Rotting Christ's Sakis Tolis: "I'm very happy!"

Musical curses and other fun things to make and do...

It’s close to midnight in Greece but Rotting Christ’s Sakis Tolis won’t be going to bed for quite some time; after our interview he’s got a bunch more to do but right now he’s happy to talk so I start by asking about the recently completed European tour.

“It was great! With each European tour, and with the release of the album, the band is getting more recognised; we pull more people to our shows and the reaction and feedback is getting better and better so I’m very glad about this.”

At this point he apologises for his ‘terrible English’ and his ‘very thick Mediterranean accent’ and he asks me to correct his English. No way! I tell him his English is better than my Greek and we continue our chat. Next year will be busy for Rotting Christ; you’re confirmed for Norway’s 2014 Inferno festival, there’s your first ever visit to Japan, and you’ll be touring Australia in January. A busy couple of months, yes? Sakis tells me the band will also be visiting Thailand, Russia and a whole bunch of  festivals too. “We’re quite busy after the release of the album, despite the fact that we’re very tired sometimes, I don’t have any complaints because there is a result; we’re getting good feedback and because of this I’m very happy.”

Seeing as it’s your first visit to Japan, do you have any ideas about what it will be like? “I have no idea, my friend! Japan is the only country on the planet that we’ve never received any emails from – I don’t know what’s going on there! But it seems that maybe there are some fans over there that want to see the band. As for expectations; I really don’t know!”

You’ve been touring on the new album Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy (2013); how’s that working out live? Sakis is very positive: “We’re at a point now when we play songs from the new album, people react very positively. We play the songs, they clap – so for us that means that the people really love the album and we’re really inspired to talk to their souls.”

You really started pushing your creative boundaries with Aealo (2010), and Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy continues this new direction with the use of bagpipes, female vocals, horns and pianos. Is it difficult to incorporate these elements in to the music? Sakis is brutally honest. “Yes, it’s very difficult! I’m the only composer in the band and I even compose the melodies for those weird instruments so it’s very difficult to compose and record them so I’m always searching for good musicians that play their instruments very well.” He humbly adds “In the end, I’ve been very satisfied; the result is quite OK.” – quite OK? It’s genius, my friend!

I ask about the research that Sakis conducted before starting Kata and he tells me “With the last three albums, before I even start to compose a song, first of all I have a kind of meditation because I don’t want to release any albums that sound exactly like the previous ones. It’s easy for me to just grab a guitar and start writing some riffs; it works very good for me - but the problem is, it would sound the same. I would have no surprises with the sound so with each album I try very much to have a kind of meditation. I read a lot and do a lot of historical research and then I start to write something – this is my new style of composing for the last few years.”

I heard you did quite a bit of research into Sumerian, Incan and Persian mythologies; there’s also been a bit of a comparison with Aleister Crowley’s ‘Do What Thou Wilt’ though Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy means something a bit different, yes? He’s quick to point out that “It’s not about this – that was a mistake our label did. As it happened Aleister Crowley’s ‘Do What Thou Wilt’; it’s quite similar like Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy, which in ancient Greek is something like ‘Be true to your own spirit’ or ‘Do what you want’ more or less. This is the free translation of this maxim, so this is the meaning.”

And is there any truth to the notion that the track Cine lubeste si lasa is a Romanian curse? “Exactly.” Whoo! That’s some spooky shit. Tell me more about putting a curse to music. Sakis recounts how he was at a local market and “I saw two really good singers singing this song so I went directly to them and asked them ‘Hey girls, do you want to cooperate on the new Rotting Christ album?’ (which in itself is an awesome chat-up line) and they said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know…’ but then they accepted and the result, in my opinion, is very great music. It’s a Romanian curse that I’m very glad I included on the album.”

And regarding the line-up changes; Andreas Lagios (bass) and George Bokos (guitar) are out, and George Emmanuel (guitar) and Vaggelis Karzis (bass) were in as temporary replacements. Are they permanent now? “Yes, yes; we’ve worked together for over 100 shows and it really seems that they’ll be permanent. They’re good guys; they’re very reliable and they’re doing the job very well and they have a very strong Will to keep on playing with the band.”

So after touring on Kata, what direction will you head in next? Sakis doesn’t want to think about that yet. “Oh! That’s my nightmare, my friend! That really is my nightmare! At the moment I don’t want to think about anything of it! I just enjoy the tours, and when the tours are over, I will fall down into my nightmare again! I’ll go home and lock my house up and stay in bed, looking at the ceiling for five hours and try to search myself to see if I have something to say to the people. If I feel the vibrations then I will go on with another album and new songs. But really, I don’t know about the direction – it’s my nightmare!”

And with that, I leave Sakis to do more interviews long into the Greek night.