.......INTERVIEW
. with Vitaly Popeloff, the guitars and vocals of Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Band FROM.UZ
.                                       by Carlos Vaz - Progressive Rock BR, Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

Carlos Vaz - Progressive Rock BR - Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for their time answering questions by email. Well, I believe that all progressive rock fans around the world, would like to know more about From.Uz band. So, tell us a brief history about the band and the musicians?

Vitaly Popeloff: From.Uz is an Uzbek progressive rock band that was formed in 2004 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The group’s story began when guitarist Vitaly Popeloff and his buddy bass player Andrey Mara-Novik, decided to create the band in their favorite prog rock genre. Soon actor, director and composer Al Khalmurzaev on keyboards and famous session drummer Vladimir Badirov were added.
First band’s project was the dramatic interpretative dance program, “Sodom and Gomorra XXI,” performed by the Youth Theatre of Uzbekistan in September 2004. From.Uz signed contract with US independent label 10T Records in 2006. To the being time this label represents the band in the world music industry. In 2007 From.Uz band released its debut album named Audio Diplomacy, which was highly appreciated by prog rock fans and critics, and define band’s style as progressive fusion. Since that time From.Uz released Overlook in 2008, Seventh Story and Inside Seventh Story DVD in 2010 and the 4th album Quartus Artifactus released a while ago. There were some lineup changes since Audio Diplomacy times and current From.Uz lineup is Vitaly Popeloff (guitars, vocals), Igor Elizov (keyboards, vocals) and Albert Khalmurzaev (bass, vocals). 
What kind of musical projects, the band's musicians were involved during the last ten years? 
Vitaly Popeloff: We were involved in many projects in our country. There were side projects such as Vladimir Badirov solo project named “Greeting from Nostradamus” (released via Canadian Unicorn Records in 2004), my solo project called “Pure Fiction” in 2003, tribute to Pink Floyd in 2007 and others.  I also recorded 2 tracks for 10T labelmates Man on Fire's next album.
The band was born around the year 2004, with four musicians on the lineup,  and with the name of Fromuz, after some years it was decided to change to From.Uz.  We´d like to know, What is the meaning the first name and who chosen?  Why it was changed to From.Uz?
Vitaly Popeloff: The word Fromuz means”From Uzbekistan”. Band’s original name was The Fromuz , the name was shortened to Fromuz after signing our first contract with 10T Records in 2007. The dot was added following our second release, marking the first major changes in line-up in 2008. Also we think the dot emphasizes the media style of this word.
Reading the biography about the band, on the first line we can read, "From.UZ is an Uzbek Progressive Rock band that was formed in 2004 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan". I know that in your country, the musical tradition is called "Shashmaqam", a classical music in Uzbekistan. Tell us if this musical tradition had influenced in the band's progressive style and what were the main musical influences into the prog rock in Uzbekistan?
Vitaly Popeloff: "Shashmaqam" is one of the Uzbek musical genres. It is the six maqams (modes) that were developed in the city of Bukhara. Of course our traditional music (not only Shashmaqam) influences on rock bands in Uzbekistan. Also Uzbekistan is a multinational state where the East meets West. Result of crossing these two cultures you can hear on our albums. Now I’m working on my second solo album and I have recorded one track in maqam genre with guest Uzbek folk instrumentalist.
I've noticed about bands from Uzbekistan and we can cite some of them as From.Uz, Flight 9 "and also" Xreligion. Could you tell us a little about the progressive rock scene in Central Asia and you consider that the progressive scene in your country is still unknown in the progressive scenery around the world?
Vitaly Popeloff: Rock culture in Central Asia and in our country particularly is very young but in progress now. And From.UZ is the one of a few bands professionally playing music in prog rock style. Almost all of them are still unknown outside of Uzbekistan, but I think that it’s only matter of time.
The initial lineup started with four musicians, which has produced the first album entirely instrumental, which in my opinion, was the gateway to the band in the worldwide Progressive Rock scenary. Then, from the third album "Seventh Story", the band changes its musical structure, now formed by five musicians. What was the reason for the change and, what motivated the inclusion of vocals in the arrangements?
Vitaly Popeloff: Andrey Mara-Novik and Vladimir Badirov left Uzbekistan and band around the time of the "Overlook" release in 2008. After leaving of them we invited Ali and Surat and Igor also joined the band. New stage of From.Uz creativity was started. New band members provided From.Uz ample opportunity, because of their unique views of prog and high musical skills. In "Seventh Story" album at first time we added vocals in our compositions. Lyrics make our songs easier to understand the conception and adding vocals helps us to extend our auditory.

Surat and Ali left From.Uz and nowadays band is a trio. Current lineup is Vitaly Popeloff (guitars and vocals), Igor Elizov (keyboards and vocals) and after leaving of Surat Albert Khalmurzaev become a bass player of From.Uz. And as for our drummer – we invite session drummers for our live gigs.

Listening to the first album entitled "Audio Diplomacy", I consider From.Uz, a band that plays a powerful and vibrant music, full of energy filled with sophisticated  arrangements, with many musical ingredients.  Actually, how would you describe the band's music?
Vitaly Popeloff: It is so hard to describe own band’s music. Impressions are very personal and subjective. I think it’s a critic’s work to analyze the music. We only play progressive rock, that we like most of all.
I believe that, the first album from the band, already was born famous, until just before being listened by many progressive rock fans and for who it likes a good music, it´s an excellent production in all the directions we can say that is a masterwork.  What the band could comment about this production and tell us some interesting facts about the songs and the arrangements?
Vitaly Popeloff: When we created "Audio Diplomacy", we did not think that this album will become so popular. We just wanted to do our best. We played a gig and recorded it. The funniest thing during the work was mixing. We mixed all tracks with one audio engineer and when we came to studio next day we were shocked. Other studio engineer did not know that all is done and changed everything, what we have done previously. It was completely different It was all from what we wanted and we had to mix an album from scratch. So, now you know that "Audio Diplomacy" was mixed three times.
In my opinion, listen carefully the first release "Audio Diplomacy", the tracks "Gameplay Imitation", "Spare Wheel" and "Babylon Dreams" are the best songs on the album, something original with strong musical structure and perfect instrumental  development. What are the songs on "Audio Diplomacy" that best describe the idea of the band?
Vitaly Popeloff: For us as the composers there are no most favorite tracks from "Audio Diplomacy". Our music is like our child and I highly appreciate it all. But there are two directions in From.UZ ideas. One is more ambient sounding. "Gameplay Imitation" and “Other Side of The Water” from "Overlook" album are fully describe this direction.  Another dimension is more driven, virtuosic and compound. Typical examples from "Audio Diplomacy" are “Harry Heller Theater” and "Babylon Dreams”.
What is the feedback from the press and progressive community,  you have until now, about the last three albums, and what are biggest musical differences  between "Audio Diplomacy", "Overlook" and "Seventh Story"?
Vitaly Popeloff: We have a good feedback about every of our albums and It is very important for us. Unfortunately geographically we are quite far away from the worldwide progressive rock music stage, and feedback from press and prog community is a kind of indicator of quality. Every album was reviewed on Prog Archives and other serious prog resources. We were interviewed by magazines such as Progression Magazine, Fireworks magazine e t. c.

The biggest differences between these three albums are lineup and approach. "Audio Diplomacy" is live experimental album, which was created spontaneous. Next album created directly in the recording process. It is a completely different from the debut album. That's why "Overlook" turned out such an eclectic, philosophical and sophisticated album. As for the "Seventh Story", I wrote the music myself. And new musicians added new colors and images to distinctive From.Uz sound.

The fourth work titled as "Quartus Artifactus", is already done, and features a double album, also including a DVD, where the video was filmed at Ilkhom Theater, 23rd of June 2009. Tell us more about  this release and how long have you been working on this album, and if is there any personal favorites songs?
Vitaly Popeloff: The Idea to make an acoustic album was born long ago. It is kind of opportunity to reach for the new musical horizons. We wanted to do something that will sound somewhat different from other stuff – more chambers like and softer. The acoustic version might be an illustration through the music idea. We wanted to do it and we did it!  Live performance in Ilkhom Theater, which recorded on 23rd of June 2009 become the foundation of future "Quartus Artifactus" album.

"Quartus Artifactus" is the most favorite album for us. We’d like to think we did something newer than we did before. New versions of songs, different approach – it’s the most interesting record that we’ve done. As for the favorite songs, Perfect Place is the most favorite. Maybe it sounds strange, but it is favorite, cause of its shortness.

Baja Prog was the first presentation outside the band´s country, tell us your experience playing alive beside others famous bands?
Vitaly Popeloff: Baja prog was the great opportunity for young bands to make oneself known. It is the one of the best prog festivals. It was a great experience to play on the one stage with such incredible musicians as Jordan Rudess or Focus.  Gig was amazing and we think that we performed well.

From.Uz has always been opened for collaboration with international festivals because concerting is one of the best ways to communicate not only with our fans but with all progressive rock fans worldwide.

What is the band´s opinion about the worldwide progressive rock scene today?
Vitaly Popeloff: I think, nowadays are an unfavorable period for the prog rock. I’ll try to describe it. There are many prog rock bands but few of them give out quality stuff, and that very few of them create something new. Porcupine Tree is the most interesting group to me over the last decade.
Just to close this interview. Would you like to say something special for Progressive Rock Fans in the South America, such as to all reader and friends around the worldwide?
Vitaly Popeloff: First of all I’d like to thank your webzine for the interview and I’d like to thank our producer Igor Iosis and our art director Ken Westphal for their creativity and inestimable contribution to the bands progress. And very special thanks to all prog rock fans! Be happy and Prog on!

Discography:
Audio Diplomacy (2007)
Overlook (2008)
Seventh Story (2010)
Quartus Artifactus - Double CD/DVD (NTSC) (2011)

Igor Elizov – Keyboards, Synths, Midi, Grand Piano, Voice
Albert Khalmurzaev – Keyboards, Synths, 12string Guitar,Flute
Vitaly Popeloff – Acoustic Steel & Nylon Guitars, Voice
Ali Izmailov – Drums, Percussion
Sur’at Kasimov – Fretless Bass

From.uz Home Page

Hailing from Tashkent Uzbekistan (hence the name: From UZ), From.uz is a 5 piece primarily instrumental band that creates a high-energy blend of complex Progressive Rock, Jazz Fusion, and Improvisation, along with healthy doses of Classical and European influences.  From.uz was officially introduced to the world through the compositions that they debuted in April 2005 at the Youth Theater of Uzbekistan, in Tashkent.  This incredibly energetic and expressive live performance (The CD/DVD combination “Audio Diplomacy”) is testimony to the intense musical statement that is Fromuz.

The band’s second full length CD, “Overlook” was released in 2008 to rave reviews, landing on many critics’ top 10 Lists for the year, including some where the band was lauded as releasing the best progressive rock CD of 2008.  In late 2008 From.uz entered into its latest incarnation under the leadership of guitarist Vitaly Popeloff and keyboardist Albert Khalmurzayev, and released “Seventh Story” as their third official release and their second in two years.  In addition to the instrumental sound that has defined Fromuz thus far, “Seventh Story” pushes into new areas including full orchestra for one track and vocals on several others.  In early 2011 a live performance DVD, “Inside Sevenh Story” was released.  This captured the entirety of “Seventh Story” performed live in Uzbekistan.

The band’s newest release is “Quartus Artifactus.”  This double CD/DVD combo is a newly recorded collection of songs from all three of the band’s previous studio releases – rearranged and played in a prog-chamber format, with a less electric, more acoustic sound. The album includes a full concert DVD, with behind the scenes supplemental material and 2 CDs of the individual music tracks. The sound is a gentler, friendlier FROM.UZ, but retains the intensity of the originals while bringing in some beautiful acoustic interpretations.
 

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