Australian Musicians (feat. Kosta Theodosis)

Hailing from Toowoomba, Australia, Kosta Theodosis has made a name for himself through his ability to adapt to any musical situation as a studio and touring musician

He has performed everywhere from intimate clubs to stadiums and the worlds most iconic music venues throughout Australia, North America, South America, Europe, UK, Asia and even The Middle East.

This interview will focus on Kostas career from his time studying to when he decided to move abroad. It will include his template for taking work, making ends meet as a full time musician and his attitude towards music.

Can you please clearly outline all your current musical projects and professions which make up your life as a professional musician?

Since moving back to QLD I’ve been fortunate enough to regain the drum seat with The Kite String Tangle, which is an amazing opportunity which involves intermittent touring and recording, but not enough to be a full time position, so I supplement this by playing with an amazing covers/party band called LabOum which has two weekly residencies including Saturday nights at Cloudland in the valley. Aside from those two being my primary gigs, I’m also regularly called upon to fill in with major artists, most recently Bag Raiders and Amy Shark. I also do the occasional gig with Airling when something comes up with her. Aside from that I try to make the most of the thriving music scene that Brisbane has to offer and I take any other local gigs that I can squeeze in, doing anything from bars to Weddings and functions. There’s also a fair amount of studio work offered to me, both in Toowoomba and Brisbane. I regularly record with a prog metal band called Embassy of the Envy, as well as various, singer songwriters and pop artists. It’s a super varied and fun workload that I don’t take for granted.

How do manage your time to make room for each of these commitments whilst keeping yourself financially independent and living a relatively balanced life?

A large reason for moving back to Australia from the US was to achieve just that. Living in LA can be expensive, plus the general pay rate is much lower, pair that with an excessive amount of partying, and it just becomes too hard to maintain, especially when there is a much more balanced alternative back home. Touring in Australia is mainly based around weekends, so you’re rarely away from home for an extended period, aside from overseas runs, but we would rarely head off for more than a few weeks at a time. The only problem is that there are only so many Fridays and Saturdays in a month and much of the local work is available on Fridays and Saturdays, you can’t do everything, so you have to pick and choose

Do you substitute your performing work with any teaching or other work?

I’ve been teaching privately since I was 15, but it’s not something I’ve needed to fully pursue as of yet. I’ve had some great students over the years including Liam Drinan who plays with Gordi. If someone seeks me out and is keen to learn from me, then I make time to teach them, but I prefer to act as more of a mentor, so it’s quality over quantity for me. I presently have a small handful of students who I really enjoy working with.

Do you have a method or personalised criteria to help decide whether to take on a new project or opportunity?

I learnt from an early age to follow my intuition and my gut. In my musical journey so far, I’ve had to make so many heart wrenching decisions especially as someone who has been in bands for much of my career, rather than strictly as a sideman. It can be super tricky, it certainly doesn’t always come down to money, there are so many factors. I’ve had to turn down a lot of amazing opportunities due to scheduling issues also. You have to go with whatever feels right to you.

Although you’re Queensland based, you studied at VCA in Melbourne Victoria. Was their a specific reason you chose to study there instead of The Qld Conservatorium in Brisbane?

I started at VCA in 2006, straight out of high school. Basically at the time Melbourne was known as the music hub of Australia, so I was thinking more long term and decided that Melbourne would be the city that I thought I would have my best chance of having a career in music. Also VCA had an incredible reputation and the teachers I really looked up to were teaching there. I was fortunate enough to have weekly lessons with Graham Morgan for three years and also delve deeply into more ethnic rhythms and percussion with Alex Pertout.

What motivated you to relocate to L.A, and can you explain how the move affected your career?

From the age of 21, I was in a band for a number of years called Amy Meredith, which was all encompassing in many ways. It was an amazing experience and I was able to achieve many of my musical goals in a short period of time. However when that came to an end I felt very distant from the music scene in Australia, in other words I wasn’t very connected, or just struggled to get gigs as people saw me as the dude from the band or just some rock drummer, so I was struggling to find work on a level that I was happy with. Through the band I was able to spend time in LA recording, and had fallen in love with the city, so it felt like the right move for me. From the first day I moved to LA, things just clicked. I was immediately meeting like-minded people, including people I’d looked up to for years, and it all just made sense. It affected my career in the most positive and life changing way. Within a number of weeks I was being invited to tour with some great artists and just after two months of arriving I found myself at EastWest studios in Hollywood recording drums for the next Robbie Williams album a day before flying out on my first South American tour with Miami Horror. It was absolutely life changing

Did you have a specific goal or strategy for the relocation?

My strategy was just to land a gig that was big enough to sponsor me and get me hooked up with a visa so I could stay for a few years. I had nothing organized whatsoever, I just turned up and checked into a hostel for as long as I could. I had one friend over there and that was it. I just wanted to see if I could make it happen in the US.

What would you say to a drummer considering relocating to L.A?

I would say go for it, there’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain. There are several Australian drummers killing it over there. You just have to be social, go out most nights and meet as many people as you can. Just make sure you’re ready, because if you’re not at a level where you can compete with the drummers already over there, then there’s not much point.

How have you managed to keep the ball rolling as a sideman musician in todays climate? For example: Do consciously look for work or are you getting called back and the momentum builds from there?

I’m super lucky to have enough work to keep me going for the foreseeable future at the moment, so I’m not consciously looking for anything, but when opportunities pop up, I try to make it work. If my situation was to change though, I’m not afraid to let people know I’m looking for opportunities. The beauty of working a lot is that it generally does lead to more work, but when I’ve had quiet patches I’ve simply reached out to people that I would like to play with and let them know that I’m available and interested. The very first band I started touring with internationally when I was 19, was my favourite local Melbourne band, and I would harass them on myspace and turn up to all their shows until they eventually let me audition for them. I wouldn’t do that now, but it worked for me back then, haha.

I notice you’ve spent most of your career involved in popular music than any other area (Musicals, Jazz etc). Was this a conscious decision you made or did things just turn out that way?

Yeah, it’s funny, things just kind of turned out that way. I spent most of my teen years getting into jazz and funky, fusiony stuff and a lot of my playing experience was in jazz. I love playing everything, but I’m super happy in the place that I’ve found.

What’s the most common trait/skill you’ve noticed artists are seeking when hiring a professional drummer?

I would say someone that they enjoy hanging out with to be honest. People gain and lose gigs based on their personality far more than their playing. You have to be able to get the job done to a really high level, but then a lot of it is just about being like minded and on a similar path and easy going. There’s enough going on to be stressed about, so you just have to make it as chill for everyone as possible.

Do you have any pet peeves that you would recommend up coming drummers to be mindful of or artist to keep in mind when hiring drummers?

No, just do your thing and you’ll find your flock. What one artist sees as a negative might also be the thing that gets you hired by the next person. So you just have to be true to yourself and things will fall into place.

What’s your survival tips for life on the road as a sideman drummer?

There are so many testing situations that you come across touring internationally as a drummer. Delayed flights, missed connections, lost luggage and gear, sharing hotel rooms with snoring sound guys when you have severe jet lag etc. You just have to stay positive, enjoy the journey, always keep your cool, and remember at one point in your life you could have only dreamed of being in the situation that you’re in now. Be grateful of every opportunity. Don’t take any of it for granted, because it won’t always be there. Be present!

What’s the most valuable career investment you’ve made to get to where you are now?

There’s a reason I’ve been able to fulfill so many of my dreams in my musical journey, and that’s because I saw nothing as an obstacle and always did and still do whatever it takes to make opportunities happen. I still remember when Joel from Amy Meredith called me to ask if I’d move to Sydney to join their band. I said yes without hesitation, even though it was a step down from my current gig, but I went with my gut and it payed off. Same with LA, I had something I wanted to do, and I just made it happen, with no excuses. It hasn’t always been easy, I’ve struggled a lot over the years, I was homeless at more than one point, it’s been tough, but you have to be willing to make sacrifices, sometimes huge ones, but if you’re willing to take the chances you will receive the rewards. People say how lucky I’ve been, but they don’t realize the amount of sacrifice it’s required. From a playing perspective alone, in my high school years, I pretty much did nothing but practice. At one point I was getting up at 3am to practice on the pad. You can’t make excuses, if there’s something you want to achieve you just have to go for it.

Is there anything you wish you did differently that in hindsight you feel would’ve positioned you better?

That’s a great question, but I can honestly say no, there isn’t. Because the way in happens is that each tiny seemingly unimportant opportunity, leads to the next. I can trace back a lot of my success to one small demo session I did in Melbourne when I was 19 years old. Every choice you make rolls onto the next. I’ve made more mistakes than anyone I can think of in my career, but I can’t change anything, because it’s all lead me to where I am now.

Have you integrated technology into your playing since its rise in popularity in modern music?

Absolutely, it’s a necessity in modern music. Even my regular covers gig is all to track and even incorporates triggering drum samples. I very rarely play a gig where some sort of electronic element is not required, even in country music, it’s pretty much across the board. So for anyone that wants to tour on any sort of level needs to really be across sample pads and knowing your way around ableton is a huge advantage too.

Are you currently getting lessons from any other musicians? Or plan to?

I’m not currently, but have recently started practicing again and trying to develop as a drummer. I’d like to find the right mentor to help get me to the next level. I’m always open to learning more, in fact I’m obsessive about it, and I think it’s time to get serious again, to set myself up for the next 30 years.

If you could simply create more time for yourself, how would you use it? For example, would you invest in more music related skills or study, or spend more time at home etc..

The fact is, I’ve created a great situation for myself where I do have a little bit of time on my hands, so I’m currently working out how I would best like to use that time. Whether it’s getting more into teaching, or more practice or writing music. But basically what my main focus is right now is to set myself up a solid studio space at home to record drum tracks and do some videos. I’ve been moving around so much, that I haven’t had the opportunity until now, so I’m super excited about that.

Regarding the digital world, how much time and energy do you invest in social media/online presence vs face to face meetings, networking and branding etc

I actually invest very little time into social media, which I’d like to change. It’s not something I’ve ever been comfortable with, and I’ve managed to get by without it. I’m seeing many opportunities now, where it could be of great benefit, so it’s something I’m working on. I’m very much a face to face person, I don’t even really like getting on the phone. It’s certainly a downfall of mine, maybe it’s just a laziness thing, but I’d certainly like to put more time into it in the coming months.

Did you ever have an 8 hour a day practice schedule before working full time?

Absolutely! All through high school I practiced for hours before and after school around all the ensembles I was in, as well as 6-8 hours a day on the weekends. School holidays were a solid 6-8 hours every day. It was an obsession for a long time there. I was really into drumming competitions and it was a must to get to that level. I was very much into the independence thing and had a setup with six pedals and did all sorts of multi pedal ostinatos, which is one of things I’d like to get back into. I spent a lot of time working on pads on both the hands and feet, I wanted to be able to play everything with my feet that I could with my hands.

Do you/did you spend much time transcribing other musicians?

No, I didn’t really. I was more into coming up with my own stuff, taking inspiration from other players and then taking it in my own direction. I always wanted to do something a little different. It’s definitely an amazing thing to do, and I use it all the time now. If I fill in on a gig, I’ll transcribe exactly what the drummer plays live, note for note. When I was at VCA I went through a heap of transcriptions with Graham Morgan of some of his favourite players like Philly Joe, Tony Williams and Joe Morello. It was great, I still have them somewhere.

If you could only practice three things what would they be?

Singles, doubles and paradiddles. That pretty much covers all the bases!

If you had to play in one band only, who would it be?

I love playing with The Kite String Tangle, the music is varied and complex enough to keep it interesting. So I’m gonna go with him!

If you could pivot to another occupation, what would it be?

I’ve never really wanted to do anything else, I really don’t know. I’d like to be an actor, even though I probably can’t act, but maybe I could. I’ll have to try it.

Have you ever wished you weren’t a musician or felt stuck?

Not really, I do music because that’s what I want to do. If I wanted to do something else, I would just do something else. I’m happy to take the good with the bad when it comes to the music biz. I’m just so genuinely obsessed with drumming that it would be near impossible to attract my attention to anything else. I just have this fire and passion for drumming burning deep inside me. That sounds so lame, but it’s true!

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

Career wise I’d like to become more well known in the drumming community, as opposed to the music community. I’d like to be more highly regarded as an educator and clinician, as well as continuing to tour with the great artists that I’m lucky enough to work with and the ones I haven’t worked with yet. I’m strapping in for the next 10 years to start really hitting my stride in my drumming career. I’d like release some sort of solo music project, most of all I just hope to still be enjoying where I’m at and working hard towards the next goal and to just keep getting better.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests outside of music?

Not really, I have a problem, haha.

What would you say to up and coming drummers who wish to have a sustained and fulfilling career as a full time performing musician?

Learn as much as you can about as many styles as you can. Being versatile doesn’t just make you more employable, but it also keeps things way more interesting for yourself. If you have the interest, learn another instrument, like piano or guitar, learn how to record yourself. The broader your skill set, the better. Just enjoy the journey and do it for the love of it. Don’t make your choices based on financial gain. Say yes to everything, no matter how small it might appear on the surface, because you never know where it might lead. Play the type of music you want to play, put the time in and treat every gig with respect. I don’t care if it’s a wedding, or a stadium gig, I put the same amount of passion and professionalism into my playing. Just remember why you started playing music in the first place and try not to lose that feeling. It’s worth it, and if you don’t want to do it anymore, go off and do something else, then you’ll know for sure if it’s what you really want or not.

Any other comments or insights you wish to share?

Try not to compare yourself to others, what people share on social media is only a small part of the story and just stay true to yourself and everything will be awesome!

For more information on Kosta simply head to his website:

http://www.kostatheodosis.com

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