Triptykon's Tom Warrior
Published Apr 06, 2010When the reunited extreme metal heroes Celtic Frost released their comeback disc, Monotheist, in 2006, things were looking up for that particular gaggle of downers. Here was an album that was as good ― and certainly as heavy ― as anything in the band's storied catalog. They went on the biggest tour of their career and were working on new material that promised to rival Monotheist's crushing weight. Then, in 2008, the band suddenly broke up. But vocalist/guitarist Tom Warrior (who first made extreme metal history by forming the infamous pre-Frost thrash/death band Hellhammer) isn't one to sit still, and he immediately formed Triptykon (initially with original Frost drummer Reed St. Mark, who is no longer in the new band), all the while keeping busy on a book chronicling the history of Hellhammer, Only Death Is Real, which is about to see publication. Triptykon's debut, Eparistera Daimones, sounds exactly like Monotheist's follow-up should, taking that album's oppressive doom metal heaviness and aggressive experimentation even further (hello, 11-minute album opener; goodbye, 20-minute album closer), creating an appearance of complete intensity, but revealing something quite vulnerable underneath. Just like Warrior himself.
How are you doing?
Don't ask me that.
Does that mean you're not doing good?
It's just too complex.
Well, I'll say this, congrats on the new CD and the new band.
Thank you very much. Even after all these years in the music industry it means a lot to me, especially with this album, with its very unique history.
The album is so heavy…
Well, it's called heavy metal, isn't it? It's up to the other bands if they don't want to live up to the name of the music, but I do.
Is it a challenge for you as the years go on, to keep it so heavy? Your music just gets heavier.
No, not at all. It comes very naturally; it's not something I have to work at. If anything, all this stuff that I've lived through in my life makes it far easier to dig deep in to my emotions and release all this. This album has been the most personal I've ever created. If that's the darkest and the heaviest album I've ever made at the same time, then that simply speaks for what I've lived through.
A lot of metal bands don't really channel that. They don't really use their emotions like that.
Look, everybody can do whatever they want. But I agree with you; I think there's too much formula involved in heavy metal nowadays. I think it's also to do with some peer pressure, all these death metal bands, for example, who are, admittedly, technically fantastic, but it makes the younger musicians focus entirely on technical details and technical proficiency instead of teaching them that music is actually an emotional thing and technical ability should always be an instrument to release your emotions, not vice versa. I don't like heavy metal where so many bands sound exactly alike.
Over your career, you've certainly always done your own thing. I think this new album is more of that. I mean, it closes with a 20-minute song…
Having been part of this for so long gave me the self-confidence to do whatever the damn hell I please. I have complete control, I've formed my own record company, I've formed my own music publishing house, I can do whatever I want. I'm responsible to myself ― if it doesn't sell, then it's my fault. And I can live with that. I want full artistic freedom, and I know if I was on a regular record company they would have never allowed me to do a song that was 20 minutes long, or to have the first song be 11 minutes long. It's a very self-indulgent album, but at this point in my career I really don't want to bow to any capitalist CEOs. This is heavy metal, after all, and these are my feelings ― nobody knows them better than I do.
Going into this, you made a comment that I found interesting. You said you wanted this band to sound as close to Celtic Frost as possible. Why?
Because, number one, Celtic Frost was me. I wrote maybe 95 percent of all the music in Celtic Frost's years, so the songwriting's me anyway. I'm Celtic Frost; Celtic Frost is me. But the other thing is, Celtic Frost broke apart because of personal problems, ego problems, and not because of musical differences. Musically and creatively I was extremely happy in Celtic Frost. We originally planned to release many more albums with Celtic Frost and develop what we had started on Monotheist, to keep developing that. So, when the band broke apart, I still wanted to do that. I'm still the same musician; I'm still happy and proud of Monotheist and I wanted to see where this could go. I wanted to see how this music would develop and how this songwriting would develop. I didn't see any reason to change my musical approach. The problems in Celtic Frost were personal; I formed a new band and I went to great lengths to ensure that I played with musicians that don't have ego deficiencies in this band. That's where the problem was; that's what needed to be changed.
Is it strange for you to record music and have it not be under the name Celtic Frost?
Losing Celtic Frost is something I will never get over, in my entire life. Celtic Frost was my life; my life was Celtic Frost. It has defined everything I am. Leaving Celtic Frost was the most difficult decision I had to make as a musician in my life. Initially, after having been associated with Celtic Frost so closely for so long, it felt extremely strange. I felt exposed, naked. I had to find a frame of mind, how to work as a musician outside of Celtic Frost. Now, however, two years later, there are moments where I think that as painful and as difficult as it was, it was probably the best thing that could have happened, because it was very, very difficult to work under the human circumstances that prevailed within Celtic Frost. It took so much of my energy away, to weather the fights and all the negative stuff. That's all energy that I now can invest in music. Triptykon is a band that's not competitive inside the band, it's extremely supportive. I've been missing that for so long. It's strange and positive at the same time.
I imagine you miss Celtic Frost, but you probably don't miss how it had become, by the sounds of it.
I missed Celtic Frost very much when I left it. That's why I formed Triptykon right away and started work on a new album right away. Triptykon, from the very first date, has played Celtic Frost material for half of our set; the other half is Triptykon material. So, Celtic Frost is very much a part of my life. The songs are so important to me, the songs that made Celtic Frost, they're there, they sound exactly like they sounded in Celtic Frost. Triptykon is essentially Celtic Frost with a different rhythm section. Right now, after two years of doing this with Triptykon, I feel very comfortable. I'm now absolutely convinced this was the right step to take. The other thing was consuming me, it was consuming my emotions, my spirit, my energy, my creativity. This band fosters it. That's a huge difference.
But we don't want you to get too happy, because you have to keep making this miserable music. Don't get too comfortable.
No, I don't, I don't (laughs). I've gone through a happy patch in my life and the results were disastrous, and I'm definitely not looking forward to ever repeating that. But given my experience with my own life, I have no doubt that it's never going to be too easy for me. I definitely plan on developing what we've done on this first album. I think there's much more in this band. Especially because this band is not just me; it's really a band. I'm working with musicians I respect very highly, and I'm quite sure we're only just starting. The chemistry between us is so strong, I'm sure we have more in ourselves.
With these long songs, do you worry that it's just going to be too much for some people, or do you just not care?
I really don't give a toss (laughs). If you don't like our music, don't listen to it. I can live with that. I've been doing this since 1982, I'm 46 years old, I'm done with bowing to record companies, impressions, expectations, all this shit. If I wanted to do that, then I wouldn't have formed my own record company, and I would do albums that are easily digestible. We've done what we've done, and there's a reason behind it. I don't need to explain what we're doing. We're doing what we're doing and if you hate it, that's fine. This is a huge world, there are a million metal bands around. There's one for everybody. If you hate us, fine. [20-minute album closer] "The Prolonging" is the way it needs to be, the only thing I worry about is that my tiny brain won't be able to play the song on stage.
It's surprising to hear you say you're 46. This is heavy music for a 46-year-old guy to be playing.
Well, yeah (laughs). Look, when I began being a musician, I was an absolute nobody. I had no connections, no money, I didn't have any technical abilities. I really started in a humbling, tiny way. And it was inconceivable to me, where or who I would be in my 40s. Number one, I didn't think I would have a lasting musical career. I was realistic enough to think, if I'm really lucky, I'll do an EP or an album and that's it. And all the 40-year-olds around me at the time were completely normal citizens that lead their normal lives and have really short-sighted horizons and hated the music I was doing; the absolute opposite of what the metal scene stands for. Because that's all I saw around me, I thought I would probably be like them. I hoped against hope as a teenager that I would be different, but I didn't know. Now I find myself in my 40s and still playing extreme metal. My whole life has been part of this music I'm so passionate for, part of this music I've been listening to since I was a child. I myself am very surprised that this is possible; a lot of bands that I've liked, as they've got older they've become more commercial. My albums are becoming heavier and darker and I'm extremely happy with this. I began playing in Hellhammer because of Venom, which, at the time, was the heaviest band in the world. To see my albums are still dark and heavy means as much to me as it probably does to my fans. You cannot steer emotions. You can shape an album to a certain extent if you give it a concept. But if you're an honest musician and you write according to emotions and not according to a formula, then you can not steer what your music will sound like and that's why it's something that's quite beyond my control. But I'm very happy as long as it's the way it is right now or as it was on Monotheist.
The album's certainly heavy, but the experimentation is also there, the quiet parts are there, the melody's there at other times.
In spite of all the heaviness, I'm still a musician. I embrace music; I love music. One of the main influences in Celtic Frost for Martin [Ain, bassist] and me was always new wave. I personally have a strong classical background, too. I've always been fascinated, even as a child, by classical music. So I don't see why the heaviness and branching out in musical terms cannot co-exist.
Where did the name of the band come from?
It's simply homage to my life-long fascination with triptych paintings, especially medieval triptych paintings, such as the ones by Hieronymus Bosch ― one of those paintings was the cover of [Celtic Frost's] Into the Pandemonium album, in 1987. With Triptykon being the third extreme metal band that I've formed, to me, it kind of seems like it's the final panel of one of those paintings, symbolically speaking. I certainly hope Triptykon will last and I won't have to form yet another band in my 50s. It gets kind of ridiculous to record a debut album every ten years (laughs).
Talking to you, Celtic Frost comes up constantly. Does it bug you that the Triptykon album is going to get comparisons to Celtic Frost, constantly?
No, because it would have been the same if it would have been the Celtic Frost album that it once was planned to be. It would be unrealistic to think people would forget my back catalogue. It's fine. The point of the matter is, can it stand next to my back catalogue? I personally believe that, yes, it can. If I would have to be ashamed because it's a wimpy little meagre album and it would be eclipsed by everything I've done before, then it would be a problem.
And your new book Only Death Is Real is just about out, what's the status on that?
It will be published on the 30th of March. It feels fantastic because it's really the definitive story of Hellhammer. It's not just written by me; it includes work by all the main members of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. Their statements are included word by word in the book. It's a thick, large-format book with hundreds of photos, much of it never before seen. After five years of work on this, I feel very accomplished for us all. If somebody's into Hellhammer, this is the bible.