Martin Eric Ain
Interviewed by Celtic Bob
Questions by Lord of the Wasteland and Celtic Bob
This is Martin from Celtic Frost
How are you doing?
I am doing fine. This is the last interview for today. I been doing 6 so far so I’ll give you a worthwhile time. (laughs)
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here.
No problem, you’re welcome. Its for a worthwhile cause right? Its for our upcoming tour and everything. I’m still amazed and thankful for all the interest we got with our new album and upcoming tour so thank you.
We featured an interview with Tom back in the spring and he said “We cannot possibly continue if everyone thinks Celtic Frost is superfluous in today’s world.” Now with the album being out for several months how has the reaction from fans and press been?
Generally speaking it has been really amazing. Its been more than what we would’ve expected. We got some really strong and really intense responses from people that got really touched by the music that we created, by this new album. For us, this is very much a compliment. Something that we very much cherish. As I said before, it’s more than we expected.
Will this mean that there will be another Celtic Frost album?
Yes. I mean definately. Already before we had this album finished we had to decide at one point to let this go. This entity is what it is and we’re not going to let it rest, we could continue for another 10 years, but I still think it could have been heavier and darker. We already realized that ourselves when we were finished with the recording. A song like “Totengott” was added basically at the last minute. We were still bristling with ideas and we still do so right now. It won’t take 4 years for the next follow-up. My guess, an educated guess but it’s still a guess, because being 39 if there’s one thing I learnt, that I am not Nostradamous and i can’t predict the future. So I think the next record will come quite fast and will be heavier but we’ll have to see.
Have you been happy with the way Century Media has been getting behind the group and new album?
Absolutely. Century Media has been doing a great job, an excellent job. I think we really got lucky that we have them as a licensing partner. So far no complaints, of course there has been minor things, but you have to realize that you are working with this large corporation. They are still independant but they are a world wide corporation, so you will have minor communication problems, and all around the world you can never get everything into place. It’s been the best experience I’ve ever had in this business so far, and there are a lot of great people working at Century Media. A lot of great people that have put a lot of effort into getting this album promoted and getting Celtic Frost to where we are right now. I’m really happy and thankful. I’m really sorry only to have to give you positives now (laughs). Maybe you would like to have some nitty gritty?
It’s been well documented in Tom’s book the problems the band has had over the years with labels and providers. When you started working on the new disc and began encountering difficulties did you ever think “Here we go again!” ?
No, cause otherwise we would not have started.Other wise I would’ve quit and would have not continued if it had been going in the same direction or been starting to look like the same old story that it was back throughout the 80′s. That’s one of the resons we financed the entire making of this album on our own including the creation of the artwork and the promotional photography. We even pre-financed the entire video clip we just made, although Century Media is paying us 50% we wanted to call the shots and get everything the way we want it. Century Media is our liscensing partner but they don’t own the record, we own the record. You have to realize that the music we created in the 80′s is owned by somebody else until 75 years after we have died. They or whoever has the rights, own it. This was very much a concious decision otherwise I woul not have done it. The one thing I realized back in the 80′s is that the music industry is a business like any other. Better said it is a business unlike any other business because it’s one of the toughest and most capitalist businesses on the face of this planet. When I got into music, one of the reasons of getting into music was getting away from the reality of life where everything comes down to how much is it worth monetarily speaking. Are you able to sell it? Who will buy it? What I had to realize quite hard was that the music business is precisely just about that, even moreso than any other businesses. I guess selling yogurt is a less harsh business than selling records.
Ya I know. But how many people put their hearts and souls into yogurt the way they do in creating music?
Tom wrote in his blog “November 29, 2005. One of the most difficult days in the history of Celtic Frost. Deeply shaken. All of us.” Do you re-call what happened and would you like to elaborate?
I couldn’t re-call what happened back then actually. I would have to look it up and see what came in prior to that and I would have to focus on it. Then I would be able to tell you. I think what it most deals with our parting with Erol. That was just a time when it got really intense. We realized we couldnt continue like that, and it wouldn’t be working out. Erol was with us all the way creating this album from the start when we had the first talks of doing this again. Tom already mentioned that he wanted him onboard. The first couple of times we got together writing music, Tom, me and Erol were like the group. He was there during the entire recording of the album. Things just started to drift apart, that was when it happened. I think it was referring to that.
Tom reported that midway through the recording of the album that the band nearly went its separate ways after a blow up. Was this a similar situation?
Yeah but there were several blow ups during the recording of the album. It wasn’t an easy process recording this album, it was at time quite difficult. There was a lot of pressure we put ourselves under and a lot of pressure we had to deal with that we were supposedly dealing with from the outside as well. First of all as I said, we were financing the album ourselves so we were pretty much aware of how much this was costing and what time was worth. That was giving pressure ourselves, and the other was to create something. We realized going into the studio with Peter Tagtgren, this is the time we have and we better do it. Sometimes you unleash demons that you just didn’t realize that were there to begin with anyway. Yeah ok this is what happened, this is some energy that I think that you hear on the album is genuine. You can imagine sometimes creating the music doesn’t mean having a good time.
At times during the 4 year recording process did you ever think that “will this ever be finished?”?
Yeah. There were times when the band would’ve been finished. There were times when this band didn’t exist in those 4 years.
There were rumours that you were going to sing a cover song for this album. What song were you considering or was it just a rumour?
I was working on ideas for a cover song. It was basically an acapella song. I was trying out several different songs, completely different approaches, and one of those ideas we still might use. Maybe even as the cover. I don’t know. The idea in itself was really intersting. The general idea in this helped us or helped me create incanations that we may use for a vinyl bonus track.
What made you sing lead on “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh” and “Totengott” after all these years?
I think I was very much more secure of myself, more sure of what I could do. I was for the first time writing lyrics with melodies and vocal lines in my mind. More conciously having the vocal lines or melodies in mind and with some stuff for example I was writing the lyrics, the songs, and actually singing to Tom. This is the way I envisoned it. Some passages of some songs I was writing, I was writing to the way that I knew.Tom was singing, or to the style of singing Tom was really going for or aiming at. Some things just came out like they did and Tom was like the way you do it sounds genuine and a different style from what I do. So he was encouraging me. “Dying God” was a song that started out with just vocals. It was originally a poem I had written and I had an idea for a vocal line. I started singing the vocal line and Erol was doing a guitar melody over it and this is how it came into place. Of course that song was written at the end of the second year when we started creating music and it changed over the next 2 years. Quite a bit. This is how Tom came to sing the last third of the song when the music gets really heavy. The acoustic interlude and when he took over basically. This would add another dimension to the song, which in itself morphing and about morphing and changing and becoming and not really realizing or knowing what one should become or what one is becoming.
What was the concept behind the video where it keeps going from black to white to black?
We wanted to work with black and white without it becoming a black and white video, without it being shot in black and white. This is how the idea came of having everything black and white then of course in the end mixing all of it, mixing the black and white. This is what the song is about, it’s about extremes. Just look at the title itself basically “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh”. It’s an oxymoron. Why is a God that dies,that wants to escape his dying, become human? The known fact in human life, of bodily life, is futility. It’s futile, we are all destined to die. It is kind of absurd that a God that is dying should become human because it means that he is definately continuing his dying process. Very much about the futility of human life and the pompus grandiocity that humans have in their way, is also about trying to hide the fact of how helpless one is in that realization. It’s also about depression, feeling completely lost, realizint that one is lost within ones self not only just already within the shell of being oneself nevertheless living in this universe in this planet. We try to bring that across in the atmosphere of the song, thos extremes and black and white bring two absolute extremes. They are not really being colours, more being like states. Black and white is more radical than red and blue or green or yellow. More like a state of mind, black and white. We tried to incorporate that, sort of the ying and yang effect. When you realize very much in the video that it only has sincere shots of the musicians, you never have a group shot. There is no shot where you have the entire group, there is always an individual somehow like lost in this picture and everything else that’s moving in the picture is whatever. Its people moving around in cloth, in white cloth or in black cloth, but it could be like larve. You don’t know, “is it really people?”. Is it something else? It’s also the struggle to try and become something, realizing what it is and not realizing what it should be like. Working again with the symbolism of religion, monophious religion in that case of catholic religion the white robe I’m wearing is very much the Pope’s robe. It is a copy of the Pope’s robe just like the last Pope had been wearing and of course the black being a Priest’s robe. Working with that religious symbolism trying to give a meaning to our life and to the futility of it.
Can you explain the full artwork that makes up the cover to MONOTHEIST?
The CD is artwork stemming from the larger design that is the LP, also the poster that is included in the digipack. The digipack you pull out a poster that is the same as the vinyl cover and there is even a promotional poster that is even larger and has even more detail to it. That was the original art that the artist created, was that larger piece and we realized quite early on if you shrink it to CD size it would lose, because the CD in general, because of the space it gives you to depict art is miniscule in comparison to vinyl. Definately not even worthwhile in my consideration. Another bad move from the record industry. They lost this great space that they had, that made it worthwhile buying recrds. Sometimes just for a cover, although the content was complete shit the cover was great. With the CD theylost that in a big way, although I do like the digipack and the foldout formats. There is some nice things they came up with in the last few years. We had the idea and so we were breaking up the artwork into different details, but then again, this artwork began shaping quite early on. After about a year of making the music, I was approached by a friend, who is an illustrator and graphic designer, who wanted to create the artwork to the album. I was telling him, “listen, you are a really good friend of mine, thats why I tell you no.” His style of illustrating and art didn’t have anything to do with what Celtic Frost was all about. Then he convinced me that is the reason why I want to create that artwork for you. It gives me the opportunity to do something completely different than I normally do and do something now and discover things that I couldn’t of otherwise and you wont be taking any risk.You wont have to say it if you dont like it. I will have the benefit of it. I have done something genuine it will become the artwork. It will become the cover of your new album. For the better part of three years we were sitting together and developing the art while we were developing the album also. We looked at the artwork and it looked genuinely bleaker and darker than the music we had created. So it was inspiring us to continue working on the music as well. It would be quite difficult to explain all detail and stuff that went into those 3 years.
After not talking to Tom for over 10 years, was it hard to get into the Celtic Frost mindset once again?
Yes and no! It was quite easy to realize where we wanted to go, but it was really difficult getting there. Along the way I think we were discovering a lot about ourselves and this was just as much about becoming Celtic Frost again and rediscovering our friendship and what we meant to each other as human beings as it was about creating music.
Were you nervous about taking the stage again with Celtic Frost after so many years?
Not after. Before hand I was nervous. Now I think we’re getting better and better, and tighter and tighter, and more to the point, and realizing more what this is about. Just like we did when we started working on the album. Of course I was what you might say focused and nervous about playing those monster festivals that we’ve never played beofre. I didn’t know what to expect. Having done that, I have to say it was a great experience. Definately worthwhile, something that made everything we’ve been doing over the last couple of years worthwhile and I’m really thankful that we were able to do so. That we were graced with so much interest after such a long time. I think this is not something one can take for granted, neither is doing a 47 date tour of North America. Definately something we are looking forward to and we are focused on.
What setlist will you be playing on this tour? Will it differ from the European festival ones?
We basically had a setlist for the European festivals of 90 minutes, and some shows we were only allowed to play 45 minutes to 60 minutes, so we were playing around with that. We rehursed some 22 songs, something around 110 minutes of music. We will be playing different sets throughout the North American tour. We have 3 or 4 setlists now that we want to perform. There will be songs that we have hardly played or have not played in Europe and different combinations of songs as well.
Live Pic by Toni Salminen
Any plans to capture any of this and put it out on a live DVD?
We’re planning on filming 1 or 2 shows throughout this tour. We’ll see if we see more suggestions from people on what shows we should film or from companies that have good suggestions. We been talking about a live DVD but we just dont want to come out with a live DVD of the festivals we’ve been playing or the tour we’ve been playing. We want to do that at a later stage when we have more footage and more material and we can work it out better. I hate to go out there and do a couple of shows and already release a DVD. I want to try and see what performances were worthwhile and what could we do to that. We have a general idea for a live DVD that takes a completely different approach that we have already been planning and talking about before we went into recording the album. We been persuing that rght now with our liscensing partner, Century Media, because they give us more possibilities of approaching an idea that doesn’t deal with your everyday performance on a festival or in a club scenario. If we can make it happen it may see the light of day the beginning of next year.
In the 90′s, Tom kept busy with his book and his band, Apollyon Sun. You were absent from the public eye. What were you doing between VANITY/ NEMESIS and when you got back into making MONOTHEIST?
I started several businesses of my own oe with friends of mine. I started out as a promoter and was putting on shows, concerts and parties here in Eurich, Switzerland. I was for the better part of 8 years, running a small club with a capacity of 250 to 350 people, putting on like 500 shows there. Right now we’re running 2 bars, a club and I’m also involved in a retail DVD business.
Tom is very open on the website in his blogs. How come you do not communicate more with the fans? Is it because you are more of a private person?
I’m exhibitionist enough already with the interviews and on stage. I like to let the music speak for itself and the stage performances speak for themselves. I already think Tom does that, Tom does that communication. Thats his space, his way of communicating, his views, his beliefs. Some of them are mine. I differ. Not my style.
How do you feel about uprooting yourselves for such a long tour after having a regular home life for so many years?
I’m concerned right now because its been a long time since I’ve done something like this and I think this is the longest tour we ever did. I think the longest we ever done before was a North American tour of like 35 dates and this will be 47 dates in 60 days. I’m concerned but not really worried and I can tell you more after we are through with this tour. It ain’t all about me, it’s about the 12 other people that are staying on one bus for 60 days.
( laughs ) Definately cramped quarters.
Live Pic by Toni Salminen
This may be a bit of a touchy subject, but Tom has repeatedly stressed his disdain for the COLD LAKE album that you had no part of. Do you have any feelings on that?
Well it ain’t a touchy subject for me cause i haven’t been on the album, so I don’t have much of a problem with it. There is some OK material on there, but I think there is 2 problems to it. First of all the imagery, the way the band presented itself. The way the album was presented. If that had of been different it would’ve already been a different story. Second of all, I dont think there was enough quality time on there. There was some good songs, but it doesn’t sound like Celtic Frost. When you look at it, Tom there, from the creative part, nobody, nobody else. I guess the other guys weren’t creative enough. Looking at Amberg, I think even technically speaking, he wasn’t capable enough as a guitarist of really performing what he actually wanted to perform with that kind of music. I can understand why Tom did it. We already had certain elements that went into this direction on INTO THE PANDEMONIUM. I would call ”Mexican Radio” a choice for a cover, an entertaining song, and “I Won’t Dance” has got the notion of COLD LAKE in it. Nobody would have realized it in the same way as an entity, in its entirely INTO THE PANDEMODIUM is entirely different and can’t be compared to COLD LAKE. I can understand why Tom wanted to do something completely different because it was a different band. The original band had broken up and it wasn’t really a nice break-up. It didn’t happen all the way on an amicable level. It happened after a 2 year massive struggle with the record company back then. So this was sort of a way to get away from it all by Tom. That’s my explanation.
I actually really enjoy that album.
There is some good material on there. But whenever I tell Tom about it it, he’s like “Martin shut up. This album is bullshit.”. “Let it rest.” “Leave me be.” I’m like OK, alright Tom, fair enough. He’s already quite harsh with VANITY/NEMESIS. Then again, they were closer in our hindsight in that album. We both think that there is some good material on those. It has all the classic Celtic Frost, but played to safe. The production is to polished. The material the way its played, or the way songs are arranged, it’s playing it to safe, it’s to much classic trying to be a heavy metal band. Whereas all the other albums from MORBID TALES to MEGATHERION to INTO THE PANDEMODIUM, we were taking risks. We were always doing something where we weren’t even sure ourselves. I think VANITY/NEMESIS is the most album that Celtic Frost has ever created. It’s a stronger album than COLD LAKE, but COLD LAKE was taking more of a risk. That was a career destroyer back then.
It was totally different than all other albums.
Yeah. Doing something like that, I mean if you like start becoming black/death metal Gods and people really start going for what you have created for extreme metal and your audience is not afraid of death or the devil. How can you scare those people? Knock ‘em on their heads? You create an album like COLD LAKE.
Do you think it would have turned out differently had you been in the band at that point?
It never would have happened that way. Period. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t properly join in for the creative process in VANITY/NEMESIS. This is something like I’m inside going “Maybe I should have.” I just wasn’t capable of doing that, that was one of the reasons why I wasn’t there for the COLD LAKE album. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t have done it cause I was just so completely burnt out. I was just not able to do anything myself after those massive hassles and struggles with the record company and the falling outs with me, Tom and Reed. This is why it took some time to join in quite late with VANITY/NEMESIS. It might have been slightly different, or really different if I would’ve been in earlier on. I think this is one of the reasons it took us 4 years to create the album. It took us 4 years getting together as a band. It took Tom and me alot of time of working out our differences. There were times in the making of this album where we weren’t talking to each other for months on end. We were going down to the rehursal room like 3 or 4 times a week and we weren’t talking one word. There were times when this band didn’t exist.
That must’ve been an uncomfortable feeling.
Well, I think you can hear it on the album. We created music at that time and I think that is one of the reasons why there is in some songs some people hear of the darkness or feel of the darkness and anxiety. That’s what it was sometimes. I think this is one of the reasons why I was so reluctant of re-joining Celtic Frost. It was never an easy band, it was never an easy thing to do, never an easy relationship going on.
Based on the liner notes and the lyrics, you seem well versed on many religions. Does religion play a major role in your life?
My mother used to be a catholic religious teacher. She was teaching Catholosism and I had to take classes with her and it was something always of interest to me.
Anything you would like to say to the readers and fans?
We’re not playing any Hellhammer songs. We were rehearsing some Hellhammer material we originally planned on playing some Hellhammer stuff because if there is one thing that happened in our re-concilliation between Tom and me and getting Celtic Frost back together again, was that we came to terms with our past. Especially Tom came to terms with his past with hellhammer. I think I had done so earlier on. We started to cherish what we had created back then and realized it for what it was. Genuine juvenile rebellion. Genuine expression of teenage angst. Starting to rehearse the material again, what we realized was we couldn’t re-create it the way it was just like a polaroid of time. A perfect picture. The music was perfectly depicting what we went through back then. Nowdays its 40 year old men trying to re-inact their youth. There is so much genuine emotion in that music the way it was recorded would have taken much more time and we’d have to re-work it to be able to perform it live. We just didn’t have the time, and of couse we wanted to focus on Celtic Frost, the main body of work. So we said OK, let this rest before we destroy it in our own opinion. We’ve decided not to play any Hellhammer songs so far.
Thanks to Stereo Dynamite for setting up the interview and to Sharkbait for the help in transcribing and to LOTW for questions.