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05 Jun 2013

Rotting Christ

We are taking our seats at the PPM Festival Press Area, in Mons, Belgium. Our own Sakis Tolis from Rotting Christ is with us; it’s a bit after the band’s phenomenal appearance at the Fest and this interview is growing into a mighty interesting chat… Contemporary yet nostalgic; one of the rare interviews with a Greek artist outside Greece!

Interview by Dimitris Kazantzis and Costas Koulis.



Rockpages.gr: The new album title sounds fantastic, yet it’s a saying “attached” to Jim Morrison...

Sakis Tolis: Yes, I found out about that later, I was told about that actually… It’s an ancient Greek saying, it means “Act according to your conscience” and it happened to be written on Jim Morrison’s tomb…

Rockpages.gr: So you didn’t have a clue about that...

Sakis Tolis: No, as I told you before, I found out about it later… You know what, I really enjoy learning about Ancient Greece.

Rockpages.gr: The saying is representative of the album essence?

Sakis Tolis: I wouldn’t say it’s album representative; it’s more about the band’s philosophy.

Rockpages.gr: You have done almost everything in “Kata Ton Daimona Eautou”. Everything but playing the drums. Does collective suit you?

Sakis Tolis: I like to share in everyday life. I don’t like to do that in music though. You know, there are not many people in Greece ready to follow an idea; I’ve tried so many times and then ended up telling myself “Sakis, either you do everything yourself or else”… How many bands are in conflict? Too much democracy won’t help, when it comes to things not relevant to music and people with an idea in front of them, very few will follow. I like to share but when it’s about band or stage, very few peeps are able to follow, unfortunately.

Rockpages.gr: At the end of the day one has to make the decision...

Sakis Tolis: I really wish it wasn’t like that. I wish I could wake up one day and somebody would tell me “Hey, we are flying to Belgium tomorrow, to play at the PPM Fest.” I don’t know that many people who can actually do that. There must be three or four in Greece, not more. You know who they are, they are constantly busy, they like to work with ideas. I would be happy to wake up one day and have them arrange everything for me...

Rockpages.gr: So you have also become the agent and the manager...

Sakis Tolis: At some point you get to work with a manager; but all they keep thinking about is money. They behave like promoters. I’m not that kind of person! I grew up in the 80’s! That’s how we are. Prehistoric and romantic… I may lose a few things on the way but Ι stand proud, at least.

Rockpages.gr: This is basically a part of what a manager does; he’s supposed to find money for his partner, to secure them...

Sakis Tolis: Dude, I agree, but I’ve heard of so many weird stories… People calling other people names, demanding tons of money, losing money… Do you know how many times I had to give money back? Deals break off and… For instance, I had to refund some guy in Turkey, he’d lost a substantial amount. The guy was crying like a baby, who am I to walk away with the money? Managers care about numbers and I don’t. At all!

Rockpages.gr: The “Romanian” song, “Cine Iubeste Si Lasa”, is one of the most noticeable tracks on the album; there is this cooperation with Eleni and Souzana Vougioukli…

Sakis Tolis: Do you happen to know them?

Rockpages.gr: Not personally, however, since the song was being playing in every Live they were giving, would you like to tell us about that cooperation and what you gained by all that experience?

Sakis Tolis: Well, I love going to concerts… That particular song touched me… I want to reach out to various things in music; at some point I set my mind to cover the song. The girls knew about the band but they were a bit… scared! “What is he talking about”? I’m really happy with the result. It was big in Romania, during interviews they were all asking me about that song… You know it’s like they are Sophia Vempo’s “colleagues” to them. It created a certain fuss cuz it’s something different, the melody is different… it’s got culture in it. And we didn’t take any risks, putting it on the album, the music is rather dark, it binds with the album.

Rockpages.gr:  Was it the same story with Diamanda Galas?

Sakis Tolis: Same story, yeah. Well, Diamanda Galas is huge in music! She really had fun with it and we have kept contact since.

Rockpages.gr: People in Greece believe that Rotting Christ have accomplished to actually make a living out of music. No need to confirm whether you do that or not. I just want you to tell me if it’s possible for a new band to achieve that, especially a Greek band.

Sakis Tolis: It took us more than ten years to make a living; and we are still struggling. It takes discipline, it takes logic and passion, you can actually make it that way! Should I start now, I just wouldn’t dare! People who think that they can struggle for ten years, they are welcome to do it but… How are they gonna live? I’m not sure… We lived different times back then, the 80’s, the 90’s... we were more “solid” as a band back then… It would be tough to start now!

Rockpages.gr: Should we go back, to remember when you were starting off… You were a twenty year old kid...

Sakis Tolis: Seventeen!

Rockpages.gr: And then, that kid decided to form a band and name it Rotting Christ, which was even a cause for censorship...

Sakis Tolis: They have not heard that much of us back then… We were facing some weird situations, however there was no internet back then...

Rockpages.gr: ...there was this story with Megadeth at the time...

Sakis Tolis: Yeah, that story! Some of our shows in America were cancelled, I think it was because of some politician, some candidate… We did a live show in Portland recently and some peeps showed up, with banners and all! (laughs)

Rockpages.gr: Were your parents and people close to you giving you a hard time?

Sakis Tolis: My parents were working… My dad was working all day long at the construction field. They didn’t even notice… We were a bit more Punk then, we were enjoying going against the wave… Somebody would slap you and then you got that reaction… It was hard at the time. The police were stopping us all the time… Asking about our clothes, about our hair… We had some problems then, however, I think that we face real problems nowadays.

Rockpages.gr: The fact that you can make a living out of music… There are no limos of course but, at least, you can make ends meet.

Sakis Tolis: We couldn’t until yesterday… We can now...

Rockpages.gr: Achieved via the classic triptych “Work, work and work”?

Sakis Tolis: Yeah… I get upset sometimes, I find myself thinking about music as work… I used to consider it as work… Now I instantly let it go, especially when I’m on stage. However, there are times you gotta see like that, like work... What can we do, it’s a “give and take” thing… For instance, somebody paid you to come over here and play. Should we were living closer, we could have made some money out of this, but, in our case, transition is so expensive.

Rockpages.gr: I read that it took you four months to write the album...

Sakis Tolis: ... and one year to record and wrap it up. I was working, yet without a lot of pressure.

Rockpages.gr: What did you have in mind when you were just starting? Did it come off, as far as the album is concerned?

Sakis Tolis: It did, yeah! I took it really seriously. Everything I do, I do it seriously. I think about things, I travel a lot… I’ve been traveling since I were a kid. Thankfully I’ve got Metal music for that! I’m doing a multicultural trip, I visit the past, I like to see the history of every nation… I always did what I wanted to do, almost just like I planned it. Not 100% but very close.

Rockpages.gr: Will Rotting Christ continue to evolve? They have already gone through many stages.

Sakis Tolis: Well, the fact that there is an actual evolution in times like this is a big issue. When you’ve got such a cultural crisis at large, it’s rather big we are still here. As long as I’ve got ideas, we will be moving forward. Should ideas dry off, I’m gonna go crazy!

Rockpages.gr: Indoor festivals, like this one, usually take place in a venue with 3-5.000 people capacity. No relation with the “big festivals” outdoors, with fifty thousand people attending. What do you think about indoor festivals?

Sakis Tolis: I like them. This is one huge venue, very well organized, too. I must say I prefer the grand open air festivals though, especially when the weather is nice. I like it when it’s breezing, although it tends to rain a lot…

Rockpages.gr: Twelve studio albums. It’s a lifetime, isn’t it? They are literally your children…

Sakis Tolis: ... Are you going to make me choose?

Rockpages.gr: It’s like family, right?

Sakis Tolis: I’m glad I’ve created more than 150 songs; some of them keep people good company, which is great! Over the past few years I love giving when people say to me that what I’m giving is good. When some guy from the Amazon in Brazil is telling me so, how can I be less than happy? When people tell you that your music has helped them with their lives, then you feel you have accomplished something.

Rockpages.gr: I just have to say this… I truly believe Rotting Christ is an epic band...

Sakis Tolis: I love hearing this. We do play Heavy metal after all...

Rockpages.gr: We saw this girl outside and she told us she’s been following you to every concert you give! How does that make you feel, as a musician?

Sakis Tolis: Yes, we know her, she comes from Romania. We see familiar faces in every country we play and that’s incredible! We have a beer together, we chat a bit and time flies pleasantly. It’s so much fun for us cuz we have all those things prior to a concert; airports, trains, schedules… Then such good times come along and you forget everything else!

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