Israeli musician Yossi Sassi is best known as the founding guitarist of oriental progressive metal powerhouse Orphaned Land. He has also made a name for himself as a solo artist, with over 20 years as a composer and producer, collaborating, and sharing the stage with musicians world-wide. His upcoming album Roots and Roads is his first output with music written after having split from Orphaned Land in 2014. Here is my exchange with Sassi, discussing the new album, the various instruments used, his band’s new singer, his work with Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, and other topics.
How has the self-releasing process been? Did it meet your expectations?
Self-producing and self-releasing full-length albums is fun and hard work, yet this album actually met and even exceeded what I hoped it to be. I feel very good about Roots and Roads. It is my personal Mabool, in a way. Definitely a significant chapter of my musical journey to date.
This album seems to include even more traditional folk instruments than before, yes?
It includes more instrument in general, most of them traditional folk yet not only. From more variations of flutes to didley bow and lap steel, clarinet etc. It is very diverse and full of talented guests that we were honored to have with us.
How will this be distinct from an Orphaned Land album?
It is the first release of my solo band that I composed and produced without having Orphaned Land duties in the background, so naturally, songs that could go to O.L in the past, went into ‘Roots and Roads’. The result is a hybrid between my solo work in Melting Clocks and Desert Butterflies, to my 23 years lead work with O.L. It shows a cool evolution of Oriental prog-metal. I think old-school Orphaned Land fans will love its fresh sound.
You’ve retained your bandmates from Desert Butterflies, but tell me how your new singer Sapir became part of The Yossi Sassi band.
Sapir Fox has been a part of our live shows for 2 years now. She’s an incredibly talented singer, can sing anything, really. It was time to have her sing with us in the studio as well, for everyone to enjoy her performance. She wasn’t with us on the last Euro tour, but she will be with us on the new album tour.
What is the message of your single “The Religion of Music”?
It connects directly with the album’s theme. We are all tress, basically. Organisms like trees, with roots (our families, past etc.) yet unlike real trees, we can root out and roam the lands of nature, on pursuit for our path and choices in life (the Roads). In this journey, hatred and prejudice are some of the most awful forms of human behavior. This song comes to protest against the ‘us and them’ approach. Every person matters, no matter where he or she comes from, or what different opinions he holds.
I see Bumblefoot’s been recruited again. How did your collaborations together begin in the first place?
Ron is an incredibly talented guy and fun person to be with! He’s “out of this earth” guitar solos only make it more interesting to continue and hear what he brings up this time! We first met a few years ago when he did a masterclass in Israel, then a year or so after we collaborated live, we performed a live set together. Then it was all happening naturally – guest features in my solo albums, another full set show in Israel last year etc. We love him, simple as that. More to come!
How have you improved upon your Bouzoukitara over the years?
I actually noticed a few months ago, that I’ve come to feel very comfortable with the Mark II model of my Bouzoukitara by now. It’s been around in my top gear list for about 4 years almost, since the 1st prototype, and we’ve improved it a lot in the current Mark II model (the Red one). I do much more with this unique instrument today than ever before.
Saw you joking around on that Oud and that Chumbush. What do you think of the whole djent movement?
I love to have fun, regardless of djent 🙂 and I do love some djent stuff, yet some of it tends to repeat itself. Like every genre, I enjoy the pioneers and breakthrough acts, those that innovate on the genre itself rather than imitate on the shoulders of past acts. I do enjoy djent riffs from time to time. There is a great track on the limited edition of the album, called ‘Madame on Steroids’, arranged by our brilliant guitarist Ben Azar. Very nice djent interpretation of one of the album’s songs.
Any plans to bring the Roots and Roads experience on an extended tour in North America?
We’d love to! It just isn’t that easy as coming over to tour Europe, the visas, the general costs etc. but we work on it. Someday, we will!
What is your desert island album?
It would be one of my top 10 or top 20 albums, including Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Joe Satriani’s The Extremist, Dead Can Dance’s Into The Labyrinth, Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable– It depends on the mood I’m at when my ship gets wrecked!