What happens when you combine thunderous rock, oud, duduk, and middle eastern licks? You get the unmistakable brilliance of Viza. Knoup Tomopoulos is a man of greek heritage, and provides the rasp and biting singing of Viza. Formed in 2000 the group has spent 15 years developing an impressive catalogue of albums; their most recent Made in Chernobyl fuses Russian inspired riffs and themes with bombastic post punk, thrash and intricate pop. We spoke to Knoup via email to learn more about the group and the album.
TEJ: How did Viza come about, as it was originally just you back in 2000 that started the project and then the band formed?
Knoup: VIZA all started in the summer of 2000 when I was recording with my other band NEUROBOX. One of the engineers and a good friend of mine at the time, “Johnny Nice” performed on a very Mediterranean track called “San Michele” that subsequently was added to our album called EVE. From that point on I knew I had to start a project with him that would entail the sound of world culture.
TEJ: Who were your biggest musical inspirations (and non music) when you were growing up?
Knoup: Growing up as a kid I was in a Philharmonic band for almost 5 years as a trumpet player until I finally switched to guitar at around 17. Trumpet at the time didn’t truly woo me, and it was not till I heard a few rock records (U2- Achtung Baby, Nirvana – Nevermind, Queen – Night at the Opera) did I finally start focusing on a possible pursuit of a musical career.
TEJ: You had a sudden shift into music to a decree, what altered your previous outlook to cause this shift? Or was being a musician perhaps something you have always had lurking in the back of your mind?
Knoup: To a degree I was a musician as a child but never did I think it I would take it seriously, I was too caught up in just being a kid. However at some point I had a vision and cannot really say if it was something that imploded within me or id it was called upon me, albeit it was definitely something magical that I’m glad took place.
TEJ: What music has had a more recent impact on your work?
Knoup: I wouldn’t say music as much as life and maturity has lead me through my work. Growing up I would always think I needed to listen to more music but now I choose to not listen to as much and let the melodies of everyday life script my scroll.
TEJ: You recently played in Greece and France with Viza, how was that for the band as a whole?
Knoup: Greece and France never fails to fill our motivational cup for their fans are widely passionate and ever so interactive. As an artist that is all you ask for when you’re on the road, no one wants to go to a home with horrible hosts.
TEJ: Viza have also been working on Carnivalia. Have those sessions finished? Is there a recurring theme at all through the album? When can fans expect the release?
Knoup: Carnivalia is about 70 percent done with expected release to be sometime this coming fall. The theme behind this record is to be somewhat like a vision of a Sicilian Circus traveling through the rough roads of the Swiss Alps, or simply “The Strangest show on Earth”. I can assure you it will be our most vivid album to date.
TEJ: Viza isn’t your only project. Can you tell us about what else you are involved in?
Knoup: Outside of VIZA I have a gothic metal band called NEUROBOX that I’ve been apart of since ’96. It’s a project that allows me to tap into my sinister side that I don’t really delve into in VIZA. I like to think of VIZA as the color white and NEUROBOX as the color black. I also work on a more romantic project with my partner/oud player Andrew Kzirian called “Architects of Melody” and of course I always have time for my solo stuff. You can find all of my work at Knoup.com
TEJ: You released the Trans Siberian Standoff video earlier this year. What was that experience like?
Knoup: Trans-Siberian Standoff was quite the experience; it was a 3-day adventure of no sleep & exploration. It was also our second music video with director Tadeh Daschi & needless to say capturing the essence of its poem within the stimulating visuals was a complete success.
TEJ: When developing Made in Chernobyl was the Russian theme present from the onset creation of the album?
Knoup: Indeed it was. Prior to development all of our albums have a blueprint engraved. In the case of ‘Made in Chernobyl’ I was fascinated with the idea of making a record of Russian social philosophies mixed with a flair of their historical movements.
TEJ: And finally, here is a personal question of mine. Are you planning on visiting Europe again and the UK?
Knoup: We’re shooting for a tour this winter and the UK is certainly well within our reach.
Many thanks to Knoup for taking time out to answer our questions.
Please visit: Knoup’s Site Here
– Update 2015: Fixing some minor mistakes and rewriting the intro.