I N T E R V I E W
Interview Mark Jansen (by phoners)
The album will be out in one month. How do you feel about it?
I'm really excited! We've been working very hard on the music and finally, when the work is done, you're waiting for the release and leave it to mankind. It's always an exciting moment and I really look forward to it!
When did you decide to form this band and why?
The first reason why is because I also like to compose some really heavy music and with Epica and the past After Forever, I can't do something too heavy because when you work with a female singer, there has to be enough room and space. So you have to compose in a way that the music fits the female voice. With Epica and After Forever there are certain limitations. And to be able to create something more heavy, I decided to make a CD with a different name because if we had mzde this music with Epica, I think there would be many disappointed people. When you expect a certain music from Epica, you cannot change so drastically to something like this. And I also think it's an album without compromises. And I'm also curious to know what people think of it because so far the reactions are very diverse. Some people love it and give it nine out of ten as a result, and some people hate it and it's like four out of ten so... (Laughs). I have a feeling that we created something that divides people into two categories : people who will like it and people who will hate it.
And what fascinates you in the Mayan culture so you name this band like that?
I think that we have to learn a lot from how those people live and lived in the past, in harmony with nature. This is something that we have forgotten now, nowadays, we work against nature instead of working with it. We are even destroying our nature and the world around us. And in the end, if we go on like this, we will destroy ourselves. So, we have to listen to it again and learn from people from the past how they lived in harmony with nature and we will learn how to do that.
Did the research you did for the Epica album "Consign To Oblivion" help you or give you the idea to go further on this subject?
Yes, with "Consign To Oblivion", I already thought and talk a lot about Maya and Mayan culture. It's not that on this album I wrote many lyrics about it, it's just that we used the name for the band. So it's just like an overlap and the lyrics themselves are more dealing with topics like corruption and abuse of power.
What is the idea behind the cover of "Quarterpast"?
Well, it still having to learn from the past. And we can't live without a modern world because we made many steps forward but we also made steps backward in the way we treat nature. So the ancient can't do without the modern world but the modern world can't also be without the past. So if both learn from each other, we can make an extant developpement.
But this man, crossing his fingers like he is cheating on people...
Yes, that's the world we are living in nowadays! Governments lie to the people, the church lie to the people. So there is corruption, lies everywhere even with the people who govern us and who should be the dependable ones. We have to be able to trust our governments and reality proves that we can't because there are all a bunch of liars, unfortunately...
To you, who is this album for?
I think it's for people who like the heaviest side of Epica and people who like bands like Opeth or the band Death. I think it's a combination between those bands and I also think that the album is for people who have a lot of patience. When you listen to this album only once, I think it's not possible to enjoy it that much. This album needs at least five or six listening sessions before you get to the underlying layers. This album is a big challenge. For example, I like Opeth a lot and when I listened to Opeth for the first time, I didn't like it because I had to listen to it over and over again, but I always love the band I had to get into before I enjoy it. These kinds of albums are the ones I still like after ten years! And I can't stop playing them. We tried to achieve that goal, to make a difficult album but once you get into it, it will never let you go.
Yeah, there is a lot of different influences on it, it's hard to get into it in the first place and try to understand everything in the music!
Yeah definitely! That's why I think people who will listen to it once will probably be disappointed. But I think and even if it's a small group of people that will like this album, it's not a problem for me because we made the music that we really like and like to listen to, and when you write the music with your heart, there is always people who will enjoy it as well. So even if it's a small group who likes this album or the band, for me, it doesn't matter because we achieved our goal, we did exactly what we wanted to do.
Were the guest vocalists obvious for you or did you think of other singers?
No, because I really wanted to have Simone and Floor singing together on this album! Fans of Epica and After Forever are always asking to hear these two singers together on an album and now it's finally happening. That's the idea we had in the first place. We also wanted to have more men voices than female voices that's why we asked Henning to do some clean voices as well. And we also have this talented but no known yet Laura Macri. She's an Italian opera singer and she is still very young and working on her career. But it's nice to also have someone nobody knows yet and that you can introduce for the first time.
And what about your parts, was it also obvious for you to sing in this band?
Yes because in this band I'm only doing vocals and I'm not playing the guitar. And I also didn't write many guitar parts compared to Epica where I'm very involved with writing the guitar lines. On this album I only wrote like twenty five percent of the guitar lines, I was more involved with the structures of the songs and with some melodies. Basically it was only on the grunts and the lyrics, so for me it was still a lot of work but I also didn't want to be too much involved with the guitar riffs otherwise it would have sounded too much like Epica. So as for my typical Epica parts, I used them for the next Epica album.
(Laughs). Yeah, because if I hadn't done that, the two bands would have sounded like each other and that would be a pity! It has to be totally different otherwise I would start doubting what idea I have to use for which band so... I only use the Epica sounds and riffs for Epica and things which are more brutal, more complicated, more challenging in the guitar will be used for MaYaN.
As we are talking about Epica and MaYaN, when we listen to "Quarterpast" and when we listen to "Kingdom Of Heaven", sometimes we can think "Kingdom Of Heaven" would have been a good song for this new album!
Yeah! In a way, "Kingdom Of Heaven" might be the step between Epica and MaYaN. So indeed a song like "Kingdom Of Heaven" could have been a song of MaYaN. I think the last song of MaYaN, even if Nuclear Blast didn't put it in the ipool, "Sinner's Last Retreat", because there was something wrong so they left one song of the album out, but I think that song could have also been on an Epica album. The song sounds most like an Epica song. So a song like "Kingdom Of Heaven" sounds most like a MaYaN song and "Sinner's Last Retreat" is closest to Epica! (Laughs)
Between the long songs, there are also some interludes. Are they breaks for the listener or are they here because the concept needed them?
I think there is already so much going on. We consciously wrote some peaceful parts so the listeners can have some breaks as well. Because if it's constantly brutal, people won't go to the end of the album. It's hard to stay focused. So these soft parts we created are for the listeners, so they have some kind of rest.
If "Quarterpast" was an animal, a colour, a season and some food, what would it be?
It's a brutal beast. (Laughs). So if I have to chose an animal it would be a (hesitation) jaguar. It's fast, furious and it chases the prey after! (Laughs). For a colour, I haven't thought about a colour for this album, but I think it's dark red. The season would be autumn. And food... (hesitation) Delicious food. (Laughs). But for everybody, what's delicious food is different! (Laughs).
Do you think that if your name and the names of the other members weren't that known, you would have been signed by Nuclear Blast ? Would it have been a bit harder to release this album?
I think we would have been signed by Nuclear Blast as well because when I sent the music, Nuclear Blast didn't know who was in the band yet. They only knew I was in the band, but didn't know about the other guys. When I sent the music, nobody knew that even Franck was in the band, so for Nuclear Blast, it was only the music they liked. They told me to send the music and that if they liked it, they would let me know, and if they hadn't liked it, we would have had to look for another record company. And I said to Nuclear Blast "If we can sign with you guys, I won't even look for another company because I'm really happy with Epica." They give us a total freedom and there are not that many record companies that give you this total freedom. So I'm really happy with them. They sent me an email back after they listened to the music, they headbanged at the office, all of them and they were enjoying the music so much. So I think if we had been a completely unknown band, it would have been the same... Even if it's more difficult to reach the right people at Nuclear Blast, but they just based it on the quality of the music and not on the people in the band. And also, when we sent the music, they didn't know yet that Floor Jansen was singing on it, nor Simone. Nothing was known, only the music itself and that I was involved. That was the only thing.
Usually, when an artist we like does another project there are two kinds of reaction: people who are waiting for it so much that they are disappointed and some who say "ok, this is him or her and I'm definitely sure I'll love it" without objectivity. What do you think of these kinds of reaction?
I've noticed that in South America for example everybody is the second. People love it before they heard anything! They are really wild and ask us to come and play there and they are already excited. Here, in Europe, I noticed that people are waiting for the music and then see if they're gonna like it or not. I know there is a big difference between people in South America and people in Europe with that. I think if some people expect something close to Epica, they might be disappointed because it's quite different. But people who are open-minded and want a challenge in the music, something that is not easy going, they're gonna have a good album with this one.
In the beginning, there were two After Forever members even if Sander Gommans left the band. Wasn't it a bit weird to work again with those guys after all these years?
Yeah, Jack is a former member of After Forever who is still in there and Sander left again because he is easily overworked. After the end of After Forever, he had a burnout and he was afraid of getting it again because the things were going fast when we created the band. We wanted to work on the songs quite often and it was too fast for him. But to answer your question, in one way, it was weird to start working again after all these souvenirs but on the other hand it was also very natural. It was like all those years had never been between us. It was like we stopped yesterday and continued the next day. So it was really weird in a way but also not at all!
But with a schedule like yours, how did you find the time to work together?
We always worked between Epica tours, we used our time really well. And with Epica, I always write the music on my own when I sit in my studio and create all by myself. Of course, in Epica, other guys also write the music but the songs that I write, I basically write them by myself and together we work on the last details. But with MaYaN, we were really doing it together with Franck, and Jack, we were creating the music together. It was for me a real refreshing way of working. And both ways of working have many advantages and disadvantages, but the biggest thing with this way is that you can get a lot of inspiration and it works faster than if you work by yourself. So because of this, we could create the music in a quite fast way in a relatively short time.
Some shows are already planned, depending on the reception from the audience, do you think you will play in other countries?
With this band, it only depends on the success of the album. If there is a country where people like it, we're gonna go there. In some countries, if people don't like it, we will stay away. That's the good thing about this band. Epica was and still is my priority, we can do whatever we like with MaYaN. So we will only go where people like the album for example. It's not useful for us to go to a country where we will play for fifteen people. I have no problems with playing for fifteen people, but not if we don't need to! (Laughs). So, with Epica we did many things to make this band bigger even in the countries where they didn't know us to establish something, but with MaYaN we are in an easier way and we will play in the countries where we are sure people like the album.
It's a kind of project for fun or something like that...
It's a true band, but we don't feel any pressure. That's a good thing, we don't have to make a living from MaYaN. MaYaN is for fun. We had a lot of fun making this music, we love the music ourselves and even if we are the only ones who liked it in the end, we had a lot of fun and we love it so... There is no pressure that many people have to like it, that we have to earn a lot of money to make a living. This pressure is not there, and with Epica the pressure is there because it's our main band.
You still have this pressure with Epica?!
Yeah, there is a pressure with Epica all the time. People always have high expectations with Epica and especially after "Design Your Universe" which was a very highly rewarded album. People have now many expectations for the next Epica album. So we can feel it... But hopefully, it didn't affect me when I was writing the new Epica songs.
And you don't think you would have to choose between the two bands even if MaYaN was to become a big and influent band?
If MaYaN suddenly becomes big, which is also a possibility of course, then we would have to see what we'd do. Some people also tell me that MaYaN will become even bigger than Epica and After Forever together. But I answer: of course not. I think MaYaN is for a smaller audience but if that happened, if these people were right and it became this big, then we would have to decide what to do with this situation. As long as it's not the case, Epica is my priority and we will do all the tours that Epica needs and when there is some time left, we will spend this time with MaYaN.
What are the plans for the future, except for the small tour?
The future for this year looks like we will first do, before the release of the album, some shows in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, and at the end of the year we are looking for some possibilities to do a tour in South America. Before the tour in South America, with Epica we will enter the studio to record the new album. And next year, we're gonna make a big Europeen Tour with Epica and for the summer we have to see how things are going for this MaYaN album to decide if we are going to do Epica shows on festivals mainly, or also some MaYaN shows.
How do you want to end this interview?
"Merci". The French have always been good with Epica so I hope people will give MaYaN the same treatment or at least a chance. I'm really thankful to the French audience for all these years and I also say that in the interviews in other countries when they ask what the best countries for Epica are, I always say South America, France and The Netherlands. So these are our main countries for Epica and I hope that we can do some MaYaN shows there as well in the future.
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