Interview with bassist Jim Mutilator
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: May 5, 2020
Jim AKA Mutilator was the first bassist and founding member of the Greek Back Metal band Rotting Christ, which provided quite the stepping stone for his long career as a musician. He also had a remarkably long career with another Greek Metal legend, Varathron, so one could say he's truly one of the most important figures of the Hellenic underground scene. Jim has also collaborated with bands such as Necromantia, Thou Art Lord and many others.
In 2019 he formed a band called Yoth Iria with another living legend from the Greek scene, George, AKA Magus Wampyr Daoloth, one-time Rotting Christ vocalist, plus many other bands over the years. This dynamic duo was joined by another Rotting Christ alumni, George Emmanuel of Lucifer's Child, who runs Pentagram Studio in Athens, Greece.
The band's 3-song EP, Under His Sway, was released digitally in January 2020 and physically in March 2020 on the UK's Cult Never Dies label and Greece's Repulsive Echo Records and the response has been overwhelming.
The Metal Crypt checked in with Jim Mutilator to find out where he found the creative spark to start writing music again and to form Yoth Iria.
Luxi: How are you doing, Jim? How's your isolated life going up in the mountains of Pindos?
Jim: Like almost every person in the world, we are in a type of quarantine. At least I'm back in my village. It's a totally isolated place so I can go to the forest for a walk with the dogs. It's better than any of the cities.
Luxi: It is nice to have a hiding place, some isolated place where you can go whenever you feel like hiding for one reason or another...
THE BIRTH OF YOTH IRIA
Luxi: When did you come up with the idea to form Yoth Iria with George AKA Magus Wampyr Daoloth and George Emmanuel? Were both Georges the first musicians you wanted to work with when thinking of the lineup for this outfit?
Jim: Actually, the only permanent band members right now are me and The Magus. George Emmanuel, who played all the guitars on our forthcoming album, is just our producer for the time being, not a permanent member of the band. The complete lineup will be established after the album is ready. At the moment, it's only me and The Magus.
About Yoth Iria, it's actually an old idea. It came to me around in 2005 or 2006. I am sorry but I can't remember precisely. I started recording the tracks about ten years ago. It was an old the idea, but I started putting flesh and bone around it just about one year ago. It was a very difficult process all in all.
Luxi: To be honest, it's pretty hard to define which subgenre of Metal this stuff belongs to. When I listened to the track "Under His Sway", it kind of reminded me of Under the Sign of Black Mark-era Bathory with some Moonsorrow folk elements, while the second song, "Sid Ed Djinn", has a Dissection Reinkaos-era vibe to it, with mystic weeping vocals of a female singer. It's really hard to coin your specific style? Dark Metal, maybe? I don't know what to call this stuff... what about you?
Jim: Look, a lot of people told me about these Bathory connections, and, of course, Dissection connections. To be honest, I think my writing style is like it was in the early days of Rotting Christ. I don't think that I have a special motive when I start making music. The songs came out the way I feel it but for sure in my unconsciousness, Bathory's Under the Sign of the Black Mark and Dissection both have a big influence on me because they are among my beloved bands. I don't think that I'm trying to copy any bands but maybe all these favorite bands have an influence on me, but it does not happen on purpose if you understand me.
Luxi: Yes. I understand. Who is this female whose voice is behind the title track of the EP, by the way?
Jim: She's an Indian singer and we like her voice. Her singing part is about an Indian invocation about ancient gods that connected with the ancient Greek gods. We really liked her voice and we thought it fit on the track really well.
Luxi: I agree. I think her voice fits in there really, really well. That was a nice pick.
Jim: Thank you.
Luxi: The impressive cover art for the EP was done by a guy named Harshanand Singh and he's also from India. How did you find him to do the artwork?
Jim: He's a very talented young artist. His main job is for a big company. I think Ubisoft that is connected with video games, et cetera. He's an artist for famous games for Ubisoft, which I think is the name of the company. It was a friend of mine that told me about him first and I really liked a lot of his work. Because of the great work he did with the Under His Sway cover, I think we will work together with him for our full-length album. I believe that the album cover will be even better than the one on the EP.
Luxi: That's very cool to hear. All the responses related to this recording seem to have been overwhelmingly positive and very supportive. I suppose this encourages you to keep this band going on and fuels the idea that you are doing the things with the band, correct??
Jim: Look, I think that the reactions from people have been positive by far. Of course, there are some people that perhaps don't like what we play and that's normal for me. Anyway, I think that it is a very important part of my life to play music because I belong to this music from my childhood. First, I do what I like to do and then, of course, I care for the people that like my music. But for me, it's very important to do music. I think I can't live without music—and of course, I mean Metal music because I'm a Metal fan first and foremost.
That's the meaning for me, to play music first of all, for myself—and of course, I try to do my best to make good music, so I hope people will enjoy, too.
Luxi: Yes, that's true. You need to be true to yourself first, doing the kind of music that you would like to hear, not just satisfying others as your main priority or following trends or what some label guy may be telling you. You just follow your heart and do what is best for you.
Jim: Exactly, exactly... I just follow my heart. I have always liked dark and evil music, and Black Metal music especially, but of course, I do like all the kinds of Metal. If you check out the music that I have done thus far, I think that you can find influences from all the kinds of Metal music. Of course, my main influence is to making darkish type of music. Above all, I'm a Black Metal fan.
REPULSIVE ECHO RECORDS COMES IN
Luxi: This 3-track teaser EP, if I can call it that, was released on Repulsive Echo Records. What can you tell us about your cooperation with the label and how it all started between you and them?
Jim: It was a common friend that made the contact between us and Kostas of Repulsive Echo. It was agreed to make this EP like a Yoth Iria promo. Of course, we are very satisfied with the work of Repulsive Echo, because they also are a small independent label. They supported us very, very much. They give all their strength for us, so we are very happy to be with them. All of us are truly grateful to them for their strong support and help to spread our music around the world.
Luxi: So, the label owner's name is Kostas?
Jim: Yes. Kostas is the owner of the label. Of course, there are more people working for Repulsive Echo, but Kostas is the boss of the label.
Luxi: You already mentioned your debut full-length album. How far along are you with it?
Jim: Nine tracks are already recorded, except for the vocals. Due to this Coronavirus pandemic, it isn't easy for George Magus to go to the studio and record vocals at the moment. After this virus comes to an end, he will enter the studio with George Emmanuel to finish the vocals. The album should be ready for a possible release at the end of the year, I suppose.
Luxi: Did you record all the instruments at George Emmanuel's Pentagram Studio, where you recorded your EP?
Jim: Of course. The job is being done at Pentagram Studio with George Emmanuel, working as a producer. It's been almost a year that I have been at the studio with George because it's a personal job for me. It's just me and George that made the album, plus of course, Magus will do his vocal parts later on.
Luxi: I know that you are the main lyric and music writer for the band, so my question is will this change in the future and will you share some of the songwriting responsibility with your bandmates?
Jim: As I told you, I started working on these tracks in the late 2000s. Everything has been done by me so far, but after Magus teamed up with me, he brought in his own ideas for the band. In fact, there will be three tracks on the album that have lyrics he wrote, but all the other songs were completely written by me. Of course, after I have found time to complete the band lineup, I will be open to every musician's ideas and thoughts regarding this band. It's a totally democratic way I like to work.
INSPIRATIONS — WHERE DO THEY COME FROM FOR JIM?
Luxi: What kinds of things do you get inspired by nowadays that keep you in the songwriting mode, and what was it back in the day, some 20 years ago?
Jim: You know, my inspirations are related closely with occultism. From my first days in Rotting Christ, even before Rotting Christ in my first band, Black Church, occultism and dark arts have had a big influence on me. I still like to work under a dark mood. Figures like Aleister Crowley, John Dee, Leonardo da Vinci, ancient philosophers like Plato, Socrates, have all had a big influence on my way of thinking. Overall, my central idea in this life is that people should feel free and not be afraid of anything. That's my motto. I want to tell people to try and be free and not afraid of anything.
For example, the church, Christianity and totalitarian religions try to seed fear on us. I mean, when I'm writing about occultism, I try to write about it in a more philosophical way these days, you know, and not the way that would make people think I worship Satan. That's not the thing for me anymore.
OF PLANTING THE SEEDS OF EVILNESS IN THE GREEK METAL SCENE
Luxi: You are one of the guys in Greece who has been building up the foundation for the Hellenic underground Metal scene since day one. What do you recall from those early times of the tape trading scene and penpals, before the revolution of the Internet when everything changed?
Jim: To be honest, a lot of times when I think of those times, I really miss all we had back then, although there was no Internet and the technology that we have today. In my opinion, those old days we were really very cool and true and I really did enjoy what we did back then.
Concerning the recordings, I don't know if you know, but Sakis Tolis and I had our own studio, Storm Studio, where a lot of bands (Kawir, Agatus, Nergal, Varathron, Rotting Christ, etc.) recorded stuff, and not just Greek bands but some from abroad (Ancient Rites, Moonspell, Samael, etc.). For us, recording every demo or every album there was something truly special back in those days. It was something totally unique.
I recall all those glorious days in my mind and have to admit I really miss them a lot.
Luxi: Indeed, those were the good old days. I am old enough to have been a part of the tape trading and stuff...
Moving on, you also ran a record shop called Metal Era in Athens, Greece, from 1994 to 2009, which is actually a long period of time in this business. What kinds of things did you learn running a record store as far as the business side was concerned?
Jim: To be honest, it was a good job and I earned a lot of money running it, but I finally decided I didn't like dealing with all the stuff it takes to run a record shop. Eventually I made my decision to put an end to this business as I didn't see myself to be a metal merchant forever, you know. It was really tiring, especially at the very end. To be a merchant you have to be among people all the time, have business with the banks, have business with the taxes et cetera. I really felt totally exhausted by of all of it and one day I said, "Fuck off! I don't want to do this anymore and I want to jump off this vicious circle. I want to be the old Jim again, so fuck it!"
I sold everything [*laughs*] and after that, I did nothing. Just basically concentrated on creating music — and that's about it.
SWEET CHILDREN OF MINE
Luxi: How do you remember your days with Rotting Christ and Varathron? How much did those experiences push your musical career and allow you to become what you are today?
Jim: Look, the days with Rotting Christ was something very, very strong. I feel like even though I'm not a part of Rotting Christ anymore, I always stand on their side. I feel like I'm almost in the band because I have strong connections with Sakis and Themis. We started all of this back in '85 with Black Church. In '87, we went with Rotting Christ, so Rotting Christ is a very important part of my life and I actually feel like I have never left the band.
As for Varathon, it also was another dear child of mine because I formed this band with Spiros and Stefan. With Varathron, I only made one album and two demos and then I quit the band.
Luxi: You almost recently joined a band called Medieval Demon in 2019, playing bass. Other than that, do you have any song or lyric writing commitments in this band?
Jim: I have known the kids from Medieval Demon since '93 when they were still very small kids. They knocked on the door of our studio; two small kids and asked me and Sakis to record a demo for them. It was really very funny to see two little kids about 10-years-old ask us to record a demo for them. We told them, "Okay, come in and let's make the demo". In '94, their first demo recording was extremely Black Metal-oriented. After many years, I met them in Athens and they told me, "Jim, do you want to make an album with us? You play still bass, don't you?" I said, "Why not? Since I have known you guys so many years, let's make an album together".
They have the album ready to be released and I think there are three or four tracks that were done by me. I don't know how many tracks will be included on it eventually because they recorded a lot of tracks. Anyway, I only wrote some music for them, not lyrics.
Luxi: As far as I have read Medieval Demon is basically a studio-only band and are not doing any live appearance, right?
Jim: Yes. Only a studio band, yes.
Luxi: I suppose they want to keep it that way in the future, just recording stuff in the studio but not having an intention to play live at all, right?
Jim: Yes, exactly. The band's only for releasing studio albums, yes.
Luxi: Ok, let's get back to Yoth Iria for the last couple of questions. Do you have a plan B for how to proceed once these dark times have passed?
Jim: This ongoing virus pandemic is bringing a lot of problems to all people and also affecting every band because many gigs have been cancelled. For example, on Saturday the 4th of April, we should have had an event making the announcement for the EP release party, which would have included a live show with Varathron, Lucifer's Child and many more Greek Metal bands. Also, plans for some live shows in Europe have been cancelled but after this pandemic has come to its end, we are ready to work hard and start playing wherever people want to see us. Of course, first of all, the health of the people comes first and I am only hoping this shutdown will end soon.
Luxi: Have you given any thought about musicians you would like to play live with when the time is right?
Jim: To be honest, I have a lot of people in my mind for the live lineup, but J. V. Maelstrom, the guy behind the drums, George and I have all agreed to play some live shows already. I have not made a decision about the live guitarist yet. I have been talking with some people, but due to this Coronavirus pandemic, everything has basically stopped. I will be giving this more thought after we have finished the record with George. At the moment, we are only missing a suitable guitarist for our live shows.
Luxi: I'm positive you're going to find a perfect guitar candidate to join the band for these live shows, maybe very soon even...
Jim: I hope so... or in fact, I'm sure about it.
Luxi: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that you'll find one soon who has the skills to pull it off live.
Well, that's all I had in mind for this chat. I want to sincerely thank you, Jim, for your time and wish you all the best with everything in this unpredictable life. Be safe out there!
Jim: I will. I also want to thank you for your support and your call to interview me for your media. It was great chatting with you and thank you very much again.
To all the fans out there, stay safe and believe in Metal magic freedom.
Luxi: Those were a bunch of beautiful words from you to finish this interview. Thank you, Jim, for your time once more and take care. Bye-bye...
Jim: Bye-bye, and thank you very much
|Other information about Yoth Iria on this site|
|Review: Under His Sway|
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