Dutch symphonic metalers Epica are on European tour supporting their latest album The Holographic Principle right now and I had the pleasure to sit down with Isaac Delahaye (guitar) and Coen Janssen (keyboards) after their show in Prague and have a little chat with the guys about the current tour and life on the road, new record and lot more!
ME: You just finished the show, I hope you are not too tired. How did you enjoy the show, the crowd here in Prague really loved you.
Isaac: Oh yeah we loved them back. All day we were already saying today is gonna be a great show for sure. Because every time we play here the crowd is really good. Very enthusiastic, loud and it’s a beautiful venue. So it’s nice to play here.
ME: You are on tour with Powerwolf. Their music is different from yours, so how did you end up touring together?
Isaac: It’s a lot different than ours.
Coen: But there are also similarities.
Isaac: Like the keyboards and all that. I think the idea came from the US, where it’s more normal to have a package with different genres. In the last couple of years we also toured with Eluveitie and now Powerwolf. It just makes more sense for the fans to just have diverse bands instead of let’s say all female-fronted symphonic metal. It’s more variety for the fans. And we all had that kind of packages with the similar bands so it’s a good change. And it works, you know.
Coen: It enables us to play bigger venues. Also to take a bigger production. And make better shows. I think it’s a good combination for both, the Powerwolf and the Epica.
Isaac: Cause in some countries like Germany, they are bigger than Epica, but then in France we’re bigger than them. So it’s good for both bands. To just join forces and make some really memorable nights for metal fans.
ME: Before this tour you were in North America. You are European band so it must have taken some time to get this big in America and got to tour on this scale like this last tour. How do you see the differences between here and there?
Isaac: Oh we didn’t have a lot of luck with the US in the last couple of years, we had some tours cancelled, it could have been way better. It’s still a market we have to work on. It’s so big, there is so many places you have to play and we only do East and West and Canada, it’s kind of impossible for European band to take a year off to play everywhere there. So you always have to keep coming back and it’s a different way of touring. In Europe you have big cities all over the place, it’s not that far. And so that’s the difference. But then again, also in US, people are really enthusiastic when they come out to the shows, it’s really cool.
Coen: And we’re still growing as well over there as here. But I think because you see America as one country instead of all European countries combined which is the same size, it’s kinda weird to look upon it as one single market and not different markets.
ME: You guys are also hosting your very own festival. Last year you also were in Brazil. How did that came up? And are you planning expanding the festival in the future?
Isaac: Who knoooows, whooooo? *laughter*
Coen: We did the Epic metal fest in Holland for the first time which is obvious because we are a Dutch band. But then we thought about doing release shows for The Holographic Principle. We thought about one of our biggest crowds we have and that is in Brazil. So we thought let’s do the fest in Brazil instead of a normal release party. And also it’s to build a name out of Epic metal fest. And to be able to play a bigger venue over there. You know, more fun, more party.
Isaac: And they don’t really know the concept, there is not a lot of smaller festivals over there. It’s mostly just a band flying in and doing their show with a local opener. So now we could bring some other cool European bands and I think also for the fans out there it was a new kind of experience.
ME: That’s really cool. You have a really great show this time around guys, I even noticed the keyboards are moving all around the drums.
Coen: It’s good that you noticed!
ME: Because it’s like you always have this curveboard which is amazing because you can get close to the audience. But this is something I’ve never seen before.
Coen: That’s because we kinda invented it ourselves and we had it made specially for us to make my life more fun.
ME: You really seemed to enjoy it too.
Coen: Yeah, I know, what’s more fun than riding a keyboard? We actually had this idea for a long time, but of course it’s really expensive. But this time we said we wanna build a bigger show, so let’s do it. And we had a company made it and it’s really cool.
ME: So it’s one of a kind.
Coen: Yeah, there’s nobody else in the world.
Isaac: And it changed the dynamics within the band members as well. Because if he’s on one side, we can go to the other side, because now the drums are in the center of the stage. And that’s a cool thing. Also with the lights you can do cool tricks and all that.
ME: So let’s get back to your last album The Holographic Principle for a while. I know that there were more than those twelve songs that made it to the album. What are you planning to do with the other six songs?
Coen: We sold them to Evanescence and they’re bringing out new album. *laughter* No, just kidding.
Isaac: For this tour and also the US we have VIP tickets and one of the items in this meet & greet package is one of these songs, it’s sort of a single. So that’s already one extra song. And yeah, we’ll have to see what happens with the rest. Usually there were just enough songs to fit the album.
Coen: But now we had too many.
Isaac: We had twenty-seven. And then we recorded more than what’s on the album now. But that was because at that point we just couldn’t pick the songs. Because if you do a demo, it’s still different than the end result. At that point we decided to record more than would be on the album. And we have to see what happens with them.
Coen: We didn’t want to do all those bonus editions with different bonus tracks. So we saved them, we’re not calling them bonus tracks. And something’s happening.
ME: So what is your favorite song from the record and what songs do you enjoy the most playing live on the tour right now?
Coen: My favorite song to listen to is “Once Upon a Nightmare”. Not only because I wrote it but I think the atmosphere is really something else than the usual I guess. To play live definitely “Beyond the Matrix”. I think it’s a great song and the energy in it, it’s really a challenge to play and jump at the same time.
Isaac: And for me the favourite song of the album would be “Universal Death Squad”. I think it has all the elements of Epica and has also this kind of more modern sound or groove to it so I like that a lot. And to play live “Beyond the Matrix” as well. But because they’re new they’re always nice to play. It’s fresh material and we are really proud of it so it’s always nice to play actually the new songs.
Coen: And the reaction of the crowd is great. Sometimes the first couple of months once it’s released people still don’t know how it sounds like or they don’t know the songs yet. But this time also in the US we just released the album and couple of weeks later we went there and everyone is jumping along and singing so that was really cool. You’re proud of what you made, you wanna present it to the audience but if they already know everything it’s more fun.
ME: The whole album is centered about virtual reality, even the artwork, the stage presence, everything. How did you come up with this topic?
Coen: Oh, drugs. *laughter*
Isaac: Well actually it’s part of The Quantum Enigma too. The previous album. Doubts about quantum physics and all the kind of enigmas which you have around if you’re looking into the science of quantum physics. It’s weird shit, it’s something that’s difficult to grasp with human brain. And then The Holographic Principle is basically the principle that everything we see around us could be a hologram. If you look at it like that then the whole science of quantum physics could make sense.
ME: So you guys are really into this kind of quantum physics things?
Isaac: The lyrics are mostly written fifty-fifty between Simone and Mark. Simone is dealing more about the emotional and personal stuff. And Mark is dealing more with science and that kind of stuff. He also came up with the album title and he had been reading about it and all that. But I also watched some documentaries about it just to get the vibe and know what it’s all about and it’s really mind-blowing and interesting.
Coen: You can keep on in different directions and follow different paths into this kind of weird thing that is actual science.
Isaac: Oliver, Simone’s husband, is also keyboard player for Kamelot and I just talked to him the other day and he has a very expensive virtual reality device and he also said it’s really so strange. If you put it on it’s becoming so real.
ME: I’d like to really try it, I’m a big gamer.
Coen: I wanna try it too.
Isaac: There’s some of these stories where people don’t know the difference anymore, what’s real, their brain is kind of in between two worlds. Then again, Simone on more personal level talks about this kind of fake world you live in at that exact moment whenever you fall asleep or before you wake up where weird things can pop in your mind. And sometimes you wake up from a dream and you don’t know if it was real or not.
Coen: What is real? It’s what your mind comes to make you believe.
Isaac: So that’s what we kinda question. And yeah, it’s pretty serious matter, you know.
ME: What are your plans for the future? You are touring for the most of the first half of 2017, then there are some festivals. So what comes next?
Isaac: More touring. We’re looking into going to US but that’s not confirmed or official. We’re just looking at options because as we said this last tour was really good so it kinda makes sense to go back. And maybe doing the same thing as we’re doing now, team up with a band as big as us and do a bigger production and all that. It makes sense now so we should try to find a good match over there as well. And on this European tour we’re leaving out a couple of countries. So we wanna do a second tour for that and go to Spain, Portugal and all these countries we didn’t get to play this time around. And then probably some more South America, you know it goes on…
Coen: Canada, Australia…
Isaac: Yes, so basically I think this whole world tour will finish somewhere around festival season 2018.
ME: Is there a place you’ve never played before that you would actually like to visit?
Isaac: We’re going there.
Coen: Yeah, but we’ve never been there before. So we’re going to Japan and I’m really excited about that. It was long on my list.
Isaac: On my list there’s a lot of countries that we never played. We never played Ireland. I’ve been there with my previous band and that was an interesting show. So I would love to go back with Epica.
Coen: We’re doing new countries every year. We’ve already been to like sixty nine.
ME: Do you do some sightseeing when you go to a new place? Or in general on tour, how do you spend time?
Isaac: Only interviews. *laughter* No, well not the sightseeing part obviously this time of the year, it’s horridly cold. And I’ve been in Prague, I’ve seen the city already. So this time around we tried to do different things. I brought my acoustic guitar, we have some cool games.
Coen: Board games.
ME: What games?
Coen: Well, you know, Monopoly?
Isaac: Well, he bought me a Horsepoly. It’s the same thing, but you have to buy horses and stables.
Coen: Well so it’s really fun when like thirty-five year olds play that game.
Isaac: And yeah of course here and there we have a little party.
Coen: I always make a lot of plans to do stuff but it always turns out that I do other stuff or nothing. And we’re all working, too.
Isaac: Yeah, we’re working, we are looking into how we can improve what we do, looking at new ways to make the show even better.
ME: You both actually have education in the field. You have bachelor’s degrees in music. Did you always wanted to be musicians?
Coen: It’s the only thing I know. I cannot do anything else except drink.
Isaac: You’re really good at that. University of drinking. That’s the degree. *laughter*
Coen: I started classical piano when I was eight and when they told me I was kinda talented I thought well, let’s do something with it. I ended up at a conservatory of pop music. That’s where I met most of the guys like Isaac and Ariën. So that’s how they got into the band. Rob also has a degree so we’re kind of like an educated band. That’s why our music’s so good. *laughter*
Isaac: It’s the same with me, I started with classical guitar, I hated it, didn’t wanna do it. But then after couple of years my teacher said if you really would dig into it you’d be so good, cause you come in, you didn’t practice and you’re still playing okay. So that kinda rang a bell and I started practicing and then couple of years later I switched to electric guitar. Went to College of music as well. But you know, it’s one of these things you dream about, being in band, touring the world, all of that, but what are the chances? It’s about meeting the right people and of course working your ass off. Even if it’s sitting at home and practicing all day. But also all that stuff next to it, you know building a network and all that. So I guess it’s that combination. Otherwise I’d probably be a guitar teacher, playing in a cover band.
Coen: That’s what lot of our fellow students are.
Isaac: Which is okay but you know, this is pretty much a lot more fun I think.
ME: I’m sure it is. So any special message to the fans?
Coen: The show was really fun. The crowd was really good, you know. We’ve got a lot of good crowds. And they’re asking you what crowd is the best and there’s no best crowd except for today. *laughter* We appreciate that the fans keep following us. Without them it would not be possible to do what we do. We are very aware of that. And that’s why we always give our best to them.
Isaac: And we’re not done yet. There is more cool stuff coming… if you only knew. We’re making a different hologram.