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Snowy Shaw

Snowy Shaw
Posted on Sep 24, 2005
by Anders

The mighty Snowy Shaw, who got known when he was chosen to drum for King Diamond, and later on joined Mercyful Fate and Memento Mori. He then was a part of the band Illwill, before starting his own band Notre Dame. Notre Dame was the band where he really got known and recognized as the performer he is, and not just the drummer as he were known as in the other bands. Notre Dame turned a lot of heads with their gripping metallic shock rock fusing together myriads of influences from the most extreme metal to softer and theatrical elements. A band where the Swede really established himself as the good songwriter and performer he is. He also joined the Swedish heavy metal band Dream Evil, as their session drummer, even though he quickly ended up as a permanent member and main song writer. Late last year he announced that he was splitting Notre Dame up, which of course was a sad news to get for all the fans. As an epitaph he has just released the Notre Dame live album "Creepshow, Freakshow, Peepshow" as the last salute! Now Snowy is fully concentrated on Dream Evil and an upcoming project with Mats Leven and his role on the coming Joacim Cans solo album, and I wouldn't be surprised if he had a surprise or 2 up in his sleeve as well. I had a great and long conversation with Snowy Shaw, which touches all of the above, a nice re-run of the past and a bit about what there is going to happen in the future.

Hey Snowy, how are things in Göteborg?

Up to my neck with work as usual, so I'm okay.   

Will you start off by introducing yourself and tell us why you have stuck with metal for as many years as you have?

My name is Snowy Shaw – I'm twentyseventeen years old and the reason I've been connected with metal for so long is because that’s my musical expression, whether I want it or not. Another reason is that it's what most people think I am all about because I first got recognized as King Diamond's drummer and the consequence of that means I mostly get offers from metal bands although I personally prefer good songs and music regardless of the genre.       

When and how did you get into metal and why did you start to play the drums?  

I've said this so many times that I start feeling like a parrot… KISS. Although I regard them as heavy rock rather than Metal, but who cares about splitting hairs? (Hordes of people apparently!). Kiss "Destroyer" changed my life from the moment I discovered it as a 8 year old fan of horror comics and superheroes. Before Kiss I listened to Nazareth, Sweet and Deep Purple and Later on AC/DC and Thin Lizzy, but nothing have made such a tremendous impact on me as Kiss have… Not necessarily musically though. When I later on actually picked up the drumsticks I was more into Gasolin's "Live In Scandinavia" album and Swedish pop and punk bands that were popular at the time around in 1981. Why I decided on drums when forcing my classmates to form a rock band, I don't really know. It may have something to do with the time, some older kids in school were one guy short when putting a Kiss imitator band together for a happy hour at school. They knew I was a diehard fan and I got to sit behind a real drum kit wearing Peter Criss' make-up and waving my arms to a Kiss "Alive!" record.    

How have you kept the flame burning during the years?

By staying true to myself and following my heart, doing what I like doing and try staying away from what I don't. It's as simple as that really, although it isn't simple at all. Of course not all things are fun all the time, nothing is, no job in the world, I guess even porn stars gets bored of fucking all day long, you know. Unfortunately I'm so busy taking care of business and administration these days and have a real hard time finding time to actually play or write music. Not really what I intended when I first started out, but that's just the way it is.      

When you write music, how do you then find inspiration?  

It's not by listening to others music anyway, because that I rarely do that, if I ever do. I'm just inspired because writing music is what gives me the most pleasure in life and if I could, that’s something I'd do all the time 24/7.  

Is there any difference in the way you wrote music for e.g. Notre Dame and how you have done it for other bands?

Yes it is. All the bands or projects that I'm involved in have different directions or goals that they try to accomplish. I usually have a certain vision and idea of what kind of feel I wanna achieve. And use different musical and visual influences to achieve just that. For instance, Notre Dame was a mix of my childhood passion for horror comics and films, Scooby Doo, Addams Family and my love for various shock rock acts like Alice Cooper, Arthur Brown, Kiss, Death SS and so on. All that in combination with a bit more odd and bizarre elements like French culture, chanson, circus music, stride music and more than anything my own coincidental take on musical theatre and old TV series and film themes, that I seem to have some sort of penchant and fascination for.
With Illwill, I aimed for a little different and sterile kind of metal, using Accept, Laibach, Judas Priest, Ultravox, Metallica and Kraftwerk as inspiration, that and other stuff that I don't even dare to mention. Years later I saw Marilyn Manson and Rammstein and the Swedish band LOK realizing a lot of the stuff I had envisioned, but never quite could bring to life as some members didn't share my visions. To this day I still get pissed off just thinking about it.

With Dream Evil I have great use of my early obsession with Manowar, Accept and Scorpions, the latter being about my only love-relation to a straighter and more melodic hard rock style.

How would you describe your development as a musician during the years?  

As a song writer I have tried hard to learn the craft and refining my skills, what I've always had naturally though, is my vivid imagination which is probably my best asset along with my diehard drive and dedication. As a drummer I was probably more technical and over all better 10-12 years ago than I am nowadays, but I have a lot better musical knowledge and understanding so that I'm able to write better songs and probably sing better now and that's really where my priorities are these days. If I just was interested in playing drums, I would have been playing in some sort of technically advanced band like Dream Theater, not Dream Evil.   

Are drums your favourite instrument?

No, being creative, writing and designing is what I primarily am interested in. Then the actual playing and the attempt to achieve the idea that is in your head, is just hard work and a necessary thing. But of course bashing away for 15 minutes every three months is kinda fun. One can't write songs on the drums and that's why I had to teach myself how to play guitar. I like playing guitar, since it's not my main instrument it isn't stressful in the way that I have to live up to a certain standard. Although as a rhythm guitarist I'm better than most and when I occasionally play solos, my only goal is to be able to play like Ace Frehley. I love his style, but he isn't really much of a technical guitarist to put it mildly.       

What does it give to you to drum?  

It used to mean much 15-20 years ago, but now I just play when I have to basically. But like I said earlier bashing away every now and then can be quite fun, and to go up on stage and just kill the drums can be fun. The combination of excitement and being a bit rusty is a sheer disaster to the drums, I play so hard that everything breaks down and falls apart. People seem to find that really cool and impressive though, with the exception of my endorsers who have to provide me with the equipment.  

What does writing and playing music mean to you?

The world! The whole creative process from writing the music and words to designing the stage, the artwork, the whole image etc etc, that's what I like. Writing, singing and playing the instruments is fine but unfortunately I'm not any good with technical stuff so I have to depend on people with some engineering skills, to even connect the cables in my own studio. I can't say I've ever been fully satisfied with the sound on my recordings so far. From the inspired moment when I come up with the stuff to the finished mix is all a downhill experience, that's why I haven't even listened to the actual album regarding some of my stuff. It's just too depressing.    

Last year you choose to end Notre Dame, why that decision?

There were several reasons leading up to that final decision. Our show at Metaltown festival last year was the first show without Vampirella, and it worked very very well. It was obvious that her priorities were elsewhere and I got sick of canceling more shows and ruining future offers that way. I decided to go ahead with a female bass player who also took over some of Vampirella's vocal parts, while I picked up the guitar or just sang the lead. On several occasions we have had other stand in guys for Jean-Pierre and Mannequin behind the masks, before that, but replacing the sex bomb Vampirella was a whole different matter. In short the band was falling apart and there was not a lot I could do anymore to prevent it from happening. Mannequin had by that time permanently been replaced by Daniel "Mojjo" Moilanen, but without Vampirella- no Notre Dame. I had been fighting Osmose for years, but by the time I finally was free and out of the contract, the damage was already done and I had already started to drift off into other musical directions long ago, so I decided to retire the whole thing and move on.      

Looking back at the years with Notre Dame, what stand out as the absolute highlights?

For me personally, the show we did in Gothenburg at the exact change of the Millennium 00.00 (Where we recorded the live album "Creepshow Freakshow Peepshow") really stands out among the rest. It was just a one off show and the first we had done since the East-European Tour-ture, more than a year earlier and we weren't at all prepared for that kind of stunning reception. And on that same day receiving the news about super reviews and "album of the month" for "Le Theatre Du Vampire" in several magazines including Terrorizer, Hell Awaits etc etc didn't hurt either.  

In 2002 we headlined a Halloween festival in France and that was pretty cool but the Metaltown show last year, where Jean-Pierre and bassist Mary were chained in the back to 6 meters stripping poles and I could roam and dominate the stage all by myself. That felt exceptionally good for me personally. (check the 'Munsters!' live video clip). People were saying that we totally crushed Alice Cooper who was headlining the festival, and of course those kinds of remarks meant a lot to me, especially since Notre Dame "borrowed" a thing or two from the shock rock god himself.   
Why did you form the band back in the days?  

After Illwill I was a bit confused for a while, uncertain of what I should do musically. I had quit both Mercyful Fate and Memento Mori in order to concentrate on Illwill and now I had nothing going for me. At the time I was fed up with the stiffness and strictness of Illwill's music which I had been working with intensively for several years, so I sort of threw myself in the most opposite direction and decided to do exactly what I felt like doing at that point, without any compromise.  

What did you want to accomplish with the band? 

I had never a set goal besides doing what I felt like doing, combining all the things I love and grew up loving, like shock rock and horror comics and so on. For fun I have always said and still do that: "When I grow up I will be like Kiss", but now in retrospect I see things more clearly and what I actually aimed for was to create some sort of obscure underground cult band like Arthur Brown or Death SS.  

Do you feel you accomplished that?  


How did you end up with the Notre Dame line up as you did?

You mean the spectacular official story or the real one?  

Looking back at your releases which of them do you see as the strongest today?

"Le Theatre Du Vampire", "Creepshow Freakshow Peepshow" and the first MCD "Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You!".  

Will you pull out your 5 favorite Notre Dame tracks and tell about the ideas behind the tracks, how they were made and so forth?

'Blacksmith & Co' which I recorded in 1997 but didn't end up on a CD until the re-issue of "Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You, The 2nd" in 2002. Why I don't know, maybe I thought it was too simple and straight forward for where I was at the time. Notice the little homage wink to another favourite band Anvil.   

'Vlad The Impaler' which I wrote in 1993 or 1994 for Memento Mori. It was very obvious that I wanted to go in other directions than Mike Wead and the rest of the guys when we did "Life, Death And Other Morbid Tales". I wanted to explore some sort of a Nordic mix of ogrees and pagans, a cross between Grieg's "Hall Of The Mountain King" and folklore Manowar metal, with John Bauer paintings that I saw Mortiis using later. I also tried the horror theme concept on them as you can see on the cover etc but they didn't like that idea either. They just wanted their take on Yngwie Malmsteen vs Candlemass. I remember Mike's sort of sneering reaction when I told him the title 'Vlad The Impaler', and he went oh yeah Dracula. I saved the song and quit the band. My good friend Mike is actually a big fan of Notre Dame and calls me 4 or 5 years later complimenting me on the album and saying he's especially fond of that song, without a clue or recollection of it initially being made for Memento Mori. Having Vampirella sing it in a nursery rhyme style is quite different from what it could have sounded like if the mighty Messiah Marcolin had sung it though.   

'The Bells Of Notre Dame' This was probably the first song or perhaps that was 'A Misconception Of The French Kiss', that I wrote for my new project. The band name came from that song anyway. Little did I know that I would end up with two French guys in the line-up. I thought the organ intro sounded so dramatic and classic when I came up with it, years later I bought a used vinyl with "Phantom Of The Opera" and realized that I must had heard it before somewhere!   

'Frost' A very beautiful song that I have always liked a lot. I like that it is so minimalistic and arranged in a Bowie 'Life On Mars' and Kiss 'The Elder' kind of style with barely no distorted guitars. It doesn't have many similarities to the usual Notre Dame style (if there is such a thing!) but in fact on "Nightmare Before Christmas" I allowed myself to let my love for Sparks, Bowie and that whole era of piano based 70ties glam rock music shine through.   

'Ulv/Beyond The Thresholds Of Pain' The two songs that I arranged an awesome hybrid of for the liveshows. This is how I wished it was recorded in the first place. Lyrically the two go well together too, being a "wolf in sheep's clothing", the topic is kind of touching child molesters’.   

Have you regretted that you ended Notre Dame when looking back at it all right now?

No, I actually wish I would have ended it earlier. Right when things started to go wrong and there was no stopping, it feels like I wasted years fighting Osmose and trying to keep the original band together. That's why "Creepshow Freakshow Peepshow" is so important, because it was captured at the exact right time in Notre Dame's career and shows a vital young band dressed to kill and conquer the world.    

You are also ready with a live album, the final testament of Notre Dame, what can you tell about that release?
"Creepshow Freakshow Peepshow" captures us live in our prime on new year's eve 1999/2000 in Gothenburg. At that point we felt more like a unit ready to conquer the world than ever, and we were putting on a tremendous show. It has songs on it that never ended up on "Vol 1: Le Theatre Du Vampire" (that wouldn't be released for another month or two at this point) or any other Notre Dame album for that matter.  

What do you expect from the release?  

With this live album release, my intentions are pure and simple to keep a promise that I made early on to the Notre Dame fans, many of which said we were a far better live act than a studio one. Basically, it was too good a live album not to see the light of day. So I'm now releasing it in an exclusive limited digipack edition on my own little label White Trash Records. And sell it primarily to fans through my website or you can order it directly from I have no other expectations than to provide one last great album to all Notre Dame fans.    

You are currently active in Dream Evil, how is it to play in that band?
With previous bands in the past it's been stimulating or rewarding in a lot of other ways, but I actually haven't had this much fun playing in any of the other bands before Dream Evil. I actually changed my mind and decided to join as a full time member after the first couple of festival shows, just because we discovered we all shared the same sense of humour and had so extremely much fun together. Joining a band mainly for social reasons was a totally new thing for me. Everyone are great musicians which means that we never have to rehearse much. For the last 12 months or so and due to Niklas' problems with his voice, there's been nothing but endless discussions, temporary line-up changes and so on. But let's not whine about that now, I'm so glad that Niklas and Peter are back in the family again, and we are stronger than ever and are currently preparing to get back into the studio to record the best album possible and to write a new chapter in the book of heavy metal.    

How much do you do in Dream Evil, do you write music or do you just play the drums?

Definitely not, on our latest album "The Book Of Heavy Metal" I wrote at least 80% of the material. On the first album I was just a hired session drummer because I didn't want to be in the band, but things have changed a helluva lot since then.  

Are you participating in other projects or bands besides Dream Evil right now?  

I have a project with Mats Leven (Therion, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen, Swedish Erotica etc) called S&M, and we've been writing some really cool stuff in a style that I'm very excited about. We both had been working on our own individual solo things before we decided to join forces and use put those plans aside for the benefit of playing together and using some of that music together instead. We sort of discovered how much we had in common by coincidence, when we tried to write some music together for Dream Evil, during a period when he was supposed to be the new singer. I have never enjoyed writing with anyone that much prior to this collaboration.  

Then I'm supposed to be on Joacim Cans next solo album as the drummer and I will also handle second lead vocals and write some material. This could be fun, we've never worked together before although we've known each other for about 10-15 years.  

Have you some projects on your own planned for the future or a new band or project on the melting pot as it seems now?

Yes I do, but let's save that for later, I will keep you posted ok.  

When you write music nowadays, where do you find your inspiration?

I honestly don't know. I guess I get inspired and excited when I by chance come up with something that I like, when fooling around with a guitar or the piano. From there it just sort of feeds off itself. Since I've done it for so long and have sort of learnt the craftsmanship, I can do it using autopilot but to manufacture a song is never as good as when it happens spontaneously. At an early stage in the writing process I try not think at all, with the bigger of my two heads anyway. I just go with instinct and gut feeling. I prefer not to strain or complicate things, if it feels good, it is good.     

Do you have to be in a certain mood to write music or does it just flow all the time?  

Both yes and no, it pretty much flows all the time but it's never as good as when I'm able to totally focus on writing and really get in the mood without all the external distractions and administrative bullshit. On those few occasions I get to really get snowed-in there is nothing better in the world to me.      

Do the way you write music change, with the music you are listening to and enjoying in certain periods?

I guess in a way it does, but since I don't listen to too much music it's hard to say really. It's more like my own personal progress or something. If I've done a certain style in a certain kind of mood for a longer period I tend to grow tired of it and up comes a wish to move on and do something else that to me feels fresh and a road less traveled. I really can't understand how someone can be satisfied with doing the exact same kind of music decade after decade like Iron Maiden for example. I know I would die out of boredom.  

What music do you listen a lot to right now?  

I just came home from a video shoot with the German act Heiland, so I've heard that song over and over now for two days straight. Besides that I don't listen much to anything.  

When you look back at your career, what was the biggest moment for?  

The only moment of complete fulfillment I have ever felt in my life, was when I was sitting by the pool in Los Angeles, August 1989, knowing that I had managed to land a gig, that more than 50 well respected drummers before me had failed at, having shot my first video in Hollywood and knowing that within shortly I would be on a 3 month headliner tour across America as King Diamond's new drummer. I had just turned 21 a couple of days before that and I felt completely satisfied. It just doesn't get any better than that.    

What did leave the biggest impression on you?  

About that particular time you mean?   

The whole fucking thing was like a Cinderella fairy tale, where my entire life changed in an instant flash. I went from one day being a talented working class nobody in Gothenburg, with nothing and the next being the drummer in a world famous, well established shock metal band based in sunny Los Angeles, at the height of metal glitz and glamour with all that comes with that territory. Touring America, the land of my dreams, with a big ass theatrical horror stage show. With great music, which I really liked to play. Like I said my reality changed drastically overnight and it was really beyond my wildest dreams. In a youthful way I thought Oh shit I made it and just sort of expected it'd stay that way from that moment on... Boy was I wrong!   

Of all the music you have played on and participated in making, which 5 songs/recordings are you most fond/proud of?

Illwill's 'Whether With Or Without', 'The Book Of Heavy Metal' with  Dream Evil, 'The bells Of Notre Dame' (live) with Notre Dame, Memento Mori's 'Heathendom' and Dream Evil's 'The End' or Snowy Shaw's 'XXX'.   

How do you look upon the future?

I don't, I mean it's not like  I have a 5 year plan or anything, I just go on instinct and follow my heart, trying to stay alive pretty much on a day by day basis. Dreaming of a second moment, of that feeling of complete fulfillment.    

Lastly, the 100 dollar question, which you must have been asked a billion times, how did you come up with the name Snowy Shaw?  

No this is the first time in fact. As a kid I had two nicknames Tomten/Santa, a slight change from my birth name Tommie, because I used to wear a red hat on a head of white hair, and Snövit/snow-white which was later shortened to Snowy. A name I would change to legally later in the early 90ties.  

Will you share your 5 all time favourite albums with the readers?

The albums that have meant the most to me are in no particular order:
Accept - Restless And Wild
Kiss - Destroyer  
AC/DC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Sweet - Strung Up!
Manowar - Into Glory Ride.   

Hard to pick only 5 when there are so many gems that helped shape my musical perception and taste, Nazareth – 'Loud N' Proud' and Entombed's 'Clandestine' fits right in there too.   

Thanks a lot for answering my questions, if you have anything to add, feel free to add it now!

Hurry up getting your copy of "Creepshow Freakshow Peepshow" before it runs out of stock, there's only a limited digipack edition of 999 copies. I kept one for myself, you know...

Snowy Shaw website

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