Hello! A new feature that we are going to be doing is the Artist Flashback! These are interviews with artists that are a little older, but a lot of fun and worth a second look. This month's Artist Flashback is an interview conducted by our own Rainer Kerber in 2015. We hope you enjoy this look back!
Aziza Hello, thank you for doing this interview with me. In the past you played in other bands and after a break you started your new bands Aria Flame and Scarab’s Empire. Please tell something about your musical development.
Hi Rainer. Thank you for interviewing me! Aria Flame is my main project. I formed the band in spring/summer of 2011. At first, it was going to be a recording project but it quickly escalated into a more serious band. I took all the songs I was writing early on, and brought them to my voice coach Dr Barton. He really helped shape my voice for Aria Flame. I mix classical with rock vocals and write the main keyboard parts, which Daniel and Joop build on and embellish. Aria Flame also represents the myth of the phoenix. Like the myth, Aria Flame rises from the ashes and is always evolving and progressing musically.
When I formed the band, I wanted it separate from my former band Dendura. Dendura was an Egyptian themed progressive metal band. I still use the middle eastern techniques I learned while in Dendura and another band Al-Asdeka, but to a minimum as I want to keep Aria Flame’s sound not a replicant of Dendura’s sound. In Scarab’s Empire, I use more of the middle eastern vocal style but it’s still quite different and Scarab’s is just a recording project.
Your debut EP „A World of Silence“ was released last year. As far as I know, your previous album with Dendura was released eight years earlier. What did it mean to you to go into the studio after such a long time and produce new songs.
It means a lot. Last recording I did was in 2010 with recording project Amarna Sky. I was hired on as their female vocalist for their sophomore album. The band featured Karl Sanders from NILE on guitar on it as well. It was a lot of fun and a great project to work on. When I hit the studio for Aria Flame, it was very rewarding because a long time passed since I had my own music recorded and that I could call my own. Hearing what people think of the album, what is their favorite song, being able to connect to the music and lyrics, and to even have it be a top ten album for 2014 by many reviewers is very fulfilling! We hit the studio again this year to record our sophomore album. We are already writing many songs for it and expect it to be a 12 song release.
How do you manage the recording and production of the album. Because you, Daniel, Greg and Erik live in Michigan (USA), but your keyboardist lives in the Netherlands. This is quite complicated for rehearsals and recordings.
Actually it is not complicated. We cannot have Joop to appear on all the shows we do as he lives in another country, but we use his keyboard tracks when we cannot have him here with us. With technology, it is easy to transport files and communicate. If he were the guitarist, it would be tougher and more complicated for us. Daniel, Greg, Erik and I rehearse and record scratch tracks and then send them over to Joop to work on. Thankfully, it works out and isn’t an issue.
Are all compositions by yourself? Or bring the band members their own ideas, which are then incorporated into the songwriting?
As of currently, I compose the music on the piano first, then everyone else adds their textures and parts to the band from their. I’m open to others in the band composing, but so far this is how it has been done with Aria Flame.
Aria Flame has joined the stage together with Trillium or with Delain and Xandria. What does it mean for you to play live?
It is refreshing and rejuvenating for me. I need to perform live a few times a year at the least, because I really enjoy the feeling it gives to me and the reaction of fans. It is always nice to get up there and show the world what you been working on.
You’ve played at the Metal Female Voices Fest in October 2014. One year later you’ll come back to Europe and enter the stage at the FemME II in Eindhoven. Are there differences between performances in America and Europe?
Very much so. I feel the United States has yet to see the wave of female fronted metal or symphonic metal as it is alive and growing in Europe. In the USA, the radio stations and television , the big record labels, big time promotion companies, and CEO’s behind them, are the ones who control what music we listen to. I know so many people, who haven’t heard beyond Nightwish or Evanescence and are shocked when they realize, female fronted metal is more popular in Europe.. They never heard of half the bands I know of. The venues also mostly want what sells. Not what sounds great or goes well together, but what sells. Cover bands usually are the only ones who make money in our area because many people, want to hear what they’re familiar with.
Aria Flame has played a special show with many guests at the MFVF. Can we hope for a similar appearance for us at the FemME II?
We were going to go by ourselves this time around as originally, none of the girls; Kassandra Novell, Sabrina Cruz and Grace Meridan were to be at the festival this year but we are happy to announce, Kassandra Novell will be joining us as a guest on a song as she will now be attending the festival too. We’re happy to have her join us again. Joop and Kassandra also have a band together that is coming out soon as well. We are a tight little metal family and close friends so it all works out for both parties.
For several years, you are owner of a small cosmetics company. You produce shea butter and also create fragrances. How did the founding of this company come about?
My mother has always ran her own business(es) and I followed suit. I have always been crafty and ambitious, so I wanted to make something of my own. So, after two years of planning and thinking, I started Aziza World Fragrances LLC in 2011. Aziza World Fragrances LLC was born about the same time Aria Flame was. I know it is very difficult to make music for a living, so I started investing in my other love- „perfumery“ in hopes that I could sustain myself with only these two things in the future. I spent a great amount of time making signature recipes and debating which ones to sell. My son and I went to malls, and handed out over 1,000 perfume samples to the general public, friends, family, perfume lovers, and anyone who wanted one. That feedback helped me decide which perfumes to launch. I had to stop giving out free samples because it was eating up my money too quickly, but the samples were a great idea and helped me learn what to produce for the future. I also wanted to be sure I was only buying from product suppliers who were Vegan-animal cruel free, and not buying supplies (bottles, oils, etc) from people who are slaving away in sweatshops. I did a lot of studying before I opened the business to the public and made sure these things were in order. The perfume was a very big project which was soon followed by Shea butter. My Shea butter was also a big project because there are many other businesses that make body butters. I wanted to make the best recipe for my clients and go with organic unrefined Shea butter because it is better for your skin than the alternatives. Most Shea butter is bleached! Who wants bleach on their skin? I also make soy candles and facial hydro-sols. I spend a good year or two perfecting a new product (like the Shea butter) before launching it. I love making products and hope to do it full-time someday on top of my music!
For creating new fragrances you sure need a rough idea what raw materials you need to mix it. Do you have gathered any prior experiences with it?
Shortly after the interview the second video for „Realm Of Hate“ is in the starting blocks. This very elaborately produced video was inspired by a kidnapping case in Cleveland (Ohio), in which three girls were abducted. In the Video Aziza herself is one of the victims. They lived through unspeakable fears and eventually may however liberate himself. The lyrics state:
Lay down for a while
Close your eyes my dear child
Let your dreams rid of the pain
When you awake you’ll no longer weep
The release of this video was the reason for me to check again with the songstress and look behind the scenes.
Hello Aziza, the last interview was just two and a half months ago. In the meantime, you have produced a new video for „Realm Of Hate“ from your EP „A World Of Silence“. Reason enough to ask a little bit more.
Why did you just picked this song for the video production?
We initially asked our fans which were their favourite song of our debut EP and what song would they like to see made into a music video. The song with the most votes was „Realm of Hate“ followed closely by „A World of Silence“.
In the video we can see how you’re to being kidnapped when stepping into your car. You were inspired by a real kidnapping case in Cleveland (Ohio). What motivated you to use this story as a template for the video?
After those three girls in Cleveland were free, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the TV screen and was always concerned about how they were doing and where they would go from there. The fact that they survived when no one knew they were trapped in that house amazed me. It hit close to my heart and I started pouring out lyrics as if I was a separate person talking to them while they were still trapped within the house.
In the video, you could free yourself and flee. Could the three girls from Ohio also flee?
They could not for a decade, they were chained and brainwashed. But once Ariel Castro made a mistake and didn’t lock one of the doors, one of the girls attempted to escape and so they are all free now.
A kidnapping like this causes the victims to trauma. Are there organizations in the US that help the victims after such terrible experiences to get back to normal life?
I know the girls had a fund raiser for them. I also read they are in counselling and learing to cope with being in society again after going through so much abuse for such a long time.
Have yourself or friends and relatives experienced anything like this?
Honestly, I wasn’t going to tell this but it is time I do. I had a boyfriend when I was young, who stalked me. He took me out of my Nona’s home (Italian grandmother) when I was a young and he wouldn’t let me leave his premises. 24 hours later, a report was filed and police came and a restraining order was permanently placed on him. I wasn’t raped or beaten by him but he threatened suicide because I broke up with him and he wanted me to reconsider as why he took me. The story of the three girls took me back to that time when I was taken, or say kidnapped.
Aziza, thank you for this honest and touching interview.