Interview with Mark Jansen
February 3, 2017 – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Interview by Torbjørn ‘Toby’ Jørstad
Photography by Graham Hilling
We had the chance to speak to a freshly showered Mark Jansen following Epica’s near sold out show at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London this Friday. Read more to find out about the six unreleased bonus tracks from The Holographic Principle, how an American physicist helped inspired the concept for the album, and the potential for an upcoming “Kingdom of Heaven” storyline!
Hello, my name is Toby and this is Graham, we’re from Metal-Rules.com.
What did you think of the show?
I think it was one of the best of the tour. The venue is really beautiful and the crowd was really into it, and we got the long set tonight – sometimes Powerwolf plays last. We’re alternating on this tour, because for instance in Germany they are the bigger band, and together we can do the big venues. The day before yesterday in Brussels, today, and tomorrow in Paris, Epica is closing the show. Paris tomorrow is sold out, that’s always something we’re hoping for. Hopefully there’s no lunatic tomorrow shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [There was a terror attack in Paris that day involving a machete-wielding man].
Did you have time to check out London at all today?
Not at all [laughs]. I’ve seen nothing, just the venue from the inside. But yesterday I did some running around, and I’ve been to London plenty of times so I know it’s a nice city.
There were six unreleased bonus tracks* from The Holographic Principle, besides the acoustic versions. It has been confirmed on social media by both Isaac and you that they will be released. Can you give us any info on either if, how and when this is going to happen?
They will be released probably at the end of this year. Probably as an EP that will contain these songs that we didn’t have the chance to release yet. One of them actually, “Fight Your Demons”, was released as a single for the people at the VIP sessions on this tour.
What was the reason they weren’t included as normal bonus tracks?
We thought it was a pity that always when there’s bonus tracks, one ends up on this edition and one ends up on another, and some people end up not knowing these tracks. We put a lot of effort into them, and they were all written to be album tracks, but we had to choose. It would be a shame if these tracks only ended up as bonus tracks that only a small amount of people can buy. We also don’t like the idea of forcing people to buy the album six times to get all the songs, so it’s better to release them as an EP so people get value for their money.
*The six unreleased bonus tracks from The Holographic Principle are: Fight Your Demons, Wheel of Destiny, Architect of Light, Immortal Melancholy, Decoded Poetry, and The Solace System.
Similarly, will we ever see you play some of the acoustic bonus tracks live?
Yeah, it’s possible, but for now we have a lot of fun doing this. If ever there comes a time where we feel like playing some acoustic tracks, then we will do that. It totally depends on what we feel like doing, we always follow our intuition and what’s most fun at that moment.
You’re taking on a pretty grand concept, the universe imagined as a virtual hologram, where did the lyrical inspiration for The Holographic Principle come from? Was there a lot of research involved?
Yeah, there was quite some research involved. But it’s not that I’m really researching the topic specifically for the album, it’s more that I’m reading about things that are fascinating to me, and then I start writing lyrics and often times I get inspired by what I’ve been reading. That’s how it happened. Then it’s also easy to get all this information, because I was already into it and I felt good about it. Especially lectures from Leonard Susskind [American physicist] really help me a lot to find the right path of gathering information about this stuff. It’s quite a complex concept, but Leonard Susskind explains it in a very easy way, so to say.
Has your songwriting process always been like that throughout your career?
Yeah, we first write the songs, and after we add the lyrics. Also on this album, the songs were written by all five of the guys, everybody wrote.
Who writes the best songs?
Oh yeah, that’s me [laughs].
Last year a huge “The Essence of Silence” collaboration cover video was released, and shared on your Facebook page. Did you see it yourself? What did you think of it?
Yes, I saw it, and I even shared it myself. It was really cool to see people putting so much effort into it and there was a huge amount of people involved. It always makes me smile when I see something like that, it proves that music means a lot to these people when they are willing to put in so much effort.
Do you ever hear people covering or interpreting your music, and you think to yourself, “man, that’s better than the original”?
It happens sometimes that I think it’s very good, but I haven’t found something yet where I thought it was better than the way we did it. But it sometimes happens that I think it’s really bad [laughs]. I’m always happy when it’s really good, I can always tell the people that I really loved it, and then when it’s bad I just don’t say anything [laughs]. Now maybe some people will think that since I didn’t answer to their covers, I didn’t like it, but I have to say it’s still possible for it to be good. Sometimes I get a private message with a YouTube video, and when I’m in a rush I forget to watch it, so maybe these people will think now that I think it’s very bad [laughs].
On your previous album The Quantum Enigma you made a follow up to the song “Kingdom of Heaven” from Design Your Universe. “Kingdom of Heaven” was already a part of your “A New Age Dawns” story line. Could you comment on how that song fits in “A New Age Dawns” while also seemingly having its own story line?
Now you’re asking the complex questions [laughs], now I have to dive into the whole “A New Age Dawns” concept again to come up with a proper answer [laughs]. Actually the music reminded me a lot of “Kingdom of Heaven”, and that’s why I decided to give it the ‘Part II’ title, and also because it starts with a monk choir again. Lyric wise, the first part deals with the first introduction to quantum physics, and the second one continues this. The first one fits into “A New Age Dawns” concept, and the second one fit into the first edition of “Kingdom of Heaven”. The second one in that way also fits into the whole cycle if you want [laughs].
You’ve done these kind of story lines intertwining songs from different albums a few times now, where does the inspiration for that come from?
I just like to write sequels. It’s funny, and it’s interesting when some lyrics match with all the rest, to have them under the same roof. I always liked albums with concepts within the album, I also like concept albums, but we never did a real concept album because then you have to put the songs exactly in the order that you had in mind when you wrote the lyrics, and then if a song is not so good after you’ve recorded it, you can’t leave it out anymore. That’s why we haven’t done a full concept album yet, just little concepts within albums [laughs].
Do you plan on doing more of those in the future?
Oh definitely, definitely. “A New Age Dawns” might possibly continue and it’s also possible that we’ll write a “Kingdom of Heaven Part III”, I don’t know yet, it’s just whatever we feel like doing.
What songs from The Holographic Principle have you enjoyed performing the most on this tour?
“Beyond The Matrix”, because that song really gets the crowd going. Also “Ascension – Dream State Armageddon”, because it has some really dark, almost black metal-ish influences, and I also enjoy “Universal Death Squad” and “Divide & Conquer”. We sometimes perform those right after each other, and then it’s really a long painting of music.
Do you have any songs you haven’t played live in a long time, or ever, that you’d like to perform live?
Yes, there’s one song, “In All Conscience” [bonus track from The Quantum Enigma]. That’s a song written by Rob [van der Loo, bassist] and I always wanted to play it, but not everyone else do, so we’ve never played it yet [laughs]. But that’s a song that I would really like to play in the future.
You’re touring quite a lot this year, hitting Scandinavia, Asia, and South and Central America, together with festivals this summer. What will you guys do after all of that?
We’re going to do another US tour after the festivals probably, which is still in the making. Another European tour, and we want to go to Australia, Israel, Turkey, everywhere [laughs]. There’s still some stuff to do and … Oh yeah! Last but not least, an all-South American tour.
Anything you’d like to add in the end?
Thank you for the interview, and I hope we come back to the UK for a longer tour soon. But that’s also being planned already, so hopefully it gets worked out.
Finally, how was the pizza?
Very good [laughs].
Thank you very much, and good luck with the rest of the tour!