by Mike Baronas
When asked to describe the tumultuous period of his life between
the 2000 release of the autobiography Are You Morbid? through
to the unparalleled new Celtic Frost epic Monotheist,
founding creative maverick Thomas Gabriel (Warrior) Fischer
is initially, and uncharacteristically, speechless. “This
is really, really difficult. This is very, very personal,” he
confides after a few moments, continuing shortly thereafter
by admitting, “I don’t want to come across like
a whiney asshole, but I’ve had a really difficult life
starting in the mid-1990’s, and even though it’s
stabilized now, I cannot describe myself as happy. My life
has been quite a challenge since the making of the book and
it’s reflected in the darkness of this album. It’s
not a contrived album. Everything that’s dark about it
is unfortunately real.”
Thus began my second conversation with the contemporary Fischer – a
focused individual who has wiped the slate clean, determined
to put his state of being on the line to ensure that his baby’s
luminosity will never dim again. When fellow staffer Mark Fields
and I first interviewed Tom and bandmate Martin Ain back in
February, we were both taken aback by an almost confrontational
nature to the Frost of yore.
Intrigued by his newfound intensity on that day, I needed
to learn more. Below is what transpired 25 days prior to the
start of their European festival shows...
GASPetc: As cathartic as Monotheist was
for you to create, it doesn’t appear to have solved
Fischer: If there’s anything
happy in my life, it’s this album. I’m very proud
of it. It’s probably the most honest album that we’ve
done, and in being so, it has had a huge impact on my personal
life. You know our past albums, and very often we came close
but were never able to do an album 100% the way we wanted due
to outside influences like record companies. This album has
been made the way we wanted it. It’s a monolithic block
of power in my life and has filled me with such a sense of
GASPetc: The great reviews the album has been
receiving has to be satisfying as well.
Fischer: Yes and no. It’s fantastic
to see that people actually understand what we’ve done
on this album. In Germany, of course, they completely miss
it as they have with every Celtic Frost album. They say it’s
an uninspired album and there’s not enough death metal
and all this bullshit.
What was important happened long before the reviews. Martin
and I walked out of the studio after 4½ years with
a sense of finally having done an album we wanted to do. That
is so much more important than any feature, than any photo
of us in any magazine, than any review or anything. This is
something we’ve always wanted to do, even in the `80’s.
When we came back together in 2000/2001, we had a common vision
in our minds and have actually been able to fulfill this and
not be pressed by a record company to sound like Exodus or
To have the guts to stay in the studio as long as it takes
to create a Celtic Frost album is of such importance to us
as artists and musicians. Even if the whole world hated this
album, I really don’t care because I love it. It’s
the album we wanted and needed to do.
GASPetc: What trials-by-fire did you and Martin
have to endure after Vanity/Nemesis to
become the brothers that you are today?
Fischer: I think we’ve always
been brothers from the moment we met. But as brothers,
we’ve had extreme ups and downs because we’re such
extreme characters, so maybe ours is a little more pronounced
than the usual relationship. I think our separation was a part
of us being brothers. We spent our teenage years together then
went into the world and did our own thing.
During the tour for Vanity/Nemesis I was so endlessly
happy that Martin had come back into the band, and yet there
was something wrong. I could tell Martin felt totally out of
place. He didn’t feel at ease about himself or the band,
and that’s why he hardly participated. That’s why Vanity/Nemesis to
me is not a classic Celtic Frost album. He was still somebody
who had to find himself and who was dealing with a lot of personal
issues. He was still dealing with the aftermath of Pandemonium and
I was dealing with the same thing in my own way with Cold
Lake, and for both of us, it was disastrous. It turned
out that that I could not work with Martin and he could not
work in the music industry at that time. He tried, but it was
just impossible for him.
So when we came back to work with each other in 2000/2001,
we found people who had actually put all of this behind us
and who had matured a great deal and who had dealt with this
huge backlog – our life story – which is Celtic
Frost. Which, even if you live like a recluse like me, you
can’t escape it entirely. And that changed us quite a
lot and we went to great pains not to repeat certain things
that had taken place in the old days.
However, it was not easy because, as I said before, we are
quite unique characters and working together was quite explosive
at times, and, at one point, he even threatened the whole project
after 2½ years. We had already recorded so much of
the album and we really knew what the album was going to be
like, and there was just a period of 2 months that communications
between Martin and I completely broke down. But it goes to
show that our personal relationship is so strong that we actually
worked it out and we both agree that we came out of this much
stronger. Our relationship is much, much stronger now.
GASPetc: May I ask how influential your wife
Michelle was to Celtic Frost after Into the Pandemonium?
Fischer: Hardly at all. I’ve
read a million rumors about the supposed influence of Michelle
on Celtic Frost, but I believe certain things that happened
to Celtic Frost were entirely up to me. Michelle was there
and she supported me uncompromisingly in everything I did,
but all the mistakes were entirely mine. Later on Michelle
even said she regretted that she supported whatever crazy ideas
I had and that she should’ve been much more vigilant
because she disagreed with certain things, but she was just
the woman by my side and supported me. She probably could’ve
had a very much more positive influence on Celtic Frost if
she actually would’ve disagreed with me.
GASPetc: But that’s obviously a difficult position
to question the mastermind behind the band.
Fischer: You have to understand that
I met Michelle when she was 17 and we married when she was
18. Of course, I was this guy who toured all over the world
and she probably didn’t care to speak her mind right
from the beginning. It would’ve been quite difficult
for her to find her self-confidence surrounded by a whole bunch
of rock musicians, managers, and the record industry and she’s
this teenage girl from Texas who never left America before.
So, due to this, she had limited influence to begin with.
She did back up all my ideas, and as we all know now, my ideas
weren’t always the greatest ones.
GASPetc: I take it you’re no longer together.
Fischer: We separated in 2000 and the
divorce became final in 2004.
GASPetc: And I’m sure this is one of the biggest
contributing factors to your current state of mind.
Fischer: Oh yeah! She was the love
of my life and losing that marriage was one of the most difficult
things I’ve ever gone through. It was a very prolonged,
very dark, very difficult situation and I tried to prevent
it for far too long. She needed to change and she didn’t,
so it was a struggle in vain for me for many years. I confronted
her with things in her life that she didn’t want to deal
with and she never forgave me for that.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Michelle because
we were an absolutely unique couple, and I wouldn’t have
married that woman if she hadn’t been the love of my
life. We were together for 16 years. Our marriage was so intense
and so fantastic in the beginning and later it was so drastically
painful that no matter how you turn it, it’s something
that is hard to forget even if you move on. So, of course,
she will always be part of my life, whether I want her to be
But as a part of your life – like the great Celtic Frost
albums, like Cold Lake – these things are in
the past and you move on and, of course, I look toward the
future. I live very much in the now, but all these things have
left a mark on my life in one way or another. With Michelle,
love was involved which makes the mark even deeper.
GASPetc: What frightens you Tom?
Fischer: Honesty, nothing. I would’ve
given you a totally different answer a few years ago, but there
was a point when I realized I have left all of this behind
me and whatever happens, happens. I’m willing to accept
it, which makes me rather calm. I’ve lived through such
dramatic events in my life, especially the past 5 years or
so, that whatever comes along can’t scare me anymore.
The worst case to me almost seems like a release or a beautiful
escape, so what should scare me?
GASPetc: How do you view your own mortality
and do you believe in any form of an afterlife?
Fischer: No, I don't believe in any
afterlife. That doesn't make life and the universe in which
we exist any less of a miracle. Mortality, including my own,
is a necessity and something logical and beautiful.
GASPetc: What role does religion play in your
Fischer: None whatsoever. I loathe
religion. I believe all religion is man-made and pathetic.
If anything, my hatred toward religion is reflected on the
album. I didn’t have a rebirth or second coming or whatever
GASPetc: Do Martin & Franco [Sesa, drums]
share similar religious beliefs?
Fischer: Oh yes. Martin is a huge student
of religion, but not a follower of it.
GASPetc: Speaking of Franco, how did you find
Fischer: He was a friend of Martin’s.
We initially didn’t even think of using him. He was quite
well known in the local scene because he played in a number
of stoner rock bands, which was relatively close to our playing
style. He was quite notorious, and still is, for his personality,
which led Martin and me to believe he would fit right in with
Traditionally, those in Celtic Frost have been from widely
varying backgrounds. It’s a lot different nowadays. I
know this leads to a lot of arguments and a lot of hard discussions,
but at the same time that’s the strength of Celtic Frost
which makes the band such a bulldozer in sound, in approach,
in everything. But there’s always a price to it. Not
a week goes by when there’s not some friction. I used
to trick myself into thinking that Celtic Frost was only good
when there was harmony in the band. Now I’ve figured
out that it’s the friction that powers us.
GASPetc: How do you feel Franco compares to
Reed [St. Mark, former drummer]?
Fischer: They’re completely different
drummers. They have a lot of things in common too, but their
approach is very, very different. Reed is an excellent drummer,
but so is Franco. They just play a different style. They’re
both fantastic drummers.
GASPetc: So he’s adapting to the older
material with no problems?
Fischer: He’s been rehearsing
the older material for a lot longer than we have. He started
right after the recording of the album, because he wanted to
live up to Reed’s name. He knew all the fans would investigate
him with a microscope. He wanted to do the material justice.
He’s still working on developing a combination of Reed’s
very classic patterns with some of his own stuff and blending
it into what he defines on the new material.
GASPetc: Will he be a collector of high-heeled shoes
Fischer: [laughs] I can’t believe that
actually worked in Celtic Frost, but, for some reason, the
fans accepted it. It still puzzles me as to why.
GASPetc: Well, apparently, as you wrote in Are
You Morbid?, groupies played a significant
part of the band’s life on the road. Shoes aside,
I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged Celtic Frost as
a ladies band?
Fischer: I think any band touring internationally
is a ladies band. That how the industry is, like it or not.
But these same mechanics have been around since the dawn of
humanity when we crawled out of the caves, I suppose. When
the lead hunter came back to the cave with the biggest prey,
I’m quite sure all of the women in the tribe would go
to him and idolize him. Pathetic as it is, the same carnal
mechanics still work nowadays. It’s human. It’s
not just us. It’s not just heavy metal. If the manager
of a bank buys a sportscar, he’ll have a better chance
at the bar.
GASPetc: Will groupies play as prevalent a role in
this upcoming tour?
Fischer: I’ll tell you afterwards [laughs].
But, quite frankly, I’d much I’d much rather have
one woman in my life than dealing with groupies.
GASPetc: Understandable. So, what are your feelings about
embarking on such an extensive tour?
Fischer: Honestly, I don’t have any
right now. There’s so much stuff going on and we’re
practicing constantly. There’s so much to rehearse. We’re
so underrehearsed right now that I haven’t even thought
about it. At this point, I have no emotions about it. I haven’t
dealt with that, so I have no idea. I probably won’t
until I step out onstage for the first time as Celtic Frost
in 16 years.
GASPetc: Have you found a proper touring guitarist
as of yet?
Fischer: I believe so, but it’s too
early to make any big announcement. We’ve only had limited
time together, but it seems fantastic. He sounds better than
any other guitar player we’ve played with. All I can
say is that he’s a Norwegian [ed. note: it has since
been announced that former Cadaver guitarist Anders Odden will
be filling the bill] which kind of closes the circle.
GASPetc: It seems more and more bands these days just keep
the creative nucleus together while adding hired guns for touring
Fischer: Or they’re sick and tired
of all the big-mouthed freeloaders who just want to join the
band because your famous and really don’t live the
band. They’re not part of the family. They don’t
understand the music and think they can fake it. Half the guitar
players we saw just came because we had a name. It’s
not so hard to play Celtic Frost’s material and it’s
glaringly obvious if they don’t actually live it. And
I think the same experience has happened to a lot of bands
and they just get sick and tired of that.
GASPetc: It doesn’t appear as if you’re the easiest
person to work for either.
Fischer: [laughs!] Possibly not. I’m
just very determined. With Celtic Frost, we don’t know
any leeway. You have to sound like Celtic Frost and you have
to do it the Celtic Frost way. I’ve been too lenient
with people in the past and have made mistakes that way, like
with Cold Lake. And that’s not gonna happen
again. This band is established. This band has a name and a
sound and I just have zero tolerance for anybody who wants
to fuck with that.
On the other hand, we have a lot of fun too. We have a lot
of discussions and everything, but we’re a band and we
know how to have good time. It’s fun to play with Celtic
Frost, as long as you’re professional.
GASPetc: Any plans of documenting the rebirth of Celtic
Frost with a possible DVD release?
Fischer: So far, nothing’s been planned.
It would be interesting in a way, but how many behind-the-scenes
or live DVDs can you take? They’re all the same. We were
talking about doing a live DVD, but we want to do it completely
different. We’d probably do it after the tour. We have
some ideas of doing a very unusual live show. We’d like
to do something special there too like Celtic Frost does with
By now, everybody knows what goes on backstage – how
bands party, how bands fart, how bands drink, how bands throw
up – how interesting is that?
GASPetc: They would already know if they’ve read your
book, but how many metalheads actually read?