Swedish musician Snowy Shaw is a remarkable and extremely creative appearance in the heavy metal scene, a musician who once started his claim to fame as the touring drummer for King Diamond, the end of the roaring 80s. Now for almost 3 decades Snowy has been recording albums and touring the world, having King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Memento Mori, Notre Dame, Dream Evil, Loud ‘N’ Nasty, Therion, Dimmu Borgir, XXX, Theatres des Vampires, Sabaton, Opera Diabolicus, Mad Architect and Dark Embrace on his resume. And not to mention the various guest appearances he did, such as for Kamelot.
Snowy has a distinct and striking style that really makes him stand out, not only on a creative but also on a personal level, also showing a strong interest in comics, classic monsters, horror themes, (dark) humour and obscurity, which allows him to create his own Wunderwurld. But Snowy decided it is time for a new chapter in his creative life; no more serving others but sailing under his own flag as an independent solo artist, handling everything from A to Z by himself, all in the name of complete artistic freedom. `White Is The New Black’ is Snowy’s first studio CD as a solo artist, which contains 12 tracks taken from the 6 albums that have not been released yet. The album gives a great insight in Snowy’s interest in various styles of music and it comes in different formats as well, also white vinyl, provided with stunning artwork, of course by the hand of Snowy himself. It’s a no brainer HeadBangers LifeStyle wants to learn more about Snowy’s new journey in life. Let’s get started, shall we?
,,I can never fully find creative satisfaction or a sense of fulfilment within a group’’, Snowy Shaw
Being years in the music bizz, what took you so long to finally release your first studio album as a solo artist?
,,Well, you could say it took me that long to fully give up my optimism on mankind…. [laughing]! Naw, but truth is there are multiple reasons and one being that it took me that long and countless attempts to realize that I can never fully find creative satisfaction or a sense of fulfilment within a group. Let’s say I’m on this constant journey in search of happiness and it has taken me through 30 + years and countless bands in various positions and musical styles. I’m certainly not saying I regret anything and it’s been one helluva journey in my life and I’m eternally grateful for my time with each of the bands, but the way I see it now, for the rest of my days I’ll be sailing under my own flag. Perhaps in the future I might have parts of my excellent live band with me in the recording studio too, as opposed to now where I play, sing, produce, write, design etc. everything on my own, which at times tends to be a bit overbearing,.. if I may say so.’’
Could you have made this album 5 or 10 years ago as well? Or were certain steps necessary to get to this point in your creative career?
,,Yeah, I probably could, or 20 even. But I was a lot less confident in my singing that long ago whereas I have now better come to terms with my vocal abilities or lack thereof. At a second thought, no I couldn’t actually have made this specific album without having first gone through all them steps of figuring out how to combine the various styles of music I urge to make in a cohesive non-schizophrenic way. That because `White Is The New Black’ could very well be looked upon as “The essential Snowy Shaw”,.. only in reverse, with two songs representing each individual album and its specific concept, style and musical approach that I will put out yearly from now on.’’
How did you come up with this original idea, starting off with a sort of “best of” CD?
,,First of all I didn’t so much invent this rather unusual idea in some attempt to be different, tactic or to reach out to a bigger amount of people as to appease my own needs of expressing different musical tastes and emotions. In short; different sides of myself. I don’t really sit down and calculate or set up some sort of cunning strategy or anything like that. I just go by instinct and follow my heart, wherever that may lead me. I mean there is really no coincidence that I’ve been involved with so many bands and projects with diverse musical direction and flavour. I need that diversity in my life, or else I feel trapped and tend to get bored easily and have to move on. Throughout my career I’ve usually done 2-3 bands simultaneously and always something as diverse as Dream Evil vs. Notre Dame, XXX vs. Dimmu Borgir or Therion, Mercyful Fate vs. IllWill or Memento Mori etc. As some sort of balance I suppose. As I decided to go solo, I decided to allow myself that kind of artistic freedom and to do it all.’’
,,I dare say that we have created a quite unique sound and atmosphere in today’s metal scene’’, Snowy Shaw
Did you start with a blank canvas or did you already have some material/song ideas lying around?
,,I’m not exaggerating if I say that writing songs is what I love the most in the entire world. So as much as I can I try to find the time to do that, but running one’s own business and being hands on in charge of every aspect of it tend to soak up most of the time I’m afraid. Anyhow, no I didn’t start with a blank canvas. I really have shitloads of songs laying around that I have written over many years and some of them I have now finalized and finished while others are brand new. ,,Nachtgeist’’ for instance was originally written for Notre Dame in 2002 I think, while ,,Krampus’’ I actually did custom write based on the conceptual video idea and didn’t actually have any song when I started filming the scenes where I run around in the snow-clad forest dressed as Krampus. It’s a mix of music I’ve written all through my life but never had a chance to record properly or to put out. When it comes to song writing I don’t like rush things. Some I write in 5 minutes while others I put away if I get stuck for the continuation on some preconceived idea of a bombastic chorus for instance then might pick up on it later with a fresh objective mind and try to finalize. For example one song called ,,I Never Leave You Like The Autumn Leaves’’ that we were putting the final touches on in the mixing studio but for some reason wasn’t selected for `White Is The New Black’ I originally wrote in 1991 but couldn’t then seem to find the right chorus/mid section until 2016 or so. Although that’s old as fuck, I do have another one that I’ve picked up and will be doing with a couple of very special guests for this particular one, and that I wrote when I was 16.’’
What was the biggest challenge for you during the entire process?
,,Apart from the 6-7 year nightmare of malfunctioning technical struggle with my recording studio and all dysfunctional recording devices, incompatible programs due to mandatory updates, crashed computers and all the unbelievably annoying shit I’ve encountered I’d say the mixing process. That I did together with a number of very competent guys like Fredrik ‘Fredman’ Nordström, Arnold Lindberg, Johan Forsman etc. The reason I say ”together with” is because I’m present every second and every step of the way as a guide or producer, and I really couldn’t have it any other way. It was a really long and difficult process but in the end I think we’re all very pleased and satisfied with the result and I dare say that we have created a quite unique sound and atmosphere in today’s metal scene. And, most importantly I’d say, a fitting sound production that goes hand in hand with my music the way I’ve pictured it in my head when I wrote and recorded it. That was really the hardest part to transcend to sound engineers who may have quite different sound and musical ideals and preferences compared to me.
In my not so humble opinion, I’d say one of the biggest problem of today’s productions for metal and rock is conformity and technology that provides the possibility to manipulate and correct everything after a certain industry standard in order to reach ”perfection”. Whereas I’d say perfection is a definition, and it’s the human flaws and imperfections that creates character and originality. Instead of aiming to enhance and capture a band’s true identity and relying on a bands signature sound and originality, many try adopt and apply that cool fat popular sound of some successful new album by another band thinking you’d have a shortcut to instant success by using the same plugins, presets, drum trigger sounds, reamps, yeah the whole shebang down to the bass sound so that ultimately only the actual voice is what separates and shows the difference between the bands. But of course, if you’re anxious and eager to fit the mold you can always use autotune and melodine to wash away the slightest flaw and personality too… Call me conservative or obstinate but I don’t fucking get it. I think you have a problem when you look at the computer screen to determine whether the music is good or not. To me it’s like listening to your dinner to decide whether it’s tasty or not.’’
,,Call me conservative or obstinate but I don’t fucking get it’’, Snowy Shaw
What brought the making of `White Is The New Black’ you on a personal and creative level?
,,That’s a bit hard to say so shortly after. Right now I’m just proud of myself for carrying it through from start to finish and never back down or give up on my goals until I was fully satisfied with the result. During the past couple of years I’ve learned so incredibly much when it comes to mixing and sound production in general. Just like I just ranted about a moment ago, mostly because my idea of a good sound production differs quite drastically from the ”norm” and what’s considered ”industry standard” in today’s metal scene. And in addition, to what most sound engineers are accustomed to or how they normally work these days. I feel that I’ve grown a lot because of that, and I had to develop a language to be able to communicate and make myself understood with the many engineers I was collaborating with. I mean it’s just not good enough to dismiss something by saying it sounds like crap. How do you mean? Well, like fucking crap. No, one needs to be a bit more precise and constructive in your criticism, which forces you to dissect and analyse to be able to pinpoint what it is that bothers you. Like with everything, you can’t fix the problem without first identifying the actual problem. I like my music to be more natural sounding, organic, nuanced and dynamic with a more atmospheric soundscape, but I’ve been informed that that’s not fashionable or what the fans want or expect. As much as I like people to like what I do, but what’s the point of making music if I don’t first and foremost like it myself? Besides, what fans are they talking about? Those from the days of Notre Dame or King Diamond? Or maybe those fans I got while in Sabaton, Memento Mori, Therion, Dream Evil, Mercyful Fate, Dimmu Borgir, XXX and so on, all which have a different sound, style and approach. Well, I think it’s easier and better if I just do my own thing and follow my own heart, right?’’
You have an obvious and recognizable own style as an artist, which we can hear on this CD as well, is there anything you did on this album that might surprise your listeners when they hear `White Is The New Black’ for the first time?
,,First of all, thank you. Hmm, hard for me to say if there’s anything in particular that’s gonna raise their eyebrows. Having been working with so many bands over the years, with styles ranging from symphonic Black Metal to bubblegummish glitter/glam rock and everything in between, I suppose my fans are used to it and knows that they can expect pretty much anything,.. but hopefully that it’s always good quality stuff no matter what.’’
Did you try to get out of your comfort zone as well? If yes, please give an example.
,,For me getting out of the comfort zone would mean I’d do rap, R&B or Hip Hop, and that I can assure you I most definitely won’t do.’’
,,I suppose I’m such an out of the box thinker that most people can’t simply understand the greatness of my inventions or what the hell I’m doing until much later’’, Snowy Shaw
What made you name the album `White Is The New Black? And can you also tell something about the making of the artwork?
,,It fits perfectly with the artwork and overall concept and it sounds good I think. If you wanna dig deeper there’s also a deeper meaning to it on several layers but that’s for me to know and for others to find out. The artwork design and layout I wanted all white with a fairly simple, symbolic and striking front that would stick out and work both in tiny format on Spotify etc. and on the double LP using only a photo of my face. Similar to everything I do, from the sound production to the visual presentation and beyond I try to handle as much as possible of it myself even though I may not always have the technical competence or skills that’s required. But I tend to think in pictures and have a very clear and distinct vision of what I want for the end result and what I’ve learned in life is that it’s far more complicated to try to verbally explain my visions to others that it’s often easier that I actually do it myself. There are of course exceptions, like the phenomenal illustrator Johan Egerkrans who’s my favourite painter in the world and I’ve been chasing and nagging on him for several years already to make my next album cover. He really wants to do it but he’s so extremely busy and can’t find the time that I contemplating kidnapping him.’’ ;-)
You organized a live-streamed release party on 21st April. How do you look back on that event and what made you come up with the idea?
,,Great idea right? I’d say a number of coinciding factors led up to this one of a kind event. For one, having toured the world for years I’m proud to say I have obtained fans and followers from all over and I really saw no reason to throw a release party locally in a rock club and invite a couple of hundred people when modern technology provides you the tools where you can potentially reach out to all the world in one go. We had viewers from 51 countries or more. As much as I appreciate and value my fans and followers, I wanna keep a closeness and interact with them on a personal level. What can be more personal than to invite them all into my home, albeit through the Internet? The whole 3-hour event is now published on my YouTube channel and you can watch it and share it. And of course you can still order the album or the exclusive deluxe fan pack through my webshop, where not only do you get the limited edition album numbered and autographed but also a whole month before it hits the stores. [www.snowyshaw.net/webshop]’’
What surprised you the most during that evening?
,,Why would anything surprise me about my own arrangement? There were some glitches here and there and things that was forgotten or overseen but for the most part it ran smoothly I think. And everyone present were just gobsmacked ecstatic and overly impressed with the whole arrangement of this ground-breaking fun and unique event. If anything, what surprised me was maybe that so many of the invited guests didn’t show up or that it didn’t reach 10 times as many viewers or more. But at the same time I realize that introducing such a sensational event to the greater public would require a massive promotion campaign and the kind of financial back up I do not have unfortunately. May sound a little boastful and bitter but that’s pretty much the story of my life. I suppose I’m such an out of the box thinker that most people can’t simply understand the greatness of my inventions or what the hell I’m doing until much later.’’
,,From a promotional point of view I’m sure it would have a better effect if I dressed my dogs in T-shirts saying ”Buy Snowy’s new album”, Snowy Shaw
What is your biggest motivation to go independent, release the album without support of a label or promoter? And did you feel confident enough about your fan base to go independent?
,,It’s not about confidence, it’s all about artistic freedom and allowing myself to do my own thing without compromise or having a big well established record company telling me what to do or dictating the terms. Like how my music should sound, look and be presented to the public. That’s the main reason as well as the price I have to pay. Sure, I’ve had good experiences from labels in the past but for the most part not so good, and especially not in recent years. Last year I released a side project of mine with metalized versions of Swedish children’s music called `Barndoom med Snömannen & hans vänner’ on this label that has distribution and offices in all 4 Scandinavian countries. I had big and far advanced plans for this whole project with the ambition of setting up cool theatrical shows in theatres and school auditoriums for 1st to 6 graders all around Sweden and Scandinavia. First of all to entertain and wake the interest and fascination for real rock music, then on the flipside with the ambition of preventing rock music from dying amongst the younger generations, which I consider an impending risk since electric guitars etc. doesn’t sell anywhere near like they used to. It was all for a good honourable cause and had really great potential, but although the label was in on it all they fucked it up royally and didn't do their part of the deal. And that was the final straw for me. From a promotional point of view I’m sure it would have a better effect if I dressed my dogs in T-shirts saying ”Buy Snowy’s new album”. I was expecting and hoping for them to take some load off my shoulders and to do their part of the job and duties but unfortunately it was the complete opposite and I swore to myself never ever to put myself in that position again unless labels start throwing millions at me.’’
Will there be live shows or even a tour for this album or future albums?
,,Absolutely, we’re planning a big co-headline tour in Europe for October and November and there will probably be at least a couple of festival shows here and there before that in Japan among other places. Just got an offer for a handful of co-headline shows in Sweden the other day.’’
When is the official release date of `White Is The New Black’ and where can people order it?
,,In Europe and Australia the official release date is the 25th of May, while in Japan and USA it’s somewhere in mid June I believe. However, I would recommend you order the album, CD or limited edition double LP (white vinyl) directly from my webshop that has tons of other cool merch, books, DVDs and other goodies. And it’s always active and we ship worldwide.’’
Follow Snowy Shaw on Facebook and visit his Website here