Are You Morbid? - Interview With Tom G. Warrior & Martin Eric Ain.
Celtic Frost are a band who have been around since the early 80's starting out as Hellhammer who recorded 1 mini CD. This Swiss metal act have influenced so many Black and Doom Metal acts that i dare to mention, as well as Death & Thrash Metal acts too. You can certainly ask the likes of Pantera, Marilyn Manson, Nirvana, Emperor, and even Cradle Of Filth just how far Celtic Frost have influenced their music. Starting out with the bands debut album 'Morbid Tales' back in 84 which was released on Noise Records. The band had a steady relationship with Noise Records for a number years up until 1992 when the band released 'Parched With Thirst I Am...'. One album that Tom disowns has to be 'Cold Lake', something that he seems to not comment on if asked, well maybe a few words but that's about it. Now the time is right for Celtic Frost to return with their current album titled 'Monotheist', which is released on Century Media. I managed to have a chat with Tom & Martin when they played the UK with Kreator, here is what they had to say.
OK, first of all I'd like to thank you for taking you're time out and doing this interview for my webzine. Lets start by asking you Tom, did you have any musical influences when you started out been a guitar player and singer, what I mean is do you have any member of you're family who were also musicians?
(T) "Hi there, well unlucky no I didn't have any family members who influenced me, so I am happy about that. I just went through my parents record collect which was rather collective which still influence me. They had The Beatles, 50's Jazz, and stuff like that.
(M) "Well I didn't really have any family member who influenced me to be honest. I think the most influenced for them and me were Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, The Beach Boys, and I really started getting into music when I was in my teens, about 11-13yrs old. I was hanging out with friends from school who started getting into AC/DC, Krokus, and then I started listening to Rock music."
So what instrument came first for the 2 of you, bass, guitar or another instrument?
(T) "Well I started out on the bass, when we started I was playing the bass guitar, but the band I was in back then could not find a guitarist, so I changed to play guitar, not by choice, I was told I had to play guitar."
(M) "I was playing the bass from the word go. I wanted to form a band and we had met up with Tom, & Steve Priestly who had just formed 'Hellhammer' and it would become clear that Steve would become the drummer. I didn't even dare to become the guitarist, so I decided to play the bass. "
Was it hard back in the early 80's growing up in Switzland to find the right musicians?
(T) "It was extremely difficult back then, and it still is. If you want to do something original and different then it becomes hard to find the right musicians. You don't also need a big mouth, but somebody who is prepared to do the work and to take any risks and to work very hard to make the right music. It was very difficult in the mid 80's because there was hardly any form of extreme music, and we were one of the few bands that played that style and a lot of people laughed at us. It is now because everybody still has a big mouth and thinks they can play really well. When it comes down to it, are these people prepared to do so much hard work? In Switzland it was very difficult to find the right musicians, especially with the extreme forms, you could count the amount of fans on one hand and from those we had to recruit a following. We had all this power, but it was difficult to find the right musicians. There are some great bands that became from Switzland, such as 'Yellow', 'The Young Gods', but with Heavy Metal it was very poor."
So who came up with the band name ''Hellhammer' back in the day? Did you have any other names in mind?
(T) "Well it was Steve and myself who came up with the bands name. We named the band 'Hammer Head' first and in the form of the N.W.O.B.H.M., but then again we thought 'Hammer Head' seemed to dull for us. So after 2 months we revamped the name into 'Hellhammer', and that was in spring of 1982. We chose the name because Hellhammer was a new version of the N.W.O.B.H.M, we were influenced by Black Sabbath, Venom had a big part in our influences, we also grew up on Angel Witch, the darker bands from that British era. We love the other bands from that era too, but like Is aid it was the darker bands from the UK who influenced us the most."
Why did you decide to disband with Hellhammer, what was the reason?
(T) "Well we only existed for 2yrs and we developed crazily in that time after we met Martin. Hellhammer was very heavy and extreme and we loved that style of music, but Hellhammer was only that. We wanted to expand our music with music that we liked, we wanted to include Classical music. We realized that Hellhammer wasn't the right choice for that. We wanted to take the ideas from Hellhammer and incorporate it into another form of music with Classical elements and other forms of music. So we decided to form Celtic Frost with Martin and in 2 nights we had this right ideas."
(M) "After we did the mini CD with Hellhammer we knew that it did not hold that much interest to us, it was too limited & the whole satanic thing became just a big fad back then and every band back then was jumping on the bandwagon. You had serious people like King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, even thought the rest of the band were just a Metal band, King is really into his stuff. We wanted something which was more broad minded and had more scope, and variety and and then we realized that Bruce Day couldn't have the ability to follow us and work has hard as we did with Tom & myself. Steve Priestly was willing to do that with us, he did the session drumming for us on the next album so we knew we could work with him."
So what band was Steve in before Hellhammer?
(M) "Well Steve was the most gifted musician we could find at that time, who was willing to help and work hard. We were all in our teens back then and rather young. We were all going to finish courses to find the right jobs and find regular work, our families put a lot of pressure on us back then, so Tom & I did what we had too. Steve had a lot of pressure from his family so he had to do what he had to and look for work. Steve had to go to his parents and ask them if it was ok for him to do the album for us."
(T) "Well Martin & I throw away or jobs to become musicians and took the risks."
Do you ever think that Hellhammer would ever reform for a album or tour? What about re-recording the CD?
(T) "Certainly not!! There are a lot of things that I loved about Hellhammer, they were a sign of the times both in the N.W.O.B.H.M. and we were teenagers discovering music and these are things that you cannot re-create. If we were to reform Hellhammer now it would be a act. As far as re-recording the CD, why should be do that? If people like Motorhead, Saxon etc.. want to do that then that's fine with me. Why would I want to tamper with history? We want to leave the original sound as it was, we feel that it would be wrong to change the unique sound that so many love to hear. Why would Iw ant to re-record the songs with me been an old man singing Hellhammer songs? It would be a disaster!! Hellhammer is history and a cult, not to be tampered with. it has become a cult classic for some reason!! We would only reform for money and it seems pointless, that is why we have left it alone."
(M) "We were trying to rehearse the 'Trident Of Death' and 'Messiah' when we were rehearsing the tour that we are doing with Kreator, and we realized that it si a bunch of mature guys covering another band. It sounded ok, but it didn't seem right. We have been asked to re -record the old Celtic Frost songs and we won't tamper with those songs."
OK, so how did you get the name Celtic Frost and how does the music differ from that of early Hellhammer?
(T) "Well the music was more sophisticated back then and we really tried to improve as musicians as we could. For the name of Celtic Frost. We didn't want a typical Heavy Metal name, so we went with a name that would not give away the bands direction, so we wanted a name that would have a message in it. Martin & I were influenced by the New Wave and Classical music we have a very open mind for the bands name."
Do you feel that the name Celtic Frost has given the band a darker side to the music?
(M) "Well a lot of people were claiming that it was an occult name or there was something satanic about it. What is satanic about the name Celtic Frost? Is Celtic in Scotland really satanic (laughing). The name has a weird ring to it and it makes you think about that it means. It is more poetical and it has a edge to it."
From the previous albums that you have recorded Tom with Celtic Frost which is you're favourite and least favourite and why?
(T) "It is very simple, the 1st 3 album rule!! The 2nd batch of album do not rule. (ED: Why is that?) Because they stink. The album 'Cold Lake' is an abomination, and 'Vanity Nemesis' is a fair album, but its too tame and it does not have that real Celtic Frost feel to it. The 1st 3 album are what makes Celtic Frost.
What went wrong with the 'Cold Lake' album, what sort of bands influenced you, it seemed to have the Glam Metal era to it in 1 way or another. Explain please!
T) "It is pretty much a complex album, a lot of people have read a lot of shit into that album. it is far more complex than you think. It is hard to explain, but personally and outside of the band we were completely burnt out after fighting with the record company and when we recorded 'Into The Pandemonium' we were treated by the record company and black mailed and the sound engineer been bribed financially to change the album and the record company changing the art work and changing lyrics and pictures was a total nightmare. And then telling us that the album is a piece of shit. They total ruined the band, changing tour supports etc... We were too young and too powerless to survive this without damage. We were burnt out physically and financially and business wise. I carried on with been a musician as I had nothing else to do, I found musicians that had nothing to do with Celtic Frost, I let them have total freedom, and I let the producer have the freedom to do what he wanted. There are a million reason why it went wrong. At the end of the day it was my fault if it went wrong, which it did. I should of never released that album!!"
Do you have any kind of contact with any member from that album?
(T) "None whatsoever!! Why would I? I am very glad it was 20yrs ago and only out of all the album we have done that is the album which is a piece of shit!! I am very proud of the other album and I am also glad we have come back to make a statement, which we have done now. To me that is a true statement which I am happy for. That is also a reason why Martin left the band, because of the 'Into The... ' album been so messed up. We have worked extremely hard all our life's in regular jobs to make this job. The music industry caused a lot of shit back then with legal problems and throw all kinds of shit at us. We worked in regular day jobs to make the new album work, it became so expensive to record this album as we financed it our self's."
You seem to have influenced so many Black & Death metal bands, what do you think of people covering your songs, like Obituary 'Circle Of The Tyrants'?
(T) "I will be a gentleman, and not comment on that."
(M) "I liked it, I don't mind if bands fuck the songs up. I know Obituary didn't get it right, as they covered some parts of the song which were not right. My favourite cover is a cover by Sepultura, they did 'Procreation (Of The Wicked)', and think they captured the vibe and I think it is much better than our version!! There are 2 Celtic Frost cover albums, and they are interesting to listen too."
(T) "I like the 2nd one the most, they were on 2 different labels, the 1st was Dwell Records and the 2nd one was a Greek label."
After Celtic Frost broke up you did the Apollyon's Sun band, how did the music differ from that to Celtic Frost?
(T) "I was a member of a 5 piece band, I was no longer the leader and I was 1 of 5 song writers in that band. I just left that I wanted to be part of a band for a change. I wanted to experiment with music, ever since I heard Kraftwork I was into electronic music. Apollyon's Sun was the right step forward to do that sort of thing. It was a huge experience and in the studio. It didn't sell that well to be honest, and we ran into problems once again with Sanctuary Records which really hurt the sales. I think the 2 albums we did was enough. I am so happy with be back with Celtic Frost & I'm happy to of done that band, it was an experience. We didn't sign to Century Media, we own the right to all our stuff, we just licensed it out to labels. We don't have any other bands on our label, it's just us right now."
How long is Century Media working with the band for this album and any future albums?
(M) "Well we are going to do the next album with them but we will have to wait and see."
As I have not heard the new album, thank's to Century Media (UK), could you tell me how the latest album differs from that of the previous albums? Is it still a dark and gloomy album?
(M) "Well it's a different reincarnation to Celtic Frost, it's like 23yrs ago since we got started with 'Morbid Tales'. We did not go back and try to act like we did when we were young kids again and do it all over again. We knew we had to start were we were at right now. We had to reconnect with our past and come to terms with our past. We took our time this time around to try and find out what Celtic Frost is all about. We are happy with the way the album turned out as we had full control over this recording. We took 4 and half years to do this album, even if we had of taken 10yrs to record it we wanted to have a Celtic Frost album in our hands. It had to sound like Celtic Frost and to us it does. We recorded the album in some of our rehearsal studio and some in Germany and some in Switzerland. We recorded the album mainly at the studio were we recorded the 'Into The...' album as we knew the studio and that album was to be considered the last true Celtic Frost album, and besides we knew the people who own the studio."
Has the latest album been receiving positive reviews so far from the press in general?
"Yes it has been getting great reviews and very little negative reviews to be honest. It not an easy album to consume and we got some great press reviews for it."
So why the title 'Monotheist' for the album, what does it mean if any thing and did you have any other titles?
(T) "The title means 'To believe in 1 god' so the monotheist is a person who believes in 1 god and you could say that we are monotheist. We don't follow any beliefs like Christianity, Jewish, and Islam and in the song 'Ain Elohim', was say 'There is no god, but the 1 who dies with me' so what we are saying is that God is man made and we all make up our own minds and our own believes."
Are you doing any festivals this year or not?
(T) "Yes we are, we are playing 'Cuestock' in Finland, Graspop in Belguim, 1 in Holland, and a couple more which are not confirmed right now."
Do you have any new songs for the next album?
(T) "Yes we have some ideas right now, and we are working on them so hopefully there will be something in the near future."
Before we finish, what is it like to be on tour with Kreator once again after 20yrs. I saw you in Nottingham 20yrs ago both on the same bill, its like a recantation once again.
(M) "It was a long time ago!! Its great to be back on tour together. We are having a lot of fun on this tour. The tour is going really well!!"
Well I'd like to thank you both for doing this album, best of luck with the future of the Frost. Do you have anything to add before we come to an end?
(M) "Yeah thank's for the support"
(T) "Come and check out the shows and look out for the next Frost album soon!!"
Thanx To Gary @ Tora for setting this interview up.