Jim Mutilator (ex - Rotting Christ, ex - Varathron)is back to action after many years with his new band, Yoth Iria. However, we are talking about the great return of the unholy ancient gods, since vocals in Yoth Iria come from Morbid (aka Magus Wampyr Daoloth, Necromantia, Thou Art Lord, ex - Rotting Christ). Myth of Rock was thrilled with Mutilator's new venture and came in contact with him. Our conversation covered a lot of subjects - we talked about the past, the present, the future. Yoth Iria's "Under His Sway" will be out soon, behold the art of darkness - Metal. Magic. Freedom.
by Dimitris Zacharopoulos
We are in 2019, and after many years, you are active again in the music business. Which are your feelings?
I am feeling good, since it is something that I have missed so much. I was working my new songs for many years, I had a lot of ideas and many of these ideas became songs - I have songs that would fill two separate albums. I believe that I also have a right in music and it was at least necessary for me to release these new songs and let people listen to them. Of course, I have never stopped being in the music field all these years – I was working in the Metal Era record shop, and above all, I have always been a fan of heavy metal music, since my first childhood memories. Music has always been there for me, I was and still am listening to music albums most of the day, heavy metal albums – I was born a heavy metal fan, I will die as a metal fan! At the same time, especially the years when I was living outside Athens, due to family coincidences, and I had isolated myself in a village at Grevena, I spent many hours composing music. I had always a lot of influences as a music composer and a lyrics writer, even from the first days with Rotting Christ – I love writing music and lyrics.
How would you define the new songs you have composed the last years. Is it black metal, is it extreme metal, in general?
Well, I am not the one who shall answer this question. I believe that my music has never been only extreme, only black metal, on the contrary, it always had elements from all the different genres of metal. That was also the case with Rotting Christ, too. I don’t think that Rotting Christ, in “Non Serviam” and “Thy Mighty Contract”, when I was in the band, had the extreme, black metal sound that the bands from other countries had. We were playing a mix of heavy metal and black metal. I still don’t have a certain prejudice, when I am writing new songs, I think that they belong in that heavy/black metal style. Of course, there are some more modern elements, I think though that my songs remind mostly this period of Rotting Christ.
These new songs will be released under the moniker of Yoth Iria?
In Yoth Iria you play the bass.
Yes, I play the bass and I write the music and the lyrics.
Let’s talk about the lyrics. Where do your lyrics refer to?
Most of my lyrics relate with the occult, with nature and with some personal experiences. Of course, some lyrics will be written by George Zacharopoulos (aka Magus Wampyr Daoloth), whose lyrics are darker.
What does inspire you to write music and lyrics?
My inspiration comes from anything, I think. From our childhood, from what we experienced when we were younger, from what happens around us now, from what we listened to in the past and what we are listening at the present time, really everything, I think that everything may affect you. Many times ideas come to my mind, I just grab my bass or my guitar and start writing.
The first release of Yoth Iria will be …
… an EP, with two new songs, and a cover of “Visions of the Dead Lovers” (Rotting Christ), well, not exactly a cover, more like a re-recording of the song. It is a song that I like very much, it is underrated, not to many people know it, and I think that there should be a re-recording with a modern production.
When did you start the recordings of this EP?
Recordings began this winter, at the Pentagram Studio with George Emmanuel as the producer, George Emmanuel is now in Lucifer’s Child, he had been also a guitarist of Rotting Christ. We are almost done, what’s left are George Zacharopoulos’ vocals and the mastering. We have already recorded 8-9 songs, and soon our first release will be ready.
Who will be responsible for the mixing and mastering of this first release?
George Emmanuel will be responsible for both the mixing and the mastering.
Who did the cover of the EP?
The cover artwork is done by an artist from India! His name is Harshanand Singh, it’s a rather difficult name to remember, haha!
In Yoth Iria you are working together again with George Zacharopoulos. How did you decide to team up with him again?
Well … I was in search of a singer for this new band. We have worked again together in the past, we are close friends for many many years, since we were kids. In the beginning I hadn’t thought of George Zacharopoulos, because he is too busy, but to be frank with you, many people, also friends from foreign countries, told me to ask George. Finally, although I knew George is too busy, I asked him to join the band. Firstly, he was a bit hesitant, but when he listened to the tracks, he liked them and told me: “I dig the songs, let’s go!”.
Is George Zacharopoulos going to be a permanent member of Yoth Iria?
Yes, yes, I hope he will be a permanent member, yes.
You didn’t tell me the rest members of the band, apart from you and George Zacharopoulos.
When the EP will be ready, I will then look for some other musicians in order to fill the line-up of Yoth Iria. As for now, I have spoken with some guitarists, some other musicians, but nothing is final yet. When the EP will have been released, we will soon then announce the other members of the band.
Are you going to tour as Yoth Iria?
We will see, we will see, it is too early now to say something about a tour. We must firstly release the EP, we must find a record company and then, if there is an interest for us, we will tour.
You have announced that Repulsive Echo Records will release the EP. You have agreed only for this release or are you going to cooperate also for other future releases?
Well, the guys from Repulsive Echo are very supportive, they try to help us as much as they can, from every aspect. It is rather early to say something about what will happen in the future, we will firstly release the EP and then we will see what happens next. We will always be friends with the guys from Repulsive Echo, we will always have them by our side.
Apart from Yoth Iria, you are also a member of Medieval Demon. Are you a permanent member of the band, or is it an one-album cooperation?
That is up to the guys from Medieval Demon. We are friends, I know them since 1993, when they visited me and Sakis Tolis at Storm Studio, at Exarcheia (Athens, Greece). They recorded their demo there, plus some other stuff. Many years later they came again to me and asked me if I wanted to participate in their album – I have already recorded my parts for this album. We will see how this cooperation will progress in the future, Medieval Demon don’t tour, they don’t have many obligations as a band. If they want me again for another album, I am available for them for another album. That’s what we have agreed, but we will see what the future brings.
Let’ s sum up; new album with Yoth Iria, new album with Medieval Demon, you also played a session live with Kawir at the Darkness Guides Us Festival in late November – do you feel you are making a strong come back?
It is difficult to say … we are in 2019 and people have listened to almost everything, there are so many bands and so many skilled musicians, I don’t think I came here again to invent something new! I am basically doing whatever I really like, that is very important for me. I hope that the Yoth Iria EP will be fine and that most of the people will like it. After that, let’s see what happens!
You are widely known as one of the founding members of Rotting Christ, their first bass player, but here in Athens, Greece you are also known as the owner of the Metal Era record shop.
Yes, I had this record shop from 1994 until 2009.
So, you were selling records and was constantly in contact with the Greek metal fan/listener. Can you tell us please, which are the characteristics of the Greek metalhead as a record buyer and listener?
I will be frank, the times when I owned Metal Era record shop were nice for everybody here in Greece, in social and financial terms. People were purchasing very, very much, many metalheads were buying ten CDs or vinyl records per week, they were buying T-Shirts, etc. I am very happy, as I learnt a lot of good people as Metal Era owner, I made so many good friends there, not only from Greece, but also from all over the world – many people from abroad were visiting the store, don’t forget that the first years also Sakis Tolis had been working there too. I can say with certainty that Greek metalheads are the best guys … ehhh, not everybody was perfect, but generally none of us is perfect. I had experienced so many good things in Metal Era, we were chatting, we were drinking beers together, we were having a great time … I learnt so many people there, people, who loved music, for whom music isn’t just a hobby, but a way of life, people like me! Despite the arguments and the differences among the metalheads, there is a solidarity among the metal fans. I also believe that most of the metal listeners are special people, with their own characteristics, their own way of thinking and expressing themselves. That’s why most of us like this special kind of music.
Jim, you were also an editor in the Heavy Metal Cosmos web magazine.
Yes! Unfortunately, this webzine isn’t online now, I was writing there and I have reviewed a lot of records, I have written various articles and stuff. Heavy Metal Cosmos doesn’t exist anymore and I don’t even have archives of what I had written.
How did you feel, to be a musician and a record reviewer at the same time?
I really liked to make reviews, honestly! When I listen to a new record, I always want to make my mind, to have my own opinion. On the other hand, some people were telling me that I was too lenient and I made always good reviews! In general, I believe that in metal music, there may be some records that don’t fit everybody’s taste, but there is always a high quality. Heavy metal music has progressed so much, there are fantastic musicians, who are much better than me, technically speaking, musicians who study very much … So, when I listen to a CD, I always and immediately make my mind, if I like it or not and why, etc., even if I don’t write any words on a paper. When I had the opportunity to write a review, I did it with pleasure. Believe me, I had written a lot of reviews!
As we said before, you were a founding member of Rotting Christ. What do you remember from the early days of Rotting Christ?
Back then in the mid 80s I had formed with Sakis Tolis a band, called Black Church, we were so young then, and we played heavy metal, influenced by the big heavy metal bands of the 80s and the bands of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. We made covers of Rainbow, U.F.O. etc. and composed some tracks, nothing special, in the typical heavy metal style with some extra elements from Venom and Celtic Frost. We then listened to Carcass, Napalm Death, we moved to the extreme metal sound and changed our name to Rotting Christ. That happened in 1987 – 1988 … what else can I say about the beginning of Rotting Christ, huh, we were teenagers then, at the age of sixteen – seventeen, Sakis was younger than me, Themis Tolis was even younger … it was a nice time back then, although we didn’t have the equipment that others in other countries had, for example in Norway, where most of the people had a high standard of living, a music education in school, they could afford buying new music instruments and technical equipment. Things were too difficult for us then, we were three kids from the poor neighborhoods of Nea Ionia, Athens. We had to work in the construction to be able to buy an instrument, Sakis was forced to steal money from his mother to buy a guitar, Themis’ drum kit was of poor quality, just enough for a decent rehearsal. We had so much passion and love for what we were doing though … Although I left Rotting Christ in 1996 and I offered significantly to the “A Dead Poem” album, I feel I have never left from the band, I feel Rotting Christ is a great part of myself, I feel I am a member of Rotting Christ, even if I am not actually playing with them! I always stand by the guys!
Why did you leave Rotting Christ?
Well, it was a tough time back then, I could not live by the band, and good or bad, I had two children in the age of 21 years old. As you can understand, I was too stressed to be able to raise these two children. Sakis was aware of this and showed understanding. Just think that at the period of “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers”, we had to be on the road across Europe for one month, we then travelled to Mexico, where we stayed for fifteen days, after that we were playing in festivals. It was too difficult for me to leave my day job and not to have money for my children. There was a great pressure on me.
You told me that you feel you never left from Rotting Christ. Did you ever think to get back to the band as a full member?
We can’t make now this conversation, what I thought or what I didn’t think has no meaning, no significance. Rotting Christ have got their own way, they have progressed so much, they have changed level, you see?
You had been also a member of Varathron, another great band of the Hellenic black metal scene.
Yes, Varathron have also released some significant albums, they were formed by me, Spiros Papanastassatos and Stefan, the voice and soul of Varathron, since then, because all three of us wanted to play something more in a doom/black metal style, we wanted to express some other feelings that we had. Especially Spiros, the drummer of Sound Pollution, and generally a musician of the Greek hardcore/punk scene, felt he had the need to play something darker, something in a black metal style. So, some day he asked me if I wanted to make with him a black metal project, he had some black metal ideas and feelings he wanted to express. We sat together with Stefan, who was in the same state of mind, and Varathron were formed in 1988 – 1989.
I would like you to compare the early days of Hellenic black metal in the mid-90s and the contemporary Hellenic black metal in 2019, amidst the financial and social crisis in Greece. When was it more difficult?
I think that it was more difficult back then in the beginning, because now, even we all live in the crisis, we have the internet, the social media, it is much easier for a band to publish and promote its music, young people are people with music technology, there are many studios with great, modern equipment. Nowadays there are so many abilities and services. I believe that now things are easier than in the mid-90s. Back then we couldn’t find a proper studio to record our stuff, most of the studios couldn’t produce our sound, that’s why our early productions were more underground, we couldn’t find a sound engineer! That’s why we had then the idea to buy some equipment from Molon Lave Records, in order to establish our own studio. We thought we could contribute to the establishment of the Greek sound and the Greek scene.
An incident that shocked the Greek metal scene was the cancellation of the Rotting Christ live show in Patras, Greece, due to religious reasons. What do you think about the whole issue?
These things are unacceptable in the year 2019, it is irritating not to be able to express yourself the way you want. No one can force you to go and see a live show that you are not interested in or a live show that makes you upset. Everybody who doesn’t like Rotting Christ, may not attend their concert and turn his/her back to them. No one can stop the audience of Rotting Christ, all the listeners of black metal from going to the concert of their favorite band, no one can stop their artistic expression, no one can stop them from taking part in an artistic event. I don’t know how this is going to sound, but I can tell you with certainty that guys like Sakis and Themis have a better soul and much more love in their heart than many Christians! I am telling that without any anti-Christian empathy, I don’t have anything against Christianity. I know that a lot of Rotting Christ fans are Christians.
Which are your influences as a bass player?
My biggest influence, already as a child, was Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. There are so many bass players that I love, for example Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, etc.), he is an awesome bass player. I am also influenced by guitar players too, good music is good music. I would like to mention that what’s important for a musician isn’t only his technique, how he plays, but also his feeling. Butler and Harris expressed so many feelings.
Which are the artistic aims of Yoth Iria? What do you want to contribute to the (Greek) heavy metal scene?
I don’t want to contribute something special, I don’t have a certain aim, everything has been achieved and contributed in the world. I am a composer, and I believe that there are some people who would like to listen to my new music. I don’t want to contribute something.
OK, Jim, thank you very much for your time and your answers! Would you like to say something to the Greek heavy metal fans?
I am very proud to be a part of the Greek metal scene. Heavy metal is magic and freedom.
Photo: Dayal Patterson (Cult Never Dies)