Seen One Season, Felt Only Cold
CoC interviews Sakis of Rotting Christ
by: Pedro Azevedo
Ever since their 1991 debut, _Passage to Arcturo_, Rotting Christ has established themselves as one of the best metal bands from Greece -- in the opinion of many, -the- best. After _Thy Mighty Contract_ and _Non-Serviam_, Rotting Christ has been seeing much more of the spotlight following the release of _Triarchy of the Lost Lovers_ and the concerts they played with bands such as Samael and Moonspell, all on Century Media (See my review of _Out of the Dark_ in CoC #20). Now that they have completed their latest work, _A Dead Poem_, Rotting Christ has managed to release three albums in the last three years. While some will say this is their best album to date, some others will argue that the band's underground feel is gone. I talked to vocalist/guitarist Sakis over the phone to know more of Rotting Christ's current situation; here's the result.

CoC: What improvements would you say _A Dead Poem_ shows relatively to your past albums?

Sakis: In my opinion, _A Dead Poem_ is the best album we have done so far. The reason is that we have worked a lot on this, so we are more mature as a band. We have a new inspiration and have made an evolution. Also, it was recorded in Woodhouse Studios, which are very good. So I think it's by far our best album.

CoC: You mentioned that _A Dead Poem_ was recorded in Woodhouse Studios; why was Xy [from Samael] chosen to produce it?

S: Yes, it was really nice. He's a friend of mine, a nice person, nice musician, and it's better to work with people like that -- we used to work with people that are strangers. We had a really nice collaboration with him, and I think the result is much, much better.

CoC: What's the story behind Fernando Ribeiro's [Moonspell vocalist] appearance in one of your new songs?

S: I consider Moonspell as our brother band; they are really cool guys, nice persons, so we asked him. It was not something we had planned before, it happened really suddenly. We were in Dortmund, they were in Dortmund as well, I asked Fernando to sing in one song, and he accepted very pleasantly. So he made it, and I think it was really good.

CoC: Are you completely happy with _A Dead Poem_, or do you think it could still have been better?

S: I think that, for now, we are happy, but within a year we won't be happy [anymore]. It's this thing that musicians have, you know; when they have the album out, they're satisfied, but after one year they find something bad. But until now we are really satisfied, because it was our goal as a band to record such an album.

CoC: How do you feel about having the _Darkness We Feel_ [bonus Century Media compilation] CD together with your new album?

S: In the beginning, we were a bit scared, you know? We didn't know if the people would buy the album just for us or just for the compilation. But right now, I think the people are buying the album because it's Rotting Christ. But it's a good opportunity for us, and for the other bands too.

CoC: What's your personal favorite track in that bonus CD?

S: Well, of course I like the Moonspell song very much, I think that everything Moonspell have recorded is really perfect. I really like Samael, of course, and Alastis, Tiamat... I like a lot of bands, but these are the best, in my opinion.

CoC: Many bands have recently quit using distorted vocals, but, even though your music has become more melodic, you have kept using distorted vocals. What are your feelings on this issue?

S: We don't want to betray our old fans, and I'm really into doing this kind of vocals, because it's really extreme and I always like extreme things.

CoC: About touring, how well has it been going?

S: We have played about 48 shows in 60 days all over Europe... and I think that's our goal as a band, to play live, because that's the only way to get in touch with the people, with our fans, and we're always looking to play more and more, and we also hope to play in Portugal someday.

CoC: Yes, I hope so. Well, about Greece, how's the metal scene over there right now?

S: There are a lot of bands, really cool musicians, and I think the people in Europe should pay more attention to Greek bands, because they are really cool, in my opinion. But, of course, the only problem is that we're so far away; it's really difficult, it's a pain in the ass to play in Europe.

CoC: You have are frequently regarded by the press as being, or having been, a black metal band. Would you say you have always been a black metal band, ever since the start, and still are?

S: I can call our music metal; people can call it what they want. In the beginning, when we were playing _Thy Mighty Contract_, we were playing black metal, but I don't think our latest album is black metal. On the other hand, I don't like to put those labels on our music, so I can call our music metal.

CoC: I was curious about that, because it's usually taken as a fact that black metal's roots lie upon Northern landscapes, cold weather and all that, something you don't have in Greece...

S: Yes, and a lot of people make me nervous, saying that black metal should be played only in Norway, in Scandinavia, and that in Southern Europe people don't deserve to play black metal. I have heard some shitty things like this, and I think that music has no borders. I'm really into Southern Europe black metal; -metal-, at least, because it's more melodic and more emotional, and I'm really into it.

CoC: What black metal bands have you been listening to lately, then?

S: Black metal bands? I like the Dimmu Borgir album... and Emperor... also Moonspell, of course, I think their first album is black metal.

CoC: This might be a strange question, but considering the music you're playing now, do you still think that Rotting Christ is a good name for your band?

S: <sighs> It's not a strange question... it's a pain in the ass for us, you know? <laughs on both sides> Maybe this name doesn't suit our music very well now, but we keep it to avoid disappointing our old fans, the ones who have followed Rotting Christ all these years, and on the other hand, I think metal music needs extreme names, and this way we show our indifference towards any religion [I can't quite catch every word here, but I think this is what he said --Pedro]. So we keep this name, and if someone won't listen to the band [because of the name], we won't give a shit about him. <laughs>

CoC: You seem to be quite worried about your old fans, I like that...

S: Of course, you have to worry about your old fans.

CoC: I mean, there's been a lot of bands lately saying "so we've lost a lot of our old fans, but there's new ones in their place now so it doesn't matter, and we'll probably sell more..."

S: I know, that means that people don't have feelings. First of all, we are humans.

CoC: What are your hopes and wishes for the future of your band?

S: Touring... and touring. <laughs> Nothing else. That's the most important thing for us; playing live is what's most important. By the way, our first album, _Thy Mighty Contract_, is being released again, because a lot of people were looking for it. And that's all.

CoC: How concerned are you about sales?

S: Everyone that plays in a band is concerned about that... not because of money, because we don't get money from our sales. Can you believe it? Believe me. It's so that we can feel proud. We don't play music to be rich or something like that, believe me. We like to check our sales once in a while just to see what our power as a band is, to see if the people like it. That's the only thing that's important about sales, we don't give a shit about money and stuff like that. We have a really poor living, because we don't get enough money from the band, and we have to find a proper job now. We can't work right now and then take a month off because we have to play in a band... We have to quit everything so we can play in our band.

CoC: Doesn't that pressure you to make music that's more commercial, that'll sell more...?

S: No pressure. I'm not pressured. I just want to play my music, the music I want, and if the people like it, they like it... if they don't like it, I don't give a shit.

CoC: OK, that's it. Any final messages?

S: I want to say hello to Portuguese people, I'm really looking forward to playing there someday, in front of Lusitanian people... and I just want to say hello, and keep the flame burning, that's very important for me.

(article submitted 1/1/1998)

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