Rotting Christ - Sakis Tolis

ROTTING CHRIST is not an ordinary band but is a solid proof of what can one achieve through hard work and uncompromising dedication. Frontman / mastermind Sakis has been running this band for almost three decades and still forges ahead with the sole purpose to satisfy those who are supporting ROTTING CHRIST. METAL KAOZ got the chance to speak to Sakis at the right time; after he had completed working on the new album which has been announced to be titled “Rituals”. So, in the context of the “Lucifer Over Athens” live album, we learned all the latest news and then watered our appetite for some Black Metal made by ROTTING CHRIST. Check out the discussion below and keep the Metal flame burning.

Rotting Christ - Sakis Tolis

Hello Sakis, we are so happy to have you back in METAL KAOZ. How are you?
I am good, Dimitris bu I am also tired.

I can only imagine…
Yeah, you have to have a really vivid imagination! This summer was really busy for me; first, we had a new member in the family, then there were festivals and, of course, the new album.

First of all, congratulations on having a second child; I wish the best to your family!
Thank you, my friend.

Well, it seems that we have lots to discuss, so let’s start right away. Let me ask you first, how is the situation in Greece?
It’s bad but, you know what, I like to keep my head up, especially when I am traveling abroad. I have been on the road for twenty years and I haven’t stolen from anyone and, in fact, I have given away money by not getting what we have agreed for a show or a festival whenever there were economic difficulties. What I am trying to say is that the name you're carrying and your posthumous fame matter more than any amount of money.

Recently ROTTING CHRIST played in Norway with whom Greece had some issues; so, did people approach you to talk about this?
Of course, people are concerned and ask questions because today it’s Greece and tomorrow, who knows, it may be them. Every country owns crazy amounts of money...

Yes, it is that debt which none of us really knows who made it this big.
Exactly; it’s a global thing, although I think Greece may be a victim. Anyways, I am still fighting and trying to do the best in music because this is the thing I know to do.

Talking about music, how difficult things have become running a band, especially now that you have a new member in your family?
Of course, it has become more difficult but if you follow your schedule and keep fighting, you can find how you can make things work; you can make lifestyle changes and, trust me, some of them are good for you, like drinking less (laughs). I believe that if you love doing something, then you’ll find a way. I really love making music and I am lucky to be doing this for 27 years.

And this is why you released the live album, right?
Indeed, after all these years ROTTING CHRIST just had to release an official live album.

How much work did you put in the studio, working on the live recordings? I mean, we know that sometimes bands rework or even re-record parts to make the final result sound better.
Well, we mixed the sound to make the recording better presentable. I mean, we cleaned some of the frequencies to make it sound like it was done in the studio. But I am not talking about changing the parts that we played; I’d say we cleaned the sound to make the audio better. We had an issue with the vocals and the sound of the audience, so we had to adjust the volume, something that I didn’t really like but, trust me, there was no alternative. We worked hard to make it a proper recording and not something like a bootleg because we already have lots of them.

Did you think of maybe talking in English in between songs?
I was thinking about it the entire night before the show and I couldn’t make up my mind. But it seemed to me kind of strange speaking in English while playing live at my hometown.

Of course, but at the same time this is an album that will reach more people and not only Greek speaking fans.
I understand what you’re saying and you are right but still, it would have been very strange for me.

Although it sounds kind of old-school and really special.
Yeah, and if you tie this to how we have been using different languages on our albums, I think the ROTTING CHRIST fans are kind of used of this.

Did you get any video footage from those shows that you plan to release?
We did film parts of the shows but unfortunately I didn’t like the quality, so we won’t be releasing any video from “Lucifer Over Athens”.

Understood. So let’s talk about the upcoming US shows; to be honest, I was surprised seeing ROTTING CHRIST in November since you have told me that you are not doing so well with the bitter cold and the snow (laughs)….
There will be no snow when we will be there, right?

Well, I cannot be certain but I think here in Chicago you may see some.
It was an opportunity for us, since ROTTING CHRIST have not been in the US for four years now. And the reasons for this are mainly economic because, let’s face it, it’s extremely expensive to do a US tour. I mean, getting working visas can cost as much as 2000 bucks per person. Anyways, the billing of this tour is great and we know the bands; in fact, they asked us personally to join them, so we said “why not?”

Good for us, Sakis because it’s been a while. Can we call the new guys in the lineup as session or full-time members?
Let me say this; I hope they will stay in ROTTING CHRIST forever. We have become a really good team and people say that right now the band is in its best form when playing live. I mean, the response to our live shows was more than just positive, something that we did not expect, to be honest.

Do you see this lineup contributing to the making of a ROTTING CHRIST album?
Well, to be honest and as you most probably know, I am writing all the music on my own.

Yeah, I know but I thought to ask.
Of course, they help a lot when the band is doing shows. We choose the songs together and what you see live is the result of all of us working as a team. But as far as the music-writing goes, it’s just me.

And at what stage is the making of the new album?
I have just finished recording the entire album and I will soon go to Sweden to do the mixing with Jens Borgen. Jens is a great producer; he is expensive but he is worth every penny. I have been working on the album for four months.

How many songs are we talking about?
I wrote around 25 and I ended up with 11 for the album. This procedure started two years ago with me trying to get away from reality and get inspired. There will be ten songs in the album, plus a bonus.

Will there be any surprises in terms of the musical instruments you used?
I’d say there will be many guest appearances from friends from other bands and expect to hear many languages again. I’d say this album will be darker and more Satanic than ever before. It will be more ritualistic I’d say. Think of a darker edition of the last album.

This sounds most interesting! What about the song titles, have you decided about them?
No, this will be done after the mixing.

And when will you write the lyrics?
The lyrics are already done. I am writing lyrics as the music is being recorded. I am studying, thinking and philosophizing a bit and I have to say this time it was the toughest thing to do considering the situation in Greece. I mean, it’s really difficult to escape from this reality and write lyrics. But I managed to pull it though with blood and sweat. It pains me when I say this, but it’s the truth.

Of course, it is hard being creative when reality is so difficult. What will you ask from Jens to do?
I am giving him all the freedom to do what he wants and the only reason to go to Sweden is to increase the volume in some parts that I want for every song. You should expect lots of percussion, dynamics and many voices. The result is really mystical and, in fact, you are the first person hearing this because, like I said, I just finished the album. I am sure we can do another interview after the album has been completed.

I’d be more than happy to do this, Sakis! What was the deal with the excerpt of “Apage Satana”? How did you use it?
This is part of an exorcism from the Orthodox tradition, so I used this to make it into a song. I had the idea to use many voices and asked the fans to contribute. It will be like listening to people in a stadium.

Like listening to an entire legion, right?
Yeah, something like that. Although, it is not an actual song; it’s like an interlude or maybe I should say, an exorcism.

How many recordings did you receive?
Lots of them!

Well, how many of these were worth to use in the album?
Not that many, because some used their cell phones to record, some were just screaming, other were saying it the wrong way and so on. But there was lots of worthy material and, in fact, I am still receiving files.

I hope with all these exorcisms, we won't draw all the demons out from ROTTING CHRIST... (laughs)
No, we won’t (laughs). Sometimes I use stuff like that to enhance the theatrics in music and build a specific atmosphere. There is a ritualistic atmosphere in the album, so I wanted to add something from the Orthodox tradition.

I’ll change a little bit the subject but still be relevant to the economics; nowadays some bands are choosing the crowdfunding path to make an album; have you thought about this at all?
No, I have not done this and I will not do it ever. I don’t like asking for money; I surely ask for people’s contribution and involvement during live shows but not for their money. I am not saying that there is no need for money because there is, but I want to keep ROTTING CHRIST out of this. Of course and I understand and respect the people who are doing this but this will never happen for this band. I want to underline that I am not saying that people who are doing this don’t have their reasons but I believe ROTTING CHRIST already have the support of those who buy our music and merchandise and come to our shows. They are the ones who have kept the band going. I have no interest in becoming rich through ROTTING CHRIST.

I absolutely understand your saying. So, what’s the plan after the US live dates?
We will work on finalizing the album; preparing the artwork and so on.

When should we be expecting the tour to support the new album?
The last two years or so we have been playing only in festivals and on weekend shows. We have stopped doing big tours because they have become too tiring but at the same time we have been playing every weekend. And this has helped the band a lot because we are not playing any more on let’s say a Monday at a small village. Of course, and I don’t have a problem of doing such small shows, but you see what I am saying.

Yes, I totally understand, although I was hoping to get from you that you will return in the US in 2016 with the new album.
Since we have the US working visas, we will get back in the States. And I hope we will have a good response from the US fans and do more for this country which we have neglected a bit.

Although thinking that you have a second child, traveling for a long time can be even harder.
Oh my, yes, it is very hard and to be honest I’d prefer to play music from my home. After all, we are not getting any younger and certainly we are no longer party-animals.

So, have you ever thought of stop doing shows and become a studio musician?
No way! I have realized that I am addicted to playing live. I have done probably more than 1000 live shows and despite all the difficulties and the troubles related, I cannot imagine myself not playing in front of an audience. Most probably I will become depressed. The smile one has while being in a live show is the most rewarding experience and honor for me. I will continue doing this as long as I can.

And these are the perfect words to end this most interesting interview! Thank you very much, Sakis for taking the time to speak to METAL KAOZ, and see you soon in Chicago!
Thank you for your interest, Dimitris and yes, let’s meet in Chicago and have a beer.