Xpat Interview: Hungarian Expat Musician Is Making Ambient-Folk Sounds in Scotland

  • 16 Apr 2012 9:00 AM
Xpat Interview: Hungarian Expat Musician Is Making Ambient-Folk Sounds in Scotland
Tamás Kátai is an avant-garde musician from Hungary, well known for his metal project called Thy Catafalque. At the moment, he lives in Edinburgh, UK, but nevertheless continues writing music in his mother tongue. Over the years he has participated in many other bands, such as Gire and Darklight. In 2006, he released a solo album, named Erika Szobája (Erika's Room), which is described as an ambient, folk project.

Apart from this, Tamás is best known for Thy Catafalque, an experimental, avant-garde metal one-man band. He started the project in the late 90s as a black metal band, working with János Juhász, but later they developed a more unique style.

Thy Catafalque also includes some prominent Hungarian guest musicians, such as Attila Bakos (from Taranis), and Ágnes Tóth, better known as the beautiful vocals of another Hungarian folk band - The Moon and the Nightspirit. Last year, Thy Catafalque released the fifth full length album, Rengeteg, first time without János. Read more about the album here, and be sure to check out Thy Catafalque's official site. Here's what Tamás says:

1. In 2005 you released a solo album, Erika Szobája, which is most often described as an ambient, neoclassical project. How did this album come to be, and how come you didn’t simply incorporate your ideas into another Thy Catafalque album?

Tamás: I didn’t want to put anything connected to metal on that album. At that time Thy Catafalque was still a band with two members and that was one reason I never considered that material to come out as a Thy Catafalque-release. The other thing that it was far too personal, it seemed absolutely obvious from the very beginning that the album will be released simply under my name.

2. Last year saw the release of Rengeteg, quite a heavier and musically extremely interesting album. What inspired you the most? Could you describe the album, and the concept behind the lyrics for non-Hungarians?

Tamás: It’s always the same, the things I experience around myself, that’s rather simple, usually there’s no any special trigger. The word rengeteg means vast trackless forest in obsolete Hungarian. It’s the woodland. It’s a symbol of mystery, the night and also of pureness and life.

A forest has its own, working life-system that is the opposite of our big-city lifestyle. It’s a symbol of nature itself we desperately need to respect again. We need to humble ourselves and respect our home. Not a nation, not a country, but our very home, the nature. This is not really the concept of the record, more my thinking and it obviously shines through the album as well.

3. Thy Catafalque signed with Season of Mist recently. Has it brought many benefits so far? Do you think the project is more known in Hungary or outside of it?

Tamás: It definitely has. This album has proper distribution and good promotion all over the world and thus receives much more attention than the previous recordings. This is something a less strong label could not achieve. There have been plenty of reviews and interviews coming out and generally the material is well-exposed. Thy Catafalque is definitely more known outside Hungary in spite of the fact that the lyrics are in Hungarian. Our previous album Róka Hasa Rádió was also released by a non- Hungarian label, Epidemie Records.

4. You moved to Scotland some years ago. How has it influenced your life as a musician? Do you have any aspirations of returning to Hungary again?

Tamás: Yes, I moved to Edinburgh in early 2008 and obviously this decision has totally changed my life in all aspects, including music. Most importantly because we could not work together any more with my old mate, János. We started the band together and recorded the first four albums with the work of both of us, but being so far away from each other limited the possibilities of the common work. But the offer from Season Of Mist for example was not the result of moving to Scotland.

It could have happened while I was in Hungary, it all went via the internet regardless of my actual place. I’d like to return to my homeland indeed, but currently, in that economical situation unfortunately there’s no point in considering this. Quite sad to say. I really hope to get back some time permanently again.

5. How do you feel about the music (metal) scene in Hungary? Do you think it’s progressing and that more opportunities are emerging every day? Could you compare it to the metal world in the UK?

Tamás: I don’t really follow the Hungarian metal scene as I’m not there. There are definitely great bands but it’s quite a hard situation now because of the lack of the solvent audience. After all this whole topic is getting back to the economy again and that’s why the UK metal scene is stronger than the Hungarian. But that’s not an excuse for the lack of originality anyway you can face with.

6. Do you have any suggestions as to which Hungarian bands to keep an eye out for? What would your advice to new, starting musicians in Hungary be?

Tamás: Well, what I do is not keeping an eye on anything. I mean not keeping an eye _that_ way. I do whatever I want and never consider if that is suitable for anybody or not. Be original, be diligent and enjoy creating something new out of nothing. Stop blaming the media, the people, pop music, whatever, stop pointing your fingers at the whole world and feel sorry for yourself. There’s this common mentality in the country that leads to nowhere at all and I hate this. Be creative, build, that’s all you need.

7. What have you been up to since finishing Rengeteg? You mentioned once in an interview that your next step is releasing an EP with two tracks that didn’t make the cut for Rengeteg. Have your plans changed since?

Tamás: Now I reckon those two songs will just go for the next album along with new ones. I also have a third one finished now, so it’s about 25 minutes done for the next release. Still plenty of work to come.

8. It seems that the number of guest musicians in Thy Catafalque albums has decreased over the years. Are there any musicians that you would like to work with in the future? How about your music connections in Scotland? Since the problem with finding guest musicians is most often the logistics, have you thought about working with someone there?

Tamás: Attila won’t appear on clean vocals any more, apart from those two already recorded songs as he’s about to focus on his own ongoing projects, but Ágnes agreed to contribute again if needed. There are great singers here for example, but I want to keep on with Hungarian words. But anyway I know more and more local musicians and well, there are damn good ones in every corner, so I might work with instrumentalists from Edinburgh in the future. But still I can record most of the instruments I need myself.

9. What are your earliest memories of creating music? While you were growing up, what were your musical influences? Have they changed much in the meantime? Apart from music, what are your other influences?

Tamás: I started writing music with my old ZX Spectrum computer in the ‘80s, then I got my Commodore 64, but I never used it for music. Later replaced it to an Amiga 500 around ’90 and that was the time when I really got interested in composing. But my first real instrument was a Korg N5 synthesizer I use even now. I purchased that in 1998 second hand. Now also have a guitar. And that’s it. I don’t really consider myself a musician anyway, I’m too lame.

My first musical influences were the theme songs of computer games, C64 and Amiga, they were great machines! Then my first tapes were Die Mensch-Maschine from Kraftwerk and the first two Jean-Michel Jarre albums and I loved those pieces, still my favourites. Later came metal and everything else, jazz, folk, classical, experimental music, I listen to a lot of different genres and enjoy to be open-minded. Apart from music I have always been interested in all other branches of art and they do have their influences in the way I see the world and create music. And science also has its role in my works.

10. Would you like to add anything else to the interview?

Tamás: I would like to thank you for your interest and wish you all the best for your activities in the future. Take care!

Thank you, Tamás, for the interview, and especially for your music. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the future of Thy Catafalque, so keep up the great work!

Tamás: Thank you!

Interview by Marina Kompar

Source: Budapest with a Pinch of Music

Photo taken from Thy Catafalque at Reverbnation

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