Viza are one of those bands that not only tread their own path but make music that is so far removed from anything else out there that the word unique really does apply in their case. They’ve gained quite a following too and can name Serj Tankian as an admirer. So much so that he produced their Made In Chernobyl album.
Acting as opening band for the Skindred / Soil tour meant some serious exposure for the LA six piece. MetalMouth met up with singer K’noup and bass player Alex for a talk about the Viza sound, touring and the Serj connection.
What’s it been like touring with Soil and Skindred?
K’noup: Awesome, they’re all fantastic people, great musicians. The shows have been excellent, people going crazy. It’s really cool.
You have a very unusual sound, a very eclectic sound. How’s that gone down with UK fans?
K’noup: For the most part at least from a psychological perspective we notice a moment of absorption off the top then after two or three songs they’re wondering “what’s going on here? What is this?” Eventually they’re all coming to grips with what’s going on, the music is so diverse for their palette. It takes a bit for them to get a hold of the music but when they do they’re very much enjoying it and the response afterwards is further testament to why we keep doing this. Because it’s working out well.
You have a lot of influences, Gogol Bordello and System Of A Down have often been quoted. You’ve also worked with Serj Tankian. What was that like?
Alex: Oh he’s an awesome guy, very professional, very down to earth too. He’s got a great knowledge of music and a really good ear, like, he knows what works. He was a great mentor and advisor, he was executive producer on Made In Chernobyl and it was a pleasure to work with him.
Obviously he likes what you do. Any chance you’ll get to work with him again in the future?
K’noup: We’d love to. He’s an artist that I’ve grown up on. I remember watching him perform live for the first time at Irving Plaza in New York City when I was a kid and I looked up and went “Holy Smokes, this guy has got it”. He’s got that ethnic vibe, that Greek, Armenian, you know, eastern influence. He’s incorporating an eastern style into a modern rock form. As far as we’re concerned our doors will always be open for him. It’s always a positive with him around.
That eastern influence and eastern style. Do you find that you’ve picked up a lot of fans from that area of the world because of your style?
K’noup: That’s funny because the eastern side of the world that we pick up are due to mainly that they’re into the western style of rock. There’s like this cross that happens where the eastern side of the world looks at us and goes yeah we love the rock end of you guys because they’re used to that ethnic tone. It’s nothing new to them. Then our side of the world, they hear the eastern side of our music and they think that’s something mesmerising.
A bit like a musical highway then?
K’noup: Isn’t it. Pretty much.
Your previous album Carnivalia had a dark theme park vibe running through it. Your new album Aria, does that have a theme too?
K’noup: Carnivalia had a very….Carnivalia theme, for the simple reason we tracked in Frank Zappa’s studio. So you couldn’t help but get influenced with that chaotic mind of his. Aria lacks a theme but I like to call it a variety of our previous themes together.
So Aria has a wider variety of styles on it?
K’noup: It’s like a chest full of drawers. You put your socks in the first drawer and your underwear in the second drawer and your shirts etc. So I guess Aria is a mini collection of Made In Chernobyl, Carnivalia….Eros.
You’ve got got a lot of guys in the band, you’re a six piece so lots of different influences and tastes. Do you fight over what gets played in the tour bus?
Alex: (Laughing) Yeah, there are a lot of complaints, no one is ever happy but that’s how it goes with that many people.
K’noup: We’re worse than like an old couple.
Three old couples.
K’noup: It’s like three old couples that are divorced but living together. It’s hilarious. What’s great is that we always have a meeting of the minds and come to a compromise.
Which is what a band is about…
K’noup: Right. I mean if Guns N Roses could compromise they could be one of the biggest bands in the world right now. (Much chuckling)
You’re on tour with Skindred and Soil right now. Have you got any plans to tour the UK again or the US this year, or play any festivals?
Alex: Yeah, all of the above if the offers come. We’re open to pretty much anything.
K’noup: We’re shooting for a UK headline run some time in the summer. Our agent’s working on that. We’re taking offers for any festivals, Reading/Leeds, Download. As far as the US is concerned it’s a tough tough place for a rock band. Rock music is kinda like the cereal that expired in the cupboard. Nobody wants to eat it any more. Everyone wants to go and get Starbucks dance music.
America’s a huge country, Do bands typically stick to playing east and west coasts or just one area?
Alex: We typically stick to west and east coasts. There’s a lot of ground to cover and it’s very difficult to map out everything. We do west coast from San Diego to Washington and east coast New York, Boston and Philadelphia area. Cultural cities is what we tend to shoot for because of our music. Playing in the mid west which we’ve done and we’ve won over crowds is kind of frightening sometimes. They tend to think we’re terrorists or something. We don’t prohibit ourselves from going there or anywhere in the US. It’s just a little difficult. The states is not as embracive as some of the rest of the world.
Would you like to say something to the fans out there that have bought your album and come along to your shows?
Alex: Thank you, you guys are awesome. Thank you so much.
Guys it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, thank you.
Both: Likewise, thank you.
Viza’s ‘Aria’ is out now via Architects Of Melody