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Interview with:

Mark Jansen and Yves Huts

The gothmetal band EPICA will release their new album in September.  Bandmembers Mark Jansen ( guitar, grunts, screams) en Yves Huts (bass) are willing to explain a bit more about their new 'baby.'

And the first question, of course, goes to your upcoming first full length concept album. “This concept deals with the theory that, as a test, God created all kinds of different religions and released those upon humanity to see if they would be able to find the true nature of them, realizing that in all religions it is actually the same.” Tell us more about this.


Mark: "The prologue is dealing about a person who feels he is different from other human beings since he was born. He's the red line in the story. The first part is dealing about the negative psyche of the human being. Our main character goes through all of these and learns from it."

The Obsessive Devotion

Mark: "Someone breaks up and the other person cannot accept it and starts kind of stalking her."
Yves: "First (real) song on the album and already pretty hard and fast. It has kind of a dark atmosphere and a lot of groovy parts to which you can headbang very well. We already play this one live. First song of the concept about the negative human psyche."

Menace of Vanity

Mark: "About an ego that gets too big and destroys friendships."
Yves: "Short, catchy, heavy and dark song. I believe it is the heaviest and fastest song on the album."

Chasing the Dragon

Mark: "Drug addiction."
Yves: "This is kind of the “Run for a fall” of the album. It starts as a ballad, but over time it gets heavier and heavier and towards the end there are even blast beats!"

Never Enough

Mark: "Greed the second part deals about the main character that starts travelling around the world and gets in touch with many cultures and especially with many religions."
Yves: "Catchy song with some modern sounds, simple structure so pretty easy to listen to."

La'fetach Chatat Rovetz

Mark: "Means 'sin is crouching at your door', a Hebrew quote from their bible."
Yves: "This is more an intro to Death of a Dream. No vocals, drums or guitar here. It has kind of an Eastern/Hebrew feel to it."

Death of a Dream

Mark: "About Islam women suppression."
Yves: "Pretty heavy song and more guitar-oriented with an eastern feel."

Living a Lie

Mark: "Christianity, people with an unborn child with a terrible handicap (the child will die after giving birth) believe that god will save their child and don't accept the advices of the medical staff who tell them their child is lost."
Yves: "Short, catchy, melodic song that would be a good candidate for a single. It’s also about religion."

Fools of Damnation

Mark: "Again Islam, be a slave to Allah and do whatever is needed to please the god. Also if it seems incorrect and doubtful what others tell you to do to please Allah. The last part is dealing about the knowledge the main character has gained. He spreads the word about religions and tells people about the good basics of the religions and about the dark sides."
Yves: "Second longest song. It starts eastern but the mood changes and it becomes pretty fast, complex and even progressive. It’s about religion."

Beyond Belief

Mark: "Dealing about this (above) and natural disasters which have been caused by mankind."
Yves: "Ad plays his first and only solo on this song!"

Safeguard to Paradise

Mark: "The main character gets murdered because of his opinion of religions. It's dealing about freedom which is the highest good we have ever had and should never get lost."
Yves: "Piano-ballad, no guitars or drums. Female vocals, piano and orchestration. Very light atmosphere that gives a little relief to the general heavy, dark mood of the album. Except for the intro this is the shortest song."

Sancta Terra

Mark: "The main character in the afterlife."
Yves: "A steady pulsating beat here. The choir is quite prominent in this song."

The Divine Conspiracy

Mark: "Deals about the theory which the main character has revealed: As a test, God created all kinds of different religions and released those upon humanity to see if they would be able to find the true nature of them, realizing that in all religions it is actually the same. Will humanity see this or keep on killing people who finds out?"
Yves: "Longest Epica-song ever. It has a pretty long intro and outro and the orchestration sounds very much like a film score."

Planet Epica. So there is this place full with music and words representing a general theory. What is that theory behind all this? What “hides” within your lyrics and your melodies?
Mark: "There's no theory behind the music, the melodies just appear and lead to songs. Lyric wise we want to let people think and create their own opinion."
Have you ever imagined that what you call creativity through your music may be of profound meaning to many people? How do you feel being of great importance to someone?
Mark: "Yes due to the letters we receive we know that our music and lyrics mean a lot to many people. It doesn't cause any extra pressure and it makes us feel that we're doing something useful. :)"
Yves: "I get a lot of satisfaction from creating something out of nothing and making music that I like. This feeling is further enhanced when a lot of people like our music too. We get a lot of mails from fans who express their appreciation for our music. Personally I feel very honoured by this."

There is a lot of talk lately about female-fronted metal bands. They seem to “breed” so rapidly from all over the world. What makes you believe that you differ from the masses?
Mark: "Bands appear and bands disappear. It's not up to us to judge if we are different; it's up to our fans. But I think that our new album will be a good statement."
Yves: "To be successful in anything you need talent, hard work, some luck and a touch of insanity. I believe I’m working with 4 very talented people. We all had to work hard and make a lot of sacrifices to get to the point we are now. It’s just that. If you believe in something and you want to reach a certain goal you have to give 100% of yourself. We are different from the masses by setting the standard for ourselves very high and not delivering half work. And with every release we raise the bar a little higher."

You have gone on tour to many countries and seen different cultures. What influences did these experiences have on you?
Mark: "Every country you visit and every travel you make has its influence and gives you the opportunity to learn a lot from other cultures and other people."
Yves: "I learnt a little bit the differences between these cultures. Western people are a little bit more reserved and less expressive. But they are pretty disciplined. Latin people are more laidback but are very passionate in everything they do or experience. The funny thing is that this goes for ALL Latin cultures, not just one particular country."

The Score: An Epic Journey was your first completed step to soundtrack music and it was really great. Do you have any plans for a new score?
Mark: "Not yet but the chance is big that we'll make an experimental album in the future again. But first we focus on some band albums."
Yves: "We have written some new material for a new Score album. The music is not based on images so it’s easier to listen to it. But for the moment we are concentrating our efforts on the release of “The Divine Conspiracy”. I can’t say when or if a new Score will be released, but we do have the intention to release it sometime in the future."

With every step you take your music sounds more mature, more developed, more creative. What are your thoughts when you are about to make a new album?
Mark: "This time we didn't have many thoughts, we didn't think but followed our heart. If you think too much you have to do too many concessions. We wanted to make a no compromise album."
Yves: "I myself am very critical about my compositions. I only want to make good high quality music. So when I’m not 100% satisfied with a piece, I dump it or put it in my archive. That’s why I compose so slowly."

The first official single from the album will be the song 'Never Enough', of which two videos will be made - one for the metal masses and one, as Simone jokingly revealed, "for our mothers..." - by the same crew that made KAMELOT' s 'Ghost Opera' video. What are your expectations about this video?
Mark: "High expectations: their videos look amazing and the team is very professional. I expect a lot from this video."
Yves: "At the moment we haven’t seen any of the material yet, but I’m quite convinced that this will be our best clip so far. The director and crew were very professional. They guided us in every step of the shoot. The last video clip (Quietus) was already pretty good, but at last this will be the one we can all be very proud of. I can’t wait to see it."

You will tour with Sonata Arctica this year. A, obviously, big band of the kind. Who else would you like to share stages with?
Mark: "Opeth."
Yves: "It’s funny that we mostly end up touring with “power metal” bands (Kamelot, Xystus, Visions of Atlantis, Sonata Arctica). I myself would love to tour with my favourite bands (Dimmu Borgir, In Flames, Soilwork), but since their styles are so different from ours it is less likely to ever happen. On a more realistic level it would be nice to tour with After Forever some day. They seem like a bunch of nice guys (and girl)."

You have already covered 'Memory' from the Musical Cats, 'Crystal Mountain' by DEATH. What songs would you like to be next? How do you choose them?
Mark: "We have recorded a new cover, but it must be kept secret. ;-)"
Yves: "We indeed have recorded another cover song, that’s probably going to be used as B-track on a single or something. I don’t want to reveal the title yet, but it has something to do with our band name (and no, we’re not covering a Kamelot song). Because of the title it was very easy to choose this song. We would have to cover it some day or another anyway! ;)"

What are the differences and similarities between The Phantom Agony, Consign to Oblivion and The Divine Conspiracy?
Mark: "Similar is that on all albums you hear the Epica sound, different is the development and on the new album you hear more (brutal) guitars, more complex song-structures, more grunts and Simone sings with more variation."
Yves: "Consign to Oblivion had lower guitars, more commercial structures and more choirs than TPA. Simone made less use of her operatic voice. The orchestration was more bombastic. CTO was the first album with a guest appearance (by Roy Kahn).
The Divine Conspiracy will be heavier, darker, faster but at the same time catchier. The choir has an even bigger role. It will be a longer album (more than 70 min.). We had a different drummer, so this time it was possible to make faster songs. We recorded 4 guitar tracks instead of the usual 2, so it will be more guitar oriented. We even have a guitar solo on this record! It will be the first full concept album. Also this is the first album that was mastered by Sascha Paeth. And we have a Guest appearance by Sander Gommans (After Forever).
There are a lot of similarities. All album titles consist of 3 words. All albums have a title track that is also the longest song on the album. All albums were recorded in the Gate studio and produced by Sascha Paeth with backing vocals by Amanda Somerville. All albums have an orchestral intro. Mark has made a special kind of concept about religion (The embrace that smothers) that spans different albums and was featured on TPA and CTO."

How much did you grow through these years? How does this affect your music?
Mark: "That's up to our fans to judge! :)"
Yves: "I’ve grown about 5 cm (in girth), hehe.  I’ve also grown in a way that I’ve accepted the fact that I’m in a band with 4 Dutch guys (and girl) and that they will never stop being Dutch.
No, I think we’re all better musicians than 5 years ago and you can here this evolution in every album. We know better what we want and how we want it to sound. Also we’re less dependent on other people outside of the band to reach the desired result."

How could you describe the sound of your new album? How was the recording process? Taking into consideration Ad’s and Yves’ studio report things went pretty well.
Mark: "The sound is heavy and aggressive."
Yves: "You can read in one of the previous questions about the sound of the album. As you can read in my report I never took one step in the studio and did my recordings at home. I think this is a big step forward, because studios cost a lot of money and we are not very rich. The drums were recorded very fast (considering that Ariën had only 3 days to prepare before he entered the studio). The guitars took longer because this time we decided to record 4 guitar tracks instead of two and because Ad is very critical about his own recordings. As far as I know the other recordings went pretty well. Only the orchestrations took a lot of time. This is for one part due to the fact that we were all very critical, but also the people at the Gate studio were doing so many productions at the same time and I guess they were a little bit overworked. But the end result is 100% to our liking and that’s the most important."

How hard is it to choose songs for your live playlist?
Mark: "Not hard, our fans make us clear what songs they want to hear."
Yves: "In the beginning it wasn’t very hard, we just played all the songs we had plus a cover. After the release of CTO we were getting bigger and got more playing time so it was not hard either. We just had to eliminate a few songs that were less suitable in a live situation. After the release of The Divine Conspiracy it will get a little harder to choose, because I think all the new songs will sound great live, but then there’s no time left for the older songs. I guess we’ll just have to make changes in the setlist more often."

To conclude… Imagine Epica in about 10 years… How would it be?
Mark: "No idea, I don't think more than 1 year ahead but I hope we'll still exist :)"
Yves:  "According to the Maya’s the Apocalypse will happen in 2012.  So if we some how survive, I don’t think there will be much people left to buy our albums or go to our concerts. So in 10 years my job will probably be to repopulate the earth. I’m already looking forward to it! ;) No seriously, I hope Epica will still exist and that we will still be having fun and making the music we like."

Mark and Yves, thank you so much for accepting my request to interview you. I wish you all the best in everything you do.
Mark: "Thank you, too!!!"
: "You’re welcome and thanks!"


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