While in Israel, visiting family and friends, I got in touch with the Israeli Progmetal band Orphaned Land to discuss their beginning, present, and what their future plans hold. This interview was also before a Tel Aviv show on December 16th, 2009.
Once the interview was over, I was able to stay and watch Orphaned Land play a show in Barbie, a venue in Tel Aviv. Over 1,000 people packed themselves into a smaller venue to watch the show and they were very greatly rewarded. The show was, in many ways, very understated. There was little in the way of a light show, no pyrotechnics and no fancy stage devices. The band put on one hell of a show solely relying on their presence and the strength of their music. The crowd was also an amazing thing to watch. Israelis seem to love participating at concerts much more so than at any U.S. concert I’ve been to (and trust me, I’ve been to a lot). The whole crowd cheered, sang and clapped along as well as jumping in rhythm to nearly every song. Each new song was greeted with enthusiastic cheers and the announcement of a song from the new album about to be played was wildly celebrated.
Overall, the experience was truly a great time and when these guys come to the States, rest assured that I’ll be at the Detroit show, bringing several friends along to enjoy the experience.
Read on for the interview!
1) To get started, tell me how Orphaned Land got together?
Well, back in 1991, we hooked up together, two guys from a city called Bat Yam, myself from Petah Tikva and Matti also, the second guitarist and we basically began to play death metal under the moniker of Resurrection and we played…pure death metal with some Middle Eastern influences and Middle Eastern riffs, just hooking up with harmonic scales a lot, and throughout the years we obviously sophisticated that to a different level in general.
2) What are some of the bands that have had the most influence on Orphaned Land?
Since our music is very diverse and versatile, we have had many influences on the way, from metal artists to non-metal from Depeche Mode through traditional and world music artists like Dead Can Dance, so it’s a long list really.
3) Why has there been such a long wait for The Neverending Way of ORwarriOR?
Well we normally take our time because the Orphaned Land creation process is lengthy. Well, we compose the music and all the basic riffs quite early and after that we invest a lot into the concept and building up the layers of instruments and this can take quite a while and we really don’t want to compromise on the final result, so basically we just try to rearrange the stuff, recompile it and try to see how we can make it better all the time and, so to say give up and say, “Ok, that’s the best we can do at this point and time at this certain stage”. Another thing is that we have other stuff in life. Orphaned Land is our life project and it’s with us for 20 years now almost, but we have our jobs and our obligations, et cetera.
4) How has Orphaned Land evolved for The Neverending Way of ORwarriOR since Mabool?
Well, I think that we did a long way because also each and every one personally and also the band has matured both musically and each in his own space. We went through our late 20’s to mid-30’s since then so some of us have kids, and also we changed the line-up a bit. We parted ways with our previous keyboardist, we changed drummers, et cetera. So, we also had one of the great things that happened is we’ve been in touch with Steven Wilson and he’s been involved in the process more in the mixing and keyboards but that’s also a big change since Mabool.
5) Why did Orphaned Land choose Steven Wilson to mix the new album?
Basically we just value his musical opinion and he’s a great guy and most of us in the band love his work. We’re into Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, Opeth. He has been in Israel for some time because he has Blackfield and he has a flat in Tel Aviv, so from time to time we got the chance to see him more and more and we got to be really close friends and he loves Orphaned Land’s stuff. Steven is really the type of guy that doesn’t like conventional music, he doesn’t like stuff that sounds like everything else and Orphaned Land for him sounds like something “else”. It’s the type of album that he loves. He said that Mabool was a breakthrough album, a great album but he really didn’t love the sound and production and in one chat that we had together, we said if you want to be involved in the sound and mixing so he said sure. That’s what he did this year. He did King Crimson, he did Orphaned Land mixing and he did some personal projects like Porcupine Tree.
6) What was the songwriting process for The Neverending Way of ORwarriOR?
Well, like always, we begin with the music, we compose the riff, I do a lot of the composition basically on the guitars, the traditional instruments and most of the stuff is written acoustically and then we move it to the electric guitars. So, I’m doing a lot of the composition and after we have the riffs, we get to play together, everybody brings their own ideas, what to leave out, what to double and triple and also the lyrics begin and the conceptual stuff. It’s like a puzzle that we build together but everyone has his specialty. So we find [ourselves] more on the music, and the composition and arrangements. Kobi is more into the lyrics. Uri (bassist) is very much into the graphics. He did the band logo and the cover.
7) What were some of the difficulties that came up during the recording process?
Not specific ones, it’s really just a long and tiring process. I think recording an album is, it’s the duality is that it’s the most amazing experience in life of giving birth to something and at the same time it’s very hard. The hours, the lasting journey towards perfection all the time. It doesn’t end, you know? It’s really the definition of birth. You bring life to the world but you suffer a lot on the way.
8) What is the story or the theme of The Neverending Way of ORwarriOR?
The conceptual theme around Neverending Way of ORwarriOR, which is actually the Warrior of Light, “OR” is “Light” in Hebrew, so ORwarriOR, Warrior of Light, is basically speaking about each and every one of us. It’s not a specific hero but it revolves around the life of a hero, the seeker of light, that fights to get a life of peace and to find his own heaven and tranquility. And it’s essentially, everyone can be the hero, the listener himself even, because most of the people just want to have a common life, do what they like, be loved and not hurt anyone else in the process and it should be an easy task to do that, just to do simple and loving things but the truth is it’s a long journey and the album revolves around the story of this warrior and through his depths of rock bottom sorrow and his most highest battles.
9) So you’re hoping that each person, in their own way, can personally connect to this ORwarriOR?
10) What are some of the challenges that come up trying to bring traditional Middle Eastern music, scales, instruments as well as religious themes into modern metal?
All the time, we’ve always dealt with various styles of metal and progressive stuff and traditional music. We’ve always handled a lot around the adjustments of the different worlds and styles because essentially, I write acoustic stuff like bazouki, zasz, oud, Turkish, Greek, Egyptian guitars and they have different scales and quartertones and they are very melodic and they are full of soul. It’s all from the heart. And different rhythms. Really different from modern scales, Western stuff. And on the process of adjustments we find it’s challenging but at the same time it’s really interesting and that’s one of the secrets of Orphaned Land’s music is this adjustments coming from World music, traditional rhythms and scales and adapting to the Western stuff and that’s part of the magic, where the magic happens.
11) What does the future hold for Orphaned Land?
Well, 2010 is a release year so we’re definitely going to hit the road. We’re going to tour in Europe and we also have a U.S. tour coming up, so you’ll definitely see some U.S. dates.
12) And is this going to be more than just a Prog Power event?
Oh yeah, definitely. We’re also booked for some of the big summer festivals as well, but there will also be at least one U.S. tour as well as a tour in Europe. We’re also looking to possibly produce a DVD, the first DVD ever from Orphaned Land of a live show. And we will be releasing with the limited edition of the album a documentary DVD that documents the making of the new album and it really goes behind the scenes and tells about the creation process and has interviews.
13) What does Orphaned Land hope the future holds for them?
Well hopefully it will continue to be challenging and successful at the same time. We really love to reinvent ourselves all the time. We’ve always been the pioneers of Middle Eastern heavy metal and coming from the Middle East it’s a challenge for us just to live here, nevertheless to make Middle Eastern metal, metal music from the Middle East. So, we just want to be able to face the challenges and prove all the time and continue to bring to the world the power of music. And music is the universal language because the scales sound the same in every language, its just tones. And tones are no different between different people in different regions and this is really the language we speak and we want to continue to do that in the future.