This interview with Kobi and Yossi of Orphaned Land was done face to face by Juliane John on April 22nd, 2006.

Orphaned Land are probably one of the most complex bands out there. They combine pretty much everything in their music that can be found in this world, musically as well as lyricwise. It starts with different languages and ends with various musical instruments and guest musicians. I could probably write books to get down everything that can be found in their unique music so letís just make all our lives easy and say that they play folk metal from Israel. Prior to their show at the Wacken Road Show gig in Siegen (GER) I got the chance to sit down with Kobi and Yossi to talk about their music, the upcoming album and the music scene in Israel

This Years Wacken Road Show has been half way through now. How has this tour been for you so far?
Kobi: Not bad. Itís always great to be on the road, play with the band and meet people so weíre very happy right now. Itís a good tour I think. We are looking forward to playing at the Wacken Festival. So far so good!

In 2005, you were on a very long European Tour with Paradise Lost. What kind of experience was that for you?
Kobi: Well, it was the first time that we really toured. We had 29 gigs in 44 days. It was great for us because before we just flew to single concerts or festivals but never really toured. It was scary in many ways because we had never played 9 shows in 10 days so I didnít know what to expect but it was great by all means. We lived in the bus and I met my fiancťe in Poland. The reactions from the fans were great and we had great shows and even sold a lot of CDs. A lot of people got to know us and it was a great experience that we had on the road, definitely!

You are going to play 4 bigger festivals this year, among them the Wacken Open Air like you already mentioned. How do you feel about that? Is that a success for you?
(Yossi comes in to join the interview)

Kobi: Well yeah. When we finish these 4 festivals it will have been a total of 11 festivals that we have played since 2005 which is absolutely great. Weíve played in something like 25 countries so yeah, itís a great success. After the next album, weíll hopefully get more gigs and more festivals and get more established in these places but definitely in terms of the last album and speaking about tours weíve achieved a great success.

Yossi: But for us at the end of the dayÖ we give 100% on stage whether itís for 50 or 50.000 people. Itís the same of us.

Can you please explain the concept behind this band?
Kobi: To tell you in short, itís in a way combining everything that you see, feel or know in this life in one platform. Itís like a cultural salad. We take all religions, all languages, all kinds of instruments whether itís from the past or a current instrument. In a philosophical way you could say that we are making world wide peace in our music. If people will learn to do in life what we are doing with our music, this would be heaven on earth.

Yossi: We basically take music as a universal language, as the main concept and then link our own concept to it which is creating this musical and cultural mix. Everyone can find something that he likes in it, whether itís in the music or the concept.

What do you want to put across with Orphaned Land?
Kobi: We want people to know or understand that the ones who are different from them are not necessarily people they should be afraid of. We want people to learn to respect other opinions than their own. I think if people did that in their life, they wouldnít be afraid of the ones that are different from them. If they wouldnít close themselves in that ark of their own culture, they would be rich people because they will have friends from all cultures, they will know all kinds of foods, all kinds ofÖ I donít knowÖ girls, all kinds of instruments. They will be rich people by all means - except for the money - which is the best way of being rich.

As you are one of the few bands that deal with religious matters in their lyrics I am very curious to know if that has ever caused you any problems?
Kobi: Well, no. I have to make a small correction here. We do deal with religious [topics] but you cannot define Orphaned Land as a white metal band. We combine religion like we combine ancient instruments or like we combine Latin and Arab. Itís all from the same point of view. We donít preach people to be religious, we donít insult any other opinion. We just take aspects of everything we know and in a very respecting way we try to put it together. So I donít think we have problems do we? (looks at Yossi)

Yossi: Maybe (thinks). I have to admit that from time to time people are a bit confused with us playing with the concept of belief and faith in monotheistic but also in non-monotheistic ways. Sometimes they ask us if we are Jewish or if we are Palestinians. People try to figure out where weíre from, which religion we have originally and if we preach for one [religion] instead of the other but we totally emphasize and say up-front that we donít try to put one over the other. Itís really about respecting all religions and all kinds of belief.

Isnít it kind of a paradox that you sing about religion and God and express that with metal? I mean I could imagine many people, especially from church, who wouldnít be too pleased about it.
Kobi: You know we used to call our concept the tango between God and Satan. Also, we used to compare our concept to the Ying Yang symbol. Orphaned Land in a way is like the black dot in the white space. If you take the white space as the world of religion, they will always see us as the black sheep because we use religion with metal music and growling vocals. On the other hand, in the metal world, which is always anti-religious, atheistic or and so on, we speak about God and religion so for them we are ďwhiteĒ in a way and this is definitely a paradox but itís what I like about Orphaned Land the most. Itís so different and so confusing sometimes that itís very hard to define what we actually do.

Your latest album ďMaboolĒ features many guests. How did all these collaborations come to life?
Yossi: With ďMaboolĒ we had quite a lot of time to work on it although the raw material was already prepared in the last 90ís. Still, we did a lot of adaptation work. We worked with different kinds of singers, choirs, with a philharmonic quartet, with different percussions etc. So at the end of the day it was a lot of work but it was all about the adaptations and making sure to find the best elements for each song.

As you had so many other musicians involved in ďMaboolĒ, how do you actually play those songs live? Does the stuff come from tape?
We use a computer. When we play live the non-metal instruments come from a computer. But most of the instruments are played by ourselves, for example I play all the oriental guitars so these are not dependant on guest musicians. Sometimes we play them in live shows but we canít always take them with us on long tours so thatís when we use the computer.

And the same goes for the choirs and the other singers you use?
Yossi: Yes, although weíve had some full-blown shows with the choirs and the philharmonic quartet etc., but it costs more money of course.

You use many different languages for your lyrics. Can you speak/read all of them?
Kobi: No. I speak English and Hebrew, which is my mother language, and with the rest I can speak a little bit of them, a little bit Arabic, Spanish, Polish because my fiancťe is from Poland but thatís it. With most of the languages we use I just learn how to pronounce them. I wish I could speak them, maybe one day.

When you released ďEl Norra AlilaĒ the means of research werenít as broad as nowadays with the internet. So why didnít the booklet have any translations of the Hebrew lyrics?
Kobi: I canít really remember because it was released back in 96. Personally, we always want to translate our lyrics, especially if we can do it ourselves. I think our website has translations of all the lyrics.

As Iím sure many people (including me) donít know much about the metal scene in Israel, can you tell us something about it?
Kobi: Well, itís well-developed and we have a lot of metal people in Israel. We had a show last week before we went on this tour and it was like 1500 people in the audience. Imagine theyíre all singing along and they all know the lyrics so yeah, the scene is developed. Metallica played in the 90ís and 50.000 came. We have metal CDs in regular shops. I think itís the only country in the Middle East actually where you can find access to metal. The other countries arenít really democratic so you cannot really find metal CDs or magazines and you canít walk with a Morbid Angel shirt just like that on the street. In Israel thatís no problem, you can do whatever you want. (Yossi leaves to organize some stuff for the upcoming show)

The band took a 7 years break from 1997-2004. Was that a personal decision or were there other circumstances that forced you into that break?
Kobi: We had a lot of personal problems. We grew up together and sometimes we didnít know how to communicate. I guess living in Israel was not easy. I mean we love the country, itís a great country, but sometimes life in Israel is very hard so I guess all of it together created some complications for us. We never decided to quit but we just wanted to take a break and do other stuff. When we had this free time, we gave the band less priority because we also worked regular jobs and had a career. At some point, we wanted to get back but it took us ages. You know, if you put something aside, you forget about it and itís very hard to resurrect it. Thatís why it took 7 years but I believe that we needed these 7 years to grow up and ďMaboolĒ is the outcome of these 7 years. Itís a great album and I have no regrets about this break.

Youíve recently announced Stephen Wilson of Porcupine Tree as the producer of your new album. How did you get in touch with him and what effect on your sound do you expect from that?
Kobi: Iíve known Stephen for a few years now because I used to work in a distribution company that distributed Porcupine Tree. I met him there and gave him one of our albums. Then I tried to get in touch with him, sending emails once in a whileÖ (Weíre interrupted by some noise coming from the nearby commons room because some of the other bands are playing tabletop football) Ö Anyway, back to Stephen Wilson. I was sending him CDs and emails and invited him to our shows. Heís actually spending a lot of time between London and Israel because he has one of his projects in Israel and he really loves the country so itís very easy to meet him. However, he refused to produce a lot of metal bands except for Opeth. I think the way we combine all the different cultural aspects with Orphaned Land raised his attention and made him identify some potential. I think thatís why he chose Orphaned Land. Stephen Wilson is multi-talented. I mean sometimes with his projects youíre afraid that the material will sound like Porcupine Tree because he is SO talented. He spreads his aura all around. But we donít have these fears because Orphaned Land stands for itself because we use all these different instruments and you cannot really change that into something else. I think Stephen will contribute to our music in terms of sound, heíll add some Stephen Wilson atmosphere to the album and it will be great. Iím very much looking forward to him and weíre actually all fans of him.

Can you already reveal something about the upcoming album? How much material have you written for it at this point?
Kobi: Well I think you can say that about 40% of the album is written. Itís always very difficult with that because we have a lot to arrange and a lot to compose and a lot to produce with all the different musicians so letís say 40% is ready, it might be less though. It is going to be a conceptual album about the warrior of light, which is somehow a concept that everyone has inside, some kind of inner messiah. Everyone of us lives with sometimes fears or sadness on the one hand or saints we donít have on the other hand and we never feel complete in this world. This warrior of light inside us is supposed to bring us to salvation and happiness. I think this is what I can reveal.

Letís talk about some more general topics. The Finnish band Lordi has caused a huge discussion lately concerning their appearance in the Eurovision Song contest because critics associate them with Satanism. What do you think about all this fuzz?
Kobi: I think Lordi are a great band, we played with them in Italy at the Revolution Festival. Theyíre fun with all these costumes they wear and I think itís great that they are doing the Eurovision. They should win this. I think the Eurovision sucks and having a band like Lordi there is great news and hopefully next year weíll haveÖ I donít know, Iron Maiden playing there!

I heard you have many fans in the Arabian countries. Do you think that you can cross borders with your music?
Kobi: We already did by having Arab fans. You know, Arab people admiring an Israeli band doesnít happen every day, I think it doesnít happen at all actually, at least I have never heard of it. We have three fans that have Orphaned Landís logo as a tattoo and they are from Lebanon, Dubai and Jordan. Itís completely insane. Itís unbelievable. This is definitely the proof that musicís power is beyond any borders or time or politics. Music is the strongest thing this world has to offer. You know, even the State Department of the Israel government recognized it and support us because we are messengers of peace and tolerance more than any diplomats or politicians. So we represent our country and they help us with tours and promotion.

Thatís great. So here goes my last question and itís always kind of special and has nothing to do with music. What do you think about all the tumults the Muhammad caricatures caused?
Kobi. I think that in a way we should have a freedom of speech. On the other hand, we shouldnít abuse this freedom of speech to draw the limits of people. [For example] if you know that you have a very strict neighbor that lives around you and you want to get along with him and even though the law doesnít say that you shouldnít make any noise between 2-4 oíclock in the afternoon but this neighbor really insists that you donít make any noise till 5 oíclock you can find a compromise. So, you have this freedom of speech but you donít need to abuse it that much in order to hurt other peopleís feeling. These people are also civilians of this country, theyíre Moslems, Iím Jewish, but I donít take sites. I donít think that people should laugh about Muhammad, the same as they shouldnít laugh about Israelis or Jewish people. I think you should have a sense of humor and try to put it across in way that everyone can laugh about it. Otherwise it just creates problems.

Thank you!

Iíd like to thank our writers Scott and Fjordi for giving me a hand on these questions since this interview was set up more or less on the last minute!

Links of interest:

Orphaned Land
Century Media