For the 7th time the Dutch gothic metal band Epica played at Graspop. On June 19 they played at the mainstage of Graspop 2015 in front of approximately 50.000 metal fans. Anton was there the whole weekend to interview some bands and also talked with Coen Janssen (synth, piano) from Epica. He asked him about the Epic Metal Fest, recording The Quantum Enigma, the upcoming album and the near future.
Congratulations with your very own festival “Epic Metal Fest”. Where did that idea came from?
Thanks! After our performance “Retrospect” in 2013 at Klokgebouw Eindhoven, we wanted to do something new. To play again with an orchestra was not a good idea, so soon came the idea to bring bands there that we really like and we met on the road.
Like Fear Factory?
Yes, that’s a nice anecdote. During our third album we recorded a cover of Fear Factory’s song ‘Replica’. Because in the early Epica years, many people called us ‘REplica’. “Nice and easy, yet another gothic band…” In response, we recorded the song Replica from Fear Factory. Then a few years later during our US tour, we played at the ‘Whiskey A Go Go’ in Los Angeles. Our guitar tech knew Dino Cazares (guitar) from Fear Factory and he lived in California. So we said that we would like to play Repilca live as Dino joins us and he did. That was very cool. Now Fear Factory will also play at the Epic Fest. They will play the whole album ‘Demanufacture’, because of the 20 anniversary of the album.
And will the festival take place every year? Or does it depend on the success?
We hope so. If it works and we like it, then we’ll do it again next year. The festival will be Epica + Friends and we have a lot more friends than the bands that come this year. Think of Dragonforce, Symphony X, Sonata Artica, Metallica … Haha. So we have yet to fill many festivals, provided that the bands are of course available.
Your sixth album ‘The Quantum Enigma’ was released in 2014. Can you give a description of how the writing and recording process looked like? And how long did it take?
The recording process for ‘The Quantum Enigma’ lasted one year. We went along with the producer and all the ideas in the rehearsal room and recorded things straight semi-professional. This resulted in numbers that perform live much better and are better received by the audience. On the previous album ‘Requiem for the Indifferent’, there were much more difficult numbers and that were not really songs to play live. Now we jammed much more in the studio, so the songs are already quite developed in detail. We played the songs on ‘The Quantum Enigma’ in the studio very often and months in advance, before we played them live. This results in strong live songs.
Where did the inspiration for the lyrics come from?
Marc writes most of the lyrics for Epica. He writes from a social philosophical perspective, because he is very busy with psychology. Topics about what religion means in contemporary society. It all sounds very heavy, but it’s more about the problems of refugees and wars between different religions. What are we doing for God’s sake! Look, we have an easy live because we have money in the West part of the world, but in Africa and other parts of the world they kill each other because Pete believes something else than Johnny. This are themes where the songs are mostly about. The album ‘The Quantum Enigma’ is mainly about science, the quantum mechanics. If you do a certain test and you’re looking at it, the outcome is different than when you do the sample and you do not look at it. If atom A and B collides, C comes out, but if you do not look atom Z comes out. So when you look at something you see things that you want to see, and if you do not look at it, you see something you do not want to see. What is reality? You think you see it, but you do not know. And you’ll never get to know. This offers a lot of perspective and something like time traveling is perhaps not so far away. All this brain fooling is what the album ‘The Quantum Enigma’ is all about.
And the inspiration of the music? Are you influenced by certain bands or genre? Or is that different for each album?
The strength of the band is that each band member gets his inspiration from other sources. For our next album, I now listen to Junkie XL for example. Even in modern film music I get a lot of inspiration. Or sometimes you can hear a melody in a movie and you think: can we make a song out of that? Isaac (guitar) is listening more to other bands and creates new songs based on little pieces of music. Marc also gets his inspiration from everywhere. So everyone has a different source of inspiration and that comes together in the rehearsal room.
Do you have the idea that this album reached a new generation of fans?
Yes, especially live. Many new songs are written to play live and recent tours have certainly proved it. Especially on the big festivals like Graspop, FortaRock and Nova Rock, the audience was quite loose in the pit. They are expecting ‘chicks metal’ with a female singer and yet it turns out to be very hard and heavy. That’s a weakness and a strength. When they see our record, they expect soft gothic metal, but once they hear the music it turns out to be very hard metal. So, we are more metal than the most people think. We are often compared to bands like Within Temptation, but we always wanted to create innovative metal with grunge, blast beats and things like that.
How is the album received by the press and the fans, compared to the previous albums?
The previous album ‘Requiem for the Indifferent’ was a difficult album and was received a little less positive then our newest album’ The Quantum Enigma’. The reason for this is, that for the last album we were more jamming in the studio. The songs are written with the six of us in a room, what makes it live also work much better. And you can hear it on the album, making it much better received by the press.
Facebook fan question: Are you already working on new material? When? And is there something to tell about a concept or theme?
We already have spend some time working on the next album and for that we are now writing new songs. In autumn 2016 the new album will be released. A concept or theme is there not yet. We are now writing the music and the concept and theme basically always comes out at the end.
Facebook fan question: You made during a show in Paradiso, Amsterdam video recordings. It was said that there would be a DVD released of it. Is that still happening?
It was in 2007 in a sold out Paradiso and itwas our first climax with a DVD shoot. The images were managed and owned by our first record company and is gone bankrupt then. We also wonder whether it is still relevant to publish it now, because we are already 10 years and four albums further. Since we do not have the rights, the DVD will not be released by us. What will come soon is a re-release of our second album ‘Consign To Oblivion’. That was no longer available for a long time and will now be available again in a remastered version. That will be the last thing that will be released of our older recordings, because we don’t want nothing to do with the old record company. If the old record company still wishes to release the Paradiso DVD, they have to do that. But it no longer represents the band Epica that we are now.
Facebook fan question: How popular is Epica in Scandinavian countries? Because I think Epica is not playing there a lot.
We have been in Scandinavia last year, so that’s not true. That’s the same as we have been for a month in USA. Then they ask us a week later when we get back to USA. Haha…
Facebook fan question: What are the most popular Epica countries in Europe and the world?
Statistically, the Netherlands is the most popular country and then Germany and America. That of course is because we are a Dutch band and also are a lot more playing here than abroad. For example, we’re playing now for the seventh time at Graspop and in our existent of 13 years. So that’s once every two years. Scandinavia is indeed less, while people are listening to metal above average. So in Finland and Norway we play in halls of 300 visitors and in Brazil and Mexico we are popular and we play for 3000-5000 visitors.
In March this year, you are touring in South America. How did that happen? How are you received in these countries?
South America is our Walhalla. At the airport fans are waiting for us. Simone can not even walk down the street quiet over there. We also put in our contracts that at least two security people must stand outside the hotel. Simone is also not checked in under her own name at the hotel, because the fans just call the hotels to ask if Miss Simons is over there. The reason for that is I think, from the beginning we invested a lot and played a lot of shows in South America. In our first years we played there, we slept at home of the support-act and the mother cooked dinner every night for eighteen people. And the funny thing is, that you did not have Facebook or Myspace in 2003. Well for example, you had ghotic metal forums which communicated that Epica was coming to South America. Very cool time.
In September, you are going to Canada and North America. What can the fans expect?
We would been there before doing a tour with Machine Head and Children Of Bodom. But because the record of Machine Head was not finished, they canceled the tour. Later Machine Head toured over there, but without the support acts Children Of Bodom and Epica. But in September we’re doing a headliner tour in Canada and North America, along with Eluveitie and The Agonist. And for us, this is the biggest tour we’ve done so far in these countries.
The last years there a became lot of new female fronted metal bands. What does Epica do to be original?
The female fronted metal genre is too wide. There are Arch Enemy, Butcher Babies and Within Temptation and much more, while they are all very different bands. We differentiate ourselves from this bands to stay true to ourself, do our own thing and keep playing pure metal. Especially on our last album you hear that very well. It’s not about the catchy choruses, but strong metal with killer riffs and blast beats. Our concern is not about to be the next Within Temptation.
What would your starting bands like tip to give?
Keep doing your own thing, invest and practice as much you can. We rehearse a lot and I think that’s one of our main things of our success. Because by playing a lot, you learn many more new things. For us, it has also been an advantage that in our early years there was no Facebook or Myspace. For now, anyone can knock on the door of venues and record labels and there are a lot of bands that do that. And everyone can make there own album with ProTools. Get there now is so much more difficult then 15 years ago because of all this competition. We also had the luck that we get the trust from a record company, allowing us to record our first album.
What is your ambition for over 5 years? What do you wan’t to you have achieved?
The first goal is to make Epic Metal Fest large and try to repeat it every year. Because we would love to play as support-act of Metallica at our own festival! Haha… And over 5 years I want to make still music that I like, doing what I love and where I can live from. Because I must also continue to pay my mortgage and two kids. Does not sound really rock ‘n roll, but for me it is still very cool to play in Epica.
When actually came the moment that you could pay all your things from playing in Epica?
I thought so when I was 12, but actually it was a bit later. Haha… In the beginning it was for me as a musician not very important to earn money. But after a number of years, the band grows and then you want financially course grow. Epica is still one of the few bands in the Netherlands who can live from the music and I think that’s very cool. And I am all the fans, record companies and press very grateful for that and I would never want it otherwise. Unfortunately, we must keep in mind that eventually it will become less and growth will decrease. We are not as big as Iron Miaden or Korn. But the last 10 years I can pay my bills thanks to Epica and I hope I still can do it for a long time. My parents sometimes ask me why I don’t become a doctor, but I’ve studied music, so that’s going to happen. Haha… Four of the six band members have studied music, so we know what we do. But studying music is absolutely no guarantee for success. You have to work hard, play a lot and just do the things you like.
That’s a nice one for ending. Thanks for the interview Coen!