On Friday we brought you the minutes from an interview we were lucky enough to conduct with Triptykon frontman, Celtic Frost/HellHammer mainman Tom G. Warrior while he was on tour with Cannibal Corpse, Enslaved and Job for a Cowboy. Warrior seemed pretty ecstatic just to have the opportunity to play music, and that’s something that he mentions again here. But what was hugely interesting to hear from an artist who pushed metal’s tough exoskeleton as hard as it would go in order to squeeze in elements of the avant-garde, is that he doesn’t feel the need for radical experimentation, or the need to reinvent himself. Here he opens up a bit more about the writing process behind Triptykon (and indeed offering insight into how Celtic Frost put their songs together), and talks about what’s next for him and the band.
Triptykon w/Corpsegrinder, London 2012
To fully realize an idea, you have to have the technical ability and the opportunity to express it. Do you think that now, with your experience, that you have enough of both to realize your ideas?
I have tons of confidence and I have the technical ability, but it’s funny you should say that, because writing an album is a hugely intimidating process—just because I am confident doesn’t mean that I am automatically writing good music. Writing a good album is enormously difficult, for me, just like anybody else. I don’t have a secret recipe. I don’t know how to write a good album; it’s a huge piece of work and it is incredibly intimidating every single time.
That could be said of many a creative process, that the first leap can be the most daunting because you are staring into the abyss—there’s nothing there before the first note, brushstroke or word.
For me it is even more difficult because it doesn’t stop until the last note has been created. When you have the first song finished, of course it feels slightly better but it is still an uphill battle. That first song is also still a work-in-progress until you finish mixing the album, so it’s a process that takes many months. It is painful and it is scary.
Is it not doubly painful for you, given that you lay the drumtracks first before any guitars are recorded at all?
Sometimes we do; sometimes we don’t. There’s no fixed rule. It really depends on the song.
But you are not afraid of making that decision; that you will track drums first if the song requires the groove to get off the ground.
As I said, whatever the song requires we will do. Sometimes we will start with the guitars. Sometimes we will start with the drums. It depend. We have a completely different approach. Sometimes we will do a tempo map and sometimes we won’t. It really depends on the individual song, what the song requires to fully bloom. If you take your craft seriously—I mean, everyone in the world is entitled to do what they wanna do. It is still a free world, to an extent. Every band is entitled to do what they really want. I’ve talked to bands and they’ve openly told me that they approach it like a routine, or they write their songs when they are drunk—that is fine, whatever works for them. For me, that doesn’t work. For me, every song is a huge piece of work, and a very detailed piece of work and it doesn’t leave me alone until it is finished. As I said, until the last moment of the mixing, and sometimes that can take months, or even years in Celtic Frost’s case. It is difficult. You are aware at all times that this music will live on, perhaps for 100s of years after you’re gone. Once it is recorded, it is there. Y’know, I am going to disappear one day, one day the music will too but much, much later than me.
Are you guilty of looking too far ahead, of focusing on the music’s eternal life so to speak?
I think it is important to do that. I don’t specifically do that. You should approache your music with care and quality whether you look at it for five minutes or for the future. It doesn’t make a difference; you should apply the utmost care. It is music, after all, and music is still and artform. It might not be in fashion but a lot of modern art is simply just attention-getting; real art requires work and talent, and risk-taking. That’s the way I approach it. So you should look at it with the utmost care regardless of whether you will look at it in the future.
Is it a worry that people’s attention spans are all shot now? Will that lead to the devaluation of art?
Absolutely. I think in the last 150 years, people’s attention spans have been incredibly short. I cannot even imagine how it was before the Industrial Revolution, when the world was much, much slower and people took a lot more time to digest anything, whether it is a sunrise or a musical piece. I don’t think the situation is going to change; it is probably going to get a lot worse. Which of course is a depletion of beauty—but what you gonna do? I’m not going to stop the world, and I am equally guilty of embracing modern technology.
It’s in many respects what makes us human, digesting things quicker. It’s like our evolution has taken such a strange path that we’ve stunted our capacity for digesting information in certain forms.
I use all kinds of modern technology, and I embrace the Internet—we all do. At the same time, I think it must have been incredibly romantic to write music at a time when there were only letters, like 200 years ago. It must have been a completely different way of approaching your art.
But even in the ‘80s, you still sent letters and there was no email.
I actually talked about that with my tour manager just before about that; we were both old enough to have toured extensively in the 1980s, and my cellphone broke on this tour and right now I am touring like I did in the ‘80s, which is fun!
Old gnarly footage of Celtic Frost, ’86
You have a lot of shows scheduled, when do you think you will get some new music out? Do you have plans to hit the studio any time soon?
Absolutely. I have five demos for finished songs from my guitar player, and I have about a million song fragments, text fragments, which I am in the process of forging into full songs. We are entering the studio to record the new album later this year—if we are really lucky we will get it out this year and if not it will probably come out in February of next year. We will do it as soon as we can. We don’t wanna wait five years ‘til the next album, but if the album does slip into next year then we will either release an EP or put three or four songs online, free of charge. We don’t want the fans to wait so long.
That is the beauty of now: if you have three tracks that stand together you can release them and get them out to people.
Absolutely, and I can put it online, for free, for the fans who have been so loyal, whereas in the old times the record company would have said, “Don’t do that! You can’t do that; we need to generate money.” Now I can just tell them fuck you and put them online and have a direct connection to our fans, which I enjoy. In the old days the record companies didn’t give a flying shit about the audience; they just gave a shit about being rich, and now the band can actually communicate with their fans and do whatever is required for the fans—it is a huge step forward.
Maybe bands will start to see some money.
It has become extremely difficult to see any money as a band. That is simply the reality—I am not whining about it. It is the reality and no matter what I say it is not going to change. It has become incredibly difficult to finance your recording costs, to finance a band. Yesterday a fan asked me outside of Manchester, “Do you drive a Rolls Royce?” It’s a legitimate question if you are a young fan and you only see the band in video clips and in magazines; it looks like they’re living a rock star life but in reality it has become so fucking difficult for bands much bigger than us. You really have to be significantly huge as a band to make proper money. It is just a reality. But at the same time nobody forces me to have this profession; I am still a musician voluntarily and I am accepting this. But it has become very difficult.
With Triptykon, you keep it interesting; I could foresee a time when you release an album that might not click with me because you’ve maybe taken your sound somewhere. Do you see yourselves as a band that could evolve out of sight?
It will evolve. I like to evolve our music. We all do. But it probably will evolve differently than Celtic Frost used to. I, right now at least, I am going to be 49 this year, and I have been part of this for 30 years; I’ve done 13 albums and I no longer feel the need to reinvent myself all the time and to experiment radically. I felt that in Celtic Frost, at various points there’s been albums like Into the Pandemonium that have worked, even though they pushed boundaries. And then there have been albums like Cold Lake that haven’t worked. And there have been many other fragments on different Celtic Frost albums that were the result of this manic urge to find the borders and experiment. Right now I don’t feel that anymore. I feel it’s now up to the younger musicians to do that—I’ve done my part. Right now I am enjoying music. Right now I am in a band simply to enjoy good, dark heavy music. I enjoy this tremendously, just to go onstage and play this sort of music, this brand of music that Triptykon is playing. And of course we will evolve but it is not going to be as forced and as radical. There might be the odd experiment, occasionally, but I am very, very happy with the style that we have found in Triptykon and I would like very much to develop it within these confines.
And that’s the beauty of it, the way you’ve set yourself up you can incorporate many different textures without changing the core sound. The venue, incidentally, describes you as “bowel-loosening doom”…
Ha! Of course, there is a huge bandwidth of material on our album, and that is a little bit more common now than it was in the ‘80s. Of course we will retain that. People always ask me my plans for the future; I have no plans for the future. If you asked me that in 1985 I had a million plans. I had a million ambitions that I wanted to do but I did all of them; I was extremely fortunate that I have recorded albums that were really “out there”. I had a really successful career in Celtic Frost, and wrote books, which was always a dream of mine, and now I have fulfilled my dreams and plans and more. I was granted more than I ever expected. So, in all honesty, I have no plans at all for the future: I am just in a band to play good music right now. Maybe that is going to change. We talk again in four or five years and we will see. But right now, with Triptykon I am just enjoying being a musician playing music every night, and I just want to create some more dark music… But that’s not really a plan, is it!? It’s just a joy. I’ve done the work. I think I deserve a few years of just enjoying heavy metal. Our ambition was, at times, really forced and really painful in the old days. It has yielded a lot of interesting stuff but it has also yielded some catastrophes. But it made us who we are, and I think no one who was in Celtic Frost would want to miss that time. But I am very fortunate to be playing the UK, playing the music we love, like “The Prolonging”, for example. That is magical.
**You can buy Triptykon’s Eparistera Daimones and Shatter EP HERE**