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Epica - Interview @ Metal Female Voices (Wieze, BE) - 20.10.2007

Just before a big signing session, Mark Jansen answered extremely nicely our questions regarding Epica. We talked about their first US tour as headliners, their last album The Divine Conspiracy, an eventual second single, their experience with Nuclear Blast, and their CD presentation.

Mark Jansen (Epica)
Metal-Ways: What were your expectations before the US tour, and how did it go?

Mark: It went really well. We were a little bit nervous because it was the first time we played as headliners in the US. So if there would have been no people, then it would have been a disaster. But fortunately, there were many cities with a decent crowd, but of course also some cities with a less big crowd. I think we did a pretty cool job. For a first headliner tour in the US, we can be very satisfied. And especially when we played in Canada, and one show in Mexico, those venues were very well visited. There were some ups and downs, but I'm satisfied.

M-W: And do you already have some plans to go back there?

Yeah, we have an offer to tour with another band, as support act. I can't really reveal the name of the band yet, we have to keep it a secret. But if that's going to happen, then it would be a really nice next step. [Editor's note: it's confirmed now: Epica will tour along with Into Eternity as support acts to Symphony X in April 2008]

M-W: The CD presentation of The Divine Conspiracy took place yesterday in Eindhoven. How did it go? How did the audience respond?

It was really great! There was something like 1200 people. It was almost sold out, only 50 tickets or something left. I was very nervous because of all those new songs, especially two of them that we had never played live before: The Divine Conspiracy and Death Of

A Dream. During the sound checks, everything went wrong, that's why I became nervous, but fortunately during the show everything went well. And the crowd responded well, and it was very nice!

M-W: Which one of the "old" songs did you play as well?

Cry For The Moon, which is considered to be the best one of Phantom Agony, and Consign To Oblivion.

M-W: You already played several times here at the Metal Female Voices Festival, why is that? What makes this festival special for you?

Yes, this festival is really special for us because of the boss of this festival, Philty, who also gave me this present [Editor's note: Soccer t-shirt, with Mark's name on it]. The first year, he invented this festival as an excuse to let Epica play. And every year, it's becoming bigger and bigger, and now it's a huge festival, well known all over the world. He really deserves it because he always worked for it with all his heart, and it's really great to see that the festival grows every year.

M-W: About the next single, do you know if and when it will be released?

We have no idea yet ourselves if there will be a new single. That depends on if Nuclear Blast wants a new single or not. For us, it doesn't matter. The album is the most important thing. But if they want a new single, we'll shoot a new video.

M-W: And do you have an idea of which song it would be?

My favourite song is Fools Of Damnation, because a lot of things are going on it that song. But my personal choice for a single would be Safeguard To Paradise. But it's maybe too soft for radio...

M-W: About the video clips, do you usually come with ideas for the storyline, or do you go to a director that makes you proposals?

For the last video, the director got the lyrics of the song and wrote the whole storyline, and then he sent it to us, and we could say what we liked and what we didn't like. That's also how we like to work, because if you make your whole own storyline, it takes you a lot of time, and we're too busy with all the other stuff.

M-W: Do you have some extra material for upcoming B-sides for example?

No, everything has been used now. We had the Replica song and Higher High, those were the 2 bonus tracks, but Nuclear Blast decided to use them right away on the limited edition. Oh and we have still another version of Living A Lie, so maybe they can use that one.

M-W: On the 26th of December, you are going to play with After Forever and Nemesea, so to complete the symbolic reconciliation between you and Sander Gommans, do you plan on doing a guest appearance on some old After Forever song, like Beyond Me for example?

I would like to do that, you know I still like the old songs a lot, they are still also my little babies you know. But we haven't talked about it yet. If they invite me to do it, I would say yes. But it's totally up to them. I don't want to force them or something.

M-W: You're planning a headliner tour in Europe. Do you already know in which countries you will play?

No because it's still in process. But of course France will be included. And also Germany, which we didn't expect, because before this CD release, it was not going that well for us there. But The Divine Conspiracy entered the charts in Germany, and now people ask us to come and play again. So Germany, and Spain of course!

M-W: About Nuclear Blast, I believe that if you chose this label, that's because they offered you a lot of interesting things: of course a new CD, but are there other things that are planned?

When we were talking to the companies, we almost had an agreement with Century Media who made a very good offer, but suddenly Nuclear Blast improved the offer, and that was the offer known as 'the offer that you cannot refuse'. So they promised us a lot of things, and so far they kept all their promises, so I think they are happy with us, and we are very happy with them as well. Compared to Transmission, it's a huge step forward. It was already my favourite label as a child. All my favourite bands were on it. So it was really like a dream come true.

M-W: About Transmission Records, they still owe the rights of the old stuff, but are things evolving between you and them?

Yes, I hate them for that. We cannot do anything with the DVD for example... But no, things are still stuck. They are really stubborn. The last time we discussed with them, it was 2 months ago. We were hoping that there was an opening. Of course we wanted to do an exchange: give them something, and then get something in return, it would have been equal. But they only wanted to get everything, and not give a thing. So the conversation was again useless. It's such a pity because we want to release that DVD so badly, and we cannot do anything. But I think that sooner or later, something will happen because they can earn money with it, so they won't let that opportunity die, but it can still take some months, or even some years.

M-W: This CD is the conclusion of your concept, so can you tell us a little bit about this concept, and about how this CD is a good conclusion to it?

Indeed, it's the conclusion of The Embrace That Smoothers. And the all CD is written around this concept. The main thought behind the album is that god or a higher spirit released several religions on mankind, to see what would happen as a test: if people would fight each other continuously over and over again like all the past years happen, all the 100 years back in time, or if people would see that all these religions have a lot in common and that they all lead to the same thing. And that's the big question. That's what I wrote about. But there's also for example Beyond Relief who's dealing about the Maya calendar, and about the decline of nature. Many things are going on in the CD.

M-W: Do you have a new idea for the next CD, maybe a new concept?

There are already some ideas in my head, but I have to work it out. Maybe they're not going to happen, but at least I have already some ideas. And I also have some ideas about the music, I'm currently recording them at home. So I'm happy that there is some new inspiration out, because right after recording the album, I was really out of inspiration. It was the first time, because I really put everything I got on this CD, so there was a moment of total emptiness.

M-W: Do you have some news concerning the new drummer?

We have some new auditions upcoming Tuesday [Editor's note: 23rd of October, sorry about the delay...]. I'm curious if the one will be among them. There's even one Brazilian guy doing the audition. But preferably, we would like to keep the drummer who's also drumming today: Ariën van Weesenbeek. He's our number one. But he's very busy. Maybe sooner or later he'll say yes. And maybe he'll say no, we don't know yet.

M-W: Do you think there are elements in your way of performing on stage, which would need to be improved?

When you play songs for the first time, you have to be concentrated. And when you play a song for example 100 times, then you can play it much better, and you are more free to move, you know what kind of things you can do, and it's getting better. But we're also always trying to evolve as musicians, to make ourselves better. There are always things that can be done better, so if you keep on working on that, you keep on evolving. Otherwise you get lazy.

Mark Jansen (Epica)
M-W: Last question: in which way is Simone irreplaceable as the singer of Epica?

You can see with Nightwish that nobody is irreplaceable. But she's the singer of Epica, without her the music would sound totally different. So it would be best that she would stay forever.

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