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Epica

With the EP ‘The Solace System’ Epica brings the remaining six songs of the recording sessions for ‘The Holographic Principle’ to market, so that the story is now complete. Keyboard player Coen Janssen took the time for Lords Of Metal to explain everything about this release and to inform us about the nice things that are coming for the band.

By: Sjak | Archive under prog / sympho metal

Hi Coen, for the recordings of ‘The Holographic Principle’, you had twenty-five songs available which were then reduced to eighteen for the actual recording session. You must have had quite some inspiration back then to be able to write such a big amount of new material?
Of course we have five song writers in the band, so when everybody delivers enough ideas there’s a substantial amount of material to choose from. We don’t have the same situation like in Nightwish for instance where Tuomas writes everything if I’m not mistaken, so there’s a big dependency on him for delivering the song material. We can divide this among five people and that speeds up the process quite a bit.

What where the decision criteria that were used to go through this process?
In most cases we do this like any other decision that we make within the band by means of a democratic process, together with Joost van den Broek. We had made demos for all the tracks that we had written , so that everybody could judge with songs would work out best. Everybody in the band including Joost expressed which songs that they thought were best suited and via this process we came to eighteen songs.

Did you already had the idea to release the six remaining songs as a future release when you did the recordings for ‘The Holographic Principle’?
Record companies always expect bonus tracks for different formats, but that wasn’t something that we wanted to do. We thought that these songs deserved more than being used as bonus tracks.. At a given time the plan was formed to do this in an EP-format, to complete ‘The Holographic Principle’ story and to provide all the material to the fans at once.

There were thoughts to make ‘The Holographic Principle’ a double album, but in the end that didn’t happen. Why did you decide not to make it a double album?
First of all because then eighteen songs wouldn’t have been enough, because in our case we needed about twenty-two tracks to be able to fill a double-album. Secondly, that would have made the schedule even more hectic with all the things that we needed to arrange for the recordings and that would probably not have been a wise decision. Next to this we also dealing with a record company that isn’t very keen on releasing double-CDs, so they preferred a construction like this one. We could have also kept these songs for a possible future release, but since you always write stuff in a certain period the next record might become totally different and as a result of that these songs wouldn’t match with that material anymore.

Are you going to use (parts of) the seven tracks that didn’t make the cut in the beginning?
That’s really depending on the level of inspiration we have for our next album. Maybe we will rework some of the existing material, but it’s a little bit too early to tell.

Just like on ‘The Holographic Principle’ you’re displaying an enormous variety in the material, yet the songs are all still very catchy. What’s the secret here?
The “secret” in the choruses is almost always the vocal line, as that really sticks to mind when this is a memorable melody. We put a lot of effort to this and it’s a very important part in our song writing process. However, the vocal line always comes at the end, as we first start with the music which contains a lot of variety and when we listen to this, there’s always something popping up as a melodic vocal line. This is however not a real “secret” or fixed formula, it’s just a way of working that the seven of us, Joost included, use.

How important is this EP for Epica? Is it just a matter of providing the fans with all ‘The Holographic Principle’ material or is there more to it?
For us it’s fun because we can add some extra songs to the set list and it makes the album complete. These songs are part of the total story that needed to be told and part of the total recording process, so for us it’s one product and that’s why it’s great that there will be an “Ultimate Edition” which contains both releases.

For the title track a video was made and quite a surprising one I must say. Why did you pick the title track for the first video and who came up with the idea to make it an animation video?
Already during ‘The Quantum Enigma’ I wanted to do an animation/live action video for ‘Chemical Insomnia’, but there was no time and budget to do this. But the seed was planted and this time we were approached by the guy that made the video and I was quite impressed by what he had done. Next to this it was almost impossible to shoot a “normal” video because of all the touring and other commitments that we have. This made it a rather easy choice to go for the animation video and we’re quite curious how this will work out. I created the story of the video and I’m very happy with the actual end result. Hopefully the fans will like it as well. By the way, the story is not finished because it is a triptych, so there will be two more videos to tell the complete story. The first one is about to be released now, but I can’t tell you more about it because that would ruin the surprise.

One track that really stands out is the acoustic ballad ‘Immortal Melancholy’. Who came up with the idea for this one as it is differs quite a lot from the “normal” Epica material?
I understand that you approach it like this, but for us it’s just another type of arrangement. Indeed it’s a ballad and there are not too many of those on our records, but everybody was very positive about this one, but it didn’t really fit on ‘The Holographic Principle’. Most of the time we have piano ballad and this time we have chosen for an acoustic guitar ballad, which is another area that we loved to explore.

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You already mention the Ultimate Edition’, but what other editions will be released?
In all honesty I have to admit that I don’t know exactly. Besides the ultimate edition, the regular EP edition will be available of course and I guess it also will be available on (different colors) vinyl and as download. This is more something that the record company, but I hope that people will go for the physical product as that contains cool artwork and background information.

As always the artwork is very beautiful. Was this again done by Stefan Heilemann and what was the assignment that was given to the artist?
Yes, again Stefan Heilemann was responsible for that and he doesn’t get any real assignment from us. It had to fit with “The Holographic Principle’, that was the main requirement. Of course the lyrics and the story were explained and then he was on his own. At a given time he came back with a model that was embraced by the universe, so it was kind of an easy choice to use Simone for that model.

You probably don’t have any high commercial expectations from this EP, as it is more meant to complete the story?
I never have any commercial expectations, I just hope that the people will like what they hear. We didn’t think about the commercial aspect when we decided to release this EP. At least it once more brings the attention to ‘The Holographic Principle’ and it gives us some more breathing space until the following full-length release. Besides that we can add some new songs to our set list as well, which is always nice.

Have you already chosen the tunes that you’re going to be adding to your set list from this EP?
That was also a democratic decision within the band and we have already one track that we’re going to add on the US tour that will start in a few weeks. Later on we will probably add one or more other songs to the set.

You already mentioned the US tour through North America with Lacuna Coil, Insomnia and Elantris. How big is Epica in that area of the world nowadays?
You will probably not be the only one who’s surprised that Lacuna Coil is one of our support acts, which for me is a strong indication that we’re doing quite okay in that part of the world. We have invested quite a lot from the early days of our career to grow in that area of the world as well and we’re still growing. As it looks like this is going to be our biggest tour ever with a great package.

After the North American tour you will be playing Europe with Vuur and Myrath. Have you chosen these support act and what do you expect from this European tour?
We always come up with a shortlist of bands that we want to have as support acts for our tour. We’ve been fans of Anneke since our early childhood days and we know the people in the band very well, so this is a great support act for us. And also Myrath, who have played on our second Epic Metal Fest, is a great band in my opinion

The last two years you arranged the Epic Metal fest, of which the last version even brought you to Brazil. Why didn’t you prolong this with a third event?
If you’re doing Epic Metal Fest, you can’t do any club shows anymore in The Netherlands as there won’t be any interest in those then. Because people already asked us for a very long time when we would return to the club circuit, we decided to go for three club shows this year instead of the Epic Metal Fest. Beside that we are so busy this year with the different festivals and the tours that we’re doing that it would be too much to also organize your own festival. We hope that maybe next year we can come up with a new format for the Epic Metal Fest, we’ll see….

Another topic that we need to talk about is the Metropole Orchestra contest that you won out of participants. Why did you enter this contest in the first place and did you ever expect to win?
There was a possibility to enter bands into that competition so we were entered as a candidate. This was communicated via Facebook and in no time we were at the number one spot. We have remained in that position until the end and, although it absolutely doesn’t fit in our planning, this is of course a great once in a lifetime opportunity for us.

As the winner you can record a tune with the Metropole Orchestra. When will this recording be done and which song are you going to use for this recording?
We have had some conversations about this and as it looks now it will be somewhere in December that we’ll do the recording. Of course we’re thinking about the song that we’re going to use and we will take the request from the fans in consideration as well as which song would fit best for this collaboration. We haven’t decided on the song yet.

What’s going to happen with that recording?
There are big plans, as both the Metropole Orchestra and Epica see the value of this collaboration and that’s all I’m going to say about this right now.

After the European tour, what are the Epica plans for 2018? What does the band have in store for us in that time period?
Next year will also mostly be about touring I guess. Now we’re heading for the US, in November we will be doing Europe, in April a UK tour will be done and we’re also want to go to Japan and South America. In the summer period we will be doing some festivals and after that I think it’s about time to take a short break. After the break we will probably start writing songs again for our next album.

The band has been continuously growing year after year, but what is the ultimate level that you are striving for with Epica?
You tell me! I really have no idea, I don’t see any limitations yet, but if you would have told me fifteen years ago that we would have this kind of success, I would have told you that you were an idiot. We have to work very hard for it and we’re very willing to do this, we have a great manager and because of that we have made big steps in the last five years. But I don’t know where it will end…

Okay Coen, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
I would like to thank everybody for all the support during all those years. If you want to visit one of our club show, make sure to get your tickets in time, because they’re going fast.

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