Throughout the guise of spectacle and theatrics lies a well-versed talent who is equally adept at captivating his audience -- whether it is with his mesmerizing vocals or enrapturing us with the piano, the viola or the violin -- Kayvon Zand is the consummate artist. He is undoubtedly a provocateur, renown for his spellbinding performances. Not since the likes of Marilyn Manson, Prince or David Bowie, have we witnessed such an unabashed spectacle of sexuality and satire be brought back to the performance scene.
Photo Credit: Mike Ruiz
Working with the likes of DJ Gomi (Kazuhiko Gomi) along with vocal coach Don Lawrence, Kayvon has primed himself to take his music to the next level. As Kayvon recently released his music video "One Way Flight," I chatted with him to really get to understand what it is about him that continues to titillate and confound those who can't seem to peg him as any one thing. And so, I just asked him a few direct questions and got some very direct answers...
Kayvon, people might have a lot of preconceptions about your personality, what you must be like. Some might even say that you come across as severe and intimidating. What do you think of that?
It's all subject to interpretation. We are all individuals who are creatures of habit with complex emotions. We are shaped by our experiences, with lessons learned and passed down to the next generation. So many people seem to come with so much baggage, I'm sure some would say the same of me. So, I'm the last one to be judgmental.
Nevertheless, some people can't seem to wrap their head around who you are, what you represent.
It doesn't surprise me. Consider how, as children, we are taught that we shouldn't talk to strangers. Of course, it's part of rational thought and the essence of our instinct for survival to protect ourselves when we feel threatened. However, to a large degree, such thinking processes also limit us. Just being different isn't a threat. Being different, in and of itself, just demonstrates diversity and the possibly for enrichment.
This is true. Why do you dress the way you do?
I'm very comfortable being who I am and I dress in a way that is a direct reflection of what and who that person is. I don't limit my look to a performance or nightclub either. My "look" is very much an integral part of me. This is who I am 24/7. I portray myself this way because it's my truth.
And what is the take away? What do you hope to accomplish by "sticking to your truth"?
Gradually, more people are becoming aware of me and the message is becoming clearly that I'm my own "art form", that I'm an extension of my art. As more people learn that is the core of who I am, the less intimidated they are by my physicality. I look to Bowie or any other major male eccentric performer in our time. At first, their looks intimidated some but eventually, we took the chance to get to know them and their art, and as a result, we are better for it.
Photo Credit: Mike Ruiz
Is the way you dress an extension of your music or does it influence it in any way?
I think that's what I'm getting at, my music and my dressing, which are both my art, they go hand in hand. I use my hair, my voice and my body as my canvas. I like to use both my outward expression and performance as a means to perform.
What inspires you?
Musically, I am inspired by strings, piano, sensual 80's pop, art, sexuality, gender, religion, and so much more. I suppose like everyone else, I find inspiration from all facets of life.
What does life mean to you? What makes you happy? Is there such a thing as true happiness?
I'm not sure what life means. I think I am still finding that out. I'm not sure any of us know why we are here, but there is a need in us to exist and to want to leave something behind. I feel true happiness is feeling we have when we experience some purpose in this mystery we call life.
Let's talk about your music. Increasingly, we are learning just how talented of a musician, singer and songwriter you actually are. What's your favorite musical instrument? Why?
I like to say that the piano was my first language, my first way of communicating. Before I started singing, writing lyrics or expressing my self visually, playing the piano was my only outlet of expression. I feel the piano knows a part of me that no one will ever fully see.
What inspires your music? What message do you ultimately want to convey to your audience?
Life inspires my music. As we all know, there are many messages in life and that is the same with music. Today, I feel I want to use music as a means to provoke people to step out of the boxes in which we have caged ourselves. People like to say, "it's a 'man's world'" but we're all starting to realize that what we want is for this 'man's world' to become a 'people's world'. A world where women, men, transgendered -- everyone of every race, background and lifestyle is on an equal playing field. I feel that if I can POP the POP charts, that I will be able to use my voice and platform as a means to continue fighting for equality. And if I can show that I -- a bisexual boy with Iranian parents, born in North Carolina -- can make it, then there's no doubt that anyone can make it too.
You recently released your music video "One Way Flight", directed by Mike Ruiz and produced by Chew Fu. What was it like working/collaborating with them both?
I've known Mike for a long time and I knew that working with him was really the kick I needed to make the fantasy portrayed in my video come to life. I wanted to create something epic, romantic and dark and I wanted it to be beautiful. Mike really knows how to find the "pretty" in a shot or a moment and capture that through a lens. More importantly, I didn't feel I was working with a director but rather I was working with a great friend. I can't wait till we collaborate once again. As for Chew Fu, he is the musical genius of our time and one of the most laid-back people I have ever met.
Photo Credit: Mike Ruiz
What were some of the highlights of the video? Pre or post-production?
Just having premiered the video was the highlight. It was such a joy to finally have people say, "so, this is why it took nine months!" (laughs). I'm not sure how Hollywood makes videos, but in New York we work as a family and collectively at that. I will say this over and over: this was not my video, but our video. The amount of love that was put into this project, from all creative aspects, has been one of my most inspiring experiences to date. In my initial "Kickstarter" campaign, I said I may not be a label but I have something that's priceless. I have the love and support of my friends and community.
"One Way Flight" has been getting a lot of buzz. Some of the media outlets that have covered you recently include, Interview, French Glamour, MTV, just to name a few. What do you attribute to this growing interest?
Timing. The majority of us are ready for change. It's really all so exciting. But I realize that I still have yet so much to accomplish. I really hope all of this buzz will allow me to take my show and perform the world over. You know, to really get the message out.
Photo Credit; Mike Ruiz
It's definitely headed in that direction. How did you get your start in the business?
Well, it took me a while to figure out how I fit into it. When I realized I didn't fit in, that's actually when things really started to make sense. I'm just Kayvon and that will hopefully one day be all I'll have to say.
Tell us a bit more about who Kayvon is. Family: are they supportive? What do they think of your brand?
My family situation seems like a soap opera. I grew up with my mom and sister, whom I love dearly. Recently I tried to reach out to my father and my other half-siblings but was turned away. It's probably one of the most hurtful things I've had to deal with. I was told my whole life to never talk about things in my life that weren't perfect or easy for others to swallow. Today, Kayvon is non-apologetic and not afraid to be himself. As with any stance you take, there is a price to pay. It took my family a long time to understand how my look and music were all related and how it could translate into something positive in my life. I feel that has been one of my driving forces and I'm proud of my brand and what I've accomplished so far.
What is something about you that would surprise your fans?
I love aquariums and fish. I have a 75-gallon saltwater tank. If it were up to me I'd have two more and a Koi pond!
What do you like to do in your downtime? How do you decompress? Or do you?
My downtime is really spent with my partner, Anna. She knows me better than anyone. I feel at this point, I would be incomplete without her. We like to watch movies and do what other normal couples do -- although, I admit that we are not the normal couple...by any means. I like to joke that we are lesbians. I definitely wear more makeup than she does!
So, being in a committed relationship, what kind of future do you envision with Anna? What are your views on marriage? Family?
I would love to have a family some day. The idea of children I feel will complete the missing piece of the puzzle to my life. I never had a father and have come to the realization it's just not going to happen for me. I think the closest I can come to finding peace with this part in my life is by becoming a loving father myself, one day.
What's next for you?
None. I believe that if you are focused and work hard at what you love, life can never be regretful.
Our country, and to an extent, the world in general, is going through some major social changes. How do you feel you and your art fit into the scheme of these changing times?
I feel the fact that there is growing interest and recognition in me, shows where we are in the world today. We have a black president and our fight for equality has never been as triumphant as it has been in the past few days. There is still a lot of work to do. I feel the more opportunities to make a significant contribution through my work, the more of an impact I will be able to make in the fight for equality.
Is there anything you'd like to talk about that we haven't covered?
Nope, that's pretty much it for now. This was great. Thanks Martin!
Follow Martin Berusch on Twitter: www.twitter.com/martinberusch