A couple of weeks ago, just prior to the events in Israel-Palestine and their withdrawal from the Sonisphere festival in Turkey, Muchmoremetal.com caught up with Orphaned Land‘s guitarist Matti Svatizky for a fascinating insight into the Israeli prog-death band’s career and views.

You’ve been around for two decades but are only now playing your first London show, and you don’t seem to have toured as much as many bands do. What are the reasons for this?

It’s our first London show, but our second show in the UK: we performed at the Progpower festival in 2005.

About us not touring as much as other bands, there are a few simple explanations. We were inactive for around 6 or 7 years back in the 90’s, which was dead time for us, and it has been around 6 years between Mabool and our latest album, The Neverending way of ORwarriOR.

Add to these facts the fact that we are from Israel, and that not many bands get the privilege of performing abroad at all, and you’ll get that we have actually done quite nicely. We have performed in around 30 countries, and had around 120 or more gigs up until now. We supported Paradise Lost on their European tour, and will support Katatonia on their next North American tour in September. I’d say that we’re quite busy these days.

Aside from a guitarist wearing tzitzit, what can fans expect at one of your shows?

Wearing costumes is the least interesting part of our shows. First of all we are musicians, and music is the most important thing. So people who love music will get instantly connected to what we do. We also love to have fun on stage, and it’s important for us that the crowd will enjoy and be a part of the show too, if that means making them sing with us, clap, head bang and so on. Live shows are meant to be fun, people need this fun and so do we, so it’s a great package deal.

Is it true that you re-formed the band after your hiatus due to your popularity in the Arab world? How do you know about your popularity in those countries? Do you think you’ll ever get to play in an Arab country in your lifetime?

Well, it wasn’t the only reason for us getting back together but it certainly had some weight. In Israel, in most cases, the word “Arab” has a threatening connotation to it. There is an hostility between Arabs and Jews, and suddenly seeing Arab people listening to our music despite us being who we are, made us see that there’s a lot of power to it.

We have heard about Arabs listening to us mainly through the internet, and through the internet we are also able to keep in touch with our Arab fans, because in some of their countries listening to our music is illegal. I think that there is a chance for us playing in an Arab country, but not in the near future, maybe in a few years when things calm down.

Are you religious personally or do you just draw on religious philosophy for your lyrics?

No one in the band is religious. I’m an atheist, but it doesn’t stop me from considering myself to be a spiritual person, because the conclusions I have come to are from deep questions that I have asked about the spirit of man and the nature of things. Other people may have come to different conclusions and that’s great, and being tolerant to other people’s views is a lot of what our lyrical content is about.

The promotional material for The Never Ending Way of ORWarriOR focuses heavily on the Middle East conflict, are you ever worried that it could seem like you are exploiting the issue to sell your album? Do you do anything to try to prevent this perception?

Maybe people who live outside the region don’t understand how much this conflict is a part of us. It doesn’t matter what we do, it always chases us. We are also involved in this because we care. We care about the future of the region and the future of our children here and we feel that we can make a change, even if it’s a minor one, but things being the way they are every change is important.

Having Arab fans is an opportunity, and it’s also an opportunity to show the world a different angle of the region, and show people that people who care also live here.

Orphaned Land play at the Camden Underworld on June 27th, supported by Arkan. (See pictures here).

Don’t forget to check out previous interesting interviews on muchmoremetal.com here.