Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ
Greek extreme metallers Rotting Christ have soldiered on through the years since the early days of extreme grindcore until now with their new SANCTUS DIAVOLOS opus. The Greek leading metal name has undergone line-up changes that the band?s mastermind and frontman Sakis Tolis will be telling us a about and especially about the above mentioned new album. Into The Abyss we go?.
Good day you you in Greece, how?s it going there in now and what have you been doing lately besides giving a whole bunch of interviews!?
Greetings from the South??. Yes too much interviews that I do enjoy but unfortunately I can not enjoy the hot weather?It is November and still 30 celsius. The sooner or later I think that this planet will be destroyed!! SAVE THE PLANET BROTHERS AND SISTERS
LINE UP CHANGES
Well let?s start the interview by dealing with the departure of guitarist, Kostas. I for one was kinda surprised to find out that long time guitarist Kostas decided to pull out of Rotting Christ. I can?t help but ask if you had this typical personal/musical disagreements with Kostas, causing his departure or was he entirely fed up with being involved in the metal scene and vanished?!
I think, Arto, you can imagine that the playing in a band when you reach the age of 30years ain’t the most secure thing so the guy prefered to choose the more proper way of life having a normal job, something that is totally respectful and understandable…. So the three remains go on the rotting trip and we will soon announce ex-Septic Flesh guitarist ALEXIS in our line up. It?s too hard to find a new guitarist, an individual with a punk attitude and good playing. In the end I can proudly announce that we found him in the name of Alexis.
Did his motorbike accident in 2001 somehow effect his decision to take it a little bit easy or.. ?!
Not at all?. It is just a survival matter decision to leave the band.
I assume finding a new guitarist to fill the empty shoes left by Kostas won?t be any easy task after all. I told you some time ago you would have found a new guy to replace Kostas, how did you find him after all?! Is he an official member of Rotting Christ now or just temporarily in the ranks? Could you tell a little bit background details about this dude !?
Yes as I told you before it is too hard to find someone to be a good player to have an experience and to have simoultaneously the punk attitude we were looking for as individual.So as the greek scene is not consist of too many experienced guys we are lucky that we found ALEXIS that has worked with SEPTIC FLESH and has some experience.
Teaching the helluva large song catalogue for a new guitarist has to be a real pain in ass feeling at least for you as you admitted disliking showing how to play riffs and songs in general as a whole. But how has the teaching process of the new guitarist been going so far, have you already torn your leather pants apart while rehearsing and showing the riffs to this guys? ..hah!
I lost my summer showing the new songs to the new guitarist ? This is something that I hate ?.i hate that much to teach so after a while I did record the gitars and gave the waves to him asking??PLEASE BECAUSE I AM NOT FAMOUS FOR MY PATIENCE PLEASE TEACH THEB BY YOUR SELF AND BRING THE SONGS TO THE RHEARSAL. And I can say that all in the band are satisfied with the result.
After the KHRONOS album came out in 2002, keyboard player George left the band. I guess you didn?t bother to find any pernament replacement for George, at least as far as I know, why?
We didn’t need to find a replacement because I record all keybords loops and stuff. I put them on an A-DAT that is sychronized with our drummer through click so we do play them as playback.
The line up of Rotting Christ has been more or less stable all the time apart from Jim?s departure from the band after TRIARCHY OF THE LOST LOVERS. It seems like the chemistry within the band members is based on the good friendship and loytality as well, or how do you view it?!
Yes the main members of the band consist from me and my brother on the drums that we have started up the band 15 years ago and as Andreas on the bass has been working with us the last 8 years, you can understand that there are strong connections in the band and that?s why the main part of the band remains the same.
Themis and you have been in the band since the early times of the band. I can?t help ask if you have faced some kind of dispute causing some kind of merciless fist fighting between you? haha ?!?
That many?.it is too usuall to have fights with your brother ehhh? But in the end he is the one I can 100% trust so let?s forget about the fights.
SANCTUS DIAVOLOS is the eighth full leght studio in the discography of Rotting Christ. To be honest, I was totally surprised at the approach and the style on SANCTUS DIAVOLOS as it reminded me of some sort of an evil souding horror movie soundtrack creating an even more satanic feeling indeed. Obviously you wanted to aim at having a real different, but more evil sounding album this time?!
Yes indeed?we paid that much attention in the composition process on this album?.Hey this is our ninth album and the people could easily start fed up with the band so we tried to put our darkest side of ours souls into that album something that came easily as the band members enstictly become more and more fans of the music more and more into underground and I think that SANCTUS DIAVOLOS is a fair product of the bands? current view of the underground.
Was the creation of SANCTUS DIAVOLOS easier for you to carry out other different, more apocalyptic sounds, whereas the previous outputs have been based on the melacholic and dark sounds. Was it much easier for you to create that evil sounding stuff with some industrial elements tied up here and there?
It was not easy at all Arto?.I paid that much attention to the composing process that took me more than a year to come up on the final result. I also started to learn some programs for keyboards etc in order to have a serious and worthwhile result. I also didn?t meet any of my good friends for long time in order to be deeply concentrated to my self and to find what exacatly I want as an individual.
Well this ninth opus album was carried out at Fredman Studio with Frederik Nordstr?m (The Dream Evil guitarist by the way)?Ehhh.. Did Gus G manage to lure you to get to Sweden to work with Fredrik or what made you choice Fredman, after damn good experience in terms of works and sounds at other studios like Abyss, Woodhouse and so on?
It was my idea to mix the whole thing in Fredman studios as I really like Fredrik’s work and as our philosophy of the band is trust blindly someone that is better than us we just sent the tapes and told him sent the final result to the mastering studio!
How did Nordstr?m’s working methods differ from another Swedish metal producer Peter T?ngtren ?!
He just did the mixing?. The album was recorded here in Greece in SCA studios and produced exclusively from me??which means that it was a risk that I took as I having worked with too many producers and getting some elements from their job and stand well in the end.You know it was really comfortable for me to record in my hometown and anytime I needed the help of some people I could easily find it with just a phone call and the most important is that I could have a proper sleep after each day recording.
At least SANCTUS DIAVOLOS sounds totally different compared to for example SLEEP OF THE ANGEL, KHRONOS etc? It has a darker and dismal feeling and approach. I mean by that Rotting Christ?s albums have been criticised for repeating the same musical approach amongst the press and the puritanical extreme metalheads, even though from your point of view all the albums sound unique. On SANCTUS DIAVOLOS I assume you wanted to aim at a complete new way of expressing the musical approach to show to all the skeptical that Rotting Christ can sound different?
I can not agree with you because if you look back to our discography you can find out that the band always appears as something different album by album keeping just the established style?. Check out how different KHRONOS is from A DEAD POEM or GENESIS from SLEEP OF THE ANGELS. The same happens with SANCTUS DIAVOLOS that is by far the most evoluted album.
There are quite a lot of choir parts on the album creating haunting and catching atmosphere, how were these parts created, did you hire some people to do the chorus parts or did you rely more on the advance of the technology ?!
Choirs on Gnesis were based in the technology but in SANCTUS DIAVOLOS was based on a real choir of 8 people that made the whole product more real.
When interviewing you last time some years ago, but we were on the working process of the solo album of your own along with the guitarist of the now defunct Septic Flesh?Hmm What?s up with that, cos I don?t remember having seen any official release of that anywhere ?!
I quit cause as you can guess there is not free time at all any more??So I prefer my free time to work with THOU ART LORD and by the way there 10 new OLD SCHOOL THRASH BLACK songs to be recorded.
Referring to that previous question: Did some of tracks from your solo album project end up to SANCTUS DIAVOLOS, cos you described the material of your solo album as Black/industrial based sounds with opera and classical approaches, cos SANCTUS DIAVOLOS has exactly those kinds of elements ?!
Even if I didn?t record anything my pre-recorded stuff helped me out in order to push up the composition of SANCTUS DIAVOLOS into new paths.
While reading your lyrics of the ouput I assumed those must be your testimony against the Catholic fundamentalists having a strong grip in Southern European countries, for example lyrics alike:
THY WINGS THY HORNS THY SIN
Rise up the horns of sin
The caves of the cursed I have seen
Where mortals? souls covered with the temple of sin
The strength of demons I feel
Ceaseless passion to restrict
And wicked angels surround me
Burning me with their fiery wings
Who shall dare to join them in
To stain his soul with the aura of grey
And when the flame of wings remain
Seeking the golden fountain
Oh God chase me
Oh God save me
Or Am I entirely mistaken about the meaning of your vision and ideas as to the lyrical side!? Could you politely shed a little bit more light on how you usually ladle all the ideas and inspirations for the writing of the lyrics anyway ?!
The lyrics face our anti-religious views in a more mature way…..So the concepts are an urge to humanity to burn out the fearing flame that God desired to reign on. There are not that strong as they used to be in the past but they ?pain? more than any conservative ideas nowadays. Yes you are right our lyrics is a punch in the southern European fundamentalistic ideas.
The front cover and generally the art of each album already unveils about being Rotting Christ?s art, because of the style of the art on your albums are in my opinion more or less based on the religious aspects (KHRONOS; GENESIS; A DEAD POEM) as well as mysticism (THY MIGHTY CONTRACT; TRIARCHY..).. Have you consciously wanted to bring a little bit religious and mysticism, even occultism, references in the art of your albums because some of them look really evil and unholy?!?
Yes?cause we are called ROTTING CHRIST??.I do not think that people around will excpect something like?flowers ?
Hmm have you ever faced any kind of censorship problems because of the arts, for example in Greece when the Catholic dogmatic church obviously has the stronge presentation in the normal every day in a way or another ?!
Yes we have faced many times censorship cancelling some shows or denying to distribute our album in some places?A normal situation for conservative societies that think that are threaten from free speech .But this is also Metal my friend. As strong punch to the sleepy conservative societies .It is the right to be different and it is not only music.!
DVD AND VIDEOS
You have got two DVDS out named IN DOMINE SATHANA and LIVE IN VIENA. I just checked out the official Rotting Christ site to find more detailed info on this LIVE IN VIENA, but didn?t find any inch of it? Is it an official one or just weird bootleg output ?! Have you ever seen it ?!
LIVE IN VIENA?????????? What is this.This is the first time that I have heared something like that.Really make sense?
But instead IN DOMINE SATHANA being the real official DVD release featuring?a lot of stuff indeed.. Please unveil the whole feature of the DVD and were kinda pleased with how it turned out anyway?!
Yes kinda of?.of course there are always things that didn?t satisfy the band but mention tghat is a normal thing for each musician. NEVER BEING SATISFIED COMPLETLLY WITH THE FINAL RESULT AFTER COUPLE OF WEEKS!
You sell the IN DOMINE SATHANA DVD release on your own according to the official Rotting Christ site, or is it available normally elsewhere besides Greece ?!
We just follow the old glorious ways way of selling our products in good prices?But believe me that doesn?t work any more with the new generation. People prefer to buy straight from their local store something that is respected of course from our side cause we do not excpect to take the risk and to send well hidden cash on an envelope as we used to do in the past!
As far as I know you have done one official video, right ?! But do you have any plans to shoot a new promo video off from the new album ?! At least There are a few TV channels showing the metal stuff as far as I know?
Yes this is true.Metal start again to be on the TV so we think seriously to shoot something for that.But anyway we are still fanatic on the dogma of?invest your mony on tours.
TOURING ALL AROUND
By now I have witnessed Rotting Christ on the stage twice – 1997 in Helsinki, Finland (ok no mention about one little incident) and then at Wacken 2003. It is damn interesting to see how different Rotting Christ sounds on the stage and on albums. As I told you at Wacken, Rotting Christ sound damn raw and primitive in the live situation whereas on album you sound more dismal and let?s say melancholic and even polished, how do you view this anyway ?
This is the power of the stage?.Adrenalin does its job when we play live and we really leave it to work freel so that?s the reason we are much more agreesive on live. Maybe we work better as a face to face band.
Now you are about to set off for tours, criss crossing the planet quite a lot. Do you have any basic idea when and where you are gonna tour!?
It seems till now that whenever we will play except festivals we will play as headlines so we are touring the southern Europe first then main urope then Soth America and if we will manage to get visas we will hit U.S. too. I can not think the band without playing.
How much do you usually pull people on your gigs down there in Greece?!
In the two big cities we pull over 1000 people but we expand our tours in our homeland playing at least 12 shows per album. Something that is interesting even if we pull an average of 250 people per show. It is really underground and we love that cause we simply feel underground.
Besides touring normal, let?s say traditional countries like Central European countries for example Germany and so on, you have also visited a more exotic places from my point of view I guess where other metal bands hardly play. What has been the weirdest and most exotic place where you have visited and played ?!
We have played in countries like CYPRUS, COLOMBIA, TURKEY, ISRAEL, UKRANIE…and we plan shows to MALTA, MOLDOVA, BELARUSSIA, FYROM for the upcoming tour cause Metal has no boarders and should be played all over the world even if you do not get even one Euro??..it is great to meet new scenes!
Apparently you don?t have any booking agent handling and arranging these gigs and tours, instead you arrange them, am I right?! But wouldn?t it be much easier to hire some agent for all these touring commitments?
We have tried couple of times but didn?t work properly. Nobody pays as much attention to your band as the band itself dooes. So we keep on booking our shows by ourselves. Hey do not forget we grew up in a “do it yourself” era.
GREECE AND METAL
Speaking of Greek metal, I have always wondered why Rotting Christ has managed to make breakthroughs amongst thousands of other Greek bands, I mean there have been, and still are, a lot of great bands? You have been kinda lucky in some way !?
I can not say lucky??Except the hot response of our first albums from then underground society I think that a really strong dedication on the band with all its results (having no insurance/no career opportunities/loosing the most of your friends/problems with the Greek army having not serving our compulsory in the Greek army and too many others) made the band to go on. There are too many good bands down here. It just happens that they do not take big risk in their life in order to make their goals happen.
Even though Greece is the land of heavy metal, no matter if it is pure trad hard rock, or heavy metal, or extreme metal ala death/black/thrash, but however big and small bands want to play there, do you usually get to see bands there in small clubs or big areanas !?
Yes of course?.as long as I am here in my hometown. I still enjoy viewing bands and for me it is one of the best forms of entertraiment.
Iron Maiden seems to have a special place in the heart of Greek metal fans like here in Finland and Themis went all the way to Paris on 9th of September 1999 to witness Bruce Dickinson?s comeback? How about you Sakis, do you put Maidens album on a player and start to play air guitar? Hahahah!
Hey?.how do you know that? Yes one of our members went all the way to Paris in order to view the first IRON MAIDEN show after the re-union but it was Kostas not Thmis…but anyway. IRON MAIDEN is cult down here and I do not hide that they are one of my fave bands but not that extreme things for me?.
Do the local metal heads then support Greek bands like Rotting Christ enough however?
After too many years that we were on the edge we have finally gained the respect of the Greek fans the last years and I have to say that they help us a lot and would like to give them a big thanks for that.
All right Sakis Tolis, before conlcuding the interview, I could ask something different, name your Top Five Extreme albums of all time and name your Top Five Traditional Heavy Metal bands of all time?
BATHORY-UNDER THE SIGN OF BLACK MARK
EMPEROR-IN THE NIGHTSIDE ECLIPSE
MORBID ANGEL-ALTAR OF MADNESS
IRON MAIDEN-THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST
CELTIC FROST-TO MEGATHERION
BLACK SABBATH-ANY ALBUM WITH OZZY
PARADISE LOST-FIRST THREE RELEASES
The last words are as usual yours, so go ahead?. Thank you for your time to answer the interview?
HORNS UP BROTHERS AND SISTERS?KEEP THE DARK CULT ALIVE?BE A PAIN IN THE ASS FOR ANY CONSERVAITIVE IDEA?.STAY METAL.
The official Rotting Christ site: www.rotting-christ.com