By Fernando Martin
In The Loop Magazine’s Fernando Martin got a chance to sit down and catch up with Epica guitarist Mark Jansen who are currently touring the US in support of their latest album, The Holographic Principle. They played recently at Concord Music Hall. Here is that interview.
For a review of that show at Concord, click here
Fernando Martin: We just wanted to thank you for joining us and taking time out of your day to talk to us. So how’s the tour going? How’s everything going?
Mark Jansen: Thanks a lot. The tour so far is going well. We’ve done only three dates so far on this North American leg but before we played already two epic metal fests, one in The Netherlands and one in Brazil. They went very well and these last three shows in Canada were really great. We’ve had the biggest crowd there that we’ve ever had on a headlining tour and so now it’s up to The United States (haha) to keep that level up.
FM: Definitely! I think the tour will be great here in America. American fans are always great fans. Ok, so The Holographic Principle, your seventh album, I like to call it lucky number seven (haha) just to be a little superstitious.
MJ: Yes for it’s a very lucky number because it’s been going very well for us.
FM: Yes I agree! So how does it feel to be releasing your seventh album after all these years of being in the industry?
MJ: First of all it’s a big achievement so we are really proud that we’ve already made seven albums and second of all you all looking for ways to challenge yourself, keep challenging yourself and don’t start to repeat yourself so after several albums you have to find new ways to make yourself feel refreshed in a way in regards to songwriting and the lyrics so we were really looking after The Quantum Enigma, new ways of recording and also we worked with new people for that purpose to sound different than before otherwise you really have these chances that you’ll start to repeat yourself and the candle is slowly extinguishing. I’m happy that we’ve found a way and am extremely happy with the new material and then it’s waiting for what the fans think about it, also the fans seems to be extremely happy, so it’s perfect like this.
FM: Great. That’s all great to hear thank you. So with The Holographic Principle, is there a concept or message behind the album? What can you tell us about the album such as if there’s anything we should know about?
MJ: Yes, yes the main message behind The Holographic Principle is that everything around us, this universe might be a hologram after all. It’s a very interesting topic and it’s always like in the science fiction corner but as more and more scientists are taking this theory very seriously, you start realizing that it might be the case and it’s putting your world views upside down if you start thinking that it might be true that the whole universe is a hologram. So then it makes you wonder what’s real, what an illusion and what’s important and not important.
FM: That’s crazy wow, it’s already giving me goosebumps just thinking about that (haha). Ok great, so where do you guys get your concepts, your lyrics, themes and all that? Where does inspiration come for all that?
MJ: It depends really. Sometimes inspiration comes from reading a newspaper or watching a documentary or watching a movie and so it can come from several sources but also a walk in nature can bring some inspiration up so i really depends. This time for The Holographic Principle I was watching lectures by Leonard Susskind and with his lectures I really got interested in this idea, this topic. So this time it was a documentary but next time like I said, it can be anything that gives you inspiration.
FM: Since you guys have been in the industry for many years, there’s a lot of artists that have come and gone and you guys have been around for ever a decade. So what is the one thing that has been keeping you guys afloat in the industry?
MJ: There’s not really just one thing. First of all we always like to work very hard so when you have other bands, after awhile they start slowing down, we always kept working very hard to reach our goals and second of all we always do our very best to deliver quality so we don’t stop until we are satisfied with an album and also when you compare us to other band’s they’ve released great albums and then after a while, the aspiration is slowly going away so it is hard to stay motivated to create a great album. But we keep each other motivated and also look for a producer that keeps us really on top of the game and third of all, we tour a lot which I think nowadays is really important for bands to tour and to meet your fans and play the music you create live.
FM: Definitely, each part is important and plays a vital role and compliment each other. Ok great, so time for a little different question here. In regards to piracy, music piracy, I am always curious what bands have to say about that. Do you have an opinion about piracy, about the situation. What do you guys do, how do you guys adapt, what’s your take on this whole piracy and illegal downloading situation?
MJ: I am always joking about that part because I would say jokingly to friends, if we were a band in the 80’s with this kind of popularity, we would be millionaires but nowadays you can hardly make a living from the band. But everything has its advantages and disadvantages and I’m the last one to complain about things. I’m really happy that we are so successful and we can do what we want to do and that we can actually make a living from it. I never wanted to be rich by making music, I just wanted to make music instead of a 9-5 job which is not for me. So piracy, it exists yeah but the positive thing about it, is that people can listen to your music who would normally not have been in contact with your music. So that also has it’s advantages and disadvantages, of course less people buy albums but on the contrary, still quite some metal fans buy metal albums and for example when you compare that to pop artists, almost nobody is buying these albums anymore so we can still be very happy.
FM: I agree yes. I think metal fans are the most supportive fans out of any genre out there. Ok, so since you guys are currently touring with Fleshgod Apocalypse, The Agonist and Arkona, are there any artists Epica would like to tour with? Any dreams tours, any personal bands you like that you’d like to tour with in the future?
MJ: Yes, I would personally like to tour with Opeth because I like that band a lot and also because I think these guys are always delivering quality and I think they are a very professional band with a great fanbase so that would be my number one band to tour with in the future. But also if we could tour with a band like Megadeth, I would really like that because Megadeth was the first metal band I started listening to as a kid. Of course there are quite some bands, big bands that could ask us to join them on tour like Iron Maiden, which would be an honor of course so let’s hope something like that will happen in the future otherwise there are still other bands that are still around and we haven’t toured with.
FM: Well, the universe has heard this so let’s hope your wish comes true (haha). Ok, awesome so what do you guys have in mind for the future like maybe a best of CD, a live DVD, a book, any new collaborations or even a new beer as many bands are now releasing beers. Anything you can share that might be coming from you guys in the future?
MJ: I have a vineyard, you know where you can produce wine so I’m actually at this moment producing my own Epica wine but in Chile there is someone already producing wine with also the name Epica so there’s already an Epica wine but I’m in a way making my own private wine so it’s very interesting. But I don’t think we will do a beer because so many bands are doing that but what you said, yeah I think we will do one more album after this one and then I think it’s time for a DVD again because the last one was when we existed for ten years with the first five albums so if we have three more albums we can have a really interesting DVD with a lot of songs that were not on the first DVD. I never liked DVD’s that have songs released that were already on another DVD, I think when you release a DVD, I think you should be able to play many songs that have never been released on a DVD. So I think one more album and that might happen.
FM: Great, that’s all exciting news, I think the fans will be excited to hear that. Since we are talking about the future of Epica, let’s take it back in time to when Epica was known by another name. I’m sure some of the fans would like to know how Epica started. Would you care to share the birth and journey of the group, how everything started?
MJ: We started naming ourselves ‘Sahara Dust’ and that was back in 2002. We started with Helena Iren Michaelsen on vocals and Jeroen Simons on drums, Ad Sluijter on guitars, Coen already the keyboard player and bass Yves had been with the band. That was the first lineup and we started making songs. But then Helena decided to move back to Norway and she said that she wanted to stay in the band but it wasn’t really possible so was started looking for a new singer and also the drummer was also in a relationship with Helena so he moved away too so we ended up having to look for a new drummer and a new singer and it was hard to find a singer and Simone at the time was really young, just 16 years old and we already thought she would be a great singer in the future but not at that moment yet. But we kept looking and Simone kept developing in the meantime really fast and then there came a point where we said, let’s just give it a try and that was the birth of Epica, the way it is still nowadays. I’m happy we took the risk because in the beginning our record company didn’t believe in our choice at all. We really had to convince them because they thought she [Simone] was too inexperienced, but then we recorded some demos with Sascha Paeth, our producer at the time and he said, “you have to record with her…she’s your singer and she can do it” and because of him the record company started to believe in it too and later on they even apologized to us for not believing in us with Simone right from the start so it’s quite funny how things developed and that they later on admitted that they made a huge mistake (haha).
FM: And here you are, many years later, one of the big names in metal currently! I know you talked a little about earlier with Megadeth, so what made you decide to go into the music industry? Was there a moment, an album, a specific person, anything, what made you go into the metal industry?
MJ: Yeah it must of been Guns N’ Roses, that was the band I listened to as a teenager before I started to listening to metal music and Guns N’ Roses made me want to have a band myself as well. But I just took a really long time before I picked up the guitar, I think I must’ve been 16 when I started playing guitar for the first time and so from then on it all went very fast because I founded my first band, ‘After Forever’ with whom I recorded two albums and from there was ‘Epica’ and I also formed MaYaN, my other band. But it must of been Guns N’ Roses that really triggered it.
FM: Thank you for giving us a bit of personal details about your life. I know you mentioned your vineyard a little bit but when you guys are not touring or writing music, do you or anyone in the band have any hobbies? Anything you enjoy doing during your off time or any vacations, if possible? (haha)
MJ: Yeah sometimes the guys joke around that I have a lot of hobbies actually and they always say that I have the most free time otherwise I would not be able to practice all these hobbies. But yeah I like to work in my garden but I also like to ride my bike and I like to run, I like to swim, I like to do fitness, I like to play with my dogs. I also have three dogs and two cats so yeah.
FM: What are their names?
MJ: Well there’s Cita, the name of the female dog and Dooty and Tilo are the two guys, the two male dogs and I also have two cats. One cat always has a new name every month because my girlfriend gives it a new name every month, but one guy is Pala and the other is Mickey.
FM: I usually like to ask bands what their favorite whatever is. You know it makes people see the other side of the artists, the more personal side so if I ask, what’s your favorite color then you’ll just answer. It’ll be easy (haha). So what’s your favorite color?
FM: Favorite food?
FM: Favorite Drink?
MJ: Water…you wouldn’t expect that right? (haha)
FM: Yeah (haha) that totally threw me off!
MJ: (haha) Favorite book, that’s a hard one. Well let’s see, the one that I like the most is ‘Living in the Heart’ by Drunvalo and his last name is really hard to pronounce it’s like, Melchizedek, but yeah Living in the Heart!
FM: Favorite Movie?
MJ: The Gladiator because of the great soundtrack.
FM: Do you have a favorite animal?
FM: Favorite place to tour, if any?
MJ: …South America and New Zealand
FM: Ok and the last question, if you could have any superpower, what superpower would you have or like to have any why?
MJ: I would like to be the boss of the whole world (haha) because then the world would be a better place! Or at least give a fair try I think when I see these elections and how the candidates were disrespecting each other, I was really amazed in a negative way by seeing that. You guys are probably feeling really awkward about it as well (haha)
FM: Yeah we’ll see what the future of the country holds (haha).
MJ: Ok, so do you have any advice to anyone who’s trying to make a name for his or herself in this business? Any words of wisdom?
FM: Yes, my advice is always the same and that is to keep on going, believe on what you are doing and when you are doing it with the right intentions, eventually it will happen.
FM: Awesome. Thank you so much. Do you have anything you’d like to say to the fans, anything else you’d like to share?
MJ: I just want to say, thank you so very much for all the years of support already and also in The US, when we toured we started as a small band and every time we toured [The US], our fan base got bigger so I want to thank everyone for all this support over all those years.
FM: Great and we thank you Epica for being who you are and giving the world so much great and inspirational metal to listen to. My final question here is why do you love metal?
MJ: Because it’s a little bit of rebellion and I’ve always been a rebel in a way, trying to do things differently or that can be done in a different way so that’s why I loved metal and still love metal and keep loving metal.
FM: That’s all great to hear. Thank you, it means a lot. Thank you Epica for giving the world unfathomable metal and I think the metal community is lucky to have a band such as Epica so once again thank you very much for taking the time out of your touring schedule to talk to us. I’m sure we’ll hear more great things from you guys soon.
MJ: Thanks a lot and thanks for having me!
For more on Epica, including the current tour, click here
For a review of the live show in Chicago at the Concord Music Hall, click here
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