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intervju

4. 11. 2015  Triptykon: Tom Gabriel Warrior in interview 
“It would be nice to be in a world where the most important thing is music.”

Na letošnjem festivalu Brutal Assault XX sem se imel priložnost pogovarjati s švicarskim glasbenikom Tomasom Gabrielom Warriorjem, ki je v zgodnjih osemdesetih letih prejšnjega stoletja kot eden prvih utrial pot ekstremnemu metalu z bendoma Hellhammer in Celtic Frost. Zadnja leta ustvarja s svojo novo zasedbo Triptykon. Pogovarjala sva se o njihovi aktualni izdaji, o spreminjanju sveta na bolje, o pasteh potrošništva in slave, o glasbeni sceni, o ustvarjanu, o pokojnem umetniku H.R. Gigerju itd. Ker želim, da izrečene misli mojega sogovornika ostanejo čimbolj nespremenjene in da je intervju hkrati dostopen širšemu bralstvu, ga objavljam v angleškem originalu.

Jernej: I want to begin with your latest release, Melana Chasmata (2014). Can you tell me about the concept of the album and how it differs from the debut album. On Eparistera Daimones (2010) you dealt a lot with what happened to Celtic Frost and this time around you seem to explore a larger variety of emotions.  

Tom Gabriel Warrior: It’s much more intimate, much more personal album. It reflects much more the feelings within the band, within Triptykon, our personalities much rather than the anger towards the outside, what happened. The first album was, like you correctly say, very much influenced by breaking apart of Celtic Frost. I’m very glad that we left this behind after one album. It was good that we did it, but I don’t want to keep on doing aggressive angry albums in a negative manner. There is also a positive power, you know. And I’m very glad that Triptykon can now explore our own feelings, our own emotions and that’s exactly what began to happen on the second album. It’s simply much more intimate portrait of Triptykon.

Many of us went through very difficult time in our lives when we did this album, of course it’s reflecting, we are an honest band. It’s a very good, very stable line up, but several people in the band, including myself, had quite some case in their private life and we needed to deal with that. That’s also why it took so long to finish this album. And that’s reflected in the music, in the lyrics. There’s so many things that took place, I mean, we are talking about three and a half years. And it is really a private things, so...

Jernej: In both albums you included the liner notes about songs which describe their background and context of their emergence. Do you think that this notes are important for the listeners to understand the songs, is it important that we should know how the songs came into being?

T.G.W.: No, I don’t think they are important to you… I personally always loved to read when I was a teenager and I discovered music, it was a time before the internet and all the information you had was what was on the albums. And I would sit there for hours looking at the albums, at the credits, at the lyrics, every information I could gather. And I loved that, you know. So, when we had full control later in our carriere we of course decided to do this as well. To supply that information.

Is it important? No, I don’t think so. Because a lot of people wanna just hear the music and add their own image to it. And I think it is perfectly fine. So, the liner notes are there but it’s by no means mandatory that you read them. I think some people might be interested to hear the background story, some people will not read them and just listen to music and make up their own minds. It just there if you need it.

Jernej: Yeah, of course. Even though you express a very specific and personal emotions through the songs, the majority of us on the other side of this intimacy can relate to the songs on our own terms, with our own life experiences.

T.G.W.: Yeah, of course, by any means. I think that’s exactly the interesting thing, that happened to me too sometimes when I listened… when I read lyrics or liner notes by other bands. When you find “whow, this is something I totally understand”... then the music goes on completely different level.

Jernej: So something more universal lies behind the specific? Do you think your songs have a larger truth behind them?

T.G.W.: I’m am hesitant to say there is a larger truth behind it. We are just a band. And for me personally a song is important and I’m sure for certain people who listen to it it’s important too, but you know, in the context of the world a lot of bands take themselves very serious and think they are really important to the world… I’m not a part of that. We are doing what we are doing but I know the limits of what we are doing and… It’s just things that we are doing. And I write the liner notes and I write the lyrics… Yes, they mean something to me, but I don’t think everybody has to read them and it’s mandatory and it’s a big thing. We are just a band. We are trying to do something special, trying to do it with a lot of quality. But there are real issues in the world, we are polluting the environment, we are killing all the animals, we are waging war for thousands of years… so, how important is a band and their lyrics and their liner notes? In reality it’s nothing. Unfortunately. It would be nice to be in a world where the most important thing is music. It doesn’t have to be a utopia, you know, it’s basically in our hands. But apparently human beings have to be violent, be destructive and that’s the world we have created. I mean, who is shaping the world? We are and if you think it is terrible then you should change it.

Jernej: And what do you think we as individuals can do about it?

T.G.W.: There’s many examples in history. You can change it in the small picture by leading a life where you can look in the mirror in the evening and you don’t feel embarrassed. I am a vegetarian, for me no animal has to die. I don’t pollute the environment, I don’t own a car and so on. I live a very modest life, I’m not into luxury or anything like that. I don’t waste resources. That’s just my own decision, I’m not a missionary, I’m just… You ask me and I am answering it.

And in the bigger picture, I mean, look at the history, even recent history. Look what happened in France during the french revolution. People were unhappy with what their leaders did, they went there, they took their leaders out of their palaces and beheaded them. Sometimes I look at the news and I think it would be time again to do that to our leaders. Because the world they are creating is terrible. At the end of the day we are more than them. We are the people who enable them to do this. We are the armies, we are the people that pay them, we are the people who elect them. We could also be the people to just yank them out of their seats and behead them and then it’s the end of this bullshit.

But maybe I’m the only one who thinks that way because this doesn’t seem to happen. I think our society with it’s million forms of entertainment has made a lot of people very lasy. During the french revolution when you had nothing to eat and nothing to lose, of course you go and try your best to change it. Nowadays, you know, you think “well I have my iPad” and whatever… Well I understand this, you know, I am a human being too, I am not speaking from the high horse, I understand all that stuff. But it’s a shame because things should be changed.

Jernej: How do you feel about the fact that even your band is, at least in part, integrated with this consumer society?

T.G.W.: It annoys me extremely and I’m staying away from it as much as I can. You have no idea how many offers I get that I turn down because I think it is too commercial. You get sponsorship offers and offers to participate in this thing and in this thing… and all of them connect to money and promotion or advertising, whatever. And I am shooting everything down.

Maybe I wouldn’t have done this in my twenties when I was full of testosterone and hungry for fame and I wanted to prove myself. But nowadays with fiftytwo I have luckily a little more life experience and I think it’s much more important to create music. I wanna create music. I’m not… I hate the american word “show” for a concert. It’s not a show for me. For me it’s... when I go on stage I am playing music, because I became a musician. I love music, I don’t love a show. I’m not Disneyland. And a lot of bands, especially from America, they bring a show on stage. And of course there are people who love that, that’s fine. But I personally am into music and when I go on stage... that’s why we have hardly any stage show. When you go see Triptykon you see the songs. Period. We don’t have monsters walking across the stage or masks or whatever…

Jernej: Yeah and it works… it suits the music.

T.G.W.: Of course it works. This is just my opinion and of course a lot of people think my opinion is bullshit and that’s fine too. But my opinion is if you need masks or something like that then something is wrong with your band. In the case of one very well known band right now I’ve seen them without masks and I know what is wrong. [laughs]

Jernej: So you never liked Kiss?

T.G.W.: With Kiss that’s a different thing. It was almost like a mask but it was still their faces in a way. That’s a very difficult context. Kiss were pioneers in a way and after that there very so many copycats that tried to steal that concept. I probably would have loved the music of Kiss in the early seventies just as much if they wouldn’t have had makeup. At least it was still their faces.

Jernej: In the early days with Hellhammer you also wore makeup…

T.G.W.: Yeah, but we never had a monster or a mask, whatever that would distract you from the music.

Jernej: And how did you experience the great exposure and fame in the eighties when heavy metal was at the peak of it’s popularity? How did it affect you at that time?

T.G.W.: Unfortunately I have a very negative impression of it. Within Celtic Frost at the time it corrupted us completely. We were all kids with very difficult backgrounds, very difficult youth, from tiny little villages and we became exposed to that whole circus of fame and it corrupted us. It destroyed a lot of things that were good about Celtic Frost. It resulted in a disastrous album and the destruction of the band. So I have a very negative memory of that.

And in the big picture, when you look at how heavy metal was exiding in the early 1980’s, how revolutionary it was, how aggressive, how full of power and then how ridiculous it became in the second half of the eighties, as I said I include Celtic Frost in there, it doesn’t surprise me that metal ways wiped out off the face of the earth by grunge and other music. It corrupted everything. Fame, money and all that showbiz thing is not a good thing for metal. The early eighties were fantastic. It was exactly what was needed. Heavy metal completely reinvented itself. But the second half of the eighties destroyed a lot of that and that’s really really a shame. So I am really glad that we’re past that. I sometimes miss the early eighties but certainly not the late eighties.

Jernej: And still being part of it today, how do you feel now?

T.G.W.: It’s difficult. The market is saturated by a million bands, a million songs, you can’t follow  it. A lot of it sounds alike. And there are forces like Spotify and whatever that are not necessary good for musicians and for the survival of music. It’s a very complex topic which would probably take hours to really discuss seriously, you know. It’s become very difficult but I think we are proving that you can still be a very authentic band even in that environment. We are still releasing vinyl with tons of extras and stuff, we are try to make really an old school package just like it used to be. And as I said we try to stay away from being corrupted by commercialism as good as that’s possible. So we are attempting to shift around this a little bit.

Jernej: Well, even in this day and age you manage to create your own unique sound...

T.G.W.: Where’s the purpose if you can’t do that. You should create music. That’s the most important thing. I think that’s essential. For me personally, once again I’m just presenting my opinion, I think that’s the most crucial ingredient for any band. If you don’t achieve that then what’s the purpose of being a band?

Jernej: What kind of guitar tunings do you use?

T.G.W.: I have no idea about music theory. I can't even tell you. Seriously… we are tuned in what sounds good for us. I don’t read scores, I don’t know what the strings are called. I’ve been working like this for 33 years. I even wrote classical music that way so it never stopped me.

Jernej: And which classical composers have inspired you?

T.G.W.: I like Dvorjak, I like Liszt. There’s so many… Most of Mozart’s stuff I don’t really like but his “Requiem” is amazing. There’s a fantastic stuff. You just have to be open I guess, you know.

Jernej: Earlier you said that with your albums you want to give us the whole package. When I think about it the concept of “gesamtkunstwerk” pops into my mind. Like an all-embracing art, the synthesis of different art forms, in case of your work the synthesis of music, poetry and visual art. And I think all this aspects are very important. What are your thoughts on that?

T.G.W.: Of course, you are one hundred percent correct. “Gesamtkunstwerk” describes it perfectly, that’s how it always was for us. Even in Hellhammer when we had no power over anything and hardly any money the presentation of the band, the lyrics and everything… it all has to go together. And the older we became, the more experienced we became, the more influence we had on that. And of course, that’s important.

Triptykon is very much a “gesamtkunstwerk”, absolutely. Well, I don’t have to write the law of how heavy metal must be done and doesn’t have to be done. Everyone can do anything they want. But I personally cannot imagine doing it any other way. I once worked with a guy, quite a famous guy, who had his album finished and he called the record company and he said “I still need a cover, do you have anything in your archive?” I could never work like that. To me everything has to fit together and I have to know the album cover before I write the music, all has to make sense and be connected to each other. I couldn’t do it last minute and just adapt something that is lying around at the record company. That’s not the way I work.

Jernej: This brings us to late H.R.Giger. I think his visual work really complements your music. Can you explain why your music and his paintings connect so organically together?

T.G.W.: I think so too. You just did explain it. It’s an organic combination. And I think we feel that way and I am very sure that he felt that way too otherwise he wouldn’t have had the idea to continue working together. That wasn’t our idea. After the first Triptykon album it was his idea to continue working together. So I tend to think that he sensed it too that we complemented each other. And of course it was a huge honor to do that. Giger is a genious. He’s one of the best artist this world has ever seen. To be granted to even be in his presence was fantastic. Triptykon is a tiny little spec compared to Giger. It’s very difficult to imagine something else representing our music as much as his art did.

Jernej: You said that before he passed away you were working with him on the artwork for the next album...

Yeah, we created two albums, the first one was Melana Chasmata and the second one was the one that we are working on right now. At that time I only had sketches of the songs and the lyrical ideas but we decided on the record sleeve with what we had and he approved everything and that was before his death when he was still mentally together so this is what is gonna happen and the album will be released like that and it’s gonna be the last cover Giger ever worked on.

Jernej: After this album you won’t use Giger’s artwork anymore?

T.G.W.: I’m quite sure I could, I have a very good relationship with his friends and his widow, I was actually there yesterday. But I really don’t want to do that. To me it was important that Giger sees what we are doing and that he approves it, that he’s happy with that. And now… of course his wife would give me access to his art but it’s not the same. I wouldn’t want to do anything that he couldn’t approve. So, we will release that album which he has seen every single page of the booklet, we will do it that way but that would be the end of that. It’s allright, I mean, ever since I was a little kid I had a dream of one day working with Giger, now I’ve done it four times, so… It would be very ungrateful to say “I need more, more, more” you know. I’m not that greedy.

Jernej: Triptykon is basically a DIY band. You do everything yourself and you have a full control over your work. Do you think it’s important to have this autonomy as a band?

T.G.W.: Control is one thing and I think it’s important. But the other thing is… you become a musician to express yourself and if you’re given a different platforms to express yourself, like visual or lyrics, of course you wanna take those. I don’t understand if you don’t wanna take those. It gives you more chance to express yourself, to show the world what you mean, what you intend. Yeah, of course that’s important. Then we go back to the “gesamtkunstwerk”. If you just hire a graphic designer and you pay him, I don’t know, a 10.000 $ for some logos and stuff, does this represent you? No, it doesn’t. It represents your money.

Jernej: You also produce and release your own albums…

T.G.W.: Yeah, and this is fantastic. Because you can do it the right way without the record company destroying everything. Some person who sits behind the desk, having no idea about music, just looking at the numbers at the end of the year, and that person tells you how to do the album… I don’t like that. That’s not metal, you know. By now I at least have the experience to do this. I probably wouldn’t have been able to do all this when I was younger but now I can do this and of course I’m gonna do it.

Jernej: To date you have toured Europe, Japan and USA with Triptykon, but you haven’t had a full headlining tour. How come? Can we expect this in the future?

T.G.W.: No, we haven’t. It’s been suggested many times by our agent but I want to be careful. I see the state of the music scene and it’s a very difficult state. I don’t want to overexpose the band just because we have an ego and we want to be the big headliner and it’s not the time yet. It took Celtic Frost twentyfive years to get to where we were at the end. When I formed Triptykon I said to my fellow musicians “look, you have to be patient, it will take a while.” I don’t see a reason why we should be headliner after five minutes. It will happen one day. If I live long enough, it will happen. It will most likely happen after the next album, if we manage to have a successful album, that is. And that’s early enough. You know, I’ve proven myself. I don’t have to go out and show everybody that I’m existing and I’m this big bad guy… I’ve done all that stuff already. Now with Triptykon I play the music I want to play and we take it easy. As I told you, we turned down so many things because we feel it’s not the right thing at this time. Eventually we will headline and it will be fine, we can play a little longer. Triptykon is very successful and I don’t think it was negative to take a careful approach. It hasn’t really hurt us, has it? Everything is fine. [laughs]

Foto: Shelly Jambresic & Simon Pelko

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