Almost a quarter of a century on the music scene, but since this year, Hungarian avant-garde metal project Thy Catafalque, finally plays live. Formed in 1998 by a multi-instrumentalist Tamás Kátai, it was primarily one-man project. It still is, but the number of stable and occasional partners was continuously growing throughout the years, till current full live line-up. Next to live shows, we talked about the latest album Vadak which was voted, same as many other previous Thy Catafalque releases, The Best Avantgarde / Experimental Metal Album on Metal Storm website.
Photos credits: Orsolya Karancz
Hello Tamás, thank you for finding time for this interview. We spoke together multiple times and it’s great you will be finally playing live in the Czech Republic. What was the impulse to start playing live?
Hello Dan, it’s nice to talk again. Last summer I was on a small hiking trip on the hills around Budapest with Martina and friends and someone asked me my opinion about organizing a gig for a band playing TC songs. I said all right as long as I didn’t have to participate because I had completely lost my mojo for playing live and I was a pretty bad performer anyway. Then somehow I ended up playing the bass in three songs at Fekete Zaj Festival and after that we decided to make it to a real band and we had our first gig with the solidified line-up in April in Budapest this year.
In our previous conversations, I remember you were relying on a programmed drummer. Who will be the choice live? Árpád Szenti?
Yes, Árpád is the drummer. He’s an absolutely reliable, committed and capable musician. He’s also from Makó like me, I know him from the time he went to primary school and I was a rookie teacher there and his first big motivating gig was when he saw my old band, Gire playing live. It is nice to have him here.
What about singers and additional instruments as pipes etc.?
Martina is of course with us with Ivett Dudás from Tales of Evening, they handle the female vocals while Gábor Dudás from Reason and Bálint Bokodi from Sosevolt are bringing the male vocals. Gábor have sung on Szarvas anyway and both of them will perform on the upcoming TC album. We had Andrei Oltean on redpipe for the Budapest gig but it was a one-off for now. There are no other extra instruments on stage.
What is your plan about the show design and effects? There must have been some dream idea, when live shows of your project was sci-fi, but now?
I feel Thy Catafalque has always been very intimate and honest music and I’m not interested in too many theatrical elements on stage. There are bands of course who were born to do big shows and bring in the spectacular aspects but for us we keep it simple and plain. I like metal when it’s all about energy, sweat and tears.
Somehow I ended up playing the bass in three songs at Fekete Zaj Festival and after that we decided to make it to a real band and we had our first gig with the solidified line-up in April in Budapest this year.
How were the first rehearsals and what about those now before upcoming shows?
We started rehearsals in the beginning of December and just started again yesterday, two months after our first gig. It’s really fun, we enjoy them big time.
Are you nervous about how the effects/samples and certain aspects of playback will work and sound?
Definitely the technical issues are much more concerning than the performance issues. We are prepared for playing but you cannot be prepared enough for stage troubles.
What is on the shows list next to Brutal Assault in August and London in mid-September?
We will play from all the albums beginning from Tűnő Idő Tárlat on the full shows. On festivals like Brutal Assault of course we don’t have the time window to put everything in but we try to get a healthy balance between lighter and more obscure songs.
I would like to also get back to Vadak, which was voted “The Best Avantgarde / Experimental Metal Album Of 2021”. What are the routes you know, how listeners get to your music? If I remember correctly, this was my route as well.
I have no clue, man. Probably the label could answer that more properly. Frankly that’s not something I am concerned about. I mean I tremendously enjoy writing and recording music, seems like I enjoy playing live as well now and working with the artwork but it stops there mostly. To be honest, I don’t feel comfortable promoting myself. I know it’s part of the package and it’s an absolute must but meh, I’m happy it’s not me who has to deal with it anymore.
It’s me, my personality and I’m happy I have the channel to release everything.
It’s a traditional question when it comes to our interviews, but I have a massive respect for your songwriting skills. How are the songs getting their structure? I have a feeling, you are adding elements based on the spontaneous motivations and what song needs. Whether it’s Piros-Sárga with oriental percussion or Kiscsikó (Irénke Dala)…
Yeah, it’s just I don’t take myself very seriously in general. Self-irony is very important in life and I don’t want to push myself very hard and when it comes to music I just do whatever feels right and if it’s a silly song about a little horse (like Kiscsikó) that’s what I will do. I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea of course, even within the band some people were frowning when it came up we could play that track, haha, so we won’t. I understand that. But it’s me, my personality and I’m happy I have the channel to release everything.
Who was your main tutor and still an inspiration how to ideally structure a long song? Vadak is a true epic!
Thank you. I still don’t understand the process exactly. It’s just starting a song with no idea how it will evolve and what direction to take. With Vadak it was again something that was just happening and the song kept on writing itself with new ideas popping up after each other. There is always a point when you feel, ok it’s the right time to call it a day and wrap the track up but with longer songs of course this impulse comes later. It’s a natural process for me, I just let it go.
Give us please more idea about the writing in general? Let’s say Gömböc? When were talking about songwriting, it seems an ideal example of your signature guitar motive. This way a basic structure of your sound gets it’s “carpet” – guitar and keyboards.
Honestly I don’t really remember, seems like ages since that song was written but yes, usually I have a main motif first and then I use it many times with different arrangements throughout the song. And then an accompanying motif takes over the lead and gets followed by other riffs and then one of those lead and move forward. Sometimes I even use the same riff for different songs because it’s so interesting to explore how one bit of element can evoke totally different atmospheres if put in a new environment. Anyway Gömböc was inspired by the artificial geometrical structure created by Hungarian mathematicians and meanwhile I met one of them because of this song. It was a real pleasure and one of the gifts and perks of playing music.
Where does your love for atmospheric black metal and obscure electronic music come from? I love for my trips in the nature ambient black, but I gladly went back finally to some classic as Darkthrone. At the same time, I also like melancholic eighties synth pop.
I started making music with home computers at an early age, ZX Spectrum first, then Commodore Amiga. An album with these ancient tracks has just been released now, 30 years later, so there are my roots for electronic music. And then came metal.
Gömböc was inspired by the artificial geometrical structure created by Hungarian mathematicians and meanwhile I met one of them because of this song.
Are there some topics, which you think don’t get enough space in the interviews with you and you might be a bit disappointed, people are missing. First thought comes naturally through Hungarian language, but it doesn’t have to be that necessarily.
Actually no. I am not really an interview person. Of course this is part of this whole thing and I am not complaining, it’s just that I am more of an introverted person and I think everything I need to say is in the music. If people ask me, I am glad to answer, I appreciate the interest in me but otherwise I tend to be a pretty passive company in real life.
What was helping you mentally during pandemic? I went more than ever to the mountains, watched again some of my favorite music, dig around boxes with memories. Somehow back to my core, if you what I mean. What about you?
I was writing music as always. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to travel a lot so I just went on doing something useful and music is useful. Also I watched the whole Office show that I love. Both US and UK.
Give us an idea please about final phases of the latest album? If I read correctly, you mixed the album in Budapest. Are you still spending some time in Scotland and in what conditions was the mix taking place in Budapest?
Vadak was the first album since Tűnő Idő Tárlat that was written, recorded and mixed in Hungary, at least my parts. It’s not a big deal, you know. I just stay at home and work on it, mixing included. I was not able to visit Scotland since 2019 and it was just some weeks ago when I could get back for a visit and it was really, insanely good.
Album was mastered by Colin Davis at Imperial Mastering, Texas in 2021. Do you appreciate that external support and a different point of view?
In fact I asked Colin to master the mix to make sure it still sounds good but no major changes were made at all. Just to have a professional level of volume and a balanced sound because I am really not good in mastering. It was nice to have someone pro doing this part. It has always stressed me out big time because I never really knew what I was doing. He’s great and I’m thankful for his work.