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):

https://musictivity.org/2019/09/20/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 😛

My articles about these two cities:

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

Free Hanseatic City of Hamborg https://musictivity.org/2019/08/13/jessy-martens/

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?

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?

I 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?

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?

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’m always trying 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 realise 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