Interview with Tom G. Warrior
Interview & live/off-stage pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Celtic Frost stopped by Helsinki on 4th of April 2007, as a part of their co-headlining “Monotheist” tour with the German pioneer thrashers Kreator. Tour openers also included the Swedish blacksters Watain whose most primary task was, I guess, to warm up the night before the headliners jumped on the stage. The Tavastia Club show was completely sold-out, just like many of their other shows have been on this European tour thus far.
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I met briefly the legendary Celtic Frost frontman Tom Gabriel Fischer (a.k.a. Tom Gabriel Warrior) at one cozy-looking, 5-star hotel in the downtown of Helsinki about 5 hours prior to showtime. Tom seemed to be in a good and friendly mood for the interview. A friendly handsake, some chit-chat talking for starters - and both of us were relaxed enough, ready for discussing more.
We naturally discussed their ongoing tour, curfews, Giger, the band´s latest album MONOTHEIST, DVD plans and so on.
Welcome to Finland again Tom. This is your 2nd time to perform in Finland. You did an appearance with Celtic Frost at Tuska Festival last year. What kind of memories did you get from that particular performance at Tuska?
Thank you. Tuska was great. I mean, when you have a big stage, you can at least bring across the visual side of the band as well you can bring the lights, the backdrops and everything. So, it is pleasant to have that kind of platform which is supposed to have, will lack to a certain extent. So Tuska and some of the other festivals were all fantastic. Tuska was brilliant.
It seemed a quite warm place to play at the main stage of Tuska because the sun was heating it all the time…
Yeah, that was the only strange thing that we played like 9.00 or 10.00pm at night, it´s like playing in the mid day because it was so light at that time of the evening. That was of course, something unusual and unique for us. But other than that, I didn´t have any problem with that. I really enjoyed playing there.
I guess playing at an open air festival – for a big mass of people is always a great thing to do due to the overall feeling to play in front of thousands of metalheads that all scream their lungs out for the name of Celtic Frost. It works kinda like an extra fuel for you guys, correct?
Yes, it definitely does that. On the other hand, the thing is it´s so easy to play at such a festival like Tuska, because usually the sound is perfect; everything´s well organized, you have a lot of room on the stage – and you have a huge crew working with you there all the time. When you play at a small club, unfortunately very often the onstage sound is really bad – and of course the fans don´t hear that, but we – as a band, have to get through the songs somehow. I have to sing with a really bad stage sound; you cannot hear the other guitars and you have only this small crew helping you out – and it´s always very hot to play these club gigs. It´s just much more work to play at some club than it is at some well organized festival, y´know.
What about this co-headlining tour with Kreator? How´s it been turning out for you so far?
I think it´s been turning out just fantastic for us. The audiences have been fantastic. There´s been a lot of sold out venues and we wanted to play in Europe for so many years as it´s been a while since we had something like this going on here last time; a long, well-organized tour, y´know. On the other hand I think it´s as far as you can go with, bringing Celtic Frost and say we are with another Heavy Metal band, that´s pretty much as far as you can go. Celtic Frost is a band that has very strong roots in Heavy Rock, and in Heavy Metal. Celtic Frost goes much further than that. And I don´t mean that even such a mental way. But I think Kreator being such a very dedicated Heavy/Thrash Metal band, is probably as far as you can connect Celtic Frost with a band like that.
What I have read from your website, you have had some troubles in England because of the local strict curfews? What actually happened?
Well, first off, I think the local promoters, or club owners just screwed over the fans. I mean, if you make a curfew for 9.00pm, it surely causes lots of troubles. When they booked us to play there, they knew it´s gonna be full sets from each headlining band, the way it is in many other packaged tours. It´s a great value for money, but if you have a curfew like at 9.00pm, the first band has to play like 5.30pm or something. Nobody´s gonna show up to your show that early. That´s not fair to the fans that paid for all the bands – and that´s not fair for the like first two bands that wanted to be on this tour to get more exposure for themselves. And it´s just because of some certain club owners or promoters want to make twice the money because by 9.30pm they wanna have their clubs ´clean´ of Heavy Metal fans, and then fill it up with some fuckin´ dance crap. So they get twice the profit and that´s nothing but completely unfair. And we didn´t want to be quiet about that. We wanted to let our fans know that this was not something what we wanted at all.
And therefore you were forced to shorten your sets a little bit…
Yes, that´s what we unfortunately had to do in order to give Watain and Legion of the Damned at least some playing time. Both us and Kreator had to shorten our sets a little bit. But then again, the fans are being ripped off because they paid to see our full sets, So, whatever you do as a band, you´re gonna be betrayed – and as a fan as well. The only guys that make some real profits out of all this, are the promoters and the club owners. I think that´s completely wrong and bullshit.
ABOUT MANDATORY CELTIC FROST LIVE SONGS
Was it easy to build up a set list for this tour? I mean, you have many albums to choose songs from – on the other hand, your fans always want to hear certain classic Celtic Frost songs in your gigs like “Procreation (of the Wicked)”, The Usurper”, “Circle of the Tyrants”, “Into the Crypt of Rays” and so on?
Well, I think it was actually kind of easy to build up our set list because I believe what we like and what the fans like, is probably the same. We knew right away that we would only play songs from the first three Celtic Frost albums, and songs off our latest album, MONOTHEIST. So we nailed down our own set list quite quickly, and there´s a number of songs that we wanted to hear after 17 years – as much as the fans did. And every Celtic Frost show is opened by “Procreation (of the Wicked)” – and every Celtic Frost show is closed by “Synagoga Satanae”, so those two songs are given to our fans anyway. And what you can play between those two songs, it depends on how long we are allowed to play. But there are so many songs that we like as well… – or wait a second. Now when thinking more carefully, there are actually too many of them that we would like to do. If we toured again, we´d like play certain songs that we haven´t played on this tour, like “Babylon Fell” and things like that off our INTO THE PANDEMONIUM album. We have just too much material to showcase on one tour after 17 years.
100% PURE CELTIC FROST: MONOTHEIST
Then let´s have a couple of your words about your new album, MONOTHEIST, which was actually a quite huge comeback album from Celtic Frost. When you actually started writing the album, did you have a clear vision since from the very beginning how the album would end up sounding after it would have gone through all the mixing and mastering process?
Yes… yes… yes. We had an EXTREMELY clear vision what it was going to be like, and that´s the reason why it took 4 and half years to record this album. We didn´t want to do an album where some record company or some management says: “Here´s a cheque for $$$ for the recording…”. If you do a comeback, and you have like two months time, it´s not for a band like Celtic Frost. We wanted to do it the right way. First of all, when Martin and I sat together, discussing about this album - it was 2000 or something like that, we had exactly the same idea what the album would be like which this tour confirms the time was right for this album. And number 2: We said we are not gonna accept any outside pressure, or any outside influence. We are gonna form our own record company, and we are gonna form our own publishing house to have a full control over this album and everything – and we produce it ourselves. We took as much time as we wanted. We could have never taken 4 and half years with a record company. We wanted this album to be a very strong Celtic Frost album, and we wanted the band to be a real band – and not just put together for a cheque. So, we took a long time to reform the band, and to re-grow our friendships. But we had the time; we took the time issue. If it had taken to 10 years to make this album, then it would have taken 10 years. Above everything was the music, and the fact the album had to be the true Celtic Frost album.
Yeah, and it sounds very much like a Celtic Frost album though…
That´s what it is; I´m very proud of it. I don´t accept any negative criticism. This album is real, and if some people say it´s contrived or calculated, they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. This is the most real, the most honest Celtic Frost album that we have ever done! I know, these are big words, but they are true.
The overall feeling you get out from the songs on MONOTHEIST is actually kinda depressive, dark and doomy in a fine way. Was it your main intention to make the album to sound the way it sounds, or did it just turn out that way it did eventually?
Well, it reflects the state of mind that the band was in, and perhaps still is. We are talking about 4 and half, or maybe 5 years of our life, and my life in particular – as well as other members´ life, during that period of time each of our life was overshadowed by subject of a severe tragedy. And of course that is reflected through this album. I mean, where do you draw the music from the emotions from your own inside. MONOTHEIST overall, is not a happy album; it´s actually a very dark album, but I think Heavy Metal is supposed to be heavy music, it´s a perfect platform for you. And besides this, Celtic Frost has never been too happy band, has it?
Ha-ha… I don´t think so.
Yes, never. There you go… I mean, TO MEGA THERION with Satan using Jesus as a slingshot. It´s not really a party either, is it?
Ha-ha… you got it right.
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU PROUD
If you are looking back as far as your whole history with Celtic Frost is concerned, what could you say are your most memorable, or most ambitious achievements with this band that you are really proud of?
I´m proud of having worked with one of my biggest idols ever, or maybe my biggest idol H.R. Giger which would have never happened if I hadn´t been in Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. That to me is a treasure I´m having in my heart forever, and the friendship between us and Giger is stronger than it´s ever been. I´m also proud of being a part of an amazing album like INTO THE PANDEMONIUM, in which we took a lot of risk and a lot of courage – as all the other Celtic Frost albums, but INTO THE PANDEMONIUM was a very special album to me personally. And I´m proud of having made a very strong comeback with Celtic Frost; a comeback nobody thought could be possible; a comeback many people laughed about before they heard the album and said: “Yes, sure… Celtic Frost have made a misstep. They are never gonna do a good album again…”, what we did eventually. And I´m 43 years old, and I pulled it off, and I´m very proud of that. One day I hope I could be proud of showing the whole world I can do even more than that, and not that yet I think there´s still music inside of me.
How was it overall to do music and play for people with Celtic Frost back in the day compared to the current days? What types of things have changed from your point of view during the absence of Celtic Frost?
That´s what everybody is telling me that lots of things could have been changed, but I think nothing has changed. There´s computers and the Internet now, but those are just technical changes. The mechanics of the music industry and the fans are very much the same. The music industry hasn´t changed a bit: It still tries to screw over bands; it´s still only about money and how much you can make it out of this business. Nobody really cares for music – nobody cares for art. Albums are still done within 5 minutes without any consideration for the quality of them. Record companies really don´t care. They issue bad contracts and everything is basically the same like it was 10-20 years ago. What has changed, is maybe the fact there are so many bands these days that it´s very difficult for the fans to consume everything. There´s boatloads of albums, bands and concerts there – and you count on fans that are maybe a little bit too saturated by a product - by music. But other than that it´s very much the same. It´s actually quite scary how much same it is.
FORTH-COMING AND PAST TOURS
Back to this day for a while though. On 9th of April you´ll start your North American tour from Chicago, Illinois, touring there like a month and having like 25 or so gigs booked there. What kind of expectations do you already have from your American leg of the tour?
Very good ones, I have to say. We already played 46 shows over there last fall which was the single biggest Celtic Frost tour in the States ever we have done thus far. And it was fantastic. It was a very hard work to pull off that tour, but it was worth it. It was fantastic for the fans, too, but as you can easily imagine 46 shows non-stop is a lot of work. 9 weeks on the road in the tour bus with the crew and everything is quite tough all in all. Anyway, we are about to do another leg containing 25 shows, so it´s gonna be a hard work again, but I do have great expectations about that tour anyway.
You also played 3 dates in Japan together with Nalgfar and Satyricon. That was also the first time ever for Celtic Frost to play in Japan. Was playing there something like that you had been thinking in advance it would be; I mean even to go and play there for the Japanese people is always something that many bands hope to do at certain point of their career – and now it did happen for Celtic Frost.
Yeah, it was truly amazing. It was a lifetime experience. Japan is so well-organized, so professional from every single aspect. Japan is so respectful to the bands that tour in that country; honestly it´s overall absolutely a pleasure to get a chance play there.
When you played those 3 dates in Japan, did you want to get you back to play there again?
Our record company has said that they would like to get us back, so we´ll see what happens in the future. But we´d love to go back to Japan and play there for our amazing Japanese audience.
When this tour is about to progress on, you´ll also play in Australia on 13th June in Sydney and on June 14th in Melbourne, for the very first time in the entire history of Celtic Frost. What do you expect from your 1st visit from Australia indeed?
It´s gonna be my first time overall to go to Australia, so I really am looking forward to that very much. Now when Celtic Frost is coming back, we are doing some things that our old record company made completely impossible for us in the ´80s because they kept on working against us. We had all these offers in the ´80s already, but our old record company managed to destroy all of them. Y´know, we had offers for everything; for touring, for films – and just for everything possible you can think of. If it wasn´t a direct profit for them, then they simply destroyed it. Now when we are back, we have a full control for everything, and we can finally do these things after 20 years. It´s a real blessing – it´s just amazing to be able to do these things after all these past years, and enjoy it.
CELTIC FROST DVD PROJECTS
I think many people have already asked from you already when Celtic Frost will release their first ever DVD, so when do you think Celtic Frost will fulfill those demands from your fans´ direction? Have you, for example, been shooting any DVD material during this tour?
We have already shot tons of DVD material. There´s also a Swiss film crew that has been following us around for like a year. They are doing a documentary about Celtic Frost which will eventually come out as a DVD as well. They´ll put a context into the whole history of Celtic Frost. When I´m done with touring, this crew will go and shoot some footage from the old rehearsal room of Hellhammer. Then they´ll travel to a tiny farm where I grew up and I´ll show and introduce them some places there then. There´ll be a lot of Celtic Frost history in there, so I think it´s gonna be a really comprehensive documentary about the whole history of Celtic Frost. But we are very hesitant to issue just a record live DVD because there´s so many live DVDs out there in the market nowadays and for me they are all the same. You see concerts; they are good or they are bad, but basically they are all the same. We have very ambitious plans for a concert film and it will cost a lot of money and a lot of logistics to do it the way we would like to do it. It´s a project that no other band has attempted to touch thus far. As we speak, we are talking to film crews and potential investors to do this right now because we just cannot finance it completely from our pockets. We hope to strike a deal even if I cannot guarantee it now. But if we are able to strike a deal for making it happen, maybe within a year or so we´ll be able to do a concert film unlike any other concert film any Heavy Metal group has ever done. It´ll be typical Celtic Frost, but on the other hand, it´s gonna be something totally unique at the same time as well. It´s a very ambitious project, so there´s no guarantees yet if it´s gonna be made or not. However, we are trying very hard to make our plans reality.
SOLO ALBUM COMING UP
When do you think Celtic Frost start writing their next album at earliest, at least in theory? Have you already written some new stuff since the song writing sessions for MONOTHEIST?
Yes, I´m writing music constantly anyway. When I´m home, let´s say even for 4-5 days, I´m sitting there and working on new music. I´m working on my solo album and I am also writing music for a potential album of Celtic Frost. However, I cannot guarantee that there will be another album for a while. I think the band, the management and the record company would like to have a new Celtic Frost album out within a reasonable time, but to be honest it´s not that easy to be in Celtic Frost and write stuff for the band. As I said many times before Celtic Frost is made of three people with very explosive and volatile characters - and it is for me personally extremely difficult to be a part of this band. I´ll see how I´m gonna feel later this year. I believe if we are doing another album, we can top MONOTHEIST; we can make it another piece of art, something completely unusual. But right now I don´t know if I have the strength for that, to be honest. But what I´ll certainly do, is a solo album of mine – that´s already for sure, and we´ll see… Musically I´d be very much into the idea of doing a Celtic Frost album. I think we haven´t done our greatest work yet; it´s still to come.
Ok, due to the time schedule reserved for this chat with you, I have to finish this interview session and thank you for your time for talking about all these things. So thank you Tom very much.
Thanks to yourself. It was my pleasure.
Thanks to both Taija Holm from ProPromotion…
… and the tour manager Frank Dehn for setting up the interview