Bassist Yves Huts & Guitarist Isaac Delahaye
Interviewed by Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Before a recent gig in the Big Apple, I had a chance to catch up with acclaimed metal band Epica who were about to start the 3rd date on their North American tour. Epica’s bassist Yves Huts and new guitarist Isaac Delahaye were kind enough to speak with me for ~15 minutes as the local opening bands went on.
Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus: So I’m here with Yves and Isaac from Epica, and you guys go on stage in…what, two hours or so? Something like that?
Yves Huts: Yeah about two.
Isaac Delahaye: Three hours.
So tell me about the tour so far, its only been a few days, but what’s been going on?
ID: Yeah it’s the 3rd show tonight,. So yeah it was good, 1st we played in Springfield.
YH: Springfield, then shit…I forgot where we played yesterday…
YH: Yeah, Philadelphia.
ID: So yeah it went really good, 1st show is always tricky on a tour, we didn’t bring all our own gear…
You rented gear?
ID: Yeah, so you have to find out how it all works, ya know, and how to do it.
YV: And we left our most valuable asset at home, Coen, our regular keyboard player, so uh, we haven’t rehearsed with Oliver the replacement keyboard layer, so we didn’t know what to expect but it was ok, the 1st show.
Is he adjusting pretty well?
ID: Yeah, we already knew him for a long time, so we knew he was a great keyboard player and a great personality, so…
YH: And he’s been doing more session work for other bands, so he’s kinda used to filling the gap.
Has he helped you out in the studio before?
YH: No, he helped with us on THE CLASSICAL CONSPIRACY, with…how do you say it…transcribing the orchestral arrangements, making sheet music out of it.
Ok, I saw he has as little screen [on his keyboards] there, does he actually have sheet music of your guys stuff, so he can follow along?
YH: Yeah, just to make sure, he could have a blackout or something, so it’s just there, to make sure that…he has something to hold on to.
That’s a safe idea. Is this your 1st headlining US tour?
YH: No, in 2007 we already did a headliner.
I know its only been two shows, but have you noticed a greater presence of people, have you noticed people being more excited?
YH: Yeah definitely, 2007 was not super successful, but so far, we can only judge by the three shows we’ve done, it’s going very well. This is the 1st time we’ve sold out a venue as headliner here in New York. So yeah, that’s great
KM: Are you accustomed to larger crowds back home in Europe?
YH: Yeah, definitely.
Around 1000, 1500 or so?
YH: Depends on the country, but like in France we make like 1500. It depends on how often we play there, because like in Holland we play a lot of shows, so they have a lot of choice. But anyway, our best market is Latin America.
KM: Latin America!
YH: Latin America.
Any particular country?
YH: Uh no, that’s the weird part, there’s no particular country. We’ve done loads of countries there and all of the countries there are masses of people coming to our shows, and I don’t have any explanation for that. Maybe because there’s not a lot of international bands coming to these countries.
ID: We played in Costa Rica a couple of months ago, and we’re like, the end of 2009, the 2nd metal band that year, so they only had Amon Amarth which…they were there in May or something, and we were there in December, so those people only have two metal shows. Where I come from, you have two metal shows every day.
YH: And it was freaking hot there in Costa Rica. I think I saw at least 10 people faint from the heat.
ID: And also these people…our sound engineer, he couldn’t adapt the sound in the 1st couple of songs cuz the people were screaming louder than the PA. He couldn’t really hear our music anymore, he didn’t know how to adapt, cuz he heard more of the people…
He couldn’t push up the volume any more?
ID: He was just like, “I’ll just leave it like this. We did a sound check, hopefully it’s good enough.” And then after a couple shows they kinda cooled down, but not really.
YH: Yeah the Latin spirit, like right here after the show, we can go in the venue and people will say “yeah great show! Can I have your autograph maybe a picture?” but in Latin America they are so expressive, they tear your clothes off and go AAAH!
You’re like the Beatles of Latin America?
YH: It’s just the way they express their feelings, it’s like exponential to the American way or European way.
The Americans and Europeans being much more reserved?
YH: Yes! Much more. When Latin American people are happy, they really express their happiness, but when they get angry, then…that’s the flip side of the coin, or how do you say that?
That’s right. Do they get riled up during shows, more so than Americans or Europeans?
YH: One time, we had to cancel a Latin America tour. The reactions were really sour from the Latin Americans – “ugh, you’re racist and you don’t wanna come,” stuff like that and whatever. Its just Latin American people are very expressive.
ID: After this tour, we’re doing a region of Brazil, and um, there was this one show that got moved to another city, so there’s lots of reactions. People like “why the hell did you move that?” but it’s the promoter whose doing that, not us. But they are all over our guest book and forums like, asking “what the hell?”
[to YH] You’re educated as a sound engineer, at SAE, right? Do you use that at all when you’re doing stuff with Epica?
YH: I mainly use that in my studio at home. I record my bass totally at home, for the albums, and well it’s good a good basis to know what you’re doing, and how you do it, but for the rest I don’t really…I’m so much on tour with Epica, I don’t have time to be a front-of-house, or live sound engineer on my own. Also, I cannot have a regular job in a studio because of that, it’s the price to pay. But anyways, it was worth…
Does it help you out in the studio, when you’re doing the mixdown…do you mixdown with Sacha Paeth your producer, and the whole band will be there?
YH: No no no, it’s just him doing the stuff, and he sends his results to us. I don’t think mixers like people to be there, and looking at their fingers.
ID: And if you’re the band, if you record everything, you should leave it for a while, while Sacha is mixing everything. Try to forget about it, and then you get the result, and you have fresh ears again. Works better.
Now that you’re starting to sell out shows in America, do you feel that you’ve broken the American market open, or do you feel you have some ways to go?
YH: I don’t really know the American market yet, because in the big cities, we’re not doing that bad, but in between the big cities, the turnout is a little bit less and it’s hard to put your finger…or how do you say? We’re still improving, but according to my feeling we still have a lot of work in the USA. But we’re steadily going up.
Do you think DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE, which from what I understand has been your best reviewed, most praised work, will help you do that?
YH: Yeah, definitely, I hope so!
Well you’ve got a sold-out show here, that’s progress right?
ID: I think also in the US, its necessary to show your face once in a while. You can make like, the best album ever but if you don’t show up, and if you don’t tour here, then I don’t really think you can break the market open or anything. So now it’s the fourth time in the US, and it’s a natural thing if you keep coming back and just try to make the best possible albums, people will notice you in the end.
YH: Yeah and also, good backing from…good promotion from the record companies is very important. You can tour all you want in the USA if nobody promotes you, you’re not gonna have any visitors on your concerts. But Nuclear Blast….they’re more powerful in Europe, but I think they’re really doing their best in the US too.
Let’s talk about the new album. Maybe not so new now, since it came out in October. But after listening to it, I think you guys are at a huge new creative peak. It really knocked my socks off, and I have a review coming out for it, and it’s a good one! We actually didn’t have one on our site, and I was surprised cuz it came out in October and I was like” hey, we don’t have a review for the new Epica album, what gives? Better do this!” But I feel that you guys are now in a place to where you are now setting the trend for other people to follow. Do you agree with that?
YH: It’s hard to say! We just do our thing, and the new album has some evolution compared to the previous album THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY, in a way that we have a new guy, and he has a new way of approaching the guitar arrangements that gives the Epica sound quite a fresh touch. He also likes to play solos more than the previous guitar player.
ID: I had to! [laughs] C’mon, play solos! Why? Just do it!
You had 8 songwriting credits on the new album, or something?
ID: The basic structures, or maybe more than the basic structures, like song were already written when I came to the band, but I spent like 3 months rearranging the guitar parts for the new album. Or like, the songs were ready but then I went through all the guitar parts and just made my own riffs out of it, something like that. Not on every song.
Yves (left), Isaac (right)
I’m not sure if it’s possible to describe this very well, but what do you think is your special spin on Epica’s music?
ID: Well I think I’m more…technical is maybe not the right word, but I like these…thrash metal things.
Like “Martyr of the Free Word”, that’s got a really thrashy riff.
ID: That’s also written partially by the drummer, whose also likes heavy stuff as well. But I think compared to the previous guitar player, I’m just a little more…you could call it adventurous. He would be more doing really rhythm stuff, whereas I’m more trying to be adventurous on the guitar.
I notice the riffs on THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY have less melody to them, they’re more about rhythm, locking in with double bass, and you still do that on DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE. But you have a lot more progression in how you move the song.
ID: Yeah, very staccato, but I didn’t come into the band to change the sound, so I also had to kinda keep the Epica thing going, which is not hard cuz I like the music, but I got the freedom to do whatever I wanted on some songs, and I just took that freedom.
There you go! This is a question that’s really been on my mind – why do you guys use Latin in your choral works a lot, cuz you’ll switch back and forth between English and Latin…
YH: It just sounds more…it just sounds better than if you just did it in English or whatever. It makes it more….genuine, because the Latin choir, imagine “O Fortuna” being sung in English. It’s not that cool!
ID: And I think also for the fans, it’s cool to figure out what it is.
YH: Then the go on the Internet and look up…
ID: …have to search…
YH: …and go “whoa what does it mean?”
Do you provide translations?
YH: No, they have to…that’s the whole thing. It’s kind of an Easter egg.
Simone and Mark usually write the lyrics, so do they go ”Ok I want this part in Latin,” and they give it to the Latin translator?
Ok that’s clever! Who does most of the orchestral arranging, for all the background orchestra?
YH: Well the composer of the song does the basic orchestration. And then after we’ve done what we could with it, then we give it to a specialist at The Gates Studio that’s called Miro, and he really knows how to work with orchestral samples, and he’s a really good arranger, so those two combined make him the perfect partner for us. He like, brings our basic orchestral arrangements to the next level, like he adds some subtle things and changes here and there, some stuff. He adapts our orchestral arrangements to the final vocal recordings, cuz when we compose a song there’s no vocal arrangement at the end. He incorporates the vocal lines that Simone sings into his orchestral arrangements.
Last question, then I’ll let you go; what is next for you guys?
YH: After this tour, we’re going to do the south part of Latin America, we’ve already done the North.
ID: We also have a couple European dates in between the two tours, and then Summer festivals, European summer festivals, and then September and October should be…or a new US tour, or European headlining tour, if everything goes well. And after that, we’ll have to come up with new songs I guess? [laughs]
I was gonna say, do you guys get a break at some point?
ID: No! [laughs]
Has the next album even entered into anyone’s mind yet?
ID: I’ve already come up with a couple things ya know, not really sharing it with anyone yet in the band, cuz its still like uh…not to be shared!
Still a work in progress?
ID: Yeah, you have it in your mind and just thinking about…couple of riffs, or song, and Mark is doing the same, I’ve heard maybe, I dunno, a few already.
YH: Yeah I have half an old one ready! [laughs]
ID: For your side project! So 2011 should be a work in progress.
YH: 2010 is touring touring touring, and in between we write the songs, and then 2011 we’re gonna probably record the next album.
Alright, I will hold you to that, cuz I wanna hear it ![laughs]
ID: Yeah me too! [laughs]
Aright guys, that’s all I have for you, thanks for your time.