The evolution of legendary Greek extreme band Rotting Christ continues with the new album Ritual, released last February. Far away from those black metal days in the early 90s, the Hellenic band decided to move into a more mystical sound inspired by different cultures, combining personal passion with poetry and strong family ties as the mastermind and frontman Sakis Tolis briefly chat about, before hitting the stage at their London show.
HMA: Hello Sakis and welcome back to London! How is the tour going so far?
Sakis: We’re having a good tour, lots of sold-out dates, got very good feedback from the crowd, we have a good time. Even today is busy, big cities, big troubles!
HMA: In your latest release I can see references to well-known poets such as William Blake or Charles Baudelaire, how this has been incorporated with your music?
Sakis: For me you know, I have released 11 albums in my life so I try to do something different. I try to be based more on lyrics as I read a lot. I got inspired by interesting poets and I came up with an album that is an influence to those who also read poetry. It is very poetic for me.
HMA: Nick Homes of Paradise Lost was also invited to collaborate on the William Blake’s song.
Sakis: You know something, how I came up with the song? Who from my friends can help me out? It is very important. I do that because they’re friends. Nick is a friend. Also, Vorph from Samael. When I come up with a song from William Blake I asked myself “who from my English friends could come to lift the song, help the words with their voice? Because you know, this is English poetry so the accent should fit …I asked Nick and he accepted very pleasantly. That’s what it’s all about. The same with Vorph from Samael.
HMA: What’s the common concept for the album?
Sakis: We choose the theme more or less from all around the world. We like very much the multicultural thing. We think every culture can offer you something. I’m getting deeper and deeper into the culture so I come with this album that’s kind of multicultural thoughts.
HMA: Lyric videos were released for those poetic songs, how the idea was developed?
Sakis: I think that nowadays the newcomers are more informed from the media. So I have to follow this really even if I sometimes don’t agree. But if you want to stay in 2016, you must follow the stream sometimes. I released lyrics with this new album to make the songs a little bit deeper and more understandable for people.
HMA: Yeah that’s really useful. How easy was for you to sing in French or in the Indian language?
Sakis: A little bit, my French accent is very bad, very Greek. That’s why I asked for Vorph from Samael to cooperate. For “Devadevam” I asked a local guy from Indian, Kathir of band Rudra, I sang a little bit.
HMA: Who did the cover artwork for your album? Is it Jesus on the cover?
Sakis: It is my brother Themis, his original face. That was my idea for a symbol of love. Adrien from Season of Mist did the cover, it’s a photo actually.
HMA: Speaking about your brother who you founded the band with, how difficult it was in Greece in the late 80s to come up with such an extreme group?
Sakis: It was too difficult, I couldn’t even understand how difficult it was. Sometimes when you don’t feel it, it’s better. It was hard, you know. No money, but a lot of passion which kept us alive.
HMA: I can imagine because extreme bands in Greece culture are not popular – the same in Italy, Spain…
Sakis: Exactly like in Italy, more or less
HMA: Is it different to write and play music with family?
Sakis: It’s ups and downs you know. You work with them or you have a lot of fights because it’s family, especially the Mediterranean . But they are people you can trust, it is the reason that we keep together 25 years almost 30, generally, it is very important to trust someone.
HMA: Last question, this year in South Africa you received again protests from some Christian groups about the band name and yet, at Norwegian Blastfest 2015 the Mayor of Bergen happily welcomed you. What do you think of those religious people who don’t get your band?
Sakis: Well this is life, this is the world we live in nowadays. This is the message I would like to pass: open your mind, free your mind. This is very poetic for me. Free spirits, spirits of freedom, and even if I don’t agree with you I will not destroy you. This is the spirit for me. This is the idea that I must get nowadays because worldwide, people are getting crazy. Humans are getting crazy, there is lots of hate on each other. It’s not good for our kids. No one wants a WW3 or something like that. Yes, some places like us, some don’t but we keep the spirit alive. This is why we travel around the world and play our music. It is very important. I don’t have a problem with anti-Satanists as long as they don’t bother me or whatever. Satanism is a kind of ideology. I’m open-minded enough not to worry about everything.
Interview and photos by Vixena Manu – Copyright 2016 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.