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The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Mark Jansen Epica - Interview
The Rockpit interviews

MARK JANSEN

EPICA


Epica

Epica have been around for over 10 years now and in that time have proven to be one of the better bands in the genre of symphonic and melodic metal. Their latest album "The Quantum Enigma" came out in 2014 which has been received really well and currently the band have been touring worldwide in support of it with the band due to hit the U.S. soon before heading to Australia and New Zealand in March.

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With the state of the music industry these days, touring is a big part of any band's life and Epica are no exception to it. The band continue into the new year with more shows so I ask Mark how the tour has been going so far. 'We're almost at the end of it. The tour has been a success. But we also had some misfortune in the USA. Simone's father got a heart attack and he was in a very bad shape for some weeks. It was pretty close. She flew back and we had to cancel almost a whole tour, that was hard but that's life, there are ups and downs. It makes you realise what's truly important in life. Which is first of all health and family. Epica is our life as well, it made us grow closer to each other as well.'

On the tour schedule this year, the band are hitting Australia and New Zealand for a headline run which the fans are excited about. With an increasing back catalogue to choose from for the live set, it must be getting more difficult with each album so what can the fans expect? 'A show! Haha, it's always hard for me to think so far ahead. As we're first going back to the United States I'm fully focused on that tour at the moment. After that we start thinking about the setlist for Australia. Of course our crew is already working on the technical side of the shows but the band itself is mainly focused at the recordings of our new album. Busy times at the moment.' And the new songs are going well with the older material as he goes on: 'All our songs fit well together. I'm happy about that as we don't want to stop playing our older classics. We always try to play a varied set with songs from all the albums.'




Epica are no strangers to Australia having toured the country once before but that experience stood out for the band as Mark recalls. 'We've been there one time so far and I remember the way everything is organised. In Brisbane for example there are so many (free) facilities for cyclists and public pool. I'm used to having to pay for everything so it's really nice when there are so many accessible tools and activities. I also remember my visit to the Rottnest island close to Perth which is a really beautiful island. I did rent a bike there and loved every second of it. I'm a sporty guy and Australians are sport minded as well so it's a good match. I love to be in your country. '
"The Quantum Enigma" came out in 2014 and has done well, reaching number 4 on the Dutch charts. It's always interesting though to see if a band still feels the same way about an album that has been out for almost 2 years and more so now that the band are planning their next album. 'I am still very proud of this album. We took some risks and it was the right thing to do as the album became cd of the month in quite some prominent european metal magazines. We still play quite some tracks from the album and the fans have received the album very well as well. So it's hard to feel no pressure for the upcoming album [laughs].'

It was also the first album with new bass player Rob van der Loo who joined the band in 2012. 'He's a pro, you notice that in every way. He's motivated, always well prepared, contributes to the songwriting and live he's a beast on stage. I like working with him a lot as he's got everything what you expect from a top bass player and more.'
And to top things off, vocalist Simone Simons also had a new baby when the band went into the studio to record the album which must have been challenging. 'It's not easy I have to confess but for every situation there is a solution and she managed. But everybody who's got kids will agree that it's hard to find some free time once you have kids. For that reason I don't have any yet, I did record my parts when there were no babies around [laughs].'

There is a somewhat scientific concept around The Quantum Enigma album and anyone into the world of science would of picked it up. But for those that haven't grasped the concept, what is it all about? 'The Quantum Enigma means that when we observe little particles in quantum physics we influence their behaviour. We can't observe them without affecting them, so therefore we don't know how they behave when we're not observing. I think the very act of observation (also in our daily life) is shaping the world and universe around us. In other words without us consciously observing there might be just energy without matter. ' Mark goes on to say that science has always interested him, still to this day in fact. 'I'm a scientist myself in a way as I have a university degree from the university of maastricht, the scientific part of psychology. So yes it definitely was and is a favourite topic of mine.'




Instead of being a scientist professionally though, Mark became a guitarist and a successful one at that. So how did he get into music in the first place? 'My father is a guitar player so for me it was a small step to take his guitar and start playing. As a kid I went to see Guns N' Roses, it became a dream of mine to play live shows as well. After seeing a Gorefest show I knew that metal was really my thing. The atmosphere at the show, the energy. I wanted to feel that too. Shortly after that concert I started playing guitar and looking for musicians to start a band. My first band that I founded was called After Forever. The singer of that band was Floor Jansen (the current singer of Nightwish). My main influences were classical music and metal. Undoubtely my youth has been of big influence, I listened to Guns N' Roses every day and even though the music I make with Epica is quite different it's still a big influence.'

One of the questions we like to ask people is what album they would like to be a fly on the wall to witness the recording of and Mark points out that a fly is maybe not the best way to put it! 'The very thought of being a fly doesn't attract me at all, a fly also doesn't hear like we humans do and probably have no awareness like we have so if I would be a fly at a recording these guys would probably kill me within a couple of minutes as flies in a studio can be quite annoying [laughs]. Even though I must say I never kill flies myself, I catch them and release them outside.'
I will probably never ask that question now after that haha! But he did pick out a classic album which was also one of my personal favorites too. 'Anyway, if I could attend a recording being invisible and sitting on a chair without anybody noticing me (that thought attracts me much more) then it would be the Appetite For Destruction album of Guns N' Roses. It's one of my all time favourite albums.'
A classic indeed. So when all is said and done, the inevitable thought that always comes up is the meaning of life and for Mark, the scientific idea behind the band's latest album actually relates to it in a way. 'The meaning of life is to give life meaning. I think we're here to learn. In fact I think we are artificial Intelligence learning from itself by transforming into matter. This way it can learn from itself.'

So are there any last words for the Australian fans before the band hit Australia?
'Mark: Yes I am looking very much forward to visit Australia again. And to see my elementary schoolfriend again, she lives in Australia since many years and the only times I get to see her are in Australia! See you all at one of the shows!!'


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EPICA AUSTRALIAN/NEW ZEALAND TOUR 2016:
w/ Voyager

March 16th @ The Studio, Auckland 18+
March 18th @ Max Watts, Brisbane 18+
March 19th @ Max Watts, Sydney 18+
March 20th @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 18+

Tickets and tour details can be found at Soundworks Touring


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Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on January 11th 2016