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International band Viza are ready to set the stage alight on Sunday
ARMENIAN metallers Viza are ready to set the stage alight with their energetic and unique fusion of sound as they support System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian on his solo headline shows.
Here Victoria MacFarlaine speaks to oud musician Andrew Kzirian, 34, about the dedication of UK fans and what’s next for the band.
You are supporting Serj Tankian at Shepherds Bush this weekend. You must be extremely excited about that?
Yes. It is something we are looking forward to doing. He is a really great artist and a really good supporter so we are looking forward to playing those shows. Are you more a fan of his solo work or System of a Down?
Well both. Obviously with System that was his first project, and they wrote a lot of great music, did a lot of great things and had many achievements. And I think he’s been exploring another side of his work and that’s been very interesting too.
How did you meet Serj?
In 2010, in August, it was the first time we toured with him. We went with him for his European tour for about three and a half weeks, I think it was. And that was after we released our previous album, Made in Chernobyl.
He took a very active role with that as executive producer and he also sang as a guest vocalist on Viktor. So we had a very good relationship with him, he was coming to shows and we had mutual contacts and friends.
He was interested in getting involved and we welcomed that of course. He has done so much. We were like a younger group looking for guidance. That was something that was very cool for us, obviously.
Do you enjoy playing in the UK?
Our first show was August 1st at the Borderline. It was our first time to playing in London and the UK overall, and the show went really well, the crowd was great. It was a midweek show and we still had a good draw.
There is something really special about the music scene in the United Kingdom with the rock there and all the great names like the Beatles and The Stones, so it was a really great time for us to make our mark on the UK.
Are the UK fans different to those in America?
I think there is a different attitude towards music in general, even with Europe overall, there is a different appreciation I think for live music and rock. In the US it is there but has just changed over time.
So a lot of our success really has been in Europe and the UK too. That has to do with touring with Serj and reaching a lot of fans. There is just a different approach to music there.
When you walk outside you see lots of people lined up for shows. In the US, unless they are really huge, huge, huge names, that same attention to music isn’t quite as comparable. It is just something that we have noticed over the past few years.
What inspired you to start playing the oud?
That’s an interesting question you ask. I’m of Armenian descent, like the other members of the group. Although I am of Armenian descent like them, I was interested in the family history, and geographically where they are from, and the region that my ancestors are from is an area where the oud was a very prominent instrument.
So, growing up, I was very involved in Armenian culture, and went to an Armenian school, and had Armenian friends as a youngster, so the oud was a natural habitat for me and although I’d always studied guitar and that was a natural instrument for me, and I played a lot of rock music, like a lot of my contemporaries I was a product of the Seattle music scene.
Listening to Metallica, like the Pearl Jams, the Nirvanas, and bands like that, and other very heavy music, and bands like Rage and Tool and System obviously. So when I grew up I would learn my chops on there. Viza was where I could mix the two and I had always kind of personally done that with my writing, with my own creative musical exploration, when I was working in Viza I could insert the instrument into it so we could all write together and blend it.
That is one of the things that makes it more interesting and unique, in terms of the instrumentation and the melodies.
How would you describe your own music?
Just when I am meeting people for the first time I am always curious where they learned about us and what their impression is. Most people have told me, it’s usually one of a few different things, you usually sound like a mix of band A and band D, and they have heard System of a Down and Gogol Bordello.
Then I have heard, you don’t sound like anything, that it’s a new thing that you cannot really categorise. I don’t know where I stand. I mean I like the fact that with my fellow band members that we write something that does sound like something new, the music is always the influences and sources from something, and we all grew up listening to something at some point.
It is hard to just nail it down, but there are many influences which will be shown here and there in the music we play.
You were called Visa before - why did you change it?
So we were around in the early 2000s, it was a very different project, more of an idea. Then over time a lot of our members moved from New York to Los Angeles, and the music we played was a little more traditional sounding, not quite so much the edgier rock influence we have now, so as the band was progressing, I think it was around 2010, but then much more recently, as our song writing and desire was moving forward in a rock and metal direction with that gypsy style.
We just kind of made it clear we were moving in a new direction so we decided to make that subtle but noticeable change in the name to signal we were continuing to evolve and develop our style.
What’s next for Viza?
Oh, so much (laughs). We are looking forward to this tour that’s coming up. That’s something that is going to be really important for us. It’s a part of our fan-building for us,.
After that, we are looking forward to doing a lot of writing, to continue to be putting music out there and share that. And we have been very active with our media and marketing and that is something we are doing in the US with a huge radio campaign in north America.
We are covering many different bases, but on the creative side it is going to be song writing where we would like to put a few things out.
The beauty of what we do, I’m not saying it’s unpredictable, but because we have so many influences and because we are so inclusive of what we do, there is no telling [if the style may change] but the last two albums we have done, have been more on the aggressive side.
I think we are probably going to stay within that range but also mix it up aswell.
Viza will be playing The London 02 Shepherds Bush on Sunday, October 7, Manchester University on October 8 and Birmingham on October 10.
Their latest album Carnivalia is out now.
For more on the band see www.experienceviza.com.