For Kris Combs, a lifetime of drumming isn't the product of the LA strip or a Julliard education.
It started with a $50 used drum set held together by more rubber bands than stands somewhere outside of Charleston, West Virginia.
Born in the small community of St. Albans, Kris begged his father for a drum kit for years growing up and he finally got one... when he was 8. The cacophony of rhythm created by Rush's Neil Peart and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham engulfed him from a young age and influenced how he developed his own stick and pedal skills more so than his gear or theories.
Alex Van Halen followed, eventually guiding his journey to Dream Theater founding drummer Mike Portnoy, whose all-encompassing style captivated Kris's imagination.
Creative diversity guided Kris as he developed an ear for the off-kilter variety of Tim Alexander (Primus), the powerhouse thrash of Igor Cavalera (Sepultura), the twirling labyrinth of range from Danny Carey (Tool) among so many others.
Like many drummers, Kris set out for himself in original bands (Saturn Down, Rome in a Day) and a cover band (ThatGuy) before finding his zen.
In June 2012, three weeks after leaving his last band, Kris filled a vital gap in Iris Divine's line-up shortly after half of the band disbanded, leaving singer/guitarist Navid Rashid and bassist Brian Dobbs with an uncertain musical future.
By that point, Kris had lived in Iris Divine's home turf of Northern Virginia for several years and he seemed to have found the freedom of space and creativity he needed within the progressive heavy metal and hard rock band.
"My joining was based off really feeling like I could achieve in this band what I never had been able to within previous groups," said Kris.
That included honest songwriting, putting musicianship above image, fully exploring a song's potential and being genuine, both as a drummer and a songwriter who wanted to create something different.
"I'm always looking for another angle to come at a song. It doesn’t have to be flashy, technical, insane or unplayable. It just has to be something atypical. Otherwise I'm simply not fulfilled and I get bored," he said.
It's why Iris Divine has shared the stage with a variety of progressive and heavy metal touring bands since Kris joined, ranging from Fate's Warning and Haken to Montreal's The Agonist.
In 2014, Iris Divine recorded its debut full-length LP as a three-piece band, the internationally acclaimed "Karma Sown," released March 31, 2015 through Sensory Records.
"This album is a reflection of exactly where I want to be as a drummer, a songwriter, and as a performer," said Kris. "It also has set up precisely where I want to go from here. I always want to progress and challenge myself."
Kris's drumming toes the line between patience and over-indulging, allowing him to abruptly alter time signatures and playing styles one moment before going steady on a groove beat the next.
"I like to get dangerously close to being overkill and then dialing back just slightly," he said.
The beat-up sparkly blue Ludwig his dad bought him as a kid long since removed, Kris now plays Mapex Pro Ms with a blue ice finish.
Kris's kit features:
-a 14x7-inch main snare
-a 22x18 kick drum
-toms measuring 12, 16 and 18 inches
-a Pearl Firecracker 10-inch side snare
-6x18-inch and 6x21-inch Octobans;
-DW9000 pedals for his hi hat and double bass
-a pair of Vic Firth 7a wood type tip drum sticks
-7" Extreme Splash
-8" Gospel Splash
-12" Extreme China
-13" Heavy Hammered Hi Hats
-15" Extreme Crash
-16" Custom Brilliant FXO 6 Effect China
-17" Extreme Crash
-19" Extreme China
-21" Gospel Ride