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Sakis Tolis Rotting Christ - Interview
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Rotting Christ

Greek black metal band Rotting Christ has certainly caused some controversy over the years, with even Megadeth's Dave Mustaine refusing to do shows with them and religious groups attacking the band over the satanic imagery that the band invoke. But despite all that, the band stay true to their sound and music, never compromising and always being completely honest with what they believe in. Their latest album "Rituals" is considered some of their best work yet and Steve had a few words with the founding member, Sakis Tolis, to discuss the songs and the band's ever evolving sound.



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It's still early in the year but given the pending album release of "Rituals", it's expected that a tour will follow.
Sakis: We have a tour that starts right after the release of the new album. As always as a band, with every new album release, there is a worldwide tour right after and hopefully tour to Australia.

Quickly moving on to the new album "Rituals", there is a lot of interesting aspects to the album, of which the collaboration with Paradise Lost vocalist Nick Holmes stood out. His part on the album features a spoken word part in the track "A Voice Like Thunder" which Sakis briefly mentions how Nick got involved.
Sakis: For me it's very important to have a friend of mine as a guest in my band. So we came up with this song and we said, 'Alright, who can do this and read this [part]', so I just called Nick and accepted it and came up in a song as a guest for this album.

Despite the band taking on influences from early extreme metal bands, Rotting Christ have carved themselves their own sound over the years but during any writing process, it may be difficult to not be influenced by something outside of the band.
Sakis: I can't say that I'm more influenced by myself now, I don't have any special influences. Of course I started being influenced from my own gods like Bathory, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Venom. That was my main influences back in the day but now that I think about it, I'm creatng my own sound and not much from influences. Of course there are still some Celtic Frost influences but I try to keep my own style and the established sound that I created.

Lyrically Sakis always tries to write from the heart and on "Rituals", it's pretty clear that it's an important aspect of the band's music. The process of forming words to go with a piece of music is always an interesting kind of creativity and everyone has their own way of doing it.
Sakis: First I talk with myself, then have a kind of inspiration, then I write the lyrics and come up with something new and then I take the guitar and write a new song. I'm already glad that the last album from the band is being considered as the best so far so I think this new one is very important, in order to create something more unique and more true to your own spirit.

Rotting Christ first formed in 1987 and it was a few years of demo releases and EP's before the band's debut album "Passage to Arcturo" was first released in 1991. After almost 30 years and with a number of members come and go, the band are still going strong which as Sakis points out, comes down to a passion for the music.
Sakis: The key to that long cooperation is me and my brother in the band, we are the only members that are still in the band since the beginning in the late 80's. Of course the dedication to this thing and to consider what you are doing is the most precious thing in our lives so for us it's a very serious matter and to have plans to do that have kept us from the battle fields in our lives. As long as we are strong in our health, then we go on playing with the band, this is all good!

Over the years, the band's sound has changed, incorporating many influences and styles but always staying within the extreme metal world. Beginning more as a grindcore band back in the early days before helping to create the classic Greek black metal sound that helped define the band, they have since jumped into other genres that borrow elements from gothic, industrial and doom.
Sakis: I think we still keep our established melodies and trademark sound through the years. In my opinion, Rotting Christ has evolved from the more dark and occult stuff, we started as a black metal band and then became more heavy metal stuff. On the last 3 or 4 albums we mixed it up as a band with our sound and create albums that are more dark so I think now with the last album, it's more constant.

Longevity and an ever increasing back catalogue means more songs which can also make putting together a setlist for a tour more and more difficult as the years go on. But there are positives to it too.
Sakis: Oh it's a kind of nightmare! We have something like 200 songs, it's a nightmare to choose for a setlist. But because of the fact that we have too many songs, often we are doing some special songs. Like for instance, some shows we will play songs from the first 3 or 4 albums. But more or less we try to mix our setlist, all the songs we have created are meant to get some time for the fans out there.

Out of all those songs though, there must be a favorite to play live.
Sakis: Every time we play the song "Non Serviam", people get crazy and Non Servium for us is a very important sentence.

Going on from influences, it's always interesting to hear artists say what they are listening to and whether they are influenced by them in any way. Are there any new albums to look forward to right now?
Sakis: I don't know which bands which have some anticipated albums, like maybe something from Satyricon, something from Darkthrone so I look forward to hearing something from these bands. But I don't know when they are going to release but I would think they are going to release something soon. So I look forward not only from these bands from many other bands like Behemoth whose last album was really good.
I follow the scene, I listen to a lot of underground bands as much as I can. I currently listen to Watain as I think they are really great music and of course I follow some local scenes to find new bands. Despite the fact that our band is not that underground now, I follow the underground scene because for me, it's very important to listen to something from newcomers. I still feel underground and the most underground music I listen to comes from this kind of music.

The frontman of Rotting Christ also has another band called Thou Art Lord which he does on the side. Their last album "The Regal Pulse of Lucifer" was released in 2013 so we asked if there were any plans to write new material for that band.
Sakis: Yes I have a side project called Thou Art Lord and it's a band that's just for fun. We really don't have plans because every member has their own bands but for us it's kind of a psychotherapy. We don't have any schedules or any deadlines which is for us, very important so maybe something later in the year. But nothing is planned and that is what we enjoy about the band, doing exactly what we want without any deadlines.

Heading back to touring again, we ask Sakis for any last words before the band return to the road and if Australia will be included on their travels.
Sakis: We hope our new album "Rituals" will poke your soul! I think we have created a very soulful album, a very dark, atmospheric, occult album and hope this album will get to your soul. Hopefully we can get back to Australia and play a couple of shows for you so until next time, be true to your own spirit and keep the spirit alive.

Interview by Steve Monaghan on January 29th 2016