Drumming to a metal beat

Internationally-acclaimed drummer George Kollias returns to Australia to share his extreme metal techniques with his fans

George Kollias is the very first drummer from Greece to land an international career and even make it on the list of the best drummers in the world, counting thousands of followers across the globe. The acclaimed Nile band member is returning to Australia, not only to promote his first solo album but to offer drum clinics and share his unique techniques which have set him apart in the drumming world. George is famed for his ability to play very complicated rhythms with unbelievable speed and precision. The Athens-based drummer has been turning the extreme metal world upside down with his brand of hard-hitting, tempo-induced metal, not to mention his own double-kick foot technique.

“I’ve been a drummer from the age of twelve, which is when I got my own drum-kit. Since then, I set a goal and keep trying. No limits, no forbidden areas,” George Kollias tells Neos Kosmos.

“I started playing the guitar when I was ten, but the rhythm of the drums was calling me.”

George still plays the guitar, especially when writing music. When he was little, he assembled a dummy drum-kit from buckets and practised on it. Adult George has moved to a three floor toms set, two snares and two kicks. He even has an official signature drumstick line, Vic Firth SGK signature sticks, as well as his Axis George Kollias Special Edition pedals to match his unique and impressive foot technique.

“Lately I became inspired to study different patterns, get into different directions, and get as many new ideas in my playing as possible in order to progress as a drummer and make the whole thing more fun for me,” he explains.

“I have added remote pedals and custom-made foot snares. It’s mostly for my personal practice and for implementing new sounds in my playing.”

Kollias used to do extensive strength-building exercises, speed, control and balance exercises, but since he joined Nile, he has been playing so much that his skill has evolved into a natural ability.

“When you play live, you give everything you have and soon, even a speed of 240bpm becomes easy to reach, but this is definitely a result of complete drumming study and research,” he tells.

“You can’t play Nile songs as a pop drummer or go blasting in pop songs but experimenting on different kinds of music will help any musician improve.”

George believes that a drummer should play to deliver the song in the best possible way and not solely to express himself, let alone show-off his ability.”

“Being a guitar player for over twenty years has definitely made me realise that a song needs a lot more than a killer riff or a super-cool beat,” he insists.

“This is why I believe in the band concept so much; because there are more people who collaborate with mutual respect and love towards what they do.”

Carrying out extreme drumming exercises is merely a part of a holistic training to help the musician reach his goal, not the actual goal for George.

“Having the will and determination is the first prerequisite and the rest follows. Technique always comes with practice, after getting to know one’s own body,” he explains.

“Precision, stamina, good self-control and abstinence from alcohol, smoking and drugs are essential. Your body is your instrument. Without a perfectly-trained, healthy body, you cannot perform.”

“There is a lot of pain involved as well. I always tell young drummers that they shouldn’t go for it unless they genuinely love what they do,” he adds.

Nile was Kollias’ favourite extreme metal band and their collaboration, which began in late August 2004, established him as one of the top metal drummers worldwide.

“Nile had changed four drummers by that time and were looking for someone who could carry out the sets and stick with the band,” he remembers.

“Someone mentioned my name and they asked me to send them a tape playing a full set. They liked it and I was offered the position without an audition.”

“I asked if it was possible to stay in Greece and they fly me over every time I’m needed. The rest is history,” he says.

George became a member of Nile from the beginning, as they discovered a strong chemistry and common perspective. Every member of the band has their own input into every song.

“There are some rhythmic illusions going on in Nile’s music, but you have to be able to play fast all these wonderful blasts,” he says.

“It is everything but simple drumming to a certain level, specific beats per minute.”

“Fast drumming is mostly a result of relaxation and muscle memory, which requires a huge amount of playing time and knowing the songs,” he goes on.

According to George, in extreme drumming one can add some different elements but cannot afford to go softly or insert another style, beat even. It just doesn’t fit the music which is hyper and aggressive. This is where alternative projects and jams come in. He has released his first solo project, where all songs are written by him.

“I play all the instruments and even do my own vocals on this album,” George explains.

“My drum-kit looks metal but I play rock music, jazz, punk, even progressive, since I need to experiment and evolve as a musician.”

On another note, George joined the Modern Music School in Athens, Greece, starting the Extreme Drumming Department, explaining his unique techniques and sharing his knowledge with many drumming schools and individuals. He has also released two instructional DVDs, getting incredible reviews and feedback. At the same time he launched his Official On-line Lessons through his website with great success. A trilogy of books followed, making him the first drummer ever to cover all levels of drumming to such an extent.

“The idea of having extreme metal drumming in a music school excited me, as the kids can finally get tips from a professional player who has actual experience on touring and playing live for big crowds at huge events or small clubs with poor sound conditions.”

“My DVDs are part of an effort to share my knowledge in a more professional and at the same time, easily accessible way,” he continues.

George chose to stay in Greece, even though his basic job is based in the US, and he invests all the money he makes in Greece.

“I am rather optimistic about the situation in Greece, so, I figured I owed it to myself and to my country to stay and help,” he muses.

“People are trying to improve their way of life, and artists are getting more and more creative.”

Travelling around the world is a part of his job, although he never really considered playing music for a living or touring before joining Nile.

“Many people see being in a band and touring as a cool opportunity to see the world, but this doesn’t seem to work for me. I get bored when I’m not on stage, performing,” he confesses.

“I am more productive music-wise when I stay home and focus 100 per cent on drumming.”

However, he admits enjoying meeting with fans personally and administrating his own social media accounts.

“Australia is a country I have toured several times with Nile and has shown me great love and appreciation; a beautiful country,” he says.

“Considering my drumming all-day workshops are sold out, I feel very enthusiastic about teaching to young Australian drummers and sharing my knowledge on the instrument.”

On the first day of the clinics, George will be playing material from his work with Nile and the second day, he will be performing his solo work, sharing some exercises and tips with the attendees.

“This time I decided to take some time for myself and explore some more interesting places in Australia.”

“Motorcycling is my other passion and I can’t wait to ride a bike on the Phillip Island Grand Prix pit.”

*George Kollias will be performing in Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne from 4-10 March. For more information visit georgekollias.com or www.facebook.com/georgekolliasofficial