Interview: Thy Catafalque (Tamás Kátai)

Interview: Thy Catafalque (Tamás Kátai)

Truemetal meets one of the most peculiar personalities in European metal. Tamás Kátai, mastermind of Thy Catafalque

Sziasztok, Tamás, thank you for your time and welcome on TrueMetal.it. as a first instance, I’d remark that Thy Catafalque used us to long waits among single releases, yet the new Meta comes just a year after Sgúrr. How did it happen? Are you experiencing a creativity flood?

Ciao and thank you for your interest. Well, Sgúrr was released in October, 2015, 11 months after I had actually finished and submitted it to the label, so I had plenty of time to record music. By the time Sgúrr came out I was finished with more than half of the new album. But anyway, yes, 2016 has been a pretty productive year for me with three new full-length albums, including Meta, Neolunar and Slower Structures that came out under my own name. All of these however had been written between 2014 and 2016. And talking about Meta, some parts were recorded even back In 2010 during the Rengeteg sessions but they never made it to that album. Not because of their poor quality but the record would have been too long.

In “Meta” I hear, aside electronic and experimentation, a return to old school black metal forms. How did it happen?

Is it? On Sgúrr for example I had Jura, which is pretty much old school black metal. We started as a black metal band and I reckon this genre will always be part of the sound to some extent. Meta is probably more direct and accessible, more traditionally metallic than Sgúrr was. For sure, it’s still not accessible to all metal people though.

Also, I heard returning melodies and riffs throughout the album. Can we consider it as a concept album?

It is not meant to be a concept album. There is an idea about the meaning of the album but I don’t consider it a concept thing. I like to play with motifs whenever I can. To lift a riff or a vocal line and put it to a completely different musical environment. This process reveals new layers, new meanings and may result in exciting situations. 

As usual, compositions are very structured and complex, so I would like to know how do the creating and recording processes go.

It all depends on what my goal is with the actual song. Usually I have one or two long songs per record, like Malmok Járnak now, with more than 20 minutes running time. That song is like a medieval painting, with plenty of tiny details everywhere, but seeing from a distance all come up as one strong image. And some motifs are used on different backgrounds. But there are simple songs as well, where there is only one main riff that is going through the whole track. Like in Vonatút Az Éjszakában, translates as A Train-ride In The Night. This is one tune, one tempo, all of its parts are interchangeable. It is a train-ride, a journey, and I needed musical monotony to reach the proper atmosphere the lyrics demanded.
Recording-wise it’s simple. I record everything at home as soon as I think it’s ok. As there is no real band, no rehearsals, no gigs, I don’t have to worry about learning songs. It’s only playing and recording. After the recording most probably I will never play the song again. That’s because I’m not a performer.

What are the lyrics of the new album about, and the topics you generally deal with in Thy Catafalque works?

Meta is a term coming from Greek, and it means through or below something. The idea is that the atomic particles of our body still live on after our death in new forms, in soil, tree, grass and then they change place again, being parts of leaves, animals, worms, birds and so on. Existence in a circle of life. I usually write about similar topics – the nature of matter and spirit, the duality of space and time. 

The cover of “Meta” looks like an icon and in my review I suggested an interpretation (the deer and the fox symbolizing the mix of electronic and metal). Can you tell us why this artwork change (in comparison with Sgúrr and Rengeteg) and its meaning?

Really? And which one is the metal? The deer or the fox? (the fox, as symbol of evil in Byzantine iconography, ndr.).  Anyway I never thought about that. The artwork is indeed an icon. It is based on orthodox Byzantine Christian iconography, more precisely on the classic icons of St. Constantine and St. Helen, but with their heads replaced by the animals’ heads. It represents the sanctity of all life. Other motifs on the artwork are also important: the sleeping birds in the earth, the mill, the mountains, the blue sky. These are coming from the lyrics. I had this vision about an orthodox icon from the very beginning, since the word Meta is also Greek and I have always been interested in icon-painting. The older cover artworks were of course different but if you have a look, all are radically different to each other, so this is a pattern. The visual aspect is very important, I do focus on the artwork every time and this time an icon with animals was in my head. Anyway, this is real hand-painted icon, 36×36 cm in real life and it was painted by a Bulgarian artist, Agnessa Kessiakova, we worked together. I have the original painting at home, it’s a beauty.

I think Rengeteg was a tourning point in the style of your band, can you briefly describe the evolution through the different albums?

For me the turning point was our third album, Tűnő Idő Tárlat, in 2004. The first two records are, let me say, interesting, without knowing where we were heading to, what we wanted to express and how to execute it. The third album, Tűnő Idő Tárlat was the big step for us in terms of creativity. That was the time when we finally found our sound and the path of our own. Róka Hasa Rádió was another big leap with Attila (Bákos, ndr) on vocals and us bringing in many new elements. That was a very brave album with an exciting and weird world feeding on childhood memories and our homeland. Rengeteg was the first album released by Season Of Mist, probably the most accessible and easy-listening stuff we have ever recorded. I think this is our most popular album. Then came the cold and experimental Sgùrr and here we are at Meta, which is for me feels like a summary of all of them.

You have been living in Scotland in the last years, can you tell us why you decided to move?

I’ve been living in Edinburgh since 2008. I like Scotland, now I am even a Hungarian-British dual citizen. I moved with my girlfriend to find a job and live together. But my home will always be in Makó, Hungary. I visit my family several occasions a year. The economic and moral state of Hungary is still crap though, especially the regions far from Budapest. It’s really a struggle to lead a balanced life there now.

You feature a lot of Hungarian singers and performers in your album. How do you chose them and does the fact of living abroad affect the cooperation?

They are usually old friends, people I have known for many years. Ideally I should be there at the recordings but it seems to be working fine this way as well. I send them over the music, the lyrics and the vocal lines and they do what they can, modifying the tunes wherever they feel it’s more comfortable for them some other way. It was only Orsolya (Fogarasi: female voice on “Malmok járnak, ndr), who recorded vocals at my place as at that time she was living here, in Edinburgh.

This year you released a solo album and through the years you gave life to few side projects. Do you have any other of them active at the moment?

At the moment I have absolutely no new music. I have no idea what’s coming next. It might be a solo album, Neolunar or Thy Catafalque. Or something else. Or nothing.

Thy Catafalque is not a live band, but have you ever considered of making a tour?

Nope. I have no such desire.