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Science Fiction Might Simply be Reality; an Interview with Mark Jansen, (Guitars, Epica)

Interviewed by Zenae D. Zukowski

 

It is not every day when someone gets the privilege to speak to one of their personal favorite musicians out there, and when MyGlobalMind asked me if I wanted to do an interview with Epica’s Mark Jansen, I jumped out of my seat with joy. There is quite a bit of excitement happening for Epica as their seventh studio album ‘The Holographic Principle’ is set to release on September 30th under Nuclear Blast followed by a North American Tour. With that alone, I’m lucky that Jansen took a minute out of his busy schedule to speak to me. I knew to make these questions worth while, as a few did manage to take him for a difficult surprise.

 

Mark Jansen: Good Evening.

MyGlobalMind: How are you doing?

Mark Jansen: I’m fine thank you and you?

MyGlobalMind: I’m good.

Mark Jansen: Perfect that’s a good start.

MyGlobalMind: Thank you for taking the time to speak to me I’m calling from NY on behalf of MyGlobalmind and I have to be honest that it is a true honor to speak to you as I have been a huge fan of yours since After Forever and loved Epica since the ‘Phantom Agony.’

Mark Jansen: Wow! It’s been a while.

MyGlobalMind: (nervous giggle) Exactly. So, this is a very huge thing for me. With that said, I have seen you guys experiment more after each album and I do like the new ‘Quantum Enigma’ direction. With the new album ‘The Holographic Principle,’ I have listened to this quite a bit and I wanted to ask how you feel about this one compared to the Quantum Enigma?

Mark Jansen: First of all I’m really happy that all of the work is done because it was a huge amount of work and we set for ourselves the bar higher than before and every time it’s more difficult because with ‘The Quantum Enigma’ we already set the bar quite high for ourselves and now we thought how can we do even better. We sat together and we came to some conclusions and recorded everything live. All of the instruments that we used in the past that we used samples for like the Brass we all wanted to record them live. And we even worked harder on the tracks itself to make all of the details to match as good as possible. So I’m really happy that all of this work is done because it was a much longer recording process than all of the other albums and I have a very good feeling about it. The only thing what we don’t know yet is, how will  the fans react? So far the things we hear from people who have listened to the album already are good things so that’s very promising. I have a good feeling about it.

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MyGlobalMind: Definitely. It’s bolder than the ‘Quantum Enigma,’ and heavier but, I also see the orchestral enhancements that you added from that direction.  Secondly, I  noticed that there is a Science Fiction spin on the evils behind modern Technology, is there anything else you are able to reveal about the lyrics and writing process with that?

Mark Jansen: It’s not literally the evils of technology, it’s more like the reality of technology. In the past it was Science Fiction indeed but nowadays, it’s reality. It’s also an ode to good old movies in a way like the Terminator. For instance, the “Universal Death Squad” song is an ode to the Terminator movies and also the movie Universal Soldier. I loved both movies as a kid. Back in the days it was really scary and everyone thought oh no this cannot be reality that robots can have this self determination to kill. And nowadays, it’s reality and they are experimenting with it and we thought it was a good moment to write about it. Even without taking a stand, for or against it’s just a fact that it’s going on. It can help us it can also have some really bad side effects but that’s something we will find out pretty soon I guess. The rest of the album is basically about dealing about the ‘Holographic Principle’ which also sounds in a way very Science Fiction. The whole universe might be a hologram, many scientists are taking it serious. In the end all what seems Science Fiction might be simply reality.

MyGlobalMind: That’s beautiful. That is completely different from how I initially interpreted ‘Quantum Enigma’, that’s very interesting how this is moved towards with the new ‘The Holographic Principle.’

Mark Jansen: Yeah it all sounds so wicked and weird that it almost is too hard to believe that it can be true but it can be. I always say it’s already strange when you think about a Globe going around in the Universe at a fast speed, and that is already really hard to believe that that can be true and if that is already strange, why can’t it be true that the whole thing is a Hologram after all?  It’s all possible.

MyGlobalMind: Anything is possible.

Mark Jansen: Yeah.

MyGlobalMind: Live performances, what is the best gig you have ever experienced?

Mark Jansen: That’s really hard to pick one. There’s so many that were really amazing but one that always pops up first is the one we did in Tunisia, we were the first International Metal band playing in Tunisia. The people when they came to the show was like a victory for them that finally there was a Metal band playing in Tunisia. The first three rows of the fans were crying out of happiness. I will never forget that. It might not have been the best show we have ever played because of some technical difficulties but the show I remember it was the most intense.

MyGlobalMind: With Epica, do you have a favorite song you like to play live?

Mark Jansen: It’s really hard because there are several songs I love to play for example, even though we play it so many times, “The Obsessive Devotion…”

MyGlobalMind: (Interrupts out of excitement) I love that song.

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Mark Jansen: It is one of my favorites to play and the crowd always goes wild on that one. There’s also a song like “Kingdom of Heaven” that we almost never play live but still one of my favorites. But it’s so long that it takes almost one tenth of our set already, just by playing one song. We don’t play it that often and when we do, I enjoy it to the fullest.

MyGlobalMind:  Are there any songs you are tired of playing even if it’s a fan favorite?

Mark Jansen: Yeah, personally I don’t like to play “Never Enough,” and even though sometimes people are asking for it. I don’t know why but I don’t have a special connection with that song and for me it’s not a nice one to play. I think that’s one of the very few that I really don’t like playing live. Still, it’s something we do on special occasions because there’s always someone that wants to hear it live, so we do not ban it completely.

MyGlobalMind: I must say after Epica’s near four year absence from touring in North America, it is an unexpected surprise to see you guys come around twice this year, how do you feel about returning so soon?

Mark Jansen: We had a few unfortunately situations. First of all when we had that tour with Machine Head which was canceled one week before the tour would start and that was a bummer for us and for the fans. Especially because we were looking forward to it and and because it was a big tour and then one band decided to call it off and as for me that was very bad period. We had all of our flights booked, all expenses were made and we were ready to go and then Machine Head decided, “Oh we’re not going to tour.” It’s completely beyond your control because what can you do? We cannot say, “Yeah, you have to tour you agreed on it.”  No, and they decided they don’t tour and therefore, we don’t tour. I’m personally not a fan of being the support act and not being in control because things like this can happen and you know it and unfortunately it does happen. Then the one tour after when we were completely in control and then something happened where Simone had a family emergency so, you think you are in control and something happens and still you are not in control. You can never be in control. Therefore, with this situation, we had to cancel two Tours in a row for North America and when discussing to tour for the new album we thought we still had to make it up even though we couldn’t do anything about it. America deserves to have the first tour because of what happened in the past and I think the fans are very pleased with that.

MyGlobalMind: (excited fan voice comes out) Thank You! I’m not going to deny, I was there in January and looking forward to seeing you guys in both November and December. I’m a huge fan.

Mark Jansen: Hahah, nice. It’s always really fun to tour in North America. The only thing I can say is really a hell is getting the Visa together. It’s a lot of time, a lot of effort, we have to go to Amsterdam and then you have to go through all kinds of stuff to get your Visa. Once you are in the country, then it’s a great place to tour. I’m always happy, once i’m in the country, then I can relax.

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MyGlobalMind: From Your time at 70000 tons of Metal last winter, do you have any favorite or funny moments from it?

Mark Jansen: Yes what’s really funny, we went to Jamaica and I remember that we went together with our manager Daniel (Daniel Regan). We went to take a swim, we took a cab and the driver said he would come back to pick us up. When it was time for him to pick us up, he was not there so we waited a bit and after twenty minutes we thought we had to be back in time or else the boat would leave. So we took another cab, and the guy showed us the biggest cigarette filled with weed I have ever seen. It was like a party thing, and he wanted to sell it to us and we said we don’t smoke. He continued to try  selling us several other drugs but, we don’t use drugs and he was disappointed. I thought it was really funny how many drugs he had in his cab. So that was the funniest moment to me from the whole trip, I thought the trip was a lot of fun and so many things happened. We were with Dragonforce because we did a tour with them and some of our guys were quite drunk and they were crowd surfing, stage diving, I have seen them doing everything. It was a lot of fun.

MyGlobalMind: Do you have a personal favorite album from Epica?

Mark Jansen: That’s also really hard. You have all of these hard questions.  Favorite songs, favorite albums, favorite shows.

MyGlobalMind: (Nervously giggles with an “Oh no!”) Oops, sorry.

Mark Jansen: I am still happy with the very first album ‘The Phantom Agony,’ it has a special atmosphere.  Every album has something special but if I had to pick a few favorites it’s ‘The Phantom Agony,’ ‘The Divine Conspiracy,’ ‘Design Your Universe,’ and ‘The Quantum Enigma.’ There’s a lot of albums that are favorites for me and even the ones I didn’t pick have songs that I love to play live and I like listening to. That’s also the good thing, every fan has their own favorite, there’s not really one album that’s everybody’s favorite every fan has their own favorite.

MyGlobalMind: (Shocked with the similar selection) I actually agree with your choices, ‘The Phantom Agony’ is what got me into you guys from the very beginning.

MyGlobalMind: With your band MaYan, do you have any plans in the works for the future with them?

Mark Jansen: Yeah we are trying to make it work mostly because I’m so busy with Epica that I can hardly tour with MaYan. The two albums (‘Quarterpast’ and ‘Antagonise’) we made received very well we were even the CD of the month in a few magazines and then we are not able to tour so we are finding solutions. I think a good solution is we found a guy, the singer from Orphanage I was a big fan back of the band back in the day and their singer is now part of MaYan, and whenever there’s an option to play a show and Epica has other obligations, this guy can do the show and MaYan can still play.  He’s one of the very few guys I would trust with my stuff, so to say, and he’s doing a great job and I’m sure like this MaYan can keep on growing. I will always be a part of MaYan including the songwriting and I will do as many as possible live shows in the future but the last two years, we couldn’t do any shows. I’m really happy we found a solution that MaYan can keep going.

MyGlobalMind: That’s awesome that you have that. Since I know you’re really busy, do you have any hobbies outside from music?

Mark Jansen: Yes I have quite a few hobbies. I love reading, I like watching interesting Documentaries even though the last one that usually gets dropped first because of the lack of time. My biggest hobbies are sports, I like cycling, running, swimming, and fitness. These things I make time for it because if you stop working, a day is gone in a blink of an eye, so I always make some time for my sports. It makes me feel good and it gives me the opportunity to make my head…

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MyGlobalMind: (Finished his sentence) Clear the mind.

Mark Jansen: Clear the mind exactly! I really need that because I’m a thinker and I always having thoughts that’s why I wrote the song “The Essence of Silence,” the lyrics because there’s always thoughts in my mind and it keeps going continuously and when I’m cycling there’s at least a few moments that it’s gone.

MyGlobalMind: (Stunned by the meaning) That’s beautiful I love that song.

Mark Jansen: Yeah, the lyrics is about dealing with the opposite of silence so it’s a nice contradiction.

MyGlobalMind: I didn’t even think that was the meaning, so that’s really good to know.

Are there any newer bands or albums that you are into right now?

Mark Jansen: Yeah there’s 3rd Machine, they released a new album (‘Quantified Self’) it’s a very small band from the Netherlands. I sang one song (“Ultimate Intelligence”) on their album and when I got the album I already liked the song and I was curious how the other songs sounded. I was really surprised in a positive way because I have known these guys for a long time, and they always struggle a bit with making it to the next level and I think now with their latest album that they have a chance to really finally bring it to the next level and I hope for them that it will happen. That album I’m listening to quite often. Even though I’m not listening to that much music lately because I’m so busy, that album I listen to there’s also the latest album from Amorphis. I have it in my car and that one i’m playing quite often. Yesterday I was listening to the new album of Blues Pills and so I’m sometimes still checking out what the new bands are doing and I’m always interested in new developments and new bands. Sometimes you find some really nice new jams.

MyGlobalMind: I’m going to check 3rd Machine out. My last question for you is do you have any advice for young and starting out new musicians?

Mark Jansen: Yes definitely, my advice always is, young musicians have to do what their heart tells them to do. Don’t make music that you think is popular and start making that because you think that’s the way to be successful. It’s the opposite. Do what you feel like doing and when you really feel it’s right, really love what you’re doing, and enjoy your own music, then you know you are on the right path and sooner or later it will work out. I have seen so many bands destroying themselves just trying to copy another band and that never works. There’s so many people who give wrong advice to young musicians like they have to do this or have to do that. They have to do nothing. They have to do what they like doing themselves and that’s I think the most important advice I can give: to follow their own intuition and their own heart.

MyGlobalMind: That’s awesome. Thank you so much, this has been beyond a pleasure. I will get this article out very soon and I will see you on the tour!

Mark Jansen: Thanks a lot for the interview as well and the attention for Epica. I will see you on the upcoming US tour. By that time we will already have two festivals, the Epic Metal Fest, and we will be ready to hit the road.

MyGlobalMind: (Genuine and giddy excitement) Looking forward to seeing you guys!

Mark Jansen: See you there!

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