Epica's Mark Jansen is not your typical metal musician. Instead of writing lyrics about the usual metal topics, he takes a lot of inspiration from subjects like quantum physics, which is where the title for the band's latest CD Design Your Universe came from. Jansen, who is Epica's guitarist and main songwriter, also contributes harsh vocals. He fills us in on the new album, the guest appearance from Sonata Arctica's Tony Kakko, the band's upcoming U.S.
tour, his beginnings in music and much more.
Chad Bowar: Did your experience playing classical and movie soundtrack songs on your live CD The Classical Conspiracy influence your songwriting on the new album Design Your Universe?
Mark Jansen: I don't think it influenced the songwriting itself that much, because 70 percent of the material was already written when we started The Classical Conspiracy. But it did have some influence, because if you do something this big and work with an orchestra, it always leaves a mark on you. The orchestral arrangements for the new album definitely have some influence from that for sure.
What impact did your new guitarist Isaac Delahaye have on the new record?
He joined the band about two months before we entered the studio. We worked our asses off together on the final details of the guitar parts. He didn't take part in the songwriting, but he worked very hard on the guitar riffs. The material was a bit heavier than before, but his way of playing made it even heavier.
He's a more melodic oriented guitarist, but also into experimenting a little bit more with his sound and the riffs. That was very refreshing for us.
Do you write most of the music?
Yes, and the lyrics I do 50/50 with Simone. I compose about 70 percent of the songs. When I think I can't make it any better, I present it to the band and together we start rehearsing it and people have suggestions. Every idea that makes the song better will be used. So in the end, everybody contributes to the songs. The opinions of all the band members bring the songs to a higher level. In the end it's a band collaboration.
What inspired the album title?
That comes from some new ideas in quantum physics, that consciousness has a direct influence on the environment. There have been tests that prove that consciousness is enough to form particles to behave in a certain way. So if consciousness has a direct influence on the environment, then we can create our own environment as human beings. What it means is that if you set your mind to something and really want it to happen, then it will happen. You change from being a victim in this world to someone who takes his own responsibility.
What is a guy in a metal band doing studying quantum physics?
It's very interesting stuff. I studied psychology, so I've always been into science. But it's way more than psychology that catches my interest. There's also quantum physics and all kinds of theories that are mind challenges. I read a lot about these topics, and whatever interests me I write lyrics about.
How did Tony from Sonata Arctica's guest appearance on the album come about?
We toured with Sonata Arctica in Europe, and he's become a friend of ours. He was hanging around backstage during the tour, and one day we asked him to participate in our next album. He said if the song fits, he would do it. When we were writing the album, we sent the song to him. He did his thing and sent it back. He recorded it in his home studio in Finland.
The CD has been out for a while now. Are you satisfied with the response so far?
Yes, we are very happy. The album is a bit heavier than before, so we weren't sure if our die-hard fans would like an album like this. But the reactions have been overwhelming. I was hoping for that reaction because we really worked hard on this album. As soon as we heard this response, it was like a burden falling from our shoulders.
You shot a video for the song “Unleashed.” What is the concept?
The lyrics in the song are about an old person who looks back on his life and is not satisfied. He thinks he wished he did things differently. The makers of the video changed the concept a bit. In the video it's a person who gets home and noticed there was a robbery. But the thief is still there and kills the guy. But the guy is not aware that he's dead, so he's still around in the apartment and tries to get in touch with his girlfriend.
Are there any more videos planned for this album?
Yes, we are planning one more video, but we don't know which song. We are thinking about doing a contest where people can make a short video for Epica, and the person that does the best will get the job to make a real video with a budget. There are a lot of young moviemakers who haven't had a chance to do anything.
You're going to playing some live shows in your home country of the Netherlands in January. Some artists aren't appreciated as much in their native countries. What's the response there?
We feel very much appreciated in the Netherlands by the fans. When it comes to the press, sometimes you feel like you're not taken seriously by some of the big media. When you are a Dutch band, the TV and radio doesn't take you that seriously. We notice with mass media, but not with the fans. The fans in the Netherlands are very good, and we have good crowds here.