METALHEAD


SNOWY SHAW, “Harsh as it is, those are the facts of life.”

by on Set.19, 2012, under INTERVISTE

Snowy Shaw: Strange individual, strange artist. He manages integrating himself in any music situation, any music style, any role. He is an endless source of creativity, and can be the right element for any project. Finally his great time had come, the time to be the leader himself, time to form his own band, to control his own project, to share his own ideas. He always had my esteem as an artist. I wanted to have a chat with him to get to know the real person too. And I met the artist again. [Here below the original interview to Snowy Shaw, in English. Click HERE to read the italian version][Copyright photo by Therés Stephansdotter Björk]

Hi there! Thanks so much for giving us this chance. I just got to know about the big Therion news, and well, I imagined this would be the perfect time to interview the man that has impressively fronted the band for long time.

Let’s start from the beginning. Once I was messing with facebook and my girlfriend saw I was on your page, checking out some pics or something. She asked me who you were, and what a strange name you had. “SNOWY SHAW”: what does this really mean to you, why you have chosen it and is it true you legally changed to this?
It’s been my nickname since I was a kid due to my next to Snow-white hair and then later my stage name with the addition of Shaw, then about 20 years ago I had it legally changed.

When my girlfriend asked me who you were, I answered you were a singer for Therion. It’s ok. But I kinda think I lied to her. If one googles your name, millions pics show up, all different, and if somebody browses your biography, that’s a good way to gets lost and never get found back again. You have been in many bands, doing many roles. If YOU would answer my girlfriend, what would you say? Who is Snowy Shaw?
Tough question for me, myself and I to answer without coming across like some self-centered megalomaniac.

But basically I’m just me, a working class guy from the suburbs of Gothenburg, Sweden who grew up loving KISS and horror comics and was equipped with a lethal combination of willpower and passion which made me determined to always do things my own way and follow my heart without being afraid to take on new challenges, work harder than anyone or dream a little bigger than most of my peers. Subsequently that has paid off and made my life more adventurous, rich and exciting and I have experienced more than most people could ever have dreamt of. I’m not saying it’s been easy, and it’s still a constant struggle of ups and downs in the rollercoaster at Tivoli Shaw but lately I’ve come to realize and accept the fact that it is probably never gonna change and that’s my lot in life.

Ok. I cannot resist. Being a Dimmu Borgir fan myself, I cannot ignore the fact that once you joined the band for one day. Can you tell me what happened? No, guess you cannot. But how was being in a world fame rock band for one single day and still manage to be in one of their videos (“Gateways”)?
Don’t tell me you really believe I was in Dimmu for only one day? Officially yes, but the truth is I was involved for about 7 months or so. How could I possibly have recorded both bass and vocals on the album, + rehearsals and photo and video sessions in 3 different countries in 6 different cities in one day? I’m not a dragonfly.

We got along great, The Dimmu guys and I, but I simply couldn’t put up with the way their manager were running the operation, but above all her powergames and bullying tendencies.

Your image: you are the dark clown of doom, the mask with a mask, the mysterious one behind the mystery. I definitely love your image, your make up, your stage (and not only ‘stage’) clothes. Tell me more about this, about how you always come up with this impressive look and make up.
Stop it! You’re making me blush here, not really but anyway, thanks for the kind words.

What can I say, I don’t know really. Don’t know if it’s a case of overconfidence or the fact that I just don’t care for the approval of others. I’m the archetype of a D.I.Y kind of guy really. When you can’t find or afford others to realize your visions or dreams, you are left with two choices, either forget your dreams or take charge of the situation yourself. Needless to say, I’m the latter. That’s why I initially started building my own stage décor and props and design and make a lot of my own clothes myself, or illustrating and designing my own artwork and layout, photography, writing my songs, playing different instruments and singing, founding my own company or from the very beginning forming my own band by more or less forcing my classmates. Yeah the list goes on and on.

And to get back to your actual question, well, first of all I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I just dress the way I like both off and on stage and I really have no desire to fit or blend in to gain acceptance from the average people on their norms and terms. And really I couldn’t even if I wanted to, so they have to accept me the way I am. But then depending on the band I’m on stage with at the time I alter the look a bit accordingly to what I consider the image of that particular band should look like. I’ve always had a penchant for “image” bands but the problem is, in my opinion that so many of them are such inferior musicians, songs writers and play such crappy music. My goal has always been to make it go hand in hand, both musically and visually. Like 200%

You play drums. Guitar. Bass. And do massive vocals with an extreme range of tones, fitting a wide range of musical styles. That is impressive and that is the thing that makes you such a great artist. If I had a band, and needed guest artists, for which role shall I call Snowy Shaw in?
– I’ll be your whore,. If the price is right.  But seriously, I enjoy doing the occasional guest artist appearance and hired session musician kind of thing, and besides just like everybody else I need to work to bring food on the table. Lately there’s been a great abundance of singing jobs, but I recorded drums on a metal album over 3 days in July I think, and tracked bass in my own studio for some American band.

I did a little guest singing on your fellow italians Theatres des Vampires the other year, although I’ve never met them in real life. I recorded it in my own studio. How amazing isn’t modern technology!

Therion. Most people know you thanks to your front man role in Therion. Therion is such a great band, and I personally love them (and when I read you left, having already bought my next show ticket, that kind of killed me). I translated for Metalhead.it, word by word, the whole long version of Christofer Johnsson’s announcement . I understood the point of view, respect it and feel blessed, as a fan, to benefit of such a clear sincerity from both parts. I would like some extra words, from you, telling us about your wonderful experience in the planet Therion. [Copyright photo by Therés Stephansdotter Björk]
That’s all nice and neat but not entirely true though. Not all people know about Therion, as a matter of fact lots of people in our home country of Sweden for example has never heard of the band and know me mainly as the drummer from King Diamond and Mercyful Fate I think, and that probably goes for the whole of the US too. Or perhaps even The book of Heavy Metal with Dream Evil.

However, 6 years is a long time and a personal record for me with some one elses band. It’s been one helluve journey and I still consider the past and present Therion members some of my best friends in life and together we’ve had some hysterically great times and some equally as horrible times that make great anecdotes for life that will stay with me forever.

I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity of touring numerous times around the globe as a singer/ frontman for the first time and making fans and friends for life. Bless you all.

Will you return to Therion in a couple of days?
Hell no! this certainly wasn’t any rash decision, I see you’re referring to all the drama 2 years ago with me caught between a rock and a hard place in Therion and Dimmu Borgir.

Christofer has made it very clear that he wants me to come back and leaves a door open for me, which I think is big of him and that I really appreciate. For the moment all I can say in the matter is – never say never.

Ok, that was fun. Sorry for using some sarcasm. But what I would really like to know is what are you going to do now. You played in many impressive bands Snowy. Now that you are on your own, you set up this super show idea, where you play all the songs you love out of all the bands you’ve been in. How did you come up with this idea? Personally I think it’s ballistic. It’s kinda like the ultimate show. Do you really sing THEM ALL? How many shows are planned, and what countries do you think you will be able to visit?
Bulls Eye! I think you hit the nail on the head when you say it’s the ultimate live show, and I try to create the kind of show both musically and visually that I would love to see myself.

You see, No matter where I go in the world or whoever I meet there’s always these kind of questions from fans and people that’d like to see me return to play drums again with King Diamond or Mercyful Fate or that I should reform Notre Dame, Memento Mori or illwill again, while others say that Dream Evil isn’t as good without me and suggest I go back there. As flattering as it is that they say all these things, I have no desire to backwards and I like to move on and take on new challenges in life, and besides there is no way I can please them all. Because there is simply no time to do it all. So the idea finally came up in december 2010 while on tour with Therion. What if I make my own band and play all my favorite songs by all my former bands? I thought it was the best conceptual thing ever and my head was about to crack open from all the great ideas I could do within my solo band concept.

I got so incredibly excited and started working like a maniac on putting it together once I got home after New Year 2011.

For my main band I assembled some of my favorite musicians like Kristian Niemann ( ex- Therion) and Mannequin De Sade ( ex- Notre Dame) and I wanted a female bassist that would also handle the female vocal parts in the songs I’d be doing with Notre Dame, Therion and so on. Turns out that wasn’t as easy as I expected, and not from the vocal part but that there are extremely few girl bassists competent enough, since enlisting a line-up of members capable of playing everything that ranges from King Diamond to Dimmu Borgir to Illwill and XXX certainly isn’t the easiest task and demands top notch musicianship.

On that note, Yeah, I sing them all, you mean you haven’t heard the live album ”Snowy Shaw-Is Alive!” that I recorded on that show last year? It’s on iTunes, Spotify etc worldwide. (The reasons it’s only released digitally is because the physical CD is practically dead, simple and sadly as that. But that’s a different subject altogether.) and besides singing I also alternate between guitar, drums and bass in combination to singing the songs. As you can see in the showreel videoclip from the show for example.

Based on the buzz about my new thing I was contacted by several international booking agencies, festival promotors and so on who wanted to book the show. So far I’ve been too busy with Therion and everything else but now having quit Therion for the benefit of doing my own thing, there is no stopping. I sure hope I can bring this spectacular monster show to Italy soon.

Worth mentioning that this time around I have a complete new set up of musicians in my band though, namely lead guitarist Mark U Black, my old Dream Evil fellow and skinsman Petter Karlsson formerly with Therion and more recently with Diablo Swing Orchestra. For the bassist slot I selected Vikki Valkyrie, a dear friend with whom I go way back. She used to play with all-female thrash metal queens Ice Age back then and has also been involved with another project of mine called Them Sluts!

Also this time I’ll have a number of guest stars appearing on the Halloween Event show, but for the time being there are to remain ”secret” because I wouldn’t wanna ruin the surprise would I? Last year I had Andy La Rocque, Mats Levén, Mike Wead, Hal Patino, Kee Marcello and Thomas Vikström. And by no means will it be any less impressively cool appearances this year.

Tell me, if you feel like, about your relationship with beliefs, magic and religions. With therion you have been singing a lot about this stuff.
Well, I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t stop me from being fascinated by the myths and mysteries of life, the unknown, and the occult and other fairytales like ancient religions for example.

You had a top band with great members. To create the ultimate Snowy Shaw album, what would your dream line up be?
Lately I’ve been getting this question quite a lot actually, perhaps since I’m about to record my own album(s) soon.

Thing is, the way I write and work I basically do it all myself and have a very distinct idea of how I want it to sound, meaning that I write and play all the parts on demos and often also on the actual recording as an uncredited “ghost-musician”

So if you don’t count Notre Dame, when I’ll be doing my first real solo album I will write and play it all, with the exception of the occasional flashy guitar solo here and there. I’ve had the fortune of been playing with a vast array of some of the best most prominent and legendary lead guitarists in the world, so perhaps I’ll have them doing guest soloing. Just imagine Gus G, Michael Denner, Kee Marcello, Kristian Niemann, Andy La Rocque, Mike Wead, Hank Shermann,.. yeah the list goes on

Therion made you tour massively. Worldwide. How do you manage to keep a stable relationship (as you are married) and do this kind of job? Also: what about your tour plans for the solo career future?

Funny you bring that topic up. It’s a real pain the ass for most musicians and has always been. The bulk of musicians who’ve spent the best parts of their lives on the road have left a trail of broken marriages and homes behind them unfortunately. Long distance relationships are never easy and all the misconceptions and prejudice involved with the rock n’ roll lifestyle makes it probably 10 times harder at least.  I don’t have the answer to this question, but for starters one need to a partner who is not too jealous and who are smart enough to see that this is the life we have chosen and at the end of the day it’s a job like any other job and not nearly as glamorous these days as some people still seem to think. What is a relationship if you can’t trust each other?

I’m the faithful type, which is sort of an exception in this business, because I live by my motto of Treating others like I want to be treated.

Sure, I’ve had my share of accidents and mistakes in the past in my previous relationships which also sort of proved to me that the girlfriend back home maybe wasn’t “the one”. Now that I’ve finally found The One, my soulmate, the love of my life and other half in “Oddballs United” it won’t happen and nothing can ever change that.

As for my future solo touring plans. There’s a lot of interest from Mexico and South America and currently the agency and I are looking into all of that. But then just the other week something popped up that I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but I can say this much that then I’ll be looking at a massive world tour for about 6 months,..

What is the band or project you would love to be involved in? (Arijen Lucassen, Avantasia, etc) Where do you think you would fit?
You know I fit everywhere and nowhere at the same time, right?

On that question my usual answer is AC/DC, and on any position that would make me happy as a hippopotamus because in my book they’re the ultimate rock band. Regardless of trends, fashion and fads, AC/DC delivers the goods.

Sure, it would be cool to be involved in those you mentioned, but apart from my own projects I can’t say I ever think about that.Truth is, I have never really wanted to be in someone else’s band (with one or two exceptions) it just turned out that way with offers that were too good to resist or seemed exciting and interesting once they presented themselves.

You’d be surprised on how little I care what other bands do or don’t. I’m just not very interested, and especially not with the contemporary metal scene. Actually I stopped bothering to keep updated in the mid 80s at the height of popularity with all the hair metal and shit that I despised, and went backwards to find new old music that I had missed out on previously.

Now a topic that really touches me. Few years ago you created your own record company, the Snowy Shaw Productions. Is it still running? I read that Therion guys were set free from the label to pursue their own target. That really sounds terrible, like they were kept in a artistic jail, a creative slavery. What is your relationship with music industry, traditional labels, property of the art and copyrights?
Well, this all came to my knowledge months after I had left Therion but as far as I know the record label Nuclear Blast has always given Therion completely free hands artistically until now, and I won’t say anymore in the matter and let my recent actions speak for themselves.

Furthermore, one got to understand that the record industry as we know it, is threatened by extinction or at least is dramatically going through severe changes. And one must remember that it’s a business like every other business, just because it deals in so called “art” doesn’t mean the rules of gravity don’t apply. It’s not about charity or supporting great music for the sake of it in some idealistic hippie kind of way. You may not like to hear it being compared or put bluntly like this but at the end of the day selling music is just a product no different than selling for example, washing machines. If no one wants to buy your goddamn washing machines over a longer period, it’s a good indication something is not right and since you don’t make ends meet and certainly no profit, you need to rethink your business strategy or eventually you’ll be out of business. Harsh as it is, those are the facts of life.

Yes, I still run my own company called Snowy Shaw Productions through which I operate with all my work and the record company is just one little branch of it.

There is one last question, that I could have asked in the beginning, but didn’t want to. I observed you. There’s a huge difference between normal front men and you. Most of them are acting, as it should be, when they are on stage. You? You seem to be YOU exactly the way you look and behave on stage. A natural born performer, that isn’t really a performer, as you don’t perform, just be. I see you like this. Please tell me how you see you…
Hahaha! Thank you I guess I must say, and I hope you mean that in a good way but regardless you’re a good observer, I’m as lousy pretender as I am follower. I can only be myself for better and for worse in every type of situation. And having said that, that goes with everything basically. For me it’s not like a conscious choice or anything, I just don’t know how else to do it, other than being myself.

Just like with everything you create you gotta give from yourself and let it be an extension of your personality otherwise it’s just plagiarism and a calculated, polished and manipulated product, or in short:fake. Usually I say that regardless of what you create as an artist, whether it’s a song, a painting, a performance you name it, one must be willing to upzip your pants and hang it out for public validation and expose your inner self without being so damn concerned what people might think.

It takes a lot of guts of course, but that’s the whole freaking point.

OK Snowy. Thanks a lot for the time you gifted me. I would love you to close this interview the way you feel like, not forgetting to send some words to your fans and METALHEAD.IT readers.
Well, what haven’t I said already? I just wanna thank all you Italian fans and friends for all your support over the years and I look forward to returning sooner than soon to Italy with my solo thing Snowy Shaw, in one form or another. In fact there are already some far advanced plans for it,..but unfortunately I can’t reveal any more details at this very moment, so stay in the loop. In the mean-time feel free to visit my webshop at www.snowyshaw.net and check out my latest album Snowy Shaw is live! on Itunes.  Bless you all – Ciao!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3tG5w8bjbM

(Luca Zakk)

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