In-person interview with Sakis Tolis from ROTTING CHRIST
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
March 29th 2011, Key Club, Hollywood CA
Andrew: You are three weeks into this North American tour. How has it been so far?
Sakis: The first week was a little bit weird, but after that we've had a really nice tour. People have given us good turnouts, we are doing very well with all the bands and I can say it's been a very good tour.
Andrew: The title for your latest album "Aealo" means "destruction" in ancient Greek. Have the shows on this tour been destructive?
Sakis: Some of the, yes (laughs). And we're really enjoyed that.
Andrew: What is the set list like? Is it mainly the new stuff or a mix of everything?
Sakis: Each night when it's time to create the set list, we have to include songs from all of our discography. But we have 11 albums, so some people might still not be satisfied, but we try to include as many songs as possible from all of our discography. You can find songs from the first album to the last.
Andrew: Before this, when was the last time you guys toured the US? You don't seem to come around here too often.
Sakis: Yeah, the year before last year we did a tour ourselves and three years ago we toured with Belphegor and Immolation.
Andrew: Do you think the future direction of the band's music would be similar to how the new album sounds?
Sakis: I have no idea. Every Rotting Christ album is a kind of surprise, so we try to surprise our fans album by album. I don't know how the next album will sound, but it will definitely sound metal and Rotting Christ.
Andrew: That album released last year. Since that time, have you had a chance to write any new material?
Sakis: Unfortunately no! It's a nightmare for me actually, because I'm always on tour and don't have the time. I don't feel like writing new stuff while we are on the road. I wish I could, but I can't. So as soon as this tour is over, I will grab my guitar, I will stay in my place, talk to myself, experience new things and then I'll try to write some new stuff.
Andrew: After this what do you have coming up in terms of tours?
Sakis: Yes we have a European headline tour, some festivals, and then finally that will be it for the new album. After that we have to say inactive for one year in order to write some new stuff and record something new.
Andrew: Before starting this interview we were talking about the fact that you're not allowed to play in India. Can you talk to me a little bit about that? What's going on with that?
Sakis: We have often faced problems because of our name. It also happened in India. We thought it wasn't a big deal, and one guy even offered us to go and play there but after a couple of weeks he told me that I shouldn't do the show because things concerning the religion part are a bit scary. India is a very nice country and we really want to go there, but when you're talking about religions, some territories are very offended. All Indians are not Christians but may be they think we'll bring a bad spirit to them. So it's better to not play there. That also happens in Malaysia, Singapore and many territories. We were supposed to do a tour of South-East Asia but it was cancelled for this reason.
Andrew: Even Slayer have faced problems in India in the past. They weren't even allowed to release their "Christ Illusion" album.
Sakis: Just because of the name, really?
Andrew: That, and specially the original album cover because of how it depicted Jesus Christ.
Sakis: Why does this happen in India? I mean, you're not Christians right?
Andrew: We have all kinds of religions, but I don't know why the Christians over there get particularly offended.
Sakis: Yeah it is unfortunate that they find it offensive.
Andrew: Would you be coming back for a second leg of the North American tour?
Sakis: Later this year, there's a tour with Deicide and Obituary. I don't know if we're going to do that, but we'll try to be back. In the USA you have to play all the time to achieve more fans.
Andrew: Do you think you have to do that a lot more in the US as compared to Europe or South America?
Sakis: Oh yeah. There is no other way to pull more people. If you have to spread your music, you have to tour. Sometimes you're tired because the conditions here in the USA are very hard. The distances are very far. It's not like in Europe. One month of touring here is like three months of touring in Europe, that's how hard the conditions are. The promotions don't even respect the band sometimes. But we try to keep on playing. This is our destiny. We have played almost 1000 shows, so we will never surrender.
Andrew: These days, the album sales are not going great. So do you think touring helps in that regard, as people go to shows and pick up the albums?
Sakis: Yeah they pick up the albums, but they pick up the merchandise and that's what I care more about. I don't care anymore about album sales. I love music and I have thousands of albums in my home, but other people don't buy them. So the best way is to have people buying a t-shirt of the band.
Andrew: What do you think about the support bands on this tour, some great bands like Melechesh, Hate, Abigail Williams and Lecherous Nocturne?
Sakis: They are great bands and we've had a good time with the guys. We get along very well, so that's good.
Andrew: The music of all the bands fits together very well, I think.
Sakis: Yeah, we have enjoyed bringing together the European spirit here in the USA, and it does fit together very well, so that's true.
Andrew: When you toured here for the very first time, how did people react? An extreme metal band from Greece is something so unique.
Sakis: The first ever tour back in the 90s was really weird. It was just the band, we toured the whole continent, and drove ourselves without knowing anything. We didn't even have driving licenses with us. That was back in the day. Now a days it's getting better and better. People are getting used to the European metal bands, so we are satisfied that we can pull at least some people who are really into Rotting Christ.
Andrew: Did you play in LA on that tour?
Sakis: I don't think we played in LA. And even if we did, it must have been some shitty underground club. But it's ok because I sometimes enjoy these shows more because of the underground spirit we always keep as a band.
Andrew: You've been around for a number of years and things have changed. Now you have things like Facebook and YouTube. Do you think it's beneficial for a band to promote themselves through these means that didn't exist back in the day?
Sakis: Yes, it's very good for the band but I don't like to have it personally. I don't have myself on Facebook because I don't like to show to everyone who I am, what I like and what I don't like. On the other hand, it helps the band for sure. You can read about the band, you can know about the band, and that's very important. I remember back in the day, late 80s and early 90s, we used to trade demos and write letters. That was really nice and I was into that. But after that we had to adapt to this kind of promotion. You have to be a part of this otherwise you lose out.
Andrew: So do you think some musicians are over-exposing themselves on things like Facebook and Twitter?
Sakis: They should do it, but I don't agree with the "blah blah" shit. May be they say those things just to pick up chicks, I don't know. If it's for the band, people should know about your band. But on the other hand, just to have facebook, myspace and twitter for other purposes is just bullshit. It has nothing to do with the metal spirit, at least the sprit we've grown up with.
Andrew: Another thing that I wanted to ask you, since you're the kind of guy who likes the old school, do you still buy vinyl records?
Sakis: Yeah of course! I have plenty of them in my house. I very much like the sound that comes from a vinyl. I have the old school attitude, and the band as a whole has an old school attitude and that's part of the reason why people respect the band all around the world. Even if you don't like Rotting Christ, you like them just because of their attitude, and that's very important for me. That's the most important thing to spread to the people, that we are not something different from you. We are not something superior or special. We are just part of the metal community.
Andrew: This resurgence of vinyl must be helping the band.
Sakis: Yeah definitely. We have re-released all our records on vinyl as a result of it!
Andrew: Do you remember the first vinyl that you ever bought?
Sakis: Yes, Iron Maiden's "Maiden Japan". I think I bought it in '85!
Andrew: Thanks a lot for your time. It was great talking to you, have a killer show tonight and all the best for the rest of the year!
Sakis: Thank you very much my friend for your interest in including our band in your magazine. I wish you all the best with what you are doing, keep on doing it and keep the spirit alive, and we will definitely see you here again.
Check out Rotting Christ's official website.