It was a sunny day in Flevoland, Zeewolde. It was time for Jamrock 2003, with quite a nice set up. One of these bands was a chart hitter. Epica from The Netherlands was receiving credit with their debut album The Phantom Agony. Metalrage thought it was time for an interview with this new star in Dutch music. This interview was taken in the summer of 2003, and due to the losing of the tape with the interview, it was delayed to this day. Im truly sorry for this late reaction, but hey, at least its here now. The interview was done with Keyboard player Coen Janssen.
M: You've started out as Sahara Dust, and now it's turned into Epica. Why the name Epica, and not Sahara Dust?
C: We thought in the first place that Sahara Dust was a good name. We had Helena (Iren Michealsen, ex-Trail Of Tears) in our midst but eventually this relationship broke and that's the point when we decided to change our name as well. Helena is a world class vocalist and there has already been enough mud-throwing so I'm not going to deep on that anymore. Well, she went back to Norway with the drummer and we eventually found out that we needed a new name for the band. Well, we went to the studio with Sasha (Paeth, o.a. Aina, Rhapsody, Kamelot, Angra. Mat-Core) and it was mere coincidence that Kamelot recorded an album called Epica earlier that year. So we thought, ehj that's a quite cool name, and thus we decided that Epica was the new band name. Then we looked up the deeper meaning of the word Epica, and that is a place in the universe were all questions of life will be answered. We thought that would fit quite properly with our music style.
M: About the writing of material. Is this naturally done by Mark (Janssen) because he was in After Forever, or is it a group process?
C: It began when Mark was kicked or removed that's a better word from After Forever. It was quite like that he already finished a lot of material for the 3rd After Forever album. Mark is a true composer in veins because he wrote a lot of material of high quality for After Forever. When we came together as a band, the biggest part of the songs were already written. The pieces of the material, in which Mark encountered problems, we helped. So that's quite the process of writing for the debut album. The guitar parts were partially done by Ad (Sluiter) our other guitarist. I wrote the more harmonic material, and thus helped Mark in that way.
M: So it finally became a whole..
C: Yeah, it's not like Mark wrote all the material, and not letting us being involved with the music. It's just because Mark had the most of the material. For the next album it will be quite the same, because Mark is unstoppable with writing and composing new music. The rest of us will keep adding other elements to the main part of the material and that works out quite well!
M: You've been touring quite a lot now. You've played on Fields Of Rock and you keep on going. What do you think of your shows?
C: I totally love it. There is nothing better in this world than touring and getting appreciation by the fans for your own material. It's going like a well-oiled machine now. We have a lot of shows confirmed already and performing just rules. The fans do enjoy it also, because I've seen a lot of familiar faces, and they keep coming back for more, so that's also going quite well.
M: Mark was acquainted with the music business, was that a big help in finding a record company, or have you started out with scraps?
C: I can put it in this way. If Mark wasn't in this band then we would never have reached this level in that short amount of time.
M: That means you already had the contacts.
C: Yeah totally man. How stupid this may sound, but if Mark wasn't in this band. Well I can say this, the record company showed their trust in Mark, before he had this band. That says enough I think.
M: It's just profiting on the success of After Forever.
C: Yeah, in no time we could sign with Mojo as our booking agency. I can say again, if Mark didn't reach this all, we certainly would not have either. I know this sounds quite stupid, but..
M: Yeah it can be a stupid world but you just had the luck I suppose.
C: If I wasn't in this band and I witnessed this kind of media bombing, then I would have pretty much say the same as many critics do now. Fuck Off, gheghe.
M: haha, Okay, let's talk about The Phantom Agony. I would like to give you some titles, and hope that you can give me some more information about these titles?
Cry For The Moon
Seif Al Din
Façade Of Reality
C: Cry For The Moon, well, then I'm going back to what I've read.
M: I've read nothing.
C: Okay, I think it's striking because of the verse and the chore in it. This song we recorded for our Demo as well. I think the verse is one of the most striking of the album. It's handling about critic religious things. In the past children and other people were abused by preachers of god and those deeds of flesh were lay aside by the pope so that none would know of it. It's about that when you have the power, you can almost do anything you want. That's quite the main direction of the song qua lyrics.
In Seif Al Din you can hear the Arabic influences. Mark has always been a big fan of those Arabic influences, as you can hear in the present After Forever songs. Seif Al Din is the very first song we've written, it was even in the previous line up. The lyrics weren't completely finished, that's why there were a lot of grunts in it. Seif Al Din means The Sword of Believe and I believe that has to do something with the Islamic Believe. The lyrics are handling about the crimping of people for the Jihad in those Eastern Countries. Those lyrics are supported by those Arabic influences in the music. Mark totally loves those melodies, and we do to, and that's why we've recorded this song. You can hear the same thing on the After Forever Song My Pledge Of Allegiance and that's quite the trademark of Mark.
Façade Of Reality is again a song, and all those songs you've mentioned are from the Embrace Of Mothers cycle. In the press there are different thoughts about these songs. They say it's been used on both After Forever albums
M: I must look that up then.
C: Yeah well, it was a couple of song that was used for that cycle of songs. We won't have that on our next album.
M: To cancel the impression of being an After Forever clone?
C: Yeah, but do remember that Mark wrote almost all of A.F's material and also our material. You can nag about it for a long time, but it surely is clear that he is the big inspiring factor of this band. As a band we do like this song (Façade Of Reality) because it's a long song, and it's very varying for us to play. In that song everything what is Epica is in it. The lyrics are again about religion and things like that. I know it sounds cliché, but it's a good subject to write about. Its also about 11 September an things like that. Fanatics are going through dead bodies for their believe, and that's totally ridiculous.
M: About the lyrics, Who is the main song writer of the band?
C: Yeah, that's also Mark, because he has a lot of experience with lyric writing in After Forever. In the beginning he wrote the main part of the lyrics for After Forever but after awhile Floor began writing material too. With us it's also Mark who already finished a lot of lyrics but Simone has also written some lyrics for songs.
M: That means Mark and Simone are both responsible for the lyrics.
C: You can put it that way yeah.
M: How long did it take to form this band in its present form and how was the Phantom Agony created and what does it mean?[
C: There is a smooth process of creating the band and writing the songs because a lot of the material was already finished before we had this band together. We had quite a lot of trouble with finding a decent drummer. With Jeroen Simons we've found a perfect drummer and Simone was a singer and she was allowed to team up gheghe. She is performing very well! We are completely satisfied with this line up. Now we are rolling along for 1 year and 3 months (that was August 2003, Mat-Core). For The Phantom Agony, those were merely Ad, Mark and me who wrote the material. Jeroen did exactly with the music what we wanted and he did that very well.
M: What is the plan for the future of Epica?
C: If it's in our say, then we are going to be a world success gheghe. Well, because it's going that fast as it's going now, it's just waiting for the next thing to come. Everything can happen but for now it's going steady. In my view, everything that comes extra is a lucky shot. I really did not believe it would turn out this grand. In Mark's opinion this surely isn't grand because he's used to more, but still it's a big thing we did together. As a keyboard player, I surely never hoped that it would get this big.
M: That show on Fields Of Rock, was a last moment show, how did that happen?
C: Fields of Rock was a week away when we heard that we had to perform there. That surely was great, because such an opportunity you'll never get again. It was quite bad for the other band that had to perform there
M: That was Feeder.
C: Yeah Feeder, their guitarist had an accident and that's of course a big disaster for that band, but for us. Look we surely had sympathy with them but.. Well, for us it was totally cool that we could perform there. I don't wish this to anyone but one's dead is the other's one bread. That's the way it works. Well, our show was overlapped by the show of Marilyn Manson, so we believed there would be a quite big amount of people watching our show but eventually would turn away for Marilyn Manson. Well, anyways we did not believe our eyes, when we saw everyone kept their place and did not turn away to Marilyn Manson. It was quite like a dream coming true.
M: What do you like better then, little spaces or big festivals?
C: Fields Of Rock was our first festival so that's a bit hard to say.
M: Let's put it this way then, do you enjoy big audiences with different styles or a smaller group totally into the music style that you make?
C: Yeah, I like both I think, when we played in the 013 that also was a big thing becoming reality. I always wanted that as well. But performing on Fields Of Rock made me happy too. We also do shows with little audiences ( sort of 20 people) but you just have to give everything you have, no matter if it's for a big audience or a small one. You just have to give them a show. In smaller gigs the audience pays money just to see you, that's also a big factor that makes these kinds of shows approvable. You just go for it, every show again.
M: You want something to say to metal listening Holland
M: Sorry, but this was really a question like. I don't know anything else gheghe
C: hahahaha, well let's say something then. At first, Buy our album!! Gheghe. But beware of the price, you can buy it at the free record shop, but you'll definitely pay a lot more than it's actually costs in the lesser music stores. Ehhh Well, we totally want to go crazy with this band and will give our bests. Visit our shows and let us know what you think. Just. WE GO FOR IT!.. Owh, and don't put a bound on yourself in terms of only listening to metal.
M: Thanks dude for the interview
C: Yeah, also thanks to you and we'll see it online someday!