Interview by Victoria Fenbane
Simone Simons: vocals
Mark Jansen: guitars & vocals
Coen Janssen: synths & piano
Isaac Delahaye: Guitars
Arien van Weesenbeek: Drums
Rob von der Loo: Bass
Victoria Fenbane caught up with Epica front woman Simone Simons and guitarist and mastermind Mark Jansen, in London to find out more about their upcoming sixth full length studio album ‘The Quantum Enigma’ (released on 2nd May 2014). They reveal how the new album came to get its modern yet still distinctly ‘Epica’ sound, Simone explained the effect being a new mother has on touring and recording and they also hint at which summer festivals they are most looking forward.
The new album is quite a step up for Epica. What did you learn about yourselves as musicians during the development of ‘The Quantum Enigma’?
Mark: thank you! That’s a great start. There’s so many thing we did different this time. After ‘Restrospect’ we sat together and we thought with Retrospect we looked back on the last ten years, now it’s time to look for the upcoming ten years. What can we do to improve and to still refresh ourselves? First of all we decided to sit together again and work on the songs that we have written in the earlier stage with all of us, and this gave us an opportunity to really go into the detail. Second of all we worked with a new producer [Joost van den Broek] which made it possible to have a different way of working, so you have to get out of your comfort zone, because when you work all the time with the same guy you can get..
Simone: …in a rut
Mark: Yes, and this new producer really was waking us up and got some new things out of us which we maybe were not aware of yet. The third thing is that we also worked with a new mixer, who has a slightly different approach, which puts the emphasis a little bit more on the guitars and drums, so it’s differently balanced, so these three things together mean that we sound fresh again. Without losing the typical Epica elements. We really wanted to make sure that they were also still there.
Simone: In my case it was just the new situation I was in. Entering the studio two months after giving birth, being quite fatigued, it was a challenge being tired and being in this new state of mind. I put that to good use and kind of got strength out of the whole thing and I feel emotionally and physically a richer person than I did before and I put that in my vocals for the record.
And you little boy was with you in the studio?
Simone: Yes, for the first recordings he was there also. He got the first listen of the vocal recordings for this record
What influences drove the new sound?
Mark: I don’t really think a specific influence but we wanted a slightly more modern sound without losing the essence like I said but also some albums are really mastered to the limit, over the top mastering, which we didn’t want, so it should sound a bit more heavy but not too much. We wanted to make that step and also we were very aware and made sure the sound was in balance, so the there was not really an example
Simone: No we kept the dynamics which is very important in Epica that the balance between orchestra and metal sound
This album has many different elements, two vocal styles and orchestra and a choir, were there any complications while recording due to the need to combine all these parts?
Mark: We have many complications, it’s in fact impossible to mix all that material. But you have to! So you make decisions along the way some times you go a bit more for this sometimes a bit more for the melody and that’s why you are constantly fighting to see what’s more important and what’s the balance on the album so it’s difficult.
Simone: It was Jacob’s [Hansen] job is to make a good sound, make a good balance he was the right guy for the job of the newer Epica. For the next ten years, he set the new sound for Epica and so far we’ve only got raving reviews so we are very happy that we took that step, took that risk, mean it could have also gone in a direction maybe where we would not have been happy but we’re completely satisfied.
Mark: Oh yes we have a whole schedule and at a certain moment there comes the moment that you are almost at the deadline and that’s always a er…shitty moment! Because the pressure rises and you can do two things; you may get to the deadline which is a lot of extra effort, or you go over the deadline and everything has to be rescheduled. So we did everything possible to make it in time and we managed with everybody working.
Simone: The first time actually in Epica history that we didn’t pass the deadline thank to Joost who has the best time management of everybody.
Mark: Yeah he did a really good job.
Which songs from ‘The Quantum Enigma’ are you most looking forward to performing live?
Simone: ‘Victims of Contingency’, ‘Unchain Utopia’…….another good one is ‘Natural Corruption’, ‘The Quantum Enigma’….I think all of them have great live potential, so I am looking forward to the CD presentation where we are going to perform all songs live, but when we do normal club shows we’re gonna to take a selection, because we’ve got six albums and we like to play from each record some songs.
Mark: For me I look forward to playing ‘Omen’ and ‘Natural Corruption’. There’s so many songs that I think have a great live potential. We will find out when we actually start playing them but I really have the feeling that this time there will be many songs on the album which are really good live songs.
You’re both really excited about the new album!
Simone: Yes, even after all the interviews [this was the last interview of two days of press] so it’s great
Mark: Also I noticed the difference with ‘Requiem for the Indifferent’, we were happy of course with that album too, but now I feel everybody is more happy in a way.
Simone: Also we had a little bit of a break from touring, ten years of non-stop touring. We took time to write the record, record the record and we had time to regain our batteries you know, it’s good to have a little bit of distance to it all.
Simone: I think it’s going to be Epica as people know us, great energy, great lighting show, good live sound but it’s interaction with people and energy which is in the room. We won’t put up a big circus or anything, that’s not what Epica is anyway.
Mark: The biggest difference is that we changed our sound guy for the coming tour. We have now a sound guy who fits better to the new sound and so that is what we have worked on. The show itself we are working on now and of course we also want to bring that to the next level. I
All your live dates announced so far are for festivals. Are there any you are particularly looking forward to?
Simone: Pinkpop [Landgraaf, Netherlands] is where I used to live and everybody knows Pinkpop. My family and friends are all stoked to find out we play together with Rolling Stones
Mark: And Metallica!
Simone: It’s the third time we’re going to play Pinkpop, it is a very prestigious festival in Holland, it has a big name. Pukkelpop in Belguim is also a really good festival, we have many good events coming
Mark: Also that festival in Montreal [Heavy Montréal]. I look forward to a great line-up: Slayer, Metallica… I was joking on Facebook that it’s just like being on tour with Metallica at the beginning of the year because these festivals are close to each other!
Do you have plans to do any club shows?
Simone: We’re working on those. We’ll have to not go on tour for three months straight otherwise my son will be like ‘Who are you? But we have more Epica babies, so we are still going to tour but gonna make sure the tours are not too long and that we have breaks in-between,
So no taking them on tour?
Simone: No diapers on tour!
Mark: Even though I have no kids I am also happy with some breaks.
Simone: Yeah we’ve got family and friends, in the past we toured, toured, toured, now we know that if we do smaller tours or single shows we do better quality shows. Those years where we played each corner each, each basement and stuff, we are becoming more selective now.
Mark: In the beginning we had to but now we’re in the position that we can make these choices ourselves.
What keeps you motivated?
Mark: I think it’s easy to stay motivated as long as the band is rising and still after all these years the band is still rising. I think when the band is going like this [motions downwards] it’s harder because you think ‘what did we do we do wrong?’. But so now it’s easy but if that every happens that we go like this, we will have to see how we keep the motivation up.
Simone: It’s the new record also, gives us energy, we have a new band member Rob [van der Loo, bass], not that new anymore but he’s the latest addition to the band and he’s a great guy. We’re a good team together and everyone is looking forward to getting Epica volume two on the road.
Have a good journey home and I hope to see your live show very soon.