För en tid sedan blev jag uppringd av Isaac i Epica och fick ett litet snack om senaste albumet "Requiem for the indifferent", inspelningsprocessen, producenten Sascha, belgiska metalband
och en del annat.
Isaac Delahaye: Hi Niclas, this is Isaac from Epica. How are you doing?
I´m good. How are you?
ID: Very good.
Where are you calling from?
ID: I´m calling from Home. I´m home at the moment, in Belgium. I live in Belgium. Everyone else in Epica is from Holland, but there are two members from Belgium and Simone lives in Germany.
Right. It´s gotta be kinda hard to just show up for rehearsal?
ID: Yeah exactly. (laughs) That´s why we never rehearse. Basically, for the new album we didn´t even rehearse before going into the studio. We just did everything via e-mail and stuff like that.
The age of technology.
ID: Exactly. If it wouldn´t be like that then basically we wouldn´t have a band.
This new album of yours, when did you start working on it and how long did it take to put it together?
ID: Well, let me just explain how we work. First we work on songs individually where you just write stuff at home and whenever you feel comfortable with what you already have, you put it on the table and then everybody can take that song and wok on it, so the first process of doing something individually… for me personally, I started writing right after “Design your universe”. You go on the road and you fiddle around and whenever I´m at home, I record my ideas and basically it´s not like half songs or anything, it´s just riffs and then whenever we´re thinking of making a new album, I just go through all that and you make riffs here and there fit with each other and make songs like that. Mark, who´s the main composer in the band, a part from the intro, he wrote eight songs. We´re basically three band members writing the songs, Mark did the majority and then Coen did two other songs and then I also wrote two songs. After you have the basic stuff, you give it to the other guys. For instance, between Mark and me, we are both guitar players and I really write music from a guitarist´s point of view so I write the technical riffs and the melody and the solo, whereas Mark will start with the orchestra. Just have some basic guitars and then put more emphasis on the orchestration and then he gives his song to me and says “Ok, that´s your job. Make the guitar more interesting!”, so that´s how we work and that basically started around June last year. We started sending stuff to each other and during the summer festival season it was mainly weekend shows, so we were just flying out to wherever we were playing and during the week was when you really had time to work. By the end of summer or by the end of August, we were finished with the preproduction and in September we started recording and the whole thing was finished halfway into December. Basically we have everything and then we go into the studio and do it for real.
There´s six of you in the band and the more members, the more opinions and stuff like that. Does it ever get difficult because there´s so many of you?
ID: Yeah, sometimes. But you can have the same thing with only four members, for that matter. The only difficult thing we have is that it´s an even number, so we could end up with three against three and for that case we kinda made a special rule and that rule is that the one who… let´s say that it´s my song and we have different opinions and we don´t agree on something, then basically because it´s my song, I have the final decision. It doesn´t happen that often. Being in band… we´re not old time friends and we don´t live in the same city and we don´t even live in the same country for that matter. It´s like the right people in the right spot. When our old drummer left and we got Arien, I haven´t played with a better drummer than him. You just kinda have to trust each other and if we have these little arguments, it´s never about the song itself but about the smallest details you can think of and sometimes if we send it to Sascha the producer and we can´t agree, he´s like “Guys, come on, you can´t be serious? It´s such a small detail.”, but that´s the thing that in the end makes it worthwhile and interesting. There´s quite some stuff going on and maybe you never notice as a listener, but for us it´s super important if it´s this or that note.
Of course. You worked with Sascha Paeth again. What is it that he brings to the table that have made you work with him for such a long time?
ID: Well, basically he´s the Epica judge. We work on stuff and then we go to Sascha and he´s the one who has fresh ears and who hasn´t heard anything about the music and he then says “Well, this song is not even Epica, so don´t waste your time and focus on other songs!”, because we always write more songs than what actually ends up on the album. Or he could say “This part is too long.” And so on. He can really listen to everything since he´s outside the band and he also has very instant creative moments, like he can come up with a melody on the spot and it´s much better than what we thought of. He thinks differently apparently, than most other people and therefore he is of big value for us and that´s why we keep going back. We had two of these Sascha rounds where we went there and then changed stuff and then went there again and changed stuff and then the eventual recording. Basically it´s the whole Gate Studios team, because it´s not only Sascha. They really have a good team there and Miro Rodenberg is the guy who does all the orchestration for us, so it´s like we have our own studio with our own sound. Miro has so many good sounds and he makes it sound really good and that´s a huge part of the music of course. The whole studio team is very important for a band like Epica, but not only Epica. Epica decided to go there because of Kamelot and they also still go there and then other bands like Rhapsody. There are so many bands going there and it´s because the whole team is really good.
I was reading up on the album and there are five different versions of it. When you record songs do you think that you need extra tracks for bonus songs on different editions?
ID: Yeah, that´s something we think about. As I said, we have more songs than what will fit on the album so we know we´ll need extra songs and that´s not even talking about the songs that didn´t make it to the studio. We make albums and not songs. It could be a brilliant song but if it doesn´t fit on the album, so then we won´t include it on the album and maybe that´s a big mistake. But anyway, then it might end up as a bonus track, but it´s all marketing and part of Nuclear Blast. But of course you need special things for fans out there to get their attention and to make them buy it.
Yeah, especially these days when people don´t buy records anymore.
ID: Exactly and also in the US they always love to have these extra tracks so they feel important or something. (laughs) These are the rules so to speak. After the mix we had doubts… or we disagreed… it was one of the songs, “Deter the tyrant”, one of the songs I wrote and we have a version where Simone is doing the verse and we have a version where Mark is grunting the verse. The grunt version was first, but then I said “I wrote this verse with Simone´s vocals in the back of my mind.” And when I heard the grunt version I was like “Nah, it´s not what I want.”. But then we decided… it´s now what I want, but it also sounds cool, so why would you skip it? The music is the same, you just do it with grunts or with Simone. Then you have “Twin flames” which has two versions. You have the epic one like “Chasing the dragon”, how it builds up or you have the very intimate atmosphere. It´s the same song but more intimate and it basically is a love song. It´s with an organ and something Epica´s never done before and it didn´t really fit in with the whole album, so that´s why we decided to not put it on the album and use it as a bonus track and because you have two versions you can do much more with it. For a label like Nuclear Blast, I think they´re really happy with that. They can have all these options like with a t-shirt or with this or that.
You have Simone in the band. Are there different dynamics in the band when there´s a woman, like being on the road and so on? Putting five guys together, there is a certain way of how they express themselves and stuff like that. Does it change having a woman in the band?
ID: Well, I have been in a different band with only guys and I´ve been on tour with only guys and no girls what so ever and it is definitely a different scene, but that was more the death metal scene. Let me tell you this, from the outside maybe Simone looks like an angel and that she can´t do anything wrong, but it´s no problem for her to be around dudes who are swearing or whatever we do. She can really keep up with that and sometimes when she says something, everybody turn their head like “Did she really say that?”. (laughs) Of course she grew up like that, she was barely 17 when Epica started and it has been a part of her world for a very long time and she just turned 27. For her it´s kinda a normal environment and it is of course different in a way like for instance I quit smoking because I couldn´t smoke on the tour bus anymore or backstage or on stage. I didn´t have that problem before, but now it´s also forbidden everywhere. Apart from that, maybe you have the opportunity to shower a bit more often. (laughs) She´s not a party animal because she can´t because she´s a singer.
What´s the Belgian metal scene like?
ID: Qui, qui. I don´t know how much you know about Belgium, but it´s divided into two parts. You have the Northern part which is Flemish and then Wallonia the Southern part where they speak French, so if there is a scene it´s already divided. Belgium is a very small country. Basically there is not a real metal scene in the South. I live in the North and there you kinda have a scene. Maybe you´ve heard of Channel Zero? They used to be pretty big, especially in Belgium and the surrounding countries in the 90´s and then they quit. They were on the radio almost every day here, but outside of Western Europe there was nothing. They worked really hard to become famous but it didn´t work. Now they have a new album and they´re touring again. Then you have Aborted, but they all live in France and Israel. I don´t know what it is with Belgian musicians? They all go somewhere else. (laughs) Isn´t the drummer in Soilwork from Belgium? (Dirk Verbeuren. Editor´s note)
Yeah, I believe he is.
ID: I think he lives in France. That´s the thing. Everyone lives somewhere else and then it gets mixed up like “Who is from which country?”.
As you mentioned, with the technology these days it works. You could be scattered all over the world and still make an album as a band.
ID: Yeah, like for the last two albums during the mixing process, we were on tour and checking mixes in our hotel rooms in South America. Back in the day it wouldn´t have been possible. You couldn´t even go on tour because you had to finish the album. Now everyone have their laptop and there´s internet everywhere, so it´s not a big issue.
The title “Requiem for the indifferent”, was that a title that came right away or did it get changed around?
ID: It got changed around, but the idea behind the title or what we wanted to say was clear. Another one was “Serenade of self-destruction”, which is a song on the album and we tried “Serenade of indifferent” and “Requiem of indifference” and stuff like that. It was pretty clear from the start what we wanted to say. The song itself is about the financial crisis in general and the album title basically represents the fact that we need to have a wakeup call for people who don´t give a shit. If you´re indifferent then nothing´s gonna change and we live in a kind of society where everyone gives their opinion on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. They sit at home and swear at everyone and everything they see, but they don´t do anything about it. It´s the internet but you can also use it differently like the Arab spring where people put up stuff that you would never see because the governments are hiding everything. They put it online on YouTube for everyone to see. Lately it was these US troops urinating on dead people. You can look at it all in both ways. If you´re killing people all the time and you´re traumatized in a war, then probably urinating on a dead person is not that bad, but for the outside world it´s kinda like “What the fuck are you doing guys?”. Every coin has two sides. We wanted to tell people that even if you think that something happening on the other side of the world won´t affect you, it might as well do affect you. Like the financial crisis. And we have stuff about dictators on the album, like Khadaffi and we have a short piece of a speech of his on there. We basically wanna wake people up. Not that we wanna have a perfect world with love, peace and happiness because that´s not possible, but maybe a bit more balance.
Touring wise then? You´ve got a lot of shows in Europe and one in Sweden at Rockstad Falun. Is that gonna be the only show in Sweden?
ID: Well, so far we have our eyes focused on this European tour and we got some offers for festivals and this one in Sweden is one of them. We wanna do a separate Scandinavian run. If you do it in a normal European tour it´s like one place and the same with the UK. You play London and then leave, so that´s why we didn´t include the UK. We wanna do that later on and take our time and play where ever we wanna play. We also have a US and South American tour coming up, so it´s gonna be busy.
Cool. Good for you.
ID: And we won´t forget Sweden. We will be back for the regular club shows, that´s for sure. But as of now there´s nothing confirmed yet.
Alright. Excellent talking to you Isaac. I think it´s the first time I´ve interviewed a Belgian guy.
ID: Oh really? You should drink our beer, man!
Oh yeah! Stella Artois is Belgian, right?
ID: Yeah, so now you only need the chocolate and the waffles. (laughs)
True. There you go. Hope to see you in Sweden soon.
ID: Yeah! Thank you!