Festivalphoto spoke with Snowy Shaw, vocalist with Therion shortly after their performance on the main stage at the UK's Bloodstock festival.
Festivalphoto: First of all congratulations on a great show tonight - my favourite performance so far this weekend.
Snowy: Ok thanks, that's wonderful to hear.
Festivalphoto: You started as a death metal band and moved to symphonic metal. How did the change happen - was it gradual or a sudden change?
Snowy: That's really quite interesting because I know happened is this. Therion was created by Christopher in 1987 and then it was just like an ordinary death metal band, if there was such a thing as an ordinary death metal band back then, but he had one album left on the record contract so he thought "well this might be my very last album ever so I might as well do something that I feel very very passionate about, something different that I like, because you never know...it might be my last album". So he combined, he thought I like Opera and shit so I should bring in that or those elements and combined that with orchestra, heavy metal and opera, and of course the record company was like freaking out when they got the finished results, but at the same time things started picking up and getting bigger and bigger sales, it made a name for itself and that broke the band - they became big that way (or bigger) which also, he clings onto that kind of perception or attitude - you should always do what you feel like doing, because you cannot cheat people and try to have shortcuts to successor anything like that, or just keep doing the same album over and over in order to please people because you're just fooling yourself. It depends, you don't have to be totally against the grain and do say a Reggae album next time just because you did a black metal album last time. I only have respect for him because of that, because that's the only way, you should do what you want to please yourself and people can tell the difference
Festivalphoto: If your heart's in it then people can tell - the passion comes through
Snowy: Absolutely, people can tell that. Deep down subconsciously I think people pick that up "They're doing it for the right reasons"
Festivalphoto: How did the fans react to the move away from death metal?
Snowy: I'm not sure they really had a big following before that really so this opened up and tons of fans found the band this way.
Festivalphoto: Therion are credited with creating the symphonic metal genre. Would you agree with that?
Snowy: Yeah I think that's quite a true statement but a lot of bands picked that up and usually it is with pioneers that they are maybe not the ones who make it the biggest or reach out and become a household name like Nightwish and so forth, but its good, I mean they took something and refined it or added something more I don't know. Therion are definitely the pioneers in this genre
Festivalphoto: Before being called Therion you were Megatherion. Was this taken from the Celtic Frost album title (To mega Therion)?
Snowy: Yes, because it was a huge kind of album.
Festivalphoto: Next year (2012) is your 25th anniversary. Do you have any special plans to mark the anniversary?
Snowy: Yeah we have something really unique and...yeah by Therion standards this is something pretty unique, for a band that keeps changing all the time, like I say, Unique, but I'm not allowed to talk about it but its something to look forwards to.
Festivalphoto: Touring with so many members must be expensive - how hard was it when you first did this to get enough money for it?
Snowy: Yes it is, but like I said in some of the interviews earlier, I didn't even notice today if we had a backdrop on stage, but normally we have a big production and a lot of stage props that on the side of my vocal duties I was hired to do, because I build stage props and design all that stuff because what I wanted it to be... I think when I joined the band there wasn't that much I mean people were wearing worn out heavy metal T-shirts and jeans and stuff, and to be able to deliver a show like a performance, if you go to the opera you don't want to see people standing doing opera singing in jeans and street clothes, you've got to deliver a whole package. its got to be about the visuals too otherwise you disappoint people, they can stay home and listen to the albums instead. Of course its expensive but I hope its worth it in the end because it surely pleases us more in a way.
Festivalphoto: You're due to play the Metal Female Voices Festival in October (MFVF), are you planning to have the full show there?
Snowy: I'm not sure because that's also a one off show that we're flying to. The easiest way is when we're on a European tour to bring a trailer or something with tons of our stage props. With doing one-off festivals its tricky even to bring a backdrop or something - it costs a lot of money of course.
Festivalphoto: Have you got any tours planned?
Snowy: We've got Prog Power in a few weeks, we headline that in Atlanta, then we fly to Mexico to do four or five shows, then China where we've never been so its a whole new territory for Therion.
Festivalphoto: Are there any other countries that you haven't played that you would like to play?
Snowy: Personally, Therion have never played Australia and I would love to go there. There's been a lot of talk about that but nothing ever happened - it got cancelled or fell through anyway, so I would love to go to Australia - its a wonderful country, but we want to go everywhere. Therion's pretty established and famous in South America and Mexico because they went there so early on compared to a lot of bands who ignored that area and considered it a third world and focussed on North America and Europe, so that is why these days Therion is quite big there.
Festivalphoto: There are a lot of bands now suddenly realising that there are a huge number of fans over there.
Snowy: Yeah but the world keeps changing and on the last European tour we were playing a lot of shows in Eastern Europe and that is a huge market growing there, so we've got to keep our minds open instead of just doing the normal routes.
Festivalphoto: What are your personal musical influences?
Snowy: Pretty much I'd say I'm very open minded about music but me and Christopher especially share a lot of influences like Abba for example, but also Uriah Heep and Manowar. I feel privileged to have been in Birmingham because of what I like - Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and all that you know, that's where we all come from, Heavy Metal, and a little bit of odd music, a wide range I should say.
Festivalphoto: Listening to you tonight on stage, you have a very impressive vocal range. Do you have to do exercises to keep your voice in good shape?
Snowy: Not really but I try not to smoke so much these days, and yeah that's about it. Just try to do my best really.
Festivalphoto: What's the best part of being in Therion for you?
Snowy: I would say we're a bunch of really good friends and we look after each other and have a good time. We all respect each other and have a good time. Christopher as a leader is very open for other people to contribute and he's open to anything as long as it turns out good in the end, which is quite unique I would say, and I've got to give him credit for that. I've been in tons of bands like King Diamond, Mercyful fate, Memento Mori and Dream Evil, all kinds of bands, and the leader isnt always that open minded to let you contribute so I've got to give him that, it's very good.
Festivalphoto: It was very noticeable watching your show tonight that whereas in most bands you have a single person who is the centre of attention for the entire show, you all take swap over and take turns to be at the front and get the attention.
Snowy: That is something, I don't know if I should take credit for it, but when I joined the band I said there's got to be some sort of choreography, you've got to have a production rehearsal, and they'd never heard about that before. If there are four singers, we cannot all compete for the spotlight at the front all the time, so when I finish singing I back off and its the female vocalists turn to sing and she's in the spotlight, then she finishes and she has to back off, so that's the way we've got to do it or its too messy. You've got to create it like a show, like a musical or something.
Festivalphoto: There are quite a lot of bands that just stand there and play, and its very boring visually, whereas other bands like yourselves move around a lot more and make it more interesting visually.
Snowy: That's the way I like it. There are lots of bands I dont want to name any names, but I think for example Megadeth is a very fantastic band when it comes to playing but it's so boring to watch, I'd rather see Marilyn Manson where they have everything pre-recorded, sorry I shouldn't say everything but he jumps around and you have a good time.
Festivalphoto: Thank you very much for your time.
Snowy: Thank you very much.