ReScene: Star Scene: Sakis Tolis ~ ROTTING CHRIST (GR)

Rotting Christ (GR) are finally back on Australian soil this week with Jungle Rot (USA) making their Aussie debut for the first time in 30 years!

Most shows are now sold out – an extra show has been announced at the Gaso on Monday 6th May 2024.

Check out Mary Boukouvalas’ interview with Sakis Tolis from 2013.

Ahead of their Australian tour, headlining Heavyfest, and with their latest release Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού (Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy), Rotting Christ’s Sakis Tolis shepherds Mary Boukouvalas  on a musical, lyrical and spiritual journey through ancient mythology and culture.

Hi Sakis. How are you?

A little bit busy because I have important shows down here in Europe but I am okay, I am still alive. You?

I am well thanks. So what tours have you got on at the moment?

We are in the middle of a worldwide tour. We are playing shows all around the world and because of the fact that I personally book the shows because we don’t have any managers or stuff like that so you can understand things are very busy.

That is amazing you find the time to do all that.

It’s hard but I have dedicated my life for what I call my preaching, my music. I do my best in order to provide a proper reaction to the people so I am quite an old school guy I grew up with the motto: do it yourself.  And I would also like to be fair with the fans, and to be honest with them.

It’s interesting that you associate preaching with music, especially when you have the name Rotting Christ. Anything to do with religion?

We are a band that believe all religions around the world are rotting. Nothing about personal belief. We have problems with, we don’t like, the organised religions. We formed the band back in the 80s when religion was stronger than it is nowadays. Now religion is not so much a big problem worldwide. We took the name because we were kind of rebelling we were trying to show our opposition to the Greek religion. And even nowadays, despite the fact that we do have bigger problems worldwide, we keep the name because we do believe that religions are still rotten.

You are preaching to the converted. Your fans probably all agree with you but it must be hard trying to get your message out to these organised religions.

You’re right but you have to mention we don’t have any problems about your beliefs, you can believe in anything you want. We have a problem with organised religion and when they try to exploit.

Going right down to the beginning, you mentioned the 80s – how did you form Rotting Christ and how did they first receive you in Greece?

It was very difficult back then, especially in the 80s, metal was not that popular, metal was a special style of metal we used to play. We were some friends who were trying to discover new worlds, the new world of black metal, we were trying to find people who shared the same musical tastes so we grabbed one guitar, we were very poor even to buy one guitar, we started to play just for fun. We tried to sound like our idols back then, like Bathory and Venom. Which were great bands. Our goal was to play one show and now we are very satisfied to say we can celebrate our 1000th show. That’s 25 years on the road Mary.

That’s amazing. Not many bands can say that. If you had to give advice to new bands, how would you say you survived all these years?

Don’t have a goal to be a rock star or just to be famous. Music dedication is all you need. If fame comes let it come but don’t try. The people can understand, they can feel the vibe. If you want to be famous, if you want to expose your vanity through music, sooner or later this will be obvious to the fans. So just play your music, be true to yourself, and time will show if you deserve to do something more.

Great advice. Well out of your one thousand shows, what has been one of your best shows. Could you pinpoint a moment when you had a realisation that: yes, this is my life, this is where I want to be?

South America. South America is always a highlight. For me playing shows around the world is a very good experience; it is the school of life. You see so many cultures, so many people worldwide, with one common thing: metal. We share the same musical taste, we dress in the same dress style. Metal is a worldwide phenomenon. It creates its own world and we are very lucky and we are very proud and pleased that we can put a Greek band in this building called metal.

And even in a conservative greek community, I can say your name to someone and they won’t think Saki Rouvas rather than Saki Tolis.

I  know. The difference is that Sakis Rouvas’ main pull is from Greeks whereas we pull from everywhere around the world.

It’s about the music not the nationality.  How does that translate with the new album Κατά Τον Δαίμονα Εαυτού (Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy – translated as Do What Thou Wilt or True To His Own Spirit?

It’s multicultural. I am a traveller. Since I think of myself I am a traveller, I say let us create a mix of everything I have seen in my life, not a political album or an album that is based on every-day life, but an album that has elements from many cultures from everywhere I have travelled. You can find elements from Maya to Inca to Ancient Greece, from Romania from Transylvania from Slavs from everywhere around the world so I decided to make this kind of album to express a more multicultural option about the band.

You mentioned Romania, you have one cover on this album, why did you actually choose to cover that particular Romanian song?

I saw the song performed at a local show by the Vioukoukli sisters. I was really fascinated and after the show, I asked them if they would be interested in making a cover. In the beginning they were very surprised but in the end we came up with a beautiful song that transcends, and I adapted into metal, it was classical. It was a very good result, worldwide.

Beautiful, haunting.  You also use bagpipes and horns on this new album. Bagpipes? How did that come about?

A Greek element in this album. Not just Scottish but it is also ancient Greek. George Nikas played the bagpipes for us.  He is involved with ancient Greek music and he used the same instrument that was used more than 2000 years ago – the tsabouna.

You recorded this new album in Sweden Jens Borgen who has worked with Opeth and Katatonia. What was that like?

We actually recorded in Athens. It was mixed and mastered in Sweden. It was very expensive for us but we worked with the best sound engineer.

It is a great production. What about the lyrics – are they reflective of your life at all?

Not that much. When I write lyrics I escape from this world. I am very political, I follow politics because that reflects my life but on the other hand, I don’t want to write about politics because it is very flat. You cannot express your deep feelings with these flat things. So when I write they have nothing to do with everyday life. Okay maybe they have a little bit but not that much.

What inspired your lyrics?

When I want to get influence I turn out the lights and I close my eyes and I talk with myself. I read a lot. I like to read very much.

What do you read?  What are you reading at the moment?

Historical things. I like to read about ancient history, and modern history. Through this I am inspired. I write about the Mayas and the Incas, about ancient gods, for example last year I wrote a song about the other world gods of ancient Mayas. I did the same for the Romanian song. I did the same with the last song: ΧΞΣ (666) about the apocalypse of St John. That is more or less my influences.

Was there any one song that was more challenging or rewarding than the others?

I like all the songs. I feel they are like my kids. I write all the music; all the songs. I am the main and only composer unfortunately.

Why unfortunately? It would be a totally different album otherwise. Do you miss having someone to work with?

No I work alone. I am this kind of person. I like to be with people but when it’s about music, unfortunately I don’t like music when I am happy or I am being social. So I get out of this world somehow, from everyday life, and try to create something.

What is it like in Greece these days when you compare it to 5 or 6 years ago?

It is hard now.  Not like it was 5 or 10 years ago. With this financial crisis, this sudden financial crisis.

And what about this fascist group? That just shocks me.

You know when people don’t have money, they go extreme. To the extreme right.  Every world war there is always a financial crisis before this. People are getting crazy and of course choosing extreme things. They try to find someone they can lean on. Humanity is not that fair. The difference between the rich and poor. Sooner or later you will see more examples like Greece. Not only Europe, worldwide.  Every country owes money but owes money to whom? To aliens? To whom? I don’t want other countries to suffer like we are. Sooner or later we will recover because we are Greeks so I don’t think the financial crisis will destroy us.

I know we are running out of time but before I let you go, I know it is going back a few years bit I was surprised that Dave Mustaine threatened to pull out because of a festival in Greece due to the name of your band. How did you feel about that?

I have no comment. I was really upset.

It defeats the purpose of what the music is supposed to stand for.

Metal ideas are against conservative society. I cannot accept that someone that has become famous through metal music can react like this. Maybe he saw the light, but I think maybe he saw the Middle Ages, if you censor someone, if you don’t allow someone to express his opinion, then that is the dark ages, it is not the light.

You spoke about touring earlier. Are there any interesting stories you could tell us even though you really shouldn’t?

You know something I have so many, maybe I should write a book about this.

I’d definitely read it. Finally, what did you think of your last visit to Australia?

For every musician, Australia is a type of goal. Australia is the most isolated place. It is very far away from where we live. Maybe we are far away but anyway. It is something exotic. In Australia we met a lot of Greek people, we met a lot of Europeans, we felt like we were in Europe. More or less we had a really good time and we felt very familiar with how life was over there. So we really look forward to being back.

What can audiences expect from Rotting Christ at Heavyfest in Australia?

We will do our best to try to make the fans journey into the other world with very atmospheric songs and very aggressive too so what you will feel is the energy and we hope to provide you with that journey.

Great. Thanks Sakis. I better let you get to rehearsal. Thank you for your time. See you at the Hifi Bar in Melbourne.

Thank you Mary. Bye.

First printed

About Mary Boukouvalas 1612 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos,,,, She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.

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