Orphaned Land - Music from the promised land
The year just started, but Orphaned Lands’ newest album The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR is definitely one of the best releases of 2010. Its intriguing title, the way it was created and the bands’ background did leave me with a couple of questions. Frontman Kobi Farhi was kind enough to answer them.
First of all, I want to congratulate you with the new album. It took quite some time to produce it. What were the main reasons that it took almost five years to create?
'Thanks for the compliments! Well, it is no big news that Orphaned Land is taking time to record a new album, isn’t it? Actually, we started to work on the album seriously in 2007, and we were planning to release it in 2008. But because we are perfectionists with our music, we felt at that time that the band was not completely ready to enter the studio. Some of us had some personal engagements, and the story of the album needed some more work. Instead of rushing things, we decided to allow ourselves to be fully committed and ready to deliver the album we wanted. We believe that it was a right decision when we see the result… and deriving from the feedback of fans and press they see things the same.'
Could you tell in your own words what the concept of the new album is?
'The concept is an extension of the themes that we already developed in our previous releases, what we call the "Tango between God and Satan". You can relate it to all concepts dealing with dual forces, like the Yin Yang or the opposite forces between light and darkness. This time it is focused on a personal level with the story of the warrior of light. This warrior could be each of us, and the album is about his journey through a personal development dealing with the forces of light and darkness. This is why he receives a different name along the album, like “ORwarriOR” or “Baraka”, marking the different levels of his development. The story explores all stages in the life of the warrior, from the hardest times “In the Abyss” to the highlights of going in peace and finding his faith.'
How did you get in touch with Steven Wilson? And how was the recording experience with him?
'We met around 8 or 9 years ago when he came to Israel for the promotion of a Porcupine Tree album. I was working for the distributor of the album in Israel and as every band will do in this situation, I gave him a copy of Sahara and El Norra Alila albums so he could “listen to my band”. It happens that he got interested in Orphaned Land’s ideas and musical journey and he thought he could help the band to reach another level. So we kept in touch and the idea of collaborating naturally came up. Steven Wilson explains this story in more details from his side in the documentary movie “A Heaven You May Create”, which is done by our drummer Matna Shmuely and comes as a bonus DVD with the limited edition of the album. Needless to say that it was a fantastic experience for us to work with him, first of all because we like very much what he did with bands like Opeth and second to none because he is a real professional with the sense of detail and perfection like we do! But I believe he learned a lot as well as he was not used to work with such complex music and oriental sounds in particular, as he stated in the documentary.'
The cover picture of your website is quite intriguing. The three main religions are represented. You claim that you aren’t a religious band. But in private, are the members of Orphaned practitioners of different religions? Or not at all?
'Indeed the band is not religious; I prefer to say we are a spiritual band. Orphaned Land wants to bring a message of unity and hope. So, we tried several things as promo pictures for the new album. But at the end of day we were really not happy with what came out. So we sat down, trying to get some advice from the outside the band as well. And then the questions came: “Who are we as band? What are we trying to say?” It became obvious that we are from Israel, where the three monotheistic religions are living together and originate from. If you are religious or not, this is what Jerusalem is known for without a doubt. Furthermore, we wanted to portray our message and what happens with the band: a Jewish crowd singing in Arabic when we play in Israel, Muslim fans singing in Hebrew when we play in Turkey; put them all in the same venue, it would be still everyone together under the same banner… How can we put all of this in a picture? And this is how we came up with this photo: Muslims praying like Jews, Jews praying like Muslims and me in the middle as Jesus to represent Christianity. And suddenly everything fitted together: who we are, where do we come from, what is the band about. I have to be honest, as a band we liked the idea, but it was not without discussions and fights on a personal level! This picture is called “Utopia – A Heaven You May Create”. The title speaks for itself… I won’t answer for the personal practice of a religion for each of us, because that is a personal matter, but at least you get the background of the story of this “intriguing” band photo!'
How is religion integrated in the music without offending anybody? Religion is a very touchy subject, especially in your area of the world.
'We never make any fun of it, or give any negative critic when we put religious elements in our music. It is always done with respect and we use it as a support for our message. Still it does not mean that it is the perfect world at the end of the day. One of our fans in a Muslim country was send to jail for “blasphemy” because he had one of our songs which has a reference to the Holy Koran, so apparently someone, somehow, didn’t like it... But it is a personal choice to be offended or not. And it is a personal choice to listen and subscribe to our message or not.'
You were after all featured in the documentary Global Metal. If I recall correctly you discussed Slayer’s Angel of Death song. Some politicians in Israel objected the performance of this song.
'Yes, it keeps them busy and it keeps people busy as well instead of focusing on more interesting and urgent matters.'
Are you generally known in Israel? Not just because of the music, but of what you represent?
'In the past years we had several TV broadcast on the main TV channels. And some of them were indeed because about our message and the fact that we have Muslim fans in countries supposed to be “enemies”. You can watch one of those interviews here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp2fET1uemM'
Does your message of hope and peace reach the fans? You seem to have a strong cult following in Arabic countries? So far the only Muslim country you have performed is Turkey.
'Indeed. We perform in Turkey because this is not a problem for us being Israelis and we have a strong fan base in this country, this is like our second home. It is currently very hard or indeed impossible for us to perform in countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan or North Africa. We would love to play for our fans there, but politics prevent us from doing so. But playing in Turkey is always an amazing experience, because the fans from the Arab countries can come to see us over there! So amongst the Turkish fans, it is the occasion to meet some fans that we cannot meet in their homeland... We also sometimes cross the path of some of them during the summer festivals. For example, we met two Egyptian fans at the Brutal Assault in Czech last summer! Some Tunisian fans started a group on Facebook to have us coming in their country. So I believe that the message of hope reaches the fans, definitively...'
Orphaned Land have been around for almost 20 years. How did the band evolve? Did you start as simply another metalband, or did you have this idea of hope and peace from the beginning?
'The first moniker of the band was Resurrection, and indeed it was much more a “common” metal band. We were 15 or 16 years old! But at one point we took another direction. We wanted to reflect our roots and speak about where we live, because there is so much to say about it. Then the sound of Orphaned Land was shaped with this will.'
Metal isn’t exactly popular amongst governments in these countries, labeling it as western satanic music. Do you receive threats from extremists or governments?
'The past 8 years we indeed received some weird emails, haha! But they are nothing compare to the number of emails we received from people who wanted to tell us about their love, their hope and their happiness when they listen to Orphaned Land. This is stronger than anything else.'
During live shows in your own country, are you limited in what you can or can’t do on stage?
'There are no problems with staging metal shows in Israel if this is what your question is about. No, we do the show the way we want to.'
You are going to play on a few festivals this summer, including Wacken Open Air. Do you prefer to play in clubs or on festivals?
'I have no preference. Both have pros and cons. We already played big festivals, it was great, we already toured in small clubs and it was great as well. This is a different atmosphere, and you also get a different crowd. I think that both are needed actually.'
How do you see the future of Orphaned Land?
'On the short term, we have a US/Canada and European tour coming up and the summer festivals you mentioned. Some dates still have to be confirmed, but we are really looking forward to it! On the midterm, we will try to start working on a new album quickly so we can release it in the next 2 or 3 years. But we don't promise anything, because you can never tell how things will turn out with Orphaned Land!
But for now we are first of all looking forward to taking the songs of ORwarriOR to the stage and meeting our fans out there. See you on the road you all!'