Interview: Gordana Beraković (gordana@venia-mag.net)

Photo: Klaudije Radanović

Orphaned Land is the Israeli metal band that first made its appearance twenty years ago. They brought something new to the world’s metal scene. Their first album “Sahara” was released in 1994, the second “El Norra Alila” two years later, a third one, “Mabool: The Story of the Three Sons of Seven” in 2004. Five years ago we had a chance to see them in Zagreb, where they pleased the audience with their music and thus left an indelible mark. This year, they recorded their fourth album “The Never Ending Way Of OrwarriOR”. We got a chance to talk to Yossi “Sassi” Sa’aron before their concert held in Ljubljana on November 20th. Always smiling, Yossi told us some details about the album, current tour with Amorphis and announcements for the tour next summer.

VENIA: How are you?
YOSSI: I’m great! It’s awesome to be for the first time in Slovenia. It’s amazing! We’ve been all around. In Croatia, Czech Republic and almost everywhere in Europe, but, first time in Slovenia.

VENIA:
In Croatia five years ago with Paradise Lost.
YOSSI: Yes, I remember, in Zagreb.

VENIA: How is it going on tour so far?
YOSSI: So far tour goes very well. We are with really nice people, the bands with us, Amorphis and Ghost Brigade, and also the crew from Finland. Very nice people. Goes very well. The venues are mostly full and some of them are sold out. The audience is super!

VENIA:
How has the audience accepted new album?
YOSSI: I think “Warrior” is accepted very well. It’s a long album and it isn’t maybe for some people the easiest to get in for the first time, but if you give it two or three listenings you really feel the depth of the different layers of the creation of the music and arrangements. We got excellent reviews of this album.

VENIA: I heard so many times about the concept of the album, but can you say it once more, please?
YOSSI: Basically, the concept of the “Warrior” is warrior of the light. Warrior of the light is essentially in each and everyone of us. It can be you, it can be me, it can be everybody! It’s about simple people, most of us, who simply want to do what they love and what they like, not to hurt anybody and not to be hurt. Ironically enough, when you choose the simple life, it’s the hardest. Because you face many challenges in desire to do what you love. The “Warrior” is about this journey in the life of the warrior of light. The ups and downs.

VENIA:
You are on the tour with the Amorphis, a Finnish band that base their lyrics on the Finnish national epic poem Kalevala. It’s also about simple people, not about kings like many others. This Amorphis – Orphaned Lands tour combination is very interesting. What do you think about that?
YOSSI: With Amorphis we have very good connection because we started approximately at the same time, twenty years ago. Amorphis is also one of the pioneers of folk metal, in a way, and we started the Middle East genre. And we are two metal bands that sound maybe a bit alike in someway, but quite different at the same way, I think. As a people we are quite similar because we have a lot topics that we love to talk about. And we really find them as good friends. It’s the first time that we tour together and have shows together, but we feel like we’ve known each other for many years.

VENIA: Can you tell me one of the topics? A cultural one, for example.
YOSSI: I think a lot of conversation is about people in general. And humanity. Where it’s heading. And a lot about the simple people and simple life and how this is something that once was really common, but today it comes more and more hard to achieve. Just to do a really simple thing. And I wouldn’t say that we are doing nostalgic talk because it’s not nostalgic but it’s more reflecting on how humanity is evolving. With the changes that happen socially and with the Internet, facebook, all the things coming from America and flooding the new generation. And we see it also in the Middle East, not only in Europe. It really changes the concepts in the way how people think and behave. Their values. That’s the stuff that we talk about.

VENIA:
Is there any value in Finland that you would like that in the Middle East is the same?
YOSSI: I think the number one thing that I want to have more from Scandinavian countries and I think it’s important in all countries in the world is education. It’s something that governments should put much more effort in. And I’m not saying that in a political way, but in the same way that we talked about humanity and future of the mankind. In early age we should start to respect each other and the importance of life. For example, in the Middle East if people everywhere, in Gaza Strip and Palestine, as well in Israel, if they will understand that accepting someone different than you is crucial and they learn to bridge between different opinions and beliefs. Like we do in Orphaned Land. They will understand the sacred power of life, that you cannot take life by any cause, in any way. That will do a lot of change in the next educated generation.

VENIA: When did you realise that you want to be a metal musician?
YOSSI: When we were teenagers. Orphaned Land is almost 20 years old. We were kids in high school. We loved metal music a lot. I’ve been listening to metal a few years before I started Orphaned Land. In high school I was looking at kids with black T-shirts. I asked: “Do you know to play guitar? Cool! Let’s make a band”. Very quickly I began to compose the music. When I touch the guitar, and I’m very much a person of acoustic instruments, I compose on the classical guitar, saz, bouzouki, chumbush. I play 16 different instruments with strings. Some of them are folk, old, from the Middle East. I collect them for years. I did music that I grow up as a child, that my father made me listen, so, in a way, Orphaned Land is a bridge for me in from my past, my childhood and who I am today. It’s a cool mix.

VENIA:
Do you have any idols?
YOSSI: I don’t know is idol a right word, but people that I respect are my family, my daughters and my partner in life, the women with me.

VENIA: I meant music idols.
YOSSI: Idols are people that I love, but music influences… It’s a variety of artists, from Dead Can Dance to Depeche Mode. I love things from Nat King Cole. I listen to a lot of music. I have music for every mood. There are many artists that I appreciate a lot, like Pink Floyd. But these days it’s harder to find something new, something special, something with a message. The most important thing is to find something unique. To consider something like an idol to me is to bring something fresh, like Radiohead did with OK Computer. Something like that. I didn’t find it happening in last few years.

VENIA:
Is it harder to be a headliner or a support act on tour?
YOSSI: It has advantages and disadvantages. We do both a lot. This year we’ve headlined an European tour and been support. We headline a North America tour and support with Katatonia. We did almost one hundred shows, which is a lot. I can say that clearly if you are support, things are easier. You do less good financially. In headline shows you see much more your fans and that is great. That is the best thing in headlining. But also we get many people that come just to see us. It happens. We saw people who are coming especially for us. It’s cool!

VENIA: Soon you will record a DVD in Tel Aviv. Can you tell us something about that?
YOSSI: It will be our debut, first DVD ever. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary. It will be a long show, 2.5 hours at least. We have guests: Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Greg Mackintosh (Paradise Lost). It will be a big, big celebration!

VENIA:
It’s about time…
YOSSI: Yeah, we did take a lot of time.

VENIA: Why did it take 7 years in between the albums?
YOSSI: Because, I think that we are maybe perfectionists. (laughing) We have this vision. When I began with the album, I had a vision how the album will sound. It was like a dream. In the dream the album had camels and smelled of desert. I feel things and it’s hard later to get it into reality. It’s a lot of work. A lot of arrangements and layers. I worked with so many people, so many guest musicians and I recorded the album at least twice in my house, in my private studio. In preproduction we try a lot. It takes time. We are a bunch of perfectionist!

VENIA:
Do you have any message for your Croatian fans?
YOSSI: I want to thank very, very much our friends and fans in Croatia. Hopefully we’ll come to play in Croatia soon. I hope in 2011. We are trying to get a headline tour in the middle of 2011 and we are doing our best to get Croatian dates. If that happens, we will be very happy.

VENIA: Thank you!