Power of Metal.dk Interview

Interview with Mark Jansen and Coen Janssen - Epica, May 2014


Before I start to ask questions about the new album, could you please tell our readers the story behind the track “Forevermore”? 

Mark: Yes, we got approached by a Dutch tv program called "Niks the gek" which means something like, everything is possible. In that program handicapped people with an unique wish can let it come true. Ruurd Woltring's wish was to record a song with Epica. Not just a song but an own song. He did send us some tracks and we picked Forevermore as it did fit well to Epica's style. We adapted it a bit but not too much so it's still clearly recognizable as his track. He's a very good songwriter so it was an easy job for us to make something special out of it. 

Being a single dad and having two kids of my own, I know how difficult it is to raise them and plan all things with work and so on.  Some members in the band have kids also, how do they combine touring and looking after them?

Coen: Fortunately I am not a single dad and I have my parents and in-laws living close by so if I am on tour and my wife needs to work, the grandparents can spend some time with their grand-children which they of course love to do! It is very hard to leave your family behind for a month and my daughter is reaching the age that she really understands that daddy will be gone for a long time so that makes it even harder. However, it is my job and I also have to pay the bills so it is a necessary evil so to speak. Luckily it is the best job in the world which makes it a little easier to do.

Some ‘big’ bands take their whole family and kids with them on tour, something you would do if possible?

Coen: If it would be possible I would do it of course but that would mean you have to have a private bus and a lot of money to keep the whole circus going… Let's hope we reach that level one day, but maybe not too soon because having babies on tour is not really good for the baby I think.

I wonder if it is possible for the members of a band like Epica to live from the earnings of the band, or do you all still need other jobs to get your daily bread?

Mark: We are in the fortunate position that we can make a living from the band. Of course we worked very hard for it and I think we deserve it but still you need also to have some luck in achieving this goal. We realize ourselves every day that we can be thankful to our fans to be able to live our dreams.

Was it difficult for the band to get again into writing mode for the new album after touring and the ‘Retrospect’ release.

Mark: Not at all, we were actually in a flow and because of some new ways of working everybody was very motivated and full of energy.

How long did it take you to create your new album ‘The Quantum Enigma’?

Mark: We have started to write the album about 2.5 years ago, right after the recordings of Requiem for the Indifferent took place. We collected the songs each of us wrote 1.5 years later and started to work on each others tracks in small groups of people. After that we rehearsed the songs as a band followed by experimenting with different sounds, drum kits, amps etc. When all of this was done we started recording the actual album.

This time you chose to work again together in the studio to record the songs instead of working at home and sending each other some files. Why?

Mark: Internet has given us many possibilities and advantages but a big disadvantage is that you start missing something. This 'something' is a sort of vibe you can only get when you work with the whole band on songs. We really started missing it and wanted it back. That's why we decided to combine the advantages of the internet with the advantages of working together in one rehearsal room.

How does Epica get ideas for a song, does it start with a riff, a keyboard line or an acoustic guitar part?

Mark: All is possible, there's no formula. We just let it happen, it can even start with a melody which a bird is singing outside. Inspiration comes at the weirdest moments and can find their way in all instruments.

Who is responsible for the biggest part of the song-writing and did new member Rob van der Loo already have some influence on that?

Mark: In the past I wrote the biggest part of all songs but on the last album more than ever before other people were contributing as well. I am a very open minded guy, I don't need to write the most just to write the most. Whoever can contribute is more than welcome to do so. I think that in this way you get even more variety and even more strong songs. So in the end I believe this is the best way of working. 

How do you decide when a song is finished and that there is nothing you can change to make it better?

Mark: When it feels right. Over the years you gain a lot of experience and you know how to follow your intuition. When a song feels finished, it is finished. When I was younger I sometimes used to keep on working as I thought it might could get better but you can also destroy a song like this. While working with more people on a song you reach sooner or later also the point that everyone agrees that we got the best possible result.

What is in your opinion the biggest difference between the new album and the predecessor ‘Requiem for the Indifferent’?

Mark: these are two: 1. the way of working, more intense, more as a team and more into detail. 2. the sound, the sound has changed, guitars, drums and bass sound more heavy and the mix is in balance.

There are some beautiful choir parts and they sound even better than on earlier albums, who are they, a professional choir?

Coen: We used a different choir than on our previous albums since we were recording somewhere else. This choir is a professional choir from Amsterdam with whom Joost had worked before. They did an absolutely amazing job since we had to record all the parts in only two days. They also had a conductor, which I normally did, and that made it a lot easier for me. I could concentrate on the music and it was easier to make the choir sing the way I wanted.  

Simone has been a very good singer from start, but she still improves her singing. How does she keep her vocals in shape during a long tour?

Mark: By going to bed early and wearing a scarf, eating healthy and not forcing the voice in smoky environments.  

This time you decided not to work with Sascha Paeth as a producer, but with Joost van den Broek. Why?.... and how does this album sound different from the earlier albums because of that?

Mark: yes that's the reason why it sounds different. So you can clearly hear what a big difference a producer/mixer can make. Of course there's also our own taste and view but we discuss that together with our producer in order to get the sound in shape. More than before we spend much time on the sound of the various instruments. 

How important is still the artwork for a new CD or is it because of I-tunes and so even more important if you want to sell some real hardcopies?

Mark: I strongly believe that an album cover can almost make or break an album. A good album with a horrible cover isn't attractive while a bad album with an amazing cover still attracts the attention but then people will be disappointed. Only quality music in combination with a great cover is a winning formula. Even now in the I-tunes times a great cover is

Jacob Hansen is responsible for the final mixing, is that something you separate on purpose from the production, because a lot of albums are produced and mixed by the same person.

Mark: Yes on purpose as he was able to listen with fresh ears as he stepped in after the recordings were done.  Is there a certain subject or theme in the lyrics of the songs, or are they all just separate stories?

Mark: The Quantum Enigma means that in quantum physics we can't observe little particles without influencing them. It's been proven in a very famous experiment called the dual slit experiment.  As we are all made out of an infinite amount of particles what does all of this mean for the world as we know it? Is the world still there when we're not watching? Or is it a holographic projection coming from ourselves in a way? What is real and what is an illusion? The "solid" matter as we know it isn't that solid after all. It's all energy which is spinning and turning in a way that it gives us the illusion of being solid. The Quantum Enigma is pointing out such questions which are dealing about, thoughts, dreams, illusions of the mind. Every song is linked in a way to this anchor concept.

Touring a lot, you probably see some members more often than your loved ones. I can imagine that there will be irritations with other members at times. How do you solve that, is there someone in the band that is the perfect mediator?

Mark: I every band you have to deal with different personalities, you need to find a good balance between the persons. Of course sometimes you can get annoyed by one another but we agreed that we always tell each other when something annoys us. That's the only way to make things work. If you keep it for yourself it can build up until you explode, that's never good. We are still around after 12 years so that means that we have found a good way to make it work for ourselves.

If someone would have told you back in 2002 that you would be playing on the same stage as The Rolling Stones with Epica, what would your reaction have been? 

Mark: I would place a bet and put money on it that it would not happen. Not that I would not have believed it would be possible (as I always thought there would be a lot possible with Epica) but I would have never imagined the Rolling Stones still being around after so many years haha.

Are there touring plans besides your appearance on Pinkpop in 2014?

Mark: Yes we'll play many more summer tests and after the summer we'll tour the USA, South America and Europe.

Anything else you want to say to the (Danish) readers?

Mark: I know we have never played yet in Denmark and I truly hope it will happen soon. If it's up to us awe will but so far (for some reason) most Danish promoters don't believe in Epica yet. Let's make this happen with all of your support!

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. 

Mark: Thank you too!!!

Epica - The Quantum Enigma

Label: Nuclear Blast

Link: www.epica.nl



Simone Simons - Vocals
Mark Jansen - Guitars & vocals
Coen Janssen - Synths & piano
Isaac Delahaye - Guitars
Arien Weesenbeek - Drums
Rob van der Loo - Bass

The Quantum Enigma (2014)
Requiem for the Indifferent (2012)
Design Your Universe (2009)
The Divine Conspiracy (2007)
Consign to Obllivion (2005)
The Phantom Agony (2003)


Interviewed by Reinier de Vries