PiercingMetal Talks To Epica’s Mark Jansen & Simone Simons (9/20/2006)

Epica is one of the most outstanding Symphonic Power Metal acts to hit the scene in some time. As the opener for Kamelot it was great to find the band coming to New York as their opener for the tour. The two have worked together in the past and this was met with approval in the Metal world. The band visited the Prog-Power USA Festival earlier that week and now were off and running with Kamelot. I had reviewed a majority of their releases and as a result I was very interested in speaking with them yet was unsure of how possible this would actually be on the night of the show. The uncertainty led me to not have a “formal” interview written up and of course, as luck would have it I was able to meet both Simone Simons and Mark Janssen. After introductions were made, we secured some space in the depths of the back halls of the venue where we also found Yves relaxing. Mark joked that if I wanted to know anything related to Belgium, like about the fries that I should ask him. We were off to a great start with this one it seemed for there would more joking ahead with this very good-natured and friendly bunch of musicians.

Mark: Yves is here so if you need to know about anything from Belgium, such as Belgium fries you can ask him.

PiercingMetal: What do I need to know about fries and beer? What do you want to tell us about them?

Yves: It depends on what you want to know.

Simone: They’re tasty, they’re thick……

PiercingMetal: You guys are all talking about food and I have no eaten yet.

Simone: OK, let’s skip that food subject then.

Mark: No let’s talk about food, it was very nice food back here mmmmmmmm. (Yves goes back to the main club at this point since his secluded spot has been discovered)

PiercingMetal: Great we are starting off with Epica teasing me on their first night here in New York. So ok guys welcome to New York, and please pardon me for we all seem to say “guys” over here.

Simone: Yeah that’s ok I’ve got balls too. (laughs)

PiercingMetal: So really, welcome to New York and tell me what it feels like to be performing here for the very first time ever.

Simone: Well they told me that the buildings were huge and there were ads everywhere on the billboards, and I thought about it when I entered the City I experienced it a little bit as if it was a commercial. With all the big signs everywhere, it was how do you say it “monstrous”, no “gigantic”. I think big in America.

Mark: We got out of the bus we were like in “Gladiator”, you know the part where he enters the arena looking up at the big building.

PiercingMetal: Now I’ve reviewed all of the releases so far, “The Phantom Agony”, “Consign To Oblivion”, and “We Will Take You With Us” which I was able to get via your US Distribution on The End Records. So we have done some press for the band here and I guess my question is what have you found the response to your music to be over here.

Simone: Do you mean if we have fans here or something other?

PiercingMetal: Not so much fans, but are you finding a strong interest in the music.

Simone: Well, yesterday we did ProgPower and the audience was great. We noticed many of them singing the songs and we were quite surprised because they were wearing our shirts and also at the signing session we found many of the American fans had all our stuff.

PiercingMetal: Did it surprise you to see this?

Simone: A little bit yeah but they said that it is growing here and they are spreading the word for us.

PiercingMetal: Given that one of the only mechanisms for getting your music is via this The End Records distribution deal, have you been looking to move to a US Based label or a medium that will reach a larger amount of people easier.

Mark: Maybe that is something for the near future because we need to make some steps forward and this is certainly one of the possibilities we have in mind. This tour is perfect for us to get started and make a basis and from there on, we can build further. No one knows what the future will bring but it would be perfect to have something come from this.

Simone: Same from me.

PiercingMetal: The exact same words as Mark?

Simone: Yeah well this is the first time we have come to America and you never know who is going to come to the shows. Lacuna Coil is already quite famous and Nightwish but I think Epica is something new and something different. So you never know if you will meet some people and we are open for it to come back to the US.

PiercingMetal: Well, Epica is very different from Lacuna Coil and of course along the same lines as Nightwish but in that I think in terms of a little heavier. Don’t get me wrong I love Nightwish music, and I think Tarja was fantastic as the singer and I wish her luck in whatever she will do on her own. So I wonder if you think that Epica can step into the shoes of what Nightwish has started here as far as bringing Symphonic Metal to a wider audience and general public.

Simone: I think that you could compare Nightwish in what it has done for us here and the rest of Europe and Within Temptation over in Holland. They have opened the doors for us there is more appreciation for female fronted Metal bands. I think that Nightwish was one of the reasons I started because I love the band and I think Epica is a little bit more edgy than Nightwish. I still think Epica is kind of approachable but Nightwish is a little bit more commercial. My Mom likes Nightwish more because it doesn’t have so much growling in it .

PiercingMetal: And its also not her Daughter running around the world.

Simone: Yeah but she likes it, I mean if we play a big club in Holland she comes and tells everyone “oh that’s my daughter”.

PiercingMetal: That’s good. So what are your anticipations for tonights show? I mean ok, you got off the bus and saw the big buildings – which to me is just commuting to work as the site doesn’t faze us. So coming here from Holland and being in “The Big City”, what are the expectations for the show.

Simone: Well, this is a famous venue and we are not playing Jazz as we are a little bit harder than that.

PiercingMetal: Celtic Frost was here last week.

Simone: I heard over 500 people are coming and many people got to know Epica because of Kamelot because we are in a way linked. I did a song with them and we are named after one of their albums so I believe it’s going to be a great night.

PiercingMetal: “Consign To Oblivion” is the new album and it is available here via Candlelight Records but since it has been out for a few months I wondered what was happening with any other new music. Do you have anything ready to be recorded and released.

Mark: Yeah we have already written a lot of new songs and we are in the finishing stage so we are now adding some finishing touches on some of the lyrics. With this new stuff, we have never before worked such a long time on new stuff. We started already about one and a half years ago and now its almost finished. The reason for this is because we want to make an album that is better than the two albums before. Hopefully the fans have to judge if we have succeeded.

PiercingMetal: Simone as the singer, how active are you taking the role for your part when it comes to the writing process.

Simone: I am mainly anticipating to do more when the songs are almost finished but of course I am hearing the songs when they are in the starter product stage. From there we then discuss who is going to write lyrics for which song based on what the feeling is and what the concept is. As the song flows, the lyrics flow and when it is almost finished then we start with the vocal line.

PiercingMetal: What inspires you as musicians – I mean it does not have to be Metal overall but what ends up being the cause for any inspiration you have.

Mark: Inspiration for the lyrics or the music?

PiercingMetal: Inspiration for both I guess is fine.

Mark: Well lyric wise I get the inspiration from reading books and things relating to Philosophy such as was the case on the last album. The news is something I watch everyday and that’s an affect as well.

PiercingMetal: The news makes me wonder about the track on “Phantom Agony” which was at the time sent to me from Transmission Records. Now, I live in New York and am one of the City residents who all too clearly remembers the events of 9-11 and in listening to the album you have that very strong reference to the incident in the song. What made you put that in there as that was a very heavy thing to add at the time, and you guys are all the way in Holland and while it did truly hit the whole world with us being the hardest of them all – seeing this in a band from so far away who is at the “coming up” stage, it strikes you as very powerful.

Mark: Yes I can imagine that it would be powerful and I was thinking this today because we are going to play this song tonight. It’s going to be a weird thing to play this song in New York itself…

Simone: In a weird way the circle is around now.

Mark: All the years this song has existed and now it finally arrives in New York.

PiercingMetal: I felt it was a great moment in the song, and of course really enjoyed this album as a whole. You can understand as an American and from New York hearing something like this from a band still on the new side doing something of this nature. This wasn’t used as a gimmick, meaning you did not think the band was being “oh we have to say something about 9-11 in our music”

Mark: No, not at all.

PiercingMetal: You have other bands that are indeed guilty of this but Epica came off as genuine.

Mark: It was also the reason that we didn’t only have the view of the victim side but we also had used the view from the terroristic side. The chorus is uhm (turns to Simone) what is the chorus again? (laughs) It seems I can always remember it when I have to sing it but moments like this.

Simone: I don’t remember it either.

PiercingMetal: You didn’t know there would be a test during the interview I guess.

Simone: We have to be on stage for it to come to us.

Mark: Wait “our desire to die is stronger than your desire to live” and that is from the Director’s View.

Simone: Yeah when we sing it, it’s much easier.

Mark: So its not just doing what people expect from us just showing what actually happened.

Simone: Yes, showing pity for everyone in that one.

Mark: A milestone, a negative milestone in history and we wanted to say something about it.

PiercingMetal: Simone if I can ask you what are some of the things that inspire you in your writing.

Simone: Humankind, myself and my friends and that’s basically it. Mark also has some personal lyrics but mostly writing about politics, religion and society. Mostly things that happen in how people are treating each other, how people are treating nature and they are not living in harmony anymore. Going back to the things that really are important – we are living in the material world.

PiercingMetal: Quoting the Police? You know that is a song by them.

Simone: Its also “we’re living in the material world” (as Simone begins to sing Madonna).

Mark: Or the song “we’re all living in America” (as Mark begins singing Rammstein I had no idea this would become “sing along with Epica”).

PiercingMetal: Ok then, so let’s talk about a couple of the products coming out. I understand there is a DVD.

Mark: Yeah but this one is delayed because there is some problems with Transmission Records and its not financially an option for them to do this. So we are trying to get the DVD out of their hands and get it released as otherwise it takes too long and it doesn’t make sense to put it out over a year after.

Simone: Yeah then it will be “ten years with Epica” and here is an extra video.

Mark: We also have a little bit of a Disco situation and that is why we are looking for possibilities like I mentioned earlier. I do hope that we can come to a solution that works out for everyone.

PiercingMetal: So what will be some of the surprises be tonight as fans of the band, and since I am not running to type and post this before the show in a little while it is okay to tell me.

Simone: I think that already the music is on the bombastic side and we bring the music to life on stage.

Mark: Yes, its very energetic.

Simone: Yes, we really transmit the energy that we trap on the album and on the stage it is able to get out and we hope that we can transmit that to the fans.

Mark: We also get the energy back from the audience as well, and we saw this yesterday and if its like that you can expect a very good show.

PiercingMetal: Thanks so much for the time friends, we will see you later on the stage.

Simone: Yes, you have two hours until we go on so now you can go to eat something.

PiercingMetal: ………………

And so I did just that, and gathered at one of the local external from the club places before Epica went on to deliver an amazing set. The band sounds very close to the recordings on the stage with the exception of their music being a little more in your face than you can find sitting in your living room. They are a recommendation without any question, especially for the fans of female-fronted endeavors that truly stand out in their music and the delivery of it. It was both an honor and a lot of fun to meet them, and for a spur of the moment interview with not one question written down for them we managed to not lose too much of the point.

Here’s a photo of Simone and Mark who were both very excited to be performing in NYC for the first time tonight.  They were each overwhelmed by the massive vibe of the Big Apple.  Who can blame them.  It’s daunting.

epica, simone simons, epica photos
Epica’s Simone Simons & Mark Jansen @ B.B. King’s

The bands albums are all imports and a little difficult to find based on this depending on where you are located in the world.  Of course they are worth searching for so get those eyes working. Should you be interested in reading our coverage of their releases and concert performances as well you can click HERE to bring up a list of that which we have done for the website so far.

Official Website: http://www.epica.nl

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