Viza Interview – Vocalist K’noup and oud player Andrew Kzirian
By Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
For a band that meld so many different styles and sounds of music, the name Viza (even if they no longer spell it the conventional way) is ideal, particularly given their description as ‘energized international rock’. Globe-trotting in their own right, as well as musically, Viza dispense with rigid notions creating a musical canvas that takes in both fun and social alertness. With new album Carnivalia pivoting around a symbolic theme park, vocalist K’noup and oud player Andrew Kzirian step up to take us through the attractions on offer….
Viza – Let’s just say our lawyers advised us to do so. Haha… Actually we liked the backward look of a “z” which is almost the opposite of an “s”.
I think the description of the band as ‘international rock’ is well suited – how have you gone about bringing in these different sounds and instruments? Where do you take inspiration from?
Viza – It’s the nature of the band, we’re all from different corners of the world and we believe in bringing our roots into our music and this separates us from the other rock bands out there. Over time we’ve incorporated traditional eastern instruments such as the duduk, oud, saz, tar, and doumbek and lord knows what could be next. Pushing the envelope is such an inherent part of Viza – and that’s what we do with these instruments as we take them out of a traditional setting and throw them into rock and more aggressive forms of music.
‘Carnivalia’ is the lead single off the new album, and I must say the video is wholly bizarre but captivating – can you give me your take on what it’s all about?
Viza – CARNIVALIA is the quintessential sideshow to society’s daily life. One can agree that our surroundings are made up of various characters and faces in a world of tireless roller coaster emotions – this frantic and quirky dynamic tends to sum up the amusement of CARNIVALIA.
It would appear that this ties in well with the overall themes and style of the album itself – was there anything in particular you were trying to get across?
Viza – With every album to this point we have tried to annunciate a different theme and in the case of CARNIVALIA we wanted to embody a spectrum of color and merriment all within another chapter of the VIZA saga.
Viza – Music in general should be just that, a palette for one’s metaphors or messages. There is nothing worse than a dry river of music that brings nothing out of the listener. We also want listeners to interpret whatever it is that comes naturally to them when hearing our songs. As an artist you want to put your music and message out there – but the beauty of art is letting it breathe and to inspire the impressions of others…
There does seem to very much be a socially aware edge to Viza, as I understand you promote understanding of human rights and fundraise for various organisations – is it very important for your music to maintain this kind of grounding?
Viza – Art is a powerful form of education and raising awareness of issues in every day life. We care about our communities and things that are happening in the world around us – so yes it is important for us not only as musicians but also as people of good conscience. We try to do our part to contribute to society – it’s part of who we are as human beings.
For those who may not have been aware of you before, Carnivalia is actually your fifth album – how much has changed compared to what has gone before?
Viza – Evolution is a fact of life and no better example of that than in our music. The project started in 2000 with more of a folklore-ish identity – and over the years we have developed into more of a charismatic rock group with a feel for instinct and not necessarily formula.
You appear to have a fan in the form of System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian – what has it been like working together?
Viza – Serj is probably one of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet and working with him was a dream come true for all of us. We had the honor of touring with him a couple of years ago all throughout Europe for his “Imperfect Harmonies” dates – he also was a guest vocalist on the song “Viktor” and served as Executive Producer for our “Made in Chernobyl” album. Working with Serj has been a very inspirational experience for us – not only is he an incredibly talented and accomplished artist but he is also someone with whom we share our concern and passion for advocacy.
Viza – It was an adventure to say the least as it was our first headlining European tour. We got to play in front of and meet a plethora of VIZA fans from so many cities and even better was the experience of sharing our music with new fans. Life on the road for us is like breathing, it needs to be done. Onward to the next tour!
How did you ensure the tour lived up to its name? Were there any strange goings on?
Viza – Well let’s see, our percussionist Chris fornicated with a witch, just kidding haha. There were many instances where we kinda all rolled our eyes in disbelief, on one occasion we stayed at a hotel in Cologne where the elevator continuously made loud grunting noises as if it was a Tyrannosaurus Rex with an upset stomach, it scared the crap out of us! And our oud player showed up with orange and black stripes in his hair. Something about emulating the wooden strips of an oud… Never a dull moment that’s for certain.
It also sounds as though you’ll be touring again this year – do you ever give yourselves time off?
Viza – Yes we’re doing a summer European tour through this August starting in London and ending in Oslo with a stop at Sziget somewhere in there… We get time off when we sleep.
As purveyors of international rock then, is there anywhere in the world that you’re yet to go, but desperate to see?
Viza – Ahhh so many places to go, such little time in ones life to enjoy it. We’re excited to go anywhere as it tends to influence our music but if we were to say specific cities I think we love the idea of travelling to Japan, Moscow, Dubai, Lebanon or maybe even London. Where the hell is London?