Irrespective of whether a group works on a musical level, that group also needs to work on a personal level. Should personalities clash, then more often or not tensions reach crescendo levels, resulting in an untimely split. This was the case for Celtic Frost during the noughties, whose sole full-length during that decade was 2006's "Monotheist". Sadly, this is their last for the foreseeable future. Time marches on though, and so mainman Tom G. Warrior formed a new group in Triptykon, a group which seems to work at a quicker pace than latter day Celtic Frost.
Courtesy of a licensing agreement with Century Media Records, Triptykon's debut full-length "Eparistera Daimones
" was issued on March 22nd, 2010 through Prowling Death Records Ltd., its Japanese release arriving on April 21st through Victor Entertainment Japan. Produced by Triptykon mainman Thomas Gabriel
and guitarist V. Santura
, the album was recorded in V. Santura's own Woodshed Studio in southern Germany during the latter half of 2009. Mastering, meanwhile, was handled by Walter Schmid
at Oakland Recording in Winterthur, Switzerland. H. R. Giger's "Vlad Tepes
" is the record's cover illustration, with Vincent Castiglia providing group illustrations elsewhere.
Featuring three unreleased studio cuts from the album's sessions as well as two live tracks recorded during Triptykon's headline performance at the Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands on April 16th, the EP 'Shatter' saw the light of day on October 25th in Europe, and then a day later in North America. Directed and filmed by Philipp Hirsch of Film-M in Leipzig, Germany in late September, the music video for "Shatter" was based on a concept devised by Tom G. Warrior. Triptykon's current lineup consists of: Thomas Gabriel Fischer (vocals, guitars and programming), V. Santura (guitar and vocals), Norman Lonhard (drums and percussion), and Vanja Slajh (bass).
On November 19th at 20:00 GMT following line issues weeks earlier, Triptykon mainman Tom G. Warrior telephoned Hit The Lights' Robert Gray to discuss the group's career thus far.
Tom G. Warrior: Hello - this is Tom.
How are you Tom?
Good evening Robert. Yes, I'm very good. How are you?
I'm doing well.
I hope we can finally conduct this interview.
(Laughs) Me too. The connection was really bad last time, wasn't it?
Yeah. It's been a very long time coming, and I'm very, very happy that we can finally talk. I hope this time it's gonna work out.
Me too - the connection seems better. Would it be alright if we began the interview?
Could you talk me through how Triptykon originally came together, and how you approached assembling its lineup?
As you might know, Celtic Frost was much more than just a band to me; Celtic Frost was synonymous with my life, and my life was synonymous with Celtic Frost. I was the main songwriter for a quarter of a century in Celtic Frost, and the band was extremely important to me. Accordingly, it was extremely difficult to see the band being destroyed from inside. There were a lot of personal problems and a lot of ego problems within the band for the last two years of Celtic Frost's existence, and I tried whatever I could to solve these problems. There were numerous discussions and numerous meetings which unfortunately did not result in a band that was rejuvenated. We ended up talking in circles and the situation was never really resolved, so eventually, I got so frustrated because we spent all our energy on that instead of writing music like we should. I became so frustrated that the only solution I saw was to leave my own band and form a new one, and in doing so, hopefully avoid these problems. When I left Celtic Frost in April of 2008, I was of course extremely careful in assembling a new band. To me, the human level was much more important than anything else, than the technical proficiency of my new musicians or anything like that. I first and foremost wanted to make sure I was playing with friends and not with backstabbers and liars, so I did approach friends; I approached V. Santura, who had been the live guitarist and had become a close friend of mine during Celtic Frost's existence - I wanted him to be the lead guitarist. I approached Vanja Slajh, who's basically my best friend here in Zurich, Switzerland where I live, to be the bassist of Triptykon. Vanja and I wanted to play in a project together for quite a long time, and this was finally the opportunity. The only person who hadn't been a friend to begin with was Norman the drummer, who was a recommendation by my management. Of course my manager, she's known me for twenty-nine years or so and knew exactly what I was looking for - her suggestion was spot on. It turned out that Norman wasn't only a fantastic drummer, but also an extremely pleasant personality. In the meantime, during Triptykon's three years of existence almost, he has become a very close friend of mine as well.
What were the problems within Celtic Frost? You mentioned "backstabbers and liars" as well as problems within, though why did you feel the need to leave Celtic Frost?
"There were a lot of personal problems and a lot of ego problems within the band for the last two years of Celtic Frost's existence."
As I said earlier, I always looked at Celtic Frost as being far more than a band. There was an attempt to go towards artistic paths that had not been used by others; we always tried to do something really special, something different. Maybe we didn't always accomplish that, but we tried very hard to be original and to do something different, and not just repeat what has been done a million times before. When it came to the human side however, it was very sobering to discover that we were just as human as everybody else. All the idealism seemed to vanish when it came down to the human level, and as is often the case, the newest and most inexperienced member proved to be the most difficult member. When we had reformed Celtic Frost in the early noughties, we needed a new drummer, and we found a completely unknown drummer in Switzerland. He was a friend of Celtic Frost's bassist Martin Ain, and Martin lobbied very hard to have him in the band.
I had a very bad gut feeling right from the beginning because of some of the things that took place during the first few weeks of his membership in Celtic Frost, but Martin would not have any of that. Martin insisted that this guy would be our drummer, and as it turned out, he toured the world on the strength of my music and on the strength of twenty-five years worth of previous work with Celtic Frost, and yet he acted as if he was the reason why we could do this. He acted like he had created all of that, like he had done all of this work for the past quarter of a century. He was the newest and most inexperienced member, and yet he had the biggest ego trip of anybody in the band. Franco ran amok, and there's really no other way of describing it. It's very difficult to describe to begin with; I'm describing something here in a few sentences that took place over five and a half years, and that was a very complex mechanism. In short, his ego destroyed everything; it served to destroy the human relations in the band, it served to create intrigue, and it served to create lies. To me personally at least, that's not an environment in which I can be creative.
Is Triptykon's March 2010 full-length debut 'Eparistera Daimones' what the next Celtic Frost album would've sounded like if things hadn't come to an end?
Of course, Triptykon is its own band. It's not a dictatorship of mine, and I'm very keen to involve the other people because they're very talented and very unique people. I would like to combine their ideas with mine, which is one side of things. The other side is that I was the main songwriter for all of Celtic Frost's existence, and am now the main songwriter in Triptykon, so there are of course huge parallels - many parallels - between the bands as far as creativity and sound are concerned. The problems in Celtic Frost were not of a musical or creative nature, but were entirely of a human nature. I felt very happy musically and creatively in Celtic Frost, and so of course I want to continue this path in Triptykon. As I said in the beginning though, Triptykon isn't a band that only consists of me, and it isn't a dictatorship of mine. I'm extremely happy to have very competent musicians with me in Triptykon, so one could say it is probably a new project that is built very strongly on Celtic Frost's musical foundations.
Would you say that 'Eparistera Daimones' is "darker, heavier and more experimental" than 2006's 'Monotheist'?
The last Celtic Frost album was probably the heaviest and darkest Celtic Frost had ever done, but having said that, I do think we are even a notch darker and heavier in Triptykon and I actually like that very much. All of my life there've been periods where I've been looking for even heavier music. For example, when I formed Hellhammer - that was such a moment. Now I've formed Triptykon, and maybe that's because of what happened in Celtic Frost. I find myself drawn immensely towards even greater darkness than we created in Celtic Frost, and I feel very at home in that kind of music. I'm very happy that Triptykon is pursuing that path; it feels very natural, and doesn't feel contrived at all. It feels very much like me, and for the foreseeable future, I would very much like to explore that path further with Triptykon on our next few albums.
Is that "darker" path also reflected in Triptykon's lyrical content?
Very much so, of course. To me, the lyrics have always been a very personal issue. The lyrics are not contrived either, and I don't like to write abstract lyrics. I have lived a life; I'm forty-seven years old, so I no longer have to resort towards fantasy or things like that like I did when I was a teenager. I have now lived enough of a life to be able to draw on my personal experiences, the content of my own life. In writing my lyrics, there are plenty of radical emotions in my life which I can harvest because there is sometimes a lot of darkness or a lot of many radical events taking place. It is almost easy to write lyrics that fit this darkness, the music's darkness.
What are some of these "personal experiences" you lyrically speak about on 'Eparistera Daimones'?
There are a number of things that have haunted my life over the last few years. In a way, it's probably necessary to disclose those for people who are curious about why my music sounds the way it does and why the lyrics are the way they are. On the other hand though, I feel it's kind of inappropriate. I'm in the hard rock and heavy metal scene, but in the commercial scene, in the pop music scene, it is a daily occurrence that artists promote their albums with tabloid material. If you look at Lady Gaga or Britney Spears and all these people, that's the way they promote their albums. The more scandalous, the more personal and the more tabloid, the better the album is promoted. I'm hesitant to do this; I'm a heavy metal musician, and I do have my issues in my life and there's plenty of darkness in my life, and not invited. It just so happens though that there's a certain line I'd like to draw. I'm already very open in my books, and I don't think if you're in heavy metal it's appropriate to divulge everything. I regard heavy metal as much more classful music than pop music or hip-hop music. I'm very content to stay away from tabloid material, so let's leave it at that.
You prefer your music to speak for itself?
"It is almost easy to write lyrics that fit this darkness, the music's darkness."
The music is very open. It's perfectly legitimate to simply listen to Triptykon and headbang, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's a lot of moments in my life where I listen to music just to enjoy it, but if somebody's drawn to the deeper meaning or to the background then I think you will find plenty of pointers both in the music itself, and of course in the lyrics. If you're really interested, there's also the liner notes; every Triptykon release, the album and the EP, have very detailed liner notes about the songs which are not mandatory to read, but if you're interested in some of the background stories at least - at least hints of the background stories - you'll find them. It's basically up to each individual listener how they want to approach music, and what the music does for them. There's so many levels of how you can consume such music. I think they're all legitimate.
H. R. Giger handled the artwork design for 'Eparistera Daimones'. Why did you approach him almost twenty-five years after he handled the artwork design for Celtic Frost's second album 'To Mega Therion' (October 1985), and what was it like to work with him again?
To me, he's a genius. He's simply a genius, and it's as prophetic and simple as that. There's not much more to it. I've been deeply drawn to his work ever since I was a child in the late seventies, and my appreciation for his work has only grown in the past decades. I actually looked at his newest book that's gonna be published in December - I looked at the proof of print today at his house. I've seen his artwork a million times in my life, but every time I look at it like today, I find myself sitting there in awe like I'm looking at it for the first time. Every time I look at it, it is apparent to me that he really is a genius whereas I'm just a worker. I don't consider myself an artist; I simply work, but he is a true artist. He's a true genius, and how can you not be drawn to his work? Especially if you play dark music. I think his artwork and the music we play in the heavy metal scene are perfect matches.
How would you describe the H.R. Giger artwork 'Vlad Tepes', which features on the front cover of 'Eparistera Daimones'?
To me personally, the main hallmark of his artwork is that it's evil and dark and yet at the same time, it's always aesthetic and beautiful. In heavy metal, there are a million efforts to make evil and drastic album sleeves. Most of the time, they end up kind of ham-fisted, sometimes even embarrassing, because evil and shock effect has been done to death. Not everybody's talented in doing this, and some bands resort to just really cheap measures to achieve shock effect. You then have somebody like H.R. Giger who represents darkness and nightmarish visions as well with such beauty, with such aesthetics and with such an eye for art that it's astonishing. He's head and shoulders above everybody else, and that's what has fascinated me. That's also why I selected 'Vlad Tepes' to be the painting we used for this cover. Using the word "nightmare", Giger's paintings have all resulted from his nightmares. All his famous paintings are basically images that he has seen in dreams, and that to me makes them very authentic.
How would you compare the three studio tracks present on the 'Shatter' EP to the material on 'Eparistera Daimones'?
To me, they're one and the same. We recorded all of these tracks during the same sessions. It was extremely difficult to select what was gonna be on the album and what was gonna be on the EP because these tracks were all created for the same body of work for the same band during the same time period. To me, they're very organic amongst each other. We simply had to draw a line because the playing time of the album was already very long, and we couldn't go any further. We made the very difficult selection of what to put on 'Eparistera Daimones', and the record company also had some input in terms of what to put on the album. To me personally though, the EP and the album are very much products that go together. They're very much a part of one session, and all of these tracks represent Triptykon. If anything, they represent the complete picture of the band at this moment in time.
Would you say there are any differences between the version of "Crucifixus" which features on the 'Shatter' EP to the one which Triptykon uploaded online to MySpace in 2008?
The upload to MySpace, which was the first track to be heard of Triptykon's, was a demo. We took the track to the studio, and mixed it professionally. Since "Crucifixus" is an electronic track though, the differences are minimal. "Crucifixus"' album version is just done in a slightly better sound quality, and it was mastered on a very professional level by a Swiss mastering engineer named Walter Schmid, who had already worked with Celtic Frost in the past. By and large though, it's the same song in a way.
Triptykon filmed a music video for "Shatter", directed by Philipp Hirsch.
Yeah. We had been working for months on the ideas for the "Shatter" video, and it was a very drawn out process that drove me insane because I had a very particular vision. Again, I didn't want to follow paths that had been done already. I wanted to do a video that is slightly different, and didn't want to just have a video where we stand in an empty factory all headbanging like ninety-nine percent of all bands out there. I wanted to do something that has high visual impact which displays the band's heaviness and darkness, but in a different manner. Once we had the concept developed, it was very difficult to find a director who shared that vision who didn't just want to go for the cliches. Some of the proposals I received from directors when I sent them my script proposals were just ludicrous. It was difficult to find somebody with an open mind, but we were extremely fortunate to get in contact with Philipp Hirsch who resides in Leipzig, Germany. He is a person with great talent and with an amazing vision, and I'm extremely happy with the result. The video was supposed to emulate the expressionism of 1920s Germany, the Germany right after the First World War when the artistic scene was blossoming in Berlin for example, and all kinds of artistic works were created. I've been deeply drawn to that period of history and I wanted to touch upon that with the video, and Phillip did the perfect job in making this a reality.
Is the visual element a very important part of your work?
It's an extremely important part. One of the reasons why I've always been drawn to rock music was because it supplies you with this additional platform to express yourself. On the one hand, you have the music which is an amazing tool to express your feelings and emotions with. In rock music, you're given the visual side which is also limitless if you actually choose to embrace it. I know it's not important to many bands, but to me it's extremely important. To me, the music and the visual side compliment each other and without one of these two elements, Triptykon would not be complete. I think it's extremely important.
Were there any specific aspects of 1920s Germany which influenced Triptykon?
My interest in that period of time has been prevalent for many, many years, so I didn't focus on any one aspect in particular. I think it's an extremely fascinating time period as whole, and I didn't try to emulate one particular person. For example, I'm deeply drawn towards the graphic design created during the 1920s in Germany. I'm drawn towards the way they applied light and shadow in the silent movies of that time, and I'm drawn to the expressionist painting that was done in that scene. There's so many levels to that, and my interest has been drawn to that for so many years that it's difficult to pinpoint any individual influence. It's simply a time period that unfortunately got lost when a few years later the National Socialists came into power, and then that's when the entire attention of the world focused on Germany. During the years before that, when Germany tried to find democracy after the terrible First World War and when all the doors were opened for the artists, to me that's even a far more interesting period of time.
Are there plans in the works for a second Triptykon full-length?
I've been working on the second album for months now. I basically started working on it once we left the studio after our debut album. I'm inundated with ideas; I have a million ideas, and I'm working on quite a number of lyrics and musical pieces. I have no idea what's gonna end up on the album. As I see it right now, the album's gonna be following mainly two avenues; one of them is a very epic kind of music, a very atmospheric, epic kind of direction, and the other avenue is very primitive, very heavy, almost Hellhammer-like short and primitive songs. It remains to be seen how well these two avenues will mix, and what kind of balance will be on the album.
At what stage of development is Triptykon's second album?
It's at a stage where everybody writes music at their individual homes. We have not practised new songs as a band yet, but I'm actually quite far in determining the concepts and my contributions to the album. I have a very, very clear picture of what the album will sound like, and I have a very clear picture of my contributions to it. We know where we're gonna record it, and we know how we're gonna produce it and so on. We have not taken the songs to the rehearsal room though. I think that'll still take a few months. I'd like to have enough material to start rehearsals in earnest, so that will still probably take until next year.
Can we expect a new Triptykon album to be released in late 2011?
"Triptykon is not a dictatorship of mine, and I'm very keen to involve the other people because they're very talented and very unique people."
I would like that, but realistically, we're probably gonna talk about releasing the album in early 2012 exactly two years after our debut album. We're gonna play a lot of concerts in 2011 and we are planning to go into the studio in the summer or the fall, so I don't think the album will be released before the end of 2011 unfortunately, even though that's basically what I would like. I don't want to spend endless time in the studio; I would like to work very quickly and have another album out very soon, but it's probably simply not gonna be possible. We're trying to play as many concerts as possible in 2011 as well.
What was the experience of writing 'Only Death Is Real' like?
It was a very personal experience, a very important experience. It was an experience that was overdue in my life, to come to terms with certain parts of my youth, mostly the personal aspects of Hellhammer. Not the musical aspects, but mostly the personal aspects, and things that the fans were able to look at in a much more neutral manner but to me were very personal. It was high time that I addressed these issues for myself. The book process was a very personal, very philosophical affair for me. I'm very happy I created this book. Everybody actually who was in Hellhammer felt pretty much the same way for their own individual reasons; we all had our own issues with Hellhammer on one level or another, and the booked helped us all to re-evaluate and come to terms with our past. We took the book very seriously. I worked on the book for five years - I didn't want it to just be a thrown-together project for money. The book was much more personal to me, and that's why I worked on it for such a long time. I wanted it to be just right, and I'm very happy with the result. I'm very proud of it.
Looking back, what are your thoughts on Hellhammer?
At this point in my life, I can say I'm very happy I was a part of Hellhammer. I'm very proud. I'm able to separate the circumstances of my childhood and my youth; of course I'm closely connected to the existence of Hellhammer, but I'm able now to separate that and look at the music and the accomplishments of Hellhammer, and feel very proud of them. I know that certain parts of my youth are still very difficult for me to address, but I know that abstractly the music of Hellhammer is one thing and my personal life is another. I can look at Hellhammer in a much more relaxed manner now, and actually enjoy the music we created. As primitive as the music was and as limited as it was, it expresses a certain heaviness and darkness that actually existed in our lives. I'm very happy that we found each other at the time, and we created that music. It was, after all, a very special time, and I would have never gone the path in my life that I did without Hellhammer. Everything I did later in Celtic Frost and now in Triptykon is of course based on Hellhammer, and it's very good to have come to terms with all of that.
Finally, what do you feel the future will hold for Triptykon?
Triptykon to me is basically almost like a bonus track. I've been blessed with a lot of quite amazing occurrences in my life, having been a part of Hellhammer and having been a part of Celtic Frost. I did not think that I would ever have the chance to be in yet another tremendous band, and yet that is exactly what has happened. I'm just humbled and I'm very grateful. I'm not a greedy person; I am very modest, so I'm looking forward to the future with modesty. I'm gonna try to record more albums. I'm gonna do my very best to make very high quality albums, but my expectations? I don't have expectations, and I don't have any ambitions. I've done so much in my life already that has made me very happy, and has gone much further than anything I would have ever expected that it would be preposterous to have expectations now. Triptykon should simply exist to create good music for as long as we all are alive, and that's basically what we're doing.
Do you have a message for the fans of your work?
Based on what I just said, yes, I would like to thank them very, very much for making this path possible. As I've said many times before, I'm very aware of who has made this possible. I'm very aware of why I'm here, and that's because fans have given me a chance. My fans have been loyal and have travelled this path with me, and they have listened to my music and come to my concerts. I don't take this for granted at all, so if I have any last words then it's simply thank you to the people who have followed me.
Thanks for the interview Tom.
Thank you very much Robert, and thank you for your patience. I'm very glad that we finally got to talk properly.
And me as well. Hopefully we can talk again when Triptykon has its second album released.
Very much so. I very much hope we'll see Triptykon in the United Kingdom in 2011 more than once, and it would be an honour to meet you in person. We've been there many times with Celtic Frost, and I'd very much like to come back there.
Have a good evening anyway Tom.
Alright. Thanks a lot.
Interview by Robert Gray
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