Note: I originally published this interview w/ the now defunct Sonic Frontiers site. With Triptykon having just announced their first US tour for Fall 2010, it seemed appropriate to re-present this interview w/ guitarist V. Santura to a more receptive audience. The interview was conducted via e-mail while Triptykon were gearing up for their live debut at this year’s Roadburn Festival…
Hands down, the best metal show I’ve ever seen was Celtic Frost at the House of Blues in Hollywood, CA in 2006. The band was touring behind their masterpiece album, the monolithic Monotheist, after many years of inactivity. That night they sounded absolutely monstrous. Having worshipped Celtic Frost for years, I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to see them live and looked forward to following the band’s (at that time) rejuvenated career.
Unfortunately, the band imploded once again in 2008, but from the ashes of Celtic Frost, the even mightier Triptykon has risen, ready to swallow up the Earth in a churning vortex of blackened, atmospheric doom. Their debut album, Eparistera Daimones, is quite simply the most suffocatingly heavy album of 2010 and possibly the past ten years, darker, gnarlier and even more devastating than Celtic Frost at their most dense and harrowing. I contacted guitarist V. Santura to discuss the inception of the heaviest band on the planet and the creation of Eparistera Daimones.
THKD: You served as a touring guitarist for Celtic Frost in 2007. Was this experience in any way a lead-in to the genesis of Triptykon?
V. Santura: Well, Tom and me got along very well during the time I played in Celtic Frost and we both really enjoyed working with each other. But the actual reason for the genesis of Triptykon was not my involvement in Celtic Frost, it was the demise of Celtic Frost.
THKD: What was running through your mind when Tom G. Warrior asked you to be a part of Triptykon?
VS: It’s hard to describe. I was extremely disappointed when Celtic Frost broke up in April 2008. I was hoping to play many more shows with them. Having the honor to play in a band like Celtic Frost was for sure one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. Actually, it was Martin who called me on the phone to inform me about everything, that it was over. And since I had a good relation with all three members of Celtic Frost, I knew about several problems before. Just a few days after Martin told me about the end of Celtic Frost, Tom called me. Although he was for sure going through one of the hardest times of his life, he still seemed to be very energetic, with a strong will to go on and create new music and there he told me about his new plans and asked me right away to join Tritptykon. I really didn’t expect that and I was blown away and I asked him to give me a few days to let me think about everything. I also had to digest the split of Celtic Frost first. And I was fully aware, that starting a new band with Tom is a serious task and would demand lots of energy from everybody. But after a few days I decided that I want to do that task and now I am extremely glad that I said yes to Tritptykon!
THKD: What was the recording process like for Eparistera Daimones? Are you pleased with the results?
VS: I am very pleased with the result and I’m blown away by the reactions we are getting at the moment. In my opinion the recording process went very well and in the end everything paned out, but the pressure was immense. We recorded and mixed the album at my own studio and for me Eparistera Daimones was probably the most important production I had to do as engineer so far. So there was some big responsibility on my shoulders… Right now I’m really enjoying just going to the rehearsal room and play some music again…
THKD: The guitar tones on Eparistera Daimones are absolutely crushing. What was your equipment setup for the recording?
VS: I’m not sure if I wanna tell you all secrets of our sound, hehe. Well, it’s actually classic equipment, basically the same equipment we use live: Ibanez Iceman guitars, a good old Marshall JCM 800 Modell 2203, Marshall cabinets and of course an Ibanez tubescreamer (TS10). A trick is to close the tone pot. The rest in your fingers and the attitude how you beat the strings. If you wanna have that kind of sound, you really have to hit the strings instead of caressing them.
THKD: How much input did you have in the songwriting process for Eparistera Daimones?
VS: Every band needs a main driving force with a vision and in Tritptykon Tom is for sure that person. He is the main songwriter, but nevertheless, I wrote the music for two songs, “In Shrouds Decayed” and “Descendant” and we made the final arrangements for the songs together as a band. So everybody was able to bring on some ideas and most of the harmony guitars are the result of a really nice team work between Tom and me.
THKD: What is your favorite song on the new album and why?
VS: I don’t know if can pick out a single song, I really like everything. At the moment maybe Descendant, because it’s so fucking heavy and The Prolonging, because it’s so fucking heavy… But that counts for all of the album, hehe. But my favorites can change every day, because every song is unique and has it’s strength on different levels. I love playing The Prolonging in the rehearsal room and in fact we will have our first shows in a few days already and I can’t wait to play those songs live. For me, playing The Prolonging feels much shorter than 19 minutes. This song is a mass, a perverted mass for sure, a celebration, almost even more intense than Synagoga Satanae, which has always been the highlight for me at the end of every Celtic Frost show.
THKD: What does each member of Tryptykon bring to the table?
VS: It’s pretty obvious what Tom brings to the table: More than 25 years of experience in extreme metal, a unique charisma and a vision. Norman is a fantastic drummer, he sounds extremely heavy and he is very skilled. Therefore he is very dedicated and reliable as a person. Vanja’s Bass sound reminds of an an old post-nuclear-war Russian tank and she is just a great person and a pleasure to be in a band with her. And I don’t wanna talk too much about myself now. I think the dedication is one thing that unites us all.
THKD: Who/what are your main inspirations/influences as a musician? How do you incorporate these influences into Triptykon?
VS: Everything you listen to can be an influence. But now matter what influences you, you always should aim for an individual style. My influences go from old Thrash Metal to Norwegian Black Metal to Massive Attack and everything in between. Playing 60 shows with Celtic Frost left a big mark on me and of course I incorporated this influence into Triptykon.
THKD: Does the fact that all of you come from well known, long-running bands (Celtic Frost, Dark Fortress, Fear My Thoughts, etc) put any pressure on you to produce a great album?
VS: As I said before, this time I felt a very high pressure, but mainly because of my responsibility as engineer. I was aware that we could get lots of attention with this album and that people would look very critically at it. And I had the feeling that we had to prove something with Eparistera Daimones. But besides that, our experience from our former or other bands (Dark Fortress are still active…!) help us a lot and grant us self confidence.
THKD: What is it like working beside a legendary figure like Tom G. Warrior?
VS: It’s amazing, but not because of the fact, that he is a legend, rather because of the fact that I just enjoy working with him and that something extraordinary comes out of that. When I had my first test rehearsal with Celtic Frost I was very excited and I have to admit very nervous, too. I have lots of respect for Tom and what he achieved, but if I would behave like a fan boy he couldn’t work with me. So when you play together in a band and create something new, you should be colleagues and friends and not idol and fan.
THKD: You’re also a member of Dark Fortress. What are the pros and cons of being involved in two high profile bands?
VS: The cons are pretty obvious. If you do something with one band you have no time for the other band in that moment. So you need lots of discipline and good time management. On the other hand it’s hard to find good and dedicated musicians, so it’s a normal thing nowadays, that many musicians are involved in more than only one band. And if you do different things, everything you do stays more exciting. Both bands mean a lot to me and I really wouldn’t not like to give up one of them.
THKD: The members of Triptykon are spread around different countries. Does geography present any difficulties for the band?
VS: Tom and Vanja are both living in Zürich, Switzerland, or at least in the Zürich area. Norman lives pretty close to the Swiss boarder, so it’s not so far for him. I live in Southern Germany, north east of Munich, so it’s a four hours drive by car to the rehearsal room in Zürich. Well, usually we rehearse for two or three days straight. So I know, that I can’t do anything else on those rehearsal days, but that’s OK for me, since I’m enjoying those days. And everybody has to make sacrifices.
THKD: H.R. Giger provided the cover art for Eparistera Daimones. Were you a fan of his work prior to this?
VS: I truly admire his work, he is an exceptional artist and one of the most important artists of our time. Having a cover art from H.R. Giger is an incredible honor.
THKD: Holland’s Roadburn festival will mark Triptykon’s live debut. Are you excited by the prospect of playing these songs in front of an audience?
VS: Totally. And I’m also very excited to play some of Celtic Frost’s classics again after 2 ½ years. We will play two warm up shows before the Roadburn Festival, but yeah, Roadburn is in fact the first “big” show of Triptykon.
THKD: Will Tryptykon tour extensively? Do you think you’ll make it over to the US?
VS: Yes. Everything else would be a huge disappointment.
THKD: Are there any final words you’d like to add?
VS: No, I just want to thank you for the interview!