Interviews : Rotting Christ
The vocalist and songwriter of a band of this style, it would be thought, would have to have an ego the size of Paris Hilton's cooch after a night on the town with two zebras and an elephant.
But, as with so many of the men in metal, this is not the case. Sakis is man who radiates a disarming amount of magnanimity, a man seemingly as eager to meet and talk to fans as they are to meet him. Thoughtful and well-spoken would be added to the list of accurate adjectives, but the one defining characteristic of this man would be his remarkable dedication not only to the songwriting and performing aspects of the band, but the managing and planning as well. With a calm assuredness, Sakis awaited my questions.
Now you guys have always been somewhat of a fascinating band in that you play in an extreme style, you have such extreme views, and such an extreme name, and yet you don't go for the whole "play as fast as you can as loud as you can, all the time," that makes in interesting.
Yes. We try to keep our own style. When we started up we were the same, we don't want to follow the trend to play something like, for example, blastbeats, because that's what all of the other bands do that! I'm not that kind of person. I come from a scene that was born in the late '80's, early '90's, and I had my own ideology, and my goal is always to not follow the trend. We try to keep our sound as unique as possible, and it's up to you (the fans) to agree as to whether it's correct or not.
It's not a matter of correct; it's what works for you guys. It works well for you.
Yes, everyone says that. I'm proud of this.
It seems to be the general consensus, because you've been doing this for so long, and you manage to keep it fresh.
Yes, that's very strange, it's very weird, and it's very difficult. It's very difficult because the more I grow up, the more difficult it is to find the time to compose new songs and keep the sound of the band fresh. You know, you grow up, you've got too many things to take care of with your life, you have kids, you have to pay your bills, and sometimes you don't work artistically. Sometimes, when I was younger, I could lay down in my room and play my guitar for ten hours, that's something that I cannot do now.
How much of an influence is the culture of Greece to your music?
There is influence, I think. Maybe I don't feel it, but deep inside there is Greek culture in us and Greek culture in our mentality as people, that may be the reason that we play black metal, but not the usual black metal.
What's the plan for the band after the tour?
We have a couple of other shows in South America, some festivals, and then finally I will find the time to compose some new stuff, and that will be very difficult for me, because, as I told you before, I don't have a lot of free time now. But I have to be concentrated a lot. With our last album we have had too many good reviews, and I'm very stressed now to make the next step forward, because it's so difficult. So I'll write songs, and then we'll record the new songs, then, of course, on the road.
So do you write on the road at all?
No. No, I can't. I can't. I have to be in a specific situation to compose something.
When you got started, did you think you'd be where you are today?
No way. If you started with a dream like this, or a goal like this, then you're not a musician. When I started up, my first goal was to buy a guitar. I didn't have enough money to buy a guitar so I stole one. (laughs) It's true, I was a fool back then. The next goal was just to sound like your idols, like Bathory, like Celtic Frost, all of the bands that have influenced me. And then, you know, the more you play, the more your goals become bigger and bigger. But when I started up, my first goal was to sound like my idols, nothing more. Maybe play like one song onstage. That's all. And that's very bad for the new generation, the new kids that come onto the scene, sometimes they think that they would like to reach the top at once. That's very bad, if only because you're not a musician. You don't create art. You want to create art; you must sacrifice many things in your life. And music, as you know, is not the easiest way.
Was there a time that things turned, and you felt that you could be a professional musician, as opposed to someone that plays music as a hobby?
I always think music is a hobby. But it happens that sometimes I get paid for that, after ten years on the road, you make some money. But music is my hobby, I can escape with my music from everyday life. That, for me, is the best goal. Music is the best friend that I could ever have.
What's the concept behind the name, Theogonia?
Theogonia (tay-oh-go-nee-yah) means "Born of the Gods," I was reading about ancient Greek mythology, and I thought that would be a very nice concept to combine with what we are doing with Rotting Christ. So the concept is mythology, but we took some ideas and transformed it into modern life and thought. More or less it's a very usual dark atmosphere, like usual Rotting Christ. Behind the myth there is always a truth. Theogonia is a myth, but it is the truth. You read the lyrics and stuff, then you will understand.
What makes it stand out from the other albums?
The use of Ancient Greek language. That makes it different.
Is there anything different that you did to prepare?
No, not really, it's kind of a step back. It's the fastest album we have ever created, and that's the reason that the Rotting Christ fans like it so much.
Way back, on "Ira Incensus," you used acoustic guitar extremely well. Are there any plans to bring that back?
I don't know, I don't feel like this now, but I feel that composing is something that I never "do on purpose." I just grab my guitar and if something like "Ira Incensus" comes out, I will go with that
So it all flows spontaneously?
Spontaneously, yes. Of course I already have the idea, after four or five months, I have started to grasp the idea of the new album, but it's too hard for me. But then when I grab the idea, it will be very easy for me, but the most difficult thing is to grab the idea. We have to do what we do to keep people from getting bored, we have created ten albums, it's more difficult to make people think this is our best album.
So what's the deal with you guys and Dave Mustaine?
There is no deal. We got kicked off of a couple of festivals, we were really upset. I can't say something more about it, I can't act like he did. I'm very sorry about it. Metal has nothing to do with this ideology.
So after being with them for over ten years, why switch from Century Media to Seasons of Mist records?
I think after ten years of cooperating with Century Media, both sides agreed, "Thank you for you cooperation, thank you very much," we separated in a friendly way, but the time has come to try something different. We tried the French label, Seasons of Mist, it's a very promising label, they put our band as an "A-Priority," something that we didn't have with Century Media. It's very hard to find a good label, and we're not satisfied, like with the DVD, the packaging, the promotion, and all that. It's okay, it all works very properly right now, but, who knows, maybe some problems will appear. Bands and labels quarrel all of the time, but up until now, it's okay.
With a name like Rotting Christ, it's clear that you guys are not fans of religion, but there's a difference between the many systems out there. There's Islam and Christianity on one end of the spectrum, and then on the other end there's Agnosticism, Satanism, Existentialism, and Buddhism. Where does your distaste for organized religion end?
Well, actually, we used to be involved with Satanism and all of that stuff, but now, as the years are passing by, we are somewhere that we don't agree with any kind of religion. That's our ideology right now, we believe more in the people, the humans, then any kind of religion. When we created the band, when we created the name, we didn't want to be a band with any kind of religion. So we are not involved with any kind of religion right now.
What kinds of things are you personally exploring?
I am exploring lots of things. I'm not that much involved with philosophy, but I'm more of a normal person. I'm not involved with any kind of occult. The system has swallowed me somehow, unfortunately I'm a more normal person, but on the other hand, I always have my ideas, I hate every kind of religion. I'm more into mysticism, that is my philosophy.
If there were one change you would make to the world today, what would it be?
If I said ecology, how would it sound?
It would sound like you're paying attention.
I'm really into the environment, I really feel like human beings are like a virus on the planet, that they are destroying the planet with what they consume.
What are the best albums of 2007, besides your own?
Hmm, hard question. Primordial had a very nice album, also Akercocke, the English guys had a good album this year. It's too hard to choose one- the "best"- the word for me does not exist. I try to follow all of the releases, Primordial, the Dark Funeral album they released this year is more back to their roots and more of a rock and roll style. It's too hard for me to just choose one
What do you do outside of music?
I sometimes play soccer. Not American football, I don't like it that much. But I try to keep myself in good shape, because we are always on tour. We can't afford not to play too many shows, like this year we have 120 shows. If I were a druggie, or alcohol-addicted, then I couldn't do more than thirty or forty shows. Music is what takes me most of the time, I compose music, I write lyrics, I book our shows in Europe myself, I care about everything with the music. But maybe I'm computer addicted. Not games, but the internet, like I always have to check me things, like answer e-mails, interviews, blah blah, stuff like that. So maybe I've become computer-addicted.
Anything you'd like to say to the fans?
Yes, keep the horns rising and keep the scene strong. We are against any kind of conservative idea, so metal is here to stand.
The man is definitely interesting, one that I would like to encourage all of you that are fans of the band to meet. Stick around after the shows, talk to him and the rest of the band for a bit, and you will see why Rotting Christ has come as far as it has.