Leslaw Dutkowski of Asymmetry Festival recently conducted an interview with Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar of MAYHEM. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
Q: Black metal fans are, of course, eager for the new MAYHEM studio album. It’s been some time since the magnificent “Ordo Ad Chao” was released. Could you please tell me how far did you go with writing process? Which direction will you go this time? Maybe you know some titles or number of songs, tentative release date of your new effort?
Attila: It is in the process and we are in progress for a while now. It takes a little bit longer, because there were some changes in the lineup. It is a complex thing in the case of band like MAYHEM. We know how we should work, how we function in the best way. We are not the band that must release albums every year or fulfil people’s expectations. We put a lot of effort in it and we have to feel comfortable about what we do. And also we play a lot of shows, I think more than we have ever played. We don’t prefer any of our records. Sometimes we focus more on the past, sometimes we focus on more recent stuff. So, we don’t need a new album so much. But at the same time we need it for ourselves. Right now we feel more comfortable and confident to do that. I personally have lots of ideas. I also have other bands too, MAYHEM being the main one. So, I’ve been composing lyrics right now and the guys are also coming up with some ideas. We shared some of these ideas in Hungary last autumn. And we started together to record demos. That happened like last October, November. Later we went on tour. Right now we are going back to the process. It might take some time, because we are very self-critical. But there is already some very good stuff, very interesting. I don’t really like to say any name yet, because it is still shaping up. So, I won’t tell you the exact title of the record. I have different ideas. There are couple of themes that I like. I’m going into metaphysical direction, so-called dark energy, dark matter, out of space and time, but affecting the material world. I’m talking about official science here. I thought it was very inspiring. That’s another interesting thing, which is always a part of our music. MAYHEM‘s music on “Ordo Ad Chao”, and also on other records, is always multi-dimensional. There is also a very spiritual aspect to it. But it always has to connect to the material world, because it is part of our common reality. I don’t like very personal views. I prefer to research. My lyrics always reflect the state of my research, my interests in life. And it is changing these days. I have thoughts and I’m really fascinated by changes. [laughs] It was a time I was setting up directions and that was one of those. Somehow there is this connection to scientific things and there is also science fiction. But they were always part of my lyrics. In older days and in other bands too.
Q: Current MAYHEM guitar player is Telloch, formerly of 1349 and GORGOROTH, among others. However, at some point, there were rumours that you asked Snorre Ruch of THORNS to work with you. Were those rumours true? Did you really ask Snorre? Or is there no truth in it at all?
Attila: Without a shadow of doubt, Snorre is an old friend of ours. And our fan through the years. It was one of the ideas, because he was involved before. I will probably ask his opinion about the album. [laughs] But it’s not really decided and it’s not looking like he will be involved. Snorre is living up North with his family, so I don’t think he would like to join any band and go on tour, as far as I understand. He composes his own music, has his own visions. But we are always in contact.
Q: As you have announced on TORMENTOR‘s Facebook profile, you’ve discovered plenty of new material of this magnificent band. Taking this into account, could you tell me, when the vinyl reissues of “Anno Domini” and “The Seventh Day Of Doom” are going to be finally available?
Attila: That’s very interesting topic. It’s an idea that came to me and inspired my friend, Jonas Svensson, a Swedish guy. He is an old time friend and total TORMENTOR fan from back of the days. He is also been working for MAYHEM, did a lot of artwork for shows, like backdrops, sidedrops. Through the years we had this idea, that maybe it is time to put together TORMENTOR stuff from old times, with more photos, more interesting stuff. Make it a proper release like it should be back then on vinyl. It was his idea, actually. I’m happy to say that we got the old members involved who are still my friends. We put together as much as we could find. We found the old artwork. Our drummer, Zsoltar Machat, was a painter and he did the old artwork. We discovered a lot of old photos. So, there is gonna be a special insert with all TORMENTOR members involved, not only me, sharing their perspective on the band. It is gonna be beautiful booklet, also a poster, lots of pictures. It will be kind of jubilee release, saluting all those years, telling everything about those days, what they meant, which is almost everything. [laughs] Because that’s how we started. This is gonna be a limited edition. Probably there is gonna be another one. You know, we are not a big label. [laughs] It is our present for the fans. But not the main project. That’s why it takes some time. I’m happy to say that the vinyl pressing will be done from old master tapes, which have been remastered very carefully. I think the sound will be very nice. Both releases are pressed in Germany, where the best quality vinyl pressing company in Europe today is located. We are very careful with the details. There is just the booklet which is now missing. I think it’s gonna take a few more weeks. But I think we are at the very end of the process. A lot of people are interested in it, which is very cool. There will be also some patches. It’s gonna be very nice. Release date is coming. 90 percent of work is done and that is the big thing. And the other recordings that we have also found, are rehearsals, some old live tapes.
Q: Attila, you spend a lot of time touring. And when you are not on tour you stay in Budapest. In numerous interviews you said that nature is your very important source of inspiration. Does that mean, that you have to leave Budapest to compose new music or write new lyrics or you can find a creative spark in the town as well? Are there places in Hungary, Norway or other countries where you feel a constant flow of inspiration?
Attila: Occasionally, it happens that inspiration is not related to any specific place. I still live in Budapest, because I was born here and my family is here. It is a nice city and I still love it. However, I could live anywhere I want in Europe. But I’m here. I can still write my lyrics here, I do my reading, and of course I have my family life here with my two teenage kids. It is very cool today that, because of the Internet, it is not so important where you are. Of course, I travel a lot and I remember some of my lyrics were written in special places like in Japan at the gates of the Emperor’s Palace. I was sitting down there, in a very meditative mood, surrounded by very good atmosphere. I remember it was for the album “6°Fskyquake”, which I did with Stephen O’Malley, very good modern artist. Some of the lyrics I wrote in Egypt and other countries. Sometimes when I’m on tour I just study places by myself.
Q: How do people in Hungary perceive you? Are you recognized in your home country as, for example, BEHEMOTH‘s Nergal is in Poland, or you remain underground figure?
Attila: You know, I like to remain a little bit in a shadow. And I don’t need that kind of publicity. I have my friends, and people who know my music, and that is enough for me. I prefer when people don’t really recognize me. That’s when I feel more comfortable in life. I’m not too much in the media. However, sometimes some papers write about me, but they like very controversial comments, not really anything about my music. Of course, in heavy metal scene I’m respected and I’m thankful for that. But it’s nothing like, for instance, Nergal‘s popularity in Poland. By the way, I’m very happy for him. In Norway, I was more popular at some point. Of course, MAYHEM is very popular. Often perceived as public enemy band. And it didn’t change that much, even though the whole world is changing. For me, it isn’t so important to be in the media.
Q: I envy you for lots of things, Attila, two of them are being good at maths and physics. In present times people who have great skills in those fields can earn a lot of money working in banks or financial institutions. Has it ever crossed your mind that maybe it would be better and easier to you to reduce your involvement in art and get well-paid job in other field or it was never an option?
Attila: That’s very interesting and important question that causes a confusion, not to me, but also to any other artist. Playing music, being an artist is extremely important, but is never guaranteed that you will be able to survive doing it. Look at Van Gogh; I think he never sold any picture in his entire life. And now he is considered one of the most important painters. Artist’s life is full of suffering and sacrifices and people often don’t realize it. It refers to music too. I mean, you can learn music in school, but you cannot learn in music school how to express emotions through notes. Something like this comes from life experience. Those two things have to come together somehow. Of course, it differs. In pop music people can get into it from various shows, competitions. But going back to your question, yes, it came through my mind many times. What should I do? How to survive? However, I can imagine that I have steady job and then comes an offer to do a tour. What can you do? What kind of job do you have to have that allows you to be away for a week or more? I think, very, very few bosses would respect that. At certain point you would have to give up. I must say I’m very lucky, because now I can survive from music. But that took me like 25 years. And I’m not talking about being rich, I’m talking about surviving on a very, very average level. However, I’m very thankful for that, because I don’t have to sell my soul, I don’t have any boss who tells me what to do. We never had a manager. I’m certainly lucky, but as I said it took me a long time to be one. Of course, I worked as a maths and physics teacher before and it was interesting thing to pass knowledge. But it is not really the knowledge that you would like to pass. [laughs] And that was a bit controversial and problematic. But I think there is no job that isn’t controversial. Music is also a tough job. You have to sacrifice something sometimes, but it’s worth it.