Interview with Thy Catafalque

Interview with Thy Catafalque

- in Written interviews

(c) Orsolya Karancz

Your new album, ‘Alföld,’ showcases your unique blend of genres, ranging from jazz to pop to folk. How do you approach the process of incorporating such diverse elements into your music, and what inspires you to explore these different genres?
I just like music in general and when I have the opportunity to create music myself I do what I like and because of this, my albums are quite diverse. I don’t mind about borders, I’m just enjoying the freedom of creation. However I think Alföld is more focused on the heavy side of the spectrum, at least compared to the previous few TC albums.

Can you tell us more about the song “Testen túl” and its significance within the album?
Well, there is not too much significance of it. I mean it’s just one song out of the nine and probably the only one in which I use my harsh vocals on this record. I used to implement it much more often in the past but this time I felt like it was not good enough and I sing only the first verse to have some of it at all on the album. The song itself is dark, nothing really fancy here. It actually sounds like something from the 90s underground extreme metal scene. That era is my favourite.

How did you decide on the sequencing and arrangement of the songs to create a cohesive listening experience?
You know I have no such strategy. I write the songs and when I have enough it’s time to figure out the order but this is the last step only. This time I wanted to keep the length below 45 minutes in order to press a single vinyl opposed to a double one. I wanted single now. It was a challenge to arrange the track to 22 minutes two times for the two sides. I hope I managed to find the ideal order though.

As the mastermind behind THY CATAFALQUE, how has your musical vision evolved since the band’s inception as a black metal project? What prompted the shift towards the avant-garde metal sound that characterizes your music today?
Yes, we started as a black metal band. Also we need to remember that up to our fourth album, it was the two of us in the band, János Juhász guitarist and myself and most of the guitar riffs came from János. But even on our first demo, Cor Cordium we had a 10 minute long ambient track already. We enrichened the sound album by album to the point where black metal was only one element among the others. I’d say it’s natural progression. I saw much more from the world by time and I was able to put many things into our music. János was more on the metal diet and still he is. You can listen to his current band Damnation playing old school death metal without any fancy nonsense. Thy Catafalque on the other hand evolved into something experimental, leftfield band still mostly based on metal. We both enjoy our place now.

Your previous album, ‘Vadak,’ explored themes of mortality and the shared fragility of man and nature. Does ‘Alföld’ continue to delve into existential concepts, or does it explore different thematic territory?
I’m afraid most of the time it’s similar topics for me with different words but the root is about passing time, passing away, mortality and its connection to nature. Anyway Alföld means The Great Plains and it’s the complete south-eastern part of Hungary, a massive flat wasteland where I was born and raised and lived there for 33 years. This is my homeland.

Could you talk about the recording process for ‘Alföld’ and the collaboration with the guest musicians involved in the album? How did their contributions enhance the overall sound and atmosphere of the music?
It was the usual process. I write the songs and some of them were in need of spicing up with extra instruments or vocals so I asked friends if they would contribute. Most of the lines have been written but I always let them do their thing and many times it ends up in surprisingly exciting results. But anyway in Vadak there were I think 17 guests involved and it was huge number I didn’t want to go that way any longer and there are far less this time. Mostly because the tracks themselves are simpler and more straight forward.

Can you share the concept behind the artwork and its connection to the album’s themes or musical content?
As I mentioned, the title means The Great Plains and we went for a photo shoot exactly there, to Makó-Bogárzó, a couple of kilometers from my hometown, Makó. It’s farmlands and we shot the video for Néma vermek there. So we went there for the promo photos and there was this puppy, a small mudi, a Hungarian herding breed dog, very curious and it was running up and down around us and it accidentally ran into a couple of shots and I decided to put one of those photos on the cover because it captures the vastness of the Great Plains and also the hope of life at the same time.

You have a series of live performances scheduled, including appearances at festivals like Fishing on Orfű. How do you adapt the intricate and layered sound of your studio recordings for the live setting? What can fans expect from your live shows?
Right, we had a big show three days ago in Budapest and it turned out pretty good. I start to enjoy performing now and we are getting more and more confident on stage. I am not insisting on playing everything exactly as they are on the records, mostly because I have not written them to be performed. I never considered this aspect and still I don’t. We figure out what’s working live the best and shape the arrangements accordingly. In live settings we tend to sound more metallic and heavy and gigs are intense. It’s more about the energy rather than the details. On the other hand we’d like to do a show one day only with the more delicate songs. That would work pretty fine as well.

THY CATAFALQUE has gained a dedicated following over the years. How do you perceive the reception and impact of your music, especially considering its experimental and unconventional nature?
I don’t really think about this. What’s important is writing new music, creating, building. This is what drives me and motivates me. Of course it’s nice to have positive feedback though, it pushes me forward, it would be a lie to deny.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for the future of THY CATAFALQUE? Are there any new directions or musical explorations you hope to pursue in your upcoming projects?
Well, there is no plan. Or there is one. Staying alive and healthy. The rest is a bonus.

How do you balance the avant-garde and experimental elements in your music while still creating something accessible and engaging for listeners?
Not a concern. My idea is that you need to be selfish in art and pursue only your own desires. With some luck it will meet others’. But if not, hey you had fun time making your own music, building your own work. That’s a good place to be.

Can you share any specific musical or non-musical influences that have shaped your artistic vision and approach to creating music?
My first musical influences were game soundtracks from Commodore 64. Later Commodore Amiga and at the same time Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre. My first accidental encounter with metal came in the form of German heavy metal band Stormwitch and the first Helloween EP. Then classic Hungarian heavy metal bands. Next step Metallica and from here all kind of extremisms. Later folk and classical music, especially baroque and experimental modern stuff. Lyrically English and German medieval and romantic poetry in the early times and then twentieth century Hungarian literature mostly. And science.

‘Alföld’ is described as returning to the raw side of THY CATAFALQUE. What motivated this creative decision, and how did it shape the overall sound and atmosphere of the album?
I was in the mood of making some straight forward, simple metal without and artsy-fartsy elements what I always do anyway. I was not quite successful in that department but still, the album is solid enough with many heavy riffs and dark tone.

In your journey as a musician, what have been the most significant challenges you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them?
Probably the biggest struggle is to achieve the optimal sound for me. It took me years to be able to produce a somewhat acceptable sound by myself and I had to do it myself because I never had enough funds to do this kind of work in a studio. I mean the way I write and produce music is a bit unorthodox and takes a lot of time and it would cost far too much money. Now, the next album however will be mixed professionally finally, I cannot wait it to be started.

The Hungarian language is incorporated into some of your songs. What role does language play in your music, and why do you choose to incorporate different languages into your lyrics?
Our first two albums were in English only, and Alföld is the eleventh. Since 2004 everything is in Hungarian and the choice was obvious. This is my mother language and the way I can express myself the most comfortably. It’s simple as that. Other than that there is only one song, Ixión Düün from Meta that was written in a fictitious language because it was fun and fitting to the unearthly atmosphere of the track.

Are there any particular tracks on ‘Alföld’ that hold personal significance to you or have a deeper emotional connection? If so, can you tell us about them?
I like A csend hegyei. The title means The Mountains of Silence because it’s very sad and peaceful at the same time. Néma vermek is pretty intense on the other hand and it’s a massive joy to play it live.

As a band known for pushing boundaries and defying genre conventions, what advice would you give to aspiring musicians who want to explore unconventional musical paths and create their own unique sound?
Do what is fun for you and always know not to take yourself extremely seriously. We are small, we are insignificant, not even a spot on the face of the Earth. Appreciate your life until it lasts.

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About the author

As a passionate devotee of heavy, psychedelic, avant-garde and progressive sounds, my enthusiasm for music journalism has been steadily building since 2020. My writing has encompassed a broad spectrum, ranging from in-depth analyses of album releases to illuminating interviews with exciting new artists on the scene. During my leisure hours, I relish attending live concerts and delving into the thriving local music scene in my Zurich community.

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