TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Attila of Mayhem was done face to face by Audrey Dujardin on April 15th, 2006.
One of the first metal festivals of the year, in mid-April, the Metal Therapy Fest, in the north of France, near Luxembourg, saw some legendary bands play that night: Mayhem, Amorphis, Hypocrisy, Moonspell... 5 years after my last interview of Mayhem, there I was interviewing the 'new' frontman, Attila. The man was extremely well mannered, had a gorgeous smile and a very nice Hungarian accent. I had half an hour to nail the interview, so we tried to cover as broad a spectrum as we could. We spoke of the history of Mayhem, Attila's participation in the Norwegian epic black metal band Keep of Kalessin, the banning of Impaled Nazarene on the festival, vocal techniques, and more!
Hello how are you doing?
Good thank you. I kind of survived last night’s party… But it’s good to be here, it looks like it’s a nice festival. I like the venue. I was here yesterday…
Everyone knows that Mayhem is considered today to be one of the ‘original’ black metal bands. You guys more or less molded the genre… I was wondering, in your opinion, if you could tell me what aspects of Mayhem have influenced the black metal scene today?
Well I think that the main thing is the music itself, which should influence I think… I think that the music is a kind of mysterious thing in a way… It’s almost kind of magic… You make the right vibrations and the right songs and the right music, it probably should work. It will affect people’s minds and attract their attention. So that’s the main thing to me. Also, there’s the band. If you put together the albums… It’s something that’s heading somewhere. It was always something…
Yes! And advanced, in a way… It’s been 20 years past, and there’s been a lot of things, and the band is still on, so it also makes sense that people can put some trust in the band. They see that we are not joking, if we have been doing it for 20 years, so… It’s great, but of course there are the side stories that have been of course very important for the promotion of the band. But some things happened when we were younger also, many fucked up things… they belong to the history but they are very important for the promotion and the attention and the influence… But my opinion is of course first the music itself.
Now could you please go over the main landmarks in the course of the life of Mayhem, which events would you select?
Of course it was at first the ‘Deathcrush’ album. It’s easy to see, it’s of course the Deathcrush, of course I could name all the albums because they were all important, each time a new album came out… Then of course the reconstruction of the band after the fucked-up things happened, (NDLR: death of Euronymous) so that’s a milestone too! And the of course the De Mysteriis album and all the things… And to me it was very very important the gig in Milano in 1998, because then was when I met the band for the first time with the new line up, the new form, and I played with them the same night! So it was very important! It was a good sign, because there was already something in the air that you could see. And of course, Great Declaration was very important it allowed us to break through some limits of expectations and it’s very difficult I think I a band like this. Suddenly you think that you have to break through, you have to say ‘fuck everything’, fuck everything all the other people think and want to hear. I think most of the bands have to do this sooner or later. Break through on that line and come up with something new, to show that ‘no respect we don’t care’, in a way, it’s full respect for the art I think, we don’t care about anything else. Of course you must not expect that people will understand everything about the music, people can be more or less ignorant you know. They can’t take it. Most people get insulted, even. I think Mayhem have survived that thing around the Grand Declaration of War album and I think that we have more freedom now. It’s a good thing that we broke the rules.
Yeah! And I hope that it’s a milestone too that I’m back in the band!
I was waiting for you to say that! So now, looking back on the past of the band, and knowing what was going to happen, what would you change?
Well I was in the band for the first time in 1993, I didn’t hope that it would be so serious, you know… There was some shit in the air. But now I learned that in the band you have to find a balance. The band got better, the musicians got better, so you have greater artists, they have greater ideas you know so it’s very difficult to keep in balance. Because the more talent there is the more people want to realize their OWN ideas, so it has to fit. It’s very difficult. I would take care of that thing a little bit more if I could go back. And what else would I change… Well when that shit happened, maybe I should have gone back to Norway.
A few months ago Keep of Kalessin were on tour in France with Exodus and Hypocrisy. We met up with them on that tour, and there are a couple things that I was wondering about, so could you please tell me the story behind the formation of the band?
The story started when I first met with Kjetil (Frost) in 1999 or something, and we were already talking or mentioning that yeah we should do something together, so I went to a Satyricon gig in Vienna a few years ago or something and actually I was talking with Frost, and he had broken his leg, I remember he played with a broken leg, which was kind of amazing, and I was sorta fucked up or drunk or something and then we talked first about this. And Arnt, he sent me a few emails and stuff, so it all started in that concert in Vienna. Yeah, he was saying that he wanted to bring back under the sun his old band, but the line up was broken, or finished, so he wanted to work on new things with new people so we agreed that, ok, let’s come together and work in the name of Keep of Kalessin and let’s see do this new EP what we can do with songs, you know…I thought it fitted to my plans, so I wanted to play some real heavy shit finally, cos you know with Aborym it was good but we use the drum machine and it’s a different thing, you know… So I wanted to play some real raw heavy shit, so we came together and we recorded this album pretty quickly. It wasn’t a big production, but I like that it had this kind of underground thing to it. But the what happened is that it was a really good formation at the time, so we had a couple of gigs, that was the next step, we were not talking about gigs in the beginning, so we played some gigs, and about the line up well of course we needed some people for the live, and then everything went kind of successful, sort of! It attracted attention and interest so Arnt decided to continue. But the problem was that Kjetil, he had 1349 and Satyricon, Arnt had Satyricon, I had Aborym, and I had been asked back to Mayhem at the time too, so it was time to make decisions, you know. And according to Kjetil, since he had to say no, I had to say no too, so I said ‘man , it’s great, you have to reconstruct it, so don’t put stupid stress on it’… But I think it’s cool, you know I just saw them in the Inferno…
And how do you think that you compare to Thorbjørn (Thebon) as a singer in Keep of Kalessin?
I like him, I like Thorbjørn! He’s a great singer. Actually I like the three songs I saw from them in the Inferno, but it was great that they played Condemnation and stuff that was from the EP, it was very funny to see, very interesting to hear it finally… Sometimes I miss my gigs to see, you know? I mean sometimes I think that fuck I would wish to see myself, but not like on a video… It was great to seem them with a fucking good sound, and the same riffs and they kept all the arrangements… He’s a good singer in that he captured the mood behind the songs, and that’s really good.
And do you think that you will work with them again sometime in the future?
Maybe… but you know I wouldn’t bet on that. Actually now I’m full time in Mayhem, and maybe there would be just some guest things on there, then it could happen. But I don’t have any plans like that so… But we are in good connection still, and sometimes I go to Arnt and some of the guys and everything is good…
Yeah he even started a new label…
Yeah! Morningstar Records, you didn’t know?
Yeah they started it with some other guys from up there… Chton, Bloodthorn…
Ah the guys from Trondheim… Well good!
On a different note, I’m sure you know that Impaled Nazarene got cancelled on this festival… And people started a petition to support them. First, this venue was lent to the promoters by the French state, and France is a laic country, so they shouldn’t be allowed to have any say in the dealing of the government. Yet, this extreme-right-wing Christian association has managed to ban Impaled Nazarene on this festival. What is your opinion on the matter?
My thought on this are that it’s very funny to see that in 2006 people are still in this dam. I feel sad about this cancellation. You know, people are fighting about this, it’s like no one knows what’s going on, and this whole religion thing, it’s like a fucking sickness! Something we have in our minds, something like a capacity to deal with shit, you know… It’s a kind of mental cage, and it’s funny to see how much aggression comes from this, all over the world. They go into wars about their religion you know, so it’s not big surprise that if they can go to war, they can cancel a gig… But it’s still a surprise today to see this on the TV that there is this religious crowd everywhere… And it’s really funny to me to see millions of people believe in a fucking story! To me it’s just a book, I think it has something to do with the collective knowledge. Something is going on there but I don’t think it has to do with any supreme thing, it’s just a part of the collective knowledge.
But this is against freedom of speech and common sense. I mean in France, it’s OK to ban death and black metal bands, but it’s not OK to ban these rap bands who say ‘kill the police’ or ‘put the president in prison’. I think it’s unfair that there is this stigmatization.
That’s a good question. People are so sensitive about this sort of thing, but they must feel themselves that it’s fucking bullshit… I can’t believe that a person would actually believe a fucking story!...
And justify anything with it…
Exactly! And of course if someone relies on this sort of thing, if you believe in something total crap, and someone chips your belief you feel aggression and this is what they do, this is fucking bullshit, that’s why it’s annoying! They are afraid that other people will understand through this, that this is fucking bullshit.
And how did you react when this happened to Mayhem?
In Asia! We were banned in 2 countries, in Malaysia and Indonesia for the same fucking reasons. All you can say is ‘FUCK OFF’ you know? We are just sad about our fans there… but fuck this!
Well, I’m half American myself, and when I lived there I didn’t think that Americans were ready for Black Metal. What’s your opinion on that?
I hope they are ready! I’ve never been to the States myself so… But I think they’re going to be (ready) sooner or later. The seeds are there and they are ready to grow. I think they are ready, they have the same problems, but theirs are actual, let’s say.
Well that’s interesting what you say about the seeds being there and ready to grow… I was in Finland a couple months ago and unlike here in France, metal there is really popular. I mean bands like Norther, Ensiferum, Nightwish, are in the charts all the time. But those are not really the extreme metal bands. So in what proportion do you think that this type of metal band is a seed to grow, or a window for the more extreme metal to reach a broader audience?
Well, the scene has this spectrum. Those softer metal bands get the attention to them and if the fans like that direction, then they go towards the more and more extreme forms. So yeah , I think it’s ok. Those bands help to get attention… I don’t care if where our fans come from… It would be stupid if they only came from the extreme black metal scene … that would be kind of boring too! So we need this certain spectrum. Of course there are many bands who are (trendy), well you know… they come and go…
And you remain!
I hope so!
Now a completely different type of questions: can you sing clean vocals?
Yeah! Well for me it was important in my eyes to be able to sing with a clean voice too. I even took some lessons, with an opera teacher. Not to get the clean voice, but I was mostly interested in understanding those mysterious breathing techniques people are talking about sometimes. So I learned a little bit about that, but I don’t use that voice, really… but I have the voice, yeah!
So outside of Mayhem, are you able to sing pop or something?
Like sing a song you mean? Yeah, I hope so! I should be able!
So how are those breathing techniques going then? The abdominal support and all…
Ah! You know what they are! Yeah I practice and use them so I works really well. It’s not a stupid thing! The hard thing is that you have to actually develop and train some muscles that we don’t use at all! So it takes a fucking long time until you find them! And until you can recognize ‘yeah, this is right, this is not right…’ so it take a long time and a lot of concentration in a way to understand it but then you start to use if of course… And it’s more natural and the muscles get to become stronger, your breathing starts to be more standard. It’s good, I think it’s very healthy too. And for singing metal in a way the breathing exercises are better than anything. To me, you feel the oxygen in your blood and if you do the right breathing for a while it’s interesting.
So today before you go on stage, how are you going to warm up?
Yeah I usually do some warming up, but it’s a silent thing… I work on these muscles (shows muscles) (…) I warm up for about half an hour, that’s what I like to do… but it works because when I get on stage, my voice is already focused. (…)
And about alcohol for example, what do you do about that?
No… It depends… Sometimes we are totally fucked up before we go on stage, sometimes we are less you know… I usually don’t like to be completely sober on stage. I mean we play this sort of extreme form of rock n roll, so you still have to be a little bit fucked up! (laughs) I mean with Mayhem it’s normal. I never saw the band completely sober in my life! Okay, partly sober, but there’s always somebody fucked up. Maybe this morning you could find us all sober, I dunno. (laughs)
Now for my last question: where do you see yourself, and where do you see Mayhem in 5 years?
I’d be happy to still be on the road and I hope people still listen to our music… (…) I don’t usually say this, but I’m very proud that Mayhem is one of the most extreme metal bands in all music history so of course it’s great to be there and be a part of that, and it fits to my lifestyle. And in 5 years, I hope we will still be here, you know! On the road, playing festivals, wherever we go, we go!
And if you weren’t in Mayhem anymore, what would you do?
Probably other bands, other music… You know with Mayhem’s music, we can almost survive… But to arrive to this point, we had to sacrifice a lot. It’s like, if you have a band, up to a certain point, you have to travel, you have to do this, have to do that… So you have to give up your job, so you have to sacrifice some parts, like in everything else. (…)
Well thank you! Is there anything else that you want to add?
Well, thank you! Thank you for the questions, and check out I released my first album this Tormentor thing. So it would be interesting if people want to check my site it’s: www.saturnusproductions.com.
Thank you to Season of Mist, to the organization of the festival, to Attila and to our favorite editor Vincent for making this flow so well.
Links of interest:
Season of Mist