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Trivax - interview with Shayan

Interview by Brian Nicolas - Espinoza

Photo by Artur Tarczewski


ViaOmega - Trivax released a livestream during lockdown, the “Into the Void” EP was released last year in January, and you’re scheduled to tour with Beyond Man and Vortex of Men. How are things? What else have you been up to?


Shayan - Greetings Brian. Things have been great! I feel that ever since becoming a three piece a few years ago, things have entered a different realm for us, but particularly since the release of "Into the Void" and the streamed show that we did in the beginning of 2021. We have been quite busy performing around The UK since midway through last year and honestly I would dare say that our best shows in our history as a band have actually been after the pandemic. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why that is, whether it's the manifestation of our imagination built over this break period, or simply the fact that people are now hungrier than they were before as they, like ourselves and the background that we come from, were restricted of doing what they wanted to do the most. But it all adds up somehow and I'm grateful for it, and it's only a matter of time before we bring this monster to the other parts of Europe and beyond!


VO -Speaking of the livestream, Trivax got permission to cover “The Devil’s Blood” by Watain! An incredible homage and cover, how did this come about?


S - That's right! I had kept in touch with E here and there throughout the pandemic and actually a little while before that so it felt like a no-brainer to ask him for permission to do the cover and release it as a part of the show. They always struck me as quite an elusive and somewhat untouchable band throughout the years, particularly in terms of communications outside of interviews and press, so the fact that I even had this access meant a great deal. He/they have always had time for us, be it for the graffiti incident in Tehran in 2015 or maybe for other reasons, I don't really know, but I have always appreciated that about them. The truth is that we probably could have done this without their permission regardless but to have had their blessings behind it made this a far more special occasion as they are a band whose approach and presence have influenced us in numerous ways throughout the years. I had figured that if we were to throw in the cover as a little surprise for everyone at the end of a stream, it could make for a great moment and rekindle the fires of everyone who were engaged with the show that night. Bear in mind that when the stream happened no one knew what the setlist was going to be. We also wanted to send some fires and energy towards the band themselves during this restrictive period. This was something that was going through my mind when performing those material, besides the other wonderful things that happen when you mentally enter that realm of violent mysteries.


Photo by Kev Young-Green Wyvern Photography


VO -A notable and significant fact around you and Trivax revolves around your upbringings in Iran and the suppression to express an interest in heavy music and Western counterculture. Being pent up with all this creative energy, but nowhere to publicly channel and expressit, what sparked that fire in you that cemented you wanting to become a musician, and how long have you been playing guitar?


S - I've always strongly believed that, whatever forces lie behind black metal and the like, it was them that found me and not the other way around. The non-cynic in me likes to think that there are those of us who are born with a different fire and glimmer than that of others and it's destined for us to somehow end up on a path such as this. It goes so much beyond being a genre of music or something that you could easily put a label on.


HERE


I think that for me as far as the Iran thing goes, yes, I was surrounded by an environment in which the existence of something like this was absolutely blasphemous and diabolical and also nearly impossible... but it still somehow made its way to me anyway, even when no one else around me was exposed to it. My very first and initial connection actually came from seeing Metallica on satellite TV, which is illegal, but something about just seeing James Hetfield sparked an indescribable feeling in me, at which point I instantly knew that's what I was going to become. Of course, as the “metalhead” rule goes, you start with those bands and then slowly you make your way down the rabbit hole. Not long after this I had found Mayhem on my doorstep, which then opened up the door to the endless discoveries of the dark side, if you will. I lived and breathed black metal like a moth as if it were a lightbulb in a sea of total darkness.


VO -People in the Western world and other regions may underappreciate the ability to freely express or embrace counterculture. Coming from this hardship, how much more significant is this freedom of expression to you?


S - It means absolutely everything! It is in fact probably the most core fundamental value that I hold for existence in total. I think that freedom of speech is an extremely important tool for finding the truth in all things in life and suppressing that in any way will only cause more problems down the line.


The main lesson, however, that I have learned throughout my time here is that freedom is beyond the laws and rules that which a government or political/religious organization can impose on their people. It is, in fact, a state of mind which once mastered can open the door to endless possibilities in this world. This is why freedom comes with great responsibility!


This has become far more apparent in recent years, especially after witnessing things first hand during this recent pandemic. I now see even more clearly the difference between those who are afraid and therefore submit, and those who are ready to die for their freedom. You can guess which group I'd like to say that I belong to.


Photo by Kev Young-Green Wyvern Photography


VO -You’ve mentioned various types of policing in Iran, particularly the “culture” or morality police. Persecuting and enforcing strict rules regarding dress code, for example. In a country where it seems impossible to embrace Western counterculture, especially heavy metal, it never stopped you from pursuing all it took for the sake of music. Have you personally ever come across a close encounter that may have shaken you up or opened up your eyes to how dangerous it could be?


S - I think that as someone who is viewing it from the outside  you have described the situation over there quite well. Yes, of course I have had many encounters, but really, what stands out the most is that everyone has the general understanding that if you do what we did, there will be consequences for it. That awareness alone is something that is always present at the back of your mind when going about your daily life. It's like this - if you commit murder in any country, you know that you will have severe legal punishment for it. This wasn't a case of experimenting to see if you'd get away with playing this form of music. There are actual laws that prevent you from exercising your artistic rights.


But to answer your question, there are a number of different incidents which I have been witness to which have certainly made an impact on me. One particular incident that always stood out to me quite early on was when another band that my drummer used to be in close contact with were arrested in their rehearsal place and the police had smashed all of their instruments and equipment.



Also, during the first few months that I left Iran, a band called Dawn of Rage did a gig in Tehran and the police came in and basically did the same scenario and they were using pepper spray on people and they arrested the band and set extortionate bails for them. They also forced haircuts on the entire band if I recall correctly. I believe that they mainly survived as the authorities couldn't label them as Satanists.


Additionally, I did attend an underground show by a Death Metal band called Mortalism in May 2011, and literally during the first song the owners of the building switched off the electricity to stop them from playing, which eventually they did and it all died off. This was only a small seated show, bear in mind.


So, whilst surrounded by these events, we still carried on doing what we were doing. Trivax did its very first live show on the 10th of February, 2011 at the Kamalolmolk High School's amphitheatre in the basement. There's a renowned story of this show where the kids who were at the gig set the place on fire about 40 minutes into our set. At the time, all three of us in the band had already discussed the possibility of the authorities breaking into the show, so when I raised my head and saw the big smoke from the end of the room, I initially thought that it was actually a gas grenade or something, as the police then were known for commonly using mustard gas against people, particularly during the election protests in 2009. This felt quite surreal, but at that point, I was prepared to die for my art. Of course, it turned out to be that there was no involvement from the authorities and it was just a few angry and excited kids who started the fire. I was lucky enough that I managed to walk away unscathed and tell the tale.


Photo by Miley Stevens


VO -Into the Void has mostly been handled by yourself, from the mixing, mastering, layout, and lyrics. An impressive task to tackle and handle as the hard work paid off as the EP looks and sounds clean and professional! How did you approach this project? Have you had prior experience mixing and doing this before?


S - Thank you! This is actually a common feedback that I've gotten, which is contrary to what I personally thought of the results, sonically speaking. In my mind, I wanted to make this EP as dark and as filthy as possible whilst still maintaining a degree of clarity in order to aid the listener through this transformative and meditative journey. Having said this, I am actually quite pleased with the final results and what it has done for us as a band, considering that it is only really two tracks on paper. I think that the contrast between the feedback and what I personally think of it has more to do with the fact that perhaps people are yet to fully witness what Trivax is actually capable of doing. I suppose that's what I'll have to leave it there for now!


VO - As far as the mixing goes, I have had a hand in doing various different bits throughout the years which included the many intro tracks that I have created for Trivax throughout the years as well as various releases by the band Lavizan Jangal. Having said that, Into the Void is by far the most elaborate and vast production work which I have directly worked on and I would be very keen to do more work like this in the future, at least for other bands that I respect and appreciate, if not for Trivax.


S -Trivax is currently independent, although you have been distributed through Rat King Records. Do you plan to release and be signed under a label or do you prefet to have total creative freedom as you did working on “Into the Void”?


Rat King were more than helpful for the release of Into The Void and considering how small of a label they are they did a great job of aiding us in getting this one out there! We are currently speaking with a few different labels for upcoming projects, so by the time this interview comes out, maybe we will have had some progress but unfortunately nothing that I can reveal beyond that at this moment in time.


VO -Into the Void has some visually intense and incredible artwork  created by Nestor Ávalos. How does the artwork relate to the music? How much of an influence did you have in this process?


S - When we first began the process for this EP I actually outlined a relatively specific vision that I had to the other two members of the band so we already knew what sort of theme and image we were going for. I was looking at work from a lot of different artists at the time and to be frank none of them really had the style that I was looking for. I'd almost given up looking and was considering creating it myself when by total accident I stumbled upon Nestor's work and it was like, Aha! Again, it was another one of those moments where the thing that I needed found me and perfectly landed on my doorstep, just like it was meant to be. I'm very happy with how the artwork came out. The vinyl prints especially look excellent and really compliment the whole experience!



Photo by Miley Stevens

VO -Spiritually inclined artists often incorporate spiritual concepts and mythology. They also leave the experience and effect of their work to translate with the listeners in their own way. In your work does Persian mythology have any significance to you? What sort of thoughts and feelings would you like to leave with the listener?


S - This is an interesting question. It's not exactly even Persian mythology, as such, which I'm artistically intrigued by, although Zoroastrianism itself has very strong philosophical and universal values which I always think that there are a lot of positive lessons to learn from.

What I'm mostly fascinated by, as far as my background and heritage goes, is actually the pop culture and contemporary art in Iran during the last few decades leading up to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.


One of the most interesting things about this period is that there seemed to be a strong degree of acceptance and focus towards melancholy when it came to arts and music which feels quite rare compared to most other cultures. You can especially find this in a lot of mainstream films back then or even the works of fine gentlemen like Fereydoun Foroughi. A lot of his lyrics could have probably surpassed the nihilism in that of Mgla songs, yet accompanied by quite uplifting and melodic music. I find great inspiration in that!


As far as the experience that I’d like to create for the listeners of Trivax I normally have a hard time putting this into words but I think that the most direct answer I could give would be an emotional provocation. One that hopefully either leads to either empowerment or change within the individual. There’s also a great paradox that exists with the coding of these emotions within our music. Where there is victory, there is sorrow and melancholy. Where there is anguish, there is great ecstasy. Where there’s death, there is the ultimate life.


As above, so below!


VO -Trivax has gone from being a one-man project with a specific vision and having to undergo a lineup change. How did you come across the current lineup? What qualities do you look for in a colleague?


S - I have now been playing with my drummer M. Croton for over ten years! We celebrated this just last December. Whilst I am personally the creative director of the band and the main person who does the most work this is still very much a band and when I look at the other two gentlemen in Trivax I don’t see colleagues, I see brothers!


We’re in this together and we all believe in what we do. We commit to the band to the best of our abilities one hundred percent and make every possible effort in making this unit work, which is the best that I could ask from anyone within the band. Having said that, I also don’t imagine doing this with anyone else at this point and am only grateful for the loyalty and commitment from the others.


VO -Your last full length “Sin” was released in 2016, and recently the “Into the Void” EP, both promising and unique releases in modern metal. Can we expect any news or anything regarding the next Trivax full length?


S - We are currently working on a live release which I’m quite excited by judging from how the project is currently developing. That should be out later this year. The main course, however, is that it seems that we are looking at early 2023… so keep your eyes peeled for then!


The narrative of Trivax and Middle Eastern black metal is indeed about to change.


VO -The stage setup, decor, face paint, and props generally compliment the atmosphere and mood of the performance. What do you feel is crucial to your performance? Is there any significance to your face paint in particular?


S Yes, there is great significance to all of those things, as they’re all a part of the world that we’ve tried to create for ourselves on stage through which we experience the moments that matter to us the most. But are these elements absolutely crucial? I don’t think so. In my eyes, intent rises above all other things, least not in an explosive genre such as black metal. Too many times I’ve seen bands slack at shows because a part of their equipment is not working or a part of their gear is missing, and honestly I think that’s completely missing the point. Let’s not forget that this is rock n’ roll at the end of the day, shall we?


photo by Miley Stevens

VO - It’s been an honor and thank you for your time to talk with us at ViaOmega! Is there anything else you’d like to comment on or say to your fans and our readers?


S - I’d like to thank all of our fellow maniacs and supporters in The United States for tuning in and paying attention to the work of Trivax. Hopefully it will not be too long until we finally meet in the flesh! In the meantime, keep your eyes glued to the band’s pages for our upcoming offerings.


As an additional note, please remember one thing… Your freedom is valued above all else - Do not ever surrender!





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