ProgSphere’s interview with Matti Svatitzki of Orphaned Land

Nick: Hey there Matti, thanks for having time to answer some questions for Prog Sphere. How are you doing these days?

Matti: Hey man, a pleasure. I’m doing great, all is well.

Nick: It’s been now more than a year since your latest achievement “The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR” is released. Are you guys satisfied with how it’s been received from fans, critics? How’s the general response?

Matti: We get many great responses for the album, most people who listen to it like it. We are also very satisfied from it, we like the outcome. It is not an easy album, it’s quite complex, but everyone who gives it the chance likes it eventually.

Nick: If you compare the new album and Mabool, where do these two stand in your opinion?

Matti: Mabool is also a great piece, but it is very different from OrwarriOR. We were at a different phase musically when we made it, there’s also a big time gap between the albums, and this gap mainly makes the difference I guess. Each of our albums is very different than the other, even though there are mutual lines between them.

Nick: There was a six year gap between the ORwarriOR and Mabool releases, I guess you were working for a while on the new album, huh? I have a feeling that when it comes to creating music in Orphaned Land, it’s always a hard-working process where you do not only play riffs or melodies, but reflect upon things happening around you, am I right?

Matti: If you are speaking about the lyrics, you are right. But on the musical department, we are a riffs and melodies based band. But the work on making the music is very hard. We are not a conventional band. Many of our songs contain many riffs, and the songs are hardly build in the ordinary verse – chorus way, but the riffs just stream one after the next. Having this being our style, it naturally takes longer to compose the music. We are also kind of perfectionists, and this also makes the process longer and harder. But we hope and wish that the next gap between albums will be smaller.

Nick: ORwarriOR is an album that carries a lot of things in itself, multilayered, even multicultural, I would say multicolored, in general there is a certain ubiquitous “multiness”. Where does it come from?

Matti: I think that it comes from many sources. First of all, it comes from our personalities. We are very open minded as musicians, and try to bring into our music what we are inspired of as people. Than there is the fact that we are from Israel, and that we try to bring Israel into our music. Israel is a very multicultural country. It’s a kind of East meets West country, and this fact fitted perfectly when we looked for a unique style to play. Being multi-cultural is an agenda for us, and we work very hard in order to bring all the colors and tastes if Israel into our blend.

Nick: Since the beginning Orphaned Land has always tended to base its complex music around conceptual stories. Would you mind telling us about the concept on the new album?

Matti: The new album speaks about the warrior of light. It is a spiritual concept that we borrowed from a Paulo Coelho book, which is titled the same. The album tells the story of this warrior, through experiences he goes through. The warrior in the album is abstract, and the story is supposed to fit every one of us.

Nick: What is it like to make an album for Orphaned Land? How much time do you set aside for the music and how long does it take to build a concept and make a story out of it? Are these two separate parts of one big process?

Matti: Actually these two parts are not so separated as it might seem, they affect each other all along the way. When we build the songs, we always take into consideration the concept story and build it accordingly. The lyrics are also written so they will fit into the songs, so they are affected by the music.

Nick: Are we the warriors of light? You have stated before that people are not happy about the way the world looks. What is it that makes people unhappy? Where does the happiness lie? Could it be that the light is connected with happiness and we are fighting for it?

Matti: For the first question: absolutely. This is the idea behind the concept, as I mentioned. The story is made that it will fit everyone, and each one can see himself as the OrwarriOR. About the other questions: I guess that light is something individual. Light represents in many cultures different things, it might represent happiness, hope, or goodness in general. One would consider the light to be intellectual breakthroughs that might get us a step forward in understanding life. It may represent a combination of many things, and may be individual.

Nick: Do you think it’s possible to find a balance between individuals, can there be equality between two?

Matti: I think that somewhere deep below we are all the same, and have some basic things in common. But, man is a part of nature, and nature is full of conflicts, and like in nature, mankind has its own conflicts. I think that people should try to co-exist with each other wherever they can, and try to find the middle way, so there will be as less bloodshed as possible.

Nick: Let’s return to the musical terrain. I have been always thinking that members of Orphaned Land have very wide musical tastes and that your influences vary to a great deal. What can you say about this?

Matti: I’d say you’re absolutely right. We had a period of time, when we formed the band, that we were devoted metalheads, but since than a lot has happened to us on the personal level, and we have adopted an approach of being open-minded musically, an approach we enjoy very much.

Nick: I cannot avoid the fact that you’ve chosen to work with Steven Wilson on the new album. How did you come to that point and how it was working with this magician? I guess that his biggest advantage, besides his production and musical skills, is that he actually puts himself in the front of the band and thinks in advance of what the band wants to pull out from the record. What are your thoughts?

Matti: Working with Steven on the album was great. He’s a good friend of ours, and we admire his work. He did a great job mixing the album, and we hope that we’ll join forces again in the future to work in deeper levels.

Nick: The new album features Arabian violins performed by the Nazareth Orchestra, which are well known by playing Arab and Mediterranean music in a sort of classical approach. Together with your usual musicianship it sounds like a perfect mix, giving that Middle East atmosphere. What was it like conducting them?

Matti: It was a great pleasure working with the Nazareth Orchestra. We always had a dream of combining Arabian violins, because we love the sound of it and thought they’ll blend perfectly with our sound. We had the honor of working with talented young musicians who did a great job even though metal wasn’t exactly what they’re used too. We will definitely want to combine this kind of sound in our albums again.

Nick: On ORwarriOR you sing in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and there’s evident improvement in this segment, if we compare it with your previous works. Was it hard for you to work like that? Especially on Arabic texts, since with Arabic you have to be really good with diction and pronunciation.

Matti: We also sing in a Yemenite dialect of Hebrew, and there’s a bonus track in Turkish. Of course it was very hard. You know, our mother tongue is Hebrew, and even when an artist records a song in his mother tongue, things are not 100% perfect, so imagine recording in a language that you don’t understand, and don’t have a clue what the words you say mean exactly, or how exactly they should be pronounced. But Kobi had some help with the Arabic and Turkish, because it’s very important to pronounce things right, or they might turn to a joke for the people who speak this language. So he thoroughly checked that everything is pronounced right.

Nick: The song “Disciples of the Sacred Oath Part II” contains actually these lyrics in Arabic, and it’s sort of an appeal for peace, right? Speaking of this song, musicially you have gathered up variety of influences coming from Turkish, Israeli, and Arabic music, progressive rock, classic metal, some extreme stuff too, and these genres are complex in its core, what’s your secret for successfully blending them all together?

Matti: Lot’s of patience, LOL. I guess that the complexity kind of comes naturally, because this is who we are and this is what we like to do. Some of the areas take more work, like putting everything together. The music is composed not by one member, and every opinion counts, so it’s sometime hard to come to an agreement about things. But we learned to be patient with each other and find the middle way, and make it work.

Nick: Considering Israel’s tense political climate, did you have any problems when you used text from the Koran in the aforementioned song? Can we say that ORwarriOR has a political message?

Matti: There are some people who got offended from the use of the Quran verses in our songs, but it isn’t because the presence of Israel in the blend. Using Quran verses in songs is forbidden in Islam even to Muslims, so yes, there were a few remarks about that from people. But we always explain that we mean it only in a positive way, we are quoting the beauty of the Quran, and there is nothing wrong with it in our eyes.

Nick: It seems that bands coming from Israel are inspired to make concept albums based on history. There is another great band from Israel, Amaseffer, which told the story of Exodus on their first album. What are your comments on it?

Matti: Amassefer is also a great band, they are good friends of ours also and we like what they do. But I think that both us and them don’t represent the whole metal scene here, which is very diverse. There are bands from all the spectrum of the metal styles, and you can find everything here. The fact that there is also a unique style that arose from here is very encouraging as well, and it’s great that bands also take this direction.

Nick: You were opened for Metallica in Israel, on May 22nd, 2010. What are your experiences from this spectacle? You guys must be really proud of that.

Matti: Yes we are. It was a great experience, and we learned from it a lot. Metallica is the biggest metal band today, and it was very educating to be present in this kind of production. As a band, you always look at bigger bands than you, look at what they do, their equipment, their sound, crew, and so on, and you learn tips an adopt things in order to better yourself. So Metallica is definitely the greatest school to be in for any metal band. The production there is insane. It also reminds you that there is always room to grow and that the sky is the limit.

Nick: You recently went on tour supporting Amorphis and Katatonia, separately. How was it?

Matti: It was great, we really enjoyed it. Amorphis are actually our childhood heroes, and I think that we are really lucky to play with them. Katatonia is an amazing band and every night we enjoyed listening to their stuff again and again. Of course that apart from these bands being amazing musicians, they are also great people, and we had great times.

Nick: What are your next plans? Will we wait another six years for the next Orphaned Land album?

Matti: Our next release will be a DVD, which we already filmed, and now is in the post production stage. We will release it somewhere this year. We hope that our fans won’t have to wait 6 years in between studio albums, and we will do our best to work faster this time.

Nick: Is there anything you would love to say now that we’re at the end of this interview?

Matti: Just to thank our fans for the endless support, and for those who don’t know us, it’s time to check us out.

Nick: Thank you very much, Matti. It is a pleasure to have you interviewed for Prog Sphere. Cheers!

Matti: Thanks man, it has been a pleasure. Cheers!

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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