interview with Snowy Shaw conducted by Bill Zebub for issue #27 of THE GRIMOIRE OF EXALTED DEEDS Magazine
I prefer a personality interview as well as a musical interview, unless you prefer a totally insulting interview.
Why do you choose to go that way? I mean, to insult people – is that to make it fun for the readers or something?
It’s fun for the whole world.
So people that you don’t like or don’t respect – you just give them a hard time.
I pretty much give everyone a hard time, and people like George Corspegrinder from Cannibal Corpse have a lot of fun being assholes back to me. Let’s begin. Mickey Dee badmouthed King Diamond in interviews and stuff like that. I was at a Motorhead show and I was wearing a Mercyful Fate shirt, and he said “Why are you wearing that? That band sucks!” He wasn’t even in that band. And this was apparently after King Diamond had a talk with him and asked him why he said things like that. He’s still an asshole. I don’t know why he has problems with King Diamond, but I was talking to King and he said that in the press he saw that you felt constricted in the band.
That I did or that Mickey did?
That you did. I know that if you say something negative it wouldn’t be as an insult. I know that you would have a reason for saying something that sounds negative. The press might make it seem nasty.
Yeah, I realize that it’s stupid to say anything negative because nobody believes me. If it’s a question about “Ok, is it a drum machine on The Eye?” or something – I mean, that is kind of a stupid question…
That is one of my questions.
The thing is, it was my decision to use that kind of drum patterns and stuff like that, but nobody would believe me. Yeah, I’m the one who brought it up, and if I didn’t say anything, nobody would know about it. Nobody believes me. They believe King instead, of course. But I have nothing against King.
The question was more “what was the problem?” He said that you were doing all these crazy things and you said “I’m going to do everything I ever learned as a drummer” and that he was holding you back. Like, every time there was a change in a song you would have massive drum rolls. They were good, he said, but it just made the music a bit more complex than it needed to be.
When I joined the band, he wanted… OK, Mickey Dee was good. It’s fine to have a drummer that could be like a puppet. You can have control over this guy. Maybe King all the time wanted not that kind of complicated drumming and strange drum arrangements. I know Mickey told me that King told him “Stop playing that! You’re ruining my songs!” But back then they were a band and Mickey Dee would say “Fuck You! I play the way I want to!” But when I joined the band I didn’t have that kind of position of course. So I just had to do what he told me. We kind of compromised and arranged things together and so on. I don’t know what it was, but I felt I want to do what I want to do. It’s not like I want to be a modern drummer and that is my major goal. I want to play good drums. Sometimes I thought some of his ideas, or arrangements, was kind of simple and standard and stupid or something… (laughs)
When you left, were you thrown out or did you voluntarily leave?
Yeah, I left the band. “Ok, now it’s a European tour coming up. Oh no! I quit.” Kind of strange, but that’s the way it was. It’s like putting a lid on a volcano. It’s a stupid expression maybe, but I needed to express myself musically. I wasn’t satisfied with just being a drummer and playing (ed. – Snowy makes sounds imitating a drum beat). It didn’t give me that much so I needed to quit and try to write my own music and start my own band.
It’s very important for me to clarify right now that you’re not saying anything in a nasty tone. Some magazines are irresponsible and they don’t mention that. They try to make it look like you’re trying to start a fight. Notre Dame does not have showy drums – like you’re showing off. It seemed like that was the argument in King Diamond. Do you agree?
He comes up with some stuff and it’s basically my arrangements, but when I wrote some songs myself I tend to arrange the drums so it’s pretty simple just because the song itself should be in focus instead of different musicians showing off what they can do. It’s quite the same for thing for King. I think I play better drums if I don’t like the band, because then I just want to have fun playing drums.
Your accent sounds more Danish than Swedish.
Nobody told me that before. Maybe I have a sore throat or something because they sound a bit like they’re supposed to throw up when they’re talking.
Maybe that’s the reason. So what do you have to say about the production of the drums? I thought that you would be over-produced based on what I’ve heard about you. But it’s a mild production.
The overall production – I don’t really like it because we have kind of a limited budget. We have to go mix in a friend’s place or something. Next time around it will be a lot better because we’re working with this friend and he’s a real producer. The drums sounded quite bad the last couple of albums.
That helped me understand the elusive personality of Snowy Shaw a little bit. I heard that you like American Indians.
Yeah. I was really into that some years ago. I was into reading about the Midwest Indians.
Any particular reason?
I don’t know. I mean, for various reasons I guess because they were very cool and proud and they had a great history. It was magical and mystical. I thought it was very cool. But I kind of left that, and since I’m working with Notre Dame I’m watching horror movies and being more into eerie and stupid horror comics.
So you were never part of any drum circle?
Indian drum circle? I never had the opportunity, but maybe in the future.
You don’t prefer to play drums with your hands.
With my dick.
The first time I heard Notre Dame I didn’t know you were in the band. It was on the Mercyful Fate tribute on Listenable Records. It was Into the Coven. The very next time I heard your band it was on this latest album Coming Soon To A Theatre Near You.
That’s the second one?
No, the new album is a re-issue – the Second Coming. It was four and a half songs originally, but now it’s like eleven. We added a bunch of bonus tracks from the same time – the same recording sessions and so on. We fucked it up totally. I think it was better the first time. It’s better as a mini album because you tend to get tired after six songs – not when you record them but if you listen to them. You’re pretty much satisfied when you’ve heard seven songs.
I’m sure Osmose will love to hear the way you’re talking about the album.
Yeah, but what’s done is done. I just wanted to… because of the lousy distribution… I’m sorry… I’m burping here from drinking Coca Colas. But anyway, we just wanted to give a second chance because the distribution wasn’t working that good and maybe Osmose distribution isn’t working that good either, but it’s much better anyway. But they wanted to add a bunch of bonus tracks, and I looked into some old material that’s never been mixed and so I recorded some vocals and some guitar on some songs. We made it like a totally new album instead of just a re-issue.
So the vampire theme is going to be common to your next album as well?
No, not really. I mean, the character Vampirella – she’s still in the band. Maybe we kind of focused on that for some time, but it’s basically just shock shock rock and horror metal. I grew up with KISS and Alice Cooper. I was really influenced by those kinds of shows and the kind of image that Alice Cooper had. I think this is my interpretation for the new generation. It’s not just about vampires. I grew up reading all those horror comics. So this is just the logical development.
Back to the old days when Mercyful Fate reformed – there was an American tour. Did you have any problems playing drums for the song Satan’s Fall?
No, absolutely not. That is my favorite song. Maybe there was a show where I fucked it up.
No, there was a lot of Snowy in that performance rather than Kim Ruzz.
Yeah. I really like that song so I couldn’t keep relaxed. I just went berserk. Maybe I fucked it up.
Is it easy to fuck up in that song?
Yeah, maybe it is because when we played this big festival in Copenhagen that is the only time I fucked it up. There are so many changes in the song and I was so excited and everything so maybe I forgot something because I was waiting for the last part which is the coolest. So maybe I skipped a few parts of that song. That song is so fantastically evil. When I was a kid I listened to it and I thought “this is too much! This is really scary!”
Did you ever imagine that you would be playing with King Diamond?
No, not really. I didn’t realize they were from Denmark when I was 14 or something. I didn’t see that coming. But after a couple of years Mickey Dee and Andy Laroque joined the band, and all of a sudden we had some kind of relation to them. It wasn’t that far-fetched to actually join the band after a couple of years because they had close relations to Gothenburg musicians.
For the band Notre Dame what is the reason for the choice of black metal vocals trading off with sort of like the theatre style vocals?
Maybe I was into that somehow. They’re the same kind of songs that I wrote for Memento Mori. It’s just that we don’t play the drums that slow. (ed – makes drum noises) It would be boring to play it that slow. So instead we speed it up and play the fastest part possible – all these kinds of patterns. But when it comes to vocals maybe it’s that I can’t sing that powerful so I’m just trying the best I can. I’m also into Metal Church and Nazareth and Udo,.. Accept and stuff like that. I don’t know if it’s black metal vocals. It’s just really distorted vocals I guess.
The first track on this second edition, The Bells of Notre Dame, reminded me of Immortal, and then I took a look at the cover and you have the diamond-shaped corpsepaint around your eyes just like the singer. So I was wondering if you have any admiration for Immortal or if that was just a coincidence.
I never listened much to them, but they look cool (laughs), especially this Battles of the North album. But this is just some kind of coincidence because I didn’t use that kind of make-up for a long time. I think he has much bigger diamonds than I do. It covers pretty much his whole face. Most of the time I just have some mascara and I look more like…
No, not like a girl. But it was more like a raccoon. This was the only time when I was like, “this looks kind of theatrical,” like pantomime, or scary in some kind of circus way. I did not think of Immortal when I did that.
I’ve seen the movie The Decline of Western Civilization, and I saw it because I thought it was going to be about metal but it was about posers. And there was this one poser in there who was talking like an absolute faggot…
And his name was?
I don’t know his name. Half of his hair was blonde (Snowy laughs) and half of his hair was black, and I also noticed that in the Notre Dame pictures half of your hair is blonde and half of your hair is black. So I was wondering if you know the poser from that movie.
No, I don’t. But I heard that the singer from Madam X dyed his hair black and white. I was thinking more of Carella Deville (spelling?) the Disney character. You know, I’m blonde, so that isn’t very evil. So should I dye my hair black? No. That’s boring. So let’s do it halfway as a compromise.
So it’s not a symbol for bisexuals?
No. I can do that and still go around buying groceries. I don’t give a fuck. It was just a thing. After that I shaved off my hair completely. But now it’s growing back and I look like…
A German look, or something. This was a long time ago.
A long time ago I interviewed Candlemass and the lead guitar player told me that he found your drum configuration very strange.
Yeah. On your rolls, what you do is each hand goes down your sides instead of going in front of you. Do you know what I’m talking about?
No, not really.
Was he just imagining things?
I don’t know. I mean, I only have one rack tom and I have two floor drums.
One on each side?
Yeah, actually when I bought this Ludwig I had four floor toms so I can have two on each side, but it’s just a poser thing because I can’t play on my left side. I did it with Mercyful Fate to look cool, but it’s OK with just one rack tom and one floor tom. I’ve been playing drums for so long, and I don’t think about drums very much nowadays. It’s not like I’m, “OK, check out that new drummer from this band!.” I just play the way I play. I don’t think that much about it. Maybe some people find it strange. I’ve been out playing festivals with this power metal band now called Dream Evil, and people seem to like the way I play. People say, “Oh, you’re my favorite drummer!” and so on. I don’t really know what’s the big deal. I’m just playing straight bullshit. I can’t really see what’s so special.
But at one time were you obsessed about learning drums?
Yeah, I was, when I was still a teen-ager. Now my goal is elsewhere, like to sing better and write the best possible songs I can do. It’s not like I’m practicing drums very much these days.
Is Notre Dame a project or a band?
I guess it’s both. For me it’s a good forum, or something, where I can write my kind of music. We’re starting to do shows now. We had to turn down some offers from big festivals in Europe this summer. So we will be starting with the King Diamond manager taking care of the whole business because I don’t know how to handle that stuff. I can’t negotiate with foreign promoters and stuff like that. But for some time now it’s been like a project – a recording project pretty much. Have you seen our video?
No. Is it available N.T.S.C.?
I don’t think so. I don’t think that Osmose have done what they should do.
They have been doing a lot because they believe in the Grimoire. A lot of Europeans don’t see the value of advertising in America. They don’t believe that the American market is worth it.
Yeah, it’s so bad because I don’t think that our albums are even released in America.
Yeah, it’s hard to find. But if anyone here wants to get an Osmose album it’s pretty easy to get There are enough metal merchants. But you have to be a real undergrounder. A lot of people in America are very lazy about their music unless they’re enthusiasts.
Yeah, but people are that way everywhere. You go to record stores – what you see on the shelf is what you buy. It’s not like you’re running around to five different stores trying to find something. I wouldn’t do that nowadays. Maybe when I was 15, but not now. It’s a shame. You’ve got to just feed the people.
If you want to succeed.
It’s not like I want to make a lot of money. I would be an idiot if I did with this kind of music. Maybe I am an idiot. We spend so much time doing this stuff that we want people to at least be able to find it if they want to, and to reach out to as many people as possible.
Maybe this interview has helped.
The song “Daughter of Darkness” – was the piano in the beginning taken from Beethoven?
Vampirella said, “Listen to this song! You stole that part!”
It’s not exact. It just sounds like it’s based on a Beethoven song.
Yeah, it’s Moonlight Sonata, or something. I never sit down and “OK, I should steal this”. I’ve always had some kind of obsession with the Halloween theme – that’s where it’s coming from. I always have that kind of sound in the back of my mind. When I’m writing, maybe it sounds familiar, but I don’t know what it is. About Beethoven I really liked that song when I heard it. When I wrote that track it didn’t even cross my mind that it reminded me of something, but a year after we released that CD. I went to a record store and bought a vinyl album of Pahntom of the Opera, and I put it on, and then I heard it (the opening of Bells of Notre Dame). It’s, like, unconscious. I pick it up somewhere but without knowing it.
The titles of your songs are like B movies, like “Dracula Sucks”.
Yeah, I borrowed it from some B movie. It was such a cool title.
It’s so funny when an originator is not original. There’s also “The Misconception of the French Kiss”. I get a feeling of French theatre. Is that how you got signed to Osmose, which is in France?
I don’t know, but somehow with different projects you get different visions, and like, I was really into Indians like I was talking about, and I wrote Indian music. No, not really, but anyway, this French kind of style – I think it’s a bit elegant and just the kind of image that you get from watching movies. Ok, I went to the ballet and drink wine. The French theatre pretty much inspired me to write this music.
Speaking of Indians, do you know what the sitar is?
Yeah, but that’s the real Indians from India.
Actually, the Cherokee Indians invented the sitar, and when the Indians from India found out that the native people of America were called Indians, they sent spies over to see why they would be called Indians because they wanted to be the only Indians on earth.
Yeah, but it’s hardly the American Indians’ fault.
I know, but the Indians stumbled upon the Cherokee and stole the technology for the sitar and brought it back to India, and India made an agreement with the French government to kill any Cherokee with a sitar because they wanted to be known for that instrument on the planet earth.
Seriously? That sounds so strange. I never heard anything like that.
No, I’m just joking. I want to know what you think about Kim Ruzz. Was Kim Ruzz an originator?
Do you mean like he invented his own style?
He brought a unique interpretation into this style of music.
I don’t know. I mean, Mercyful Fate – the whole band were pioneers. You can very much hear Stained Class with Judas Priest in combination with Iron Maiden. I guess they just picked up from what was going on around them.
Sharlee D’Angelo said that one of the things that really set Kim Ruzz apart was that he wasn’t really a metal drummer, yet he played in metal.
Yeah, I really haven’t analyzed it since I was 15, or something. But I don’t consider myself being a metal drummer either. I’m more grown up with Sweet and KISS and Deep Purple and so on. I’m more of a ‘70’s drummer. I’m not that good at playing metal, really.
Do you agree that it’s harder to play slow, like at an extreme doom tempo?
Yeah, I guess you learn a certain way. I play very hard on the drums and so does Mickey Dee, for example. A lot of black metal drummers play so fucking fast but they don’t play that hard. They don’t break any sticks and hardly any drumheads either. If I want to play really fast, I’m not really used to that because I’m playing so hard and it takes so much energy from me, so I have take away some of the strength and play loose and just focus on the speed instead. I was supposed to play with Candlemass and I thought, “OK, that’s so easy.” You have to get used to that because you’re not supposed to play on the ride cymbal, for example (ed – Snowy makes drum noises) I can’t express this. But you should play very few notes and still keep the beat. There’s so much space in between the notes, if you know what I’m saying. So it’s easy to fuck up that way. If you play as fast as you can play there is not so much space that you can fuck up with. I mean, every music has its difficulties. Some people say that AC/DC is so boring. But Phil is good at what he’s doing. It’s complicated in different ways, I guess.
You don’t seem to favor the off beat too much.
Offbeat? What is that? (laughs)
You’ve been called a technical drummer by some people, but you don’t really do jazz beats and stuff.
Like I said, I kind of developed my own – it sounds stupid maybe – but it’s pretty much my own style. I’m not saying that I’m unique. I don’t check out other drummers and steal their chops because I find no interest in that. I’m just trying to play to the music that I’m playing in a tasteful way. I inspired by from Dio or Black Sabbath and Sweet – those old guys – and I took it from there. I don’t know if I’m technical or something.
So what does the future hold for America? Is there a Snowy Shaw tour?
Yeah, that would be great! I haven’t been in America since ’95, and it really pisses me off that Osmose can’t get it out there. With other bands that I’m in now, and this Dream Evil that’s power metal and very popular in Europe right now – but I guess it won’t sell too many records in America – so I doubt that we will be going on tour in America. I would love to come back and see how things have changed.
I think that if more white people live in America that metal will come back. But right now immigration favors the third world countries, and metal is a bit too complex for them. They like rap.
I don’t like that kind of music.
You call it music?
(laughs) I was just trying to be polite.
I talked to Tom Pasquale who is a writer for Meal Maniacs. He also puts tours together, and he said that metal seems to be getting stronger here because there are now five big agencies that book metal tours, whereas before, everyone was at the mercy of this person called Finberg.
Who was that?
He was a person who allegedly took advantage of metal’s lowpoint in America.
I hear there’s a lot of black metal bands. Isn’t black metal growing in America? Marduk, I heard, frequently tour America.
Well you know more about this than I do, but I heard that black metal is dying in Europe, but America just started to follow that trend.
Yeah, pretty much. I’m the wrong person to ask about stuff like that because I’m in my house and write my own music and live in my own world. So I don’t pay attention to what’s trendy and what’s going on and what’s in fashion. I don’t care about stuff like that.
This interview was very merciful, wasn’t it? Get it? Mercyful Fate?
Very Mercyful Fate.
So no insults. Are you surprised?
Yeah, pretty much.
I’m making a movie called “Metalheads”. So far Jensen from Séance, Ross from Immolation, and Agathon from Gloomy Grim have given me permission to use their music.
Yeah, you have permission to use Notre Dame. I don’t know what I’m saying yes to here. But of course, spread it around
It’s a comedy. This is great. I didn’t even have to negotiate with you.
So how did you negotiate with Jensen? Did you do certain favors for him? (laughs) You would love the Thrillogy movie that we’ve done. It’s done in the 1920’s, like Nosferatu, style of movie. It’s also the ‘60’s and ‘70’s cheesy style of horror movie. I guess you would really like that kind of video.
(editor’s note – there was more to this interview. When I have archived more of the great articles from the printed mag i shall go back and include the bits that were left out (like the Anal Cunt interview). These shorter edits were due to the web page limitations with the software i was using in the old days (the program was called “Frontage” and there was a page length limit)