Attila Csihar of Mayhem: The Corruptor

"It was brave to release that album after members had died"

The symbol for Mayhem; an emblem that brings dread, fear and curiosity, a dark seductress; encrusted and maimed with turmoil, controversy and innovation. Mayhem is responsible for pioneering the most elitist metal genre in recent history, a genre so entwined with convention and system and selectiveness that many falter emulating it. To get a grasp of the workings and traditions in black metal I got in the spirit and painted by face ‘Norwegian festive’ to coax out a ‘corruptor’ as Metal As Fuck sat down with Attila Csihar, vocalist for Norwegian proud Mayhem.... 

Mayhem obviously has a long history, one of the most fascinating and eerie tales in the history of metal so after thirty years where do you see Mayhem in the hierarchy of black metal in 2014? “Well.... Yeah, it’s definitely been a long story, we’ve had the thirty years anniversary, and it’s been crazy, it’s an evolvement, we’ve gone through these phases you know, from like the egg to the cocoon, one day we’re going to fly hopefully. When we started, the whole scene was sort of like an egg, it was a really small thing and caused us to be almost public enemies [Laughs] the whole history has been crazy, as we grew up we realised that the music is the most important factor, the band was always looking for new horizons and over time we found ways to express this extremity on an artistic level. We focused on the music entirely; it was for me quite a spiritual journey, faced with a lot of obstacles, yet we stuck to the plan. To maintain this level of art or expression is not easy, but people still find this music interesting”. 

The album Mayhem began with in 1992; De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is noted as being one of the most influential black metal albums of all time – such a successful album and yet you left the band only to return almost a decade later? “Yeah, I started in 1985 with a band called Tormentor and when I first heard Mayhem play, I thought to myself, that’s cool, I was like wow, I was so amazed – the drumming was blowing my mind, back then it was all about who could go the craziest, the fastest. Not so much now but back then it was a big deal. I think along with the bands history but mainly the music which made that album what it was and I’m very proud of it and to have been a part of it. I still love Mayhem, the logo is our trademark, it’s kind of like a supreme being and we are all a part of it, even with the members changing there is still this entity. Actually I think it’s important for the band that with the release of this mystery album (De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas) it was very brave to release it after members had died. Grand Declaration of War was also an important album for Mayhem, maybe not so much for the fans but definitely for the band only because it was allowing the band to break through boundaries and experiment and I really respect that step they took. It’s an album that cemented my passion for Mayhem and when I was asked to rejoin, I was more than happy to say yes because all the albums were steps leading to my return. I don’t like to repeat myself so bringing Mayhem to a new level with each album has been beautiful”.   

Moving to the bands current album (Esoteric Warfare) it is mentioned that you took your time in exploring themes for the album, so what made you decide on the path of ‘secret wars’ as Taloch describes it? “It was really difficult to make this album because we had a line up change, which caused some delay – Morfeus left Mayhem and it was sad but of course we respected his decision. He wanted to move on, so after that there was a little pressure. The shoes were so big to fill. So, again I stuck to the plan and just let the ideas happen, of all the things I wanted to move past our last record, a lot of it is based on my research on things like human experiments’, mind control, these two ideas were the underlying themes of Esoteric Warfare. I don’t like to go into details too much as I like to allow the audience to make their own connection with the music but every song has a correlation to our corner of reality”. 

Theatrics and the stage show of Mayhem has been its signature since inception, do you relish prepping for a show and where do you draw your inspiration from? “When corpse paint started it was all about the music, the surrealism of it all, the mask allows me to alter the state of my mind, it’s a corruptor but also a part of me and I manage to manifest this energy while I’m on stage. Its traditional, it goes hand in hand with black metal. Back in the beginning it was all about kicking boundaries, each show and album I would make a different ‘corruptor’ and I still have some favourites but now I have moved back to a more traditional paint of black metal and I still feel comfortable. I think it helps, it depends on your taste, some people think it’s boring or hilarious but I still love it. My first influences were King Diamond and Alice Cooper and as a kid I thought it was very interesting and very curious. I just like it [Laughs] I like to see that a band has something else to give to an audience. Imagine going to the theatre and not seeing the actors in costume, it wouldn’t be portrayed like it should. It’s an illusion and a door that can be opened to transport you, music is a mirror, releasing suppression and I think Mayhems music demands that for their audience”. 

It will be a definite energy that crowds will be eating up next year at the annual Soundwave festival. I will admit I was taken aback with the announcement [Laughs] however excited none the less... “I’m really looking forward to coming back to Australia, this time is a festival, I mean we’ve played festivals in Europe but we’ve never played a festival overseas, well at least not this far away. [Laughs] Woah! Imagine - guys from Norway coming from a Norwegian winter to an Australian summer [Laughs] we’re all very excited and hopefully I get to see my heroes; Judas Priest [Laughs] to play in front of this big crowd is going to be amazing and I hope no one is disappointed, we will do our best to bring our best. Our last tour to Australia was very different, it was a great tour, we played a lot of dark clubs with our brothers Watain which is always great to play with, it’s amazing to see the brotherhood of European black metal riding together. I love Australia, the people are super nice and the place is so exotic [Laughs] I’m very happy to be coming back”. What are plans to promote the new album and what does 2015 have in store for Mayhem? “We’re currently on a European combined Norwegian tour then to finish we have the thirtieth anniversary show in December in Oslo. We’re touring the US prior to Australia actually, followed by another European tour, so we’re pretty busy, then summer will be here again and festival madness will follow. Yeah, it’s going well”. [Laughs]