1. Lord Visareza, how's it going? How would you introduce Akvan to our readers? What do you think differentiates it from other Black Metal bands?

Hails and thank you for this opportunity. Simply put, Akvan is an Iranian influenced black metal project that cites Iranian mythology, art, literature, and music at the core of its inspiration. Its sole member is myself, Vizaresa, and I would say the elements which distinguish it from other black metal bands are the utilization of distorted microtonal Iranian scales, (which, to my knowledge, have not been incorporated in this genre of music before) and the inclusion of traditional Iranian instruments, such as the tar. The sound is also extremely raw and is intended to be so as Akvan is a reaction to the over-produced, digitized, and emotionless nonsense that appears to be dominating the metal scene at large. In many parts of the Middle East, such as Iran, metal music is outlawed and many metal artists are denied the privilege of working with professional grade equipment. Thus, I want to convey a similar atmosphere in regards to the sound of my music.

2. How did you come up with the name Visareza, if we may ask?

According to Zoroastrian theology, the original religion of Iran, Vizaresa is a demon that collects wicked souls and transports them to hell after death. I figure it fits well within this specific genre.

3. Could you tell us a bit about the writing process for your songs? How often would you work on your music?

It’s quite spontaneous and more of a mental process than anything else. Music has always been a dominantly improvised art form, especially traditional Iranian music, which is where a fair amount of my musical influence comes from. I will usually sit for a few hours playing for fun on either my microtonal guitar or on my tar and come up with a melody I like. Then, I’ll put it on hold for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or even months and then come back to it. There is a fair amount of mathematics and theory involved in finding chord progressions that blend well with microtones. It might not sound complicated when listening to the final product, but there is a lot more going on musically than the average listener might grasp. The most challenging part is coming up with fitting drum parts as I am in no way, shape, or form a drummer. Once the music is written, I find inspiration for lyrics in texts such as the Shahnameh, Iranian historical and political events, poetry, and art, especially art produced by Mahmoud Farshchian.

4. What do you think about the metal scene in the Middle East in general, and Black Metal in specific? What sets the Iranian scene apart from the rest of the ME scene?

I do not want to come off as negative or disrespectful, as I am very well aware that there are a handful of gifted artists that play from their hearts and truly risk everything to do something they love in this part of the world, many of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting and even have the honor of calling my friends, but I have to say I am a little disappointed. As many artists of this genre have stated before, there seems to be a herd mentality in metal these days that is contradictory to the spirit of this type of music.  I base this on much of the criticism I have received from metal fans in this region. They all seem to have a fixation on recording quality as opposed to the actual music itself. This is especially the case in Iran… which I find funny since Akvan is a black metal project. It’s not supposed to sound produced. Many have even told me outright that traditional instruments and melodies have no place in this genre of music. I personally believe this has more to do with Western-influenced or Western-appeasing politics, the idea that presenting as Western somehow implies superiority or intellectual advancement, which, for lack of better wording, I find asinine and self-deprecating. I mean, I was born in the US and grew up there and am proud of my Iranian ancestry. I believe no matter where you are from, regardless of political or historical background, you should take pride in your roots, which is why I would really like to see more bands come up with an interpretation of metal rooted in their own culture. I think it would certainly make things more interesting and help expand the genre to new territory. Especially bands from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Scandinavian black metal bands, but I’d also like to add more variety to my musical library, if you will.  Music can serve as an exceptional platform for cultural expansion. I also think the metal scene in the Middle East has a commonality with the scene in the States in regards to the foolish notion that technicality is more important than musicality. Anyone can learn to sweep pick in 13/8, but not everyone can write a song. In all, on a positive note, I would say there is a lot of room for development in this region as far as metal goes, and I think we’re already on our way to seeing a new player in the global metal scene.

5. You’ve recently re-located to Dubai. Would you mind telling us why you’ve moved?

I moved to Dubai after I finished my Master’s degree back home. My parents had already re-located about 8 years prior, so I figured I would take a chance on somewhere new. So far, I love it. I’ve met people from all over the globe and as a result have widened my global perspective. Not to mention the available dining options are awesome. Dubai is also close to Iran, so I have the opportunity to visit and keep in touch with extended family, as well as expanding my musical knowledge and embracing my ancestral roots.

6. You were born in the US. So how was growing up there as a first-generation Iranian-American like and how did that affect your music?

To be honest, it was quite a lonely experience. I grew up in a part of the country that was predominantly conservative and Republican based, meaning many individuals in our community were unwelcoming to non-whites. My parents, myself, and my sister experienced our fair share of racism and isolation. Even though my parents are both respectable university professors, I felt as though we were treated like second-class citizens sometimes. Especially after then-U.S president Bush labeled Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil.” I was bullied quite often in school, even by some of my teachers. I think that’s where inspiration for Akvan primarily came from. This need to connect with an identity and rebel against  the belittleing of my ancestry. It was also around this time that I was first exposed to black metal and realized how similar it was to traditional Iranian music. Because of the music, I met many good friends that I am still in contact with to this day, as I found people who listen to this kind of music are more accepting of that which is different and judge based on character as opposed to physical appearance.  Many of the bands I listened to pushed a national identity in their lyrics and concepts, and I loved it and thought, why not an Iranian black metal band? And the rest is history.

7. You told us that record label from Germany tried to sign you. How did that go? 

I received an email from a record company (that will remain anonymous) offering me a contract for two albums over the course of the next four years. Naturally I was stoked. In their email they referred to my work as "genius" and "ground-breaking." However, I was asked to drop the Iranian theme, change my project name to something more " 'Arabic' and accessible," and take a more "progressive stance towards the West." And I did what had to be done. I declined politely by telling them to get lost. Akvan is Iranian black metal, pure and simple.  No compromises. Plus, I doubt their idea of ‘Arabic’ is anything close to a legitimate representative of real Arab culture. They wanted me to represent a culture that, for one, is not my own, and, in a way that only they deemed acceptable and would most likely be seen as inaccurate and offensive by real Arabs.  So, no, I absolutely refused.

8. Many of your songs and lyrics contain the word Aryan in them. That is sure to evoke accusations of racism. Or is there deeper meaning to this term?

The disclaimer on my Facebook page states the following: Unfortunately, due to a lack of education and media-propagated misinformation, the majority of the Western world has come to associate the term Aryan with the asinine ideology of white supremacy. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM), a movement just as puerile and misguided as the music written to represent it. Although its adherents refer to themselves and their equally foolish comrades as Aryans, nothing could be further from the truth. The word Aryan is derived from airya, a term used in the ancient Avestan language of the Persian Empire to denote individuals belonging to the Iranian race. Its literal meaning is roughly interpreted as “of nobility” or “a free individual” and has evolved from the Avestan airya to the contemporary Farsi آریای (transliteration: Ariyayi). It should also be taken into consideration that Iran still translates to this day as “land of the Aryans.” Therefore, anyone who does not identify ethnically as an Iranian cannot refer to themselves as an Aryan. However, this is not to imply racial supremacy. The ancient Iranians, Aryans, did not believe in or promote such backwards ideas. In fact, one of history’s most important Aryans, Cyrus the Great, opposed intolerance so much that he made it the basis for his and the world’s first charter of human rights. He is also credited as the first messiah in the Hebrew Bible as he freed the Jews from the Babylonians and provided them the means to rebuild their temple, though Cyrus himself followed the teachings of Zoroastrianism. Under his rule, the Persian Empire expanded through bloodless conquests as men and women from various cultures, ethnicities, and religions were all granted equality and freedom. Only a man such as this can be called a true Aryan. Blues, jazz, and rock and roll all either provide or strongly influence the foundations for black metal. They are also styles created primarily by African-American musicians. Thus, for a lowlife to play black metal in the name of white supremacy and to refer to himself as an Aryan is not only blasphemy, it is insulting to the legacy of the true Aryan.
Hope that answers your question.

9. Some people complain that a lot of black metal, including your music, sounds very low quality and done with “bad production”. What is your response to that?

As stated before, I think many listeners, even seasoned metalheads, don’t realize that a traditional characteristic of this genre is low-fi recording. And when I say low-fi, I mean I’m using a 2i2 Focusrite interface, a Roland cube lite amplifier, Audacity, and two Shure SM-57 microphones to record my music with. The reason I do this is because it creates a very primal musical atmosphere. I want my music to be an honest reflection of my abilities as a musician. I could easily plug in to some studio grade interface and use ridiculous editing software for hours to engineer something that sounds completely different from what I produce when I play in my room. I feel that if I did this, I would be lying to myself because this is not what it actually sounds like live. It’s just disingenuous. I also play every track all the way through without editing or doing re-takes. My guitar solos are 100% improvised and made up on the spot while recording. Which I think is kind of cool, so that every time a solo part comes up, whether live or while recording, it is slightly similar but very different every time. In other words, what you hear when you listen to an Akvan song is exactly what you would hear if I played it live, imperfections and all, for it is the imperfections that make it real. Although this does not apply to metal as a whole, I feel that many “artists” are selling a lie to their audience. Just like when you purchase a burger from a fast food joint, the picture you see is quite different in quality compared to what you put in your stomach. Same goes for any pop artist. I can assure you, none of the surgically altered members of whatever boy band would sound like they do on their album if they were to sing to you in person.

10. What advice would you like to offer up-and-coming metal artists in the region, especially those pursuing Black Metal?

My advice is quite simple: don’t be afraid to express yourself and don’t worry what your peers or anyone else thinks. As long as what you are creating is true to yourself and your intentions, that is all that matters. Music, especially black metal, is art, not entertainment. And most importantly, never give up your passions. Never.

11. Would you like to say any words for our readers?

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview and I hope some of the misconceptions regarding Akvan have been cleared up. Hails \m/

As a bonus, we're also premiering Akvan's newest track "Blood of Zal". 
Check it out and let us know what you think!

You can find Akvan on Facebook here and on Bandcamp here

Leave a comment