Yossi Sassi is a guitarist, producer merging roots with contemporary music. composer, arranger and co-founder of Israeli progressive metal band Orphaned Land. In Januari he announced his departure from the band. Yossi plays 17 different types of guitars and traditional instruments, and has been invited to play live and share the stage with artists such as Metallica, Marty Friedman, Steven Wilson, Yehuda Poliker and others. Below you can read an interview with Yossi, he speaks about his second solo album “Desert Butterflies” which came out earlier last month [May 1st], his father, his favorite albums, influences, his future plans and much more.
TMR: Hello Yossi this is the ‘The Metal Resource’ from Holland, how are things going there in Israel?
Hello there! All is good here, sunny and shiny with lots of butterflies around :- )
TMR: What is your musical background?
My father is the 4th out of 10 brothers and sisters, all of them playing musical instruments of singing, or both. My grandfather and namesake, Yossef Sassi R.I.P, played the Oud and was teaching Arabic makamat (eastern scales). I sang a bit in school choir, played the flute etc., but the “big bang” happened for me at age 13 or so, when I met the guitar. The rest is history in the making.
TMR: Why and when did you decide to leave Orphaned Land?
Ever since I co-founded ‘Orphaned Land’, I was its main driving force in terms of compositions, arrangements, production etc.’, till last January. We’ve toured the world together and reached many heights. It will forever remain my life project, yet I felt it’s time to move on to new, bold dreams, and to research new horizons & musical genres, from all the right reasons,- both things I control and things I cannot accept any longer.
TMR… how do you get in the mood for writing music? And which bands/situations have influences you for writing music and lyrics?
I can get a melody or harmony in my head anytime through the day. I need to be alone to fully write a full piece, with all the layers in my head, without a PC or a guitar even, just my head and some space. I adore the sound of Satriani, Omar Faruk, Dead Can Dance and others various artists that have inspired me throughout the years.
TMR: What are some key principles or philosophies that you hold onto as foundational stones as who you are as a person?
I have collected quite a few life philosophies to live by, and use them all. Never stop, keep going (as Zappa said to Vai), Be patient when you’re down below and show proper attitude when you’re up above, always see the full-half of the cup and many more. I’m quite a positive and spiritual person in my day to day.
It’s been my greatest effort so far – recorded in 4 countries and 3 continents, featured so many musicians and musical instrument, including Sitar, Hammond, Timpany drums and so much more. I alone played 19(!) guitars on this release, among keyboards, tympanies, glockenspiel and so many things I didn’t even write in the booklet. It features friends such as Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth), Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal (Guns’n’Roses), Mariangela Demurtas (Tristania, Moonspell) and many more. It’s a conceptual release, inspiring the listener to ponder about the routine, the deserts of our lives, and setting sails after your dreams, breaking your misconceptions and raising out of your cocoon to become the butterfly you can be.
TMR: Are you a full-time musician ?
Almost 100%, considering both my work and producing other artists as well. I am also a teacher in several colleges and universities, a speaker, and also get around to mentor some young musicians as well.
TMR: Is there a highlight you will always remember ?
Many! Opening for Metallica, Jamming with Satriani, Playing with Vai, Touring with Marty Friedman.. so many great moments. And still, my daughters provide the most enjoyable moments until today : )
TMR: And the worst thing were? (if there is one)
Lately my father had a serious stroke, his brain was damaged and he’s crippled now. He’s been the life force behind my music, and a great inspiration to both Orphaned Land (he sang with us 20 years and brought many songs into the band), as well as other people. We keep optimistic and pray for his health… Luckily, his last voice recordings took place in ‘Desert Butterflies’, as he sings in the new album.
TMR: What is your favorite album top 5 of all times ?
Ah… This is hard! Yet if forced to make a choice, I’d say Iron Maiden – Somewhere in time, Joe Satriani – the extremist, Dead Can Dance – Into the labyrinth, Dream Theater – Images and Words, and Omar Faruk Takbilek – Tree of Patience.
TMR: What makes you laugh?
Humans : ) and animals. Kind of everything, really. I have an easy finger on my laughter trigger.
TMR: What is your biggest fear?
As a personal fear, I guess losing the natural fountain of creation, to innovate musically the way I have always been doing. I hope it’s not an age thing ; ) extending to others – anything that has to do with my children.
TMR: What are some of the things you like to do away from the band?
I like to spend time with the family, relax and slow down a bit. Anything out of my hectic routine is welcome.
TMR: How do you promote your band and shows ?
I trust on my close followers to spread the word as well. I also try my best to understand this world of online media networks, and I think I’ve been swimming fairly ok in its waters. I also aid in my manager’s help, Raya, who knows things far better than me on those aspects : )
TMR: How do you prepare for a show?
I try to relax, eat light, breathe well and not drink alcohol. After the show – all goes! Ha ha.
TMR: Are you visiting many gigs and what do you listen to these days?
I am going to gigs and listening new music all the time. People send me great music to my mail, facebook page etc., I get around to read it all and listen to it all.
TMR: Name some of your favorite bands to play with live [past and future] and tell us why ?
I had a great time touring with Myrath, they are really nice and fun to be with. I also enjoyed my ‘Guitar universe 2012’ tour with Marty Friedman my friend, and Stephan Forte. So nice moments took place there…
TMR: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked?
Can’t think of one, really… All questions seems legitimate because I’m not sure how much the interviewer knows about me.
TMR: What are the biggest obstacles for bands ?
I think today it’s much more than just talent, motivation etc. You need to build a strong following, and have some luck, in terms of the right actions in the right moments. It’s not an easy thing at all, and it gets harder any year to be a professional & active musician.
TMR: What advice would you give to fellow bands?
Keep going always, no matter what. Some of my biggest failures where turned into my key learnings – e.g. The Bouzoukitara instrument I planned and play (hybrid of greek mandolin, Acoustic guitar and Electric Solid body guitar, in one body). There are many advices, considering the specific musician(s), their goals etc.
TMR: What are your plans for the near future ? [European tour maybe ?]
Definitely planning a European tour for around early 2015, yet will come to play various places even before, including a master class / clinics tour.
TMR: Yossi thanks for your time and the interview. We wish you all the best … Is there anything you wanna say at last ? [any final statement ?]
Thank YOU, I know you’ll enjoy the new music, and hope you will be the butterfly you CAN be in your own deserts.
“Melting Clock” (2012)
“Desert Butterflies” (2014)
Video below for ‘Cocoon’
Video below “Desert Butterflies” Album Preview.