Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Near Eastern music have dotted the rock landscape for decades, from Led Zeppelin to Jane’s Addiction.

For many of those bands, introducing exotic sounds to their fans came after casually being exposed to it themselves during their many travels. For three members of The Apex Theory, it was part of their childhood.

Singer Andy Khachaturian, guitarist Art Karamian and bassist David Hakopyan are all of Armenian descent, and though drummer Sammy Watson doesn’t have that lineage, he’s a integral part of the multicultural influence that’s found on the Los Angeles-based rock group’s debut DreamWorks album, “Topsy-Turvy” (released April 2).

“That’s what makes this band special, the fact that the four of us can come together and each one of us has our own signature thing that we do and it somehow works together – and everyone shines,” Khachaturian said recently. “That’s the beauty of this band; everyone has that kind of cooperation of working together and yet holding their own. It works. We have a common affinity for good music, no matter what it is – Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Brazilian, whatever.”

Khachaturian has a lot of respect for bands like Led Zeppelin and Jane’s Addiction, but he says The Apex Theory’s diverse sound is genuine.

“Those bands utilized those sounds, but they took it from somewhere else, like maybe one of the members had some affiliation with that type of music and brought it to the band,” he said. “With us, it’s more closer to home, so we’re not scrambling and searching for an identity. It’s like, if you were raised in a jungle, you would know how to swing from vine to vine. For us, this music’s a way of life – the rhythms, the odd melodies, they feel comfortable to us.

“It naturally happened because there were such little distractions going on that we didn’t have to worry about it. This is more like what we do. It’s not like, ‘Okay, we’re going to create a band called The Apex Theory and this is what it’s going to sound like.’ It’s more like a few guys coming together, saying ‘Check out this cool riff’ or ‘I’ve got this cool melody.’ Dave would bring in a bassline, and me being a drummer as well, I would sit and drum away a pattern. It was an open channel when it came to expressing our thoughts and ideas for music.”

Keeping it in check was producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Lit, Eve 6, Pearl Jam, Sugar Ray).

“He was one of the ones we wanted to meet with; actually, I should say he wanted to meet us,” Khachaturian said. “He came from the right, whereas we came from left of center. His attitude helped out as well; it’s not just about getting the job done, it’s about being able to communicate and having your producer not lose his mind and be an asshole. He made a few minor changes, structurally speaking, but the essence of what we were doing to begin with was still captured on the album.”

The group has a full summer ahead of it, holding a slot on the Ozzfest 2002 tour.

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I didn’t buy it, but I remember getting Asia’s first album from my cousin in Rhode Island. That was my introduction to semi-heavy music. That and Uriah Heep, and then Van Halen’s ‘1984’ album, which to this day I still love.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Dave and I have known each other since high school. He and I went to see Living Colour and Primus at the Universal Amphitheater. Living Colour blew me away, just the musicianship and the ability of that guy to have so much soul and passion behind his voice. There’s so many people influenced by him, even if they won’t admit it.”

THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “I was a busboy at a Greek restaurant. It was a nightmare. It was a sweaty, hard job. It was a small restaurant; 400 people would show up every night. It was really tiresome. It’s not like being a busboy at Denny’s; the busboys were working harder than the waiters. It was a humbling experience.”

ORDER “TOPSY-TURVY”: click here.


BWF (before we forget): Upcoming Apex Theory tour dates (most of which are on Ozzfest 2002) – Aug. 12, Toledo, Hard Hat; Aug. 13, Noblesville, Ind., Verizon Wireless Music Center; Aug. 15, Bristow, Va., Nissan Pavilion; Aug. 17, Somerset, Wis., Float Rite Park Amphitheater; Aug. 19, Maryland Heights, Mo., UMB Bank Pavilion; Aug. 20, Bonner Springs, Kan., Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; Aug. 21, Pittsburgh, Foxtown City Limits; Aug. 22, Denver, Pepsi Center; Aug. 24, Marysville, Calif., Autowest Amphitheater; Aug. 25, Mountain View, Calif., Shoreline Amphitheater; Aug. 27, George, Wash., The Gorge; Aug. 29, Orangevale, Calif., Brickworks; Aug. 31, Devore, Calif., Glen Halen Blockbuster Pavilion; Sept. 2, Chula Vista, Calif., Coors Amphitheater; Sept. 5, Phoenix, Cricket Pavilion; Sept. 7, Selma, Texas, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; Sept. 8, Dallas, Smirnoff Music Center.