Metal Maniac

An Interview with Tamás Katai…

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Tamás, thank you very much for this new interview. This is the third conversation we have and it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. In this interview, we will obviously be talking about your music, influences, thoughts and personal interests, but, this time, outside the metal world.

 

My dear readers, we will be discussing “Slower Structures”, Tamás’ second solo album. As I have told you already, I loved the music, it is really stunning. Please, let us know how did you come up with the ideas for this album. How was the composition process and the reasons for you to work in a non-metal album that ended up being a true beauty.

 

Hi Markus. Thank you very much for your interest again. As you probably know, I have already released an album under my own name in 2005. That was entitled Erika Szobája. Now during the writing process of the latest Thy Catafalque album I came up with some piano tunes and the original plan was to incorporate them into Sgúrr. However while writing Sgúrr with time I realized that these song wouldn’t really fit into the overall atmosphere of the album. Thy Catafalque has always been a nature-based band: woods, mountains, waters, space, folklore, science, stuff like that. These piano tunes had much more urban vibes, reflecting life in the city. The city of where I spend most of my days, Edinburgh. So I decided to separate them into a different project and it seemed kind of obvious to choose simply my name again. I had the concept and then all I had to do was focusing on the atmosphere of the city and slowly the album was building itself up.

 

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Indeed I am aware of the album Erika szobája, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in honest, beautiful music. As for Slower Structures, I believe that, as you have mentioned, one can see the reflections about Edinburgh, especially when it comes to the titles.

 

This might be a very long question, but, as curious as I am, and I am very sorry for that, I would love to know which are the main inspirations for each song. Were there any situations that inspired you in each song? Of course I ask you to talk about them if they are not private matters oriented.

 

Music for Breakfast – Sadly I have absolutely no time in the mornings for a breakfast during the weekdays, waking up at 5 and rushing straight to work. However in the weekends I like to be comfortable in the mornings and this little piece was written in that calm and delightful mood.

 

Raining this Morning – Yes, it is often raining here. A light morning rain never hurts.

 

Slowing Waters – This is one of my favourite pieces here mostly because of the contrabass by Balázs. It’s like the piano is a softly ringing sea and the two contrabass lines are two seagulls flying erratically above it.

 

Colour Positive – This had been a simple piano piece initially but I wasn’t satisfied with it and started experimenting with some reverb for a more dreamlike atmosphere. The title refers to analogue photography.

 

Colour Negative – This is exactly the same composition as Colour Positive but reversed, hence the title. It’s the inverse of the image, the negative of the photo.

 

Tea in the Museum – The only track containing some distant drumming on the album. You can always have a nice cup of tea and a scone in the National Museum in Edinburgh during the day.

 

A Midday Storm in Marchmont – Marchmont is a classy area of the city near to my place, I love the vibe there, full of light and calmness. Musically probably this one is the most complicated piece, yet it’s still simple. I tried to portray a rainstorm that comes and leaves quickly. Rainstorms here don’t last long and can occur any time, no matter what the weather is like.

 

Waltz for Niau – This is the original version of Keringő from the latest Thy Catafalque album. Violin played by Dimitris Papageorgiou again and contrabass by Balázs Hermann. This is an actual waltz, completely danceable. I like the middle part when the violin and the high piano notes react to each other like two dancers do.

 

Polimer C90 – This is the name of a 90 minutes long cassette. Polimer was a brand. I found that tape at home long years ago with my sister and me reciting poems. In the beginning of the song my sister informs us about the actual date of the recording: 7 November, 1984. Anyway I used the same tape in Varjak Fekszenek on Tűnő Idő Tárlat (Thy Catafalque). This track is more like an experiment, a collage of sounds reminding me of the distant past, my lost childhood.

 

Hydrangea Blue – Hydrangea is one of my favourite flowers. They have different colour depending of the acidity of the soil. At home my granny had pink and mauve hydrangea in the garden but here in Scotland I am fascinated by these lively blue ones.

 

Thermal – One simple tune in the echoing, wet space of the silent thermal bath. I love the mood, the peacefulness and placidity here.

 

Visage – This is all modified female voice, the whole track. Slowed down, reversed, reverberated. The secrets in the image of a woman probably.

 

La Galerie Soir – We have a small gallery nearby, called La Galerie 1940, this is where the title is coming from. Soir means evening in French. That’s how the album ends, starting in the morning and silently falling into the evening with the softly ticking clock. One nice day in the city.

 

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Thank you, Tamás. I am aware that explaining song by song is quite a task, but your insights made the album even more interesting, since, as I said, it is easier to construct the musical landscapes in our minds. We all have our own interpretations, feelings and conclusions, all depending on our moods, backgrounds, preferences… in my modest view, none of them “wrong”, but rather our own views. However, it is always highly important to know what the artist aimed. We can clearly see that this is a very personal album. Which piece do you enjoy the most and why? By the way, I do like hydrangeas as well.

 

Probably the first three pieces because they were the ones coming first. The structure of the album is almost totally linear, meaning that the songs were born in the same order as they appear on the record. There was a serious break time after the first three tracks while finishing Sgúrr. After completing the Thy Catafalque album I returned to this material.

 

That is a very interesting fact. Did you compose any other material for this album that, in the end, you decided not to release? Well, indeed, I would be very curious to hear, however, if you did, and decided not to release, it is decision to be respected. Anyways, I have read many times that you enjoy/are influenced by Serialism and composers such as Arvo Part. You also enjoy Miles Davies, Tangerine Dream… this show how rich your musical taste is and, consequently, your own music. Tell us about your first musical memories, the ones that grabbed your attention at first and how your musical taste has evolved with time. If you prefer, you can focus only on the non-metal artists. Besides that, Do you remember when the inspiration hit you to start composing?

 

We always have had a computer at home since my age of 10 and the first music I remember grabbing me was music from computer games. ZX Spectrum and then Commodore 64. I loved C64 music, recorded it on tapes and listened to them for weeks and months. No wonder that my first non-computer tapes were Die Mensch-Maschine from Kraftwerk and the first two Jean Michel Jarre albums. I love these recordings. My first metal cassette was a fake live album from German heavy metal band Stormwitch.

 

I started writing music clearly from the inspiration taken from other computer music.

 

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Well, digressing a bit, oh rather, a lot from the musical questions, as you’ve mentioned computer games, I was curious if you are still a computer gamer and which were the games that you enjoyed playing the most. Currently, if you still enjoy playing games, what do you usually enjoy? I know this is completely off-topic, but I guess many people are interested in this subject as well.

 

Oh no, I am not a gamer at all. The last game I played through was Machinarium and I loved it, great atmosphere, classy style, clever game but the one before it was Duke Nukem so you can image how much I play. I feel like wasting my time. Though I did enjoy playing the Hungarian version of Triviador online but it has changed so much with time that I’m no longer interested.

 

I completely understand and can relate. I used to love playing games when I was younger. Nowadays, I don’t have the will anymore and I always think that I can do something more productive for myself. Now, back to your music, and to your opinions, I wanted to know how you view yourself as well as to share your own motivations behind your music.

 

No big thoughts here, I’m not even a musician. I like to compose music, but being a musician is different and I’ve been long enough around real musicians to say that sadly I’m not of them. I’m interested in and enjoying music and probably I’m a bit more diligent than some of my more talented colleagues so it helps me. I don’t know much about my motivations. It makes me feel good, simple as that.

 

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If I may say, so, if I am allowed to disagree, I respectfully and humbly do. I do believe you are a musician, a very talented one, in fact. But, well, this is only my modest opinion. A few days ago, I have received an e-mail alert about your new (already a new one!) album, a new project titled Neolunar. It’s stated that this is music for the city, the night, the sleep, featuring David Jean-Baptiste and Dimitris Papageorgiou. What can you tell us about it?

 

Neolunar is a different story to Thy Catafalque. To simplify things in TC I focus on nature. Neolunar however is the music of the urban night. I have never been a night dweller but for some reason I find the dark city a particularly exciting scene. Not people and classic night situations and activities, no. Okay, that is fun as well but artistically I’m much more intrigued by the spaces, the buildings, the empty structures enshrined in the silence and darkness. How the known world becomes something else for a while. Neolunar is a soundtrack of a fictive film noir for me: mysterious, dreamlike and dark. It’s like the counterpart of Slower Structures in a way. Slower Structures is the music of the daytime city from morning to evening and then comes Neolunar for the night.

 

That is actually very interesting. And, as of now, I have already heard the album, Neolunar and I must say that it is incredible. I find it amazing how creative you are. Fortunately, so far, you have only surprised me and, obviously many, many others, with unique masterpieces. Take the song Neolunar Architecture and its lyrics. Both fit like a glove in the concept you wanted to reach (taking in account what you have expressed about your goals). It is simply incredible. I don’t want to sound like a “flatterer”, however, I must express my feelings towards this composition. In this case, it is easier for us to build the landscapes created by your music in our minds. I admit that you have already given us much information about this album, the concept itself, but, if possible, could you tell us some more insight ideas about it, how did you come up with it, the meaning of the songs, how they intertwine. I ask this because it does feel so much like a soundtrack, as if there is indeed a “movie” behind it.

 

Well, the first two songs were Sand Into Wave and A Város and they were supposed to appear on Sgúrr. But listening to the tracks they didn’t really fit. Sgúrr was much more morose and cold, it was music for massive, barren mountains and deep oceans so I decided to put them aside. Anyway Sand Into Wave was planned to be sung by a female vocalist but she had to cancel on the recording day and what you hear on the album is the actual demo vocals by me that I had sent her earlier. Then I thought it was fine that way. Like it must have been the will of fate and I left it like that.

 

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Neolunar first was really imagined as an original soundtrack for a mysterious fictive movie. I had a plan to indicate it on the cover art but eventually I declined to idea. Still, the music can be appreciated that way. I was aiming for a cinematique feel. I was imagining some classic film noir: black and white, constant rain, night, cars, motel rooms at midnight, deserted streets, empty spaces under the street lights.

 

I feel that you also have some nostalgic feelings, when it comes to the art you produce, not only when it comes to the music, but also your photography work. Themes like childhood, I guess. What attracts you most to these feelings, what’s the reason for you to explore this, to dwell in this “sentiment”?

 

The weird thing is that I am not a melancholic person in real life, quite the opposite. However when it comes to music most of the times I end up playing some melancholic or even sad piece, I can’t help it. Hungarians tend to be like this, probably I can’t escape my heritage even though in many points I’m far from showing classic Hungarian attitude.

 

Thank you Tamás, for your answers on this small conversation. As usual, they were very detailed and highly appreciated. I wish I could ask you more questions, however, I am aware that you are quite a busy person and I don’t wish to keep on bothering with more and more of them. Anyway, thank you kindly again. Any last words?

 

Thank you, Markus very much for your interesting questions and interest again. I wish you all the best for your activities in the future.

 

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June 24, 2016

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