song, the original version, and it probably works with Therion but, and it’s popular, but to me it’s like a sacrilege or something, or to destroy those kind of songs (laughs). Yeah, but I was singing just a little bit of it because I was like really reluctant towards doing it, so in the end I said “fine, I can do a couple of songs”, you know.
I gotta say, bacause you asked me if I speak french, I was the last guy, I needed to go up to Stockholm anyway to get some of my drums or something or equipment that he had in the studio, so I figured “Ok, I can do these fucking songs” (laughs), since I’m taking my car and driving up there anyway. And before I got there, they had this french girl who was like an interpreter and she had to tell Thomas (Vikström), for example, how to sing (Editor’s note: He sings something in french), if you know how to pronounce (laughs), and he doesn’t speak french either. And it was really really difficult, because how they recorded it. But since I was so reluctant for doing it, I was kind of late, you know, I was the last guy in, so this gonna have recorded just pronouncing (Editor’s note: He sings something in french), however it sounds (laughs).
Puli: Always with a little mouth, that’s the way to speak french. (Laughs)
Snowy: I don’t speak french, but I like the way … I mean, Notre Dame, my band, was all french. I mean, in a way we had all those kind of things, all those stereotypes you get from watching french movies or something: “Oh, Paris”, you know, in spring, or “Montmartre”… Because it’s like this romanthicized, sensual, elegant kind of thing.
In a way, it was difficult to do that, and I told Christoffer, “I mean, I can’t simply memorize like singing long verses, you have to use loop recording”, meaning that (Editor’s note: He sings something in french… twice) (laughs), I had to do it over and over again and then we picked the best take or something. Because I cannot simply sing, you know, a whole fucking section or a whole verse. I couldn’t simply in my life remember that. I don’t know what I’m singing, so we had to do it in a loop recording. And that’s what we did. In the end it was like “OK, you go ahead and you pick the best take from what you like” and I went home (laughs). So I was pretty much against it, but I guess it’s popular anyway.
Part VII: On certain aspects of his solo career
Puli: And now let’s talk just a little bit about your current project, your own band, Snowy Shaw. As you’ve said, you play all the instruments in studio, but your records include collaborations from other musicians you have shared work throughout your career like, you know, Mike Wead, Andy LaRocque, Michael Denner, Mats Levén, they all appear in some songs on your albums. Do you keep in touch with all of them through these years? I mean, it’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of people…
Snowy: The thing is that, some people you keep more in touch with, others you tend to lose… I mean it’s just occasionally you bump into each other if you’re keeping in touch, you know, giving them a call every once in a while. I was just in contact with Gus G today, for example, and Nalle (Påhlsson) called me this morning, the bass player from Therion. So, you know, we keep in contact of course…
I don’t know, after this book, Messiah Marcolin, that I used to play with (Editor’s note: in Memento Mori), and I’m a big Candlemass fan and all, after he ordered the book, you know, the day after, he read about himself and then he unfriended me (laughs)… I guess, you know, because I was just spilling the beans just like I’m now. I tell it the way it is, I mean, You know, spilling the beans is telling the fucking truth. He’s a super nice guy, I mean I really love that guy to socialize, have a beer with, or stuff like that… but to work with him… no.
Puli: It’s difficult.
Snowy: It’s really difficult.
«It’s a really cool thing. I mean, it just looks so scary.»
Puli: And then, when you play live with your band, the musicians that come with you appear all dressed in a robe or a tunic and a hood, and this is very striking for spanish people because that’s the clothing…
Snowy: I know…
Puli: So you know…
Snowy: Yeah, but that’s why I did it, because I got inspired by the catholic, you know, about Easter…
Puli: Ok, that was the question, where did you get the inspiration? If it was from the Easter clothings in Spain or it was Ku Klux Klan or something like that. (laughs)
Snowy: Yeah, it was… I’ve seen pages of that from Catalonia or wherever it is, I don’t know (Editor’s note: More popular in the south, for sure). For Easter. And it’s so fucking bizarre (laughs), with those spanish priests (Editor’s note: Most of them aren’t priests actually) covering the streets you know, could be like with those pointed hats in yellow, or red, or black or white or whatever. When they cover their faces, it’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen. So, “wow, we should do like that”, and I called them the Hexmeisters.
Puli: Yeah, where I live, I live in the south, in Andalusia, and that’s a big feast. I don’t really like it, because I’m not religious at all, but this is a whole bunch of people dressed like that…
Snowy: But I’ve seen movies and pictures and all, carrying hughe wooden crosses and being dressed up like that, and the streets are covered with’em. That’s so scary.
Puli: Yeah, and they spend hours and hours walking through the streets during the night. Yeah, it’s something worth seeing at least once in a lifetime.
Snowy: Yeah. It’s a really cool thing. I mean, it just looks so scary. I figured, if I do it like that it’s like… like Ghost I suppose, I did that before them I suppose, you can easily swap members in the band…
Puli: Noone will ever know it.
Snowy: Nobody can tell (laughs). Basically, when I’m playing live I have like a steady band, but it’s been revolving doors I suppose, you could say that. It’s been lot of different drummers, guitarists and bass players and stuff. I mean, it’s basically my band and I tell them what to do, how to play and stuff, and if they don’t like it anymore they can leave, or if they’re not available at the moment because they’re doing something else, you know. It’s difficult to run a band these days, I suppose.
Part VIII: On present facts and future plans
«I was supposed to be out a book signing event tour (…), and I would also play a couple of songs acoustically. (…) But then the fucking pandemic thing happened and, you know, everything’s been pushed back,»
Puli: Yeah. With all this stuff of the pandemic and the COVID19 and so, I guess you had plans of touring or doing something like that.
Snowy: First of all I was supposed to be out a book signing event tour, from may all through the summer in Europe, I had like maybe 20 dates at different festivals and rock clubs and all sorts of places, small places, and I would also play a couple of songs acoustically. And I would do the same thing in America, from late august to september and october. And then I would be out supporting Therion, actually with my own band, for 2 and a half months in all of Asia, all of Latin America and also Europe. But then the fucking pandemic thing happened and, you know, everything’s been pushed back, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future. Nobody dares to even make any plans. Because now we start talking about “wow, 2022 it’s gonna open up” (laughs).
Puli: Nobody knows. It depends on the disposal (Editor’s note: availability) of a vaccine, is it that how it’s called? A vaccine? An injection to fight against it. But it’s very difficult these times I guess. Meahwhile, are you doing something? Writing new music or something you can tell us?
Snowy: Yeah, I’m doing all kinds of stuff. I just finished singing for Metallium band, a song, I get a lot of requests from people who want me to record drums for an album, or bass or sing or write songs, and if I like it then we agree on the economics. Yeah I’m doing that. And I’m doing all kinds of stuff all the time. It’s a one man operation pretty much. I have some help from my wife. It’s hard to say.
I’m putting out a new album, now for Halloween. “Live in Hell” it’s called. It’s a limited edition, 333 copies, sort of half evil (laughs). That’s gonna be out now for Halloween. I’m doing all kinds of stuff all the time.
«I get a lot of requests from people who want me to record drums for an album, or bass or sing or write songs, and if I like it then we agree on the economics. (…) And I’m doing all kinds of stuff all the time.»
Puli: You have to do something I guess. And now the last question, bacause we’ve been already talking for an hour. This is the lazy journalist’s question: What would you ask yourself? Is there any question you missed in the interview or something you would like to tell us?
Snowy: Yeah. I did some interview and they asked me “Why now? Why did you decide to put out the book now? When the corona hit and all that… was that just a coincidence?” Yes, it was. Because I’ve been writing on this book for ten years. So it was, you could say, a happy accident, because now people have time to be home, I suppose, and read books instead of going to concerts. Nobody can get out in crowds and all that, so, I didn’t plan that of course but it actually turned out pretty good for me. Yeah. Where did I bring that up? I don’t know.
I haven’t got that many (interviews) from Spain. I gotta say that, not that many orders from spanish speaking countries, let’s say Mexico, for example, and Colombia. I mean, we’ve been touring so much in those countries and I was kind of expecting, you know, we had a good reputation or big fanbase there, that we should get more fans. But maybe, I don’t know, if they don’t have the money or they don’t wanna read english or …
Puli: Maybe, the shipping costs, as we’ve told at the beginning, are expensive, and I think it’s a question of… there’s a lot of people that still don’t know you have a book there…It’s a question of advertising, maybe.
Snowy: Yeah, I know. But what is advertising these days? I mean, magazines don’t exist. This is why we’re talking right now, to spread the word around. I had a farly big following in social media and I’ve been posting stuff. And distribution, I mean, what does that mean? I mean, it’s just like I was saying at the beginning of our conversation, the record industry and the book industry are kind of similar, because there are no bookstores, because there are no record stores, because there are no physical products.
So it’s kind of difficult, but that’s also why I designed this book just the way I wanted it, to look as gorgeus, I mean, with the design, glossy pages, and cool photos that you’ve never seen before, like private stuff from my private archives or collection, just the way I wanted to read it myself, with illustrations and doodling around, you know like all kinds of stuff like that. So that’s how you want it instead of…
I’m gonna be making the audio book. But that’s gonna be a big challenge also, because I’m no actor, really, like we’ve talked about before, so I have to read it in a good way and… Yeah, but i’ts gonna be really interesting to do that. But it’ gonna take some time and my English is not perfect, so I’ll have to do a lot of takes I suppose (laughs).
Puli: But people like us, that don’t have a perfect English, I think we can reach better an international audience, not navive speaking audience, because, when we hear, at least for me, when I hear an american speaking English I don’t get 50% of what he says. For me it’s easier to listen to a german or a swede…
Snowy: Yeah, that’s because we’re all crappy, I mean (laughs). Yeah, I mean, american, if you compare it to british people,they don’t seem quite so colorful in their language or vocabulary as lot of brits. Yeah, it’s good, I mean, so we don’t have to have any hesitations (Editor’s note: I think that’s the word he said), whatever you call it, because we’re both as crappy, right? (laughs).
«It was like a nickname “Santa” or “Snowy” or “Snow White” because of my blond hair and all that, when I was a kid, and that kind of stuck, so that’s what people called me.»
Puli: Ok, This is coming to an end. It’s been a pleasure and an honor…
Snowy: You’re a bad liar.
Puli: Eh? A bad liar? A bad liar? (laughs) Well, I have this written down here (laughs).
Snowy: Exactly, it’s been a pleasure…
Puli: Well, we hope to see you soon as the coronavirus ends and see you in the stages here in Spain.
Snowy: Absolutely. Yeah, like I mentioned before you started this recording, I mean I’m planning on moving to Spain. I’m checking out different houses and all that, and talking to real-estate guys and all that to find the right kind of home in Alicante or Torrevieja or… Yeah, let’s see where I end up. I’m looking at all kinds of possibilities.
Puli: In the coast. In the coast is always better: Alicante,
Snowy: Yeah, I like Spain.
Puli: … Ibiza or in Andalusia, Málaga or Cádiz. Alwys better than the inside. Inside there’s a lot of heat in summer. Too much heat: 40 something degrees…
Snowy: Yeah, I was posting a picture like yesterday morning, when I was like walking the dog at 6 in the morning and it was rainy and cold as fuck. And I wrote “why do I have to put up whith this crap? Why can’t I live in Hawaii or something like that?” “Yeah, but you’re Snowy Shaw, not Sunny Shaw” (laughs) Yeah, but I’m getting fed up with the fucking cold and boring weather. I mean I wanna have a nice life, you know, the sun, I like the sun.
Puli: Now that you bring your own name to the attention, why did you change your name to Snowy Shaw? I’ve read in the book kind of mythological… that your mum was in a hippie festival in the United States and…
Snowy: Yeah, but that’s true… But it’s not because of that, I mean, It was like a nickname “Santa” or “Snowy” or “Snow White” because of my blond hair and all that, when I was a kid, and that kind of stuck, so that what people called me. And I decided to change my name legally that way. But you can read about that in the book…
Puli: Yeah, (laughs)
Snowy: Yeah, but you gotta fucking order the book now because it’s running out and it’s gonna be out of print and it’s gone forever. I think you’re gonna put down here www.snowyshaw,net. So hurry up and order it now. You will have it dedicated, in your name and all that. It’s special, just for you!! (laughs)
Puli: Buy the book!! So thank you very much, Snowy.
Snowy: Thank you so much.
Puli: It’s been a quite fun interview, and hope to see you soon.
Snowy: Thanks, and I’m not lying: it was a fun inteview! It was nice talking to you. Take good care of yourself!
Puli: The same to you. Bye!