Epica – Interview with Isaac Delahaye
@ O2 Forum Kentish Town
15th April 2018
Interview by Thomas James Henry Saunders
Photography by Inty Malcolm
With tonight’s show coming up very shortly this evening for the anticipated Epica, I’m able to have a chat with lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye, who’s been a prominent member of Epica since 2009, seven years into Epica’s career and has helped add a real heaviness to their sound in the nine years since his addition.
After being led through the labyrinthine passageways of The Forum, we’re led into a small, unoccupied dressing room in which we find the smiling Isaac sat awaiting us.
Tonight, I believe, will be your 999th appearance…
Isaac; That’s what they say, yeah.
How does it feel to have known you’ve played so many concerts over the years?
Isaac; Well, I don’t know, It’s what we do, I don’t know if it’s a lot or not a lot. I have no idea, apparently, it’s quite a lot of shows. If you think about it, Epica has been around for 15 years, so that’s not even 100 per year so, I would think that it’s not a lot but it actually is, so it’s definitely something to be proud of and Is certainly a milestone for the band.
Tomorrow will be your 1000th show, in Tilburg, which looks to be an all big all-day event, do you have special surprises or plans in store for that one?
Isaac; Yeah, well we’ve done Epic Metal Fest a couple of times, and for this, we didn’t really want to name it like that, but it’s Epic Metal Fest ‘presents’, because this time around, it should be about our thousandth show, and not about the festival, but it is kind of a small festival of its own.
But the show it’s itself in Holland will be the last show we’re going to do in a venue there for the Holographic Principle album run, so in that way it’s going to be special already, and we’re going to have a lot of special visuals for the show, pyro and all that, so yeah it should be fun.
I’ll certainly be interested to see the coverage of that show then.
How do you feel the reception has been of your most recent album, The Holographic Principle?
Isaac; Well, good yeah, we’ve been touring for that album for almost, two years now, maybe one and a half, and it’s been going great.
It kinda feels like old news because we’ve now released the Solace System (EP), which is obviously part of the whole Holographic Principle album cycle. But I’m still really proud of the album, as there were no samples used and was recorded live with real instruments which was a first, as usually, that would way too expensive but somehow we managed to do it. Which is quite an achievement for a symphonic metal band, and it’s like the best thing you can do, right? Also, how we wrote the album, we had way too many songs and could eventually release The Solace System (EP) as an additional disc to The Holographic Principle, so yeah, I’ve been really happy with how it’s all turned out.
It’s been noted by many of your fans, as well as reviewers, that this album has seen a shift into more of a heavier sound, being a faster, more ‘epic’ sounding album, would you agree?
Isaac; I don’t know why, but most bands tend to go softer when they get older, but for some reason, with Epica it’s the other way round, we seem to have gotten a little harder with every album, I’m not sure if that’s going to stay like that or how it’s going to evolve.
Maybe that’s your rhythm, to continue going that way?
Isaac; yeah, it’s just like looking at how far we can take it within the boundaries of what we’re doing I guess, and the way I look at it. In the past, in the beginning, if I look back, I see that Epica was a symphonic band backed up by a metal band, whereas now it’s metal band backed up but an orchestra or a symphonic surrounding and so I’d say the ingredients of Epica are still exactly the same but we just look at it the opposite way. That way we can keep it refreshing, for ourselves, although I’m not sure if that’s going to stay like that. At some point it’s going to start turning around again because otherwise you end up doing the same thing twice and that’s not what we really want.
Going back to your earlier works, many have believed your best song to be Consign To Oblivion from 2005.
Isaac; It’s a great song, yeah.
Do you feel like that song is the pinnacle of Epica’s sound, or do you feel that’s been peaked since?
Isaac; Well, it’s hard to say, If I look at myself, like looking back at the bands I grew up with and the albums that influenced me, it’s the same thing.
Once you discover a band, let’s say Pantera for instance, just to name one, after Vulgar Display (Of Power) there is nothing that can top it, that’s the first one I heard because even when I heard Cowboys from Hell years after that, it was obviously great, but it wasn’t my discovery of the band. With the first album, The Phantom Agony, for a lot of people that’s ‘the’ album, but then again if people just started listening to us with The Quantum Enigma or The Holographic Principle then for some people that’s ‘the’ album.
It’s a case then that it all depends on where people discover you, that dictates their ‘favourite’ album?
Isaac; Definitely, and that’s how I explain it as that’s how it was for me, growing up listening to bands for the first time, with certain albums at the time, therefore to that fans mind, it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.
As for favourite songs, are there any tracks that you look forward to playing live, or one that you really love to get to play live each time?
Isaac; There’s a couple, hmm, let’s say Consign (To Oblivion) is a really cool one, Beyond The Matrix, Universal Death Squad, Fools Of Damnation, Chasing The Dragon, There’s a lot of cool things you know. But just like I’m more of an album person, rather than a band person, like “I like this band and whatever they do is great”, I’m more likely to say “I really like this album of that band” it’s the same with a show, I’ll like the show, or I didn’t like the show. I don’t see it as that I play these songs so it’s going to be great, it’ll be more like if the atmosphere was cool, so it could be any song. Sometimes the song I really like ends up being the shitty song of the night because I fucked up this or that, so it’s hard to say.
Although those I just named, are really cool to play as a guitarist. Some songs are really exciting, but they’re just not really cool to play on guitar because it might be more of a symphonic piece of music, like Never Enough for instance, it’s so easy on guitar that there’s not much to it, or like Storm The Sorrow or Unleashed, I wouldn’t say they’re boring to play, but they’re, fairly easy and therefore it’s kind of, like “oh I don’t have to think about it, whatever” I could easily say they’re boring songs to play, but they’re still cool songs.
Do you feel that that the themes, along with the lyrics have evolved, aside from becoming heavier?
Isaac; Lyrically I think, these days, especially with the latest two albums, is more about the whole weirdness of quantum physics and all that, we’re so close to maybe new discoveries on all kinds of levels within quantum physics. Whereas the world as we know it seems to be, making no sense at all if you look at it, especially with everything that’s been discovered. But then again, for centuries we’ve been assuming that “this is it” you know, so I’m really curious about what will happen in the future and what will be discovered.
I’ll admit that it’s rather unusual for a metal band, any band really, to cover lyrics that concern themselves with scientific discoveries & quantum mechanics, not many would try to go into such things yet yourselves are very much prolific in such areas.
Isaac; Well it is an interesting matter right, and I mean it’s more Simone and Mark doing all the lyrics and Simone is lyrically, more on a personal level, while Mark is more all about the scientific, and politically motivated lyrics. Earlier for us, it was more about religion and politics, but now that’s shifted to science and just because it’s really interesting, like look at the “Double Slits Experiment” or quantum physics in general, about how this could change the whole view on everything we think is true.
Speaking of your scope as a band, you’ve mentioned in the past about your ability to connect to such a wide range of audiences, from a 7 to 70 year old. How do you feel you’re able to bridge so many age groups, as well as different types of metal fans?
Isaac; I used to play in a death metal band, and it was only mostly guys with patches everywhere and all that, so that was different when I joined Epica already ten years or so ago. I already saw that it was a different kind of audience, and these days, I sometimes see whole families come down to the show, like three generations.
I’m sure that like tomorrow for the thousandth show in Holland, which is sold out at three thousand people or something, I already know which families will be there because they always come out to the shows and it’s always great to see them so you get to see the kid with the dad or the whole family. It’s always great to see the different ages of fans and generations of them when they come out to the show.
Also, out in the US, we have quite a lot of older people who come out to the shows for some reason and that’s always cool to see, and they all say “oh I’m your oldest fan” and I’m always like well that’s what the guy said yesterday which is really fun.
Before coming here to the UK this year, you’ve been on a massive world tour covering much of South America, Especially around Brazil, Chile, Argentina etc. How has the reception to your music been and how have the crowds been there?
Isaac; very cool, well they have like a southern vibe so obviously they show it a lot and they appreciate what we’re doing, a lot more than over here, although not like in a bad way.
Like I’m the same if I go to a show I won’t be shouting and crowd-surfing and whatnot, I’m just at the back like watching the show and having a good time in my own way. But in South America, they really show the passion and you get a lot of energy from the crowd there.
Likewise, how’s it been this past week here in the UK and Ireland?
Isaac; Yeah it’s been good, well it’s always good and actually Ireland has been a first for Epica, I’ve been there before with the death metal band that I was talking about earlier, but yeah it was a very warm welcome, really crowded venue. In the UK it’s always cool, the fans are always very friendly and they’re supportive, so yeah nothing to complain about.
Glad to hear you’ve been having a good time of it here.
How’s it been, touring with Myrkur for the first time?
Isaac; It’s been interesting, it’s not the typical package you would expect with a symphonic metal band. Also with Oceans Of Slumber, the first band which are more a doom metal band. With all three bands being female fronted, with her (Cammie Gilbert’s) voice it’s very soulful and it’s a great combination, and that they have a lot of influences but the bottom line is that’s they’re kind of doomy, then with Myrkur it’s more a black metal-ish atmospheric kinda thing, I hate to put a stamp on a band, but then we’re like the more symphonic band.
I think that we’ve done a lot of tours in the past where you would have a more similar line-up, like the same type of bands touring. We have been around quite a while so we’ve done all that so it’s really cool that the last couple of years we’ve been able to just really open it up, make combinations that fans will be excited by and will discover new bands through. I think that’s more interesting than seeing three bands you already know, although for some maybe it makes sense. For me, of how I like to see a band I like it if they bring bands along that I’ve never heard of that you can be surprised by.
After the finale of this world tour, do you have any immediate plans to head back into the studio again or is that not something you’re currently thinking of doing?
Isaac; Well, we’re always thinking of that but before any of that, first we have the festival season so basically up until the end of August we’ll be doing quite a lot of festivals in Europe, one in Mexico as well. So that’s the near future for us, and then after that, from September on, we’ll take a little break after the whole The Holographic Principle frenzy and then start writing new stuff and thinking of going to the studio.
As a final question, I’d really like to know a little bit about, how it is, to organize, put together and headline your own festival, as I imagine that must feel quite special being able to do?
Isaac; Well it all started after we did Retrospect, ten years of Epica was a big show, it being only Epica but with an orchestra, that’s when we realised that okay, maybe we can do that again, but just invite the bands we’ve toured with or people we know in the scene so that’s basically what we started to do. Retrospect was also like a big question mark, like are we able to pull this off? Which, thankfully it worked out perfectly and after that, we were confident enough to put together our own festival and it’s been working.
We also got to take that to Brazil, which was cool for the first time because they’re not used to having many metal festivals out there, apart from Rock In Rio really.
Especially the more European focused metal festival I imagine
Isaac; Yeah exactly, I mean we were lucky enough to have been able to bring a lot of European bands and had our own Epic Metal Fest there in Brazil. Then again the show tomorrow is kind of Epic Metal Fest but we just didn’t really call it that way. But obviously it’s been so cool, and as a band, I’d say it’s the best thing you can do.
It’s been pretty challenging like “Oh I’d love to tour with this bands or these guys” but it’s always a puzzle because either they’re on tour, they’re recording a new album, they’re just not available, or many other things so it’s a big puzzle which has to fall into place but it’s always nice when it’s finally happening, people are coming out and having good times. And you get to see the bands you haven’t seen in, years sometimes, and get to hang out with them again which is always great.
That’s it, thank you very much for your time, I look forward to tonight’s show.
Isaac; Thank you as well for having me here, and enjoy the show tonight!