The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world




We catch up with Epica's Simone Simons to talk about the new album 'The Quantum Enigma' which just could be the Dutch Symphonic Metal masters best yet...

MAY 2014

Epica Interview Simone 2014

Lavish orchestration, as you might imagine, introduces us to Epica’s latest work ‘The Quantum Enigma’. It's a huge album especially for a band that prides itself on constantly moving forward, and it may well be their best work yet - amazing for a band that has just marked its tenth year. We spoke to vocalist Simone Simons about the new album...

Mark: Hi, Simone thanks for talking to The Rockpit. First of all, congratulations on the new album! “The Quantum Enigma”, sounds absolutely massive, it must be a pretty exciting time for you at the moment?

Simone: Thank you, we are totally ecstatic, and can’t wait to go back on the road. We put so much time and effort in to writing the record that we want to get out there and play live.

Mark: You haven’t announced any dates yet, apart from the European festival dates, are we likely to see a big tour?

Simone: Yes, we are going to announce the tour, which we are planning now, we want to hit the road in North America, Latin America and Europe after the Summer Festivals, and we will also continue our tour in 2015, and hopefully beautiful Australia will be added to that, because we had a really great time there and can’t wait to come back again.

Mark: Last year we talked to Mark before the tour, and he said as a band you’ve played in over 60 countries now, and it was your first time in countries like Australia, China and Indonesia. What’s it like playing in a new country? I know you’re a big fan of tasting local cuisine; did you get a chance to sample anything while you were down here?

Simone: I think some of the guys had already had kangaroo already before in a different country. I am not such a big fan of trying different meats, I do like trying local cuisines, but I don’t know what would be typical Australian! Of course, I couldn’t eat everything back then because I was pregnant, so I had to be careful. I did have one of the best ice creams ever while I was in Australia!

Mark: Getting on to the new album, it seems to have an emotional intensity, and sound that we’ve not quite heard before from Epica. I know you are a band that constantly try and push themselves, to strive for something new, and that you changed producers this year, do you think that had a fundamental effect on the sound of the record?

Simone: It totally changed the sound. We had the songs written and recorded, and after trying several mixers we found Jacob, and he sent us the songs back, and we said “wow!” this sounds so good! It had changed again so much, it’s important to have a good mixer because he can either make or break this album, and Jacob did an awesome job!

Mark: I think it sounds absolutely fantastic! Where do you think the drive comes from, to constantly get better, every album seems to get bigger, and grander and more intense than the last? Is that something you’re constantly striving to do?

Simone: Yeah, you want to improve as much as you can with each record, we wish for that as a band, and to deliver a good product. This time all five band members, with the exclusion of me, have written songs, so we had a big amount of songs to choose from, so we picked the best ones with the help of Joost (van den Broek – who recorded the album) and Sascha (Paeth – producer). We wanted to do a couple of things different with this record; we wanted to record in a new studio, work with a different producer and have a different mixer. This gave us the opportunity to see what other mixers could do to the Epica sound, and we wanted to have a change of scenery to stimulate ourselves again, and get out of that comfort zone, so it was a great thing. We had a lot more time to write this record, which was also very important, and due to my pregnancy, we couldn’t tour in the past, we were always touring and writing records, and now it’s been a year since we’ve toured, it’s the longest break we’ve ever had! We didn’t do nothing, we had to finalise the “Retrospect” DVD, and then write and record the new record, which is also a big process, and I also gave birth, so we have been very, very busy!! But the extra time was the perfect opportunity to reinvent our style, and improve where we thought we could improve.

Mark: It does really seem to have worked for you, it’s again, a fantastic album, I think the words “Symphonic Metal” doesn’t go half the way to describe it, it’s sort of the mix of intensity, bombast and intimacy, which your voice brings to proceedings, it’s a band like no other, I think! Tell us about the title of the album, I’ve seen a few quotes from Mark and yourself, about what The Quantum Enigma means, what’s your take on that?

Simone: Well, for me, The Quantum Enigma means that we can never be sure what our reality is, so if you look at the world now through Quantum physics if you observe the world the particles take a certain shape and if you look away the particles take a different shape, so you can never be sure what reality is, and the kind of philosophical part of that, I really like, and it’s a great source to write lyrics about. Of course, I am not as scientifically educated, as Mark is, because he has been reading lots of books, he explained the idea, the title, and we all thought this could work, such great material, we already have the quantum physics included in Epica, and sign of the universe, so as we like to make little trilogies, part two was born after “The Quantum Enigma” came to life. Everything is connected with Epica, also the lyrics that we write; everything is connected and happens for a reason. Epica stands for a place in the universe where you can find the answers to the questions of life.

Mark: It certainly makes things interesting, and is an album that gets you thinking. It’s hard to know where to start talking about the songs on there, because the quality is so high. We’ve already heard the singles, “The Essence of Silence” and “Unchain Utopia”, they have been out for a while, are you happy with the response to those, before the album comes out? There’s been some great feedback from fans that I have been reading.

Simone: Yeah, the response has been great, so we are happy that the record will be coming out in a couple of days, and everyone can enjoy it. The songs that have been released so far have been good representatives for the record, and the fans are loving it, so we are very pleased about that.

Mark: I noticed on your website there is a great acoustic version of “Canvas of Life”, and I think when people hear the full version on the album they will be blown away! That is certainly one of my favourites.

Simone: Yeah, even the guys that are real metal heads, that don’t like ballads, say “that really got to me”, so that’s really cool!

Mark: Some of our favourites on there are “The Second Stone”, “The Essence of Silence” and I really loved “Reverence” (Living in the Heart). Do you have any particular favourites on there, or are you still too close to the songs?

Simone: I really like “Victims of Contingency”, “Natural Corruption” and “Unchain Utopia”, they are some of my favourites but I actually like all the songs on the record. We had like 25 songs to choose from, and we required 18 songs, so we took what we thought were the best and put them on the record.

Mark: It’s interesting too that this record is a lot more collaborative than in the past, do you think that helped shape some of the songs. There was talk of the songs being worked up in the studio, before they were fully formed; do you think that’s made a big difference because it really sounds like this album is a huge step forward?

Simone: Yeah, we wanted to get a little bit of the theme back, which was created by the band. This time the band wrote their own songs at home, and in the past we would just go straight to the studio to record them, but this time each member of the band individually wrote the songs to get the basic structure even better, and after that our rhythm section, our drummer and bass player would go to the studio and really perfect the basics, and you could feel the songs come to life, and I think that made a big difference to how the sound turned out in the end.

Mark: The album is going down well here, just reading through some of the message boards from people who have listened to it, before the release, they are saying its Epica’s best album yet! Is this a feeling the band shares, that this is the biggest album to date?

Simone: I think so too, yeah! It was also the most expensive production for us, ever!! For this album, we just thought what the heck, we have a budget and we’re just going to go with it, whatever the album needs we’ll do. I think it will pay off in the end, in that we worked so hard and put so much time, we put a lot of effort, blood, sweat and tears into it!

Mark: It certainly shows! From what you’ve learnt so far in your journey, what’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given as a musician?

Simone: To do what you like, and not what other people say you have to do! Follow your heart and your intuition, if you want to be a true musician, then you have to feel the music, the way you think it should sound, and not have other people decide for you.

Mark: When you think about your earliest memories of music, and I know from your bio, that you played the flute at an early age, but, what was it that made you decide you wanted to be in a band?

Simone: I just really love listening to music, and the fact that you can create music, and reach out to other people and create a community. I really like that idea, and I love being creative, not only singing wise, but everything around being in a band. I was extremely lucky to be in the right band at the right time, you have to have the guts to say, right, I’m going to focus on this, and see how far I can take it. It could have been a complete failure and I would have had to quit and go back to work and do something else, or study something else. But, I chose the right path; I somehow felt that it was the right thing to do.

Mark: I think you definitely did. I just have a question about the artwork. Epica has had some wonderful artwork on their albums; does the band actively choose that?

Simone: We work with Stefan Heilemann, and he’s been working with us for quite a while, and he knows Epica, and what we stand for, he is a true artist. We gave him only a very small description of what “The Quantum Enigma” is, and gave him almost total freedom, and he came up with this amazing artwork. So, again it proved that we made the right decision to work with him.

Mark: Yeah, definitely, he is a great visual artist. If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album, at any point in time, what would it have been for you, and why?

Simone: Maybe, Muse’s album, “Absolution”. I am a big Muse fan, and that record meant a lot to me at that certain time of my life. And of course I have other memories attached to them as musicians themselves. It is the same with Epica, we know how we created the album, and have special memories attached to it, when people listen to it, they go through certain stages of their lives, and they experience it in different ways, so I would love to know how Muse got the album “Absolution” together.

Mark: It is a great album, and I think you’re right, it is often the time and place that you’re at when an album comes out, that makes it so special. Our next question, that we ask everyone, and I think you are the perfect person to ask this, in the fact that you have just recently become a mother, and also because you have just put out such a great album, that sort of deals with the question!! What is the meaning of life??

Simone: The meaning of life is being happy and doing what you want, making life beautiful, not only for yourself, but for everyone in it.

Mark: A lovely sentiment! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us, congratulations on the new album, it’s going to be absolutely huge, and we look forward to seeing you back in Australia one day!


Simone: Thank you, we are really looking forward to coming back to Aussie land!! We love you guys! Goodbye, have a nice day.



Simone spoke to Mark Diggins April 2014





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