Interview by Arto Lehtinen
Old Rotting Christ pics by Sakis Tolis
The Greek black/dark metallers Rotting Christ have spread their blasphemic hymns since the 80’s till now. The band has undergone line-up changes and faced up and down hills, but without loosing originality and their roots from the all evil underground days. The latest AEALO was a piece of evidence of Rottting Christ’s uncompromising apocalyptic haunting metal. The band’s cult status amongst the black metal worshippers is definitely incontrovertible. Rotting Christ were booked to play some old school specials at various festivals. The band is working on the follow-up to AEALO and it is good timing to interview the band’s guitarist/vocalist Sakis Tolis.
Good day, what’s up in the Rotting Christ unholy cult nowadays? Does the sun shine there in Greece or are you still in the grip of winter?
If I tell you that we had the worst winter in the last century with only a few days of the sunshine. What will you say!? I am saying… The Unholy cult is still alive.
Good day to you too my friend.
WORKING ON NEW ALBUM
Rotting Christ has been putting new albums out every second or third year. The latest opus AEALO came out in 2010 and the previous one titled THEOGONIA in 2007. Do you view having a few year gap between albums is absolutely a must for you to recreate the skin and recharge the batteries for the new writing process ?!
Yes and I am glad that I have passed to another stage and I am on the stance to release albums when my heart feels that and NOT to following the game of the labels that push their bands to release album every year for obvious reasons. Only if I have something new to say to the people, I will record the new music. Otherwise our fans have a dozen of albums to choose. I do not want to repeat myself releasing albums just to get a tour. No…That will be a destruction of the soul for me at least.
As stated in the previous question, AEALO saw the light of day in 2010, therefore you must be working your asses off on the new material for the forthcoming album, how do you have to be in the certain mood when creating the music and penning the lyrics ?!
Hmm if I say that it takes a whole year thinking ideas and talking with my soul to compose an album, what will you think? Maybe you will think that I am composing the symphony of Beethoven or something like, but the reality is different. It will be another one as the ROTTING CHRIST album is based on the well-known occult atmosphere of the band and of course METAL and the dark, but constructed in a different way. And what I mean by that? I mean the reason why it takes a lot of time from me to compose a new album is because of I work in a different way as far as the composing process is concerned. I do not just grab the guitar playing several hours and expecting a riff or something like this to come up. I lay down on my bed, close my eyes and fantasize a song with all the instruments and even the lyrics. Then I grab the guitar and the story goes on…. Believe me, that takes time – a lot of time – but it makes sense, because this is a kind of revolution for me. That is factual with the response of the latest albums of the band.
How do you usually start working on the material – do you basically create newer riffs on your own and gather together with other guys to work on them to reach the final format?
As I told you to my previous answer, I have changed the way I write songs. Being the only composer since the form of the band, I have passed to a different stage by organizing first a song instead of seeking only the riff. First of all I ask myself if there is any reason, if there is something that influences me to start writing a song. If yes then I close my eyes in my bed and think a lot and all the instruments. The spherical option of the song and then I grab my guitar. This technique has made me creating my last two albums that many of the people considered them as our best. Of course I do not put spontaneity on the ledge because sometimes it creates the best song, but you can not only base on that.
Can you reveal something about songs for the upcoming Rotting Christ albums as the album may see the light day of day in the later within this year or early next year ?
I Really can’t. I haven’t even revealed to myself! When time permit I will go ahead. So far I can only reveal that it will be our darkest outcome for a long time.
Each RC album has sounded unique and different with the certain haunting apocalyptic feeling and approach. AEALO was kind of child of THEOGONIA as the album led Rotting Christ to the new era where AEALO was born, but however will you continue the saga of that era on the new album ?
Something like this. It is a step forward from where we reached on AEALO, but darkest than ever. I think that it can be the natural evolution.
When writing and creating new songs and riffs, you may create a load of riffs, ideas and song structure, and I would bet for some money that you may have a huge storage of ideas and riffs canned on the PC or tapes, do you re-check them out to find possible suitable riffs for new songs?
Yes and you win! So many riffs so many ideas. I am bombed from ideas cause I am influenced from everything that exists the time period I am composing. Until now I have written 22 songs that I have to keep 10 all of them!!!!!! Sometimes I wake up and realize how I dislike songs which I have written the days before. So I throw it away and I go for a new one. This happened a lot during the last decade and especially for the latest album. I do not know why. Maybe it is the insecurity that springs after 11 albums, but I do not know. Whatever, but the main thing is that we will come up with an album later this year. I hope it won’t disappoint you.
Do you find the composing new catchy lethal riffs has become more challenging and more agonizing process of creation whenever working on new songs – or is the process of creation easy going and flexible way?
It comes more than easy after 23 years of composing, but the problem is based on the final choice and of course the agonining that you face if the fans keep on giving a shit on your new songs. It is easy to reach a level with your first albums. The problem is to keep this level. This is what “tortures” us.
Is writing and composing one kind of exploration to the darkest place of your mind to come up unique stuff or is it more personal psychological warfare?
Both. Sometimes I have catch myself – Paranoiac. But the orgasm, you feel when you finalize a song, can’t be compared to the best sex you have ever done!
AEALO had a lot of quest appearance by members of Primordial, Necromantia etc and of course the legendary Diamanda Galas, will you consider having other guest appearances on the forthcoming Rotting Christ album or were these appearances by these artist and guest one kind of thing for AEALO?
Maybe…I always enjoy share some of my music with some artists friends that I respect a lot. Maybe…. That will be seen soon.
Within these years, you have worked with different produces and at various studios, Abyss, Woodhouse, Fredman and the latest opus AEALO was recorded at Lunatech Studios in Greece, do you feel the Greek studio know-how like working with metal bands and technology and equipment have improved a lot that you rather record albums in your home country?
I think that nowadays there are no big differences in recording studios as we used to have back in the days. The great majority of the stuff is based on the digital technology so there are no reasons to spend a fortune in order to come up with a new album. Maybe the mixing process can have better results if it will happen from specialist of their kind. But I feel more comfortable to record the last albums in my home country which really influenced me and I feel more comfortable. In the last albums I have also done the mixing and the mastering process by myself in order to feel what I really want. This is a 100% ROTTING CHRIST product .
Have you made your mind about where the 12th album in a row will be carried out from the beginning to the end? What kind of terms and conditions do you set for picking up a right and suitable studio for the recording process of the 12th album?
I am currently in this process right now and I haven’t made any decision. It seems that I will also record in Greece. I do not know the place Yet. We will see.
How would you want to describe the material for the next album?!
The more mystical ROTTING CHRIST output for a looong time.
AND SOMETHING ABOUT LYRICS
When I did an interview with you years ago and asked if the Greek mythology has made an impact on the lyrics of Rotting Christ and you stated ; “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 we are something different we are tourists……." 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.”Do you still share the view as you said app. 10 years ago ?
I still believe this statement cause even if we are influenced from ancient stories, we never wrote for a specific story or myth cause we simply never wanted to be a postcard or something. There are so many dark mystical and occult stories in the our ancient opulence that can be transform into our current lyrical needs and I think this is what we are doing.
Lets continue a little bit more about the lyrics as having always paid the significant role in Rotting Christ, you also stated that “I feel more writing about things that can touch everyone’s soul things that could fit better with our music.” in the interview published in Metal-Rules.com in 2001. What kind of topics and soul things are the key elements fitting to the world of Rotting Christ ?
I am only referred on the dark side of ourselves. A side that many of us want to hide, but I love so much exploring it. That doesn’t mean that I am the person that thinks only negative. I think that I am a normal person …(I think at least I do not know) that taking care as everyone his everyday obligations but I am fascinated and sometime I escape from this boring world by writing the stuff from the dark side of ourselves.
If you happen to have a good line for lyrics on your mind, do you create the music for the lyrics, does the music come first and then lyrics ?
Because of the fact that we are not based on the vocals melody the lyrics are usually coming last, but I have tried sometimes to write on the lyrics, but the result is coming more like recitation.
METAL HEART AND HORROR MOVIES
Do you still have the metal heart pumping in your chest, do you still find the passion to check out bands or do you rather stick to old guns ?
Of course and I check out newcomers and sometimes so much! You can still find out interesting artists expressions especially in the underground. Ok when I listen to the old giants, my feelings can never be compared to the feelings that new comers expands and this is normal. Nothing can be compared to the first loves, but if I stuck completely to that then I would feel that doesn’t follow my favorite motto: If something is not evaluated, it disappears.
You made a visit to the album of the Texas crossover thrashers Birth A.D. How do you usually select for which albums you make a visit and what made you choice them for your visit ?!
I have participated in so many bands that to be honest I can’t remember that. Hey, please do not misunderstand me. I do that for the hell of out and I have never taken any money through that! Ok back to the answer …I participate in bands for two reasons. Most important is to like the band. An old schoolish crossover band, that kicks some serious asses like Birth A.D., attracted me and when I was asked to make a guest appearance of course and I said yes. The Other reason is to help some newcomers that gently ask me to participate in their music. So I am also doing if of course I like them.
Do you receive a lot of requests from bands for making a visit and guest appearance on their albums and outputs ?!
Yes quite a lot. Some says yes some says no. All depends on their style of the music. I was even asked from a hip hop band to participate! I said no.
Do you ever miss the old underground days where metal was metal without these commercial gimmicks, these idol contest things, when tapes were circulated and trade thru the catacombs of the underground, even though there was all kinds of conflict and stubborn disputes, or do you rather eye on the future what it shall behold ?
Of course and I missed that the days that I call glorious days and I feel that there is a strong community a strong wave worldwide powerful enough to return those days or at least a part of them. I feel that underground nowadays is really hot and maybe some things will be changed. It is kind of victory for this generation like this. Can bring changes that can make our “own” worlds our Metal world better?
As an old underground metal head, how do you view the current metal world, have you managed to catch some interesting names spellbounding you ?
So many that I am afraid to go with names, cause I will forget many others and I do not really want that. There is a really strong Black Thrash scene nowadays that make the difference, not that many in the musical part, but on their attitude and aggression that I totally support. Support Underground.
As far as I know the song off from AEALO called “Demonin Vrosis” ended up on the Italian horror movie called Morituris, how did it come about ? What is the movie about as a matter of fact ?!
It is, as you said, an Italian horror film that is based on an ancient Roman story with a lot of blood. I am proud that we did get to the trailer of that movie. To be honest I feel proud when it is asked from movie directors or game productions to dress their product with my music. That means that our band’s name exists and talks to some peoples souls. This is the best payment for us.
How much are you into horror movies ?
Not that much. I am more stuck in zombies as I can’t see any interesting in modern horror films. So many digital effects !
Did this possibility open new doors for getting the music of Rotting Christ to other movies ? Or have you been approached by film makers in general ?!
Yes it does and I do not hide that I have also received and some other approaching, but from underground movies that I will maybe say “yes” in the future. If their scenario fits with our music then of course and I will accept something like this. The Art is an art.
Rotting Christ has always been more or less controversial, causing all kinds of stirs. Do you ever have to look over your shoulder to be sure there ain’t any stalkers behind your back so to say metaphoric ?
I have the big eye on my back my friend. Really I do not feel so safe when I am touring cause our band is so much offensive in some religious circles. I do not hide that sometimes is dangerous too!
When touring in The States, you got to meet and deal with all kinds of protesters outside clubs, did you or any of you approach them, trying to talk about their way of seeing the belief and life ?
Yes so many times. I gave a try but didn’t work. It didn’t work at all cause of strong fanaticism and fundamentalism. The fanaticism is like a bomb ready to explode. Sooner or later will do… Hope not in my hands!
As it has been spoken before the name of Rotting Christ makes the right wing Christians see red and have always been on the rant toward unorthodox and nonreligious personalities. Do you basically care about these extreme standpoints toward you and the band expressed by the right wing christians ?
Yes of course and I do care as I care for all kinds of ideologies, but this is a special standpoint that is unpredictable to exist in our western civilization. It is so called the free world!
Do you ever find it scary that fundamental believers thoughts and views are so narrow minded and above all they are capable of hurting other people in the name of the religion?
Yes and this is the reason I told you before that I have my big eye on my back! And I am saying that because I have seen things I have seen action that I do not feel like explaining now.
As far as I know you are not allowed to enter India, right? To which other countries you are not allowed to have an access or not welcomed?
It seems no. The same in Malaysia where we booked a show last year, but suddenly cancelled because of our name. And I am not referred in other Muslim countries that we had some offers to play, but never happened of course. This is our destiny anyway. We “pay” the price of a “so extreme name”, but we feel that we are doing something at least, but there has to be something to change this middle aged ideas which still cause problem to our world.
Rotting Christ embarked on the North American tour with Hate, Abigail Williams, do you ever have an opportunity of expressing wishes about band with whom you wanna share stages or do booking agents and promoters pick up bands for tour with Rotting Christ ?
Yes sometimes, but not that much in the State even if the bands, we have shared the stage with, were great. This sometimes happens in Europe and I really enjoy to pick up bands when we headline.
CULT OF ROTTING CHRIST AND BLACK CAT MAGIC
Do you however feel the name of Rotting Christ is still the rebellious name causing stir and protests and dangerous feeling amongst the people and even in the metal community after all these years since when you started as teens in the late 80’s?
Yes and do you know something? Now is more annoying than ever. Not because our civilizations have done some steps back, but even more. Our name has become bigger and we have entered their worlds where we really should not to. I do not know if is rebellious or something, cause who pays a shot about religions nowadays when we have so many serious problems to solve, but at least vibrate some conservative minds something that I do not hide that I like.
Are you kind of surprised how much the old cult myth of Rotting Christ still fascinates and attracts to the young metal fans who were not ever born when the first Eps and demos came out 20 years ago?
Not that much, because I was in the same position and I know how young ones feel about the old ones in the scene. I was more than fascinated by the old bands when I was a teenager. History always fascinates people and this is logical because the myths are created and who can resist the myths! I feel proud when I see such an attitude towards a band.
But does it however bug you that people keep asking you to play only the older material whereas it is pretty logical for each band to play the recent songs as well ?
Yes this is a matter I didn’t want to be referred, but you brought it to the surface with your question. Yes I do not hide that sometimes I feel comfortable when I am asked to perform songs from our early years, but at least I am glad that the great majority respects and our latest works. So that means that the band is still active and keep on fighting in the Metal battlefield. I am proud when I receive comments like YOU ARE A LEGENDS, but you should know that these legends are still active in the Metal Underground community and not a band that is only based on its history.
Playing with other extreme cult names such as Blasphemy for example at Nuclear War Now, brings old memories back ?
Yes and I really look forward to performing with those underground heroes. Really looking forward. It brings our old memories back. Old cult memories.
Before quitting, if you get a cat – what kind of cat would you obtain ? A black killer cat with the grim eyes ?
I have weird feelings about cats. I love them but NOT in my house. But if I had any yes I would definitely prefer a black one as black in the color that characterizes me …Everything is black. My clothes my car my bicycle etc etc….
Greeks are known for being the ultimate passionate football fans, do you and brother still stand for AEK FC with the full heart ?
Yes! Some things can’t be changed in this life!
I for one thank you for your time for doing the interview for Metal-Rules.Com Hope to see Rotting Christ on the stage soon, but may the last words be yours….
NON SERVIAM BROTHERS AND SISTERS
The official Rotting Christ sites :
Rotting Christ feat. Mika Luttinen (Impaled Nazarene) –
2011.10.08 – Dom, Helsinki, Finland