Martin Eric Ain - Celtic Frost, Hellhammer - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney -

After a fifteen year hiatus Celtic Frost are set to make the comeback from hell! Hailing from Switzerland, metallers Celtic Frost who are one of the bands responsible for the extreme metal movement as we know it formed out of the ashes of Hellhammer in 1984. The band has gone on to achieve worldwide success releasing monumental metal masterpieces such as Morbid Tales, Cold Lake and Vanity/Nemesis. ‘Monotheist’ the much anticipated soon to be released album which has taken four years to complete is sure to raise the bar for all extreme metal bands and will go down in history as one of the greatest if not greatest Celtic Frost to date. Over the years the band has had it’s share of line-up changes & differences but the guys are back and stronger than ever. I caught up with co-founding frost bassist Marin Eric Ain last week to discuss the new album ‘Monotheist’, the possibility of an Australian tour, stories from the past and much more. It’s time to take metal to extremes with Martin Eric Ain.

Metal Fanatix: Hi Martin how’s things mate?

Martin Eric Ain: I’m fine Cameron, just been doing the interview marathon, getting everything ready for the release of the new album, preparing for the tour. I guess we’re busy as hell. We haven’t been this busy for quite a while, how about you?

Metal Fanatix: I'm doin' very well mate thanks! Martin first off, I want to thank you for putting some time aside to speak with us today, let’s jump straight into the new album ‘Monotheist’, it’s taken sometime to put this one together, were you guys ultimately happy with the outcome?

Martin Eric Ain: Yes definitely, we’ve been working on this album for four years and we’ve gotta be happy otherwise it’s just four years of life wasted on something that you’re not happy with. We deliberately took our time and we financed everything on our own cause we wanted to be as free as possible. Of course it was costly, but it gave us the freedom to do what we wanted to do. I’ve never been happier with any album before this one.

Metal Fanatix: Now Martin, it’s been thirteen years in between albums, it’s safe to say the direction will be different to previous Celtic Frost releases!

Martin Eric Ain: I would say yes, it’s as much Celtic Frost as any of the vintage albums, maybe even more so then some of those. On the other hand it’s Celtic Frost in the new millennium.

Metal Fanatix: Can you tell us how the first encounter back in the studio went after such a long time apart?

Martin Eric Ain: The first encounter wasn’t in the studio. Tom and I tried to get together in 90/91 but we both weren’t ready, we both had different agenda’s and so on. The first time we talked was in 99’ when our record company suggested that we must re-issue the Celtic Frost back catalogue, and that was the first time that we really had to get together and talk about our past. What to do with the music, the records and of course we also pondered the questions what was it about Celtic Frost in the first place that made it so interesting or so influential? What about us? How much of it was our relationship? The chemistry that we got working was one of the reasons why or was it just the right place at the right time? Of course we didn’t have time to properly answer those questions but we felt back then that this would be something that we’d like to pursue. When Tom approached me in 2001 to do so I guess I was just stupid enough to say yes [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Martin Eric Ain: And from there on this was as much about recording an album or writing songs as it was about finding the relationship between Tom and me or becoming a band again and forming a unit. This is one of the reasons why it took for years. It’s really hard to describe the feelings that went into it. I think the best way for people to know how it works emotionally speaking is to listen to the new album. It’s the most emotional, the most honest & spiritual album that this band has done thus far!

Metal Fanatix: When it came time to write for the new album how did you guys approach it? I mean did you just rehash old songs you had worked over the last thirteen years or did you come up with a whole new batch?

Martin Eric Ain: We didn’t rehash any old songs whatsoever, the reason we didn’t do that was cause one of the first things we said to ourselves was if we want to do this, it has to be Celtic Frost now, it has to be music that comes from us the way we feel it now. We didn’t want to fall into the trap that a lot of bands from the eighties or the seventies are falling into when they try to comeback. They try to rehash the glory old days and they go back and say what was it that people really liked about the band? They loved this song, they loved that song. Let’s do something like that, and what you get usually is bullshit! As close as we got to rehashing any old material was when we jammed on ‘Procreation Of The Wicked’ when we were auditioning Franco Sesa our new drummer because he needed something to be able to play with us during the process. We have written a lot of material, I’d say about three albums worth of material. We started experimenting; there was stuff that we recorded that doesn’t have anything to do with Celtic Frost. We took a complete liberal approach just the way I guess we always did. If you listen to the back catalogue of Celtic Frost and check out our past between 1984 ‘Apocalyptic Raids’ by Hellhammer & Celtic Frost’s 1988 ‘Cold Lake’ you have got five albums that sound completely different from the one before.

Metal Fanatix: Now the new album was produced by yourself & tom & you also used Peter Tagtgren who has worked with Immortal, Dimmu Borgir etc was there any reason you guys decided to have Peter come in on the album?

Martin Eric Ain: Well, we had recorded material through-out those four years. We did most of the recording sessions and the mixing sessions which is the beneficial side of recording with technology today. You can set up a studio in your rehearsal room if you’ve got a computer and now how to hook up your microphones and do hard disk recording. We knew we wanted somebody who was really accomplished and knowledgeable on how to work with this technology and how metal music should sound and can sound nowadays and at the same time he knew about celtic frost and the legacy of celtic frost. Peter was just the right person who we came into contact with that had all those different facets that we were looking for. And at the same time he was an accomplished musician himself with Hypocrisy and Pain those two bands where he’s basically the singer and the main song writer and also an accomplished technician so I guess we just got lucky.

Metal Fanatix: Now ‘Monotheist’ will be released later this month through out Europe & the United States, do you if there has been a dates set for Australia and Japan as of yet?

Martin Eric Ain: I’m not certain with Australia to be honest. I think it will be released in Australia! I think Century Media has their offices there in Australia right?

Metal Fanatix: Yeah mate I believe so!

Martin Eric Ain: I’m not certain of the dates. I will have to check on that. I know on the 26th it will be released in Germany Austria & Switzerland. The 29th it will be released in the rest of Europe, the 30th in North America and we have just confirmed that it will be licensed and released in Brazil as well as the rest of South America and it will be licensed to Mexico & japan but I’m not sure about the release dates there.

Metal Fanatix: Martin there have been many fans ask why Ron Marks had no involvement in the album and upcoming tour. I spoke with Ron back in October, he was hoping back then that if something was to happen then he would be apart of it. Since then there has been some back and forth comments made by both Tom and Ron on the topic. What are your thoughts on the situation?

Martin Eric Ain: Well, the last time I seen Ron was at the studio in Berlin back in 1989 for ‘Vanity/Nemesis’. I think that was the last time I had properly spoken with him if I’m not mistaken. When we approached doing the new album Tom had talked to everybody who at one point or the other was seriously involved with Celtic Frost. He spoke to Curt Bryant, he spoke to Reed St Mark and he spoke to Ron Marks. We took into consideration who we could be working together with to create this album, and it was clear quite fast that we wanted to work with Erol Unala who we had worked together with for five years at the end of Celtic Frost. So guitarist wise I guess Ron was out of the question quite early on. Different issue with Reed, he was the original drummer that we had auditioned to do this album. The first reason that we didn’t have any drummer to work with for the first year and a half, almost two years, writing the songs for this album just didn’t work out with Reed because of several differences. He didn’t even come over from the United States to Switzerland to begin with and that already caused some difficulties. But anyhow after it didn’t work out with Erol we were looking for a guitarist that would be a tour replacement. Ron wasn’t the first one to pop in our minds. We wanted to try somebody different and someone who would be a possible permanent member of the band. We knew that Ron wouldn’t be that person although he would be the perfect guitarist to tour with I guess, he’s definitely an accomplished musician and we’ve seen his musicianship, technical capabilities and skills. We just knew personality wise it most probably wouldn’t work cause it didn’t click in ‘Vanity/Nemesis’, it didn’t click on the ‘Pandemonium’ tour, you know how it is.

Metal Fanatix: Mate I want to talk to you about life on the road, you guys are about to embark on a massive tour of Europe and America. How’s the itinerary shaping up?

Martin Eric Ain: This tour will be the most extensive that we have ever done, right now we are playing sixteen festivals in Europe, some of the biggest metal festivals there are, the rock-it festival which is 40,000 people with full force, the metal punk rock festival which is 50,000 people we will be doing 50 - 55 shows in North America alone. It’s going to continue, South America is in talks, Asia is in the talking also Australia for that matter.

Metal Fanatix: Actually I was about to ask you about the Australian tour. I’ve heard rumors that you guys would be here by the end of the year! But nothing’s obviously confirmed yet.

Martin Eric Ain: No nothings confirmed. I don’t know if we will get there this year. It may be next year actually but we’re almost touring for three months just in the United States then we will come back and have a few weeks off. There are already talks of a proper 30 - 40 date European tour and we’re like “whoa guys”. Of course we want to do this and we don’t want to take it easy, we want to do it properly.

Metal Fanatix: Will you guys be filming any of the festival performances or other shows for a possible DVD release?

Martin Eric Ain: Yeah we’re planning on filming them. I mean, how often do you get the chance to play on a festival in the slots that we’re positioned in especially headlining some of these shows. There will be some moments that will be unrepeatable again and of course how many bands are there that come back after fifteen years that have had that kinda impact on the scene? We’re respectful of the fact that this is a unique situation and we’re grateful for that. We know that this will make for some great footage that people might cherish so we will record some of those shows and see if we can use them in the future. We don’t want to tape just the festivals and just release the festival footage. Of course this will be the first proper Celtic Frost DVD and I think in a way it will have to deal with the history of Celtic Frost, maybe an anthology? There’s a couple of bootlegs from the United States from back in the eighties, there’s three shows that I know of that we have bootleg footage from and it’s quite good quality too and there’s all the old video clips that we did. We’d also like to do one of those special shows, a one off special show specifically for a DVD. There are several ideas out there right now that were pondering but I don’t want to go into details too much right now.

Metal Fanatix: When the time comes to work out the set list, do you find it hard to choose the right songs, I mean there will always be fans who want to hear the old stuff and the occasional obscure song and of course you have to play some new tracks. Do you find it hard to make a set that is for fans of all eras?

Martin Eric Ain: Well, first of all we are planning on playing a ninety minute plus show, so I guess we will definitely have time on our hands to dive into the past as well as be able to represent what the band is about now. So we’ll be playing songs from ‘Morbid Tales’, ‘Pandemonium’, ‘Monotheist’ we’ve even got a couple of ‘Hellhammer’ songs on the list that we’d like to perform from time to time.

Metal Fanatix: Do you do anything specific to warm up & prepare for a show?

Martin Eric Ain: Yeah, just the usual fiddling around on the neck and maybe going through a couple of arrangements in my head, playing them through to get myself focused on the instrument & the performance then to literally warm up the body. What I usually try to do before a show for at least one or two hours is to seclude myself as much as possible, no people around besides maybe the band. Lay down maybe even sleep for half an hour or so before a show, just to calm down and focus. It’s the things I’ve always done and still do.

Metal Fanatix: Mate, over the years you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most and could you share a story from the road with us?

Martin Eric Ain: Ya know back then we never toured as much as we probably would have done if we existed in the last fifteen years. Nowadays it’s much more structured then it was during the eighties. Definitely my favorite tour of all-time was U.S.A. 1986 along side Voivod. There is definitely some memorable moments from that tour. Speaking of Voivod the first show we ever did in North America was the World War III festival in Montreal late 1985 from memory, We came over from Switzerland and Destruction came over from Germany for their first tour of North America as well. We played alongside Voivod; it was a great bill and a fun show to play. Funny story, I almost broke Tom’s jaw back then. I was trying to swing myself over some security barriers, Tom stood beside me and swinging myself over the barriers with my boot I hit Tom’s jaw so hard that I could hear it crack.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Oh he must have been happy [laughs]!

Martin Eric Ain: I had dislocated his jaw about two hours prior to our performance at the World War III festival. The very first time in North America about three and a half thousand people there, a lot of press and a lot of interest. This was the very beginning of the extreme metal movement or whatever you want to call it. Off we go rushing to the Montreal hospital sitting there in line, somebody comes in bleeding from his guts, somebody having almost cut off there hand, it was really bizarre, we’re there in the emergency waiting rooms waiting, and waiting and they’re saying “oh you will be next” and of course there is always someone else coming in that’s got something worst. So they always get first preference. We realized that the clock was ticking and the pain started setting in. Once he saw the doctor we realized that we had about forty five minutes before we had to go on. I told Reed that I was so ashamed and so worried that I couldn’t speak. The doctor realized what was going on and he sedated Tom with the sedatives that he had, which was most probably morphine! We went back and performed, kicked ass. I think that’s the only single time in Tom’s life that he’s ever taken drugs. You can imagine how I felt; I didn’t feel too good myself.

Metal Fanatix: Being a member of such a successful band I would imagine you get asked some pretty weird questions from time to time. What’s the strangest/scariest question you have ever been asked?

Martin Eric Ain: Recently the strangest question I was asked was if Tom would have been a women would I have married him!

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] really?

Martin Eric Ain: Yeah, yeah just like two three weeks ago I was asked that question. I was speechless for a moment and was like um alright, ok. Well I’ve never pondered that question and I don’t think I ever will. But there ya go!

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] How about rumors! What’s the craziest rumor you had ever heard about yourself and or the band?

Martin Eric Ain: I can’t recall, I usually put them out as soon as they come in. oh I don’t know, the classic one is that Tom is dead or had just died or something like this, the usual. I couldn’t recall one right now actually.

Metal Fanatix: Celtic Frost is a band that have influenced many of today’s artists, who were you surprised to learn was a fan of the band?

Martin Eric Ain: Actually by now I’m not surprised by anyone anymore. The first time you hear that we were influential on Nirvana and Marilyn Manson you go yeah right, influence, where on his ass? I mean if the pope was to call and say hey you guys that kicked ass we’d sort of expect it. I know it sounds preposterous but I mean I was sixteen when we started out with Hellhammer and all of sudden boom. Who would have known that it would have started the black metal wave as we know it? It wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for bands like Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer. You read the quotes from different bands, it’s been in Kurt Cobain's diaries and then you read it in writings from Marilyn Manson and you’re like ok! I don’t know where the influence is there. Of course I’ve heard it on Nirvana’s ‘Bleach’. At first I didn’t but then after hearing it again, I can hear some of the Celtic Frost grooves in there. But basically it’s just crazy I would have never of expected this. I think it’s amazing and in a way I’m really grateful & thankful and on the other hand I just think one has to give a flying fuck [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: There have been so many highlights in your career, obviously playing such a big part in creating the extreme metal movement & influencing many of today’s bands are on this list, what else would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?

Martin Eric Ain: Still being alive I guess, well come to think of it that might not be a great achievement at all [laughs]!

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Martin Eric Ain: Maybe we would have been better off if I had passed on earlier, I don’t know [laughs]. I think ‘Monotheist’ is our greatest achievement right now. Speaking for Celtic Frost this would be our greatest achievement. I think it’s a great achievement that Tom & I could get back together again and rediscovered our friendship and what it was about. We were able to tap back into our past and what it meant to us in the first place being able to work together and create music, become a creative entity, this is an achievement. This was hard work and it took a lot of time and passion.

Metal Fanatix: In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that hard rock and heavy metal music has taken over the last few years?

Martin Eric Ain: So much has happened since Celtic Frost ran its course the first time around. There have been a lot of great changes, a lot of great sub genres coming into it. It’s really hard to explain all of it. I really followed it all quite close you might say, the entire development of heavy metal and all its sub genres. I think in the last couple of years in a way it became more of one scene feeling again like it did in the eighties, where the entire thrash metal movement or the extreme metal movement started to came into place. Can you imagine a band Celtic Frost being out on the road with a band like Running Wild or Helloween or Anthrax at the same time? There was a time where you had black metal and death metal and they didn’t want to have anything to do with each other, they especially didn’t want to have anything to do with power metal or melodic metal. Nowadays I think there’s a realization that this is just all one scene, the one thing is not that different from the other in a lot of ways. I think it gives metal a form of unit that I think it didn’t have for quite a while

The problem nowadays is that there are thousands and thousands of bands. The more there are the more generic that most of them are, so much is repetitive. So many great bands have fallen by the wayside because of this. In France alone every month you’ve got two hundred metal albums being released not just local bands but international bands also. Now in every average metal magazine they have between fifty and eighty albums reviewed who is supposed to listen to all those albums, buy them and get into all those bands you don’t have a chance. Back in the day when we started out there were a couple of dozen bands around there was probably a couple of hundred bands when we started out but now!

Metal Fanatix: Now it’s such a competitive market, it seems that not too many bands have the longevity in the industry anymore. They make one maybe two albums and then there is someone brand new on the scene!

Martin Eric Ain: Yeah that’s right, and if they’re not knowledgeable about the business and the business dealings, how to get there music out on a continuous basis without selling only twenty records or by playing enough shows to make a living they will fall by the wayside quite fast which is the sad thing.

Metal Fanatix: You’re absolutely right there, Martin what advice would you give to up and coming rock/metal bands trying to crack into the business?

Martin Eric Ain: Oh I guess it would be threefold. First write your own music, try and discover within yourself what is you want to do, don’t try to follow a scene or listen to what people tell you what is the right thing to do musically. Be creative on your own, try to discover your own means about how to make music. Second thing is to realize that this is a goddamn business and you have to learn to deal with this business and to work it as a business if you don’t you’re lost. You can sit in your room and continue to play music, but if you don’t wanna go out and confront people it will never work out. You have to be able to realize how this all works. Get yourself a lawyer before you sign any contracts or get somebody who knows what this is all about before you sign anything away. It only takes one signature to sell your soul to the devil. The third thing is that you have to realize that it’s about communication, this is about the people that you deal with on a daily basis, and you should respect them. Especially those people who are enabling you to make music, be it your social surroundings or your band members. That is the advice I would give to any young band.

Metal Fanatix: Awesome mate, now over the next twelve to eighteen months you guys are going to be extremely busy on the road and so forth. When you do get time to yourself, what do you enjoy doing?

Martin Eric Ain: Well, I read a lot. This is my way of relaxing and calming down. This is my way of heading to different worlds you might say, other people travel I read.

Metal Fanatix: What is the one band you never want to hear again & why?

Martin Eric Ain: Is there a band I never wanna hear again? Hmm! There are a couple of bands that I’m not really interested in and when I hear them played I’d prefer to shut it off, it can be any style of music that I think is un-inspirational in the sense that I think it lacks identity or it lacks attitude when it’s just going through the motions or rehashing something that somebody else did way better before. There is no particular band where I would have to say “Jesus Christ, get it away from me”.

Metal Fanatix: Really, wow I can think of a few [laughs]. Martin I know you still have a ton of interviews to do today so we will leave it there. I want to thank you once again for taking the time out to speak with us today and wish you guys all the best out on the road & with the new album. Do you have any last words for our readers?

Martin Eric Ain: Famous last words are always a difficult. We really hope to make it over to Australia for the first time ever! Let’s see if it comes to pass. I’ve never been to Australia. A lot of my friends have been to Australia and have played concerts there and we’ve heard the Australian audiences are really great and we would love to come over there and check it out for ourselves. Let’s face it for me rock music started with AC/DC, basically Australia is the motherland of rock music for me. Cameron I thank you, take care hopefully that we get over there soon.

The long-awaited Celtic Frost masterpiece ‘Monotheist’ will be released very soon via Century Media. Make sure you pre-order your copy now where all loud and aggressive albums are sold!

To keep up with all the latest Celtic Frost news make sure you check out the following websites: - Official Celtic Frost Site - Celtic Frost MySpace Site - Dedicated to 40 years of hard rock & metal music

Don’t forget to catch Celtic Frost touring in upcoming months at the following venues:

Sat 06/10/06 Solvesborg, SWE Sweden Rock Festival
Fri 08/04/06 Wacken, GER Wacken Open Air
Tue 09/12/06 Springfield, VA Jaxx
Wed 09/13/06 Springfield, VA Jaxx
Thu 09/14/06 New York, NY B.B. King's Blues Club
Fri 09/15/06 New York, NY B.B. King's Blues Club
Sat 09/16/06 Montreal, QC Le Medley
Mon 09/18/06 Toronto, ON Opera House
Tue 09/19/06 Pittsburgh, PA Rex Theatre
Wed 09/20/06 Cleveland, OH House Of Blues
Fri 09/22/06 Detroit, MI Harpo's
Sat 09/23/06 Chicago, IL Vic Theatre
Mon 09/25/06 Winnipeg, MB Royal Albert Hotel
Wed 09/27/06 Calgary, AB The Warehouse
Thu 09/28/06 Edmonton, AB The Starlite Room
Sat 09/30/06 Victoria, BC Sugar Nightclub
Sun 10/01/06 Seattle, WA El Corazon (Formerly Graceland)
Mon 10/02/06 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
Tue 10/03/06 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
Wed 10/04/06 San Diego, CA House Of Blues
Thu 10/05/06 Anaheim, CA House Of Blues
Fri 10/06/06 Anaheim, CA House Of Blues
Sat 10/07/06 West Hollywood, CA House Of Blues
Sun 10/08/06 Tempe, AZ Marquee Theatre
Mon 10/09/06 Las Vegas, NV House Of Blues
Wed 10/11/06 Englewood, CO Gothic Theatre
Thu 10/12/06 Albuquerque, NM Sunshine Theatre
Fri 10/13/06 El Paso, TX The Zone
Sat 10/14/06 San Antonio, TX Sunset Station
Mon 10/16/06 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
Tue 10/17/06 Sauget, IL Pop's
Thu 10/19/06 Fort Worth, TX Ridglea Theatre
Fri 10/20/06 Houston, TX Warehouse Live
Sat 10/21/06 New Orleans, LA House Of Blues
Mon 10/23/06 Saint Petersburg, FL State Theatre
Tue 10/24/06 Fort Lauderdale, FL Culture Room
Wed 10/25/06 Lake Buena Vista, FL House Of Blues
Fri 10/27/06 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
Sat 10/28/06 Myrtle Beach, SC House Of Blues
Sun 10/29/06 Fayetteville, NC Jesters Pub
Tue 10/31/06 Charlotte, NC Tremont Music Hall
Thu 11/02/06 Norfolk, VA The NorVa

Tix on sale at the usual outlets

All dates are correct at the time of print

© Cameron Edney May, June 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.