keeping the beat on the road and in the studio
To say that Chris Dimas has packed a lot into his 19 years would be a major understatement. A drum prodigy who began taking lessons at the age of four, Dimas has followed a frantic pace through his teens. From winning the Roland Canada V-Drums junior competition at 13, to competing on Canada’s Got Talent at 15, to moving to California to attend the Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music at 17, Dimas has committed to becoming the best musician he can be.
Add in playing with a number of bands over the past six or seven years at one time he was playing with nine bands and it’s easy to see why Dimas has fashioned a successful music career. Currently his focus is on Surf Dads, a band he formed with Gage McGuire, and Bleeker, a Canadian rock band that Dimas has been performing with for the past few years.
So when you’re trying to explain how Dimas evolved from a child prodigy to a working musician, where do you begin? Well, it first became apparent that Dimas was more than just a little kid randomly pounding on a toy drum.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Dimas’ dad George. “My cousin was over and we come from a sort of musical family we always played music in the house. So this particular time we had ice cream containers upside down and one of those little toy drums for Chris. We were playing our music and he was tapping to it, but he was tapping in time. I was watching and thinking, ‘Can he really be doing this?’ I don’t even know if he was even two at the time.
“After we finished, I took one of the ice cream buckets and started tapping and I said to him, ‘Tap what I tap,’ and he would do it. It wasn’t little stuff, it was stuff that I couldn’t believe he was doing. I looked at my wife Julie and said, ‘I think this kid has got rhythm.’ ”
The toy drum was replaced by a small set of drums which Chris destroyed rather quickly “He just hit the heads too hard,” said George. An informal educating was added to the process with Chris tagging along with his dad to rehearsals for the Greek band Arkadia.
“He would come to our practices and all he would do is sit by the drummer and watch him,” said George. “I knew at that time there was something there but I thought he was too young to act on it.”
By the time Chris was four, George felt it was time for some formal training. He approached a friend, Mike Thompson, a drum teacher in Regina, to take on Chris as a student. Thompson was reluctant given Chris’ age — he normally didn’t take students until they were old enough to read — but George was able to convince him to sign off on the deal.
George wasn’t expecting miracles in the once-a-week, 30-minute classes. Rather, he was hoping for “a little bit of fun, a little bit of drumming, whatever Mike felt was appropriate. I just wanted a foundation put in place.”
Chris realizes the position Thompson found himself in with a four-year-old student who wanted to hammer on his drums. “I can only imagine how hard it is to teach drums to a four-year-old. I ended up taking lessons with him for most of my life and he’s still one of my influences,” said Chris.
While Chris holds Thompson in high regard, he does admit to be a less-than-dedicated student.
“It was weird because I never had to be told to go play my drums but I would have to get told to practice what I was given at lessons,” said Chris. “I would go to lessons and there would be sheet music and, to me, that was pretty boring. I wanted to learn a Bon Jovi song or something like that. I don’t read music very often, I’m trying to learn now but ever since I was a kid I was the kind of drummer that just wanted to play a song.
“Again, I was never told to go practise my drums, I was told to go practise my lessons.”
Whether it was the lessons or the constant practising or more likely, a combination of the two, Chris continued to make strides as a drummer. At 13, he reached a turning point in his young life with the Roland V-Drums contest.
“I ended up winning that competition for all of Canada and getting to perform in Montreal with some of my heroes was amazing,” said Chris. “It was a mindblowing experience that made me want to play drums for the rest of my life.”
Interestingly enough, perhaps the toughest part of the competition was filming a drum solo for his entry.
“I’m very bad about writing a drum solo. I don’t really like doing that I just want to play my drums. At the time, I just sat down at Long & McQuade and played whatever was on my mind,” said Chris. “It turned out I reached the finals and then I got an email saying I made the Top 3 and then when I won, I was one of the happiest 13-year-olds in the country.
“That was really cool and definitely a spark that led to everything that is happening now.”
Winning the contest put a more serious spin on his playing Chris gave up playing hockey to focus on drumming and he soon became a frequent sight on the Regina music scene. He also made another venture on to the national stage by competing in the CityTV reality series Canada’s Got Talent in 2012. Auditions were held in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax and Montreal.
The audition process was a surreal experience for Chris, who was one of 12 acts from the Winnipeg auditions to move on to the next round. “It was like, ‘This will be a cool way to play drums for more people.’ I didn’t really think anything of it at the time,” recalled Chris, who was 15. “I remember my dad driving me to Winnipeg, which was the closest audition. I literally set my drums up in a room for this lady and played really loud for about 20 seconds and that was it. We drove back home. I got invited back for the TV performance and that went well.
“I’m not sure if it’s on YouTube but it’s a young me getting really excited to play on TV. I don’t talk about it much anymore but it was a really cool thing that happened.”
As his reputation spread, different opportunities arose. In addition to playing with Arkadia, he was busy playing with a number of different bands in Regina. He also got an opportunity to drum with Billy Talent during a soundcheck prior to an appearance at Moose Jaw’s Mosaic Place in April, 2012.
The soundcheck, which saw Chris play Viking Death March with the band, was taped and uploaded to YouTube. It was an impressive performance that ended with Billy Talent frontman Benjamin Kowalewicz teasing drummer Aaron Solowoniuk, “So Aaron, thanks for all your hard work, but you’re out.”
The next move attending college in the Los Angeles suburb of Hollywood was probably the most difficult step for Chris and his parents. After spending the first week with Chris, George and Julie returned to Regina, leaving their 17-year-old son on his own in a city of 18 million people.
“He was going to be by himself on Hollywood Boulevard at 17 years old when he’d never really washed his own clothes, cooked his own meals, really lived. Looking back, we can’t believe we let him go at 17 but every time he’d come home, he was this different, matured kid,” said George.
While Chris went to the school for the drumming, he ended up finding another element of the music business that caught his attention. Early on, Chris switched from the drumming program “The drum portion of the school wasn’t for me.” to the audio engineering department.
Constantly trying to improve as an audio engineer, Chris has taken to recording as many bands as he can, whether it’s videos for Surf Dads or helping out other Saskatchewan bands. He records a lot in the basement of his parents’ house, but he has also become known for recording in unusual locations such as a Mr. Sub location or his parents’ bathroom.
“We brought all of our gear into my parents’ bathroom and some recording gear there. It’s really hard to record in a bathroom but I think we did well. I thought, ‘This is really stupid. We should try it,’” Chris said with a chuckle.” And we just finished doing videos in my Dad’s Mr. Sub location on south Albert. We went at closing, set everything up, finished by the time the store opened in the morning.”
Now back living full-time in Regina, Chris is keeping busy with Surf Dads and Bleeker. He recently finished a tour through the U.S. with Bleeker and after a few weeks off will head to Europe for some Surf Dads shows, which will lead into Bleeker’s European tour in early September.
He’s also still playing with various bands and recording as much music as possible. Does he worry about stretching himself too thin?
“Not really. I guess not every band is touring but in Regina there’s a ton of bands with my friends that we just started and play with,”said Chris. “I’ve got a really awesome group of friends I got going on and everyone wants to play music. With us, it’s fun to just start a band and try and play a show.
“That’s how all those bands come about.”
With his 20th birthday approaching, Chris is letting his love of music drive his career forward, whether it’s playing drums or recording music. He certainly has an idea of what he wants to do.
“I’m enjoying playing and touring but I’m really interested in getting better in the recording studio,” said Chris. “There are so many people that do amazing audio work but that’s a dream of mine that I hope to accomplish some day. For now, I’m recording my friends’ bands in my basement. I have such a good time doing it that I want to keep doing it. I’m finding the more I do it, the more I’m learning and the more I want to record.
“Anything involving music is just awesome to me. I’m starting to play a lot more guitar and bass and the recording side of things is helping me learn that more because hopefully I can share some good ideas to a guitar player. I just love making music. It’s so cool to write a song with someone, hear it as you write it and then hear the finished product.
“I’m hoping that someday I can make a really good sounding album. That’s where I’ll leave it for now.”