How to say: "Black Metal" in Avestan?
How to say: "Black Metal" in Avestan?
רְשִׁימ֥וֹת־תֹּ֖הוּ | interview with Akvan/اکوان
By: Yossi Ben Oz
Here is a Facebook Interview, conducted at December 27th 2016 and completed at January 7th 2017 with the leader of the Persian-Black-Metal act "Akvan" – Lord Vizaresa.
Lord Vizaresa is the man behind the Persian Black Metal act Akvan/اکوان. We caught up with him for a conversation about his music and much more, now that Akvam came out with new material (demo): میراث.
1. Hello Lord Vizaresa. 1st of all – thank you for this kind interview, this is truly a unique experience for the both of us I am sure.
Hails Yossi, it definitely is, given current circumstances and the state of the world we're living in. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
2. My pleasure of course. How have you been lately? I understand you are now staying in the Middle East?
Busy. Between work, life, and trying to squeeze in time to write music...busy. I am currently working as a behavior psychologist, which unfortunately, leaves very little time to don the corpse paint.
3. Recent days have been intense around the globe: The elections in the USA, the deadly terror act in Berlin, the totally insane civil war going on in Syria… A question I have been curios to ask you for a while: Has any of these impacted your heart & work? Do you wish it so?
Whether we like it or not, the world we live in, which has definitely shrunk due to the internet and the information age, impacts almost every aspect of our lives. I would be lying if I said that current affairs have little to no effect on my personal life and emotions, which are reflected in my art. Although I am a natural born American citizen and have lived there for most of my life ( I recently moved to the middle east to obtain a better understanding of traditional Iranian musical systems), I will openly say that I hold great disdain towards American foreign policy and what is considered mainstream culture in America. The election of Donald Trump and the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the democratic presidential candidate are a testament to the failing education system and cultural decay of the United States. The president of the United States is supposed to be a leader and role model the whole world can look up to, not a petty criminal, which is exactly what Trump and Clinton are-criminals. The horrifying conflict in Syria is a direct result of the United States government attempting to remove a regime that does not fit into their agenda...just like they did in Iran in 1953 under Operation Ajax. I would not refer to it as a civil war, as that would be incorrect. As far as I understand the situation, it is the legitimate government of Syria fighting against terrorist groups which are heavily funded by foreign powers looking for political influence in the region. I doubt many Americans realize that their tax dollars are being given to groups like Al Nusra, a faction of Al Qaeda (you know, the same people who attacked them on September 11th, 2001), to take outAssad's regime. Unfortunately, the narrative of the situation has been heavily altered by US media outlets and most of my fellow countrymen as well as most of the world follow blindly...like sheep. They are led to believe that Muslims, Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, etc., are all the same and that they are equivalent to barbarians. This false and disgusting notion that somehow my ancestral culture is deemed inferior or barbaric by the mainstream narrative is what has partially given rise to Akvan.
4. I want to talk a little about your texts. Your lyrics (as I understand) strongly emphasize the ancient Zoroastrian culture. How do the people in Iran react to this aspect in your work, what with it being their historical own culture in the pre-Islamic era?
Excellent question. Usually it is either black or white. They either love it or hate it. It definitely brings out the divide that is currently present amongst the Iranian people. I would say for the most part, the reaction I've received from younger individuals is much more positive – younger audiences.
Right now, Iran is not a positively depicted country on the world stage, as it hasn't been since the 1970s. Which is a shame and quite unfair and I think this aspect speaks to Iranian fans on a level that is not comprehensible to others. Unfortunately, filthy politics has taken that from them. I grew up in the states and according to their media, which is very prominent in the world, Iran is a desert that has nothing positive to contribute to the world. It's a shithole basically, at least that is how it is advertised… which is consummately false: It is one of the most eco-diverse locations in the world
Iran is an ancient country. It is amongst the oldest, if not the oldest, civilizations in the world. And the Iranian people know this and are damn proud of it; the food is delicious, the women are beautiful and outspoken, the culture and art is infinitely rich, and the history...
Which sadly, is overlooked throughout the world due to politics, so i think when young Iranian fans are introduced to Akvan, a blend of western and traditional Iranian music that celebrates their culture, art, and history, it gives them a sense of pride
It strengthens their sense of pride, which is to my delight.
(Yossi Ben Oz): This sounds amazing. Here in Israel only few Israeli metal acts take the time to address their own vast and ancient culture in their music. I wish many more would.
I think all cultures should.
(Yossi Ben Oz): Totally agree on that.
It provides a new means of education. I am definitely a fan of bands like Melechesh. And one of the things I love about metal is that regardless of religion, ethnicity, culture, etc., it creates a sense of brotherhood amongst fellow metalheads. We can all benefit from each other, so why the hell not?
(Yossi Ben Oz): They are deep in their textual approach, though they too don't address Israeli ancient content. Not as I would wish for.
5. Your music is pretty minimalistic in its approach, I mean fusion wise: you play only Persian scale based Black Metal. Do you ever get curios about fusing some other cultural elements in your work?
I certainly do! I love many different genres of music and have played in other bands that have nothing to do with mideast scales or influence. However, Akvan is more of a personal project for me, and I am actually new to the dastgah system of Iran. There are a wide variety of scales and sounds within the Iranian system which I still have to master and learn about. It has taken me a while to melodically fuse the traditional notes of the Iranian scales, namely the Sori and Koron, which are half flats and half sharps. Without it sounding terrible. So I still have a ways to go before I can establish a sound that encompasses the full Iranian musical system. I am definitely open to working with different sounds and genres of music, but I would like to keep Akvan strictly Iranian. If I produce work outside of these boundaries, It would probably be under a different title.
(Yossi Ben Oz): I can really relate to that :)
6. It is a known fact that Black Metal artists from the Scandinavians feel strongly about their glorious past. I sense that you feel the same about yours. It almost seems as if Black Metal naturally attracts Reactionaries (I have mentioned that in my review of your work earlier this year). What is your take on this subject?
That is quite the loaded question....haha. I would definitely have to agree with you on the appeal to reactionaries. And I could probably get in a lot of trouble for giving you an honest answer, but I'll do my best.
The similarities between Akvan and the black metal scene established in the early 90s are quite obvious. Both musically and philosophically. As any scholar of history would know, Islam is not the original religion of Iran. Just like Christianity in Norway, Islam was forced on the Zoroastrian population through conquest and war. And as a result, our original culture faded...sort of. Although Islam was adopted, the Iranian culture largely survived. Which is why I feel that culturally, Iranians are quite different from our Arab neighbors. And as you asked earlier, about how Iranians react to my work – that is the divide I'm talking about. Due to restrictions in the country, some Iranians do not hold an accurate view of their own history. I was one of them. I didn't really know much about Iran's past until I got a hold of a copy of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh. But when I did learn more and more about the true history of the country, my personal views changed, and well....now we have Akvan. Although I do not deliberately go out of my way to blaspheme or insult anyone's beliefs, I do try to invoke a sense of return to the original culture or Iran which was a culture based on tolerance, as depicted by one of the most important figure in Iranian and world history Cyrus the Great.
Musically speaking, Iranian music is inherently dark and full of emotion. Treble picking of stringed instruments is quite dominant as it is in black metal. Lots of dissonance and drones.
(Yossi Ben Oz): It's interesting: you seem to hold a rather adversary view to current culture but not a militant one. This differs from the Scandinavian point of view definitely, though I tend to question this equation because Scandinavians have no restrictions in their homelands. they can be as atheist or anti-Christian as they please and no one can say a word whereas in Iran things are more risky by far. Which makes you a pretty brave guy...
I wouldn't say I'm brave. Sensible, I'd say. Although I can see the appeal in blaspheming and insulting, especially amongst youth, I believe there are more intellectual avenues to go down to open up discussion. I also personally have no problem with Islam or religion. I just believe that people have the right to make up their own minds about their purpose in life and which path they wish to take.
That is for sure.
7. Tell us a little about your new album. BTW Do you plan to have physical copies made for sale? I love a physical copy but maybe I'm just old J
It's been quite difficult given the nature of my professional career...it's very time-consuming, which has caused several delays in producing material. I am definitely working on incorporating more traditional instruments, such as the tar and Setar (not to be confused with the Indian sitar). Lyrically, I believe this may be the most diverse release as it will cover a range of topics. As for physical copies, I would love to have some available for fans, but it hasn't been a focus for me, but I will definitely try to get some for you.
The reason being is that I am not a very business-oriented person. Akvan is a labor of love and music I create for myself. If other people listen to it and enjoy it, I'm delighted, but I certainly am not looking to make profit off of it. Which is probably why I never really put much effort in merchandise. However, some of my previous material is available on cassette tape through Tetraktys media, which is a music label run by an old band mate and friend. Otherwise, all my work is free for download via bandcamp.
8. If I was to say to you choose 1 specific artist with whom you may collaborate in a new piece, who would you chose and why?
This has probably been one of the most difficult interviews I've taken part in (laughs) and this is by far the most difficult question for me to answer. For Akvan specifically, I would choose maestro Shahram Nazeri, as he is one of the most important figures in traditional Iranian music and a huge influence on me. For me, he is the master of Iranian Sonati, and I believe he could provide knowledge and insight unmatched by anyone else. I believe it would help expand Akvan into something much more grandiose and epic.
9. For my last question… I am going to dare and ask this even though I am aware to how things might be complicated about it: If you were to be invited to perform here in Israel, would you be up for it? What might your thoughts be if such a thing was to occur?
I will be completely honest. If I have fans that want to see me perform live, then it is an honor and a privilege to do so for them, regardless of politics, religion, age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It does not matter to me. I would have no problem fulfilling your proposition and I would do so with pride, regardless of whether or not it would land me in serious trouble. Even though I am openly opposed to the current the current Israeli government, I believe music is one of the very few outlets left for opening up critical dialogue and bringing people together. I believe if I, an Iranian-American black metaller, were to perform in Israel for Israeli fans, it would send a very powerful message to the rest of the world. A giant middle finger to the politicians, religious demagogues, and xenophobes that try to keep us all divided and full of hate. Imagine two presumed “enemies” engaging in celebration of each other's cultures, all in the name of blasphemy (laughs). I think it would piss off all the right people, and that's what it's all about: rebellion.
(Yossi Ben Oz): I want to deeply thank you for this great interview, lots of success with your new album & keep the flames of metal alive \m/
A very big thank you to you, brother, for opening your heart and mind to take the time to give me this opportunity. If more people like yourself could abandon their fear and prejudices to sit down and speak with each other, I believe the world would be a much better place. Thank you again, and may the Gods of Metal bless you. Hails \m/
Yossi Ben Oz
Simorq Persian Phoenix
Simorq has risen from the ashes of defeat and revived herself back to the glory
Glory of Persia
Demo - میراث