Orphaned Land - Kobi Farhi

This was a tricky interview as I was torn between talking about the music or the lyrical content, since both are interesting and perfect discussion triggers. You see, ORPHANED LAND have created another amazing album that lyrically revolves around the allegory named Plato's Cave. And as the allegory blows your mind, so does the music with a rich mixture of melodies from different cultures, genres and philosophies. METAL KAOZ had the privilege to do the following Skype session which seemed too short for picking the brain of Kobi Farhi, in order to take a peek behind the making-of of this gem. Check it out below.

Orphaned Land - Kobi Farhi

Hello Kobi and welcome to METAL KAOZ! Where are you calling from?
Hi Dimitris, how are you? I’m calling from home which is in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv.

I’m good, thank you. I’m located near Chicago, just to give you a bearing where I am. Before starting our conversation, I’d like to congratulate you for “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs”; man, this is an amazing album!
Yeah? Do you like it?

Oh, very much! And to give you an idea, the year is ending and we just put out our end-of-the-year lists and it’s a bummer I cannot include this album – I’ll have to wait one more year (laughs).
(laughs) Thank you very much. Yes, that’s true. But I hope that it will still remain like this.

I don’t see that changing, so you bet. In fact, we just placed the online order for the vinyl – you have a really nice version at the band’s website.
Yeah, we did a transparent vinyl only for 200 copies for our website and it’s actually the last copies, so you got one of the last ones which is good.

This is what I was meant to ask; if we made it on time (laughs).
Of course. I think, there are maybe 50 or 20 more copies that it would take a few more days and then it will be sold out.

Ok, now about the good stuff; this is a very complex album – just any other ORPHANED LAND album – so how much time did it take to finish this one?
Oh man, it took thousands of hours. It’s a lot of work – I think we worked on this album almost the entire year. We literally worked on it so many times; we recorded it in three countries (Israel, Turkey and Sweden) and it was a long pre-production process and the composition was very long – you know, we have a lot of arrangements like violins and choirs and other instruments; it’s not just guitars, bass and drums. It was chaos; you need to have Excel files for this kind of things. It’s a lot of office work and thinking and changing. It’s completely chaos when you work on it but then speaking to you and you telling me that you think the album is lovely, that’s worth everything, man!

I see what you’re saying. Now, a rather strange question; is your intention to make it let’s say complex and add all those flavors or in your mind the song asks for this stuff?
I think it’s in our spirit; because we’re coming from a complex place and I think that living in the Middle East is just a reflection that comes out of us. When we create music, we want to put out a lot of colors a lot of feelings a lot of mentalities or flavors into the music and that’s just a reflection of the region that we’re coming from, I think.

I can definitely see that and I really love the intent of trying to creating some sort of a unity; trying to unite all of these because, after all, all this stuff comes from humans, flesh and blood, no matter your skin color or what your passport says.
Yes, we are Metal people and in most cases metalheads are co-existing and welcoming everyone from every culture or stuff like that. I see Metal people co-existing all the time in Metal festivals, when we go to Europe, and this always have been our message. Even though we’ve a lot of criticism and protest and anger in our songs, the result is that we unite people. We’ve always been a reflection of the Middle East – that’s why we called the band ORPHANED LAND and we always will put out that. Even if you go to our first album “Sahara” from 1994 and read the lyrics of “The Sahara’s Storm” and “Orphaned Land”, this has always been the topics of our songs.

Being a Greek, I was definitely intrigued by the first song “The Cave” which is about Plato’s Cave, right?
Yes, the whole album basically is a concept album about the allegory of the cave and we use a lot of the wisdom and the Light that the Ancient Greeks have given to the world, so we use even the character of Orpheus and mention Icarus in one of the other songs. Actually, in “The Cave”, we mention Icarus as well. So, this album has a lot of influence from the Greek mythology and philosophy and personally speaking, I consider the allegory of “Plato’s Cave” to be a prophecy because he was in shock from the human behavior after the Greeks killed Socrates. Because, for him, Socrates was a gift to humanity, he was the light and gave to people guidance to understand life and they decided to kill him. And he understood something about the human behavior and wrote the allegory of the cave. If you look at humanity ever since – I think he wrote it about 3000 years ago – every time that someone who’s revolutionary or wanted to bring a better life for the next generations, he was assassinated all of the times. You can think of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, JFK, even Yitzhak Rabin who was the prime minister of Israel and was very close to do peace was assassinated. And even if you take it from the Arab side, and take Anwar Sadat for example, who was the president of Egypt, he was the first one who wanted to do peace with Israel and was assassinated. And these are just examples. Che Guevara can be one as well for South Americans and you can find many others from any culture – of course, you can argue if they were good or bad, but they were revolutionaries and they ended up like Socrates. And that’s the point here.  And even if “Plato’s Cave” was written 3000 years ago, there is still this pattern in human behavior that we’re still experiencing. This is why I called the album “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” Plato is an unsung prophet to me. And the most people that I mentioned are like dead messiahs in a way.

And it’s still shocking to me that whenever you push people outside their comfort zone, or outside from what they preserve as norm, they get shocked and the only thing they can do is destroy the thing that made them go there.
Yeah, and according to the “Allegory Of The Cave”, they don’t want to leave the cave; it’s like “better the Devil you know”. They prefer to stay there. Even if you go to the Bible, when Moses is coming to the people of Israel and wants to take them out of Egypt – they’re slaves in Egypt, you know – and they don’t wanna leave. They want to stay there because they’re used to it and don’t like the unknown. People prefer to stay in Hell than to go towards the unknown. And that’s a trap in the human behavior that always keeps us in darkness and with the bad leaders and the bad politicians. And if someone good is coming, he always ends up dead.

Right. This is some sort of a parenthesis here, but this is why people need to have a well-structured religion because religion tells you what happens after you die or what you have to do in order to go to that nice place. So it gives you some sort of comfort.
Yes, but this is a trap because I think that people should understand themselves and fight themselves the way they understand; if they choose – after being well-educated – to adopt religion, that’s ok. At the basic idea of religion there are some nice things but I’m not religious and I think that religions as well as politicians take advantage of people being not so much educated and being naïve and they manipulate them for their own advantage, all the time, for thousands of years. I mean, look at technology or science or medicine; these things are being so much progressed during the years and you cannot even measure the development of technology, so why does humanity always stay in place repeating the same mistakes? This doesn’t make sense, right?

Or even, moving backwards.
Yes. I mean, how many horrors have happened already? There was World War II and Holocaust and so many wars and bloodsheds – if you study history, it’s all bloody. What does it take for us to understand that we need to get out of this loop and be progressing like science, like anything else is being progressed? And it’s being progressed by the same human beings who are not able to progress in terms of humanity. It’s just hilarious – it doesn’t make sense.

Mankind has a short memory of this stuff; they keep forgetting the errors they did and they just keep repeating them.
Yes, and they don’t pay attention to anything else. I discovered the “Allegory Of The Cave” and when I realized this is literally a prophecy, I was blown away, you know? And it’s there, it’s written, it’s on the table but people if they read it they take it just as a philosophy, an idea – they don’t throw it on themselves today. And the majority of the people are just dealing with different things, like watching reality TV or Kim Kardashian’s ass or all these bullshit that doesn’t give you anything. If you’re dealing with these things, or with the celebrity culture, these are the shadows that people are seeing inside the Cave – this is exactly the life in the cave and the shadows there, because the people there, they think that the shadows is the only truth. And this is the allegory; when you’re dealing with those things, children are being kidnapped in India or children are dying in Syria, when people are still killing each other, when women are being raped in so many countries, you’re still dealing with all this gossip and superficial things, this is just dealing with the shadows and not with the truth. And this is why the allegory is the prophecy and this is why for me, Plato is some kind of an unsung prophet.

I totally agree, although the fire in Plato’s allegory is now the “smartphone”. So, – and this is not a lie – I was completely moved watching the video for “Like Orpheus” and I cannot comprehend how someone can have problems in his country just because he’s following a specific type of music.
This is why we did this video clip; we wanted the world to know the story of some metalheads from the Middle East. Metal music was considered as Satanism and in Israel is still considered as blasphemy and there are a lot of people who like this music. Today, they can listen to Metal but they had a lot of problems in the past. There are not many Metal concerts with the authorities judging by the album covers and the band names thinking that this music is diabolic. They cannot understand that this is a coexisting scene with the most amazing people out there. What you see in the video clip is based on true stories and I literally know the people who inspired us (of course we used actors for the clip) to write this song. These are people who live a religious life and they like Metal music, so they have to change clothes to go to concerts. In a way, this is also connected to the cave allegory because the life that they live is like a cave in a way and when they get out of the cave, no one can understand it. The society cannot understand these people like KREATOR - society thinks that they are crazy. It is like the person you left the cave and then returned and the people believed he got crazy and killed him. I was also very happy having Hansi Kürsch as a guest on this song.

Oh my goodness, he sounds amazing! Did you write the vocal melodies he is singing?
Yes, I wrote the lyrics and the vocal melodies but I did so especially for him. Because I know the way he sings and,in fact, this song is about the hero being outside Plato’s Cave and he is seeing the outside for the first time; the sky, the earth, the trees, and the sun and he is overwhelmed. So, he is describing all this with his singing like Orpheus because you know when Orpheus was singing even the stones loved his voice. And when I had to think of a modern Orpheus, I thought about Hansi because to me, he is Orpheus of our time.

Speaking of Orpheus, you mentioned Icarus who flew very close to the sun that his wings melted and fell down to his death. How is Icarus connected to this concept?
He fits into the story because “The Cave” talks about the prophecy saying “like Icarus will fly too high and burn so he must die”. It is like a prophecy about the one who will leave the cave and who will see the world and then go back to the cave to get everyone out but this will be his death sentence. In a way, the hero when he was out of the cave it was like flying in the sky. And when he got back they killed him and this is why I used Icarus as an allegory. He is the dead messiah of the story.

In the beginning of the track “We Do Not Resist”, there are some beeping sounds like it is Morse code and then there are some beeps as if you are censoring yourself; what’s the deal here?
This album contains lots of anger and is full of protest. We wanted to use a lot of methods of propaganda like radio sounds. Because radio was one of the first instruments of propaganda used by the Nazis for example; they realized that you don’t have to give speeches outside but you can use the radio to do this, so everyone can listen to this at home. We also thought it would be amazing to censor ourselves and use these beeps as part of the music. We use this in several songs through the album and, in fact, when you’ll read the lyrics, you’ll see that we have deleted those words.

Speaking of messages in the beginning of “Take My Hand”, there is an excerpt of the Mike Wallace interview with Aldous Huxley.
Yes, because we see Aldous Huxley as an unsung prophet as well. People like him - with “Brave New World” and like George Orwell with “1984” - have written literally prophecies; people consider them as authors and Plato as a philosopher but what they really are is prophets.

Now that you mentioned “1984”, there is another excerpt at the end of “The Manifest – Epilogue” which is shocking to hear as it applies 100% to the world we living in, so do you consider George Orwell as another unsung prophet, right?
Yes, of course. There are many prophets out there and many prophecies but the brainwashing and what they’re teaching us is to think that prophets belong to the Bible which is not true. I mean, I can give you a very modern prophecy: do you know the TV series “Black Mirror”?

This is a prophecy, man! If you look at it, this is a prophecy, because what does it do? It shows what’s going to happen in the path that you’re taking.

Well, I think what is wrong here is using the word ‘prophecy’ is like a reaction, right? If someone hears the word ‘prophecy’ or ‘prophet’ then my mind goes to religion and to the scripts. So this is why people cannot understand that. And I totally agree about “Black Mirror” because there was an episode about social media and how you could get rated in order to live a better life, so yeah. To me, is shocking to see these stories and realize how much they apply to these times. And I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, to be honest with you.
Well, the only way to get out of this loop is to change our education system. It’ll be an endless loop until we realize that. And the politicians know that but they’ll never do anything about it because they prefer us to be more stupid and not educated and concentrated on reality TV and talking about gossip. And not be focused about the best things that happen around the world. And I think if we change the education system people will understand. I mean, look at kids – the first toys that they’re playing with are toy-guns. And they play with these computer games and they need to kill everyone on this TV screen and only then they move to the next level – and we’re talking about 6 year old kids, in some cases. Violence is being blended in their brain and fame and celebrity-life style as well, and they grow up and all they know is that there is war and they want to be famous. That’s all they care about. No one teaches them about who Huxley or Plato is; I mean, you can go out on the street and ask people if they know who Plato is – many people would not even know who he was.

Yeah, most probably they’ll ask you what his Twitter handle is.
Yeah, of course, and they’ll probably know who Justin Bieber is. So this is a big part of the educational problem we’re having. I mean, people are complaining about Trump being the president of the United States but come on, people – this is the best we can do. You have to understand that Donald Trump didn’t fall from the sky, to be the president. He is representing exactly the culture of celebrity and reality TV and this is why he was elected. This is our black mirror and people should understand that only if we change our education will be able to create better leaders, better human beings, better humanity and only then we’ll become better.

Yeah, this is the right path to follow but I’m not sure if it’s easier for people to find that path. I hope that they will but I don’t keep my hopes high. Let’s talk about the music a little bit; what about live dates? You have announced some shows for Europe in February and March and you’re going to Russia in April. So, any plans to revisit the States?
Yes, we just confirmed also three shows in Japan and regarding the USA it looks like – looks like, not confirmed yet – well be back in May. Because when we toured the US in September, we had a working visa for one year so we really want to come back and I think that we’re going to do some shows in May 2018. Again, this is not confirmed yet so I hope I will not disappoint anyone but it looks good and looks like we’ll be able to do it.

Are you talking about a headlining tour?
Something like co-headlining, probably. Still checking, co-headlining or as direct supports. So the plan is to play at least 45 minutes to one hour.

To be honest, yesterday we were listening to your album with my wife and we’re talking about how cool would be for ORPHANED LAND to come with BLIND GUARDIAN! It sounds totally fitting to do that, right?
Yes, of course! But the thing is that BLIND GUARDIAN is not touring until 2019, I think. Definitely the next time they’ll tour, we should do it, but now, they’re writing some musical Opera, I think, and they’re in the studio. I believe there are no shows scheduled for BLIND GUARDIAN in 2018 (from what I know). But yeah, it’s a good idea you and your wife had – I definitely see the picture and we should do it when they’re coming back on the road.

And speaking of BLIND GUARDIAN and guests, you have Steve Hackett and Tomas Lindberg on the album. Even though you have your growling back, you still, brought Tomas here.
Yes, because like I wanted Hansi to be Orpheus, I wanted Tomas to be the lunatic in the cave because in this song, “Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War”, this is when he comes back and take my hand – he’s in the cave asking them to take his hand and go out of the cave and then the song after they think that he lost his mind and they kill him, so this is a crazy song and I wanted someone with a crazy voice to be the voice of lunacy and craziness and Tomas Lindberg is one of the most special growlers ever made it in the Metal scene, so he was perfect to do it and it’s great, because it’s more than just, you know, your friend who comes and sings few lines in the album – I really find the character to Hansi and Tomas and I’m very happy with what they did.

And what about Steve? What was his input?
Well, Steve Hackett was actually contacting me in the first place; he wanted me to sing in his latest solo album, “The Night Siren”, and I did it. He wrote a song for peace and wanted me to be a part of it, and then he asked me if I’m interested in getting paid for it or if I prefer him to record a guitar solo. And I told him of course I’d take the guitar solo because it’ll be out there forever – what will I do with money? It’s like I’d buy pizza with the money and then forget about it, but the guitar solo will be there forever. Of course I accepted that, and told him about the concept of the song, about the hero leaving the cave, that it’s a journey, and he played one hell of a guitar solo.

Oh my goodness! That’s awesome! That’s a great story! Kobi, I don’t want to keep more, I have 1000 more questions that I’d love to ask but I do understand the time limitations. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to chat a bit when you’ll be in the Chicago area.
Yes, I hope so too, so keep these questions and let’s continue from the point we’re stopping now.

Of course. Have a great New Year, please stay safe with all the traveling you have ahead of you and we’ll be here to support you.
Thanks a lot, man! And yia mas and efxaristo poly [in perfect Greek]! Thank you very much.