Remembering the Past
CoC talks to Thomas Gabriel Fischer about his book "Are You Morbid?"
by: Adrian Bromley
A lot of people will tell you that Celtic Frost was one of those bands that didn't really change metal music, rather they just helped put a lot of inspiration and attitude into it. Their work now seemed cult-like, and was created out of the need to see how far metal music could bend. What could become of the simple chord playing and harsh vocals. Experimentation and lots of thought helped shape the music of the band and more than a decade later since their peak, we once again are talking about Celtic Frost.

In the last few years, the band has, with the help of their old label Noise Records, re-issued all of their classic records (except for the frustrating _Cold Lake_ disc) and singer Tom G. Warrior has taken flight with his new avant-garde industrial act Apollyon Sun. Now comes the new book "Are You Morbid? (Into the Pandemonium of Celtic Frost)", written by the singer.

Chronicles of Chaos caught up with Fischer by phone while he was in New York in late November to do North American press for the book. Here is his account on the book, the tales it tells and the role Celtic Frost played in metal music.

"Since I don't take drugs, I had a lots of time and lots of boredom", cracks Fischer on how the book came about. "I always wanted to write a book and I always wrote stuff. I started researching for this book back in 1990 when the band was still together and it took me a long time to get this going. It took me three years of research, 'cause I didn't remember all of the details either. By the time I had all of this done and had started on the manuscript, the band was over. A lot of people were always asking me about Celtic Frost and why we put this particular album out or wrote music this way and all of our legal problems and it just seemed obvious for me to finish this book so all those questions could be answered to fans."

One read of the book, and it is quite obvious Fischer doesn't hold any punches. He tells it like it is -- a rewarding characteristic of the book, which could have easily followed the safe route and kept things straightforward and unconfrontational. Not here, folks. And Fischer likes that element of the book too.

"This is a very open book and just the way I wanted to tell it: like it was. As a legal disclaimer I had to put in that this was my opinion of how things were. I'm not lying about any of this. I had to say it was my opinion and if other people have other opinions, then so be it. I've been sued by Noise Records in the '80s and I don't want that again. If other people are ticked off, then that is what I have to deal with."

"Many of the band members read the manuscript before it even came out", notes Fischer. "And I've been asked several times to delete stuff from the book and I considered it and out of respect for these people I took it out. It made them feel uncomfortable, so I left it out. I tried to write this as it happened and sometimes I left our last names or just didn't mention names at all for legal reasons. In essence, the book does not distort the truth. While there is some bad stuff written about people in the book, including myself, there is also a lot of good said about those people inside too. I'm very critical of myself throughout the book and if I can do that throughout the book, why can't others step up and face what they did, be it good or bad?"

Does he think the book covers every aspect of the career of Celtic Frost, or was stuff left out? Fischer answers: "The original manuscript was twice as voluminous as this book [which is close to 300 pages -- Adrian] and it was far more detailed. I didn't want to bore people and because of publishing reasons, I had to cut it down and make it very streamlined. I basically had to pick out what I thought was important to keep in the book. It was great, they allowed me to do the editing of the manuscript and I was able to choose what stayed in. There was so much that could have got into this and from the original manuscript, there was even more that wasn't there. I mean, I could have gone on more about tour anecdotes and legal issues, but how many can you put in before you start yawning? The book is pretty detailed and not very repetitive. I think I touched upon everything."

"There are a lot of stories I couldn't really trace or track down, but that was bound to happen. A lot happened for this band and it was just impossible to get it right. Sometimes I thought a story happened one way, and all the band members recounted it another way. Those ideas had to be dropped and couldn't be in the book because there was no real agreement on how things unfolded there."

"Writing this book was a very emotional thing for me", he says. "It sounds cliche, but I was very overwhelmed by a lot of the memories I brought back from writing certain parts of the book. It brought back a lot of things. Even Reed [St. Mark, drummer] was reading the stuff and getting emotional. We were weeping like little idiots, but it is just because these years of being in the band were a very important part of our lives. These years changed our lives forever."

So does writing the book help Fischer realize just how important the band was in the metal realm and what they did for metal music? "This book wasn't written for me to go around saying "yeah, I was in Celtic Frost and I am so important". That wasn't the case at all. That would be just so rock star like. I think this book really helped me understand Celtic Frost as a band and only writing this book helped me free my mind and start to work on my new band Apollyon Sun. That is the effect this book had. As far as how we changed the metal scene, I touched upon the stuff that was brought to us and what people said about us, but I would never go out saying Frost was so important."

Fischer ends: "To this day I still have a hard time believing we were important at all. We were just a band that set out to make music and we got all messed up with the business and each other. It happens all of the time, except with Celtic Frost it was more visible and the story needed to be told."

Book Review: "ARE YOU MORBID?" (Sanctuary Publishing, $12.99 UK, $19.95 US)

I'm going to make this short, as I think Fischer let those reading the interview know what to expect from "Are you Morbid?".

While I was not a big Celtic Frost fan going into the book, I left a fan, not only for the band's hard work and struggle in the music business, but also for the fact that the band always made an effort to take their music to a higher level. Celtic Frost really wanted to explore metal music. And they did.

Fischer's words are very honest, and while he may not be the best writer in the world (this is his first book), his clever writing passages are interesting and (at times) very funny. Fischer could have easily painted himself as the ring leader and savior of the band, but as mentioned in the interview above, his evils come out in this book. Nobody in this world is perfect and Celtic Frost was living proof of that.

As I read "Are You Morbid?" I would listen to the music of the band at that era, whether it was _Morbid Tales_ or _Into the Pandemonium_. Reading the excerpts about the making of each record and listening to the music made me appreciate it more.

In closing, I must say that "Are You Morbid?" is a book not only for Celtic Frost fans, but other fans and up-and-coming bands who want to know just what it takes (the good and the bad) to get far in this business from a first hand account. A good read for sure.

Discography:

_Morbid Tales_ (1984) _To Mega Therion_ (1985) _Into the Pandemonium_ (1987) _Cold Lake_ (1988) _Vanity/Nemesis_ (1990) _Parched With Thirst Am I, And Dying_ (1992)

(article submitted 1/10/2001)


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