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Epica Interview 2016
Written by Ton Dekkers   
Monday, 03 October 2016

Epica Interview 2016
In Person Interview

Epica Interview 2016 

Related to the release of Epica’s new album The Holographic Principle, Nuclear Blast organized a press day in Amsterdam. Sonic Cathedral was given the opportunity to meet Mark Jansen (guitars). Although Mark is endorsed by Ibanez, the meeting was at the new Gibson headquarter in Amsterdam Tower, with a nice view over Amsterdam harbor. In a very relaxed atmosphere we could meet Simone and Mark before going into in the interview mode.

Related to the release of Epica’s new album The Holographic Principle, Nuclear Blast organized a press day in Amsterdam. Sonic Cathedral was given the opportunity to meet Mark Jansen (guitars). Although Mark is endorsed by Ibanez, the meeting was at the new Gibson headquarter in Amsterdam Tower, with a nice view over Amsterdam harbor. In a very relaxed atmosphere we could meet Simone and Mark before going into in the interview mode.

Sonic Cathedral:  Hi Mark, thanks for your time!

Mark:  Thank you for coming.

Sonic Cathedral:  In our preliminary chat, before we started this interview, you pointed out that there is a long relationship between Epica and Sonic Cathedral.

Mark:  Yes, a long relationship and moreover they have meant a lot for us too. I am still eternally grateful for that.

Sonic Cathedral:  That is nice to hear!

Mark:  Yes, of course. It’s where you come from. The people that have helped and supported you back then, it is important to honor them.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  Because we are talking about early Epica history, I’ll ask a question that I intended to ask later. Looking at the first album The Phantom Agony and the new The Holographic Principle album, there is a world of difference between them.

Mark:  Yes, but it’s still the same band. However, the band did go through a whole evolution. Nevertheless, the old songs still fit in the set list. It is definitely still typical Epica, but it now sounds really 2016. The Phantom Agony was the best we could at that time, and this is what we can do now.

Sonic Cathedral:  The Phantom Agony was when quite revolutionary at that time because of the layering in the music. And that has just ...

Mark:  … increased.

Sonic Cathedral:  Nowadays, people quite often prefer “less is more”. From the press release, it appears that more than 1000 audio tracks were used to compile this album, which is definitely not less.

Mark:  <laughs> No, no, not exactly. There is also a well-known statement “more is more”. Who was that again? Oh yes, the guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen, always said “more is more”. <laughs> I always have to laugh about that. But we surely did try to avoid, though you can also miss your goal when go over the top It should fit, and it should have a function and meaning . You can have more than 1000 tracks, cool. But if it end up too packed or overloaded and it doesn’t sound good, well then you have nothing.

Sonic Cathedral:  I have already had the opportunity to listen to the album multiple albums over the past week and a half. It remains impressive, and the layers fit smoothly with each other.

Mark:  We have spent a lot of time, we also have all those layers meticulously laid over each other. And then, everything is looked over again with a magnifying glass. Each theme -- piece by piece, note by note -- is looked over. It is a hell of a job, but it paid off.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  When listening, sometimes I got the impression with a number of riffs and musical anchor elements: “Hey, I’ve heard that before!”

Mark:  Yes, you’re right. There are indeed references to elements from the past -- without copying the past, but using them as markers. For myself, I like it when bands apply markers from their past. They are your identifying features.

Sonic Cathedral:  To clearly put your own signature that will make it recognizable?

Mark:  Yes.

Sonic Cathedral:  Epica inspires novice bands to copy your style. But somehow, no one succeeds in copying you.

Mark:  <laughs> Yes. Yes, that I notice sometimes too. But when people say “you can hear right away that it is Epica”, I think that is a great compliment. That we really have our own recognizable sound in all of the metal scene, especially when bands with a female singer are all thrown in the FFM box. Definitely, it is a great compliment when people say that they hear very clearly that it’s Epica.

Sonic Cathedral:  Let’s focus now a little more on the new album. A quote from Simone from the interview with Sonic Cathedral about The Quantum Enigma: “You know, the quest for reality, the circle of life; life and death, everything in between, the mind, the power of the mind.”. This all comes back again in the new album.

Mark:  Indeed. It’s really the next step. We see the two albums more or less as brother and sister. You would be able to sell them together in a box set, as being brother and sister. With The Quantum Enigma, we took a certain path, and that road felt so right that we have continued this with the new album. It is purely the focus on the details.

We looked at what can we all do better. Now we have recorded everything live, including the brass section, woodwinds, percussion, and the Oriental instruments. Everything was recorded live using real instruments”? And the guitars are mixed with a little more power. So, we really looked at all the details and where we could create improvements.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  The lyrics were not included in the demo package, and because I’m a listener that values the overall sound and not really into the lyrics, it is difficult for me to go in-depth on this. So the questions related to the lyrics are limited to the more striking word choices or text passages in the choruses. In “Edge Of The Blade”, my attention went to …

Mark:  That’s a real Simone text.

Sonic Cathedral:  The phase “Watch you back”, even though you are in the virtual reality, you continuously have to look out.

Mark:  That’s a grunt bit where I’m starting with. But it is one of Simone’s lyrics, so it’s better to ask her.

Sonic Cathedral:  Okay. In the chorus of “Divide And Conquer”, you hear the words “accountable” and “responsible”.

Mark:  That’s a lyric of mine, so you can ask me all about it. What I want to say is that we are all responsible for our own life. So if people say “I can’t do anything about this; it is the fault of others”, this doesn’t work, no opening for a sensible action We are the world, we are the universe. And the song is about Libya; how Western countries have invaded, overthrowing a regime to take advantage of the power vacuum to claim certain resources. That is something that has been a thorn in my side for a long time, so I decided to write a song about this.

Sonic Cathedral:  This question was not on my list but your answer triggers the next question. Did you, with your politically engaged lyrics cause problems somewhere, somehow?

Mark:  Not really problems, but you get sometimes an email like: “Who do you think you are … So and so?!?” That happens sometimes.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  The responses on social media are not always very nuanced.

Mark:  No. But as long as it is in public, it doesn’t matter that much. Those are people who think for only one second before pressing “send”. But if someone takes the time to send you a personal message and writes a long message that is well thought out, I take them a little more seriously. And if there is a person who writes: “When you say this again, then I will come looking for you” … yes, that I like less. Not that it will put me off, but it hurts definitely. Yes.

Sonic Cathedral:  Have you encountered any restrictions on live shows?

Mark:  No. They always say that China would check all your lyrics, and then they provide you a list of songs you’re allowed to play and which you’re not allowed to play. We have never had any problems, and could play whatever we wanted. You would expect when this will happen regularly, that it would be obvious that they would definitely would check lyrics from bands like ours, a metal band. We never encountered any problem related to this, and also have not encountered any problem in America. So in that respect, we have nothing to complain about.

Sonic Cathedral:  Nice. Back to “The Cosmic Algorithm”. In that song, you hear “what are your fears, look at your inside, everything is possible”.

Mark:  Everything is possible, yes. Nothing is what it seems, and everything is possible.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  Do you want to send out a positive message?

Mark:  Our lyrics are often dark but there is always a message of positivity in there. Wherever. Also when it’s about a tough subject, there is always a possibility, something somewhere that could give you guidance or support. I think that is also important because you are without hope and something to hold on, all would be lost. And just the opposite is true. Nothing is lost. So you’re doing a great thing when you use the possibilities to try to change things that do not run well.

Sonic Cathedral:  Now we’re back to “accountable”.

Mark:  And too, everyone is responsible. If there is a mess around you, you’re also responsible for that. Then, you should not pass the buck to someone else because you can something yourself. There is very little about which you really cannot do anything.

Sonic Cathedral:  A clear message, I like that. That also suits me quite a bit.

Mark:  It is easy to say that you can do nothing about it.

Sonic Cathedral:  Take responsibility, and do something about it.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Mark:  Exactly! When I have a disagreement with someone, I always look at my own role in that disagreement. You should analyze yourself, and see where you might be wrong. Because it’s never just one person … there are always two.

Sonic Cathedral:  We are already at the last question about the album. In “Dancing In A Hurricane”, the Oriental influence is present again.

Mark:  Yes. This is for sure, something that keeps attracting us. And this time it is Coen. A song about Egypt could be by anyone, but this time it’s Coen’s song. It fits very nicely on the album. It will be mainly the old fans who consider it’s specific to Epica and will be glad that it’s again in there.

Sonic Cathedral:  However, when listening the first time I had the feeling that does not fit really. But when listening more often that changed to; yes, it fits.

Mark:  Yes.

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> We are back to the details.

Mark:  And in any case, elsewhere on the album the sitar also appears, although it is more difficult to hear. There is everywhere a little Oriental. But it is most clear in that song.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  These were the album questions, now I have some questions from Sonic Cathedral’s readers. The first is a more or less expected question, wanting more live shows in America.

Mark:  Everywhere you go is fine. And everywhere you do not go, they want you to play also, see. <smiles>

Sonic Cathedral:  Clear. Skipping ahead, then!

Mark:  <laughs>

Sonic Cathedral:  When you guys were in the US, you did some acoustic sessions. The question is, will it happen again during the upcoming US tour?

Mark:  That was, in my view, especially on the press days that were organized for us. During those, Simone and Isaac played acoustically. So far, I have not heard anything about whether there will be a press day this time. But we have done so many acoustic things already. Maybe in the future we should do something again. Some very interesting songs came out of it. We have recorded some acoustic versions of the album tracks, and those are very interesting. I think it would be nice to do something with this in the future.

Epica Interview 2016

Sonic Cathedral:  Okay. We will wait and see.

Mark:  Yes, Sure.

Sonic Cathedral:  The last question is about Epic Metal Fest. Why did you start your own festival?

Mark:  <laughs> You know yourself how much fun that is!

Sonic Cathedral:  <laughs> Indeed, I do know it myself.

Mark:  We have deliberately chosen to not start a festival in the Female Fronted Metal corner, because there are already enough. <laughs> But it has solely something to do with bands that we used to listen to or are listening to now -- a mix between different styles as well. However it should fit somehow. It fits together in one way or another, and it worked out very nicely. In addition to the festival in the Netherlands, we now have one in Brazil too. And who knows? Maybe one in America in the future.

Sonic Cathedral:  Okay. I assume that would make our US readers happy!

Mark:  Then the people of Sonic Cathedral can be very happy. For sure, when it happens, it will be in a location that they are missing. <laughs> The first edition was also a lot of fun with bands like Moonspell, Fear Factory, and Sepultura. These are bands that we used to listen to when we were teenagers, before we played in a band. And then suddenly, they are playing in our own festival. It is a very weird … but also a very nice … experience. It makes you feel proud. The bands that are working their ass off just because you have invited them. That’s totally fun!

Epica Interview 2016 

 

Sonic Cathedral:  I know that feeling. <laughs> I only can confirm this feeling.

Mark:  Exactly. The pride and ...

Sonic Cathedral:  The kick that you have been able to achieve this.

Mark:  Exactly. That feeling. We know it. <laughs> Not many people know that feeling. Only the concert organizers know it, but it is definitely a nice feeling. Yes.

Sonic Cathedral:  I am at the end of my questions. Thanks again for your time.

Mark:  You too and it was fun.

Epica Interview 2016 

 

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