The Morbid Tales of a Dethroned Emperor
CoC chats with Thomas Gabriel Warrior of Apollyon Sun / Celtic Frost
by: Paul Schwarz
Yes, I know he is now officially Thomas Gabriel -Fischer- (his real name), but for the duration of the actual interview we at CoC have decided to leave Tom with the name that he (if you'll excuse the pun) made his name with, in one of metal's most innovative, adventurous, exciting and excellent bands: Celtic Frost. Fischer was doing interviews based on the fact that Frost's essential back catalogue was re-issued in the United Kingdom and North America last month, with extensive booklets, some extra tracks, and in digitally re-mastered format. It is the first time the back catalogue of this legendary and sadly departed band has been available in a format which the band were even remotely happy with. The previous CD issues were poorly and hastily assembled by the people at Noise. These new CDs, on the other hand, were assembled by the band themselves. The other motivation behind wishing to talk to Frost's former main-man was to discuss the possibility of a Celtic Frost reunion. Though long a point only of hopeful speculation, the reinvigoration of communication between the band's former members, culminating in a 1998 meeting in New York, sparked rumours that Celtic Frost would actually reform, rumours which Fischer increasingly did not deny or condemn, certainly not as strongly as he had in years before. Tom's current band may be Apollyon Sun, but as you should know and can see from this interview, Celtic Frost will remain not only what Tom is known for, but probably also the band that is most a part of him and closest to his heart. Displaying amazing humility and zero arrogance, here's what the twenty-odd minutes I got with Thomas Gabriel -Warrior- yielded.

CoC: What led to you originally being called Celtic Frost?

Tom G. Warrior: Well, we didn't want to have a cliche heavy metal band name at the time. There was already Slayer, Metallica, and we felt we wanted to go in a totally different direction and have philosophy: more criticism of social behaviour of mankind. That's why we chose Celtic Frost.

CoC: Are you happy with what they [Noise] have done with the re-issues based on the band's proposals?

TGW: "They" really haven't done anything; the re-issues were entirely designed by the band, by the ex-members of the band. The proposal [to do these re-issues] was handed to Noise by us about a year ago and Noise did provide one hundred percent co-operation and they did give us the platform to do it, but the re-issues are designed by the band and they reflect -exactly- what the band wanted... for the very first time, actually.

CoC: I read the proposal on the website and so I did wonder whether Noise had paid attention to that...

TGW: We received one hundred percent freedom with what we wanted to do. We got full backing.

CoC: I notice that you left out _Cold Lake_, of course...

TGW: Of course! <laughs>

CoC: <laughs> ...from your re-issue back catalogue. Well, I wouldn't disagree with this, but I want to know: would your idea be that that album just fade into obscurity and become unavailable, or would you just rather not re-release it?

TGW: Well, I mean, the record company agreed with our proposal of not re-issuing _Cold Lake_. They didn't want to argue against us or anything. Of course they have the rights for it and they're free to re-issue it on their own if they want. They will not receive any co-operation from us, but of course they can. I am not denying that album at all. We did it and I had to stand behind it because it was done under the Frost name and I cannot say I want it to fade into obscurity, because people know about it and it was there, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a piece of shit. There is absolutely no quality. But it is a Frost album, it is just not an essential Frost album. We wanted to re-issue the essential Frost albums, the ones that are important to the band's history. So that's what we did and _Cold Lake_ is there [in existence, not in the re-issues], and whatever happens to it we don't really give a shit.

CoC: But you don't mind some songs from that album appearing on the _Parched With Thirst I Am, and Dying_ compilation which has been re-issued?

TGW: No, _Parched With Thirst..._ was basically a compilation of unreleased mixes and everything and some mixes which many people thought were better than the original _Cold Lake_ mixes. That's why they're on there, but it's not really to feature _Cold Lake_ or anything. We already disliked _Cold Lake_, kind of, during the mixing sessions of that album. From then on no-one was really keen to rehash that album in any case or matter.

CoC: What's happening with the possibility of a reformation of Frost and what is happening with Apollyon Sun?

TGW: Well, let's start with Apollyon Sun: the album is not finished, but four and a half weeks ago we finished mixes of the album [that would have been late October --Paul]. We handed it in, it's called _Sub_ and it is going to come out in late February. I feel it is probably the closest I've ever done to _Into the Pandemonium_ in my career and I am very proud of it. It is a very diverse album, very dark, very heavy, but extremely experimental as well as having very wide-ranging material on it. As far as the possibility of a reformation, I am still very good friends with the other members of Frost and we see each other as often as possible, we communicate on a weekly basis and of course we often talk about the possibility of playing music together. We met last year in New York and we actually decided to pursue the idea of an album together again. We're going to do it as a side-project; we don't know when, but it will probably happen within one or two years.

CoC: Right. So the fact that there is an Apollyon Sun album coming out is not a factor that means that Frost will not reform, because in the past you've said that since you were doing Apollyon Sun, you wouldn't be doing anything with Frost?

TGW: Yes, I was always the one to disagree with the numerous reformation proposals and what changed my mind was just the basis of the friendship we share. If I had wanted to do it for money I could have done it much earlier, because we got such amazing offers for reformation, for studio work and live, that I could have just said yes. But it had to feel right on a human basis. A band like Celtic Frost, if we do something in the year 2000 or the year 2001 it has to be contemporary and adventurous like our old work was, and you cannot base that on money. You have to base that on band chemistry.

CoC: OK then, two questions. Firstly, which line-up of the band would the reformation consist of? Secondly, if you were to make a new Frost album, theoretically, do you think it would be what _Under Apollyon's Sun_ would have been? [_Under Apollyon's Sun_ was going to be the follow-up to 1990's _Vanity/Nemesis_ but unfortunately Celtic Frost split before final sessions for the album were completed or, I believe, even begun. Demos of the album tracks do exist and two appear on the _PWTIA,aD_ compilation. --Paul]

TGW: No, it wouldn't be. The material still exists from that time, but what we would probably do is take elements from that album and use it. But that album was written in 1991/92 and it would be very dated now. We would probably take elements and modernise them, but -pretty much- design a new album that is contemporary in its origins. The line-up would probably be the core line-up of _Into the Pandemonium_. Possibly with Curt Victor Bryant, who played guitar on _Vanity/Nemesis_, because he was a key person in Frost's history too. But we were so open, really, in Frost. We always worked with the same kind of circle of people on the various albums, that we'd be very open nowadays to work with guests and former members. I have to tell you, though, regarding the _Under Apollyon's Sun_ album, my new album [this is with the band Apollyon Sun --Paul] _Sub_, that's going to come out next year, is, in parts, directly derived from that album. Apollyon Sun's birth was pretty much on the basis of that unreleased material. And of course in the years since we have developed that material massively, but a lot of the stuff you're going to hear on _Sub_ is directly derived from that album. So you will hear maybe a fourth, maybe a third of that album on _Sub_.

CoC: So, between _Sub_, the demo tracks done for the [_Under Apollyon's Sun_] album and "Idols of Chagrin" and "Under Apollyon's Sun" on the [_Parched With Thirst..._] compilation, there is quite a bit of the album around?

TGW: Yeah, but you have to realise that these two demos that you just mentioned were really only basic tracks, you can easily imagine that you cannot -demo- an album like _Into the Pandemonium_ in the demo studio. You cannot have like an orchestra or a whole bunch of classical singers on a demo, so what you heard were basic tracks and what you hear on _Sub_ is fully developed material with all kinds of effects, all kinds of guests and so on. It is basically the fully developed material and played in a more modern manner. But I have to say Apollyon Sun has pretty much arisen out of the ideas that we worked into _...Pandemonium_. Everyone who has been involved with Frost has always been fascinated with this album, _...Pandemonium_. So, of course any future project that we were going to attempt would have this spirit in it and Apollyon Sun has that very definitely in terms of us looking for new horizons, trying to break through barriers and so on.

CoC: So you never had the idea of going backwards at all to the earlier stuff, just because since just after Frost disappeared a whole group of music grew up which came out of that?

TGW: Yeah, but we did that already.

CoC: True.

TGW: I am in touch with my past and I deal with my past, but I am basically a person who looks to the future. When I did something I've done it, and what I want to do is learn from it and apply that the next time I do something. Try to do something new and something fresh on the same basis. So no, I haven't really thought of going back or capitalising or associating with all that stuff that's been derived from Frost by other bands, and the scene and everything. I'm not dead yet, I still think I can create and that's much more exciting to me. I am proud of what Frost has done, and I would never deny it, the good and the bad. But at the same time I gain so much adrenaline from new work: that is exciting enough.

CoC: So do you have a particular opinion on or mind or dislike the whole black metal thing? I mean, I remember Fenriz saying once that, basically, Darkthrone -is- just Celtic Frost.

TGW: No they're not. Hell no they're not! I know what you mean, but hell no they're not, not in the slightest sense. You cannot just copy Celtic Frost then say you are taking it further. That's exactly the opposite of Celtic Frost. Celtic Frost was about innovation, about being original, and a lot of those so-called Celtic Frost derivative bands, that doesn't apply to them. They're... <pauses>

CoC: No, you're right, I completely agree. The -nature- of Darkthrone is completely the antithesis of Celtic Frost, it's just that the musical approach is typical of _Morbid Tales_.

TGW: Right, but you know, _Morbid Tales_ has been done already.

CoC: If you were to record with Celtic Frost, would you be definitely taking things on the road?

TGW: I would think so. It wouldn't make sense to us otherwise: half the fun was to play live. We've had talks with management about it and I think to begin with we'd probably do a few low-scale shows to find out where the chemistry is nowadays, and only then start writing an album. I think if we did an album we would certainly take it on the road. Maybe not as big as Apollyon Sun would do it, but I think we'd certainly promote the album in life form, yeah.

CoC: So, would it be fair to say that a setlist from shows nowadays would be heavily favouring the later material?

TGW: It would incorporate everything. The last Celtic Frost tour, our setlist was something like twenty-six songs from all the albums. I think we would do the same thing. The thing is we can have a very dynamic set; even though it was very long we had such differing material from almost-ballad-like things like "Mesmerized" to hardcore songs, that you can make quite a long set without it getting boring. If you have material like a band like Celtic Frost you can make it so radically different from one quarter hour to the next that it always stays interesting. So I don't think we'll have a problem to play whatever kind of stuff from all the band's eras.

CoC: Did you get a chance to hear the new SOD album and the song "Celtic Frosted Flakes"?

TGW: They e-mailed me their track when they wrote it. I received it earlier this year by e-mail.

CoC: What did you think?

TGW: Well, I had to smile. SOD were very close friends with Frost in the eighties. We went to each other's concerts. I thought it was typical Billy [Milano, SOD vocalist] that he did this. It's funny but it's not something that I think about every day.

CoC: Yeah, agreed.

TGW: I had to grin. It's typical. They haven't changed.

CoC: It's an interesting irony that in the same year the band re-issues came out and there is a chance that Frost might come back.

TGW: Well, yeah. Some kind of basis was done. It's kind of intriguing.

CoC: Do you have any more to add to what's been done with the re-issues?

TGW: No, to me the re-issues are the final testament to the former work of Frost. I don't want to delve in this forever. This has now been done and it's been done, for the first time and also for the last, exactly as the band wanted it. These albums that are going to be out in January, they're really the testament of the band's work. From A to Z, every photo, every letter on these albums has been approved and done by the band. So this is it and we want to look forward to it. We are happy with these re-issues but that is really it. We're not going to do more stuff like that.

CoC: One small question. On _Morbid Tales_ [the re-issue], why are the tracks from _Emperor's Return_ in their original mixes?

TGW: Because a lot of people have asked me to dig for unreleased stuff and put that on. And it's kind of a special thing in these three cases: we didn't like either mix. To us it really didn't matter. We cannot stand the _Emperor's Return_ EP as far as sound quality goes. So we obliged the wishes of many fans over the years to release the original mix, and we did that. We realised the original mixes are in no way better than the mixes that were released on the EP way back when, but we wanted to give the fans something new. We personally don't really care for these three songs much.

CoC: Whereas with _To Mega Therion_...

TGW: That's a totally different thing. We love those EP tracks, we felt it was essential that they were on there.

CoC: I wanted to ask about the image of the band: the artwork, clothing, etc.. I was wondering what this would be like if Frost reformed. Would you be going really futuristic?

TGW: The image, as radically different as it always was and will be, was never designed. The image was always an excessive presentation of our then-state-of-mind. It was just very overdrawn and done to the extreme, but it wasn't designed: we didn't say "we want to look like -this-". What you see in the pictures is always an over-painted picture of what the band was like at the time. So if we do an album in 2000 or 2001 it's going to be the same thing and I can't tell you yet if it's going to be futuristic or whatever; it's going to represent the way we are at that time and of course it's going to be modern because we were always interested in being contemporary things. But we're not going to sit down and say we're going to look like -this- and it's going to be totally designed. It's going to be real and it's going to be extreme of course and exhibitionistic, but it's going to be real.

CoC: Since Frost split up and you've been doing Apollyon Sun, what do you think is the most interesting development in technology which you'd like to incorporate into the music you make?

TGW: Nowadays? The advent of the possibility to use computers -in- music. And I am saying this very carefully, because I don't want you to have the impression that I am just going for any computer music. I think it is a very delicate thing; combining this kind of warm form of music called hard rock with computers. It is difficult to do this the right way and I personally don't like industrial metal because I think it is done too cold and it has no groove. But I think the advances that have been made on a technical level allow you to do exactly that: to do it the right way. There are so many possibilities now that if you do pay attention to it and if you do study it, you can actually mix the two genres without losing the true heaviness and the true nature of the hard music, but you can only -gain- by the possibilities you are able to exploit now. I think that has been the most significant advance. I think ninety percent of the scene doesn't exploit that yet or doesn't exploit it the right way, and I don't know if we do. But what we're doing is trying to get there, with our album _Sub_, that's why it is so experimental: it's trying to explore a possible avenue of how to do this and we're learning and we hope we're going to perfect that in the next few releases.

CoC: So, obviously apart from _Cold Lake_, you find that although you move on and you want to do new things, you don't find that what you did in the past disappoints you?

TGW: No, not at all, no. I am very proud and I feel blessed that it was possible for me to be in a band like Frost. At that time there were so many bands around and which bands are still being remembered? We are one of the few bands that are still being remembered even though we haven't been together in six and a half years. So, what could I say? It's amazing. We didn't know that would happen. We're very happy with what we've done and most of the things we've done are still justified.

CoC: Any last words?

TGW: Not really... I just feel very grateful that fans were open enough to follow an excessive band like Celtic Frost, because we never made it really easy for the fans to understand us and still we had an incredible fan base. And if you ask me for a last word, I'd just like to say that we were aware of that and that we'd like the fans to know that we were aware of that. That they gave us this chance.

Visit the Homage to Celtic Frost website for latest news on Frost and news on Apollyon Sun:

(article submitted 5/3/2000)

7/17/1996 S Hoeltzel Apollyon Sun: Apollyon's Sun Illuminates the Frost
8/12/2000 P Schwarz 8.5 Apollyon Sun - Sub
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