Band Interview: Attila Csihar of Mayhem

When we found out we were going to have the opportunity to interview the band that pioneered the Black Metal sound that we all know and love, we jumped at the chance. Mayhem has been around for nearly 35 years, so in order to get this interview done right, we went straight to some of our Black Metal enthusiasts to dig deep and come up with, what we feel are pretty exceptional questions. When the night finally came, we sat with vocalist, Attila Csihar, and discussed the beginning, middle and everything in between about Black Metal and life on tour for the past 30+ years. Also, we were lucky enough to photograph their performance and posted below are some of the top pictures from their set. As always like, comment and share this post with any or all Black Metal and Mayhem fans!

Thank you for giving us this opportunity, I feel like we should have brought a sacrifice for payment… Anyways, for the uneducated heathens, tell us a little bit about yourself…

Well, my name is Attila, I started to play in ’86… was my first show…

Who’d you play with?

It was my first band, Tormentor.

Nice…

Yeah… I’m still here, haha. And that’s fucking amazing, actually.

Nice, so you’ve definitely been around the scene since it started?

Yeah, yeah, you know, when it started, not that I imagined all “this” – well, maybe in the corner of our mind, but it’s very surreal.

I would imagine so, especially after all this time.

Yeah.

In your own words, define black metal…

Ummm… black spiritual music…

Okay. That’s kinda how I see it too, kind of like an outcry from everyday life…

The idea of early black metal was to get a “bad” quality product, which was somewhat the intention of early acts like Bathory or Celtic Frost… Aside from cheap amps and mics, tell us about the process of creating this “trademark” sound; what led you to create this rebellious sound?

I think it’s more like we don’t have much choice, or option, in the really underground. Back in the day, with Tormentor, when we did the first demo, we were just students, you know, kids… I think it cost like, I don’t know, two hundred bucks or something (for) just one night – or maybe less, you know, just had it on tape. It was like “home-made” four-track, “home-made” delay and stuff, it was crazy.

I remember reading somewhere that Quorthon of Bathory was recording in a storage room he had and he was doing it all himself.

In the beginning, yeah, but I know, for instance, ‘The Return…’ (1985 Bathory album) that was kind of like – in his sight, or in his perspective – bigger production. And if you listen to it, it’s really dark, you know… Pretty underground, still.

It really is, there was nothing else like it back in the day…

What are some of your thoughts on the progression of black metal and the black metal scene as of today?

It’s like a tree, you know, it has many branches now – and still grows. There’s the main direction… and there’s many different versions, from garage bands to symphonic whatever, and it’s all about the same thing.

In the mid-to-late ‘80’s, the band that broke away from the norms of typical live bands, dressing in all black… singing about “taboo” subjects… having long hair… and simply being the opposite of social expectations… what was it like being some of the first to break from the norm in a Christian-dominated, conservative Norway. How was it like being some of the first in a super Christian country – well, at least in a Christian time?

It was very underground still when I was there. I am from Hungary so I just experienced part of it while I was there… I was already like “big deal”, all these activities – I guess everyone was pretty crazy and touched by “the thing” and I was so young then. It was cool, actually. But at the same time, I remember Euronymous told me “yeah, sometimes you have to watch your back”, stuff like that… It was “spicy”…

 

Given everything that went down with the band in the early 90’s, the band kept going, touring, creating music, etc. What was the atmosphere within the band at that time?

My impression was that (inaudible: sounds like “in Trinidad”) it was positive and optimistic, even at the end of the process of the album. There was big expectations but also we felt that it was going to be good, of course none of us could’ve foreseen how much is gonna happen. But, I couldn’t sense much of these problems which culminated later into some shit. There something already, of course, but I felt like when the album’s going to be made and done that everything’s going to be okay….

Right, so it all turned out good in the end?

Yeah, we hope…

Many people still see you as pioneers and role models in the metal scene, even beyond black metal. It is difficult to see our role models as regular folk with family, friends and hobbies. When the show stops and touring ends, what is life like when you return to your daily lives?

It’s interesting sometimes when you just drop home and it all changes, but my life is always, somehow, about the music. Of course I’m trying to withdrawal and pull out and be with my family and stuff, but still, its always in my head; you can’t escape… Haha…

The band is on the road touring so much, focusing on the music, the shows and the fans… how do you take care of yourself during this time? What do you do while on tour to help your mentality and your well-being?

It’s been always different, for me. Before, I did reading, exercises and stuff in preparation for the show. Some (inaudible) a lot of party pretty crazy. These days, actually, we go to the gym sometimes, a few of us. I did sports before when I was young, but none of this cardio shit-machine, you know. I found myself comfortable with the music, so I can listen to my music and enter this strange state of mind, which I really like. First, I start like 15-20 minutes and if you keep going a little more, stuff starts to happen to me; it’s very interesting… It’s like meditative and I can forget everything. Even though I start to follow the breathing, so control my breathing by doing this, it’s a cool exercise.

After nearly three decades of making music, both with Mayhem and Tormentor, how do you stay motivated to keep creating music?

That’s a good question, it’s like a flame, you know, you keep it alive. Its connected to the past so sometimes I’m going to this “timeless” mindset. The trouble is trying to find those inspirations… new horizons… I like (to) experiment… Always looking for (something) new, basically…

Right, just something to keep expanding the horizon?

Yeah.

If black metal had not taken off like it did, what would you have done musically or in life? Would you have kept playing metal or gone on to something totally different?

I don’t know… when I was invited to Mayhem, I was already playing electronic… Dark, electronic music… But in the early ‘90’s it was very challenging; there was no computer and stuff, it was a radically different from today, (inaudible)… but, at the same time, in my heart, I’m more metal still. When I came back to Mayhem, it was in 2004, I was still playing music in other formations of bands and stuff…

Tell us your thoughts on the current political parties, like “ANTIFA”, boycotting certain bands based on their stance on National Socialism… How do you feel about ANTIFA boycotting bands like Marduk for their songs and albums?

I think we should ask the artists, too, before you boycott… Let them say something about it, you know… It’s not good because for bands it’s very challenging to do these tours and, as you know, metal is not about that. At the same time, I think, on a certain level, we should have artistic freedom to express the form of evil – whatever it is – as long as you don’t go in that (direction). I don’t like politics in music, basically. And, in general, I think politics sucks, especially in these days where it’s easy to see that there’s a power behind (it). That’s what I think… And that power, nobody knows… Who are those people…

How did you find out and bout throat-singing? And how were you able to master it?

It’s just, you know, my way of experimenting. I’m still looking forward, maybe unfortunately, to meet someone who can show me the proper way, but you can see on YouTube and stuff. Maybe it’s also something with genetics, I don’t know. I mean genetics like the form of your skull… and some people, because with vocals, your instrument is your body – everybody’s body is different – so some people can do it easier. I saw kids doing this so in Nepal and Tibet and they had the techniques, for sure. There’s a woman from Germany, if you “Google” her – like, “throat-singer from Germany”, whatever – she is amazing. She can do both tones and variate separately from each other. I don’t know how she does it.

But, I guess when you do this – *makes throat-singing noise* – you have to find this force which can resonate. Some people, theologically, if you have a (certain) kind of shape, maybe it is easier…

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