One year ago I had the great pleasure to interview the mighty Attila Csihar for La Repubblica XL. Mayhem was on tour for the 25th anniversary of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and they were about to play in Rome. I called him two weeks before the show and I had a nice chat with him, a true gentleman. A few days before Tormentor had been confirmed at Beyond The Gates 2018 in Norway and this is one of the first interviews where he showed the details of this “reunion” (As it says, it’s just for the 30th anniversary of Anno Domini, don’t expect new records). I’m lucky to have seen all his bands live, and he is still one of the greatest singers in extreme music.
(Italian version here)
In these days you’re touring Europe with the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas set. So let’s go back to that record: what kind of memories do you have of the recordings of the album?
It’s the first Mayhem album, we recorded it in 1993 in Norway. Back in the eighties, there were big expectations about it, Mayhem was already well known in the underground scene before the coming of the second wave of black metal. We put together all the money and everything we have for the recordings in this great studio in Bergen. It was very special, very cool but we would never imagine this record will be so important in the future.
How did you get in contact with Euronymous? It was for a tape trading, am I wrong?
Yeah! I had the band called Tormentor in the ’80s, there were many people interested in releasing our stuff. We just have this cassette tape…
Yes, it was Anno Domini. We started to copy that tape and our friend Tamas Vamosi (he’s teaching at the university, I don’t see him since a long time, that’s what I’ve heard) was in contact with Euronymous and sent him the tape and he copied it to other people. So, in the end, a lot of people in Norwegian underground liked Tormentor, especially Dead and Euronymous. When Dead committed suicide they were looking for a singer, Euronymous knew I was Dead’s favorite vocalist and so he called me: thanks to other people he found my address, and he wrote me a letter. He was very nice, a real gentleman: he invited me to come to Norway and join the band for the record, but it was also interested in releasing Anno Domini. It was 1991 or early 1992.
On stage with Mayhem you make a lot of movements, and you even use masks. Is it connected with the band’s concept?
Yes, I already used makeups, masks and corpse paint with Tormentor, as I also did with another band called Plasma Pool (dark electronics). It became my personal thing. Having this theatric effect on people is essential. The main difference with theatre is that the actors have a role, in the band I am my own role. It’s essential for this show to have makeup and atmosphere. Even Dead and Euronymous used makeup.
Is that aspect similar to what you do on stage with Sunn O)))?
Yeah, I love both bands. Mayhem is my main band but Sunn O))) is equally important for me. For me, it’s a perfect balance. Mayhem is very extreme, but it’s the same for Sunn O))). It’s very spiritual, and I use masks, they have the same occult energy but from a different aspect.
You wrote some lyrics for Sunn O))), are they similar to the ones you wrote for Mayhem?
Yes, of course, if they come from me, they are similar. The ones for Mayhem are a little bit more philosophical, they should inspire you to spiritual research. My lyrics for Sunn O))) are more poetic, more abstract, a little bit more surrealistic. I don’t like to judge them, but it’s interesting to compare. I would like to inspire people to discover the meaning of the Mayhem lyrics and also to look for some information, while the ones for Sunn O))) are emotional, way less straight.
Talking about philosophy, some philosophers inspired you for the Mayhem lyrics?
For sure! Our last album, Esoteric Warfare, is all about modern wars, psychological warfare and mind control. I did some researches about stories that you don’t find in the history books. All the songs have this concept. One of these talks about a sort of ritual made by some super Illuminati. There are some connections between this album and Ordo Ab Chao, maybe this one was more abstract, and now the lyrics are more straight.
Many years ago you were living in Rome and playing with Aborym. In which part of the city you were living? Are you planning to release new stuff with them?
That was amazing, I fucking love those years, from 1998 to 2004 I guess. I was living in Via Pannonia, near the Colosseum, it was terrific. I also lived in Trastevere which was too fucking cool! I love Rome, it’s a beautiful city. It was a great time, I would never forget those years when I was hanging out with Fabban, I’m still in contact with some of them, we’re still friends. It’s cool to play there, close to the Vatican. It’s always the spiritual center of the world, one of the most ancient cities ever. There’s a lot of energy, I like to be in that vortex of energy. It’s my personal view of this. I’m happy this tour is coming to your town. The problem with Rome is about the route if you see the map. Not all the tours can go there, in this one it was possible. I’m curious about the fans, to see new kids will react to our show. I’m excited!
Why you decided to come to live in Rome back in the days? It was only for Aborym?
Yeah, I came for Aborym. I went there first when I was a kid with my parents. They invited me to rehearse and record the album.
Talking again about Tormentor, the band has been confirmed for Beyond The Gates 2018 in Norway. Are you reuniting only for that show?
Anno Domini is going to be 30 years old in 2018. We’re so excited, the idea of doing a 30th-anniversary reunion show came and gone many times over the years. Next year is the right time, we said yes to this offer. Probably we’re going to do a few more shows, but just a few, we don’t want to play much more. We’re doing this for the fans, for the music, for the old guys. We never played out of Hungary back in the days, the people and the fans deserve to hear this music live once in a lifetime. I think it’s interesting, next year Mayhem will be calmer because we toured a lot this year. It looks like it’s the right constellation.
Are you writing new stuff with Mayhem?
Mmmh yeah, we have some ideas, it will take some time to know the right direction to make, but we’re working on it.
Years ago you played live a Tormentor cover with Nifelheim.
Yes, I met Nifelheim a few times, they’re really crazy and dedicated. Per and Erik are brothers and the old Tormentor guitar player, Tamás Buday, now plays with them. Their music is really fucking cool!
Tormentor live at Brutal Assault with Anno Domini setlist, picture shot by me
Your voice is still perfect even after all these years. What are the secrets behind your voice? Sometimes your voice seems similar to some Gregorian chants. What kind of exercises you do?
It’s right, I like to experiment with my voice, with my throat. I do a lot of breathing exercises when I’m on tour and at home. I have to keep it in shape. It’s an instrument, it’s like a diamond, you have to keep it shining! It’s my life, I sing for many years, and it’s crucial for me. Sometimes it’s hard during the tours, especially if you’re cold and the air conditioning is fucked up. It’s something you have to take care. It was a problem at the beginning of this tour: I was sick and I had to take vitamins, I didn’t want people to hear I wasn’t in good shape. If you’re a singer, you have to take care of your health.
Do you like or listen to some italian bands?
Bulldozer! And Death SS! Very cool bands. I heard a new group but I can’t remember the name. I don’t follow a lot the scene, sometimes I see some of the bands that play with us at the festivals but usually I listen to the old bands. But I like to discover new music. Another one I like a lot is Goblin, I love them, and I also met Claudio Simonetti. I invited them to show, I hope they could come. I love Italy, it’s a beautiful place.
Poster of the Rome show, the opening bands were Dragged Into Sunlight and Naudiz