INTERVIEW WITH YOSSI SASSI
«I feel humbled to follow this quest of merging the orient with the west. I’ve been doing so professionally for about 25 years and I’m just getting started.»
Yossi Sassi, one of the oriental rock pioneers and world renowned guitarist for his work with israeli band ORPHANED LAND as well as a solo artist, is giving some masterclasses showing his fans how he got to merge his roots with rock and metal and give as a demonstration of how the Bouzoukitara (an instrument of his own invention) works. On top of that, his second solo album «Desert Butterflies» was released only last year, so when the oportunity presented to do a little interview with him we just couldn’t hold ourselves! Here’s the result:
Next July you’ll be giving two masterclasses in Madrid and Zaragoza, how did this idea came up?
I wanted to return to Spain for a while now, since the ‘Guitar Universe 2012’ tour with Marty Friedman. We were already planned to arrive to, so it was just a matter of time till we announced the masterclasses Spanish tour.
What can we expect from this appereances?
In this type of events I usually explain my techniques & origins of my creation, show how roots can be merged with contemporary music, play with backing tracks some of my favorite tracks, and even jam with the audience when I get a chance to!
You are the inventor of the Bouzoukitara, can you explain us about what this instrument is and the story behind it?
In 2011, I decided to build an instrument, as I was seeking an efficient way to switch between the acoustic Greek Bouzouki to the electric guitar, and even acoustic guitar. I had a real need, a true desire to solve it. This gave birth to the «Bouzoukitara» – a unique instrument that combines a traditional acoustic Bouzouki with an electric solid-body guitar. Together with Bejamin Millar I was able to transform my design into reality. The double-neck instrument merges east & west, acoustic & electric, rock & folk, fused together. My journey in an instrument.
Do you need any special skills to learn how to play the Bouzoukitara?
You mostly need to love playing those instruments. If you played them separately, then you just need to get used to the double-neck architecture. The bouzouki is played quite different than guitar, with double strings etc.
How does it feel to be one of the oriental rock pioneers?
I feel humbled to follow this quest of merging the orient with the west. I’ve been doing so professionally for about 25 years and I’m just getting started. I’m exploring new directions all the time and have many new ideas to try for my future releases.
Your latest record, “Desert Butterflies”, was released last year, what can you tell us about it?
“Desert Butterflies” was recorded around the world in 4 countries & 3 continents, spanning an amazing array of influences from Japan to Egypt, to Marroco, to Turkey, Greece etc. It also features some incredible friends & guest musicians, such as Marty Friedman (ex Megadeth), Ron ‘bumblefoot’ Thal (Guns n’ Roses), Mariangela Demurtas (Moonspell, Tristania) and more.
What do you remember about it recording process?
I remember it was long and full of challenges, but mainly a well-worth journey. I’ve experimented with various instruments, from Timpani to Sitar and various flutes. I played 19 guitars just for my parts. This experience was documented into the short movie ‘Capturing the Butterfly’, which you can see on the DVD edition of ‘Desert Butterflies’ and also on YouTube.
I must say “Orient Sun” and “Desert Butterflies” are my favourite music pieces in this record, do you have any?
Thank you! It really depends on the mood. I love to listen to the entire album in full. It has a very special vibe when listened all the way start to end as I built it this way.
You’ve been given some shows with your band, who are they?
I’m privileged to play with a great band, including Or Lubianiker on Bass guitar, Shay Ifrah on drums, Roei Friedman on Percussion & Ben Azar on electric guitar. They are incredible players, really.
Will wee see you touring Europe with your full band soon?
We have plans to tour Europe with the current album, yes. Plans delayed sadly, due to my father illness & condition, but we are back on track. We hope to come Rock you soon somewhere on the road!
When I started Orphaned Land with the original members it was a great time, a journey of 24 years with many great achievements & memories. I reached a point that I felt stuck in a way, mostly creatively. As the main composer of music I had full liberty, yet still, contained to certain elements mature bands tend to get into, so I decided to move on to the next bigger challenges, to take Oriental rock to new levels.
How long were you thinking about it?
Naturally it’s a process. You don’t wake up one morning and leave your life work of almost 24 years, in which you are a main symbol and senior member, but the right thing to do prevails always.
Do you still mantain contact with the rest of the band?
Yes, we talk here & there. I wish the remaining members best of luck, and that they keep maintaining my life work in this special Project.
When we listen to your solo work, we can certainly hear a lot of different elements, not only rock/metal and mid-eastern/oriental influences, but sounds from styles such as blues and jazz, where do you get your inspiration for making music?
I’m inspired by many elements and genres, from day to day events to various musical streams. I think as years pass, I can recognize influences from Dead Can Dance, Iron Maiden, Gary Moore (R.I.P), Joe Satriani, Omar Faruk etc.
What advice would you give to a new guitarist?
I’ve discussed this with Steve Vai when we were playing together last year. In talks we had we agreed that the Frank Zappa moto of ‘Never stop, keep going’ is the most important element, throughout the years. If you really love this instrument, be prepared to give it all. Otherwise, simply enjoy the current ride.
How is it to be a rock musician in Israel? Is there a rich scene?
It’s not easy, yet I was lucky enough to break out in the early 90’s and establish myself. Today there are many issues that come in priority before culture in Israel, and it’s part of the reason why it’s challenging for rock musicians here.
Do you think you will overgrown the “former Orphaned Land” label with your solo band?
I think I already have. I did some amazing things in 24 years there. It will forever be my life Project, to date. But I’ve done so much more just this last year alone,- from producing & releasing “Desert Butterflies” through making music into the films industry, building the mark II of my Bouzouki-Guitar, producing other artists worldwide, recording sessions for Moonspell and many others around the globe, speaking for TED for the 2nd time etc. I am sure the best is yet to come and promise to keep surprising my followers.
Have your view of the music bussiness side change since you left OL? If so, how?
I am lucky enough to have been both an indie artist (solo), and signed to label (OL), and distributed by Major label (solo work), so I have quite a vast view on the music business. I mainly realize that as time goes by, you really need to build on your talent and motivation. Other elements cannot replace real talent. All the rest comes and goes as trends, especially in the digital age.
Even though online magazines (webzines) are proven to be faster and more efficient, reaching more people (bastly more) than printed magazines, the last ones still have more prestidge among many artists and people involved in music industry, What’s your point of view?
I love printed magazines. I also love tangible things, things you can feel. I’m a big embracer of the digital age, but I’ve not an intimate friend of its implications.
Finally, feel free to say whatever you feel to your fans and our readers at MetalCry.com:
Thank you MetalCry and see you THIS JULY in SPAIN!