2008. december 28., vasárnap

Attila Csihar (Tormentor, Mayhem, Aborym, Keep Of Kalessin, Sunn O)))))) etc.)

As for the metal scene of Eastern Europe it seems to be an interesting thing, a kind of mysterious. While in Germany, England, The Netherlands etc. the metal scene started at the late '70s/early '80s Hungary latched on to the metal scene only in the mid '80s. The reasons of this situation is very simply: politics, communism - do I have to say more? But from that point a really great underground scene came into being with a lot of bands, fanzines etc. Unfortunately it didn't succeed in making a name for the Hungarian bands, but there is a name that comes to everybody's minds thinking about the Hungarian scene: Tormentor. Yes, they were one of the pioneers of the black metal movement and became an influential, cult act later on. While the Hungarian bands became forgotten for Tormentor and especially for Attila himself succeeded in making a name for himself. He sang on Mayhem's debut "De mysteriis dom satanas", but he also took/takes part in bands/projects, such as Aborym, Korog, Sunn O))))), Keep Of Kalessin etc. My friend Viktor Tauszik (singer of Nadir) did an awesome interview about this band. Attila Csihar, the former singer of this legendary bands speaks to you...

Recently, you have been to distant places such as the Far East and Australia. However, let’s start with this: I know that you also visit the North quite often, so how did people react to the sudden suicide of the legendary Dissection frontman up there? They made a colossal and really successful album long ago, you know. Then the guy went in and out to jail, started to play music again... Then, the next album has been received with mixed emotions: some said it was good, some said it wasn’t... Then, as if premeditated, a farewell concert and the news about his death...
Well, yeah, that was pretty surprising even for me and it really shocked me since he was a great friend of mine.
So, you knew him personally.
Oh yeah, we played together more than once. I have also performed as a guest sharing the stage with Dissection. On the Inferno Festival, for instance...
A big, legendary fest, I think.
It sure is and the show was awesome, too. That was the last concert at the Rockefeller. They have played as headliners of the third day of the festival. “Elisabeth Bathory” was supposed to be the last song. And guess what, I was standing there ready to fuckin’ play and then the stage manager told me that the party was over ‘cause we ran out of time or something. I was like “What the fuck! Come on, man, give me a break!” The band left the stage and we were supposed to come back to play this very last song but it wasn’t possible so we started to argue and all that. Then Set came back so everyone else came back, too. I was like “O.K., let’s do it.” but they fuckin’ turned the PA off and turned the lights on. So, I was standing on the stage and I saw everybody down there. Thousands of people! I was like ”Well, what’s next?” And suddenly the band started to play the song with nothing but the backline on, with acoustic drums and I had no microphone. So I made a microphone of my hands and shouted at the top of my voice, together with the audience. It was pretty funny. That was my last appearance with Dissection. In spite of all this, the gig turned out fuckin’ well, everyone enjoyed it a lot. It was the first time ever I sang in such a huge arena with no PA but people told me that they still heard my vocals.
Must have been an excellent venue from the acoustical point of view.
Yeah, I guess. Ha ha.
So, the death of this guy was quite bizarre and also a shock for both the Northern and the whole European extreme metal scene. For the whole world, actually. I guess many people still cannot understand it and recover from it ‘cause it happened so suddenly.
Yes and to tell you the truth it shocked me as well. I never thougth it could happen.
I guess it’s because you were close friends.
Yeah, exactly. It was already bizarre when they announced that this was their last concert. Originally, it was meant to be the final European show for that year but it turned out to be the band’s last gig ever.
Haven’t they recorded any material for a DVD or something?
Oh yes, they have. The concert took place in a huge sport hall. It was in Stockholm, I think, but I haven’t been there. I saw some footage, though, and it looks amazing: there are flames rising ten meters high, gigantic backdrops and the eleven pointed star of Dissection made from a fuckin’ huge piece of metal back there. Now, that was awesome. I think it was recorded by a pretty big crew, so you can expect a DVD.
Must have been quite spectacular.
I think so, at least that’s what they told me. I only saw some pictures but those are really exciting.
About the new Mayhem album, many fans have been wondering why the sound of the album is so crappy…
Good question.
It wasn’t meant to be a bitter criticism, just a question...
O.K. The “crappy” sound is a relative thing. I would say that the album sounds differently from the average extreme metal stuff of today. That was exactly our aim: to create a totally diffrent sound and not to give a shit about the “cosmetics” which are so trendy nowadays. You enter a studio and there is a computer that can polish, cut or insert notes each hundredth of a second and you can waste so many fuckin’ months with that.
Was there any actual producer with you making this album?
We were the producers ourselves. Period.
As you know, there are people at those bigger record companies who get paid for this.
Yeah, right but Mayhem haven’t used producers like that on any of their albums. The sound of “Grand Declaration” rather reminds me of a dentist’s office. “Chimera” sounds totally like everyone would expect an album to sound, yet, strangely enough, it sold worse than “Grand Declaration”. Also, people always keep telling us how awesome “Live In Leipzig” and “Deathcrush” sound and how fuckin’ amazing they are and all that. So, this time we wanted to make a record that doesn’t serve people. We wanted it to be absolutely different. While everyone is striving to reach fuckin’ higher, we just said “Let’s destroy it all!”
Back to the old school, to the retro and to the roots, that is.
Back to the roots, exactly! The same thing goes to the music, too. Nor the riffis, neither the songs haven’t been shaped to follow the same modern sound and feeling you can find on the extreme metal albums of today. The feeling is quite often broken in two there and so is the sound. Now, you may say here in Hungary that it sounds like shit but let me tell you that a lot of reviews have been written on this album and there weren’t that much people complaining about the sound. Someone even wrote how fuckin’ great it is that a band finally sounds differently, being totally old school.
Fenriz, however, has gone crazy when he heard the album, I suppose.
Sure. But it was fuckin’ difficult, as I told you. We didn’t give a shit about anything, we just recorded the songs and we recognize that it sounded terribly. So afterwards, I was working on the mastering at home for about a week.
Did the other band members leave the job completely up to you?
No. When the mastering was done, we all found that we went a bit too far ‘cause some parts just couldn’t be heard at all. Darkthrone, for instance, play rather simple stuff...
Especially on their latest album, which is rather some kind of old school rock n’roll.
...and this kind of sound is O.K. for rock n’roll but Mayhem’s music is so much more diverse than that and these details started to disappear entirely. So, I completed a song at home first, then I sent it around to see if my version can be the final one. The others agreed, so the whole album became like this. And it was intended in a way, it didn’t happen accidentally. If you listen to Hellhammer’s drums, they sound totally differently from the Dimmu Borgir drum sound. So, finally, the kick drum doesn’t sound like popcorn etc. In my opinion, it’s rather an ageless sound. But time will tell. I remember when the second Bathory album only got three points in the German Metal Hammer...
Although it’s a fucking great album.
That’s right. And it has set standards later. That’s the point in our album, too. It wasn’t made for only being listened to twice. I think either someone says it sucks and fuckin’ throws it away or listens to it a few times...
...and really gets into it.
Right. There is this review in a Greek magazine, for instance. In the beginning, it says something like: “Sorry, at first I thought it was just a cool album but after listening to it a couple of times I think it’s phenomenal. This stuff is ageless.”
That’s what we call true art, by the way.
Well, I think art is when an individual does something to satisfy his or her own needs, never giving a fuck about what others say. Then time will tell...
That’s what your career is all about, looking at all that you’ve done in Mayhem or Tormentor.
Yeah, sort of. I got used to it. As long as Tormentor existed, I have never read a positive review.
And now it’s a legend.
A legend indeed. But I would kiss the hand or would give a Mayhem CD for free to anyone who could show me just one positive Tormentor review from the 80s.
Speaking of Tormentor, it’s another question many Hungarian fans have been asking: what is the current situation with the band? I know that every member can be found elsewhere, Machát is in Germany etc. In your opinion, will the band ever be reuinted for a concert? Or perhaps a record company or an agency has already contacted you offering you a huge amount of money to motivate you.
It would surely be possible to do something but we already went a bit too far with our last album. It’s been released in 2000 and everybody was like ”What the hell is this rock n’roll music?” By the way, if you look at it now, lots of bands just started to play this black n’roll stuff. And we already referred to it as black n’roll back then. That’s how we called this kind of music. Black n’roll, not black metal. And yes, Machát is abroad and Szigeti doesn’t care. I mean, I talked to him several times and I still can’t motivate him. He’s a mere businessman or something.
So, it’s unlikely a reunion will ever happen. Or is it a “never say never” kind of situation?
Never say never. Back then, we thought about making a mini album as a further development of our sickest ideas of the album, I mean the Hungarian folk music parts. The bear dance, the busó stuff and this kind of lyrical concept. In my opinion, all these topics have a meaning that would fit perfectly to this kind of music.
Getting inspiration from folkloric traditions, that is?
Yes. From the bear dance, for instance, which was originally the sign of the bear crossing the constellation of the stars. You can read a lot about it. As for the busó, no need to explain that.
That tradition has been going on in the town of Mohács for many years, to say farewell to winter.
Yes, exactly.
Did you ever think about doing this with another project, since that’s not what Tormentor’s about? Or you wouldn’t have time for that?
Well, I would rather say that Tormentor has moved forward in this direction. So, I think it would fit pefectly to further develop the ideas of “Recipe Ferrum” in the three or four tracks of the mini album that I mentioned. But right now, it seems highly unlikely to me ‘cause we don’t have a complete line-up. The old guitarist was more or less O.K. but we had problems with the bassist. So, I don’t want to enter into details but the line-up wasn’t that stable. That’s why we weren’t even able to play that stuff live the way we shold have done it and the way we wanted to.
And what is the situation with Saturnus Productions? Looks like that project is on hiatus for a while. You wanted to run this label ‘cause there is a demand for old Tormentor stuff to be re-released.
Well, “Anno Domini” has already been released but it’s true that I haven’t been investing that much energy in this thing. Saturnus is a real old school label so anyone who might be really interested can find it, although the web site isn’t that active either.
Yeah, I noticed that. I checked it a few moths ago and I didn’t find it operational.
That’s exactly why I want to update it a little bit. Besides, we just made a DVD with old Tormentor videos from 1986 and 87 that we have found. From the times before “Anno Domini”, that is.
Wow, you had some recordings from those years?
Yeah, a few. I also got some other recordings from fans. It’s not so much, we have only like 20-30 minutes but the feeling is pretty wild. One of the recordings has been made in a small club but I can’t remember its name... There was a ten centimeter high stage and stuff. You can see me performing wearing a zombie mask on that recording. The other one was taken at the first 666 Festival in Budapest.
Well, let’s get back to Mayhem for a little while. It’s a stupid question but let me ask you this: you are the frontman of the band now. How difficult was it (and I’m not talking about the Hungarian market but about the European scene and the whole world) to get accepted by the fans of today? I mean, you had to fulfill the role of the former frontman, you know who I’m talking about...
Luckily, it was easy. When Maniac left, there were already problems with him. He was quite unstable during the last tour. Sometimes he fucked up the shows terribly.
Due to alcohol and drug problems, I presume...
Partly yes. And there were also things from his private life, I think. Family and stuff. It all was too much for him. Besides, he played in the band for ten years...
Could it be he got tired of it or burned out?
Could be. Just think about it. Performing on stage with Mayhem goes with some kind of stress and pressure that I have already felt in the beginning, too. Perhaps I can take it better.
I can understand you perfectly. The parents (my parents, your parents or anyone’s parents) – the older generation, retired people, that is – can not undesrtand how is it that a huge rock or pop star or any other celebrity who has lots of money gets hooked on drugs and alcohol. I always explain it like this: having money is one thing, what if he doesn’t give a shit about that? He spends all his life as a part of a machine. Always on the move, always working. From one place to another, taking all the money just like a bank robber. So he’s fuckin’got everything but it’s easy to burn out living this way...
Look, it’s different for me.
I didn’t mean you.
As for Mayhem, opinions have always been divided, I think. First, there were those death cases and the arguments about what is true and what is not. That’s how it all started, although Maniac is an early vocalist, he was in the band before me. Then there is all this endless criticism, you know. Furthermore, Mayhem was never the kind of band that satisfies the primal needs of people. We have always been doing what we think is right.
No compromise!
Right. And many people didn’t like it. Also, you go on stage and with a band of Mayhem’s caliber... It isn’t some kind of paranoia or something like that but once someone threw a Molothov coctail on the band in Greece.
Yeah. The guys were sitting there in front of the hotel when a biker passed by and he threw that Molothov coctail. Everything has fuckin’ got fire, the table-cloth and even someone’s clothes. So, there is some kind of pressure. Any kind of madman can fuckin’ appear...
Do you mean it’s not really safe for you to be in this business?
Definitely not safe. And obviously, there is also the chaotic part of it that you just mentioned. Thousands of shows you always have to prepare for...
And you lose count of days and months and years, everything melts together, you know... You’re on the move every day... Just like most other bands They arrive to the venue with their van or nightliner, fall asleep punch drunk etc. On the next day, they wake up, no sightseeing in the city at all, just a soundcheck in the venue, they eat and drink something etc. Then they play the concert... And then they start it all over again.
Yeah. You may laugh about it but I will tell you that I changed my way of life because of this. I mean, I didn’t drink any alcohol since October 2006 and I didn’t smoke or take any other drugs for about a month. I’m trying to keep things under control.
Mineral water, gym, fitness, wellness?
Sort of. Plus breathing exercices and stuff – and I’m quite O.K. with all this. It’s necessary because I have so much tours, concerts and festival shows with Sunn O))) and Mayhem now, one after another. I need this not to fall into pieces and to stay focused.
You have to be in good shape.
Right. You have to be in good shape and to be on top mentally, too. I have tons of interviews etc. Then in my old days, or when things will get a bit more relaxed, I will return to my pipe, I think. But now I feel that I need to be focused.
So, you became straight edge for a while.
But it’s a great thing. I mean, the older you get the more seriously you take things and you went through a lot of things, so you got more balanced. Besides, you are a family man, so you know that some people are waiting for you...
I think when you use drugs and alcohol, it’s always a matter of self control. And it’s you who must be in control. Don’t let that stuff take control over you. The only way you can achieve it is by saying no and quitting sometimes. I already did that in the past. I quit one thing but went on with another. For instance, I stopped smoking but kept on drinking. Or vice versa. This time, however, I felt it was high time to stop it all.
Clean head, sober mind.
Relatively. It worked really well in Japan, for instance, ‘cause I couldn’t get any drugs there and it sucked.
Japanese people can get really sick without drugs anyway.
Yeah. All I could have got is some garbage for an incredibly high price, so I said “to hell with that”. But I didn’t really miss it. I just got used to take something before going on stage. After the second gig, however, things have changed completely and I just got a lot more extreme. You see, once you’re in control, you can get even further. It’s because you are able to control yourself anytime. But it’s pretty hard to describe it.
During your career, you have obviously experienced the opposite case as well when musicians were unable to control themselves which led to mental problems and personal differences.
Yes I have. I guess I can take this thing to the extreme myself. In Mayhem, everyone drinks like hell and the guys do other stuff, too, I guess. The rule in Mayhem is that anything goes but it must not be detrimental to the concert.
That’s a pretty cool rule! So, you quietly hide in a corner of a room with the Bible before the show and get into it?
Ha ha! That’s going to be a cold day in hell! I usually wipe my ass with the Bible, you know. But to tell you the truth, I party just like anyone else. Actually, that’s what makes it difficult for me. But I have more energy. I also went out to party in Tokyo all the time, where there are thousands of pubs etc. The guys from Sunn O))) were all knocked out sometimes but they respected the decision I took, too. They even said that they admire me for the self-control that I have. But I took things even further to the extreme: when I partied, I did it really hard but when I stop, I stop totally. That’s how it works for me.
By the way, do you sympathize with vegetarians? Are you vegetarian yourself?
Yes I still am, for ten years now.
Oh really?
Wow, I didn’t know that. But let’s get back to the music right now. Could you tell me about the time the songwriting process took.
The whole process of writing the music for the album, rehearsing and recording took about one year and a half, I think.
Oh really? Did it take you so long?
Yes. It started when I joined Mayhem in 2005 or December 2004 rather. We started playing in January and we started talking about what the new album should be like. So, we sat down with Balsphemer and started talking about that. He is the songwriter in the band, you know. Since Mayhen has this new line-up, he wrote all the songs by himself. So, we started working on the basic ideas. We wanted the new stuff to be totally inhumane.
Did the other members play any role in the process? Were there any wars of words?
No, they don’t really have a say in this thing. I mean, Hellhammer can really channel all his energies behind his drums. He enjoys playing with Blasphemer a lot. They both are totally into those insane riffs, rhythms and ideas. Necro isn’t involved either. So, the creation of the album was up to the two of us. Blasphemer was living in Portugal at that time and he is still living there while I’m here in Hungary...
By the way, do you have any problems because of such distances?
For me, it’s a good thing that he’s there in Portugal ‘cause I don’t have to be in Norway all the time. We just have to take care about the timing of these trips. The other good thing is the Internet.
And Skype, so that you can talk to each other.
Yes. He is there at his home studio where he records his ideas. Then he sends these over to me, I do my vocal parts at home with my little equipment and send the stuff back to him. So, this is what we were doing for about a year. Then we started to rehearse the songs. By the way, we already played the song called “Wall Of Water” in March 2006 at the Rockefeller show, more than one year before entering the studio. Comparing to the Mayhem average, we rehearsed a lot before this recording process. That’s how we spent the whole Summer. We didn’t even play almost at any festivals. We were only writing and putting these songs together instead. Therefore, we didn’t waste that much fuckin’ time in the studio, everyone knew what to do.
You went into the studio with completed stuff, that is.
Yes, exactly. The invested energy has paid off there. That was definitely the way we wanted to do the songs and now we don’t have any problem playing any of those. You don’t have the feeling of hearing a thousand guitars at the same time and all the vocals have been recorded to one track only, too. I recorded the vocals of certain songs at once and we didn’t change anything afterwards. As for the rest, if I wasn’t able to do it right for the third time, I fuckin’ said “to hell with it” ‘cause I wasn’t in the mood to stop and go back to the first line and correct things...
So, you didn’t fiddle around.
Absolutely no fiddling around. In my opinion, if you’re fiddling around, you can achieve a good production or something but you lose the mental or spiritual aspect of the music. If you can do it at once, with one breath, it has some continuity and perhaps you will be able to transmit a certain feeling. But if you stop, go back and forth all the time it will only be like Hollywood in the end.
For the same reason, didn’t you think about recording the whole album live?
Now, that would have been a bit too much, ha ha!
That’s why I’m asking...
The music is more complex than that. But the sound and the music are more or less live because there wasn’t that much fiddling aruond. The tracks have been done more or less at one take. We never stopped and returned...
Where have you recorded the album?
In Norway, in a studio called “The Mill”. Otherwise, it’s a water-mill, and also the studio of Knut from Arcturus. It’s a haunted mill, there are UFO observations, energy lines and stuff like that in the area... As for Knut, he has very specific ideas and he fiddles around with everything with his old equipment a million times which makes it sound like a hard rock album in the end. We never gave a shit. We said “fuck it” ‘cause we wanted a really screwed up sound but we went a bit too far with that as I said. We were struggling with the mastering afterwards. But it’s a brand new studio and there isn’t that much stuff that’s been recorded there. The latest Mayhem CD is probably the first full lenght album Knut has ever done. So, it was pretty much like a pig in a poke. But that’s exactly what we wanted.
Ha ha!.. Didn’t you think about any other studio? I believe, there were plenty of requests.
We actually did, but this one was a good solution from the financial point of view.
O.K., I see.
Knut is a good friend etc. Besides, as I already told you, we wanted to do something challenging. Both for ourselves and for the listeners. We didn’t want to fulfill any expectation whatsoever. On the contrary, we were against all expectations and trends. So that’s how we chose that studio. Otherwise, the atmosphere was awesome there, everything was quiet and there was no stress. We could work anytime we wanted to. No matter if it was day or night.
Do you and the band have a manager? Or do you take care of everything yourselves?
No, we don’t have a manager. There was this English agency, “First Contact” that organized concerts for us but Blasphemer got mad at them so we broke up with them. They’re trying to get our confidence back now but there was something we weren’t happy about and there was some arguing, too. Because of this, a South American tour has been cancelled. It was really shocking for me because the timing was right, everyone would have been available in February. But shit happens. I can tell you that Mayhem is total chaos. Recently, we were supposed to play at the PartySan Festival and we were about to discuss some details when Necrobutcher said: ”that’s been arranged by Blasphemer”. Blasphemer thought it was me, and I thought it was him. Finally, we found out that nobody arranged anything. So, things like that happen. Yet, we play lots of festival shows.
I know that you have a strong desire to perform on the main stage of the Sziget ‘cause the PA of the Hammerworld Stage is far from being perfect...
Well, not necessarily on the main stage but that would be the real thing. So, why not?.. But we don’t insist on that ‘cause we have enough festival shows and stuff anyway. I’m also busy with Sunn O))) and so is Hellhammer with Dimmu Borgir. We all have our engagements. Blasphemer has another band, too.
Can we expect a Hungarian Sunn O))) concert?
We have been talking about it for a long time but it’s very risky thing since the band members are Americans.
So, they would need a flight and stuff.
Do you do full European tours at all?
Yes we do. At least, we did one with the last album “Black One”. We could do a Hungarian gig if we play in Austria the day before. But we have been there in March and yet we failed to get a gig in Hungary.
Did you play in Vienna?
Close to Vienna, at a festival. Current 93 has also played there and I made a guest appearance at their show. From my own point of view, this has been one of the most sensational events of the year ‘cause I performed with of my fave bands from my teenage years that I still enjoy listening to. So, now I can sing with David Tibet, one of my great influences.
How would you describe the music of that band to those who don’t know it?
Originally, it’s an occult industrial based music just like stuff Psychic TV or Coil plays. A very old band, by the way. Regarding the members, Steven Stapleton is a former Coil musician. But they changed their style around 1992-93 and now they play so-called apocalyptic folk music. About the concert: there were 17 people on stage, two pianos, six guitars, cellos, violins, a flute, a harp etc. Not to mention the musicians: one of the guitarists played on Johnny Cash albums before, another guy played on electric violin. Aleister Crowley has this organization named O.T.O., you know, and he left it to another man when he passed away. That guy also plays guitar in the band. And the other musicians are awesome, too... So, it’s a great honour for me to be a part of it.
And what is the situation with Aborym? Did you break up with them once and for all?
Yes, so it seems.
Weren’t the guys angry with you because of this?
No they weren’t. We made this decision together. At that time, I had conflicts with Italian authorities. Also, Set became a member of Dissection and I rejoined Mayhem so we found out that the band is rather dysfunctional. But they have a pretty good line-up now. Faust plays drums and they also have Preben from Mysticum...
Holy shit, Faust has time for everything.
Yes but Aborym isn’t really able to perform live. Me, I would have liked to play gigs with Aborym, as much as possible, but the others didn’t want that. Especially Fabban the bass player who has a regular job and stuff. By the way, this is the most difficult thing if you play in a band: you must sacrifice a lot to be able to do it. Can anyone show me a job in Hungary where you can tell the boss sometimes: “Look, I will go on tour for three weeks now but then I will be back”?
Yeah, good point. It can only be a full time thing.
Yes, after a certain period of time...
But it’s an uncertain thing, too.
Yes and it’s especially difficult on Aborym’s level when you’re on tour playing gigs for only hundreds of euros and you never know how much will remain in the end.
Even if you only spend money on food and fuel.
But that’s not enough to survive for the rest of the year...
...or to pay your bills.
Exactly. For me, it’s a great sacrifice, too. I lived flat broke for several years, for the same reasons. But I decided to live this way instead of becoming a slave. There must be soulitons for this but those things didn’t work for me, that’s why I did temporary jobs like teaching, appearing in movies and stuff like that. But it was still difficult, I had critical times in my life.
How difficult is it for you to switch from one band to another? You have been to Japan and Australia with Sunn O))) then you will go to Oslo to rehearse with Mayhem and you will have a gig with Current 93 in Florence. So, how difficult is it to switch from one thing to another mentally or physically?
It’s not so difficult because these are totally different genres. The music of Sunn O))) is totally experimental, I wouldn’t even call it metal. It’s rather balancing between noise / experimental and metal. Current 93 is totally acoustic and it gives me intellectual inspiration. The great thing about Sunn O))) is the freedom that I have on stage, I can try everything. About the half of the vocal techniques that I use on the new Mayhem have been develpoed at Sunn O))) shows. Your skills become evident when you perform live on stage and not when you sing in the bathroom.
I see.
That’s how you can find out what works and what doesn’t.
So you can use your experience with one band in another.
Exactly. It’s rather difficult because of time limits, that’s why I’m still not a permanent member of Sunn O))) We agreed on it together. Nevertheless, the band is doing quite well these days and I don’t have any ego problems because of being only a guest musician there. So, Sunn O))) is still a two member group although sometimes there are five or six people performing on stage. There are always guest musicians like Justin from Godflesh or other cool people...
Is Godflesh active again? I heard they have reunited after a break... It’s rather obscure...
I haven’t heard of it. We played together about one year ago. We also had the bass player from Melvins as a special guest and now Steven Stapleton from Current 93 will perform with us. So, it’s very exciting. I try to be able to be there at all Sunn O))) shows. We will have a US tour in early July, then I will fly to Norway for a week to rehearse and we will go to America with Mayhem afterwards. So, luckily, there are no big overlaps but still I will have to miss two festivals.
So, how much time do you spend in Hungary now?
Not that much. I’m with my kids all the time now ‘cause I will miss them all this Summer.
Can your family tolerate this?
Yes, they like what I do. Especially my son but my daughter is into it, too. They like the fact that daddy plays extreme metal.
Have you shown them some DVDs, let’s say some bootlegs so they can see what their father does on stage?
Not really. But Joey Jordison is a good friend of mine. I wasn’t home when he played here with Ministry but I sent him an SMS asking him to put my son and family on the guest list. My son enjoyed a lot being up there on the main stage and seeing Joey from there. He likes drummers like Frost a lot. He was there at the soundcheck when Gorgoroth and 1349 were here. He is also a fan of Hellhammer etc. And he was happy to hang around with the Slipknot drummer. He could also tell his schoolmates about it...
O.K., let’s talk about the Mayhem lyrics now. You wrote them all, I suppose. To what extent did your bandmates give you a free hand and what are the lyrics about? Is it a concept album? Perhaps you could also explain the album title “Ordo Ad Chao” a bit.
O.K., “Ordo Ad Chao” means something like “towards chaos” or “a system that leads to chaos”. “Ordo” can also refer to a secret society. In our case, it’s this society that leads to or is dedicated to chaos.
Perhaps you get some inspiration from the current chaotic political situation in Hungary?
No, not really. There is only a very remote political aspect to it, if there is any. But “Ordo Ad Chao” is also a Masonic slogan and Masonry is surely an existing thing. Otherwise, I couldn’t imagine how so many Masonic orders or lodges can exist. So, we all liked this aspect a lot. The guys definitely gave me a free hand but we discussed everything with Blasphemer first.
He checked the lyircs, right?
And then I showed them to the others, too. Everyone had a say, Necro and everyone else.
Were there any changes?
Only some slight changes. No big deal. So, this is how all the lyrics took shape. For me, it was very important not to become too poetic. I mean, I think the lyrics of Maniac are very good but that’s rather some kind of dark poetry for me. It depicts a totally abstract inner world.
And occult.
Yeah, occult. The occult still remained but I tried to connect all the lyrics to reality on Earth. They are related to existing things. “Wall Of Water”, for instance, is about cataclysms and all kinds of natural disasters. It’s occult in the sense that nearly all lines have been inspired by notices of people and cultures from the ancient pre-Christian era. But in Christianity, there is this flood... And from the Inkas to the Indian or Chinese culture, you can find it everywhere. Also, there are lots of Sumerian reminiscences in the lyrics, especially in “Wall Of Water” (not only there).
Other metal bands also used Sumerian reminiscences. Morbid Angel, for instance...
Perhaps yes, that’s why I didn’t enter into details so much. Then, the third track, “Great Work Of Ages” can probably be related to this Masonic thing: it depicts some dark force in the backgorund that hides behind politicians and others. Nobody knows what it is, it just seems to exist. Looking back in history, it’s like secret hands that have been manipulating the outcome of some chains of events and wars well in advance.
It’s certainly true. Something must be happening behind the scenes even today.
Yeah. I mean, what’s behind the scenes, behind those bankers and others?.. It’s an exciting question but nobody knows the answer. These things are all connected to each other so much.
And a war is a fuckin’ great business for them.
Yeah, that’s natural. And war and religion go together. Every war is based on religion – or at least 90% of them have a religious aspect, I think. Therefore, the fourth track is another total attack on religions. It’s an absolute brainwash and some kind of manipulation.
So is that what the new Mayhem album is all about?
Partly yes and it deals with other things, too. The first half is about the outside world and the second half is a bit about the inside world. The fifth track is about estrangement and realisation. It’s like someone realising who he is, where the fuck he is, what is going on around him, what existence is about and so on... The sixth track, “Psychic Horns” is about different psychological and manipulation techniques that still exist. Human way of thinking can be influenced to an incredible extent with hypnosis and different techniques and needless to say, that’s what’s going on in the media, education etc. Then the album gets more and more abstract. There is some concept and connection between the songs, at least in the order of the lyrics. The seventh track, “Key To The Storms” is totally abstract, it’s about balancing on the edge of insanity: what is insanity and what is not, who’s genius and who’s insane, where is the limit between the two...
This limits are disappearing slowly, everything is melting together. It’s all just like the Matrix...
Yeah, right. That’s my point: I wanted the lyrics of this album to have some sense as far as the inner abstract world goes but also to make people think about things and to connect things to each other. And there is the eighth track which is called “Anti” because it’s about turning all structures upside down and it’s an extract of the album.
Perhaps it’s a trivial question but, being a Scandinavian band, didn’t you ever think about gtting inspiration from the ancient Viking culture? Many Scandinavian bands do – or maybe this is why you want to stay away from it?
It was never a typical Mayhem thing. Mayhem have always been dealing with global issues instead. Although the guys are, in fact, Scandinavian, they never took inspiration from these roots.
As for Sunn O))), did you use that pnuematic hammer on stage, too?
No, that would have been too much on stage. We used it only in th studio. Former Melvins members Joe Preston played it. Actually, I wasn’t in the studio at that time because I didn’t have a visa yet, so I recorded my vocals at home and sent the recordings back to the others. But I have seen some photos: there are, in fact, some blocks of concrete and he plays that pnuematic hammer with a distorted face. Incredible. But you can always expect such ideas from Sunn O)))
How come this is a double album?
There is a concert on it, too. We wrote this one for the opening ceremony of an exhibition from the works of an artist who made the statue of a burning church (the ruins of which remained) when he was in Norway. Originally, the artist asked the Thorns guitarist to write music for the exhibition but then he changed his mind and turned to Sunn O))) instead. And guess what. He made a sculpture of every amp, lead, pedals, guitars etc. There were two halls in the venue, one above the other. The exhibition took place upstairs and we played downstairs, unseen. I sang in a closed casket. Then the lower hall was opened and everyone could see that all the equipment looked exactly like the sculptures up there. So, the album is related to this event.
Now, let’s talk about this tour after which you got home. You’ve been to Japan, Australia and you have also took a little trip to Hongkong.
So, was it a Sunn O))) tour?
Yeah, a Sunn O))) tour.
I couldn’t believe my eyes reading that 800 people would show up at a gig like this. It will not happen in Hungary in the next 20 year, I think.
Could be...
Some gigs were even sold out as far as I can remember.
Yes and it was surprising for us, too.
Did the fans buy some merch, too?
Yeah, we did pretty well with the merch, too. But we were really lucky because Sunn O))) member Greg Anderson, also from Southern Lord, invested some 30.000 USD in the tour. He booked the flights and the venues, rented the equipment etc. You can’t do this with Mayhem, you know. There weren’t that much people at the shows of the previous Australian tour, some 50-100 people.
Yeah but I didn’t care, I would have even come to play for free. Everybody brought some merch to sell, I brought Mayhem and Tormentor stuff etc. We lost money in the end. And we have never been to Japan before so we could only rely on the merch there. Because of this, we only had door deals... Actually, I didn’t take that much stuff with me. Just a few CDs for the worst case... Sunn O))) have been there before and has a good reputation... There were 200 people at the first show, as usual, then 3-400 people, a sold out show in Sidney (which means 5-600 people) and finally 800 in Melbourne. Obviously, people see that the show is good, they tell about it to other on the chat and stuff so more and more people are coming to see the band live.
Were there any fans who followed you along the tour and have been to several shows?
I’m not sure ‘cause the distances are pretty big there.
Have you been to Tasmania, too?
No, unfortunately. It must be an exciting place. They say you can drink from the rivers there.
There is this band from Tasmania that is doing quite well in the underground, their name is Psycroptic. Do you know them?
No but I know Striborg, also known as Sin (Nanna), who’s a famous cult guy. He’s been playing for 20 years and he’s someone of Burzum’s caliber. He performed live for the very first time just we played a special show in Melbourne, under the mane of Pentemple, with just a few Sunn O))) members. Tosh who plays Moog keyboards hasn’t been there. But Sin (Nanna) played with us, turning the whole thing into a cult event. So, he’s from Tasmania.
Then you travelled further to Japan from Australia.
Yes we did, we took a flight. The same thing happened in Japan: 1-200 people at the first shows and in the end 600 people in Kawasaki (near to Tokyo). So, it paid off.
It was your first trip to Japan, wasn’t it.
Yes it was.
They say it’s a beautiful country with a fantastic cultural heritage but terribly expensive.
I would say Hungary or Europe is expensive.
Really? Rumors say that Japan is the most expensive country in the world, even more expensive than Scandinavia.
Maybe it used to be the case.
Salaries must be much higher, too...
I don’t know but I can tell you that a coke is 200 forints (0,75 euro) from a vending machine anywhere. Nothing was terribly expensive, I think. So, I would recommend to anybody to takea trip to Japan now. Once you’re there, nothing is expensive. Even I was surpirsed...
Is it true that there is a karaoke bar on every corner? That’s very trendy...
There are karaoke bars, quite a few. We’ve been to a bar like that, totally drunk. I mean, I wasn’t but the others were... That was a fuckin’ cool bar. You can see a lot of small halls when you enter, with leather couches etc. And there are so many songs you can choose from, just like in a phone book.
Are there any metal songs, too?
Yes there are. Slayer, Slipknot, Judas Priest, Deep Purple... Anything.
But no Mayhem, I suppose...
No Mayhem.
Just imagine yourself singing to your own Mayhem song. Ha ha!
Now, that would have been gross.
You also took a trip to Hongkong.
There are no direct flights to Hongkong so that’s how I have to book my flights. I have already been there at the age of 19 when we took a trip to China with some friends. We got some really cheap tickets in the last moment... So, we were there in Hongkong back then and those motherfuckers didn’t let us in. They were asking for a visa, although we didn’t need visa to England or to China.
In the old regime, it was trendy to travel to Cuba.
It’s true but we chose China. We took a train in Ulanbator, Mongolia and crossed nearly the whole Asia.
Must have been nice. And might have took quite a few days.
That’s right. But it was O.K. So now I thought it was time for revenge and I stayed in Hongkong for a few days. I also visited a nice friend in Taiwan. It’s a girl who helped me with some Mayhem lyrics ‘cause she has a great poetic vision and speaks perfect English. So, it was a one week trip before the tour and then I moved on to Australia. In Japan, we spent three weeks and we did the tour within two weeks. Then we played another gig as a trio, by the name of Burial Chamber Trio. This outfit has already played a few shows here in Europe. Basically, it’s nothing but noise, the most horrible kind, but the Japanese went totally crazy for it. That’s why we could spend another week in Tokyo and I liked it a lot. So, I can’t tell so that much bad things about Japan, I don’t even know what to say... Nobody speaks English there but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. And the metro network... Just like the one in London but about five times as big. Incredible. Some friends of mine took me out one evening and then I understood what Tokyo was about. Awesome neon lights, ten times as much as in New York and about a thousand bars in this district called Shinjuku. By the way, Tokyo is made of thirty smaller cities. I can only recommend it to anyone. There is no reason to be scared. Perhaps about 4-5 years ago the yen was high but it fell down together with the dollar since then, so now it’s absolutely O.K.
All right, I believe you. And a friend of mine who has been there about a year ago told me that the cheapest thing in Japan was the CD. Not the counterfeit one but the original one. It’s about 2000-2500 forints (8-9 euro), even in a megastore.
That’s correct. Mayhem CDs were available for 3000-3500 forints. For the same price, that is.
The megastores are the most expensive places, though.
So, there are no terribly high prices. And there is a department where they sell bootlegs. It’s strange but it’s absolutely legal. I found a Mayhem bootleg from the Milwaukee Fest...
The Japanese like it when they can add some extra bonus material to their own release. Do Mayhem has any Japanese editions?
No, we didn’t have any bonus tracks and never gave a shit about the Japanese market. But they added a booklet in Japanese and stuff like that.
You mentioned that Mayhem will now go full speed ahead performing at festivals and in the USA. Now that we are heading for the end now, I have a couple of more questions for you. (Actually, I wish I could ask a lot more.) Firstly, some people I know told me about the most part of Scandinavian (especially Norwegian) extreme metal / black metal musicians being gay...
Oh really?
It might be a stupid question but many of them (not everybody) are told to be gay.
I don’t know, I never experienced that and never analysed this issue. It’s possible but it rather sounds like nonsense to me. When I have been there in 1993 everyone on the Norwegian extreme metal scene had to be fuckin’ careful and aware of what the fuck was going on. We were the ultimate public enemies. Nowadays, they told me Mayhem is going to have a place in the local rock museum, the whole thing is accepted from the cultural point of view and the No. 1 exported product of Scandinavia (I mean musically) is the extreme metal. So, it even has an economic weight and there are so many bands in Norway that this thing is accepted as a part of Northern culture in a modern sense of the expression. The mentality and the attitude are very much open now.
And what do you think about the reunions of bands playing in similar styles, e.g. Emperor, Immortal – bands you are in good friendship with?
There must be several reasons for this. I don’t know. It’s rather bizarre. And, just like you said, even the word “reunion” sounds stupid in this context.
The reunion of Celtic Frost, for instance, was quite an event last Summer and they also brought an album out after more than ten years. Now, that was a reunion. But the other bands only took a break for 4-5 or, in some cases, 3,5 years...
I have no ideas, I just heard some rumors. Here’s what people are talking about Immortal, for instance: they wanted to escape from Nuclear Blast. It’s not an official statement, though, it’s just something I’ve been told. This is how you can get out of a contract: when you fuckin’ had enough of the record company, although you signed a three year contract, you can say “good bye, the band has split up”. There is no other way to get out of it, really.
O.K., but what if the band reunite after 4-5 years and the old record company will keep the rights? I heard about several bands that have fuckin’ problems because of the rights.
Yeah, it’s an incredibly disgusting thing that’s still going on in the music business, especially in extere metal, I think. There are disspeakable rip-offs, sturggles etc. Even bands like Cradle Of Filth have suffered because of that.
But you know that Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir are considered as mainstream black metal bands now. Or, better yet, teenager black metal that has nothing to do with the original. So, it’s rather commercial.
Obviously there is such an aspect to it and there are bands like that, too. I wouldn’t refer to Mayhem as a representative of the commerce...
I didn’t mean you.
I know. That’s why I say there are several directions. And yes, Dimmu Borgir is incredibly successful, their latest album is on the charts etc. Everybody does it his own way. But I think it’s pretty risky, especially the way Satyricon does it. We’ll see how they will survive it after switching to rock n’roll...
When they played here in Budapest on the A38 boat, I have never seen so much people in that venue at a metal show. It was in Autumn 2006, I don’t know if you were home then.
No, unfortunately I wasn’t.
So, there was a huge crowd there. About half of the people, especially the girls, have turned it into a fashion show, though. But that’s what the scene is like, there’s not much we can do about it. Otherwise, the show was quite O.K.
Actually, their new songs work very well live ‘cause when you reduce the tempo to the half, it will sound twice as good. But there are some who find it important and ther are some who don’t. There is not much more I can say about that. People should do what they think is appropriate. The way I see it, it’s very risky ‘cause once you get hooked on pop music, chances are you will lose fans who were dedicated to your band since day one. Also, if you play pop music under the same name, how the fuck would that match with the old albums?
I see. Usually, this is the case when bands explain things saying “we moved forward in this direction and progressed” but they will found it totally painful five years after.
That’s what I’m against. I have never denied anything I have done before and I think it’s very important to stay true to what you have done.
And I will never deny any Tormentor lyrics written 20 years ago. Those may seem childish now but I’m still proud of them and I think they were appropriate back then and still are now. Others, however, aren’t true to themselves which is a very stupid thing, I think, and it also means the end of something. They lose their way.
Do Mayhem have any plans of a European tour or a Hungarian gig?
Yes we do, technically. The X-Mas Tour has been mentioned several times but the Metallysee agency is fighting to survive right now...
That’s right, they are struggling hard. I just checked the Internet and other agencies are going full speed ahead now. Here’s Massive Music from Poland, for instance. That’s Vaders’s management and people say they’re all right.
Exactly and I have an offer from them, too. So, we don’t know which agency we will tour with but perhaps we will just arrange everything by ourselves.
Even those hardcore agencies are getting more and more open to extreme metal. Napalm Death has signed to M.A.D. and Avocado is now arranging shows for Misery Index, Origin, Dying Fetus etc.
We are open to any agency, too. So, you can expect a European tour for November or early December. It all depends on how long Hellhammer will carry on with Dimmu Borgir.
Ha ha! Do you disapprove it?
Actually, it depends on him. When he joined Dimmu Borgir, we agreed that he can do it as long as it doesn’t coincide with Mayhem’s activities so much. Things were quite O.K. so far but I just talked to him after their US tour and he didn’t seem to be really happy. I mean, he was complainig about the fact that he can’t really speed the rhythms up or use that much breaks in Dimmu Borgir, unlike in Mayhem. Here, he just looks Blasphemer in the eye and then anything goes. I’m in contact with many drummers and many of them tend to play this fat ass rock n’roll as they get older. Now, it’s quite the contrary with Hellhammer. He always wants to play faster, to play around with the rhythms etc. He can do it in Mayhem but not in Dimmu Borgir.
But they had to find someone since Barker joined Testament.
That’s right. In Dimmu Borgir, there’s not much room for technical playing. At least not for Hellhammer. I think he played his parts on the albums in a few days. So, I think it’s rather a hobby thing for him.
He gets some money and that’s all.
Perhaps yes but I’m not sure ‘cause he isn’t a permanent Dimmu Borgir member, just a guest drummer, even today. So, I don’t think he gets as much money as the others.
There must be some contractual stipulations…
Yes. But for him, it’s rather a way to prove something for himself and the fact that he has played on some Dimmu Borgir records is a good reference for him. He has played everywhere…
He gains some good reputation.
He gains some good reputation and more chicks will come to touch his hair.
Do you have time for other projects? As far as I can remember, you worked on stuff with Shane Embury some time ago. What is the situation with that? Or did it came to nothing?
It’s interesting that you mentioned that. I don’t really think about more than I’m doing right now.
Yes I know, you don’t have time for that.
But Shane just told me that they were trying to put something together with this side band or side project called Born To Murder This World and asked me if I would still be interested. We have played at the Brutal Assault Festival in the Czech Republic…
That’s a death / grind fest.
…And that’s where he told me that it wolud be awesome to do it but he’s quite busy, too. He used to have a Japanese girlfriend and visited her all the time. Thinking about it now, I don’t blame him…
Poor Shane. He’s quite an alcohol addict now, isn’t he…
I don’t know.
It’s easy to see. But he’s a cool guy.
A cool guy indeed. It was planned that Shane, Nick Barker, Mick Kenny from Anal Nathrakh, Necro and myself would be the original line-up but I don’t know if this will ever happen. I know that they have been working on something. Perhaps we will be able to put something together.
But not this year, or so it seems.
And I don’t want to do anything to the detriment of other things.
I see. You don’t make promises that you can’t keep so nobody can say you’re not a reliable guy.
That’s right. Nevertheless, we can record the album if we will find some time. Then time will tell.
You have also worked with Keep Of Kalessin on their album before “Armada”. What is the situation with that? Otherwise, “Armada” is an excellent album.
Well, they have a new line-up now. I like that album, too. Extreme metal of very high standards and the new vocalist is good as well. Obsidian could hardly accept that I was forced to say no to him. But it was for similar reasons when I joined Mayhem. I had to make a decision.
Just like in the case of Korog.
But those guys knew that this wasn’t a final line-up, although you played a lot of live shows with them while you stayed here in Hungary.
That’s right. Originally, we were only supposed to do an album but then we stayed together for 3-4 years. I think it was a great thing and I can only think of the good things when I look back on it.
Korog is a cool band.
Absolutely. It’s very true. It’s worth mentioning and admiring that they march to their own drum and have their own style that can’t be compared to anything else.
Speaking of true stuff, there was an absolutly true gig yesterday. I don’t know if you head of it. Trouble played at A38.
No I didin’t know about it.
It was a fuckin’ great show. Old rock or hardcore musicians often try this doom / stoner thing when they reach a certain age. I know you don’t have time for it but did you ever think about doing a cannabis influenced dirty southern stly project? Or perhaps you don’t like that kind of stuff?
No, I didn’t think about it. For me, doom is Sunn O))) That’s a quite extreme thing.
O.K., but I meant stuff like St. Vitus or Obsessed.
I see. That’s where Sunn O))) gets inspiration from. As for the band name, by the way, Obsessed used Sunn amps so Sunn is a brand. If you see a Sunn O))) show, there is the Sunn logo on at least one amp in the backline – sometimes on several ones, depending on how many amps we can bring to the venue. The coolest thing is to use nothing but Sunn amps. So, it’s an Obsessed related thing. The two guys, Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley are ancient doom guys.
Just like Wino, the greatest doom guy, you know who I’m talking about. He also does The Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan etc. That’s the style I meant. But Sunn O))) is all right, too.
Look, I can’t tell you what tomorrow brings. I get my satisfaction with Sunn O))) which is some kind of experimental and extreme doom, Current 93 which is acoustic, apocalyptic and abstract stuff and Mayhem – these three bands are enough for me. So, I don’t think about playing in any doom band right now.

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