Viza continues to captivate the global music scene with an erratically amusing blend of energized international rock. Unique in its musical arsenal is the inclusion of oud and percussion blended with more traditional rock elements such as guitar, bass and drums. This fascinating fusion, combined with dramatic and powerful live performances have garnered Viza significant success all over the world.
Thank you very much for giving us the possibility for an interview!
Of course – it’s a pleasure!
How would you describe the uniqueness of your band and music, especially for the people who do not know you?
Viza is a collection of crazy musicians playing crazy music - and this definitely shows in our live shows. Our sound has a lot to do with each of the backgrounds and influences of each individual member in the group. You used the word “unique” in the question – I think that aside from the music we all write together and the melodies and songs that are borne out of Viza, incorporating the oud and some of the percussion definitely distinguishes the band when compared to other artists.
When have you founded the band?
As an idea and project, it was started by K’noup in 2000. As a band and with our current lineup Viza has been around since 2005 (vocalist K’noup joined by guitarists Shant Bismejian and Orbel Babayan, bassist Alexan Khatcherian, Drummer Hiram Rosario and Percussionist Chris Daniel). After moving from Philly to LA, I joined the group in 2009 and brought the oud in to the mix, and have tried to help out with our development and growth over the past 2-3 years since I first got involved. It’s been an exciting ride these past few years with all the touring and growth – we are all continuing to work hard together so the future looks even more interesting and bright!
How did you find this genre of music and how did you meet each other?
I would say the actual “genre” of Viza is an unknown, as it blends so many different styles and flavors together. In press coverage writers and journalists have called us things like “heavy melodies” or “world (fusion) rock”, but in the end we don’t try and adopt any particular categorization and prefer instead for the listener to decide for themselves when it comes to things like that. All of the guys met in Los Angeles – the city is a rich and diverse cultural and musical community where artists can network and meet their peers amidst such a vibrant setting.
The name “VIZA ” – could you tell us the background of this name?
The name is meant to symbolize a musical passport – which is derived from the origins of the band and our idea of creating music sprung out of a mix of different cultures, mixed with our more contemporary rock and metal influences.
Do you have any idols?
Not idols really – but I do admire certain people and artists. Serj Tankian has been a great role model for us. Such a talent and also a tremendous person. Also Hrant Kenkulian (Oudi Hrant), the legendary oud master who played a pivotal role in shaping the instruments place in the world. Aside from music, I also respect the contribution of Martin Luther King to the civil rights movement, and Franklin Roosevelt for his leadership during the great depression. I think it’s important to balance art with other pursuits as I believe that this balance can actually enhance our art over time with the benefit of perspective and working both sides of the brain. It’s a crazy theory I have… :-)
Where do you get the inspiration for the songs and how much time do you spend on average for the music practices?
Inspiration comes from everywhere… our experiences, our relationships, our challenges and difficulties in life, as well as our joyful moments. I’d say touring has also had a very strong impact as well the past couple of years. I think it’s something about when we travel and see the world while performing and sharing our music that sparks that passion for creativity. It’s really something special, because you internalize the experiences you have on the road and the relationships you build – and that has an effect on the music in some ways…
For rehearsals it depends, we meet pretty regularly during tour preparation time to get in the zone. But for writing it can be a pretty unpredictable process – as long as you’re in the laboratory you never know what might come out!
What can you tell us concerning your success? Do you have some special things you are very proud of?
It has been an exciting journey so far – all the touring and music we have put out – makes us proud and happy to be able to perform all over the world. I think the most rewarding experiences have come during live shows. The connection with the crowd can be electric sometimes. I have several memories of great shows all over – I’m sure all of Viza's members do as well.
Do the band members spend much time together in the free time or do you prefer to spend your time separately?
We are all close and it is as if we are a family. We spend time together but usually it’s around the evenings when we are at the studio together working on music or rehearsing. Like any group of musicians and close brothers we have our ups and downs – but the important thing is how we work hard together and make music.
How do you earn your own living?
I am an attorney and self-admitted finance guy. I try to balance my day job with music and touring. It gets quite interesting at times…
To which genres of music, artists, bands do you listen in your free time?
I listen to several styles of music. I love rock and metal and grew up during the advent of the Seattle scene. Bands like Soundgarden, Alice & Chains, Nirvana and Pearl Jam left a real impression on me. After that you had Tool, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, and Korn and similar acts. Mix in my roots in Armenian folk and classical oud music from the Ottoman period moving forward and you have some interesting stuff going on in my head.
Are you in love with somebody, engaged or married?
Not engaged or married. Music is kind of like my mistress though…
How do your families see “VIZA”?
Our families are supportive – which is all we can hope for and ask for as musicians. To have the people closest to us believe in what we are doing and love us for what we do.
Do you have somebody, an idol, you want to meet any time?
I would love to meet Oudi Hrant Kenkulian – the legendary oud master. He played a very important role in the history and progression of the oud, especially when it came to innovation. As I constantly strive to innovate in my own playing, I felt like this tradition can live on in a very contemporary way thanks to the example he set for so many oud players everywhere. Sadly he passed away years ago…
Tell us what scares you?
Heights. And complacency. Staying still is very scary. Always wanna be on the move – creating, working, building…
What was the last thing that made you laugh?
When I was home in Philadelphia visiting with friends recently over the holidays I had quite a good laugh. Between my brother and all of my close friends I grew up with – we tend to have spirited discussions about politics and current events, especially the financial crisis. So one of my friends started to sarcastically ridicule the enormous compensation packages that top executives receive in circumventing the law, especially related to the financial crisis that just happened – and I just started laughing uncontrollably for several minutes because of the very funny manner in which my friend was explaining it. Better than doing sit ups! Nothing to do with music and nerdy I know…
What gets you angry?
Nothing really gets me “angry” per se. Always try to keep an even keel in life and do things in moderation.
How are the next plans about “VIZA”??
Our plans consist of our tour coming up in Feb/Mar 2013, writing music and continuing to reach out to our fans. I think our new record will continue to represent the evolution of our sound. Actually really excited to get to work on it.
When and where are your next gigs?
All over Europe coming up in March 2013. Really looking forward to it! Details coming soon...
Which „YouTube Video“ from “VIZA” can you recommend us?
Oh there are so many! All our music videos (Whiskey Song, Carnivalia, Trans-Siberian Standoff, Breakout the Violins) and tons of live shows are on youtube like our Sziget mainstage show from this past summer... Also saw a couple of cool ones too from when Serj and the FCC did "Ching Chime" with me doing some oud parts from our last tour...
Is there anything you want to tell our listeners / readers?
When it comes to music - look out for Viza in 2013 as we will be busy bees touring, writing and doing other interesting things :-)When it comes to live, work hard, be kind and thoughtful to others – but be firm and go after your dreams. Don't let things get in your way. Remember that everyone makes mistakes both big and small - learn from them and always try to improve as a person and in your life. And most importantly, appreciate the special people in your life and take the time to share important things with them...
Thank you very much!