ROTTING CHRIST: “Art should be extreme in order to pass messages to the world”
This fall Greek black metallers ROTTING CHRIST are coming to the Baltic States for the first time. The long awaited show in one of them, Lithuania, is due on September 4th. That was the reason for me to ask the leader of the band, singer and guitarist, Sakis a couple of questions about everything. So here you are…
Liuzeris: Hi there, Sakis. I must say, personally I am really waiting for your show in Vilnius. I’m sure quite a huge bunch of metalheads are doing the same here. So tell us how did you come up with the idea of touring in the Baltic States? You’ve never been in any of these countries, right? Do you feel excited to explore the new metal grounds?
Sakis: Yes, my friend, we are all fascinated with the idea of touring in your land. We have toured in more or less the entire globe but we didn’t happen to play in any of the three Baltic countries. So I look forward this September to meet people that share the same ideas.
Liuzeris: Well, there goes my traditional question that none can escape. What is your background on Lithuania? Have you ever heard anything about this country as well as its metal scene?
Sakis: Being involved in the underground since the late 80’s, I can say that I received some demos from Lithuanian bands back in early 90’s but sorry, I cannot remember their names right now. I remember receiving letters from your land and being always questioning myself what is really going on in Lithuania. The time has come now to see, and I hope to hear as many bands as possible during our stay in your land.
Liuzeris: By the way, last year there were rumours here about ROTTING CHRIST tour in the Baltic States. However, many of your fans were disappointed to learn the opposite. What happened? Have you had anything to do with this tour planning, anyway?
Sakis: Baltic countries were constantly in our tour plans but, without knowing why, something went always wrong. You know, some little paperwork shit can damage the whole show. Now everything rolls well with Sergej [leader of Latvian deathers NEGLECTED FIELDS – Liuzeris] and I am proud to say that Baltic countries is the place where we will begin the worldwide tour lasting more than 3 months.
Liuzeris: Maybe you can share with us your playlist for the upcoming gig in Vilnius? Will it contain the material mostly from your last release “Sanctus Diavolos” or will it be more or less the mix of all albums?
Sakis: It is always hard to create a proper set list, a set list that can satisfy the two generations of ROTTING CHRIST fans but our set list always includes as many songs as possible from our past and, of course, from our last albums.
Liuzeris: Ok, I guess that’s enough of Lithuania-oriented questions for a moment. Let’s talk about your latest release “Sanctus Diavolos”. I bet you receive a lot of questions about it. Compliments, I’m sure, go as well. Anyway, I have to ask – how do you judge this album yourself? How does it stand among other records of ROTTING CHRIST?
Sakis: “Sanctus Diavolos” was our 8th album in our career, and it stands as a back-to-the-roots album. Ok, it does not sound like “Thy Mighty Contract” but the whole atmosphere returns you back to the early 90′s. Of course, there are still the well-established ROTTING CHRIST melodies but the feeling as I told you is old-schoolish. In my opinion, it is the darkest album we have created as a band, and it is a step forward in our career.
Liuzeris: What’s next? As you said you’re touring a lot this fall but you know you will have to get back to studio someday. Do you imagine your next album? Maybe you’re somehow already working on it?
Sakis: Yes, you just worry the same as we were worrying last night with the rest of Rotting guys – when will we be able to enter the studio during so many shows and find time to write something new?! I do not disguise from you that we haven’t been composing a single song due to the number of shows we had in “Sanctus Diavolos” tour and that is something that is annoying us. We are also in the process of changing the label as our 6-album contract with Century Media has expired. So the release of a new album is a kind of stressing thing, and putting all the stress away we will be concentrated on live shows as it is important for a band to spread its music all around the globe and to meet metal brothers. So we postponed the idea of releasing something new for the time being. As for how it will sound, I am sure that it will sound Rotting Christish and more aggressive than ever. I told you, ROTTING CHRIST are back to the roots.
Liuzeris: Oh, I remembered I’ve read somewhere that you mentioned you don’t like many strangers to be involved in making ROTTING CHRIST albums. You did the most of the job on “Khronos” and “Sanctus Diavolos” and, I guess, in future you will try to keep it that way. But still, don’t you think other people could help you with fresh ideas?
Sakis: I am more or less taking care of all the things that have to do with ROTTING CHRIST – writing music, lyrics, booking shows, etc. As I cooperated with people in the past, I cannot say that they could touch the ROTTING CHRIST feeling. Unfortunately, I am the only person that can touch this feeling and as ROTTING CHRIST should remain ROTTING CHRIST I am responsible for all the things. Of course, the rest of the band members help a lot and refresh me with ideas but as they have other jobs they have little time. So I am the only person responsible!
Liuzeris: You’re the main writer of ROTTING CHRIST songs. However, can you describe how the whole process of new songs’ creation is going on in the band? You come to rehearsal with a new riff and..?
Sakis: Writing a new song is a kind of a liturgy process, a kind of magic for me taking too much time, I face it really seriously. It is not like grabbing the guitar and writing a couple of riffs and then rehearsing and then asking the other guitarist to put his riffs and blah blah blah… A song should have the beginning, the middle and the end, it must represent part of yourself, part of your hidden personality. So first I think of the idea for a couple of days. Then I do imagine how all the instruments would participate and then I grab the guitar. After a couple of days I might have a new song ready. Then we do rehearse with the rest of the guys in the band and they tell me their ideas.
Liuzeris: As far as I know you’re working as a producer in your homeland Greece. Is it the professional career or just an idea thing?
Sakis: When I have time, I do work as a producer cooperating with new Greek bands. This is something that I do not do very professionally because of the lack of time but this is something that I would love to do in the future.
Liuzeris: By the way, returning to the ‘to-be’ topic. Can you picture your future after the musician’s career is finished? Or maybe you’re gonna rock like Ozzy?
Sakis: Being Ozzy?! No, my friend, this is not my goal and, of course, it is impossible
as I am part of the black metal scene and I want to finish my career proudly. The word proud is really important for me and that is what I want to achieve with my band. How do I picture myself? Hmm… nothing special I guess. Maybe a normal life, maybe a cool life away from big cities? I do not really know. The only thing I am sure is that I will be still a metalhead!
Liuzeris: Ok, let’s talk a bit about the Greek underground. You’re from the south of Europe and it’s not very famous with the metal bands (well, Lithuania also isn’t). SEPTIC FLESH (rip), NECROMANTIA and ROTTING CHRIST are the main names of Greek metal. But I’m sure there are many more bands out there. What is your relationship with them? Is it friendship or envy? Do you take the younger bands from Greece on tours or help them to reach the world in any other way?
Sakis: We grew up through that scene and we always feel like helping the new-comers down here that are so many. Bands like RAVENCULT, NAER MARTARON, DIVA, NOCTUA, ENTROPIA are doing a really significant work and are worth paying attention.
Liuzeris: Are ROTTING CHRIST considered as the stars and national pride in Greece? Are band members recognized in streets or is this band just a totally underground thing?
Sakis: ROTTING CHRIST were recognised and treated well much later than the recognition that came abroad. So now I can say that the band is famous down here (ok, not a mainstream thing but we are always talking about underground movement) and, yes, it is recognised by the metalheads, the number of which is rather big down here.
Liuzeris: By the way, what do you think about the black metal bands that have gained marvellous popularity in the whole world, including US? I’m talking about DIMMU BORGIR and CRADLE OF FILTH. Would you like ROTTING CHRIST to be in their shoes? Or is it just a shameful mainstream for you?
Sakis: I do not think that a band that is called ROTTING CHRIST could ever be that famous and it is not our goal, my friend. Black metal is a music movement, an extreme movement that is a punch to any kind of social status, and, if it becomes famous and well accepted worldwide, then two things have happened – either a band has lost its identity or the world has changed. As I think that the world may not change quickly, then I believe the band loses its identity. Now knowing both bands I can say that I like their music, and all this boom happened without their knowledge – it just happened.
Liuzeris: As I’ve read you started as death grinders back in late 80′s but then switched to black metal. Why did you choose black metal?
Sakis: Maybe it was the dark well-hidden emotion that I discovered when I first listened to HELLHAMMER or BATHORY!
Liuzeris: How do you feel about the most melodic albums of ROTTING CHRIST – “A Dead Poem” and “Sleep Of The Angels”? After “Sleep…” you’ve got back on a black metal vibe again though. So what’s up with those two and that logo changing stuff?
Sakis: Everyone in his career has the right to experiment a little, something that we did with the “A Dead Poem” and “Sleep Of The Angels”. Both albums express our musical taste of that time that was more into heavy metal music and, as it has not to do that many things with our previous albums and history, we changed our logo. We do not regret these two albums because they still sound like ROTTING CHRIST and represent part of ourselves back then.
Liuzeris: It’s true to say that ROTTING CHRIST has created its own melodic black metal style but, still, are there any bands that influence (or did) the music you create?
Sakis: Maybe yes but this is something that only you can answer.
Liuzeris: No doubt, you’ve chosen a shocking band name. How have you come up with the idea of “rotting christ”? Have you ever had any problems with this name in your country or in other countries that you’ve toured? I know that you’re not in to that satanic bullshit but still your lyrics and the name of the band…
Sakis: Of course, we have faced many problems here and there in the past. Problems exist till now. Some of our shows have been cancelled, some of our albums have not been distributed and we have seen our faces even in channels because of our name! Anyway we consider black metal as a punch to any conservative idea, a punch to any religious pseudo-moral ideology and we believe that religions are rotting worldwide. Art should be extreme in order to pass messages to the world.
Liuzeris: Could you identify the most remarkable show in your career? Which country’s metalheads are the biggest fans of ROTTING CHRIST in your opinion?
Sakis: We always receive better response when we play in the south but I do not mean that we do not have good response in other countries. For instance, our shows in South America will always stand as remarkable.
Liuzeris: A short but a hard one. What is your favourite song of ROTTING CHRIST? Personally.
Sakis: Yes, a really hard one, and unfortunately I cannot give an answer to it because the word “favourite” or “the best” doesn’t exist when I have to do with composing! It always depends on what you wanna listen, in which mood you are, and with Rotting Christ we have plenty of variety to satisfy you.
Liuzeris: As a true Lithuanian beer drinker I must ask you a tough question – what is your relationship with alcohol?
Sakis: Not that good really! I quitted alcohol for the last 4 years due to health problems but that doesn’t mean that I will not taste the local Lithuanian beer!
Liuzeris: And finally, any last words to your Lithuanian fans?
Sakis: We really look forward to our show in Vilnius to send back the respect you have given to the band since the beginning! Horns up brothers and sisters!
Liuzeris: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Waiting for ROTTING CHRIST show in Vilnius. Take care!