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Amanda Somerville / Epica Interview
Written by Jason Levine   
Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Amanda Somerville / Epica Interview April 2008 / New York City

Jason Levine sits downs with Amanda (subbing for Simone of Epica)

Jason:  This has been a busy year for you so far. The Avantasia album was just released and you are also touring with Epica. What has 2008 been like for you?

Amanda:  It’s been huge. So many things dropping at one time. 2007 was already a big year recording the new Epica album and HDK, Avantasia. Yeah the newest, Kamelot as well came out. The Ghost Opera. So it’s just been, kind of the ball has just been rolling and it’s not showing any signs of letting up anytime soon. So I like it that way. I don’t like to be bored. (*laughs*)

Jason:  Going out on tour with Epica for the US leg, replacing Simone, is not keeping you too bored at the moment.

Amanda:  Oh definitely, that was huge. I just got the, yeah they, I got the call to say that I was going to go on tour two weeks ago. Two weeks ago yesterday actually. So it was really a whirlwind of events. Getting everything together. Booking the tickets. I also had to basically do in that week and a half stuff that I would have to have done in a month and a half, because I’m planning on releasing Windows this summer. I hope to have it out before the Avantasia tour starts. So I’m getting artwork done, working on my new website, I’m working for the company in Sweden and everything. So it’s like everything is coming together and once I get back to Germany I’ll have two weeks before the Avantasia tour starts. So yeah, it’s like back to back. But I love it. I love it.

Jason:  You’ve only done one show with Epica so far. How did it go?

Amanda:  The show went really well. I was really nervous because (*laughs*) because of the circumstance. I was in Germany. Most of the band was in the Netherlands and then Mark was in the States. We did not get to rehearse once. Then because of time constraints last night we didn’t even get to have a sound check. So this was bare bones, here we go, in your face, ready set go now. My in ear system didn’t want to work. I was only getting static on the channel. Oh my god. You know, because it’s kind of exciting anyway in and of itself. The whole situation. But then to add that on top of everything was. I was sweating even before the show began (*laughs*). But it went really well and the response from the audience was phenomenal so we were really happy.

Jason:  Oh that’s great.

Amanda:  Yeah.

Jason:  You kind of knew the songs ahead of time because you worked on the album.

Amanda:  Yeah.

Jason:  You worked on all their albums.

Amanda:  Yeah.

Jason:  What exactly did you do behind the scenes on their albums?

Amanda:  Well with Epica I worked as Simone’s vocal coach and we always did the pre-production. I worked on co-writing the songs with them. We worked on the lyrics and the vocal lines. Sascha and I would help Mark and Simone with all of the lyrics and the vocal lines. We would take their basic ideas and kind of shape them into the really concrete melodies and catchy tunes that you hear now as the Epica songs. I also ended up for the last two albums. I actually produced the vocals. And for this past album I engineered. So I recorded Simone all by myself which was kind of cool, because the guys talked me into it. They twisted my arm into doing the technical side of things. I didn’t want anything to do with Pro Tools or running the computer and they were like “come on Amanda” because we lost one of our full time staffers at the Gate Studio. So anyway, I’m like “ok, ok”. So they kind of pulled me into the technical side of things, running the machines and stuff. Helping Coen with the choir arrangements, although Coen doesn’t need too much help because he’s amazing. Singing the additional vocals. The backing vocals and the choirs. So lots of stuff. You know I’m basically. I’ve been part of the Epica family or the band since day one. I also sing all of their demos when we do the new vocal lines and lyrics. So I have it down for Simone to really get in her head. So then she takes it and molds it to her own style from there.

Jason:  You’ve also worked with a bunch of other female bands. After Forever, Asrai. Was it the same deal with those bands?

Amanda:  It’s similar, yes. For After Forever’s last album they didn’t record at the Gate Studio. The only thing I did basically was edit their lyrics. I went through and made sure that everything was ok. No wrong words or strange grammar errors or whatever. So I didn’t actually do any co-writing with their album this time. I just sang in the choir. But Floor is one of my best friends and so is Sander. As far as Asrai. Yes, we did the same thing. We actually took their pre-production and really re-wrote 90% of the songs. So and then Sascha and I did the pre-production ourselves and they recorded it in a different studio. It was kind of a long distance working together. As far as a lot of the other. Those are the ones that I really do the heavy intense work with. Kamelot I did some guest vocals. Same with Avantasia and the other bands I’ve worked with. It sure is exciting though and I love it. I’ve learned a lot. I’m a pop-rock singer/songwriter girl and being thrown into this symphonic metal world. Genre. Is really exciting. I’ve learned a lot and it’s definitely influenced me a lot. In the way that I write. In the way that I sing. In the way that I think about music. Of course in my immediate environment as well. So it’s been a lot of fun. A really wild ride.

Jason:  You moved the from the United States to Germany. What made you move out there and what got you involved in the female metal scene?

Amanda:  Well I moved over there because of my husband. He’s German. I was doing some live work in Germany. I’ve always played here or there. My own original music. Small gigs. My guitar player at the time, he told me. We wanted to record a song and he told me “hey, my brother in law has a music studio, so let’s go see him, because he’s the guy we want to work with”. That ended up being Sascha Paeth. So Sascha and I hit it off. He really liked my voice. I really loved his style and working with him. So he asked me to sing backing vocals and go on tour with him with his band Virgo at the time. Just one thing led to another and that’s how I got in there. He called and said “hey, I got this other band, do you want to come and check out their lyrics” and “hey, I think this girl’s voice would fit really great on your album, so let me give Amanda a call”. And it just went from there. The biggest project that I got into was of course Aina. Sascha called and said “hey, this guy wants me to write a rock opera, but I can’t write lyrics for shit (*laughs*) can you come and do it”. And I’m like “you want me to write a rock opera”. “Yeah”. Ok (*laughs*). So that’s how that started and it’s just been really. You know it’s like they say. The right place. The right time. The right people. Here I am today.

Jason:  With Aina you did everything on it.

Amanda:  Uh huh.

Jason:  You also sing on a couple of songs as well. That was a big project for you at the time.

Amanda:  Yeah. That was really what got my name out there in this scene to begin with.

Jason:  You worked with a lot of singers on it. Did that help to work with them later on their albums?

Amanda:  Yeah. Well it kind of snowballed. Aina was done by one specific Dutch record company and that record company also did Epica. After Forever. So that’s how I got to working with Epica and After Forever. Actually Epica was the very first thing that I did with that record company. But yeah sure. Word gets around and people come calling. So that’s really when your name gets out there and people know what you do and they have a need for your services. Then sure, you get the call.

Jason:  In addition to the vocal coaching and the producing you do, you got involved in backing vocals for many bands. Kamelot and Edguy to name a few. Was it through that where Tobias asked you work on the Avantasia album which just came out?

Amanda:  Yeah. Correct.

Jason:  You guys are doing a tour for that as well.

Amanda:  Yes. I’m super excited about that. That kicks off. June 5th I believe is our first show in Switzerland. We’re going to be going all over the globe. Not going to be doing my home turf. So it’s really exciting that I can do it now with Epica. We’re going to be on almost all the other continents. So it’s going to cover a lot of ground there. We’re really excited because this is the first time that anything from Avantasia from any of the Avantasia albums are going to be performed live. So it’s going to be big. There are going to be a lot of guest singers as well. So, exciting. Exciting.

Jason:  Back to Epica for this tour. Everyone has seen you in the 2 Meter Sessions video and know the work you do in the studio. But it must be a different experience to be singing lead for them.

Amanda:  Yeah, it is. It’s. On the one hand it’s very strange because I’ve known Simone for so long and she’s such a good friend and I know her as the frontwoman to Epica. I’m so accustomed to hearing her voice and having her be in front. To be suddenly in that place it’s like whoa. Twilight Zone kind of. On the other hand, because I’m so comfortable with these guys and I’ve been a part of the band for so long and I’ve co-written the songs and everything else. I’ve been part of every process. It kind of comes second nature. So it’s kind of a double edged sword there. Mixed feelings, but I feel really positive about everything. I just hope above all else. More than anybody. I want to see Simone back on the stage fronting Epica. Back on her feet and well again.

Jason:  They must be thankful that you are doing this because this is a big tour to get US exposure and they would have probably had to cancel it.

Amanda:  Yeah, they would have had to cancel it. That was the only other option basically. I very rarely say no to anything. Especially to a request from some close friends. So when Simone had called me and she personally asked me to fill in, I said “well, of course”. Even though it would throw my life upside down (*laughs*). That’s alright. I’ll do anything for them. As long as it’s sane and legal (*laughs*).

Jason:  We’ve been hearing about Simone’s sickness for a while. Is she doing well?

Amanda:  Yeah. She’s getting better. As we said before 3 out of 4 of the tests that she has to go through have already come out negative for MRSA. So she’s on her way. But, yeah, she’s still got it pretty rough. It’s an awful thing to go through. It’s especially rough on her not to be able to do this tour. So everybody’s support and positive vibes and feelings and everything have done so well. And everybody’s been so great to me as well. Because it’s not easy for the fans to miss out on seeing their front woman. So everybody’s been really, really nice about it and supportive of me as well. So that’s great.

Jason:  You also had a solo album back in 2000, which was not metal.

Amanda:  Ha (*laughs*). It’s the farthest thing away from metal as you can be. It’s like politically far left and politically far right (*laughs*). I don’t know which is which.

Jason:  That was more soft adult oriented music.

Amanda:  Yeah. It was really like the female singer/songwriter kind of Jewel, Sara McLachlan type of stuff. I’ve always loved the Lillith Fair crowd. So yeah, that’s the type of music that it is. It’s all self produced. It’s nothing fancy so don’t expect any fancy production like I do now (*laughs*). But everybody has to start somewhere.

Jason:  You also have a new album that you are working on. Windows.

Amanda:  Uh huh.

Jason:  Is that pretty much on it’s way? You have a video for My Song For You which is playing on YouTube now.

Amanda:  Yeah.

Jason:  Which is not metal per se, but it is a lot heavier than your first album.

Amanda:  Yes.

Jason:  Now that you’ve worked in metal for so long, are you look to do something more heavy?

Amanda:  The whole album is not heavy. There are a few songs that definitely have the heavier influence. But it’s kind of middle ground pop-rock I would say. My next album that is going to be after Windows is probably going to be a little darker and heavier yet. But Windows. The whole concept of Windows is about the eyes being the windows of the soul. People say that a lot. For me, they’re my songs. My songs are as multi-faceted and diverse as I am. My personality and my feelings and, you know, my soul. Sometimes it’s hard to show the world who you are really. Because you bear everything basically out. Here I am. Here are my inner workings. Go ahead an devour them and love them, hate them, whatever. Do with them what you will. So it’s kind of about contrast and diversity. So there’s a lot of that going on musically as well.

Jason:  When can we expect a release date for the album?

Amanda:  I’m hoping June. I’m hoping before the really major leg of the Avantasia world tour kicks off. Since this happened. This Epica tour. I’m not sure that I’m going to make it. But I’m hoping. We’re trying our best. So I’ve got my husband with me and he’s been a godsend taking care of me and taking care of a lot of business too. So we’re working on it.

Jason:  After this, are there any other bands that you would like to work with in the future that you haven’t already?

Amanda:  You know. I love so much having the diversity and the experience meeting new people and exchanging ideas and work concepts. I love my job just all the way around. I hope to get to the point where performing and doing my own thing is my main focus. My main priority. And what I’m doing most of the time. But as far as any particular singers, I’m really open to anybody and everybody. So I just hope the show goes on and that I have a long career in all this that I’m doing.

Jason:  Well everyone appreciates what you are doing right now for Simone on this tour.

Amanda:  Thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Jason:  Thanks for taking the time to talk to us at Sonic Cathedral and best of luck to you.

Amanda:  Epica thanks Sonic Cathedral for their support and I appreciate your kind words.

 For More Information: www.amandasomerville.com or www.nuclearblastusa.com


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