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Celtic Frost Interview


Celtic Frost has been a major influence in some of the greatest bands of our time. They have influenced bands like Nirvana, Metallica, and Marilyn Manson. With the bands first new album in 16 years only a month from being released, I jumped at the chance to speak with Tom regarding Celtic Frost.

The Gauntlet: How are tour rehearsals going?

Tom: Challenging but very good. It is far from easy, but sounds fantastic. This is music that is deeply buried inside of me. I don't think I can ever do anything else as far as live performances go. It is something I have to contrive or conceive as it is inside of me.

The Gauntlet: I'm sure Celtic Frost is busy right now with the tour and album coming out soon.

Tom: Lately a million things have been going on. It's completely out of control. We did this album first and foremost for musical reasons. It is very much an expression of the friendship between Martin and I. The last few months it has been a rollercoaster ride. Everything from record companies and tours and its growing beyond any belief. We didn't really intend for all this to happen. It is quite astonishing to see the power Celtic Frost wields right now.

The Gauntlet: You state you can't believe all the media attention. What did you expect after being gone for over 10 years?

Tom: I didn't expect anything. I can honestly say that. I did this album for me and Martin, there is really no other reason. It is quite well known by now we turned down numerous chances for a reunion in the '90's, some of them with insane amounts of money attached. It just turned me off to the reunion with the more money they offered. There was no way we were going to reform Celtic Frost because of some 3rd party or there was a check there. That to me has absolutely nothing to do with art, creation or music. When we decided to do this we did so because of the bond between Martin and I. We have known each other since we were teenagers. We were setup in the studio for four years away from public scrutiny on purpose. We didn't even let anyone come to the rehearsal room to listen to the music. We did this for ourselves. We really did not want to concern ourselves with any public perception or whatever would happen when we released it or anything like that. This was about Martin and me and doing some Celtic Frost music, hopefully true Celtic Frost music and nothing else.

The Gauntlet: A lot of time when bands get back together after being gone so long they reform with not all the original members. Could you have ever done this album without Martin?

Tom: No, there are already too many things Celtic Frost did without Martin. I don't think we could continue without Martin. Celtic Frost was formed by Martin and Me. The whole concept of the band was done by us. We wrote all the material, produced, played the parts, everything was 50/50. The older I get, the more I realize that the classic Celtic Frost is what Martin and I have done together. I am extremely happy that we work together so well right now that our friendship is realistically stronger than it has ever been.

The Gauntlet: You mentioned the classic Celtic Frost, which albums are the classic Celtic Frost?

Tom: That's easy. They are the first 3 albums. To me these are classic Celtic Frost. These albums for me define what Celtic Frost wanted to accomplish, what sound we wanted to attain, what kind of ideas we wanted to incorporate on an extreme metal basis. The new album to me rates as classic Celtic Frost even though it's a new one. The classic Celtic Frost is more a frame of mind than a time description.

The Gauntlet: The band has never really been defined by one genre and has always been innovators of extreme music. Is it hard to get back into that frame of mind?

Tom: No, it is hard for certain territories in the world to accept we don't want to be pushed into a certain genre. In Germany for example, they say the new Celtic Frost isn't death metal and bullshit like that. Like we ever said we wanted to do a death metal album. That's our way of life. We all come from such varied backgrounds, not just Martin and I. We have always done so. We truly refuse to be forced into these self-imposed limitations. Why censor ourselves. Heavy metal is a revolutionary style of music, or at least it was when it rose in the late 60's, early 70's. I really don't want to be forced to do one certain thing and ignore others. You cannot do that in heavy metal. Especially in Germany where the metal scene is unbelievably conservative. They rate Celtic Frost differently. They say Celtic Frost isn't death metal so they are crap, or they aren't black metal so they are crap. Like we are forced to be something. I have such contempt for this attitude.

The Gauntlet: What was the catalyst to getting the band back together.

Tom: The actual spark to do this album came from the record company Norse Records offered us to participate in the re-issue of the old Celtic Frost albums. This was the first time the old members talked as band members. This includes me and Martin because we really had led completely separate lives for the time we were apart. I had lived in America and England and Martin has opened clubs in Zurich and promoted shows and all kinds of things. During all these years we had maybe talked to each other twice briefly. We really led completely separate lives. This re-issue project brought us together again in this really concentrated form. We discovered there was an explosion of friendship between us. It seemed much more intense and more mature than ever based on the lifetime we had amassed voluntarily and involuntarily. Even after the re-issue project was finished we stayed in touch and started talking about music and how we would create music nowadays. In the fall of 2001, we discovered we had the exact same album in our minds. We decided to begin work on this album and it was clear it would certainly be Celtic Frost.

The Gauntlet: Do you think that "Monotheist" would have been the same album if Celtic Frost didn't split up?

Tom: No way. The band was completely burned out on every level. When the early 90's came, it was absolutely essential that the band split up. I think we should have even earlier. It was only possible because we weren't together. We were allowed extensive off time. If not, we would have released one average album after another. We had already gone in some direction we shouldn't have. So the time off was perfect. I think a lot of bands should take that time off.

The Gauntlet: Were there any difficulties in making this album?

Tom: [laughs] More than I can even fit into a book. We are talking about four and a half years. Any challenge you can imagine; technical, personal, musical. Even the mission of finding Celtic Frost inside ourselves was difficult. We had heard this album in our heads, but to actually come close to writing such music was difficult. We knew exactly what we wanted the new Celtic Frost to be, we knew what we wanted the song to sound like, sometimes in great detail. But to go into a rehearsal room after so many years, it cannot be Celtic Frost right away. For me, things have taken place. We spent 1 � years growing back together and defining what Celtic Frost was to us and where we had to be mentally to do this. We recorded music from the first day. We wrote and recorded music in parallel. A lot of that music is actually quite good, it's just not Celtic Frost and should never be released as Celtic Frost. It was just a defining phase we went though.

The Gauntlet: How were you able to get away with spending four plus years in the studio?

Tom: We spent four years because we didn't want to do an album triggered by a record company. We didn't want to be in a studio with a deadline. For us it was about the art and the music. We formed our own record company in order to stay as long as it would take to make a Celtic Frost album. I never intended for this to take four years. I hoped to be done in one year but it was not possible. Had we taken money from a third party or listened to a third party in management or a promoter, they would have forced us to release this album and it would have been a shitty album. It would have smeared our reputation even further instead of restoring it. This was our project and you cannot put tag of time on it. Either you do it as long as it takes as an artist or you don't do it as its commercial. Martin and I from the very first album only wanted to release if it was a Celtic Frost album. So it happened after four years. If it had taken ten years, we would have done it that way. We didn't want to do it under a time limit. If it takes months, fine. If it takes years, fine.

The Gauntlet: That has got to cost a lot of money. And for you to do this without any money from a label is unheard of.

Tom: We self financed this. Far more money than we ever had. Neither Martin or I are rich. To be honest, Martin and I worked day and night to finance this album and still work day and night. This is not just a cool line. We literally work day and night and I am burned out. I will quit very shortly but I am carrying with me an enormous financial burden that I don't know how to get out of, but then I don't give a shit because I wanted to do this album. This album was really important to me. I needed to do this album. I doubt I will ever recover the money, even if the album is hugely successful. I didn't do this album for the money. Celtic Frost to me is a huge icon in my life. It is the center point, it is what has defined my personality, my friendships, my relationships. Everything is defined by Celtic Frost. I smeared that reputation with an album called "Cold Lake" and that's never going to happen again no matter what it takes, no matter how much money or time. I want to do an album that is a proud sign of Celtic Frost, not to smear Celtic Frost.

The Gauntlet: "Cold Lake" was actually a popular album in the USA for the band.

Tom: Absurdly it was. You can explain almost everything about this album. There is no excuse for the album, but you can explain the album. What really is difficult to live is Celtic Frost has a standard as far as music, lyrics, photos, and art is concerned. "Cold Lake" does not fulfill that standard in any of these respects and that makes it difficult for me. I like to do products that no other bands do and products with quality. "Cold Lake" doesn't do this and that makes it really difficult for me as an artist to live with. Now having said this I take the responsibility. I also take responsibility for classics like "To Mega Therion". I have to have the respect and acknowledge I had responsibility in developing them.

The Gauntlet: Celtic Frost will be doing some festival dates in Europe this summer.

Tom: Yes, we play pretty much the biggest festivals all over Europe this summer. We are headlining a lot of these. It blows our minds. We will see how that goes. I still am putting my head to how Celtic Frost fits into such an environment. It will be an experiment to see much like everything else in our career. I am really looking forward to the proper tour. I feel very comfortable in the studio. I feel totally at home in the studio. If I play live I'd rather do it on a tour than on a festival. I like to have actual contact with the fans. I am looking forward to the proper tour which starts in North America for a three month tour. Then hopefully we go to Europe, then South America and Japan.

The Gauntlet: This sounds like a huge tour.

Tom: By far this is our biggest tour ever. My life has been connected to America in numerous ways, not just my fifteen years of marriage with an American woman. I have best friends including Martin who are American. It is fantastic to actually be able to go back and play there.

The Gauntlet: Since "Cold Lake" was big in the US, will you play any songs from that album on the tour?

Tom: No. We will only play songs from the first three albums which we rate the essential Celtic Frost albums and music from the new album. If we have time, we will play a couple Hellhammer songs.

The Gauntlet: That would be killer hearing some Hellhammer songs live. Being gone for sixteen years, do you think you'll have a good mix of old and new fans?

Tom: We'll see. The new album isn't out yet. This is really something I can't comment on. The album is not a commercial album. It is very complex and needs to be listened to. It is not a three minute download. We will see how that fairs in time. We are very much part of the current scene and see a lot of changes. We will see how a band like Celtic Frost will fair in this environment.

The Gauntlet: Since the last Celtic Frost release, you didn't have to deal with all the downloading and pirating of music. Does this concern you in any way?

Tom: Yes and no. We had to deal with it in the past. Taping music was killing music. The record companies ignored it in those days, but it was a severe threat. Nowadays it is simply easier. I don't think much has changed. People have always taped or ripped off music. I am somebody who downloads music from the internet and at the same time I am a musician. I see both sides. I am trying to be very realistic about both sides. I don't have the perfect solution. With me, when I download a song and love it, I want the album. I want to look at the artwork and the booklet. I enjoy when a band incorporates the packaging into the music. It's like a little movie.

The Gauntlet: My copy of the album is just a promo with the CD only. What packaging will be included with "Monotheist"?

Tom: The front cover is merely a small outtake of a whole artwork that is on the promotional posters. The digital even contains a poster that has more artwork. As always with Celtic Frost, the artwork is a huge concept.

The Gauntlet: The album is being licensed for release in the US via Century Media. Where there other offers to consider?

Tom: Yes there were a couple. The thing is, we didn't want to be an item on a financial spreadsheet. We wanted to have a strong muscle in the industry to promote and distribute the album. We wanted to be a band that encounters some enthusiasm. In the end there were only two labels that we felt that personal connection. It was an extremely difficult decision to make. We wanted to have the album to be distributed. After being gone sixteen years, it was important to have this album being distributed so we went with Century Media.

The Gauntlet: How does Celtic Frost not get lumped in with all the bands getting together for reunions after being gone two years?

Tom: I have heard about so many final tours, then one or two years later it is like it never happened. It's publicity. The word 'reunion' is polluted. So many bands do it for the wrong reasons. Every band has their own reason for doing it. Maybe it is legitimate if you do it for money. We are living in a capitalistic world. Who is going to say doing it for money isn't legitimate now. It is the system we have all chosen. It just makes me feel really shallow when bands get back together for money or publicity. We are talking about music, not the stock exchange. I got back with Martin to make music. If someone said the word reunion I felt like puking. There had been so many reunion proposals. What made us talk about making the new album was talking with Martin at a restaurant. There was so creativity. You could feel it. We wanted to experience what it would feel like to write new music.

The Gauntlet: Will there ever be a Celtic Frost DVD?

Tom: I have actually spoken with a director about this an hour ago. We do want to do a DVD. We want to do it differently than anybody else. I hope we have the muscle to not do a live DVD like there are 100,000 around. We have some ideas for some very unusual live concerts that we would like to tape. Hopefully we will be able to do it. There are some challenges we will need to overcome.

The Gauntlet: Will the live shows have an orchestra or additional guitarists?

Tom: We will be on the road with two guitarists. But as far as orchestra, we have talked about this long and hard and we decided to do it like in the old days and focus on energy. Our albums have always been about creation and expanding the art and the live shows are power and heaviness and we don't think that should change. Celtic Frost is about a mood and atmosphere we create on stage. If we do a DVD, we will talk about including a classical orchestra and singer as it is a different environment.

The Gauntlet: Who will be the second guitarist?

Tom: We have tried a number of guitarists and found probably the best guitarist we could have found. I am not speaking technically, I am speaking personally. It is not easy for a guitar player to get integrated into this band. We are a bunch of loonies and unique characters to say it nicely. We have someone who lives and breathes Celtic Frost like we do. We will make a formal announcement in a couple weeks when the time is right.


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Tags:  Celtic Frost  , Tom Fischerinterviews

    April 01, 2006

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