Hailing from The Netherlands, Epica formed in 2002. Their 7th studio album The Holographic Principle was released September 30th, 2016 through Nuclear Blast. Playing small clubs in North America or large festivals around the world, Epica continues to be one of the best Symphonic Metal bands around the world.
The band consists of original members Mark Jansen – rhythm guitar, growls/screams, Coen Janssen – keyboards, synthesizer, and piano. The band also has their original studio release vocalist – the legendary Simone Simons, which seems to be a rarity in symphonic metal bands. Also in the band we have Arien Van Weesenbeek – drums, spoken word; Isaac Delahaye – head guitar, backing vocals, and Rob Van Der Loo – bass and growls. The new release also features many guest musicians along with the Pa’dam Chamber Choir.
1- The Quantum Enigma Tour took you all over the world playing 123 shows. This month you have finished the 2nd edition of Epic Metal Fest. How was this experience headlining your own festivals?
Mark: I’m very proud of this achievement, we have been talking for many years about doing something like this and now Epica is big enough to make such things happen. Of course, we are not doing this alone, but we all work very hard on the EMF’s as well. We discuss all bands that are playing there and organize the whole event together with our partners.
2- With The Holographic Principle Tour will this be a more intense tour than your last tour?
Mark: Depends in which way you mean intense. If it means more shows, that’s possible. If it means a bigger production, that’s for sure. If it means more tiring, no. We always keep in mind that we have enough rest in between of tours as well. It often seems like we are always on tour but we are also sometimes at home and going to the supermarket haha.
3- Will you be touring countries that you missed on your last tour?
Mark: Definitely, we even will tour countries that we have never toured before. Like south Korea and Japan.
4- The Holographic Principle came out September 30th. I was excited to get my deluxe version copy and write a review for Decibel Geek. When did you start writing the new album and how did you come up with the virtual concept of The Holographic Principle?
Mark: We started to write about one year before the recordings were finished. Actually, I started to write already shortly after the TQE album release. We all write at our own pace and whenever we feel like having most inspiration. We have 5 songwriters in the band and that gives us the possibility to pick the best songs from every member. The idea behind THP came from Leonard Susskind, a quantum physicist that states that the whole universe as we know it might be a hologram after all. We connect it to virtual reality. This technique is already so well developed and keep developing. Sooner or later we are able to create complete virtual universes which will look as real as what we see around us in our actual universe. This can be a moment that you realize that our current reality, the universe we live in is a virtual reality as well.
5 – When writing the lyrics, do you do this together or is this something you do alone then come together as a band?
Mark: We do alone but we talk about the main topic, besides that we are both free to do whatever we feel like. Of course, we do give each other advice and we discuss (also with some other guys in the band) phrases and content but the writer keeps the control of his own lyrics.
6 – Where did you write the music for The Holographic Principle and where did you record?
Mark: We write it in our own home studios. After that, we rehearsed the songs in a rehearsal room in our home base town Reuver. We have recorded the album in Rijen in the Sandlane Recording Facilities Studio together with producer Joost van den Broek. Joost was also involved in the songwriting process when we started to develop the first demos.
7 – I still love to buy the actual CDs for the deluxe versions and for the cover art. Once again another great design for your cover. Who designed the new cover and have you worked with them in the past?
Mark: That’s Stefan Heilemann, he’s working with us for several years now and he is the right man for the job as he’s always able to surprise us with beautiful art. We are extremely happy with the end result. He always manages to translate the lyrics into a piece of art that reflect those lyrics very well.
8 – Can each of you tell me your favorite song on the new album?
Mark: Isaac’s favorite is “Universal Death Squad“, Simone’s “The Holographic Principle” and mine is “Divide and Conquer“. “Once Upon a Nightmare” is also among our favorites and “Ascension” is a track that works live extremely well.
9 – As most Symphonic bands seem to go through a lot of members and changes, what has kept Epica strong together over the years with very few changes?
Mark: I have studied psychology and been analyzing over the years what works best for a band. Also due to my own experience I came to the conclusion that it’s important in a band that every member feels to be respected, is able to add ideas to the table and has responsibilities. You often see that a band with one “dictator” has a lot of mutations because the people in the group simply feel like they have nothing to say. On the other hand, bands in which the people decide everything democratic often get nothing done as it takes forever to find agreements that can please everyone. I think something in the middle works best. We are a democracy but every member has certain responsibilities and we trust each other in that. I think this way, everybody is happy and I notice also that everybody really feels like the albums we make are their own babies. So everybody feels really involved and important in making Epica grow. The 3 members in 14 years that have left us were not leaving because of arguments but simply wanted to do something else in life. This is indeed a very low number.
10 – Mark – you formed a band in 2010 called MaYaN with 2 albums released. The last album was released in 2014. Are you going to anything else from MaYaN ?
Mark: Yes we will eventually record a third album. This band has been created to have fun and to make some good music as well. I founded the band together with my old After Forever buddy Jack Driessen. This guy has a lot of talent and it was about time to get him back in the metal scene haha. Frank joined us after Sander Gommans decided to step back as it was not totally his thing. Also, Frank is very talented and comes up with amazing guitar riffs. The only pity is that I have not so much time besides Epica to go on tour with MaYaN so we are found a solution that when Epica is on tour MaYaN can tour as well with George Oosthoek on vocals. He’s an amazing frontman and grunter. He’s one of the very few I trust on doing a great job with “my” vocals live.
11 – Simone – your first recording was back in 2003 with Epica. Over the years you have been a guest vocalist with many acts. The most recent was in 2015 with Leaves’ Eyes “Edge of Steel” which was my #1 release of 2015. Do you have any plans in the near future for any projects?
Simone: I have been working with Ayreon again and another secret project that I really enjoyed working on. On Ayreon‘s Facebook page you can already have a listen.
12 – In 2010 and 2016 you played Sweden Rock Festival. How was the experience playing this years’ Sweden Rock Festival?
Mark: We were not so lucky with the weather I remember but still quite some brave Vikings were standing there to watch our whole set, some of them even without a shirt. Sweden Rock is a great festival with a good atmosphere, I hope we can play there again with our new album in the pocket.
13 – You play many festivals around the world, as well as many clubs or warehouse venues. What is your feeling about playing clubs instead of the big outdoor festivals?
Mark: I like both, the advantage of clubs is that you can do a proper sound check and as we are perfectionists and having a complex sound to mix I always feel at ease in the clubs as we can have a good sound from the start. Festivals are great as you can play for a crowd whom partly is not familiar with your music, so you can win new fans.
14 – What is your favorite song to play live?
Mark: It’s hard to tell but “The Obsessive Devotion” is definitely among my favorites. Also “Consign to Oblivion“, “Sensorium“, “Unchain Utopia“, “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Divide and Conquer” are among my favorites.
15 – As a fan of concert Blu-ray/DVD’s, is there any plans for a new release from this tour?
16- Your first 2 releases were with Transmission. You teamed up with Nuclear Blast for the next 5 releases. That was a huge signing back in 2007. Can your describe how your relation with a record company such as Nuclear Blast plays a big part of a bands’ success?
Mark: It definitely open doors to get signed by a big label like NB. Part of our success is definitely due to them but they have also bands that don’t make it to the next level so another big part of a band’s success needs to be earned by themselves as well. We work hard, deliver the highest possible quality we can reach and tour our asses off. We have a very good relation with NB and hopefully we can keep working for a long time with them.
17 – What was your first concert, and if there was one band or artist you wish you could see or could have seen who would that be?
Mark: My first concert was Guns N’ Roses in the Goffert park in Nijmegen in 1993, a great happening. Pink Floyd, I have never seen live which is a pity as it’s an amazing band with fantastic songs
18 – Now for a fun question. Any embarrassing moments on stage that any of you care to share?
Mark: With my former band After Forever we once played a show in a small club in Belgium, during the sound check we were already joking to our other guitar player: Sander Gommans that there was a hole in the stage so he would need to watch out. You can already imagine what happened during the show. Suddenly he disappeared in that hole while playing. We finished the song without him which made him a bit mad haha. With Epica, we experienced once an embarrassing moment in front of the stage. Again in Belgium, we played on a small festival and all of a sudden the other guitar player at the time: Ad Sluijter came to me and told me there are two people fucking right in front of him, during our set! I went up there to check that out of course and it appeared to be true. Haha never seen something like that before or after anymore.
I want to thank Mark and Simone for taking the time to answer our questions and looking forward to seeing this amazing band live November 6th, 2016 in Toronto Canada.
Shawn “Animalize” Irwin