Interview with Snowy Shaw
Drummers, the worlds neglected musicians...when they do their job right no one seems to notice and when they are pre programmed machines everyone seems to notice. Most people think drummers are time pieces and nothing more. They just keep time and can't create, well many drummers can prove this to be nothing but bullshit and one such guy is Snowy Shaw...he was the first drummer I ever noticed as a person/musician and not just a head behind a drum kit. Most people know him as the drummer from King Diamond and Mercyful fate. But a few of us know him as a songwriter and musician for Mememto Mori ( Rhymes Of Lunacy & Songs For The Apocalypse, Vol. 4 are way better then anything Messiah did in CandleMass ) Even fewer of us know him as songwriter for Illwill (one of the best CD's in my collection, years ahead of it time ) And then there are some of us who know him as head madman in the band Notre Dame. People may have thought he dropped of the face of the planet till he showed up in the power metal band Dream Evil, but the truth is he has been a very busy metalhead!! I've always wanted to interview him but could never track him down, but luckly for me he tracked me down. He must be a sicko if he volunteered to be tortured by my annoying questions.
|Prof.ManiC:||Since you appeared on the metal scene with KingDiamond, you have always been in bands that usually had a dark or sinister side to them. Whether it was Fate, Mori or Notre Dame, so when I first heard about Dream Evil with you in it and the name and cool album art I was sure it was going to dark power metal kind of like Iced Earth or Manilla Road, but then it turned out to have this happy vibe to it. I was shocked!!Did you get tired of the darkness?? Did you just want to do something different?? Did you just want to be in a band with great musicians or at first wasit just a pay the bills gig?|
|SNOWY SHAW:||-the latter that is
Well, to begin with anyway.
Fredrik called me down to his studio to check out some material of this
new 80s metal band that he was putting together. It was just him and Greek guitarist Gus at that point who had been writing some songs, and he wanted me to play the drums. He played me some riffs, half singing half humming songs like Heavy Metal in the night, Chosen ones and Heavy Metal Jesus. I turned down the offer but agreed on being hired as a session drummer. I recorded the drums and didnt hear anything more about it until they signed with Century Media and needed me in the pictures on the album. That was the
first time I ever met the rest of the guys, but they turned out to be
really nice guys with a great sense of humour, so I agreed to do the upcoming festival shows as a session drummer. the music sounded good but wasn´t really my cup of tea but we had so much fun together and I made great new friends.
After awhile it started to feel a little ridiculous and unfair that i
got paid when we all put down as much effort. So, under the conditions that I would be able to contribute with my own material and that i´d have equal say and that we´d share everything equally I agreed to join as a full member. I must admit it has to some extent to do also with the fact that we´re getting an incredible response from people and get to go to headline shows in Japan after 5 months that the first album had been released and six months later go back again, this time a split double bill with Kamelot. To me Dream Evil
feels like the perfect base where I can get some of the softer and more
melodic music out of my system. It does absolutely not have to be dark
and evil to attract me, I like to think Im open minded enough to appreciate good music no matter the genre. You´d be more than surprised to found out some of the music that I love. For instance I´ve always loved the early Scorpions and with Dream Evil I´m able to let some of those influences out. Niklas got a great clean voice and Fredrik is as the owner of Studio Fredman world famous for getting a great sound. Can you possibly ask for more?
|Prof.ManiC:||Has Dream Evil been everything you expected
at first or has it been better or worse then you were hoping?
What are crowd turnouts like for the tours?
|SNOWY SHAW:||I must say I´m still
real surprised about the reception we get pretty
much everywhere with Dream Evil. To tell you the truth, I wasn´t expecting anything but on the contrary with this band everything seem to be happening!
|Prof.ManiC:||Was it weird to be back behind the skins
everything but that in Notre Dame?
What is the current status of NOTRE DAME?? Are you too
busy with Dream Evil to continue it?
|SNOWY SHAW:||No, Notre dame is still alive and kicking
but of course I have a little
less time due to dream Evil. Notre Dame headlined a Halloween festival in France in October right after i got back from Japan with Dream Evil and then we went straight into the studio to record the second Dream Evil CD, released it ,went on to tour Europé as opening act for Hammerfall, right after that I started mixing the next Notre Dame album which will be out in September, now Dream evil is going back to Japan and then some festivals. No festivals for Notre dame this summer though but we´ve had some nice offers lately about smaller tours, in Spain for instance and I assume there will be some shows around Halloween as well.I never permanently stopped playing drums, sold them to by new furniture or anything. No, it didn´t feel weird at all, but my stamina isn´t as good as it once was, but at the same time maybe I shouldn´t hit those drums so hard that my arms get numb. Dream Evil´s music brings out the lumber jack in me. I´m just not as interested for the sake of playing drums as I was 15 years ago. Well, I haven´t been for almost as long. I want to make good music that´s all.I only play when we have a show or record something, but I would probably play more often if i had the time. it´s all a matter of priorities.
When you started Notre Dame why did you decide
|SNOWY SHAW:||It certainly never was intended
to be a parody or mockery of black
metal, King Diamond or anything else. If I would make parody of something I´d pick something pathetic that I don´t have any respect for. And do you really think I´d spend all of the time Notre Dame requires just to make of fun of something, Hell No! but Yes, there is tongue in cheek and black gallows humour, all in the tradition of Shock Rock á la Alice Cooper, Ozzy and so on.
I did it out of a live long love and fascination for the stereotypes
And clichés of classic horror, the kind of stuff you see with Addams
family, Scooby Doo, Tales from the crypt etc ..and how serious is that!?
And this fascination I have for 1920 -30s Vaudeville, Theatre,
freakshow, burlesque, Circus, Cabaret, French variety, etc I haven´t been able to figure that one out yet. maybe it appeals to me because I find that world decadent and so frightingly bizarre.
And this combination of vaudeville and metal seems to have hit home
with many fans and reviewers who claim it is the most evil sounding music on the face of the earth! And that´s always something although it surely won´t make me a millionaire.
The whole Notre dame thing is so much an extension of my own persona,
even more than I was aware of at the time when I first started this
spectacle about 6 years ago. it´s a little easier to get perspective on things now after a few years but it´s still difficult for me to be that objective about myself.
I guess my attempt was to combine all of the things I like or grew up
loving, put all the ingredients in a cauldron and stir it around. One
could say it´s my own recipe of Shock Rock, a mix of Edith Piaf and Venom, as Sharlee once so hilariously put it.
The main thing for me has always been to create the kind of music and
image that for whatever the reason gives me a kick. What kind of instrument I play isn´t really that important, I´ve been playing guitar and bass on the side almost as long as I´ve been playing drums, simply because it´s hard to write songs on the drums. Therefore it wasn´t that much of deal to have Mannequin De Sade playing the drums when I put Notre Dame together. And to track down a singer to front this spectacle with that much conviction that I do, would
be a mission impossible, believe me I´ve tried for decades before I
finally said fuck it! and sang myself.
I´ve always had a penchant for image bands with make up and a comic
book super-hero approach, so of course that´s how I want my own band to be portrayed. Most people probably know me just as the blonde drummer for King etc, I just wasn´t allowed to stretch out wearing make up and shit with him for obvious reasons. It´s quite annoying how quick people are to pigeon hole you and then you´re stuck forever with that tag on you. I don´t feel comfortable wearing that suit.
All the offers I usually get as drummer is with various crappy metal
bands, but i´m actually more of an Ian Paice kind of 70s drummer, with my heart just as much in glitter-rock or pop as in heavy metal.
|Prof.ManiC:||Speaking of King Diamond do you still
keep in touch
with him and the Mercyfate Guys?? What do you think
the whole Mercyful Fate band almost reforming as FORCE
OF EVIL without King Diamond?
|SNOWY SHAW:||-I haven´t spoke to King for several
years but I still keep contact
with some of the members from the Mf/KD camp. And in fact I just came home from Copenhagen, Denmark last night where I met Hank and Michael Denner. Denner played me 2 songs of the Force of Evil rough mixes and it sounded great, very much old school Mercyful Fate except for the vocals. It seem that M.F haven´t been doing anything for a couple of years, and King seem to prioritize King Diamond. so I guess this is just a logical step and I wish them all the best. In the long run, it must be damn hard to have two identical bands going on at the same time. Especially when the members live in different parts of the world.
|Prof.ManiC:||On to another band from
your past, how did you get
pulled into Memento Mori? Why did you leave?? Did
Messiah leaving have anything to do with it??
|SNOWY SHAW:||No, i think he left pretty much because
of me being a stubborn idiot
wanting things my way, and so is/does he, so there was a little bit of fraction there. He´s a wonderful singer and front man and I have never had anything against Messiah personally but I must follow my conviction and fight for it when it comes to my music. A year or so after that little incident in Memento Mori, we were together in a project called Collossus. When we were shooting some photos for the King Diamond line-up 1991, Mike Wead asked if I knew of any good drummers for a technical doom project he was planning on putting together. I said I couldn´t think of any suitable to fit with that description besides myself. I knew Messiah from before when Candlemass opened up for King on the European tour 1990. I just loved watching them every night, I think they are the best fucking band Sweden has ever produced besides Abba that is. So I didn´t mind getting deeper into the Doom Swamp with Memento.I quit Memento basically because we had musical differences and I wanted to fully embrace this musical concept that we´d just been sniffing on at that point so far.
I auditioned a couple of Gothenburg based singers in an attempt to find
a suitable replacement for Messiah, which I of course already knew would be an impossible task. I presented a full concept and at least a dozen of songs.
Mike suggested that maybe I should back off a bit, they others felt that I started to take up too much space. And they were right, I wanted to
have my own band not memento mori. It dawned on me that I had been just an obstacle and I was heading in a different direction than the others.
|Prof.ManiC:||Did some of the music, lyrics and vocals
contributed to the albums kind of lay the foundation
for what you would do in Notre Dame?? Or did the songs
you came up with for IllWill play a bigger part.
|SNOWY SHAW:||Yes, with Memento it did. But Illwill
worked pretty much as a counter
reaction though. we worked for years on that project but ran into so
much trouble with record labels and all sorts of shit. Eventually I got sick of it all, the strict, militant mechanical sound that we strived for but only partly accomplished. Made me decide to return to a more loose and noisy form of metal with ghost story lyrics opposed to real life depressing topics. On the paper it looked like a great fucking concept, with ideas that would take another few years down the road before bands like Rammstein and Marilyn manson were realizing a very similar thing to what I had envisioned. I bet you can tell I´m still a bit bitter that we didn´t manage to go all the way and deliver the goods. By the time Evilution was finally released I was putting out the first Notre Dame mini-cd Coming soon to a theatre near
you.I really enjoyed fiddling with those aggressive, polorhythmic riffs
though, it is something that I have found myself getting back to a little bit in the newer Notre Dame songs. I reckon i´m sort of bouncing back and forth between certain moods in the music and lyrics every 3 years or so.in the Memento mori days around ´93 I was on one hand beginning to heavily get into the classic horror clichés, with a comic book touch. (At the time we occasionally even referred to our style of music as Scooby Doom in the press!)and in the worst horrorwood style I designed thelife, Death.. album cover with us wrapped up in sticky cobweb (to everyones dismay, ha ha) a thing which I have frequently used in Notre Dame eversince. And on the other
hand i wanted to go into a direction which involved Scandinavian sounding heathen music, inspired by John Bauer paintings and Grieg´s hall of the mountain king sounding songs ( Heathendoom). I wrote tons of that music for life, Death and other morbid tales that I withdraw because Messiah refused to even let me show him the vocal melodies I had written. thereof the inevitable clash. I hope I´ll someday get the time and opportunity to record some of those songs and pick up that whole concept in the future. It´s not until right now that I try to explain this subject suddenly all the pieces seem to fall into place, that I actually took a 3 year break before I eventually got back into the horror thing and founded Notre Dame. So Memento most definitely played a bigger part.
The Notre Dame song Vlad the impaler was actually meant for that 3rd
Memento album and one little funny thing is that Mike kinda laughed at me when he saw the titles for some of my new songs I presented. A bit like OK, what´s up with this Dracula thing. And then later when I put out the first Notre Dame he called up and said that he really, really liked the album and without remembering or realizing it, he loved that song in particular.
|Prof.ManiC:||Speaking of IllWill, that album is one
of the gems of
my metal collection and I think structure of the song
365 Reasons to Commit Suicide is brilliant. I
especially think it is cool how you organized the song
by the months. And ending it with the Sleep Eat Work
bit really puts how pathetic the human existence has
become. When you wrote it were you just conveying what
you have thought about doing? Or was it just a cool
Song Title? Or did you have something to say about
humans? Why did you do the song the way you did?
|SNOWY SHAW:||- In the illwill concept, the way I
pictured it there shouldn´t be any
place for fantasy based fairytalesand spooky ghost stories. I was after a bit more realistic intimidation. I could never write about injustice in the world or political topics and such,
simply because I don´t know shit about that stuff, especially not at
the time , so i leave that to others. I think the other lyricist on that album Hakemo went more for that, writing about nuclear missiles and generating nukebombs and all that stuff that was in fashion in the genre.I wrote more from my own experience and stand point. No, I did not considered killing myself. but it was easy to recall to frustration I felt when i had all these normal shitty dayjobs when i was a teenager and hating every minute of it. So i guess something good came out of it anyway..a good song.
I suggest you check out Horrorscope from the 2nd coming to a theatre
near you, it has a somewhat similar lyrical structure as 365 ..
|Prof.ManiC:||Since you wrote most of the lyrics and
IllWill was the band your brainchild and Andy LaRocque
just kind of got the headlines? Or did you guys all
form it together??
before it was named illwill, Andy started a little
side project on his
|Prof.ManiC:||Who is the Hakemo who gets
lyrical credits on the
|SNOWY SHAW:||Robert hakemo is a very nice, driven
and ambitious guy
and very sexy
too! ha ha. He has a band called Relevant few these days. he was Yonaz´s friend and wanted to be in the band if it wasn´t for Sharlee.
|Prof.ManiC:||Ok here is one of my Holy
Grail questions of heavy
metal!! Where is Yonas Af Dahlstrom at now? What bands
has he recorded with?? Is he in any METAL band now?
I have been trying to try to find him for awhile just
because he did so much cool stuff with his voice.
|SNOWY SHAW:||Yonaz is a lot more tolerable than me
so he got back to the Saab
factory and the kind of life I wrote about in 365-reasons. you know work, eat, sleep, drink, fuck, shit and die.. and he´s happy with it. maybe since we didn´t sell platinum of Evilution as he had expected. I know he planned to pick where we left off but with a whole new set of members. Unfortunately some people disapproved of it.last time i spoke with him he was thinking of starting up something
entirely new but I don´t know, i think you should ask him yourself . i can get you in touch with him if you want. I know he would appreciate it.
|Prof.ManiC:||Out all the albums and songs
you have been a part of
which ones are you most proud of your performance or
|SNOWY SHAW:||Quite honestly ,none so
far. I very much like the first Notre Dame mini
|Prof.ManiC:||Since you got to work with some pretty
guitarists LaRocque, Shermann, Denner, Wead and others
who do you think is the best guitarist? Songwriter?
Riff Master?? And overall great person?
Since you got to work with some pretty awesome
|Prof.ManiC:||So whats the deal with the interest
American culture? How did it start?? What are some of
your favorite books, movies and music about it?
|SNOWY SHAW:||-You know i was born in Sioux City,
Iowa don´t you?
I was too young to remember when it started exactly, I guess i´ve been
like that all my life. it was a lot more in depth before though, it has sort of faded out in recent years apart from an occasional peyote ceremony every now and then. And on stage I still do the ghost dance of course.The movie Windwalker is a favorite one of mine.
|Prof.ManiC:||Besides that what else influences
you as a person? As
a drummer?? As a songwriter/guitarist?
Life.. ! pathetic answer,right! let´s say
death then, aw! not really.
|Prof.ManiC:||So what future projects do you have
on the horizon?
Any other bands you will be playing with??
Firegod is the freshest, it was confirmed
about a week ago. I will sing