How did you get into music?
“I grew up in a very music-oriented family. For as long as I can remember there was music around. When my parents divorced when I was six years old, my mother was constantly gone, smuggling diamonds and watches around the world. I was left at home alone at seven, eight years old, and I felt so lonely in that big quiet house. So I listened to the records that she had saved from the divorce, and I got even deeper into music. This is why I’ve been torturing the rest of the world ever since…”
What was it like having a mother who smuggled goods?
“She started smuggling when I was very young. After the divorce she rented this huge old farmhouse which had no central heating. She would travel the world smuggling, sometimes for up to three weeks, and I would be on my own. Sometimes there would be thunderstorms and the electricity would go out, which was scary. It took me a while to get used to that, but I had no choice. I couldn’t go to a neighbour if anything happened – nobody gave a shit about me. Nowadays you would call it child abuse or neglect, but back then nobody gave a toss. But then again, if I hadn’t lived through that terrible situation, I probably wouldn’t have formed Hellhammer, Celtic Frost or Triptykon, or be who I am. As absurd as it sounds, I have to be grateful. Involuntarily, I paid my dues.”
How did you start finding music for yourself?
“In 1975 or ’76 I met another outcast who had moved to my farming village. He also had long hair, like me. He had a sister who was into heavy rock, so we stole her cassettes to listen to. On one side of one of them there was Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4, and on the other side was On Your Feet Or On Your Knees by Blue Öyster Cult. It literally changed my life, as clichéd as that sounds. I recognised myself in it. It became a fanaticism, and the louder and heavier it got, the more fanatic I became, with bands like Motörhead, Venom and Discharge. So in my teens I had a vision to create such music, too.”
You use the word ‘outcast’. Was that an easy thing to become, living in rural Switzerland?
“It was very easy. I lived in a farming village, with about 1,500 inhabitants. We were the only divorced family in the village, and at that time, long hair wasn’t welcome in Switzerland. Adults would threaten me with violence on the streets because I had long hair. We were also thinking differently, listening to different music, and we didn’t play soccer. Instead, we built rockets and bombs. We wanted to be a part of normal society, but nobody allowed us to be. Now I see that was an advantage, because it forced us to be ourselves and discover our own identity. But we also suffered. It felt terrible being pushed away.”
When you started a band, did you feel like you’d found your place in the world?
“From the beginning, music was a replacement family for me. Even before I formed a band. The band just made it even more pronounced. When I discovered the scene in Zurich and found like-minded people, I actually understood where I came from. I felt like I finally belonged."