Interview with Chris Kontos – Ex: Machine Head / Testament
By: Noel Smart – November 2010
SDM: What happened with Konkhra and the "Weed Out the Weak" album? Was that just a one time thing?
Chris: It was a one off with friends. Anders and I are still really close friends to this day. My band Attitude Adjustment just recorded our new CD at Star Struck, Anders' studio in Denmark. It was fun to do that CD with Konkhra. I got to live in Denmark for a month with my wife and do some really cool shows with them.
SDM: Can you tell us about the Slayer experience on their Live Intrusion video of getting up with Rob Flynn and the rest Slayer playing Venom’s “Witching Hour”?
Chris: It was an honor to play a song with Slayer. Robb and I were stunned when they asked us to do it. We played with them at sound check and did a warm us song or two. We tried UK '92; the cover they did with Ice-T but it did not sound so good so we played the Venom track only. It was a blast! It was filmed by NFL films. Slayer doing the editing made it look really cool too. I'm glad that it's here forever on DVD/VHS
SDM: How come you only stayed with Testament in 1995? How did you guys manage to record “Rapid Fire” for the Judas Priest tribute album “Legends of Metal” Vol.I?
Chris: I just did not want to be in the band anymore… They were going through a lot of changes and I felt I was in the way, so I left. They are on top of their game these days. To answer next part of your question… We were asked to record a track for the Vol. 1 and we picked the song and got it, so we recorded. I was asked to join Judas Priest within months of leaving MH. It was the Ripper era and I turned them down. Then Glen Tipton asked me to play on his solo CD. The recording was a nightmare for me. The Guitar tracks were recorded to a drum track that a keyboard player did by hand. Due to this the guitar tracks I was to record to were out of time. I had to record to out of time guitars and it did not work out at all. Once they figured out that Glen's guitars were out of time, the recording was over. The Record came out some time later with Shannon from Ugly Kid Joe/God Smack. It was great to hang with Glen for the two days. He was really cool to me and my tech.
SDM: How did you end up playing with Exodus in 1993? How come you didn’t stay?
Chris: We are old friends, they asked me right when I got in MH. It was for one tour to Argentina and Japan. I did not go to go to Japan with them because the manager they had at the time ripped off a friend of mine and she made it so I could not go. Never any hard feelings at all for me or the band. Gary and Tom are some our best friends, and I still see Exodus whenever they play in town.
SDM: What exactly happened with Machine Head after the release of “Davidian”?
Chris : Well, it was 15 years ago now… if people don't know the story then they don't need to know. I really don't go into the MH story at all. I see the guys; we are all cool these days and it is a dead issue for us.
SDM: How did you manage to play with James Murphy and appear on his album “Feeding the Machine” playing percussion on an Al Dimeola cover?
Chris: I was the only person that could play hand drums that fast that he knew. I wish I could have played the drums on that track!
SDM: Can you talk to us briefly about some of your older bands and your involvement with them such as Verbal Abuse, Hell's Kitchen, Attitude Adjustment, The Alien Blakk, Sangre Eterna, Grinch, Custard Pie, The Servants, and Anti Trust?
Chris: It's just too much to go into man. To clarify, I was never in Alien Blakk. I had a blast with them all, each band has been a huge part on my life. Just wait for the book.
SDM: What are you up to these days?
Chris: I'm playing with my first band again… Attitude Adjustment! We got back together after 20 years off in 2007 and have been doing shows ever since. Our tour of Europe was really killer. Our new CD will be out on TAANG Records in the spring time of 2011.
SDM: What kind of kit are you using?
Chris: A Yamaha Absolute Custom Beach Wood 9-ply Drum kit. Silver sparkle. Go to my page at: www.myspace.com/chriskontosonthedrums and all the specs on the drums are there.
SDM: Do you use drum triggers?
SDM: What did you think of Dave McClain as your replacement after you left Machine Head?
Chris: Dave in a nice guy, a really good drummer.
SDM: Do you still use the Ice bell that you had in the “Davidian” video by Machine Head?
Chris: Nope, busted it!
SDM: How did you come up with the drum parts for “Old” off “Burn my eyes”?
Chris: My basic Idea for most of the the songs on BME was to play funk and hip-hop beats and not just go thrash drumming the whole time. If you think of BME as an Exodus, Forbidden or Vio-Lence record… if you can imagine that kind of drum approach to those songs, it could work as drum lines easily, but, I wanted to take the drums to a new place for metal. Drums that were still heavy but you could move to it in a new way – I wanted to put some STANK on it! The songs "Old" and "1000 Lies" really showcased that I think. The other songs were the style I had been playing on the last few records I had played on; Grinch's "The Blacking Factory", Verbal Abuse's "Red-White and Violent" and Attitude Adjustment's "Out Of Hand". All had this style of fast hands and dance beats mixed with hard-core punk.
SDM: How long did you have to record “Burn my eyes”? How did the songs develop while writing them? Who wrote most of those songs?
Chris: It took over a month to record the album… Robb wrote the songs with parts here and there from the rest of us. I did a lot of arranging of the songs with the new drum lines and approach, it opened it up for some really cool bridges and solo riffs. Robb wrote for the most part. I feel that even if Robb had the songs they would have been really different with out Logan and myself in the band, without a doubt.
SDM: Do you have any sort of friendship with any of the original members of Machine Head?
Chris: We all get along just fine these days
SDM: What are you doing with the band “Spiralarms”?
Chris: Nothing, I left that band in 2008
SDM: What was it like to know that you were part of one of the best selling bands with the album “Burn my Eyes”, until Slipknot came along?
Chris : I will always be proud of the BME record and it's long lasting appeal to metal fans. The fact that it was one of the fastest selling records in Roadrunner Records history is really cool as well.
SDM: Whose idea was it to do “Alan’s on Fire” a Poison Idea cover only available on the Machine Head "Burn my Eyes" Digipak? What did you think of the Australian Tour edition of the album with all the demo songs?
Chris: I turned Robb onto Poison Idea, Attitude Adjustment had supported them numerous times. I think that MH put out too many editions of the BME CD/Record… but that is just my opinion.
SDM: What do you think of Re-release talk that was suppose to happen for “Burn my Eyes” for the 25th anniversary Road Runner records party that never happened? Do you know why Robb and the rest of group didn’t want to release it?
Chris: I have no idea about why that never came out.
SDM: Tell us about some of your influences, such as: John Bonham, Bill Ward, Peter Criss, Cozy Powell, Billy Cobham, Simon Phillips, Alex Van Halen, Bobby Chouinard, Tommy Aldridge, Neil Peart , Dave Lombardo, Kim Ruzz, Micky Dee, Clive Burr, Nicko McBrain, Terry Bozzio, Dennis Chambers, Deen Castronovo, and Scott Travis, Bobby Rondinelli, Vinnie Paul, and Gene Holgan?
Chris : I like to think that they all speak in my drumming, but all in all, they all make me feel good when I listen to them or see them live. Go to: www.myspace.com/chriskontosonthedrums to hear other music that I have played on. Don't stay in the metal box… it is a big wide world of music out there kiddies! Open your mind and ears and find some of it. You may not know it but people in countries like Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Africa and many others are unable to play music or have a safe place to perform or show the music or art they make. We should all be thankful to have our rights and freedom of expression. Horns and Hails! Thank you for your time.