Rock Overdose through Zisis Petkanas recently held an interview with guitarist, Mark Jansen of Epica. You can also listen to the audio interview at the Rock Overdose homepage.
Here’s the transcript of the interview by Anna Maria Tranca:
RockOverdose: Mark, welcome to Rock Overdose! How are you these days?
Mark Jansen: Thank you! Very busy but I’m doing fine, I’m in Italy and I’m having a little break from all the recording process of the Epica and Maya, and one week from now I will be back in studio for two weeks, with Epica, to record the new album. So, it’s exciting days!
RockOverdose: I suppose you must be really happy about returning back to the studio with Epica.
Mark Jansen: Yes, definitely, it’d been a while and now we have written quite some songs for the new album, it’s great when you see them developing in the studio and record them. I always like the process of creation, it’s also time consuming, but in the end when it’s finished and you are quite happy with the result, that feeling is indescribable.
RockOverdose: What about the first impressions of the sound of the new album?
Mark Jansen: For the first time we went in another studio, because we recorded all the previous albums in the Gate Studio in Germany, with Sascha Paeth, but now we look for a new environment, so we came to the Sandlane Facilities in the Netherlands. They are really focused on the little details about the sound, so we have quite a big pre-production, the biggest we had, with a lot of drum sound, a lot of guitar, that’s just only what we have done in two weeks, and this is something we had never done before. Of course, these are just sounds. For example, you spend the whole afternoon making the drum sound, and do the recording for it. We have every kind of instruments. Every sound has been tested and the best selection was made. I hope you will be able to hear that in the sound, because all this effort will be helpful to make a good sound.
RockOverdose: What about the songs titles? Or it’s too early about it? What about the title of the album?
Mark Jansen: Well, that’s still a secret. We don’t have the permission yet from Nuclear Blast to release the title of the album.
RockOverdose: So you won’t give us an exclusive information.
Mark Jansen: I’d like to do that but then they’ll get mad at me (laughing).
RockOverdose: I understand. I think you’re going to release also a DVD, under the title “Restrospect”? Can you tell us a few words about this release?
Mark Jansen: We started working on that project something like one and half year ago, because we wanted to do something special for the tenth anniversary of Epica, and we were talking what can we do, how can we make it special, and very soon the idea emerged, that we should ask the Hungarian Orchestra and Choir again to work with us, as they worked with us on the “Classical Conspiracy” album, and it was a very nice cooperation, and they always kept in touch with us. So we thought that if we could do a very special show in the Netherlands with the same orchestra, and release a DVD out of it, it would be the perfect anniversary. Then, we didn’t realize how much work it will be to organize such a show totally by ourselves. We started one year before because we needed all that time to organize everything, because it was a huge amount of work, a huge amount of people involved. It was like we were like 200 people involved in the project, so you can imagine that it was quite big, and it was the first time to organize a show like this by ourselves. It works very well, but I know now how much work it will be for the next time.
RockOverdose: Do you know maybe about the release day?
Mark Jansen: I think it is 11 of November, if I’m correct. The day before, there are some DVD shows in some cinemas. One in Germany, one in Netherlands, one in Belgium, and some in North America.
RockOverdose: So, like a cinema premiere. Red carpets and all?
Mark Jansen: Yeah, we contacted quite a few promoters in order to arrange something like that, and it’s cool because this can happen. It’s cool so see such a DVD on the big screen, in cinemas, and I don’t know what to expect, what it will be to watch your own stuff on the big screen, but I think it’s quite a cool idea, and I think that more bands are doing that, having premiers on DVD in cinema, and I think that it’s also a cool thing for the fans. We will be at the premiere ourselves.
RockOverdose: So, you’re having the tenth-year anniversary. What are your feelings about all this time? Did you meet any bad situations during all these years?
Mark Jansen: There are always some bad things and good things in everything I guess. In every life, in every relation, there are good things and bad things. But one of the bad things was about our first record company that went bankrupted, and because of that bankruptcy our first DVD that we recorded in 2005 could not be released. That was a really big disappointment. I think that was for us the biggest disappointment in these ten years. We put a lot of effort also in that DVD and when the record company didn’t have money anymore, they had to stop. They also still have all the rights on all the material. We could not release that DVD with another company because the bankrupted company still kept the rights, and it was a bad situation for us. After all this, we had the opportunity to sign with Nuclear Blast. But still, that was a bad situation in the Epica history, all that work for that DVD went for nothing.
RockOverdose: I see. But, as you said, you had the opportunity to cooperate with one of the biggest companies, Nuclear Blast.
Mark Jansen: Yes, that was a big advantage, and in the end we had more advantages than disadvantages after that bankruptcy, so I won’t complain about that. It was just the DVD thing that was really sad, and that record company still owns the rights and they still want to release that DVD one day, but who’s going to wait ten years for such an old DVD.
RockOverdose: It will be an “early days” DVD. Like Iron Maiden, “The Early Days”.
Mark Jansen: Maybe it’s still a good thing to release, if they want to release it like that. And if we will agree, because it’s not the same band anymore.
RockOverdose: So in the past you had many important guests on your albums. Do you have any similar surprises for us this time too? Which artist would you love to have as a guest? First of all, are you going to have a guest on this new album?
Mark Jansen: We didn’t talk about guests yet, so I think that the chances are bigger that we won’t have a guest on this new album, but if we will have a guest, then it must be somebody really special, we won’t take a guest just to have one. If we’ll think that a song that we’ll be recording lacks something, that it needs a voice, a particular one, like Mikael Åkerfeldt for example, we will contact this guy and try to get him on the album. But we will do that only if we feel that something is needed on the album.
RockOverdose: For the promotion of your previous record, you did an extensive tour with over 200 headline shows. How really was it for you, especially taking into account that Simone was pregnant?
Mark Jansen: Yes. We were very careful with Simone, of course, and she did really well, in all the shows she did during pregnancy, she was doing them like always, only her belly kept getting bigger every week (laughing). And then we gave her a lot of time off. We started working on the new album, without the vocal lines, and now the child is born and healthy, fortunately, and she’s weary but she’s recovered, so she can sing for the new album.
RockOverdose: I see. So, Mark, you are the main song writer for the band as well as guitarist. Still, it’s very common in female-fronted bands that the spot lights fall on the female figure. Especially in your case, because Simone is one of the most convincing female artists. Don’t you feel strange sometimes, or awkward, towards her?
Mark Jansen: No, not at all, I have no problem with that, I always compare her with the attacker on a football team, he’s the guy who marks the goals and gets the most attention, and we are for example like the guys on the midfield who do all the hard work for the guy who scores the goal. They are also very important for the team, and it’s the same with musicians in bands like ours, where the most attention goes for the female singer. But we still get a lot of respect from the fans and people know that we are also important, so for me it’s no problem, she gets most of the attention, but this has also a lot of disadvantages for her, because we always have some liberty, we can go have a drink in a bar, but if she will do that, everybody will jump on her. So, there are also some disadvantages for her, less freedom, she’s always hunted, so I’m totally fine with the role I have in the band even if most of the attention goes for the front singer. It’s like for a big band like, for example, The Doors, with Jim Morrison, the most of the attention goes for the front singer, it has always been like that and it will always be like that. I’m totally fine with that.
RockOverdose: Talking about female singers, in After Forever you have been colleagues with Floor Jansen. Floor is announced as the new Nightwish singer. If she could hear us now, what would you tell her?
Mark Jansen: I already talked to her and congratulated her with this position with Nightwish. For her, it’s a dream came true, from the first time she participated with Nightwish, she was hoping that she would get the spot. I think she’s the best they could take. She’s a great front woman, a great singer, and I think it’s a really good combination, for Nightwish is good, for her is good, so I’m really happy for her. I know her for something like fifteen years and I’ve seen her growing and I see she’s perfectly at her place with Nightwish. That’s what she deserves.
RockOverdose: You have to be proud of her.
Mark Jansen: Yeah, definitely. I was that one who, in a way, discovered her, with a friend of mine. He said to me that he has seen this girl, at a party, and maybe she’s the one for my band. So we had an audition. In the beginning we were just looking for a background singer. And she came, and she sang, and we said that she’s not going to be just a background singer, she’s going to be a front woman. It was very cool, to see her, from the very first moment that I knew her, up to where she’s now, so I’m really proud, yeah.
RockOverdose: Let’s wish good luck to her, too. When you started making music, did you ever think or hoped of living from music? How does it make you feel that you can live from your music and earn enough to cover your needs?
Mark Jansen: Yes, it’s great of course that we can live from our music, that’s like a dream, it’s the thing everybody who makes music would like to, I think, also, I must say, I work really hard for it, so I don’t think that I’m just lucky, such a thing is not just a matter of luck, is also a matter of really hard work, and when you believe in something, then go for it, even if it means to work 24/7 to reach your goal, that’s what my band and I always did, and the fact that we can live now from our music is a thing to make us proud, and also very happy, because I want to be in the band, I don’t want to work for somebody else. I finished my University as well, I could have worked with that too, but I did what I wanted to do, what I loved to do, and I don’t want to do anything else, I can’t even do anything else. Like I said, I cannot work for a boss, because when I think that something must be done in a certain way, and the boss tells me I have to do it in another way, I would get pissed. Music is the only thing that really works for me, and I’m really glad that I can do this.
RockOverdose: It’s a really great thing that you can combine what you love with your job. A lot of people would really like to do it, but maybe they can’t live from music, because it’s difficult.
Mark Jansen: Yes, my friends, they also love to do this, but they really cannot live from music. I know a lot of really talented musicians who need to search for another job because they don’t have much work. It’s sad but that only proves how happy I can be that I can do this.
RockOverdose: If you had to characterize your new album with three words, which will they be?
Mark Jansen: This is very hard to say, I think it’s a combination between the early albums and our new style, because I noticed in the last albums that I missed a bit what I was composing in the very beginning. In the beginning I was not only writing all the lines, but playing them myself. Later on, I wrote songs by programming on the keyboard. And I noticed that when I played them, I went back to how I wrote music in the past and that way I started combining the style from the old albums. We all wanted to do for the new album a stronger melodic album. With the new album, we want the melody to be the essential part. The melody is really necessary for a good song. And that’s what we really want to achieve with this new album.
RockOverdose: I suppose you have also the ideas for the album ready. Or you want to compose something new?
Mark Jansen: We finished all the songs and all we need to do now is recording them.
RockOverdose: Great. So, we have to wait for the result.
Mark Jansen: The new album will be released in 2014.
RockOverdose: What about your future touring plans, if any? And, do you consider visiting Greece, maybe?
Mark Jansen: I hope so. We have a tour that will start on April 2014 when the album will be released. We will be first in the Netherlands and start touring, but we won’t do long tours until the summer, because Simone needs enough time to take care of the kid, and then the kid will be one year old and she will have time again to do some longer tours. So, I’m hoping that at the end of 2014 we will be able to come to Greece as well. Maybe at a summer festival, that will be even better, but if not then, then hopefully at the end of 2014, or later, at the beginning of 2015.
RockOverdose: We will have to wait, then, and be patient. I also think that you must have great memories from our country.
Mark Jansen: Definitely. I’ve been often in Greece, not only to play at shows but also in holidays, and to be with my friends, I have many friends in Greece, I have also a second band, Maya, and one of my friends from Greece plays as guest on the new album of Maya. So, I have a big connection with Greece.
RockOverdose: Who is your Greek friend who plays on the album?
Mark Jansen: Dimitris Katsoulis.
RockOverdose: You speak Greek really clearly!
Mark Jansen: I also know some Greek words, like “malaka”, of course, and a few others. I thought that malaka was a very common word, because I heard friend saying this often to each other. I like this word, it’s easy to pronounce (laughing).
RockOverdose: So, Mark, what is your message to your fans, especially here, in Greece?
Mark Jansen: I would like to say, as you said before, I hope that everybody will be patient because I get really a lot of questions on facebook, from fans who ask when we come over to Greece, so, I honestly don’t know yet, but I want to ask everybody to be patient and as soon as we have the possibility we will come over and I hope that it will be as great as it always is when we come in Greece, because Greece is one of the best countries for us, people are so amazing, so wild, so passionate, and these are the best ingredients for an Epica show.
RockOverdose: Thank you very much and we are looking forward to hear the first samples of your upcoming release and of course to meet you here in Greece. And drink some ouzo together.
Mark Jansen: Not too much ouzo because it is so strong! But one or two, are always good.
RockOverdose: Yes, two glasses, not more, and then maybe you will agree to sing only for us! Thank you very much again.
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