Interview with Triptykon
By Chris Brown
Having just played their first show back home in their native Switzerland in over 2 years, Triptykon have since embarked on a European Tour with At The Gates to promote their latest release ‘Melena Chasmata’. We caught up with legendary front man; Thomas Gabriel Warrior ahead of the German leg of the tour.
With regards to your first album, I heard you talk a lot about how its creation was influenced by anger and frustration at the manner of the split of your former band Celtic Frost. What feelings, if any, inspired your new album?
It’s a much more introverted album, its a much more of a personal and intimate album, and we’re very happy to say that we managed to leave all the feelings of anger and frustration, caused by the break up of Celtic Frost that we used to have, we managed to leave that behind us after creating an album from it. I suppose future works by Triptykon are are much more reflective of Triptykon [as a band] and our personal state of mind at any given time, rather than such negative feelings.
As with your first release, HR Giger provided artwork for this album and was one of his last piece before he sadly passed away earlier this year. There seems to be a real synergy between your music and the pieces he creates, how did this collaboration come about?
Well I perceive it that way as well, there is a synergy between our artwork and our music and we perceived that already when we were in Hellhammer, that’s why we approached him in the first place. Of course, we thought we were nobodies and we had no record deal, no nothing. We thought that he wouldn’t even listen to our stuff, he wouldn’t answer. But then he did answer and he said he perceived it in the same way, which blew us away.
The result is, of course, well known and from that arose a friendship that has lasted until the day he died. I feel that with Triptykon, we are probably even a bit closer to his artwork than we were with Celtic Frost and it was really important for me and very symbolic for me to create the first Triptykon album with his artwork. I was happy with that, I wasn’t going to ask for more but at the end of the day he was so happy with the collaboration that he approached me about a year after the first album came out and proposed that we keep on working. So, in all, we created three albums together, of which two have been released and so the next Triptykon album will be the very last with which Giger has been involved – its going to be the last official Giger cover ever.
What would say your approach is when it comes to writing music; is the focus more geared towards music you enjoy or do you go for something more overtly experimental?
I would never write music that I don’t enjoy. That would never enter my mind, that’s why I formed my own band and, after thirteen albums, I feel I have complete freedom of creating whatever I wish. I have my reputation and with Triptykon, I really feel like I have a vehicle where I can create whatever I wish to do.
I would never write anything for commercial reasons or for any other reasons if I don’t enjoy it. As for the approach, there is no approach – there is no routine or any given scope. I simply write intuitively according to how I feel. I continuously take notes musically and lyrically. I have my notebooks and I work from these ideas and they are completely honest, they are completely spontaneous.
I’ve read that growing up, for you, there was no real scene for the music you wanted to create, was that restrictive or did it give your creative freedom to forge your own path because of that?
We perceived it as extremely restrictive. For example, the English bands or American bands who were able to go to dozens of clubs every day to see their peers play and to learn from that, I mean we just didn’t have that. There were no clubs at the time, there were hardly any bands so we didn’t have anybody we could copy and learn from, and we perceived that as extremely restrictive. As it turned out, later on that was probably an advantage because we were forced to develop our own style and to create our own ideas, and of course in the long run that’s a huge advantage.
There are some really striking moments on your albums, such as ‘My Pain’ from your first record, which aren’t metal at all. Would Triptykon ever make an album more in tune with these other styles?
I don’t really work like that. When I work on a Triptykon album, I don’t think it has to be a metal album, I simply put all the music on there that I think sounds beautiful. Whether that’s an extremely heavy song, or a song like ‘My Pain’, I really don’t care.
I’m very happy to say that the members of Triptykon are open enough to do this. With Celtic Frost, some of the more eclectic songs that have appeared on Triptykon albums were proposed by me for the last Celtic Frost album; ‘Monotheist’, and they were voted down by the other members, which frustrated me to no end. I’m very happy that in Triptykon, I have members who are, musically, much more open minded.
I very much think these songs have a place on a Triptykon album and I always will. As a matter of fact, I define Triptykon as a band that has a very broad horizon and we would never ever sit down and say we would write a metal album – we would write a Triptykon album and that’s just it.
I saw your new video – ‘Tree of Suffocating Souls’ and I read a comment you made which stated that the night you shot the footage would be one ‘you’d never forget’. Can you shed some light behind this?
I will do that in a limited manner… It was just an extremely intense session. We worked for three days with the director of our video, who is a very close friend. It was extremely intense, but also extremely creative as well, and also extremely demanding. There are little subtleties in the video where, to me, it serves as a reminder for how intense it was.
What was it like working with Phillip Hersch again?
It is at the same time a huge inspiration, because he is extremely creative, but also very demanding because I have certain ideas of how Triptykon should be presented. But I don’t want to be a dictator, of course, and the director is a very creative mind so it takes quite a lot of work to merge our two minds to create a common product. But, I think at the end of the day we have done very well three times now and we will certainly work with him again in the future. But, especially with our second video, I worried that there was a very, very long and difficult process to get on the same page.
You’ve just played your first show in your native Switzerland for 2 years, how did it feel to be back?
It felt good. In 32 years, I have only played a handful of times in my home country, which is kind of odd. I am probably the only Swiss musician to be able to say that, and especially the capital of Switzerland – I am certainly the only Swiss musician that had never played the capital, so it was good to actually do that. Its also nice to see that given our early days in Hellhammer, where we were ridiculed and were basically forced to leave Switzerland, its good to see that we can play there and be fully accepted – the fans love us!
Do you have any general thoughts on how the tour with At The Gates is progressing so far?
Well, its been a difficult tour for many reasons, at certain locations. But as far as I perceive it, the relationship between the two bands is very good: very professional, very constructive. Last night, for example, we did a little joint number where Tomas from At The Gates joined us on stage for ‘Circle of the Tyrants’, which of course, for us, was a personal high point.
Lastly, where does the band plan to go from here after this tour?
Of course, we are working on a new album but I really have no plans or ambitions whatsoever. Maybe it sounds pretentious, but I have done everything that I wanted to do in my life. I’m working on a new book and a new album but, to me, that’s like a bonus track. I’m very happy and I’ve decided that for as long as I’m going to exist, I’m going to record music I like without any pressure or ambitious goals or anything like that. I’m simply want to record albums that I stand behind and I think is good music, that’s really all that matters to me at my age now.