In the last twenty years, I have literally done hundreds of interviews with various bands. My conversation partner is usually a musician which I look up to and who’s work I appreciate. Such a conversation is almost always very pleasant and we’re rarely even just somewhat nervous beforehand. However, sometimes I get the chance to speak to someone I look up to so much and already from early in my youth, that I can’t avoid a sense of excitement. Tom Warrior, frontman of TRIPTYKON and the defunct HELLHAMMER / CELTIC FROST is such a person. There are really only a handful of bands which really made a big impact on me as a teenager. CELTIC FROST was one of those bands. I listened to albums like “Morbid Tales” (1984), "To Mega Therion" (1985) , “Into The Pandemonium” (1987) , "Cold Lake" (1988) and "Vanity / Nemesis" (1990) countless times and they still manage to find their way to my stereo almost every week. Within the last six months, I had the chance to do two separate interviews with Tom Warrior. Both interviews have previously been published in Dutch in the Belgian magazine Rock Tribune. The first interview was done when Tom was in the middle of the recording of the second TRIPTYKON album, “Melana Chasmata”. In this first interview, I wanted to try to get a glimpse of the person behind Thomas Gabriel Fisher and I think I really succeeded in that. We talked mainly about personal matters which had an important role in Tom’s life. In the second interview, I picked up where we left the last time and also talked in detail about the new TRIPTYKON album, “Melana Chasmata”.
PART I – DECEMBER 2013
In the books you have written about the history of HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST, you talk with much detail about how it was like to grow up in Nürensdorf, a small village near Zurich (Switzerland). As a teenager, you were very interested in history and religion. What made those subjects so interesting for you?
"For me, history and religion was mainly a way to escape reality. I had a relatively normal childhood until I was six years old and my parents got divorced. That was something that was very unusual for that time. Since then, everything went wrong. In the years that followed, my mother sank deeper and deeper into a deficient mental state. It was a period where she was completely absorbed and obsessed by her own things. She only focussed on herself and the things she did and she simply ignored and forgot all the rest around her. That made my childhood very difficult. I was a small child and there was simply no one to help me. I was at the mercy of a mother who often suffered from delusions. And any way to escape from that was good. Music and reading were an ideal sanctuary to escape from my mother. I read just anything I could get my hands on. Especially history and reports of discoveries and explorations fascinated me. Seeing what happened to mankind earlier and what people are capable of, that interested me."
Your mother was a diamond smuggler. What did she do exactly?
"A friend of hers was a smuggler and he asked her if she was interested to do the same thing. He thought it was a lucrative business and an easy way to earn some money. In the early seventies, my mother worked together with a group of smugglers operating from Zurich. The conditions to take jewels across the border were very different from today. The Swiss watch industry regularly appealed to smugglers to take special and expensive watches across the border to all the corners of the world. That group of smugglers was led by a Jewish couple. They operated from the basement of a house in Zurich. As a child, I have been there many times. I saw how they forged passports. My mother also had a special coat. Inside the coat, there were dozens of small pockets where she hid watches and diamonds. It was a very dangerous profession because they often had to travel to South American countries. The sentence for smuggling was still very high. When I was seven or eight years old, I often stayed at home alone for three weeks in a row, not even knowing if my mother would return or not. That scenario has went on for years."
Growing up like that would be impossible nowadays, wouldn't it? I mean, an organization such as child protection would surely intervene immediately.
"I hope so. There were only about five hundred thousand inhabitants in the town where I grew up, it was very small. And everyone was aware of the conditions in which I had to live. But nobody did anything. On the contrary, they acted as if I did not exist. Their children teased me and beat me literally every day when I went home. They were always in a group, waiting, because they knew I was an easy victim. My mother was never there, my father neither and I had no brothers to defend me. Instead of helping me, I only had to endure more and more. My situation at home was even more drastic. My mother was obsessed with cats. At one point, she literally held more than ninety cats in the apartment where we lived. When she was gone for three weeks, I had to take care of these animals. For a small child, something like that is completely overwhelming. The hygienic conditions in which I had to live were terrible. Everywhere in the house there were excrements. It smelled like cat pee, cockroaches crawled around and I saw the most filthy things. No matter how often I washed my clothes, they kept smelling like cat pee. That was the environment in which I grew up."
When you were older, have you never talked to your mother about the conditions in which you had to live when you were younger?
"My mother has never apologized to me, admitted that these things have happened or told me that she was totally wrong. In 1995, I broke all my ties with my mother. All my hate and anger always bounced on a wall of complete indifference. She never even attempted to make a step in my direction, so I thought it was better to have no contact anymore whatsoever. Therefore, I haven’t seen or talked to her for almost twenty years. I have no idea how she looks like now, where she lives or what she does. I don’t even know if she's still alive. Since I don’t have any contact with her anymore, I have become a much calmer person."
Couldn’t your father help you?
"As a child, I never saw my father. My mother also always painted a very bad picture of him, she was truly a master in negative propaganda. If I ever saw my father, I was always getting a very bad feeling because my mother had completely indoctrinated me. I really got to know my father in the early nineties when I was already an adult. There was a vacant apartment in the building where he lived. He asked me if I was perhaps interested to come over and live there, so that we could get to know each other better. And that was a very good decision. It turned out that we thought the same about many things. We became very good friends until the moment he died. My father used to be a motorcycle racer. At one time, he even was the champion of Switzerland, he often participated in international competitions. And although he was not one of the top racers internationally in the sixties and seventies, he raced constantly. Later on in his life, he focussed on contests with old timers, he was very passionate about that. When he left that world behind, he and a friend started a racing magazine. He worked on that until he passed away.”
If the environment where you grew up has been so traumatizing, wouldn’t it be better for your own peace of mind, to live in another city or another country?
"I have lived in America for a while. And at the time of the band APOLLYON SUN, I had an apartment in London where I often stayed. And if I record an album, I sometimes stay for half a year in Germany. When we recorded the album “Into The Pandemonium” with CELTIC FROST, that was also the case. During my last relationship, I often thought about moving back to Germany. But that relationship ultimately stranded, and after that I returned to Zurich. I am fifty years old now and I must say that I feel more and more at home here. At this time, I definitely do not feel the desire to live anywhere else. I travel constantly and I see a lot of the world. But I just know Zurich, inside and outside, and I belong here somehow. I am also convinced that I can only write music here. I've tried other places and that just does not work."
You grew up with the first NWOBHM singles. At that time, NWOBHM was quite extreme music and even revolutionary. Do you think that the element of revolution is still present in the Metal scene of today?
"It’s been lost quite a bit, I think, unfortunately. I don’t see anything revolutionary in Metal anymore. There have been various periods in the history of heavy music which have been groundbreaking. You may like it or not and you can think of it whatever you want, but Grunge music transformed the scene completely in the early nineties. I have the impression that everything is nowadays just an endless repeat. You just mentioned NWOBHM, but I also listened to a lot of other bands, including a lot of bands from the Benelux such as CROSSFIRE, IMPACT or PICTURE for example. I was very interested in all the bands that started everywhere. France and Germany also had a lot of good bands at that time."
As a teenager, you wrote an enormous amount of letters and you checked every magazine you get your hands on, looking for information about music and Metal bands. Would you say that this ‘searching’ made that period interesting for you?
"Oh, definitely! I'm pretty sure that the negative conditions from my youth only made me put more energy in the things that I liked and the things that I thought that would help me in finding myself. And one of those things was music. I was very drastic in that. I was more fanatical than anyone else I know. I think that, in the end, I managed to have a career in music, just because I was so determined. That part of my childhood was very exciting, no doubt. I thought it was great to be with others who were into the same music as I was. You can not compare it to the scene of today, you must have experienced it to understand that. There was no internet, like-minded Metal fans were not just a click away. I was already excited when I got a few new addresses to write to or when I got a photocopied fanzine in my hands. When you wrote a letter, you often had to wait weeks or months to get an answer. Everything was completely underground which made it even more interesting and exciting for me. It was as if there was a secret network where I slowly but steady started to be a part of. It was a time when pioneering work has been done. I thought that was great."
At that time, you took a course in school to become a mechanic, just like CELTIC FROST bassist Martin Ain. Two months before the end of your course, you quit in order to focus entirely on music. That shows an incredible determination.
"Certainly. I was so determined to become a musician that nothing could stand in my way. When I got the proposal from the German record label Noise Records to record an album with HELLHAMMER, I wanted to grab that opportunity with both hands. I was still not a good musician on a technical level. I still had a lot to learn and I was pretty sure that such an opportunity would not come back any time soon. Everyone I knew advised me not to do it and discouraged me. Education was obligate in Switzerland back then. In the end, someone from the Swiss state had to come by to negotiate with my parents and my school director. When they saw and realized that they could not stop me in any way and that my decision was final, there was nothing for them that they could do but to let me go. After that, my mother didn’t speak to me for several months because she was so disappointed in me."
In March 1984, you were with HELLHAMMER in Berlin to record the famous "Apocalyptic Raids" EP. When you came home, you quickly got the feeling that you already reached a dead end with HELLHAMMER and you started CELTIC FROST. In October 1984 – hardly six months later - you were back in Berlin to record the CELTIC FROST album "Morbid Tales”. You also already had the concept of both “To Mega Therion” and “Into The Pandemonium” down to the smallest detail, albums which you recorded much later. Such a complete musical turnaround and development in just half a year is just fascinating.
"Martin and I often talked about how we had to continue as a band at that time. It also seemed to me like a much longer period back then, but it was indeed only half a year. I was quite amazed by that myself, when I thought about it years later. If you are so intensely occupied with something at such a young age, you do not realize how fast time flies. I had a very clear vision with HELLHAMMER from the very beginning. When Martin joined the band, he shared that vision. The beginning of HELLHAMMER was of course very primitive, but we wanted to do something special with the band. When we recorded "Apocalyptic Raids", we did not know how we should continue. And we decided to start over with a clean slate."
From the very beginning, HELLHAMMER had a satanic image. The parents of Martin Ain were very catholic. Switzerland is also a very catholic country.
"Indeed. That was also one of the main reasons why HELLHAMMER flirted with that satanic image. HELLHAMMER was in the beginning a pure VENOM clone. And then Martin joined. His parents were so religious that the band - with Martin's approval – took a satanic direction. For Martin, HELLHAMMER definitely was a rebellion against his parents. He did the exact opposite of what his parents wanted. With HELLHAMMER, Martin created a whole new world where they could not hurt him."
Both Satan and God appear regularly in your music. Take for example the cover of "To Mega Therion" - the painting by the artist Giger entitled "Satan I" - or the song ‘Ground' in which you sing ‘Oh God, why have you forsaken me?'. Sometimes, it seems like you would want to believe in a higher entity. And at the same time, you realize that there is none.
'I think there is no God, but that's just my own opinion. You must realize that all those christian symbols and stories from the bible were pushed in my face almost constantly from the moment I was born. It's not my choice to be constantly confronted with religious fanatics. I still remember very well a moment when I was in the second grade. A teacher said that we were all christians and children of God. I had an immediate reaction like ‘No, I'm not.’. I am constantly confronted with the bible and Jesus hanging on the cross. If you travel to other parts of the world, you come in contact with other religions equally domineering. I've always had an urge to understand things. But if I don’t understand something, I do not compensate that void by filling it with a certain belief. If we are confronted with those christian symbols all the time, it is not more than legitimate that I approach those symbols in a critical, cynical or even sarcastic way.”
In that respect, I think the song 'The Prolonging' – which is almost a prayer - is very interesting.
"The song 'The Prolonging' is not really about religion. My songs have become more and more personal in recent years, much more personal than what I wrote in the eighties. 'The Prolonging' reflects my feelings when CELTIC FROST broke up and the reasons why the band broke up. It is my personal view on all the things that have happened then. I wrote the lyrics of that song in a forest in Norway, when I was in the studio with the band 1349. The location has probably also contributed to the fact why the lyrics have almost become a prayer."
I have rarely heard a song that so perfectly expresses the sense of disappointment as ‘Shatter’. If you sing ‘I don’t want to feel. I don’t want to see. I don’t want to love. I don’t want to live. I don’t wish to drown in the beauty of your eyes. I don’t wish to remember the warmth of your embrace.’, you can really feel the complete disillusion.
"You described that very well (laughs). I'm talking about absolute loneliness and sheer misery there. I tried to give love to a woman and get love in return and I failed miserably. That song is again a description of a personal situation. It might seem almost pathetic if you read those lines, but that desperate feeling really ate me up as a human being at that time. I had to deal with that in some way. And as a musician, those experiences quickly slip in your work."
Have you never considered to talk to a psychiatrist about all those things you're obviously still struggling with?
"I did that once, long ago. I visited a famous psychiatrist in Zurich, who was recommended to me by several people. After an intense conversation, he sent me home because he felt that I had no problems (laughs). Whether he was right, I’m going to leave that open, but that's what happened. I know I still have to learn how to cope with certain things. However, I have had the luck that I can get rid of a lot of aggression and negative feelings in my music. If I didn’t have that, I would have a serious problem."
Have you actually ever considered to end your own life?
"I do that all the time. I think about that very seriously and pretty often. I’m not just saying this, I really think about that regularly. I have several times been very close to committing suicide. I really don’t see the point of my existence on earth. I do not know why I'm still here. What gives me the courage to go on right now, is my current girlfriend. Last year, there was a time when I actually decided to put an end to my life. But my girlfriend managed to talk me out of it, I'm still here only through her. But I keep finding living to be very difficult. Every day, life is a fight for me. I look every day with growing disgust at the world. I understand human beings less and less. The pain and the harm that we - as humans - continuously do to each together, I can’t understand that. Everyone has a certain idea of how we should deal with each other and how we should live together. And yet, we ruin it again and again. And I’m not even talking about the way we interact with nature, which ultimately gives us life and that we're destroying constantly. I do not understand that. I'm not a person without any feelings. I'm a very emotional person and that makes it very difficult for me to live in this world. I struggle constantly, but at the moment, I'm still here."
Everyone seeks happiness in his or her life. Maybe you were the happiest at the time of the album "Cold Lake" (1988). CELTIC FROST had a lot of success back then and you just had a new contract with the major record company Epic in your pocket. And you were just married with your wife - Michelle Villanueva - who even accompanied you on tour in England. Your life was probably rather perfect back then. And at the same time, it seems like you always would love to ‘erase’ that period and that album.
"I was incredibly happy back then. But you can also see what an impact it had on my music. “Cold Lake” is definitely the low point of my creative career. I also make my best work when I'm about to scream out my despair and frustration. But you're right, I was personally really happy back then. Musically, however, I was completely lost. "Cold Lake" has nothing to do with what I had envisioned with CELTIC FROST. If I only speak as a musician, it is better for me if I don’t feel comfortable. Then, you have something to tell and true and deep emotions rise to the surface. As a musician, happiness makes you a little bit lazy, I think. But as a person, if you feel miserable, it really can be terrible."
At the time of HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST, you had a group of friends who did a lot for you. One of your friends gave you a new guitar as a gift for the recording of “Morbid Tales”. Someone else made special lighting effects for you.
"That's right. In the beginning of my career, there was a very small group of friends who really supported us. And it would have been very difficult to continue if they had not been there. They gave us money, put a lot of their time in the band and enabled us to make something of HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST. I still think often about that period. That group of friends was almost as important as the band itself. Nowadays, the situation is obviously quite different, since we have a crew now which we pay. But even in our crew, there are a lot of people I'm friends with. And their efforts go way further than they should. I'm always very impressed by that."
Do you think you’re a good friend for others?
"I hope so. However, there are not many people who I regard as a friend. I think the word ‘friend’ is used way too lightly and easily in today's society. But there are people I would give my life for, sure."
I ask you this because there’s an interesting part in your book ‘Are You Morbid?’. Back in 1985, you had an affair with Sandra – the girlfriend of Martin Ain – behind Martin’s back. Martin Ain was one of your best friends and someone who stood by your side. The two of you had already been through a lot together and at that time, Martin was also struggling to sort of find himself. True friends don’t do that to each other.
“(very quiet) You are absolutely right. And I have never felt more sorry about something I did in my entire life. I don’t think I have ever made a bigger mistake. It's something that I still intensely regret to this day and that I will carry with me until I die. The cheating was not just my decision – because Sandra was also a part of it - but the result was the same. I still find it incomprehensible how that could have happened. I was still very young and very naive, but that's no excuse. I have often talked about that very deeply with Martin later on. And that incident has always influenced our mutual creative relationship, even the way CELTIC FROST fell apart in 2008. Certain things would perhaps have turned out different if that had not happened earlier. All that happened almost thirty years ago, but I still can’t forget it."
Do you still see Martin sometimes?
"Not really, we both lead very different lives. He has several very successful clubs and bars in Zurich. And I’m almost constantly on tour or in the studio. CELTIC FROST was what connected us. And since that band no longer exists, there is no real connection anymore."
If we talk about distrust and betrayal, we can’t avoid to talk about the TRIPTYKON song 'A Thousand Lies'.
"Absolutely. Martin could have written that song about me in 1985 (laughs carefully). The text there is very precise. It is addressed to the person who I still consider as the one who’s responsible for the demise of CELTIC FROST. But I have left that period behind me in the meantime. I am happy with TRIPTYKON, our bond is much stronger than any bond I've ever had in CELTIC FROST. TRIPTYKON consists of a group of friends and that's something that I used to miss sometimes, back in the days of CELTIC FROST. We made great music together, but we were not really friends with each other."
One of your best friends is probably the artist Giger. You contacted him for the first time when you were twenty years. Giger - who was already very famous back then – made sure that you could use his art free of charge and believed in an almost completely unknown band, HELLHAMMER. That is quite remarkable, if you think about it.
"It's still a complete mystery to me why he had such confidence in us. I was very immature, naive and far from perfect at that time. And yet, he understood us and he wanted to help us… a young band that still had a long journey ahead. Everyone laughed at us and made fun of us back then, even in the Metal scene. Giger was one of the first who really believed in us and almost became a mentor. I have often talked about it with him and I am eternally grateful. Many people still see him as a sort of ‘devil in human form’, but that image could not be further from the truth. He is one of the nicest, smartest and funniest people I know. He doesn’t paint anymore, he has stopped doing so in 1992. I see him almost every week."
For “Into The Pandemonium”, you used a painting of Hieronymus Bosch. What attracts you in his work?
"I look at Bosch as the Giger of the middle ages. He was a pioneer and a big inspiration for Giger himself. With his work, Bosch was way ahead of his time. The details and the intensity of his work can not be expressed in words. I discovered Bosch as a teenager and even now - as an adult - I still discover new things when I look at his paintings. Unfortunately I have no artistic talent myself. When I work really hard, I can put something on paper in pencil, but that’s about it. A while ago, I made a serie of death masks of my own face. I certainly do not consider those masks as art, but they are a way to express myself. I started that as a kind of experiment. As a child, I had already done something similar and I was curious how such a mask would look like now."
You've written two books about your career with HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST. You also have a blog – “Delineation II” - where you write something on a regular basis. Not too long ago, you wrote about how a local bunker - which once served as a rehearsal space for HELLHAMMER and CELTIC FROST – was taken down. When you read your text, you could see it almost happen right before your eyes. When you can do something like that as a writer, that's impressive.
"Thank you for the compliment (laughs). I have come a very long way as a writer. On Delineation II, I describe things the way I see them. When I was younger, I hadn’t mastered English to the extent that I could express myself the way I wanted effortlessly. That was a very long process. I sometimes get quite some criticism, especially from America, where they tend to think that my style is too pompous sometimes. However, this is my way of writing and my own thing. When Reed St. Mark came over from the U.S. back in 1985 to play drums in CELTIC FROST, he really helped me and Martin a lot to get better. Our common language changed from one day to the other from German to English. All discussions and interviews were held since then in English and that helped tremendously. Reed also corrected us constantly."
You're working on a sequel to "Are You Morbid?” for already quite some time. How's that going?
"Good. I recently spoke with my publisher - Bazillion Points - and they would love to release the book. We have a very good relationship with each other. “Only Death Is Real” is one of their most successful books, it is currently being printed for the fourth time. The new book is going to look the same way, because I consider it to be the second part of the story. It is an expanded version of "Are You Morbid?" with tons of new photos and a lot more details, information and backgrounds. The original manuscript of "Are You Morbid?" was written in 1992. I'm a much better writer nowadays. I also have corrected and improved the texts where necessary. I hope to finish the manuscript of the new book somewhere in the course of this year. So, hopefully the book can be published by the end of 2014. There’s still a lot of work in terms of layout. But it’s going to be a fantastic book as I keep the photographs in mind that will be published."
PART II – MARCH 2014
I’ve been writing articles for over twenty years. And I don’t think I have ever received so many comments from readers on an interview as the interview I did with you two months ago.
"Is that good or bad?"
I think that’s a good thing. But a lot of people were quite surprised by the ‘darkness’ that has crept into the interview.
"My music has been pretty dark for thirty-five years. But it’s always been very real and honest."
Certainly. But if you compare the interviews which you gave in the eighties to your interviews since “Monotheist” (2006 ), it is remarkable that this dark side only surfaced in recent years.
"I was much younger in the eighties. I did not have the life experience back then that I do have now. I really lived the last thirty years. And you become more critical automatically in regard to the things that take place before your eyes. If you think about the things that are happening around you and if you do not stick your head in the sand, I think you can only get a dark image of the world. It seems simply impossible to me to avoid that."
In our previous interview, you talked about how deep your mental state was last year and how your girlfriend could convince you to continue your life. Is your girlfriend also a musician?
"No, although she plays guitar, but she doesn’t see herself as a musician. She also comes from a completely different background. And she finds all the things that happen in my life and that have to do with the band sometimes quite overwhelming. However, we are very open and honest with each other and that seems to work in one way or another. Now, I don’t play in IRON MAIDEN, I'm not constantly on the move for three years. It takes me very long to finish an album. And I do give concerts with TRIPTYKON. But it’s not an endless list of gigs, there is always a balance."
After our interview, I was wondering if you were maybe together with TRIPTYKON bassplayer Vanja. It would not be something illogical. You make music together and you tour together. You’re both vegetarians. You have the same values.
“Vanja and I share many interests, you are absolutely right about that. Vanja has been one of my best friends for many years. That's one of the reasons why I asked her in the first place when I started TRIPTYKON. Vanja used to play in a small and a local Swiss band. That band contacted me about ten years ago when I was working on “Monotheist”. They asked me if I perhaps wanted to produce their album. Vanja has previously played in the band FREITOD, but the band I'm talking about is the band before that. I don’t want to mention their name because they are just not worth that I give them even the slightest form of promotion. In the beginning, I was not against a possible collaboration and I attended several rehearsals of that band. But I soon found out that they had a lot of internal problems. And I also didn’t really like their music to be honest (laughs). But there was one bandmember who really stuck out above the rest of the band. That was Vanja. Vanja was the only woman in the band and the others were constantly giving her a hard time, just for that reason. So, in the end, I never worked together with them but I did notice Vanja. I think she’s a unique talent. And I already told her back then that we would make music together in the future. And all that came together in TRIPTYKON."
When I translate “Melana Chasmata”, I end up with something like 'black, deep depressions/valleys’. Apparently it was not an easy album to make.
"That's the least you can say. The musical difficulties had many different faces. This is my thirteenth album, I have the necessary experience. But the production of this album was nevertheless very difficult. For some reason we couldn’t get the drum sound as well as the guitar sound the way we had in mind. It was extremely frustrating. “Melana Chasmata” has taken much more from us than “Eparistera Daimones” (2010), despite the fact that we have worked in exactly the same studio and worked with the same instruments. At one point, it seemed as if this record had its own life and just did not want to be made. It went so far that we even remastered some songs after “Melana Chasmata” was actually already finished. I don’t mind if it’s a bit of a struggle when you make an album. It should be a bit of a fight. But this time, it was really exhausting sometimes."
You already said in a press release that "Melana Chasmata” was a real struggle both spiritually and emotionally. Those two emotions go hand in hand, don't they?
"Absolutely. In fact, the three of them go hand in hand... the spiritual, emotional and musical side. When I'm working on an album, I make no distinction there."
I have the impression that the feeling of despair dominates on “Melana Chasmata”, just like the previous EP “Shatter” (2010). In the song 'In The Sleep Of Death', you sing for example 'Emily, you were the blood in my veins. Why did you abandon me?’.
"I see that also that way. “Melana Chasmata” is a very gloomy and melancholic album. It is also a much more personal and intimate album than “Eparistera Daimones”. 'In The Sleep Of Death' is my personal homage to the English writer Emily Brontë. Her work has been really crucial for CELTIC FROST for quite a long period. I really admire her work, especially her poems. I had the idea to do something about her for a long time. And when Victor presented the music for this song, I immediately had the feeling that I could do something with it.”
At the same time, you also have typical songs which seem to be full of pure hatred. Just listen to 'Tree Of Suffocating Souls'.
"Good point. 'Tree Of Suffocating Souls' is indeed a sort of typical song for me in the meantime, where I can set my hatred for religion and the destruction which it caused and for which it is responsible free."
In our last interview, we talked about the circumstances in which you grew up. Do you still wonder sometimes how your life would have looked like if those circumstances had been different?
"Not really. I've left all that behind me, I'm good with that. Well, to be honest, not a day goes by where I don’t think about it or stand still and think about it, but it is now more a kind of memory from the past. I have often analyzed my life and it makes you automatically wonder how your life had looked like if certain things had been different. But I just made the best of it. I could have very easily become a criminal or a drug addict. And how I managed to escape from all that is sometimes even a mystery to me. I 'm lucky that I was able to ‘use’ those circumstances and bend them into a certain kind of creativity. Creativity has dominated my life for a long time. It was the only thing that made me truly happy."
It is remarkable that you just mention luck. I have recently read a psychology book about how people experience happiness. In this book, the author came to the conclusion that you can only be truly happy if you really mean something to other people. Do you agree with that?
"He certainly has a point there. But happiness is heavily overrated (laughs). How you experience happiness is something very personal. I think a lot of people interpret happiness in a very different way. In the past and in my case - and I don’t say this to be a martyr – happiness just wasn’t there. When I was young, I really longed for happiness. Today, it’s about the last thing on my mind. Happiness used to be very important to me. It was extremely difficult to find. And if I found it, it seemed impossible to hold it. Maybe you can not hold it. I think that it's legitimate to long for other emotions as well. There is no law that says you have to be happy constantly. The best work of writers and painters was fueled by periods in which they did not feel comfortable about themselves."
On one hand, I understand the writer’s theory. On the other hand, you often get really disappointed when you put your faith and trust in other people. Doesn’t this make life a little bit hopeless also?
"I am not like that. I don’t lay the hope of a better life in the hands of someone else. Because that actually comes down to the ‘rules’ imposed on us by religion. Put your life in the hands of someone else and all will be well. I do not believe that. I walk through life conscious enough to make my own decisions. Others may contribute to your personal happiness, certainly. But happiness is something very intimate and personal. And you can’t get it - at least to me – by putting your hope in someone else. You have to do it yourself."
Recently, a new and very good book about Black Metal has been published. It’s written by Dayal Patterson. In that book, there is a whole chapter devoted to you. You're saying in there that already your whole life, your attitude towards life has been too radical for others in a band. How do you see this in TRIPTYKON, your current band?
"That includes TRIPTYKON. Our guitarist Victor and our bassist Vanja already know me for a long time. My radical attitude is no surprise to them. We have talked very open about that. My attitude and the way I see certain things is often too radical for them as well and has already caused a lot of discussions. TRIPTYKON and my music also exists just because of my radical views. It's the only thing I have and what defines me. I'm no genius. But I did manage to make something of my life and fulfill my dreams through my radical way. I also noticed that, the older I get, I only get more aware, conscious and more radical."
You said in the beginning of this interview that you think that your music has always been honest. This honesty, do you miss that in the scene today?
"I just do what I do. I don’t care what others do, that’s their business. There are some bands I look up to and that I appreciate. I ignore the others."
You also talked about your negative view on humanity last time. “Melana Chasmata” is released this month. That includes a lot of promotion, interviews and interaction with others. Is such a period difficult for you?
"I'm a musician. I am therefore automatically exposed to lots of people all over the world. That’s not always easy for me, but that's just part you have to deal with. If you work at McDonald's, you also meet all kinds of people. But that job perhaps requires even more of a man (laughs). If I do promotion for a new record, at least I get to talk with people I have a common passion with. When I stand on a stage and play for hundreds or thousands of people, I'm at least standing in front of an audience who are - to a certain extent - on the same wavelength as I am. People who understand and who sometimes feel the same as you. That makes it easier."
Have you ever considered to turn TRIPTYKON into just a studio project?
"No. We also don’t play that often live, I think we have found a good balance there. There are several members in TRIPTYKON who are much more reluctant to human contact than me. However, we act like to play live and perform. With CELTIC FROST, we were often touring for several weeks in a row. We don’t do that with TRIPTYKON.”
One of the most intriguing songs from “Melana Chasmata” is 'Boleskine House’. The song refers to the property where Aleister Crowley stayed from 1899 to 1913. That house was built near Loch Ness (Scotland) and was formerly owned by LED ZEPPELIN guitarist Jimmy Page.
"I have been fascinated by the history of that house for more than thirty years. The fact that Crowley has purchased that property to perform his rituals always interested me. I started to listen to LED ZEPPELIN in the early seventies. Jimmy Page has – just as you said - bought that house back then, because he was very interested in the occult. When I was older, I started to read the books of Crowley. I'm not a satanist , I'm just very interested in the occult. From an intellectual view, I find Crowley's story very interesting, on a historical and psychological level. I have walked around with the idea for this song for a long time. The music dates even back to the time when CELTIC FROST was still around. It just took me quite some time until I found a format in which I could work out the song."
I have recently watched a BBC documentary about that house. And afterwards, I had the impression that Crowley is often misunderstood, because he has little to almost as good as nothing to do with satanism or black magic.
"I have the same impression. However, the more I read and get to know about Crowley, the less I know what I have to make of him exactly. Crowley is becoming more and more of a mystery to me. Sometimes, I think he was just the leader of a cult and that there is nothing occult or religious behind his ideas. However, his teachings remain very intriguing. We will probably never know for sure exactly what was going on inside him. That is frustrating somehow because I want to know more. And therefore, I dive again into his books, time after time. But like I said, the more I'm busy with it, the more questions come to the surface."
Have you ever visited that house?
"No, but I'd really like to do that. I've been walking around with that plan since I was a teenager. I have visited Scotland already quite a few times, but I was never near Loch Ness. However, I’ve understood that you are not welcome in that house when you are interested in Crowley. Therefore, I could only visit or see that house from the outside. Crowley is one of many subjects Martin Ain and I talked about in the early eighties. The title of the CELTIC FROST album "To Mega Therion" is also inspired by Crowley's work."
The song 'Aurorae' is my absolute favorite of the new record. It gradually builds up and has a certain FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM vibe to it, I think.
"That song also has a long history. I wrote 'Aurorae' in 2002. It was originally meant for “Monotheist”, but I did not finish it. But I did have a very good feeling about it and I always wanted to do something with it. When the debut of TRIPTYKON was released, I felt that I really just had to put my shoulders under it and finish it. I see it as a big compliment that 'Aurorae' reminds you of FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, I love that band. There's a sort of hypnotic atmosphere in the song that pleases me immensely, lyrically it is more of a philosophical nature. We will most likely record a video for it soon. I think ‘Aurorae’ is very suitable to do something special with it visually."
'Aurorae' is the phenomenon where you can see light in very distinct colours in the atmosphere. It is mainly observed in the polar region. Have you ever seen anything like it yourself?
"Yes, twice. Once in the early years of CELTIC FROST when we flew to the U.S. and also once a few years ago in Scandinavia. It was really fascinating for me to be able to see something like that with my own eyes. I've always had a soft spot for science and astronomy. I had never seen anything like that."
You have previously released 'Breathing' - one of the more up-tempo and furious songs - as a single. Why did you exactly choose that song?
"When we released “Eparistera Daimones”, the first songs which we presented to the audience were ‘Abyss Within My Soul’ and 'A Thousand Lies'. At that time, we wanted to present the opposite extremes of that album. And we have done that again with 'Breathing' and 'Boleskine House', the song on the B-side. I am very aware that 'Breathing' is not really representative of what TRIPTYKON sounds like. But we don’t want to be considered as a band that only has mid-tempo songs, that image is not correct. These two extremes on one single can therefore also be regarded as a statement. One of the albums of my youth that has made a very deep impression on me was "The White Album" by THE BEATLES. THE BEATLES were the most extreme band I had ever heard back then. In the year 2014, this sounds almost ridiculous, of course. But in the late sixties, there was not a single band that was so groundbreaking and extreme as they were. THE BEATLES had the courage to release a double album where each song was completely different. That's courageous. I somehow always tried to make my own “The White Album”. That is why my albums are so diverse."
Is it fair when I see the song ‘Black Snow’ as the successor of 'The Prolonging'. It runs over thirteen minutes and is really very epic.
"Musically, maybe. Lyrically, however, the song goes in a totally different direction. I started writing long and more epic songs when I recorded ‘Triumph Of Death’ with HELLHAMMER. Songs like 'Dawn Of Megiddo’ and ‘Synagoga Satanae' were the logical continuation of that. ‘Black Snow’ has a tradition that goes far back. I can really express myself that way. If it’s up to me, I'm going to do much more songs like that in the future."
“Melana Chasmata” is graced once more with the work of Giger. This time, you went for “Mordor VII” (1975) and "Landschaft XVI" (1972). Why did you exactly chose these two works?
"We had free hand in the complete works of Giger. And we all felt that those two paintings displayed the mood of the album perfectly. In the back of our minds, we are already working on the follow-up of “Melana Chasmata". That album will be completely different."
What did you actually think of the movie “Prometheus” (2012), the prequel of “Alien”?
"I have not watched that movie. I did that very consciously, because I'm pretty sure that I would only be disappointed, even though the film was directed by Ridley Scott. I’ve seen the original “Alien” in the cinema when the film was released in 1979. “Alien” is a masterpiece. But all the parts that followed were only disappointing. Giger thinks the same, by the way. There are only a few who actually know this, but I worked on the production of "Prometheus" together with Giger. But I never saw the end result. I never watch movies, I only watch documentaries. The older I get, the more I dislike movies and fiction. I stand with my feet in reality. The way a band like IRON MAIDEN is inspired by movies to write a song, I think that’s just cheap. I also don’t read novels. The only thing I read are pretty nerdy books about topics that almost nobody is interested in. The writers of these books often spend twenty years of their life on it, before they publish it. For example, I am now reading a book about the epidemics and plagues that have haunted several centuries and the impact that they had on the political and social life. I don’t think this is very popular literature (laughs)."
On the website of TRIPTYKON, you were talking recently about songs that didn’t make “Melana Chasmata”: 'Stasis', 'Gate To My Own Death', 'Gehinnam' and 'Unchristian Anthem’. Will these songs be on the EP which you are planning to release this year?
"No, those will be other songs. Some of the songs you just mentioned are not quite finished. Perhaps we will finish them and put them on the next album, but that is still not decided. We have a lot of songs that are in various stages of development."
There are two demos of CELTIC FROST – “Nemesis Of Power” (1993) and “Prototype” (2002) – which have been around on the internet. There are many songs on there which have never been officially released. If a record company would show interest to release those recordings, would you think about that?
"There are many more demos of CELTIC FROST. During the five and a half years that we have worked on “Monotheist”, we have made many demos. Sometimes, when I have guests over in my house, I let them hear them. And they are always very surprised because they simply can not imagine that we have ever recorded something like that with CELTIC FROST. Some songs are really very extreme because they are very far from what we regard as Heavy Metal. When we started again with CELTIC FROST in 2001, we set no limits. We were free to do and to be whatever we wanted. As the years passed, our music became darker due to various reasons. But there are many songs on the shelf, finished and not quite finished. When CELTIC FROST still existed, we had plans to release an album called “Monotheist Reflected”, an album of demos of songs which we recorded during the sessions for "Monotheist" and which were never released. That album was already in a pretty advanced stage. But it was put on ice when I left CELTIC FROST. And it will never be released. The former CELTIC FROST drummer (Franco Sesa - Steven) played drums on those recordings. And I don’t want him to even make a penny from it, when we would release that album. He is responsible for the demise of CELTIC FROST. And I 'm not going to reward him for that."
www.triptykon.net, www.facebook.com/triptykonofficial, http://fischerisdead.blogspot.be
All live pics were taken from the official TRIPTYKON website.
© Doctor Morbid, Rakel Erna Skarphéðinsdóttir, Jörg Müller, Thorsten Seiffert, Paul Verhagen, Axel Jusseit
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