Rotting Christ - Sakis Tolis

Rotting Christ - Sakis Tolis

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There is no question about it; ROTTING CHRIST is one of the best band that the Greek scene has given birth to. But that is not all with this longtime running extreme metallers from Athens. The Tolis brothers seem to be always ahead of their time releasing music that is innovative and original and the upcoming "Do What Thou Wilt" is no exception to this rule. Since the album has not been yet released, METAL KAOZ got in the phone with the band's mastermind Sakis and had an extremely friendly discussion from a musician who has both feet and mind on the ground. Below you can read what we talked about while the vinyl edition of the new album is one the way. Non serviam!

Rotting Christ - Interview

Hails Sakis from Chicago! How are you?
Hi there, I am good and have a great New Year Dimitris.

Happy and heavy New Year to you and to ROTTING CHRIST.
Thanks, have you listened to the new album?

Truth is that we have not yet received the promo from Season Of Mist but I am sure we will.
I am really interested to hear your opinion. In fact, I feel kind of insecure with every album release.

One again I am surprised hearing from you that you are anxious to see if people like the album.
Yeah, I am still the same person so I have not changed (laughs). But I have to clear this out and tell you that I am interested of what my friends have to say for the album. I am talking about people who know what ROTTING CHRIST is all about, so I respect their opinion.

What I can honestly tell you is that “In Yumen / Xibalba” is awesome.
Thanks Dimitris and I have to add that there was a really good respond to this.

Did you change something in the vocals? I mean, did you use any type of distortion or effect?
I did not change something in particular but I think they came harsher this time. I like them more than in the previous albums.

I think the Occult feeling is more enhanced…
Indeed, it is. I think we managed to record an album that has both new and old/Occult elements.

Correct me if I am wrong but did you use a foreign language in this one? (other than English of course).
Yes, there are some lyrics in the Mayan language but also some lyrics recorded backwards. This album was written on a multi-cultural basis with references to some Ancient civilizations, so we did not use that much the English language. We even used some dead languages. This is what I am talking about with ‘Occult’.

Judging by the song titles, I can see some Mesopotamian religion references…
(interrupting) yes, there are some references from there but also from Transylvania in a song that was written in the Romanian language. There is also one with Greek lyrics talking about the Book Of Revelation by John...

Wait a minute; the lyrics are written in different languages according to the thematology?
Exactly! There is also a song written in Latin and there are more influences from Mayan, Inkas and even Assyrian civilizations.

So, the follow up question on this is who did all this research?
I did all the research. I really like reading about ancient civilizations and especially in this album I gave a lot of attention in creating this atmosphere. I have reached to a point where writing new music is not just grab the guitar and write some riffs. I am doing a lot of self-research and thinking, trying to understand/decide what will be the next step and what I am missing from the music.

How long did it take you to write the music and the lyrics for “Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy”?
The entire project took me 1.5 years to compose.

Did you do everything by yourself?

ROTTING CHRIST have new members in the lineup, right?
Yes, the basic lineup is me and my brother and the rest of the guys are new but so far we are really satisfied with them. Although it is kind of early to say that they are permanent members in the band; you know, being in ROTTING CHRIST requires from the musician to like this music and have a measured character. Because everything we do with this band is for the music and the ideology and not about the money. All this requires time, so for the time being, the band is me and my brother.

I imagine that you interviewed Vangelis Karzis and George Emmanuel…
Well, I wouldn’t use the term interview since I am not like a bureaucrat who is searching for people to work for me. I am only strict with my work and not how I interact with others. So, I talked with them and explained what this band is all about and asked them if they are onboard. And they said yes, so time will tell how things will turn out.

And what about the recent live dates, how did those go? You sound like you have caught a cold.
We toured almost two months and before that I was in Sweden mixing the album, so I have been in places for a short period of time and met way different climates. So, I am kind of beat up but I will soon recover.

Did you play any new song during these live dates?
No, we did not want to do that.

Even if it is early to talk about this, what songs from the new album you think fit in a setlist?
Nowadays I am trying to put together a setlist that will pretty much have everything; new and old songs. But people have to realize that this has become a really difficult task since the band has twelve albums. Honestly, I am having a hard time choosing tracks to play live. Anyway, I think we will use 2-3 songs from the new album.

What are your thoughts about touring?
We have already booked 12 dates for South America, then we will come to the Balkans (Greece included) and then summer festivals in Europe. First comes health because we are not young anymore.

Yeah, sometimes the body does not follow the mind…
Exactly! I have stopped drinking and smoking in order to be healthy and do as much touring as possible.

Everyone who is crossing the 30 years should start thinking like that. What about North US; are there any plans to come here?
We haven’t booked something for North US but it will happen some time after the new album has been released of course. It has become economically tough for a European band to do a North US tour since nowadays the shows do not attract that many people. Consider that we have to pay for working visas, the air tickets, buses, so we have to find the right billing to get there.

Yeah, we hear that a lot from bands. There is a bonus track in the album entitled “Welcome To Hel”.
First of all it’s not a VENOM cover and there is one “l” in Hel that comes from the Scandinavian mythology (meaning of course hell). This track will be in the special edition of the album and most probably it will be in the soundtrack of the video game called “Darkfall Unholy Wars”.

Cool! And who is responsible for the cover artwork?
A friend of mine from Ukraine did this and it shows two actual statues. We wanted a simple cover artwork (I did not want something Photoshop-made with too many colors) that would also represent the album and I think it really works that way.

I was looking at the album’s title in Greek and “Do What Thou Wilt” is not a direct translation in English.
Yes, you are right but the label wanted to have something in English so I eventually said yes and decided to use “Do What Thou Wilt” since I could not find something for the title that was a direct translation to the original Greek one. But there is a connection based on a loss translation; the demon is you, so the Greek title actually means that you are doing the things the demon is saying that in reality represents yourself and this is the connection with “Do What Thou Wilt”.

I see your point and I agree. So, the title has nothing to do with Aleister Crowley.
No, the album has nothing to do with Crowley.

Are there any guests in the new album?
There are some local artists and the choir from the Athens State Orchestra that I used for some parts. But there are no symphonic elements on this; we just used to choir to build a certain atmosphere. For “Cine Iubeşte şi Lasă”, with the Romanian lyrics, I worked with the Vougioukli sisters. Actually this is a Romanian curse that we sang together. I almost forgot; there is a friend of mine who played tsambouna [editor’s note: Greek traditional instrument similar to bagpipes] in the self-titled track.

How did work your way with the different languages?
I got help to sing some lyrics in the Romanian language but my parts are short so it was ok. The Latins were ok and I also did not have trouble with the Mayan one since the pronunciation is as difficult as in the Greek language.

Can we consider this album as part of a trilogy with “Theogonia” and “Aealo”?
No, I would not say that, but now that I think of this, it sounds like a good idea. But it was not intended to be part of this.

What about THOU ART LORD; is there anything planned?
We are currently working on a new album that will sound like the old days and I really hope that we will manage to do some live shows. It would be great to share the stage with Magus from NECROMANTIA and the rest of the guys.

Is there a record label and a release date set for this album?
The album will be released via the US label Nuclear War Now and I think the release date will be sometime during this summer.

Now a general question for the band; have you even thought of moving out of Greece in order to have more opportunities for ROTTING CHRIST?
I had such thoughts when I was young (around my 20s) to get the band in Germany but I am not interested in this idea anynore. After all, using the internet has minimized the distances and has opened new fields for promotion and getting in touch with metalheads all around the world. Of course, it would be very different for  the band to be in places like New York or the UK where things are happening as we speak, but still, I like Greece and the general aura of this place, even if I hate what corruption has done to this country. I am sure that things would have been different for the band if we had moved. But I have my family, my daughter and my parents here, so there are no thoughts of doing this anymore.

Yes, the situation is really ugly and we have friends telling us what is happening in Greece.
Yes, but on the other hand, I don’t like whining all the time. We have to be on the frontlines and do something about it. We cannot sit on our arses and do nothing. We have to take hold of the situation.

This is the best way to end this discussion, Sakis. Thank you for your time and I hope to see once again ROTTING CHRIST live in Chicago.
I just want to thank you for this interview and I hope that the new album will take the listeners into different places, and as always, Non Serviam!