Orphaned Land

Interview date

11 novembre 2011


Didier et PhilippeC


Interview Yossi Sassi (face to face)

Hello Yossi, thanks for accepting this interview in Marseille for our webzine auxportesdumetal.com

Hello guys!

First we wanted to ask you about Hellfest 2011. We saw you there, it was nice. How was it for you?

It was a dream for us. It was not the first time in Hellfest. We were there in 2006. But it was amazing to see how big the festival came to be. Also I met a lot of good friends I had not seen in a long time. The guys from Ozzy Osbourne, Gus G and friends from Mr Big, Paul Gilbert for example. So it was for me a great festival backstage and on stage, that was really nice, it doesn't happen a lot in festivals. I almost stayed the full time, because I also had good talks with local endorsements.

Prog metal is growing in that festival too?

What happened to the Hellfest happened to many festivals when they get big. They have to satisfy more audiences. And it's normal when you want to grow from 10000 to 80000 and maybe more, you cannot only rely on death metal, and underground music, you have to add all kinds of music like progressive. And we got amazing feedback on this show.

We heard about problems that your belly dancer had after the show because she raised a Libanese flag on stage with you.

Yes, we collaborated with Johanna Fakhri, a Lebanese belly dancer. It was an amazing moment to have her on stage with us. Unfortunately since then, she was denied the right to go to Lebanon. It's crazy because she is proud of her country, that's why she raised the flag. But sadly, her government doesn't accept that, and she even has received threat on her life, I think it's very sad to know that. At the moment she is in France, and cannot go to Lebannon.

Did you get any problems?

We didn't get any problems, no. It's usually ok for us. We have been around for twenty years with hundreds of shows in thirty something countries. We never had major problems, only little problems here and there.

Today you are collaborating with Arkan and Myrath, it is also a nice symbol, is it important for you?

It is very important. It's the first time in the history of music, I believe, we have a middle eastern oriental metal tour. It's a huge step, it's something we dreamed of, when we began to play in the early days as a pioneer of metal in the middle east. We are happy to be able to collaborate with Arkan, who have been good friends for years now, and also Myrath and Artweg. It's a real dream, we are really happy to do a full european tour with them.

You mention Arkan, Kobi, was singing on one of the song in Arkan latest album.

Yes, Kobi sings one of their tracks. I, for example, have done the composition and a lot of the production for Orphaned Land, since the founding, for 20 years and I always like to keep myself open minded and as an explorer of sound and instruments. I play 22 different guitars at home, you know, so it's important to focus on the music and find ways to be more creative. So, yes I collaborate, with musicians from Portugal, from Kowait. I also produce some younger bands. Also these days I work on my first solo album, Melting Clocks, to be released in early 2012, featuring Marty Friedman and some other great well known musicians and vocalists. Recording is finished now and I'm working on the artwork, I can show you... It's released under my name Yossi Sassi, and it's an album half instrumental, and half with vocals.

Let's talk about Orphaned Land latest album, how was it received?

It was released over a year now, and got really amazing reviews from many magazines. It's also a good commercial success. Naturally the CD industry is declining but still the crowd and the reviewers liked it. More and more people come to the shows around Europe and in the USA. More and more of our shows were sold out, it's a better sign than the CD sales.

Don't you think that metal fans are buying more CDs than the rest of music fans?

It's true yes, metal fans remains loyal to the bands. Even if there is a decline, an album like OrWarriOr, ten years ago would have made easily a quarter of millions copies, but today it does ten or twenty thousand, but for us it's a huge success. We also made it available legaly, for free, good quality download from our web site, for seventeen Arab countries such as Barhein, Iraq... We see a lot of downloads from there. So we know, by now, that we have millions of fans in the Arab world. We know that many of them cannot get our music. We got feedback on our facebook page and our web site, that they cannot get the CD distributed in these countries.

Because it's metal or because it's from Israel?

It's both.

How is it to be a metal band in Israel? More complicated than in Europe?

It's more or less the same as far as recording and managing the band is concerned. It's a little more difficult because we are geographically not in Europe, not because we are in Israel. It would be the same for a band in the Philippines or in Australia. It's easier to travel in Europe if you are anywhere in Europe. For us, with eight members crew, including the guitar tech and so on, it's more difficult.

Is it difficult to find equipment for example?

It's ok to get music gear in the Middle East. I manage the endorsement for the band so I have closed deals with many good vendors, top of the line, Pearl for drums, PRS guitars, Egel Amps, all kinds of pedals...

What about audience in Israel, do you get good attendance there?

It for sure has changed since we started. In Israel we have huge crowds now, 1000, 1500 people it's always sold out. It's a huge party, we even have people coming from abroad, because it's such a big party. We opened the doors for new bands, and now there are eight or ten active bands that are performing and at least three bands that are now signed by labels.

Steven Wilson helped on the album right?

Yes, he just mixed the album. He was supposed to be involved with the production but it was self produced in the end. He also played some keyboards. He is a great friend and we feel very natural with him when he works with us on our music. He also worked with us on the DVD and there is a good chance we work with him again.

So tell us about this DVD.

It's the first DVD for Orphaned Land in 20 years. It also features also Steven Wilson covering some of our songs. It's two DVD, three hours, including bonus. It was shot with seventeen HD cameras, and was mixed by Jens Bogren who also did a DVD for Opeth. Some people say the sound is better that on the albums. It's really cool, we have cameras on the guitars during the solos, on the microphone stand... It's available now in Europe. We sell it on the tour.

Why does it take Orphaned Land so many years in between albums?

Part of it is the fact that in the beginning of Orphaned Land we were teenagers, we were eighteen. We had nothing else to do in life than music, so we composed a lot and did The Beloved's Cry, Ararat and El Norra Alila. And then people grew up, some of us travelled. Some people went to India, some went to other places. I raised a family, I have 2 daughters, the elder is ten years old. Music is great for the heart, but for food and to pay the bills it's not the best, so I had to take a day job in computers. Then I realised a couple of years ago, that I wanted to do 100% music so I quit my day job. This is the reason that the last 2 years things really accelerated for Orphaned Land. We made OrWarriOr in a few months, we did the DVD, the show openings for Metallica. In 2010 only we did almost 100 shows, two European tours, 2 US tours, with Amorphis, Katatonia, a huge year for us. This year the DVD, more tour. Next year after I'm finished with my solo album I will tour with my solo band, Yossi Sassi Group. Then I'm going to compose a new album for Orphaned Land. Hopefully late 2012, early 2013, there will be a new Orphaned Land album. That's my plan. I do a lot of the composition, and arrangements. Kobi manages the things to divide between us. Everybody contributes. For example Uri works on graphics, the logo for example.

Your yemenite singer, Shlomit Levi, is not touring with you, why?

No, she is a mother of a little child. Being a mother and a wife makes it difficult for her to tour with us for one month. She is always with us when we play in Israel or in Turkey for example, when it's close and a short period of time. But you can see her on the DVD, and from time to time on festivals...

Which of the two guitarists plays the solo on the song The Warrior? It sounded like you invited Uli Jon Roth.

Oh thank you. But it's me. And we will play it today if we have electricity [We didn't and the concert got cancelled :-(]

An ending word for our readers

I just want to tell people to be nice and kind to each other, and continue to believe in music, it's above everything: above religion, above politics. Also take a look at our DVD, and check out my solo album when it comes out, check out my web site.

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