Kazakhstan definitely got a bad rep throughout the years. The country became the but of the joke, thanks to the Borat film and that pretty much might be everything you know about the country. Zarraza might change that with their slabs of grooving, thrashing metal on their latest album ‘Necroshiva’.
Nick Khalabuzar is one of the founders of Zarraza and to say he’s a passionate metalhead would be a vast understatement. His energy alone when it comes to his band might push them to big things in the near future. Nick was kind enough to tell us something more about his band and playing metal in Kazakhstan.
Raising the flag for metal
Hello, how is Zarraza doing?
Great! We just get approval for two SEPULTURA shows in Central Asia. Our first full-length album “Necroshiva” is gonna be officially released in China on May 11 through MusicDish. After that there will be some special local gig in June – I am working on details now.
How did you get started with Zarraza and what does the name mean (why did you choose it)?
About the name – I did not want to create another SUPER-BLOODY-KILLER-TORMENTOR kind of name. I liked irony behind ANTHRAX name. So one of the options for me was Infection – Zaraza in Russian. The word has second meaning – unbearable and annoying but maybe a funny person. So I liked it. Only after I realize there was a Russian metal magazine ZARRAZA – it was published through 1990-1991. I decided to keep the name – for me, it looks like we raise a flag dropped on the battlefield by a fallen soldier – the founder of the magazine was very supportive about all kinds of metal and unfortunately died in the 2000s.
About the starting point… It was me and my friend Max Saklakov – we decided it’s not enough for us to go to bars together so we should start a band! For a couple of years, we were looking for a proper drummer – and found Ruslan Konon. Then bassist Alex Filatoff came in. But Max left after we recorded the first demo – and from then there were few guitar players. Every one of them brought something special to the band so we are thankful to them. Damir Yunussov, Vladimir Grigoryev, Daniyar Aktayev…
What bands inspired you to start playing metal music?
Before I start to drop big names like MEGADETH, SLAYER and SEPULTURA… I should say it was my mother – she supported my passion and bought me my first guitar. She was patient when I spent my last money on tapes discovering not only big bands but something special like ACID RAIN, LAWNMOWER DEATH, POLTERGEIST, THERAPY? etc.
Can you share with us what sort of theme, message or idea is behind Zarraza?
Musically it is about energy and adrenaline exported into sounds. We considered our role on a scene as shamans who twist your muscles with sounds and then release it helping your inner demons to go out in mosh and slam.
Lyrically it is about spreading the infection of sarcasm. Viruses of free thinking. The face of gods, idols, and politicians should be erodingafter this infection.
And on live performances, it is about having fun in a mosh and slam as much as possible.
Ok, let’s talk about ‘Necroshiva’, your latest record. How did the writing and recording process go?
From the starting point of writing, I wanted a record full of fast songs hitting listeners in a face. When it was recorded I was a little bit disappointed – not all songs seemed fast enough to my taste. Then we started to play it live – and I see how the audience became too exhausted too fast. We tried to put slow songs among fast and… Realized that all songs are pretty fast. Some of them have slow parts but finally, all of the shit is fast enough. So… Mission complete!
We work on songs very hard and carefully. The first demo was recorded in 2015 – and most of it was butchered. Some songs were re-composed, some – erased. The only song that remains the same is “More Than Hate” – except the title and lyrics. Initially, it was called “Government hates you”. The idea stays the same – I just decided that the new title is a bit cooler. Too much politics make music boring.
We were happy to work on the album with Arkadiy Navaho from Moscow, Russia. He is famous for his work with KATALEPSY, SIBERIAN MEAT GRINDER and a lot of other bands. He understands our style, is very open to our ideas and last but not least – very patient. There were few strong arguments between me and drummer Ruslan during mixing. Arkadiy waited silently the moment when the storm weakened and then just asked: “so where do we go now?”
What sort of record is it, what does it tell the listener?
It is short – we prefer to make it with “All killer – No filler” formula. That’s why we cut one song off the record before starting mixing. That’s why “Shadows” was written for an album few days before recording started – we needed something stronger than the removed song.
Three pieces could be easily released as concept EP – “Abyss Above Me”, “Echo Of the Future”, “Dead Star”. These songs tell one story.
AAM is the first part – it’s about Giordano Bruno story with some quotes from his revelations about the infinity of the Universe and narrow-mindedness of human-made gods. First lines inspired by the poetry of famous Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov and it’s about the infinity of the Universe too. Two scientists from different countries and ages were talking about similar ideas… But story concentrated on Giordano Bruno – he realized he cannot be blinded anymore by church’s lies despite threats of inquisition. “Echo Of the Future» musically bonded with next song, “Dead Star”. «Echo» created on the same chord progression that you can hear in a middle part of “Dead Star” – but chords played backward with a different rhythm. It is the same but different. So the name for it was obvious – it’s like an echo of chords from song that will go next… Echo of the future.
«Dead Star” is lyrically the second part of Giordano Bruno’s revelation. But here listener will find him on his way to the inquisition’s stake. He is doomed but not broken still standing on his beliefs and visions of the future. Keeping in mind the picture helps me to perform the song with anger and emotions.
All three songs fit each other musically and lyrically. So I considered the triplet as hidden EP on the album.
As you can see from here it is anti-religious anti-state themes. “Shadows”, “More Than Hate” and “Necroshiva” follow the same agenda.
You guys have performed with bands like Arkona, Tyr and Ektomorf. I’m particularly interested in the first two, is there an ethnic element to your music?
– No, but yes. No – there is no ethnic elements in our music except dombra intro on “wRRong Song” – you will hear it on upcoming release this year. Yes – I give you the names of our gods and you will give the name to my tribe: SLAYER, MEGADETH, NAPALM DEATH, DECAPITATED, CANNIBAL CORPSE, SEPULTURA… Probably you are one of us.
And how did you happen to end up performing with these groups?
About ARKONA and TYR it was as simple as that – I asked the local promoter to add us. He listened to our album before, he knew we were gonna play with EKTOMORF so the answer was positive. As far as I know, the promoter from Russia who was responsible for the whole tour attended our gig with EKTOMORF and agreed too.
Honestly speaking, ARKONA/TYR gig was worst gig of the year for me – I told it to my mates right after I came from the scene. My ear monitors went down, and I didn’t hear my voice, my amp had some issues and the whole day before was nervous. But the whole gig was ok. It was interesting to see ARKONA and TYR soundcheck.
There was a funny story. During soundcheck, we muffle a kick drum with a very old fur coat. Our drummer brought it from home – it was made from faux fur I guess. We need it to make drum kick resonate less. But TYR needs this resonance. Their drummer checked the kick drum and found our fur coat inside. He sighed very loudly – “OH MY GOD!” After he discovered it was very old fur coat he continued: “I will perform in this shit!” Other guys from TYR did not let it happen but during soundcheck, he was wearing our fur coat all the time. He really liked the old junk. Now, this relic is lying in our rehearsal room. Inside of the kick drum, of course.
And About EKTOMORF… I was impressed by their “Fury” album. I tolld my friend Arseniy from KASHGAR my desire to bring the band here with gigs. He contacts some promoters in Moscow and together we arrange a short tour for EKTOMORF and played with them.
Would you say your music could be created anywhere else than in Kazakhstan?
Definitely – yes. We don’t have any specific ethnic motives and I not fan of that kind of metal though I like a lot of ethnic music. I know it is possible, but it is not my way. Some people like to incorporate ethnic elements into metal, jazz etc. But it is not my way. No disrespect to others – I just don’t express myself this way.
You’ve said on your website that you guys are on the wrong side of the planet. What is it like to be a metal band in Kazakhstan?
You are arrogantly ignored or someone is trying to make laugh of you. You are overdosed with boring revelations from neighbors, colleagues etc like “I used to listen to metal when I was a kid and then I grew up, so when will you grow up?” Never. Let me clarify that word. It is not me who will never grow up. It is you who actually never grow up. Never understand and never value metal music. It was a joke for you. Probably you were a joke. And still is. That is why you try to bring me down with these meaningless disrespectful words. My condolences to your betrayed and buried dreams and beliefs.
By saying “we’re on the wrong side of planet” I react to other kind of discussions and suggestions. “You should move with your music somewhere else, nobody listens to it here”. But somehow we gathered more and more people on our shows – from 100 to 250. Not bad!
Kazakhstan has 52 bands listed on Metal Archives. Now, I know this is not always representative of the actual scene, but how big is metal in your country and can you tell a bit about the history?
The scene is growing but it is not so big – local metal gigs are a pretty rare thing. One in two months approx. First metal bands started in the middle of ’80s. It seems strange but there are no proper releases from them like LP’s or CDs. Even a demo with good quality is a rare thing. Just total underground things.
One of the first important releases I like is tech-death band LEAD WEIGHT and their “Penetrator” album. As far as I know, it was the first album from Kazakhstan metal band officially released on a label outside the country – Russian “CD Maximum” is responsible for it.
Is your music socially accepted or not? Do you face any censorship?
Currently we out of sight of any censorship – probably we are too small for them. There is no official censorship in Kazakhstan but it exists In a form of oppression from so-called “Uyat” («Shame») groups – people who claim themselves as defenders of old traditions. They are very active against young girls wearing short clothes but never say anything against corruption which is really corroding the society. So, does it mean corruption is an important part of tradition or it is just a good way to finance these groups?
Beside that metal and rock in common are no strangers to the culture here in Kazakhstan. It is not so popular, but it is OK to wear metal t-shirts and long hair. Of course, some idiots can try to provoke you but if you can stand for yourself they will f- off.
Are there any bands from Kazakhstan or neighboring countries you feel people should really check out?
Kashgar, My Own Shiva and Shahid – all of them are from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Seven Sins and Tishina, Doubleface, ZeroVoid, Noise Execution from Kazakhstan. All these bands released full lentgh albums with good quality and you can easily listen to them on Bandcamp or Spotify. I believe we should call it new wave of Central Asian metal – and as for me those are the best releases from the scene in a whole time.
What future plans does Zarraza have?
Here is to-do list:
- to release New EP this year;
- to record a demo for the second full-length album for next year release. I got three new songs, Den bring another one so we are in the progress;
- To film 2 new videos.
At the same time I’m trying to figure out the best options and headliner for second edition of Hellmaty Metal Fest – festival I started last year.
If you had to compare Zarraza to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
Weak roasted meat with rings of red pepper or ginger. Because I like it, haha. And because I like music with blood, with adrenaline.