Tom G. Warrior was opting out of the press circuit while haring through the UK on last week’s Defenders of the Faith tour with Cannibal Corpse, Enslaved and Job for a Cowboy, but the Triptykon mainman granted the Deciblog an audience. Of all the times we’ve been in the company of Warrior since the Celtic Frost’s acrimonious split (criminally tragic that they would fall apart after a career-defining resurrection in 2006′s Monotheist), and the forming of Triptykon, he has never sounded so positive. No real need for a huge introduction here, but the interview ran on to talk about the creative process, and indeed how Warrior reconciled this newfound sense of, well, happiness with a creative mind that’s long been hard-wired to articulate the darkest emotions. It’s all pretty deep, but of course that shouldn’t stop you from yelling along to the “SATAN!” refrain in the opening verse of “Goetia”.
Triptykon “Goetia” live at Wacken 2011
Does it feel like a proper band now that you’re on tour?
Yeah, and we’ve been on the road for the last two years now, come to think of it. We started in April 2010, so it’s almost two years of being on the road, countless festivals, a European tour, and now the UK, and we’ll follow that later this year with more festivals, more individual shows. This has very much become a live band.
Which is what you wanted all the time—you were worried that it might not happen.
Absolutely. I was very frustrated that Celtic Frost didn’t want to continue touring. We had plenty of offers for more shows and I was pretty much the only one who wanted to take up these offers. Some of the others were very tired of touring and that frustrated me a lot. I became a musician to play.
What is the most gratifying thing for you, the writing/recording or the performing?
I enjoy both, being creative in the studio and rehearsal room but there’s nothing that I prefer. I love playing live just as much.
Has your headspace changed in the last two years?
Absolutely. It’s like day and night to the situation that I had in my previous band, what’s more is that this is a circle of friends. These are people who like each other, who enjoy what they’re doing, which was not always the case in Celtic Frost. Without wanting to badmouth anyone, it was simply a reality that the situation in Celtic Frost was extremely unpleasant. It wasn’t really a band of friends anymore and it was really difficult to go onstage and mimic a band when I knew it wasn’t a band and, backstage, no one would talk to each other. It’s quite the opposite now. Triptykon is the exact opposite of that. This is the first time in many, many years that I’ve felt part of the family while being in a band.
Given that sharing ideas can be a very difficult process in a band, especially if inter-band relationships are bad, do you think that this more benevolent atmosphere is going to take the pressure off when it comes to writing?
Maybe this sounds whiny but it’s not; but a lot of the material I brought to Celtic Frost was turned down, for one reason or another, probably most of the time for some sort of subliminal competitive issues. In Triptykon, everyone is free to bring music and everyone is very curious as to what the others are bringing. I’m probably still the main songwriter only because I’ve got the most experience—I bring most of the material—but I would say that Victor, our guitar player, is not far behind me in submitting material. And his material is absolutely outstanding. I am honored to be in a band with someone who writes like that and who plays like that. The other two members are still heavily involved in the songwriting process, in the arrangements and so on. It’s really a band, to the effect that every decision is discussed. There’s no ego. There’s no person with the ego who makes all the decisions himself. It is very much a band and we discuss everything, from songs to touring plans.
You’ve had a lot of time to live with Eparistera Daimones now; how do you look at the material now? Have the songs evolved for you now that you’ve been playing them live?
Well they’ve evolved onstage. I am very proud of our debut album Eparistera Daimones; it’s very much the album we wanted to make. I’ve been very fortunate, ever since the last Celtic Frost album that we’ve controlled everything ourselves, and submitted the finished album as a licensed product to the record company. So we have full control. I took that concept with me to Triptykon so when the album came out there was no excuse; we made exactly the album we wanted to make and I am still really happy with the album. Nothing has changed. But, of course, once you tour for two years, the songs evolve onstage to become slightly different, which is a good thing. Y’know, we’re not a movie; we don’t want to recreate the same thing every night.
Exactly, and you’ve never been scared to alter your songs, like adjusting the tempo on “Procreation (Of the Wicked)” or “Dethroned Emperor”?
When you are onstage and you are actually a band, there are four personalities that play into this and four people’s emotions—also, what the fans give you, the adrenaline that you feel, the magic that you feel, means every night feels different. And some of those songs have become quite different, such as “The Prolonging”, which we are going to play tonight; there are sections that aren’t on the album, different vocal sections and so on. I think the song should always be allowed to breathe and to evolve. As far as Tripykon’s direction in songwriting goes, I am extremely happy, and the next album is going to be a development of that.
Heavy metal is a very rigid aesthetic, but you’ve never been afraid to bring in other elements, new wave and so on. Is that one of the biggest creative victories, in presenting all these disparate elements as one sound?
I love music, all kinds of types of music so why should I be restricted. I am a musician. I joined the heavy metal movement, so to speak, because I wanted to rebel against the ordinary order of society. I wasn’t happy with being caged in and people expecting me to have short hair and all kinds of stuff. I became a heavy metal musician to break all of that so why, as soon as I am in metal, should I restrict myself, censored by other metal musicians and fans? That doesn’t make sense to me. No, I love that! Why should I be afraid of that? There have been a million people who hated Celtic Frost, especially in the 1980s, when nobody was doing these things and we were incorporating all different types of music into our metal. There was so much criticism, and even today there is so much criticism of that. But… Tough shit, ha!
What’s exciting you in music at the moment?
Oh, there’s tons of stuff. From certain forms of jazz, like Jan Garbarek, who also worked with classical musicians, to a lot of electronic or swing music. There is so much good music out there, and of course tons of rock and metal. There are very few musical directions that I can’t understand, or don’t recognize myself in.
Does it surprise you looking back, at how aggressive your debut was?
Not at all, that aggression was very real. I came out of Celtic Frost with tons of anger, tons of pain. I felt completely betrayed by the end, and being a musician and writing music and lyrics, of course that stuff leaks into your work. No, to me that was obvious that that would happen, and to me it made for a very heavy, very aggressive, and very dark album. Which is a good thing; I think I turned something that was for me very negative, into something that was musically very positive, and I think that is the best thing you can do in such a situation. I don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t a musician, and had these feelings inside of me and had no [release] valve for that.
Was the material for the Shatter EP taken from the album sessions?
Yes, there was even more material but these were the songs that we had finished in the studio. We recorded all of these songs to be released; Shatter was not a by-product: we simply didn’t want to do a double album so we selected the tracks for the album proper but always knew we were going to release an EP because we felt these songs were valid Triptykon songs. One of the songs on Shatter is actually the first song we practiced as Triptykon.
It was exciting to hear, because there was a lot of variety, different textures on the EP.
We had a little more freedom to do what we wanted on the EP. The album was very much a statement, it was what was to carry the band, a beacon. On the EP the material is a little more complex, a little less easy to digest but that was the way it had to be.
Given that your headspace is so used to writing in abject darkness, do you think similarly that you would be able to create a work of real, cloying darkness from a state of ecstasy, if not ecstasy, extreme positivity?
I certainly hope so…. If I can’t do that then Triptykon are finished, haha! But I tend to think that I am going to get it from a different place. Of course, there are still moments when I lament what happened with Celtic Frost but I mean it is long ago. I am well on my way with my new band; I am very happy with my new band and Celtic Frost is a distant memory. But the darkness comes from other places in my life, which will always be there, and which caused Celtic Frost to be dark.
With that in mind, would it be easier to articulate the darkness, to write better from a position of positivity?
It’s not an easy thing to explain and now that you mention it, it’s true, but it’s very complex. Of course you have to be tortured—we’re talking about heavy metal. We’re not talking about easy listening music or elevator music. But on the other hand you have to be in a happy state in your band. There needs to be a fruitful ground on which to put your ideas. It somehow has to be torment and happiness at the same time, on different levels, I suppose. I never thought of it that way but now that you mention it, [writing] really requires both.
To be completely crestfallen all the time, doesn’t really allow for a clarity of thought. And if the idea of a musician is to articulate every thought, if you are crestfallen, or even too angry, you’re not going to give each idea equal weight.
The older I’ve become the more particular I’ve become about what I release. Nothing is haphazard or routine, or anything like that. If anything is going through the motions then it’s not worth doing. Sometimes it makes the process very painful or very complicated but I can’t imagine it any other way.
But that’s one of the things that has defined your work, especially recently, is you manage to express passages of beauty but still keep the music incredibly dark.
To me, darkness is beautiful. I know a lot of people in the so-called “ordinary world” would disagree, all the lawyers, teachers and priests out there! But darkness, to me, is something incredibly beautiful; it has never been a conflict for me, beauty and darkness. I find myself in darkness. I love to dwell in darkness even though that might sound pathetic it is the truth. It has never been a conflicting situation. Of course you can have melody and beauty at the same time as heaviness and darkness. Maybe you will have to work a little more carefully on the music but of course it is possible. And to me it is also a factor of how detailed your music is, and how you write your music, how many details you add to your music. I think that has a lot to do with the beauty in music, and the aura it creates. If you take a riff it’s just a riff, but if you embellish it like a painting, that’s when it becomes something special. One cannot exist without the other. I used to be a lot more Spartan when I was younger, partly because I didn’t know any different but also because I didn’t have the technical finesse.
**Check back on Monday for part two**
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