Andy Sneap interview

photo credit Rachel Lange

It’s an honor for me to chat with Andy Sneap. Despite his huge impact on sound of heavy & thrash metal music, he turned out to be friendly, unpretentious and sincere. Andy smiles from ear to ear with special joy because he loves his job as:


a renowned music producer (among others: Accept, Blaze, Saxon, Opeth,
Megadeth, Nevermore, Testament, Spiritual Beggars, Masterplan,
Cathedral, Machine Head)

– a guitarist (Sabbat, Hell, The Scintilla Project, now Judas Priest).

In
this period of time, Andy is performing on stage with my favourite
band Judas Priest, which I love since I’ve heard “Angel of
Retribution” (2005) as a kid.

Their
music have changed mine (and many others) entire life, actually it is
a first pure heavy metal act ever. Judas Priest stayed active through
the decades, released 18 varied and always innovative albums, played
countless awesome concerts and inspired not only heavy metal but also
other genres.

By
the way it’s worth to remember that band Exciter took its name from
opening Judas Priest’s song from “Stained Class” album (1978)
and then created extreme metal.

My interview with Exciter (sorry, I was allowed to give only this kind of questions which Exciter doesn’t receive from everybody else):

Exciter interview + tour

Nowadays, Judas Priest is still powerful. Their newest longplay “Firepower” (2018) is in my opinion the best since “Painkiller” (1990). They are giving spectacular shows and playing live both newest killers, evergreens and also some oldest songs for the first time since many many years.

Sadly,
original and beloved Judas Priest’s guitarist Glenn Tipton is not
able to play anymore due to Parkinson disease. No surrender, Glenn!
We, fans, support you all around the world. We are always ready to
make our best to help you whenever and with whatever you need to feel
better. Your name is carved in gold of music history and all next
generations will remember about your talent and legacy.

Andy Sneap is playing guitar during current Judas Priest concerts. I especially flew to Europe for holidays in August 2017 because I wanted to see Judas Priest in Dortmund, Germany. I live in Iceland so I took a plane first to Copenhagen, made use of this great opportunity to sightseeing the capital of Denmark, after three days moved with bus and ferry to Hamburg, stayed over there next few days and finally commuted with train to Dortmund 😛

Copenhagen https://musictivity.org/2019/08/30/opeth-the-vintage-caravan-copenhagen-17-11-2019/

I
remember full Westfalenhalle, enthusiastic public, out of this world
performance. Andy Sneap looked excited, smiled all the time, played
perfectly and apparently had a pleasure to observe public from scene
while staying next to Rob Halford, Ian Hill, Richie Faulkner and
Scott Travis. Honestly, I thought before this concert that Andy Sneap
is just a special guest whose role is to support Richie Faulkner on
the second guitar 😉 But my personal opinion after the show is that
Andy Sneap was a positive and important figure who adds a value to
the group. I enjoyed to see him as a part of Judas Priest.

I
hope that Judas Priest will make soon very awaited tour in Europe
together with the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. I wish Andy
Sneap to enjoy each moment of this tour!

I
asked Andy for the interview for Musictivity. I was not allowed to
give him questions about current situation in Judas Priest (he is not
an official member of the band) but in this case it is an amazing
opportunity to get know about many other cool things which happen in
his life.

If somebody ever thought what’s up with Andy Sneap while he is playing on scene with Judas Priest then here are his today’s opinions, dreams, memories, inspirations, remarks and hopes.

photo credit Andrew McGovern

Hello. How are you in 2019? What are you doing in 2019?

Andy Sneap: I’m ok, thank you. 2019? This year has been a pretty hectic one, as was last year. [Judas] Priest were meant to be out Feb/March with Ozzy which obviously got postponed so I ended up mixing the new Killswitch Engage record. We then did the 3rd leg of the Firepower tour in the US and I’ve just finished mixing the new Testament record. So I’ve been jumping between mixing and playing quite a lot, which is a bit of a challenge, the studio seems very quiet to come back to after 18 months on the road… Just a different pace, you sit there feeling shellshocked and jet lagged thinking what just happened…

Wow,
so Testament is going to release new studio album in January 2020 and
you are mixing this longplay. I afraid that whatever Testament will
release, it will never beat “The Legacy” \m/ But perhaps thats
not their intention?

Andy Sneap: don’t think you can really compare an album a band does now to something they did 30 years ago. People change, influences change, line ups change, technology changes etc. We always hold those albums close to our hearts because of where we are at in life too. [Iron] Maiden are a good example. People have different favourite albums depending on when they discovered them and actually its the same with Priest… Any band with a long career and a run of quality albums really.

How
would you compare upcoming Testament album with their other
longplays?

Andy Sneap: I think Testament have spent a bit more time writing on this record. It’s always hard to tell an opinion about music at this stage. I’ve heard the songs so many times that I don’t have a fan point of view at the moment. I need to distance myself from a record and revisit it in 6 months time.

Sure,
I get it. I’m impressed that you have worked with so many excellent
metal bands both as a guitarist, songwriter and as a record producer.
What do you love / appreciate mostly in metal music? Which values are
the most important for you when you decide to cooperate with
musicians?

Andy Sneap: I have to hear something that appeals to me, whether its melody or the heaviness or the guitar playing… something. It was the energy in rock and metal that won me over as a kid. Once I got into music I never looked back and it’s still the same. Playing and feeling that energy of everything locking together is amazing.

Could
I ask you one question about band which is less known? Are you still
an active member of The Scintilla Project with Biff Byford (Saxon) on
vocal? Or was it only a side fun which finished in moment when album
“The Hybrid” was finally released in 2014?

No,
not at all. That was an album Biff got me involved in just to mix and
I got roped into it a bit more than I expected. I didn’t mind but
I wouldn’t take any credit. I was just helping out playing some of
the parts that were already written and needed tracking properly.

As
far as I know, it was a soundtrack to sci-fi thriller “Scintilla”
/ “The Hybrid” by Billy O’Brien. Did you watch this film?

I
watched the film, thought it was ok, obviously done on a budget.
What’s interesting, I was working on this album with Biff where he
hadn’t written the vocal patterns so he was out of his comfort zone
a little. I thought it pushed him a bit, but he did well.

Did
you enjoy working with Byff Byford? What is he like as a person?

He
swears a lot, and I mean A LOT. Fooking this and fooking that. You
definitely know when Biffs is in the room. I like Biff, I’d call
him a good friend these days. He has his stubborn moments but then I
guess we all do. He’s very driven, quite brash, but there is a side
to him I’ve seen with his kids and people around him that is
actually very genuine. He’s a good guy and can still belt out a
tune so fair play.

David
Halliday was another influential artist in your surrounding. Is it
true that he was your first teacher? What good could you tell about
him?

Dave
was someone I really looked up to growing up. He was a great
inspiration as a guitar player and just as a band leader and person.
I often wonder what he would be doing now. I met him when I was 12
and he had a very good temperament and patience while teaching me how
to play. I was so absorbed in playing guitar and Hell (his band)
seemed so professional back then. Certainly the most pro band out of
the local scene by a long shot. So he made a big impression on me on
how to do things, music, bands and positivity in general.

Who
inspire you nowadays? Do you take inspiration from different
masterpieces not only related to great music?

I just do my thing. I always try to learn. I think you can learn from every situation you find yourself in. Its always fun talking with other producers, we all talk about gear and little tricks etc, so picking up techniques from other guys in the know is always interesting. It’s surprising after 25 years how much knowledge you have gained but don’t realize that until you talk to a class full of students who are just starting out. Then it becomes apparent.

From
which of written by you, songs / compositions / fragments are you
most proud of?

I
think the success of the first Sabbat album was cool and putting the
first Hell album together was an achievement. Obviously I didn’t
write any of that. I find it strange that Sabbat album is held in
such high regard knowing that we we’re just kids trying to find our
way musically but I guess that’s part of the freshness of it at the
time. I have good memories of recording that one. I also find it
amazing: we were only 15 – 18 when we started writing that stuff.

Congratulations
then. Could you tell me please what do you think about the idea to
combine music tours with sightseeing opportunities? Even if musicians
don’t have much spare time during tour, they still can check out
cultural heritage of visited place (at least to google it). It can be
inspiring, fun and add unique dimension to entire tour experience.

We
try and get out and about when possible, probably not as much as
you’d think but if we are in a main city and there’s something to
see we will try and organise something. I’ve had a few near death
experiences with Ian Hill in hire cars recently, but it’s alway
good to get out the hotel room. It’s easy to waste a day looking at
four walls with a guitar and cold pizza (haha). It is a luxury being
able to travel like we do so it’s best to try and see a few things.
Guitar shopping is always high on the list, especially in Japan.

What
is your favorite cultural activity during traveling?

We
don’t get quite that much spare time, it’s not like a holiday. To
be honest we keep ourselves to ourselves a lot of the time when it’s
a non show day so it can be quite boring and lonely walking around a
town on your own. If we travel after the show, it means we are
getting into the hotel at around 2am, so you tend to sleep in a bit
after that and before you know it the day off has disappeared.

Thank
you for this insight. As far as I know (google told me haha) you come
from Derbyshire, UK. It’s a county in the East Midlands, south east
of Manchester, with population around 1 million people. Is it a post
industrial area with forest (Peak District National Park) or do you
have much better opinion about Derbyshire?

Google is wonderful, isn’t it! Derbyshire is nice. I grew up here, moved to Nottingham in my early 20s and then worked in the US a lot and ended up putting the studio on the farm where I am now from the early 2000’s. There’s about 15 acres to the farm and a big electric gate. I’m dug in waiting for the zombie apocalypse. It’s like the UK version of Waco, I’ve got all my backline set up and no ones getting in without an invite (haha).

(haha)
What are your plans and desires for 2020?

I’m
chatting to a couple of well know bands about producing whether we
can make it happen with Priests touring schedule. I am mixing Saxon
in March and it looks like Priest is now starting in May but things
are still being penciled in at the moment.

I
didn’t get a permission to ask you about Judas Priest’s plans so
one more question about their older longplay. “Stained Class” is
my favourite Judas Priest album. How do you perceive the sound of
this particular longplay “Stained Class”?

It’s
one of my favourites too. For me this is the classic line up and the
band were really finding their feet. It really is such a killer
record. I think the production is pretty honest for the time, very
analogue and almost session like… not over done. I think it
compliments the songs for the time.

Thank you very much for the interview, Andy Sneap. 🙂

authors: Sam O’Black and Andy Sneap

photo credit: Rachel Lange

photo credit: Andrew McGovern