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One for the road - Snowy White: “We hit the first chord and these big bangs went up and it knocked me over”

From explosive Thin Lizzy gigs to mystery backstage cheese with Roger Waters, Snowy White’s played them all...

What was the first gig you played and how did it go?

“My first ever gig was when I was about 15 on the Isle Of Wight where I used to live. My father was a member of a film club and they used to have an annual dinner, so he managed to get me and my band - a bass player, a drummer, another guitar player and singer - playing at this annual do. 

"We did a few songs that were probably fairly dire - I think we were all going through one amp - then this woman got up onstage and said, ‘Can you play Tequila?’ and, funnily enough, we could. We started playing it and she proceeded to strip all her clothes off... she was the stripper. So I’m playing away and thinking, ‘Ah, so this is the music business.’ Of course, it all went downhill from there.”

Describe your current stage rig...

I used a lot more gear when I toured with Roger Waters, but when I do my own stuff I keep it very simple

“It’s very simple: a Vox AC30, a [Boss BD-2] Blues Driver pedal and a little reverb pedal, some cables, and a guitar, which is a [Gibson] Goldtop Les Paul. It’s not the original one, I sold that guitar a few years back, but I’ve got one that’s pretty much exactly the same, really... only not as good. Obviously, I used a lot more gear when I toured with Roger Waters, but when I do my own stuff I keep it very simple. I’ve always had the one guitar straight into an amp, that’s all.”

What’s on your rider?

“When I do my shows, there’s nothing much on the rider; we just want some water and a few beers and maybe a bottle of red wine for Max [Middleton], the keyboard player. With Roger, there was a lot of stuff in the dressing room that we never really used - all these different cheeses and things - and one day I said, ‘Anyone here order all this cheese?’ and everyone went, ‘No...’ It turned out that some of the tech guys - guitar techs and so on - put it on so that after the show they can come to the dressing room, pick up all the stuff and have something to nibble at the hotel. You’ve got to watch those techies, they know all the tricks.”

What’s your best tip for getting the audience on your side?

“Be natural. That’s how it works for me - but I’m not a showman, you know? I can’t get up and jump about and entertain people in that way. So I have to be just natural and I think, eventually, it sort of wins the audience over. The thing is, when you come and see me you know what to expect, generally, so I can just go up there and be me. I don’t really have to win them over particularly, I just do my thing.”

What’s your best tip for getting a good live sound?

“That’s an awkward question, because it depends what sound you want. Some people love all the gadgets and they go through about 10 pedals, but, for me, the sound that comes out then is a bit too processed. A decent guitar, a decent amp and speakers... it’s a question that has many answers, depending on what you want to do on stage. 

"The venue can change it: some venues you turn the amp up and it sounds awful; you turn it down, it’s nice. There’s no trick to it. What I used to do is I’d get to the gig, fiddle with my amp and go, ‘That sounds okay,’ and that would be it, then I’d work the guitar’s controls, turn it up or down and get it to how I wanted it to sound.”

What’s the best venue you’ve played in and why?

“There’s a venue in Osnabrück [in north west Germany] called the Gaste Garage. The sound is fantastic and we get really well looked after. The audience comes and they sit quietly: the guy who runs it doesn’t allow anybody to use their mobile phones; he doesn’t let anyone who’s standing at the back-talk while the band’s playing; and he could fit quite a lot of people in there, but he always stops it before it’s too full because he wants everyone to be comfortable. A really good vibe.”

What’s the worst journey you’ve ever had either to or from a gig?

There’s a venue in Osnabrück [in north west Germany] called the Gaste Garage. The sound is fantastic and we get really well looked after

“Back in the 90s when I was touring around Europe a lot, somebody set up a tour for us and they didn’t really look at the routing. So we were in Berlin one night, the next night we were down near Dresden, and the next night we were in Bremerhaven on the north coast. Early the next morning we drove for about eight hours back up to the north of Germany. I remember that as being an awful journey.”

What’s the nearest you’ve come to a Spinal Tap moment on tour?

“With Thin Lizzy when we played our first gig in Sydney, Australia. When we came on stage, we used to hit the first chord and there’d be a couple of explosions each side of the stage, just to get people going. It was always done locally and so there was a local guy who’d set it up and he’d used much too much explosive, so we came out and hit the first chord and these big bangs went up and all the gear went down and it knocked me over.”

What’s your favourite live album?

“It would have to be BB King’s Blues Is King. When I was growing up, I was living on the Isle Of Wight - not the most exciting place - but I used to do this very exciting journey, which was to get on the train and go to London and go to all the record shops. I was just discovering blues back then and I could only afford two [records], so I’d spend hours choosing. 

"I bought the BB King one and something else, and when I played Blues Is King, it just knocked me out. Great guitar sound - he was really hot that night - and nice reverb on the guitar sometimes, which made me like that kind of sound. It stuck in my memory, that live album.”

Snowy White And The White Flames’ new album, The Situation, is available now via the Snow White label

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