We managed to catch up with one of the most proficient drummers in the world- George Kollias. The drummer recently made it to the SKB website on his endorsement. Speaking about his last visit to India, collaborating with Sahil Makhija on his recent solo album, life and lots more. Interacting with us, excerpts from the interview-
MJM: How has life changed for you as a drummer over the years? How were the initial years?
GK: I think things progress normally, I still look at music like I always did but I am in the position to write and perform better cause I’m just growing up as a musician. The big change for me came in 2004 when I first joined Nile, not only cause I was able to perform more often and on a more professional level but also because I had to the opportunity to play with such amazing players like Karl and Dallas; That really did a big difference in my playing.
My early years on drums had a lot of fire and passion and I worked very hard to get better and better, but there was no other purpose than just joy playing the instrument. That is the point of playing music for me, even if you play for a living and you have thousands of fans with a lot of expectations from you, never loose your focus and never forget the what actually music is all about.
MJM: What makes it so special for you? Who has influenced you the most with regards to the drums?
GK: Music is my life, it was always like that. Some people listen to music for entertainment in their free time, I always took at it a little more seriously. I can’t live without music and I enjoy everything around playing or teaching music, it is who I am.
Now concerning my influences, in the beginning it had to do with my favorite bands. Favorite drummers usually come from there too, that’s what gets your attention in first place. Growing up things changed and my taste in good music expanded in other styles as well, cause when I was 12 for example I only listen to Thrash for example, there were a few years that I admit I was a little “narrow minded” in my music taste. Now I listen to everything is good, whatever sounds good to my ears without paying attention to the style of the band.
Also, I get influenced by individual musicians that sometimes I don’t appreciate their music but I appreciate their skills on their instrument. Some players are just over the top and even if their music doesn’t say anything to me I still follow what they do and learn from them.
MJM: You released a new solo album, ‘Invictus’ on 18th May 2015 via Season of Mist records. How was the overall reception of the album?
GK: Yes, Invictus came out last year and the reception was fantastic, I am very happy about it. This is just a solo project, a one-man-band, there were never plans on making it a band and tour cause I already have a band and I am super busy. I had some songs I wrote in the past and I really enjoy writing music anyways, so the idea of releasing a full album first came from the fans who were asking for it. Then when I decided to do it I saw a big support from them again and I thought to release it through a label so everybody can get their copy easier, I don’t have time to sell copies myself anyways. I was very lucky a label like Season of Mist paid attention to the album and they released it through their catalog, plus we have a deal for one more album which I’m writing right now. It’s a very fun progress for me, I really enjoy writing songs and perform them on my clinics but this project will always be a secondary thing cause my band of course comes first.
MJM: Nile also released, ‘What should not be unearthed’, which was released on 28th August 2015 via Nuclear Blast records.What was the idea behind this album?
GK: The idea was to write a better album than the previous we did and I think we did it. We work very hard on each album trying to deliver better music for our fans around the world, but the key with Nile – and that is what makes them very special – is that we practice our asses off every day in order to become better. Seriously I don’t know any other band that works so hard when it comes to practicing their instruments and this is just exciting, the fire is there! On a personal view, our latest albums is what I prefer the most just cause I can hear that extra hard work in there, we write way more mature now as well and we perform better than ever.
“Unearthed” was a result of a long pre-production and relentless changes, we tried many new things and we were keep changing the songs till the very last minute we got in the studio to do drums. The truth is that the more time someone spends with a song the more the song changes, so pre-production is great to a point and then it might get tricky, many times is better to write something that you feel is good and leave it the fuck alone. But I think we did a great job with the final version of the album and that shows with the support from the fans. I know on the next album we will work even harder, that’s who we are and that’s what we do.
MJM: How would you compare this record with your previous releases?
GK: I can’t really compare our work, cause every album feels like it is “my kid”, you know? Even the first 3 albums that I wasn’t on them, I play them for years and years live so now they are mine too. Just to give you an answer though, I would probably prefer the latest work we do, just because I can hear how much more mature is our songwriting and our performance as well. I think that makes perfect sense. From another point of you, concerning playing live, the new stuff again wins cause they are very fun to play; they are more challenging and that makes it exciting to perform these tunes live but of course I enjoy all the previous stuff too. There are songs we play live for ages and I still have a lot of fun when we play them live. I remember thinking how some bands like Metallica for example perform “For whom the bell tolls” and still enjoy it after all these years now I understand it, it’s a great song and the crowd loves it so the energy in the room gets out of control. That magic on stage or in the room is what keeps a musician going on.
MJM: Your recent most collaboration was with Sahil Makhija, aka ‘The Demonstealer’ for his album- This Burden Is Mine. How did this collaboration happen? Tell us more about how it all happened?
GK: I know Sahil for many years, we are good friends with him and we were talking about this for quite sometime. When the time came he asked me to do the album and I totally agreed cause i liked his music a lot. When he sent me the material I dig it a lot, I even told him right away that is going to be a killer album and I started with the drums and tried my best to deliver what fits for his music. It’s a fast/melodic album with tech moments, very catchy riffs and vocals that seriously blew me away! He had very serious input on the drums as well cause he is also a drummer, which helped me to get into his songs easily. Sahil is a “multi-instrument freak” and a super talented dude that can write and play. Whoever hasn’t heard the album yet I advice they do it now! It’s an absolutely great album!
MJM: What goes down in the thought process? How do you improvise?
GK: Well sometimes bands I work with have their own drum parts on drum machines, just so I get an idea on the direction they want me to go. Some other times I have to go there on my own, which is not difficult if you get into each band’s music for a while. What I always do is, I try to play what fits in the music, that’s my rule. Just because I’m an extreme drummer who can play 280 bpm+ grooves that doesn’t mean I will use that everywhere. I listen to the music and I try to deliver what I should, but also add some taste and try my best to make it unique. That’s all and that’s the most mature and professional thing a musician should do when someone pays him to play for a specific project. Of course, I will also have my input and suggest changes and stuff, and I do this a lot but I mainly focus more on delivering what each band has in it’s mind than try to change their vision.
MJM: You are considered as one of the fastest and the most aggressive drummers in the world. The 16 week double bass workout is an amazing bass drum exercise which many drummers follow around the world. Any tips or suggestions you would like to give to young drummers?
GK: Yes, practice your ass off and do it a lot cause it’s fun! That’s my rule. Also, listen to as much music as possible. The more you do the better you can write and play as well, it’s all a chain that’s very simple to follow.
I always look into drumming like something I do for my own joy, so practicing hard makes sense only if you want to satisfy yourself, meaning that your progress is a personal goal and not a ticket to get successful. Eventually success comes from that too, but it was never my main goal and I feel very lucky for that cause you can easily get distracted and miss the main point here. I know many musicians who got that distraction and believe me it’s not fun. You should never forget what music is all about and never loose that spark that pushes you to go home and practice. You know, I see younger bands who are not enjoying playing a show or making an album that much just cause their mind is focusing on other things, like for example, which label is going to pay attention to their music etc. Who gives a fuck really? Is success the only way to enjoy music? No. That’s what I mean. Now someone will ask me, “Yes, George but you make a living by making music”. I have two things to say, one is that nobody knows what I’ve been through in music before I started getting paid by playing music. An second, if you really want a stable job then go to university and study, cause music is not secure and there are no guarantees at all.
MJM: So what other music do you listen to? Any specific favorites?
GK: Many things at the moment and different things as well. Lately I’ve been listening to Virgil Donati’s latest album “In this Life” a lot and Aristocrat’s “Culture Clash”. Both amazing albums. But I’m listening to various other stuff from jazz to classic rock, and of course a lot of Metal too. There is so much great music out there it’s not even funny, you need 3 lives to discover most of it. Although, I am not going to lie to you, i still miss the old days when we were buying vinyls and cassettes and we were learning each album like the back of our hand. I think I will never live the excitement of Sepultura’s “Beneath the Remains” and “Arise”, or Kreator’s “Extreme Aggression “, “Coma of Couls” etc. Music was more special back then, now it’s everywhere free and lost a bit of it’s majesty but I do support it and I’m buying what I’m listening to, I just try to do it like the old days, get a few albums and get into them very well before I listen to something else.
MJM: Back in India, you also conducted Pearl drum clinic at the PALM Expo- 2011 in Mumbai. How was the experience? What do you think about Indian drummers and metal fans?
GK: Yeah that was a rocking event for sure! I had a great-great time! It’s one of these events everyone would love to be a part of, for sure. I met many fans and they were all great to me, they went nuts during showtime so I was really impressed! The drummers too met some drummers and saw some too, great level of musicianship and in one of the best events worldwide!
MJM: Nile had to cancel Indian tour back in 2012 due to visa issues. When can we finally be able to see Nile live in India?
GK: Hmm, to be honest I don’t think it will happen soon and that’s because of the Visa policy in India. When I did Palm Expo I went through hell to get my visa, I remember people from India and Japan too (because of Pearl drums) were calling the Embassy in Greece to sort things out so I can make it there. And I made it on the very last second, seriously one more hour or two and I would loose the flight, it was insane. Later on, when we got the offer to get there with Nile I knew we won’t make it cause I remember what I’ve been through to get my Visa, and we had to make it work for 5 people. Luckily my Visa this time worked out pretty fast compared to the first time, but the rest of the band didn’t make it so we couldn’t come. I don’t know why this is happening but it is very stupid in my opinion, all we wanted to do is come there and play music for our fans but it’s so fucking hard hard to make it. We will keep trying though that I guarantee you.
MJM: Any last words for your fans and readers of our magazine?
GK: Thank you for all your support and I hope to see you all soon!!
MJM: Thanks a lot for taking some time out and doing this interview.
GK: Thank you
Connect with George here-
Harsha Vardhan (Metaljesus Magazine– Chief Editor/Owner) and
Aumkar Lele (Metaljesus Magazine- Journalist)