How did the band determine that it wanted to make “progressive music”, and how is “prog” defined in Uzbekistan?
Albert Khalmurzaev: it was nobody’s decision to play prog, it was just interesting to try to. It is up to critics to define the style, the auditory will choose the music they like, and we play music interesting for us. The choice depended on the music we listened to – art rock, progressive rock, fusion. What’s about prog rock in Uzbekistan — we have rock but it cannot be subdivided into different manners. We have no school here.
Vitaly Popeloff: as for the music we play – we made no decision, we played the music we like. We have no frames, it is inspiration only. It is like diamond – it takes you a long and complicated process to get the real diamond. We simply played music, made records, we didn’t take it seriously. We played the things we wanted to say. We had no plans. Prog music – we are the challengers in this meaning here in Tashkent.
How did you hook up with U.S.-based record label 10T Records? And have you visited the company’s South Carolina headquarters? If so, what are your impressions of the United States?
Vitaly Popeloff: it happened quite usual way. We played initial concerts, and started to cooperate with Igor Iosis as sound manager in 2005 and became friends afterwards. Igor appeared to be very interested in our work. Afterwards we made DVD and sent it to 50 different organizations. Vitaliy Menshikov was the reviwer, so as Ken Westphal. That’s how 10T Records got the DVD of «Playing the Imitation» album – thanks to Mr. Westphal. It took us a week to sign the first contract for 18 months. 10T Records offered to rename the album from «Playing the Imitation» to «Audio Diplomacy», we easily agreed. The American collegues did all the production of the album. Mr. Westphal was the representative of the group in America and made all the design of the album and still does, he is a real friend of us now. Thanks to the support of Mr. Westphal our group got access to the worldwide music stage and we received the invintation to the Baja-prog festival in 2007, the year of the album’s release.
As the festival finished Albert and I visited America. I was invited to the project of «Man on Fire» group record in Atlanta, in ex headquarters. It was a real pleasure to take part in this work and we had a real good time in America.
It was a bold move to release a live album as FROM.UZ debut (and to include a DVD of the performance in which the band is separated from the audience by a sheer curtain for much of the performance). Why did you opt for a live album, rather than studio versions of those songs?
Albert Khalmurzaev: when we had all the program of the concert we decided to make a video version of the concert and tracking record. As we had video and audio we found it to be very interesting and worth to be shown to wide auditory.
On a related note, does FROM.UZ still perform behind the curtain? And what is/was the reason for the curtain?
Albert Khalmurzaev: the curtain appeared to be a part of theatrical effect, as the first concert took place in theatre. The curtain was the conception of the first album. The DVD-video of the «Inside Seventh story» is almost ready and the video took part in the theatre as well. We have a lot of ideas of conceptional decoration further more. The last concert of FromUz also took place in theatre, it was Ilkhom theatre, we had decorations out of design of the «Seventh Story» album. And it is a hook to use theatrical manipulations in our concerts further more.
What were the circumstances that brought about the band’s recent lineup changes? How did you find the new players? And how challenging was it for them to step in and learn both past and present material?
Vitaly Popeloff: the line up changed so as the drummer and bass guitar player moved to another country.
Igor Iosis: I have to note the level of the musicians and the professional approach opened up the idea we have the interest not in the way of playing, but what to play. No limits of opportunities but real challenge of experience.
Igor Elizov: I knew Albert and Vitaly quite long ago besides I had cooperated with Vitaly before. Sometimes I invited Vitaly as guitar player. I used to work in studio mostly, arranging and mixing the music. When Vitaly invited me to «Seventh Story» the music was quite new and interesting for me. We had rehearsals mostly for the concert purpose. I found a lot of new things for myself. During the rehearsals we decided to work together further more. The music of the «Seventh Story» appeared quite a challenge for me. After we made the record of the «Seventh Story» we started to rehearse the program of the «Audio Diplomacy» and «Overlook». After that I started to understand the conception and musical language of FROM.UZ. For that moment I understood that FromUz became the most important part of my life.
Ali Izmailov: I am the teacher of the state conservatory of Uzbekistan, the drummer class. I also took part in57-th contest of drummers in Geneva, 2002. The prizes for the contest are supplied by Bridget. I am on jury of many international youth competitions. It was interesting for me to try the style, as I challenged myself in classical, orchestra music, as classical (or academicals) and modern drumming styles. The role of drummer in FROM.UZ appeared to be very interesting for me. The «Seventh Story» premiere became the check point for me, so after this I was invited to the group as the constant member. The process of work set me in group. As for the second point: after the «Seventh Story» I felt sound and style of, it was easier to take the material. I let the material through myself and made some changes in my own manner.
Is SEVENTH STORY a concept album?
Albert Khalmurzaev: the «Seventh Story» is a unique piece consisting of 7 parts in 1 conceptual idea, joined by one story of an artistic person, a story of human’s lonlyness, a story of the attitude to Life.
The new album is the first time FROM.UZ has incorporated vocals into its songs. Why did you decide to take that step now? What was the rationale for previously being an instrumental-only band?
Igor Iosis: we wanted to make the listeners to go the way we want them to go. The music is very associative, and we want the listeners to understand the music we play the way we see it.
Vitaly: to tell the truth, we want to get more interest from the auditory as well, we use voices to be more clear but challenging still for the auditory.
SEVENTH STORY also includes the extensive use of spoken word. What was the inspiration behind that?
Igor Iosis: throughout the text we discovered the conception of the album.
It’s clear that FROM.UZ thrives on creating complex music. Take me inside the band’s composing and recording process: How do you guys write? What came first – the music or the lyrics? How intense were the recording sessions?
Igor Iosis: the whole «Seventh Story» album music is written by Vitaly Popeloff.
Vitaly Popeloff: the music you hear is the result of our teamwork, all the inside of it is up to us. Sorry, nothing personal.
Why is SEVENTH STORY dedicated to Frank Zappa?
Albert Khalmurzaev: we are interested in the nature of artistic person and the way he lives, we are interested in his deeds and overcomes. In the high-tech century person has the opportunity to make a record of anything anywhere, keep it and make a part of it’s life. Frank Zappa made a huge number of live records, which opened him up as a Personality. Our «Seventh Story» is a story of a person quite alike Zappa. All texts we have in-between songs is a confession of a man in the beginning of his life and the final life steps of – the experience, challenges and results of his deeds. We are impressed by the life and the creativity of Zappa and that is the reason the album is dedicated to Frank Zappa.
What’s next for the band? How often do you perform live? Do you plan to play at the United States (perhaps at a progressive-music festival)? Are you already writing the next album?
Igor Iosis: we have already ready for release the DVD «Inside Seventh Story», which we are planning to release in May-June 2010. We are continuing work over the acoustic album, «Quatrus Artifactus». For the last month the group played 2 live concerts – one of them was 2 hours From.Uz Anthology and another was 1 hour concert as support of the «Seventh Story» album release.
We are open to cooperate and ready look through interesting offers of concert tours in America. We are happy to play our music for Americans. Unfortunately geographically we are quite far away from the worldwide progressive rock music stage, but we are doing our best to keep in touch with the interests of prog music listeners.
Albert Khalmurzaev: We are continuously in process of making music. Each member is in the work over the new material.
Do all members of FROM.UZ currently live in Uzbekistan? And how old is each one?
Igor Iosis: all the members of the group live in Tashkent, this is our Motherland.
Please, tell us about your education? Did some of you graduate from conservatory, or maybe you are self-educated persons?
Vitaly Popeloff: Tashkent state road institute. Engineer constructor.
Ali Izmailov: Uzbek state conservatory. Drum class. Professor.
Albert Khalmurzaev: Uzbek state theatrical institute. Drama actor.
Igor Elizov: 1-st Tashkent state medical institute. The expert in narkology.
Igor Iosis: the Uzbek state conservatory. Sound engineering class.
Did you play in any other bands? Do you have any backside projects? As we know, Albert was the member of “X-religion”? Please, teill us about this group.
Igor Iosis: all the musicians of our group have a great experience. Each of them played in a number of various music bands in our country. Almost all of them are session musicians of different music projects. But it is the topic for another interview.
Did you know each other before you started playing together? If no, how did you connect?
Vitaly Popeloff: All the members of our group are good friends; our work is co-joined to our life and turns to be soul touchy as we are friends.
To all the readers of Progressive Magazine we’d like to wish all the best, success and love. God bless you.