Questions By Arto Lehtinen
Answers by guitarist Sakis Tolis

The dark metallers Rotting Christ have become a leading metal name from Greece. Their cult status is based on their reputation gained in the underground scene in the early 90’s. As years have passed by, the band has developed their style more and more into the dark direction. Even though they have gone through several problems and setbacks, they have started working on the follow up to the Khronik album and of course will set off for the European tour later in this fall. Further details for tour dates are included after the interview with the master mind of the band from the abyss, Sakis Tolis, who politely answered my long questions from “the hotter than hell” Athens.

The official Rotting Christ site : rchrist.conxion.gr


All hail to you Sakis, what's up down there in red hot Greece at the moment?!? Actually how are you able to stand that everlasting hellish heat there?!?

Who's saying that I can stand this hellish heat? Who said that I am into this so well advertised Greek summer? Can you stand the Finnish winter with the 30 or more minus (Definitely better than this current summer time. AL). As much I can stand the 40 Celsius (under shadow please). But I have to survive so I bought this air condition thing and I remain home....At least that is something.

 

Let's start the whole interview by taking about guitarist Kostas' minor motorbike accident and as far as I know he also managed to break his arm in that accident in the beginning of this year. What actually happened and how has his arm recovered by now?!?

Yes Kostas had a bike accident breaking not only his arm but almost every bone..... When buying his new motorbike in his first drive he had the accident! Is it bad luck or what? The positive thing is that he is still alive and he has recovered, following the band in its live obligations.

 

But did you have to hire some other guitarist to stand in for Kostas on gigs, did you just decide to rely on the power of the one guitar approach?

No we didn't hire any other guitarist. The band took some months off from every live appearance and started working on the pre-production of the forthcoming album.

 

About the upcoming album, Rotting Christ have once again started working on the next studio output and follow up to Khronik and by now the pre-production of the stuff has been finalized, so Sakis could you shed some light on the new stuff, how does it sounds and what will be the biggest difference compared to the previous material?

Yes the pre-production has come to the end and at least by now the result I can say that we will have an album that could fit with our name. It sounds faster than ever, it sounds more atmospheric than ever and it is SATANIC. I can say it’s a return back into the earlier 90's adapted into zeros. A strange combination ehhh?

 

When writing and composing the new material for the next album, I assume you must have faced and had some kind of struggle to void this well-known syndrome called "agony of creation". It is obvious you always put all of your energies 100% to writing the stuff for every album. Did/do you ever get problems when writing and composing the new Rotting Christ material for the next album? For example that you just run out of ideas what to write just sitting and thinking "What the hell I could write now" or was/is the writing just a logical creation process by you without having any sort of that "agony of creation" with the upcoming (sixth) output?!?

The "what the hell I could write now" is the syndrome of a band that has been existing for more a decade. I do not hide that I do not get the same satisfaction as I used to get before 5 years when I wrote a song. You have to adapt the band into the contemporary tension without forgetting your roots and the main feeling of the band. You have created so many riffs in your life that you wonder; “Is really there anything else to play?”

So I took the decision to start learning programming the music in order to extend my influence in the music. I want to work different than standing in front of my deck and recording nice riffs. I want to create a song different as a whole, composing all the instruments by using samples and I think that this that has helped me out a lot to keep on writing the music.

 

So what kind of atmosphere and mood usually influence you to write the Rotting Christ stuff? I mean by that do you have to be under the certain mood for example "pissed off - depressed - or like living in happiness" making you to pick up the guitar to write the stuff down, do you just pick up your guitar and start jamming on your own and other guys from the band then come up the new material in the rehearsals ?!?

Getting older and older, having less and less free time, following your mood to write a song is a kind of luxuriance. So when is the time to compose a new album I follow strictly a program getting up early grabbing the guitar and start building a song and unfortunately I have a deadline which sometimes makes me nervous. So if I am like by then and catch my mood then I am sure that I will have a nice song. So I record it on the computer and I pass to the other guys and then we start rehearsing and the song is ready.

 

How much have all these conflicts, earthquake, problems with the cops in the US, the tour manager who ripped you off on the South American tour and fanatical believers effected your thoughts and music and of lyrics, do you somehow pay back and let all the frustration come out in the lyrics about what has happened during the last few years?!?

Yes being on the road and facing so many troubles effect you lyrically and musically. You feel aggressive, you feel unsecured and that effect you in the way of thinking in your general view about life so to your lyrics and to your music.

 

Does the magnificent Greek mythological history still have a huge impact on the lyrics of Rotting Christ as it has had in the past?!?

Yes I agree that our mythology is magnificent and really interesting but it has no impact on the ROTTING CHRIST lyrics of nowadays. I do not feel comfortable to write about my mythology. It is like saying, "Hello ladies and gentleman we are from GREECE and this is our history. Listen up us we are something different we are tourist......." No way I can not do it. I feel more writing about things that can touch everyone's soul things that could fit better with our music.

 

Well have you ever noticed when listening to the new stuff that "Oh fuck, that new track sounds preciously alike some other track what we have written earlier for some R.C album"? I mean you have done six full length albums and one mini album in a row and there is always a risk that a band starts repeating themselves on newer albums?!?

Yes that is a trouble that I face on every new album that I am doing after A DEAD POEM. Ineffectually there are riffs that sounds the same with riffs that you have written before and that is normal. You have got only one mind and you play a specific kind of music. So some riffs sound the same. So what I did is to change completely the way of composing. As I said to you I started learning the computer and started learning the keyboards and other instruments in order to change the way of thinking as a guitarist and to build one song different except based only on guitar riffs. And I think that things are getting better.........So let's say that using technology has helped me out with this problem.

 

Asking that question earlier, cos I have paid attention to reviews and criticisms where your newer albums have been blamed for repeating the same musical approach and style what you have done earlier, of course that makes you pissed off, but to be honest how do you take and react to these kinds of generalizations and accusations toward Rotting Christ's stuff, do you rip your expensive leather pants or just think "fuck the reviews" ?!?

Always a bad review effects me negatively and I do not want to hide that. I am not the person that says “I do not give a fuck about reviews”. I pay attention to the reviews because they can make me better and better and to understand some things that couldn't be before. But on the other hand reviews that its only mark is to destroys us do not getting serious and I am glad to say that. I can not take serious reviews that saying that “ROTTING CHRIST has nothing to do with Metal and they wear ARMANI clothes in their shows.....” You can understand that there is bitterness to our name in this kind of review. Someone doesn't like us for several reason. But on the other hand bad reviews like repeating the same musical approach make us have a self-criticism and could make us better. But generally I think that ROTTING CHRIST is a band that doesn't remain the same and trying album by album to sound different without forgetting their roots and their ROTTING feeling.

 

Speaking of the seventh album, could you unveil some track titles and a possible name for the album?

Track titles are the last thing that I am doing on an album as well as the title of the album.... So sorry there aren't any. But the lyrics are almost ready and I can say that they are DARK as always but this time more SATANIC than ever before..........

 

R.C's music in general doesn't present bestial, aggressive and brutal thrash, death, black metal instead in my opinion you ladle all the possible influences from the dark metal music approach by having both gothic and of course heavy metal elements tied up all together, but have you ever wanted to let all hell break on loose and write the most brutal nihilistic death tune ever with Rotting Christ, or do you view you can't write that sort of stuff with Rotting Christ as the band's musical approach just doesn't represent that kind of style and instead more the darker side of the musical approach?!?

If I wanted to do to present the bestial aggressive metal I would create a project. I do not like to play like this with ROTTING CHRIST. RC as you already said has a different musical approach and melody is a part of their song structure. I can not ever think about RC playing the extreme Grindcore...... I was always into that music but I prefer to express those musical anxieties through a project.

 

This is kinda weird, but how would you term and name the style what Rotting Christ stands for ?!?

METAL.... And you can call it as you want.

The previous album Khronik was recorded and done from the beginning to the end at the famous Abyss studio in Sweden whereas "Sleep of the angels" was carried out at Woodhouse in Germany, so have you already decided what studio you are going to use when recording the next album ?!?

We are still in negotiation but we feel a magnetism from Sweden.... Again.

 

Hmm But recording the next Rotting Christ album in your homecountry, Greece, is obviously out of question, or do you have any suitable studios which you consider using to record an album?!?

Greece has very good studios but on the other hand there ain't people who would know this music. People that can exploit every button on the sounddesk in order to make the sound METAL. So we forget Greece and as I said to you before we are looking for well established Metal studios in Europe.

 

Do you have full rights to pick up any studio where you would like to record the next album or does Century Media say the last word after all ?!?

Our label has the last word and it is normal cause I would like to record in Hollywood studios for instance.........Have an idea on how much the budget will be??? Too much my friend. So a choice of a studio is compared with the albums you have sold and the belief that your label has to you.

 

The Abyss studio is at the moment one of the most wanted and used studios as several death/black/thrash bands have relied on Peter Tagtgren's professional skills to produce albums, but what is the biggest difference between Woodhouse and Abyss from your point of view; even though you can achieve the damn good result in both the studios anyway ?!?

Yes as you already told, you can achieve a damn good result in both studios but when we finished the pre-production of our KHRONOS album we thought the ABYSS was the right choice for us in order to achieve a more BLACK METAL sound. So let's say that the difference between ABYSS and WOODHOUSE is that you can get a more brutal sound in the Swedish studio.

 

Hmm I am afraid you will get freaked out when I say this, but I for one have paid attention darker and dismal melodic stuff hasn't appealed to the audience that much during the last few years as it used in mid of the 90's, instead the mighty dynamic and melodic power metal appeals to people more and more and then harder aggressive death and above all old school thrash has done a huge triumphal come back, are you kinda afraid that people won't buy your albums anymore and consider it too "soft" and want more aggressive and brutal stuff?!?

Could be... Who knows? But I would like to mention that A DEAD POEM album was the most "cool" album and the best selling as well.... So I make music to satisfy first of all my self and the selling matter is coming second.

 

In general do you have any kind of information on how much your albums have sold world wide and especially in Greece ?!?

Permit me for several reasons of not mentioning numbers of the world-wide sales. But if you insist to me on Greece, we reach something like 5000 copies per album.

 

Metal is very close to the heart of every music lover down there in Greece and especially Iron Maiden is huge there playing in huge football stadiums there, Iced Earth sold gold there, all kinds of metal bands from power to black and everything between visit your country. But do the local heavy metal maniacs then support their own bands there like Rotting Christ?!?

Yes during the last four years the people have started support local acts like us. We now pull many people to every show of ours and 5000 copies is a good figure for a small country like Greece. It was not like this in the past. As I remember very few people were paying attention to us for example even if we were touring Europe. You know we had our first European tour in 1993 and we had no press response at all! But later things were getting better and better and now after the hard attempt we have reached something good. Ok we can not reach the same figures like IRON MAIDEN or ICED EARTH because the people here are into POWER / HEAVY METAL and not too much into Dark music. But the people support us everything what we are doing and that is very positive. It delayed but it was done at least!

What is the hottest Greek metal band there at the moment by the way?!?

It's up to you to say!!!!

 

Before starting working on the interview I once again went through my album/tape collection and picked up some older Rotting Christ outputs...Hmm...Have you come across your old stuff on the net for example the split ep (cult ep release for sure) with the Italian Monumentum is definitely the most wanted ep and I guess it gotta be valuable and are you surprised the older material and outputs have become valuable like the split ep with Monumentum and somehow archived the cult status?!?

Yes the fact that our old 7''ep material has begun to be valuable makes us proud and happy simultaneously. Yes it is nice to hear that your album is wanted and couldn't be found......... Is something, revolutionary I can say. Something that is against our nowadays society that sells everything........ So as a vinyl collector as well I would like to express my gratification with the fact that some vinyls of my band couldn't be found.

 

Is some of old Rotting Christ cult outputs somehow close to your heart?!?

Yes of course. Not because of the fact that we have changed the musical direction, it doesn’t mean that we have forgotten our roots. We keep our old cult outputs as close to our heart as possible. Ok things are changing the society, I change and draw away and destroy many valuables ideas and philosophies but some things remain the same!

 

This question is basically dedicated to all tape traders; The first official Rotting Christ demo is supposed to be "Satanas Tedeum" recorded back'89, but I came across a demo called "Decline's Return" recorded'87, so Sakis, could you politely now a little bit explain what the heck is that demo ?!?

Ooouuuuaaaoooouuu...... How did you describe this demo???? Who traded it with you????????? Yes back to the tape trading season we were in contact with many bands and fanzines and when they were asking us for a demo tape we had nothing to send. So we took the decision to record a demo tape with a normal deck in order to trade with bands. So we did it...... But this demo is not an official release. Just a rehearsal demo as we used to say back then.

 

Hmm the old stuff has more harsh primitive distorted quality and approach and true underground freaks claim this is the real black Rotting Christ stuff, have you ever thought of re-issuing the old eps and mini album or do you wanna just keep them only rare cult releases although they have become priceless ?!?

I prefer to remain them as cult releases, because everything that is appearing nowadays looses its feeling, looses its true underground feeling and this is something that we do not want.

 

I know you are a huge fan of the old school metal of the 80's as you have a long metal history background since the early 80's and Rotting Christ have done some cover tunes and as far as I know you once planned on doing cover versions of Destruction and so. But the question ... hah... Do you find it great all these old bands are back like Destruction and now there will be a huge benefit gig coming up arranged in order to collect the fund to finance the cancer treatment for two Chucks (Testament and Death) and of course all these old Bay Area thrash metal bands are back giving a lesson of what metal is when nowadays all kinds of rap crap bands are claimed to be metal bands for example Limbbi Dickshit ?!?

We have done a cover of KREATOR actually and not Destruction, but this is not too important because yes I am fan of old school Thrash Death Black Metal and when I see reunions of my legendary bands I do not hide that I am very suspicious. Do these guys try to prove that Metal is not something that Limp Biskits play or try to cash some quick cash... I support every financial help for Chuck and that is very cool from their side, but if they will convince me with what they are doing I vote yes to learn them what is the real METAL!

 

Besides Rotting Christ you are working on your own solo project with the guitarist of Septic Flesh, how did you come up to carry out a solo project even though you are pretty much swamped with Rotting Christ?!?

Making music is my only job so as you can guess I am involved the great majority of the day with it. I love to do that and because my musical anxieties couldn't be gratified through ROTTING CHRIST. I nailed my ass on the chair and I am currently working on....... And till now sounds interesting......

 

You described the stuff of the project will be based on the classical approach with many sick artistically element...Hmm.. Could you define what sort of stuff you are going to compose for the solo project ?! And What kind of role does the Septic Flesh guitarist play in the song writing process?!?

We always change musical directions and we currently working on really fast Black/Industrial sounds with many operatic and classical approaches. Especially with this I will receive the help of Christos because he is a composer of classical music.

 

As you have a signed deal with Century Media, does that deal oblige you to publish the upcoming solo via them or do you have the liberty to release it via any label which you want?!?

They have the first opinion and if they like it they will release otherwise we have to look for an another label.

 

Tell a little bit more about that project album ; Where are you gonna record, how many tracks, title for tracks and a name of the album...?!?

No titles because it comes at the end........Only BLACK / INDUSTRIAL / OPERATIC / CLASSICAL music. Sounds strange ehhh??????? Yes it is , it is really strange. Keep an eye open.


TOUR DATES

ROTTING CHRIST
WITH MADDER MORTEM, FINNTROLL, TRISTANIA, & VINTERSORG

Date

Venue

City/Country

     

23.09.01

LUNA

BIELEFELD, D

24.09.01

MARKTHALLE

HAMBURG, D

25.09.01

RAZZLE DAZZLE

BERLIN, D

26.09.01

EAST CLUB

BISCHOFSWERDA, D

27.09.01

EXIL

TRIER, D

28.09.01

BOERDERIJ

ZOETEMEER, NL

29.09.01

BIEBOP

VOSSELAAR, B

30.09.01

013

TILBURG, NL

01.10.01

ZECHE CARL

ESSEN, D

02.10.01

LA LOCOMOTIVE

PARIS, F

03.10.01

REAL THEATRE

LYON, F

04.10.01

L'ANTIPODE

RENNES, F

05.10.01

LA LAITERIE

STRASBOURG, F

06.10.01

HAFENBAHN

OFFENBACH, D

07.10.01

ALARM

ZWICKAU, D

08.10.01

Z7

PRATTELN, CH

09.10.01

ORPHEUM

GRAZ, A

10.10.01

ARENA

VIENNA, A

11.10.01

E-CLUB

BUDAPEST, H

12.10.01

HAFEN

INNSBRUCK, A

13.10.01

SCHLACHTHOF

WELS, A

14.10.01

INDIAN'S SALOON

MILANO, I

15.10.01

METROPOLIS

MÜNCHEN, D


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Saturday, November 17, 2001