Fireworks Magazine Online 61 - Interview with Epica

EPICA: An interview with MARK JANSEN

Epica has been a central act in the Symphonic Metal genre since the turn of the century. The band was started by guitarist Mark Jansen after he left After Forever, (which he also founded) in 2002. In the past decade Epica, has released five studio albums, one soundtrack, one DVD and one live compilation. To celebrate their Anniversary, the band have recorded a special one off show that covers their entire history called ‘Retrospect’. Dave Scott picked up the phone to have a chat with the band’s Dutch axe and founder to find out about the new DVD.

We’re here to talk about your amazing ‘Retrospect’ DVD, can I ask was it your first idea or did you contemplate other ways to celebrate your Tenth Anniversary?

We started discussing amongst the group what we could do for the Tenth Anniversary and slowly the ideas became bigger and more promising and we ended up with something like this. But from the beginning it was not meant to become so big but along the way we added more and more ideas and it just became bigger and bigger. I’m happy that we started really early, in fact one year before the show, to prepare all this because it was double the amount of work that we expected it would be. You can imagine how many hours of work we put into this DVD.

I’m guessing including an orchestra and choir was also in the planning from early on?

Yes that was one of the idealistic ideas but I always appreciate idealistic ideas. I get motivated by that. Some guy asked was it realistic to do something like this and yeah pretty fast we all agreed that it should be possible. We made a calculation on how many tickets we would need to sell. The first calculation was about 2,500 to break even and that had a few guys a bit worried but I said I think it’s possible. In the end we had it sold out but even with selling it out the costs were so much higher that we almost didn’t break even. We would have had a problem if it hadn’t sold out, but when you have a crazy idea and you go for see it is always possible to realise it. The DVD wouldn’t be so special without with choir and the orchestra and everything. I think even if we hadn’t reached the breakeven point then with the DVD we could still have made up for that. I’m just really happy that we did and that in the end we had nothing to worry about on the financial front.

Which orchestra did you use for the show? Was it the same one you used for ‘The Classical Conspiracy’? 

It is exactly the same orchestra, the Extended Remenyi Ede Chamber Orchestra, and almost the same people that were in the orchestra the first time.

So they were familiar with your work already?

Yeah and they were still willing to work with us so they didn’t have such a hard time the first time I guess, ha-ha.

On the DVD you also have a few guest appearances. For those who haven’t seen it yet who else joins in the fun? 

We had first of all Floor Jansen, nowadays the singer of Nightwish...its official now, ha-ha. She was one of the singers we had high up on our priority list. She almost couldn’t make it because she was very busy in that period but fortunately in the end she could. Besides her, we also have the whole of the old band playing together for one song. That was also quite a unique thing especially when you know, with the drummer, we didn’t have contact for a long time because he wasn’t that happy when he left the band. But after some years we started talking again and when he heard about the DVD he offered himself to play with us for one song. Nowadays everything is fine again and I am really happy about that because I hate arguments, especially with ex band members. Now that we are on good terms again with all the guys that to me is a big relief.

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Was there any special guests that you wanted to include but couldn’t for one reason?

Yes that was Tarja. She was in the running for a long time and really wanted to do it. But she did say from the start, “If I cannot do it because of my schedule I will have to pass on it”. Unfortunately in the end she couldn’t make it, indeed due to her schedule because she was also busy with her own album. It was a big pity she couldn’t make it because if she had been there as well it would have been mind blowing. It’s already a great DVD but she would have been the cherry on the cake.

How did you decide which tracks made the show? Was it a group decision or did one or two members take control of that?

Initially I am the one who puts the set list together. But this was a real group effort because everybody had some ideas, we discussed them and it was not even that difficult to come to a set list that everyone agreed on; everybody dropped ideas, we put them together, we changed a bit, we throw some out and some in and everybody was happy.

The first thing that stood out for me and blew my mind was the light show. Who designed it for you and how big a job was it?

The guy responsible for it is Erwin Van Lokeren who’s been our live engineer for four or five years. For this show he went beyond crazy, ha-ha. He asked us, “Can I realise some of my dreams” and we said, “Yes you have always put on good light shows so go ahead”. He came up with ideas that left us totally stunned. This guy is really an artist on his own. He is really into his job; he’s always trying new things and even when he has hardly any lights available he still tries to make the most of it. He put so much time and effort into it. He was busy on ‘Retrospect’ for weeks programming and organising everything. We were obviously really happy with his work.

When you have finished everything for ‘Retrospect’, what next for the band? I have seen some talk that a new album is well underway?

Yes, definitely, we are actually in the studio at the moment. I am here at home in Italy for just one week but from next Monday I will be back in the studio again. I am finishing the last part of the lyrics for the album and Simone is finishing her parts. The music is all written and all done. I have heard today that all the drums are done, as well as thirteen tracks of guitars. Six or seven tracks of bass have also been recorded. So it’s going really well, we are right on schedule and we expect to make the release as planned. The album will be released April next year. I can already make a promise that this album is going to rock big time. I’m really confident about the songs; we are working in a new studio with a new environment and a new energy. I’m really happy about it.


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