Local drummer Chris Dennis is one of the Gold Coasts hardest working musicians, having had stints in more bands than you’d be willing to count. As a musician though, he’s only getting started. Chris and his band Azreal have just returned from a 23-date sprint across the United States, opening for Devildriver’s Bound By The Road tour.
Chris has been playing since he turned 13 when his parents bought him a second hand Tempa kit, “a heap of shit” as he describes it, His first band, Lethal Dosage was more or less an average Limp Bizkit cover band. As the guitarist of said band, Dan Maynard confirms its mediocrity. However, he soon helped to form heavy rock outfit Elk which would see him play his first live shows.
Chris has since played in countless bands and moved freely between genres. From rock to metal to blues to horror shock to the thrash he now plays in Azreal and the electro-space-rock he plays with Tesla Coils. On top of that he’s also in a straight up rock band (and once a year live affair) Veal.
Chris said the tour with Azreal was something they’d all wanted at some point in their musical lives and that it feels good to finally have it done. How did it all come together?
“A lot of skyping with our manager overseas, double the amount of jamming, being positive about the ups and downs you will get along the way,” he said.
And it seems Azreal made a tonne of new fans while in America.
“After the show we would have people coming up saying kind words about the band and how they enjoyed the show. It really makes you feel like we did a good job. We would hang with them and they always would want to know about Australia and our culture but its really funny they seem to be very scared to come over because of our dangerous animals,” Chris said, adding they also sold a heap of merch.
Repping Australian metal in the United States is a big enough claim to fame for a Gold Coast metal band. But getting a look-in as a support for Devil Driver made the tour all the more sweet. Chris said it didn’t kick in until he saw the bands and crew loading in and setting up for the first venue – The Observatory at Santa Ana.
“The shows we did in Dayton, Ohio and Portland, Oregon the crowds were insane, giving us a massive circle pit and making us feel welcome.”
“Playing our songs and hearing the response between songs makes you feel the hard work really paid off. That alone is well worth the trip.”
Of course, it wasn’t all work for Azreal. But 23 dates across the USA is a hard slog in anyone’s book.
“We got into a groove really easy,” Chris said. “As much as you are repeating an everyday thing like driving to the venue, load in, set up, warm up, play. It’s not really like that because every venue you play is fresh to the eye and there are always new faces for you to preform for.”
Chris says one of the benefits of playing so many shows in a short period of time means great musicianship from the band.
“Once I got my groove and did my warm ups every day it progressed greatly,” he said of his own performance.
“We were a solid unit before we left but every show made us stronger – not just in performance but mentally and physically.”
“You have to have a lot of confidence and trust with one another as you just never know what could happen throughout the set,” he said. “The boys are my family, we have been through ups and downs, the good times, the bad times, but that is what will make you grow strong as a band.”
With so many bands listed on his resume, what makes Azreal stand out from the rest, then?
“I think playing in a handful of bands was what I had to do in life to get me where I am. And that has lead me to where I am in Azreal.”
“Once I joined there was a strong chemistry between us all in our personalities and writing music which I never felt with any other band. It shows in our live performances and recordings,” Chris said.
The band hopped straight off the tour bus and straight into the studio. Well, kind of. Chris says they’re already half way through recording the next album now and that it’s sounding “good” with lashings of fast metal and old-school feels.
And if that’s not mad enough, Chris did literally hop off the plane and straight into a tour with his space-rock outfit Tesla Coils. He laughs when we ask if he’s certifiably insane.
“Tesla Coils keeps me drumming,” he said. “Plus how could you not want to play songs about dinosaurs flying in space?”
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Tesla Coils is a finalist for Breakout Artist of the Year and Song of the Year at the Gold Coast Music Awards. Winners announced 27 April on the beach at Surfers Paradise. Keep an eye on our gig guide for Azreal and Veal gigs and keep your eyes peeled for new material from Azreal in coming months.