I recently had the opportunity to talk with Hungarian black metal vocalist Attila Csihar of Mayhem about the extreme metal scene and the band’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas Tour. Hope you ‘ll find something interesting below…(I know you will!!!)
Hello! Shall we start?
Mayhem are considered the fathers of the genre on various levels. What was that thing that urged you to be (musically) that violent, aggressive and extreme? It was a kind of musical expression or did it come naturally?
Thank you for the question. Yeah, it’s somehow all of those taking part in it. Mayhem started playing this kind of music which was very new back then. We had grown up on heavy metal and in the 80’s there was this trend where you know, everyone kinda broke some boundaries and brought an extreme image. It started with Venom and Slayer, Exodus and Destruction from Germany, those are some good examples, this was the new wave and it was really influential. That was one of the reasons and the other one is I guess, that we started playing when we were very young and pretty crazy. Very few people were into it back then, this extreme and perhaps violent in a sense. My first shows with Tormentor were kinda violent and out of control. This was my first band in Hungary. There was no security and it was pretty challenging. It was so undefined in the beginning. That’s how it all started.
Do you think that this lineup while touring for “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” separated the band’s members from the band’s bloody past?
This lineup is the right plan to play this record, because we have 2 guitar players and this album needed that because of the structure of its music. That’s one of the reasons we didn’t do it in the past. I don’t know how much it separates us. It’s not that much different, three of us are still the same. The past is still affecting us. But on the other hand I guess that was all because things were crazy back then, haha. I have always been focusing on the music and the artistic musical aspect which was a little inactive in Norway back then, haha. Yes, we represent the same kind of music and there’s a similar message but we have grown up, we have changed a lot, after all we have been through.
You use some theatrical spectacles on your shows, which is a unique experience. Does that bring you goose bumps, especially when you think of the bizarre consequences that brought you to this point with Mayhem?
Haha, well, I always like to use theatrical elements. As I mentioned with Tormentor, we had this kinda make up thing and masks and horns etc on stage but I think it helps the performance. It’s not only because of the show, it helps the performance. It’s not just of a theatrical aspect but it also has a meaning. It’s like an act played by actors but the difference is that this is our life, we are not actors. We are actually doing this. So these elements are half theatrical but also realistic because they help the message spread and helps the audience get to a specific mindset. It captures the magic, the manifest and the emotions.
Though the “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” stands indeed alone for a concert. Don’t you think that fans want some more songs from your discography? Have you ever considered adding a few more?
You know, this record is very special. Not only for us, but also for the whole scene. It became important and even people who don’t like Mayhem can talk about this record being a particular one. We have the regular Mayhem show we do for all of our albums but without this album we wouldn’t achieve anything. It’s like an honor. In the rehearsals we tried to add a few songs but it broke the atmosphere. We thought that people would love to listen it to it alone, so if we added anything it would destroy this fearful vibe. It’s complete all by itself so we decided to do this now and maybe never again.
It has been years since your previous albums. Are you working on anything new? Do you this that this “DMDS” tour will affect the sound of your next album?
Yeah, we have some ideas but we’re not any pressure. We have toured a lot with the previous record and now this DMDS tour kicked in. We already have some structures. I guess it’s going to affect that. We’ll see, it’s hard to tell yet. We’re in the very beginnings of the process.
In 2000 you played the role of Caiaphas in the Jesus Christ Superstar musical. How did you decide to do such a thing?
That was a long time ago…like 2000? haha. That was really funny. At the time I didn’t really have many bands and since I was not in Hungary, I needed to rehearse and do something in music. I was actually playing with Aborym, a band from Italy but it was temporary. I need something in between. So when I heard about that I was like why not? I don’t have anything else to do. This then started to grow and became really cool actually, I liked my role. This started as a rock band. At the end we had the orchestra and everything, the vocalists, the acts. That was great. It was more about the performance, not theatrically though. It was not about the acting and that kind of shit and this whole concept of “Jesus must die” was pretty dark. I tried to keep the text to the original, haha. It was funny and great. We did a couple of shows in the countryside, in front of a fortress with many people coming to see that.
Given Mayhem’s history I have to ask about your thoughts on the fascism’s cloud rising upon worldwide…
I’m not into politics actually that much. To be honest, I don’t know…I believe that all those in politics are one and the same, even if it’s fascism or communism. I grew up in a communist environment myself and it was pretty much dictatorship with all the cops coming over all the time and that was normal… We didn’t talk to them that much. Everything has a good and a bad side…To me, I don’t like nothing. It’s not black and white, everything’s grey, fucked up. If you go deeper into history you’ll see wars for further reasons, financial stuff etc… If you think about what is power or god today, it’s all about the money. People who have the money, have the power, it doesn’t matter how you call it. Behind the politics are money that draw us in fear and to this stupid ideologies. They don’t offer anything good. It’s always shitty money behind everything. That’s why I don’t care about anything. For example, it was pretty clear in the recent U.S. Elections that something is completely wrong. It’s a complete waste of time. I’m against all.
“Lords of Chaos” is now on process to be turned into a feature length film. Necrobutcher said that he’s willing to do anything to stop all this from happening. What is happening with this matter?
What I know is that the movie is going to happen, we’re skeptic about it but I’m not that against it. From what we heard is really interesting and promising so we will see. I hope it’s gonna be interesting and not too much Hollywoodized. That’s my worry actually. But then, the director (Jonas Akerlund) is a good man at his work. It’s promising and it’s going to be really cool. This guy had been playing with Bathory etc so I think that he’s going to take it a little more serious.
Being a part of the music industry and having contributed so much in music, what do you see in today’s music production? What has changed?
Music industry, wow. It’s been always fucked up. Everybody runs through this. When you make your first contract you don’t know a thing so if you’re not well known you will sign any contract. That’s the thing. There are some bands out of the lot that know this is shit, even big bands and as the years go by try to learn…then you realise you can’t get more than just the “big sharks” so you try to keep it up. The same time it’s like a major new stuff going on…Back then it was more simple, we were trading tapes or copying from each other. It was very different with the underground. Today you’ll hear about any band and google them and see who they are. It’s a whole new era. The media are in better quality. I think it’s cool, I’m not against it. You can either love it or hate. It’s not a big problem for me. It’s difficult for sure because back then you couldn’t get a contract and today everyone can release their stuff on facebook etc. It’s also a little sad because you can hardly survive if you don’t tour, the sales are down. Extreme metal is fucking great, they support the bands today as well. I have a family feeling when I see a metalhead. Our scene is going great. It’s less hardcore, you can’t have everything. The people were fewer and crazy back then.
A few months ago you played in Thessaloniki and I was wondering how do you preserve your vocal performance and how important are to you those live rituals?
For me, I like to prepare for my shows. I need half an hour to warm up and then put on the make up which is another hour of process. It’s kind of my personal ritual, every night doing this. That how I set up. On stage is totally different. You are focused and chanelling, you just let everything go. I don’t know how to put this on words. Thessaloniki was great! I love to be in Greece and the last time was impressive… You hear all those shit in the media about Greece but it’s totally different, I didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised…it was so warming and nice. That was my impression.
Thank you so much for the interview…the epilogue is yours! A message for your fans?
I want to thank you for all those bloody years,we are all in the same bloodstream. Thank you for still being out there, without you we wouldn’t be here. Thank you for carrying the torch.