Latest release: Requiem for the Indifferent (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)

Dutch symphonic metal band Epica will soon be in Australia as part of the global tour in support of their latest album Requiem for the Indifferent. Loud recently caught up to vocalist Simone Simons from her home in Germany to discuss the upcoming tour, her favourite place to play, the impact of illegal downloading and more.

Nice to be talking to you today. Epica will be in Australia very soon. I hope you’re looking forward to it?
Oh yes, it’s our first time and we’ve heard great stories so can’t wait to experience it myself.

We’ve been very fortunate lately because we’ve been spoiled with tours and here in Australia we’re not really used to that. What’s the experience in Europe with the amount of tours coming through all the time there?
In Europe I guess there’s a tiny bit of overkill. Well, not overkill but the tours are always great. Every city there’s shows. I live in the south of Germany and the centre is very cultural, we have many venues and there’s always something to do. For us it’s kind of normal. I guess you could say we’ve a little spoilt. There’s always something musical to keep you entertained.

Let’s talk about Requiem for the Indifferent. It’s been out for about a year now, and got a lot of strong reviews, most of which suggested that it was a very strong step forward for the band.
Well it’s our sixth studio album and we’ve been releasing, every second year, another album. In North America in the first week, we sold twice as much as Design Your Universe, so I guess with figures like that here and there and of course lots of great reviews and successful tours you can see that the band is still growing and the fanbase is growing and changing and the band is changing with new members who are also writing a little. So it’s definitely going up for Epica but we have our incredible fans to thank and also our touring schedule! (laughs)

It does seem like you’re always very busy.
Not always! (laughs) We are touring for four months straight, and then you have four months at home, and while you’re at home, you work from your computer. Luckily we can do a lot over the Internet because the band members don’t even live in the same village. Three live in the Netherlands, two in Germany and one in Italy right now so thanks to quick Internet connections we can keep it all togehter without having to meet every weekend or rehearse every weekend because it would be impossible to do it the old school way.

Does that help with the creative process as well, sharing ideas over the Internet without all the travelling?
Well I guess you just put stuff down whenever you feel creative or inspired. But when you are actually writing songs at this moment with the whole band, whole different narratives can be born than if you do it alone. You don’t have direct interaction. We send each other the tracks that have been written and then we can work on them on our own and send them back again. It’s a difficult way to write songs for a band but luckily for us it’s a successful recipe.

There was a very strong environmental theme behind the latest album. Would I be right in suggesting that in some way it’s a bit of a wake-up call?
Definitely in our band we’re all very much interested in what we write about. We get very inspired by the lyrics and we use it as a tool to reach people and make them think about current problems. Not all the lyrics are about society; there’s more personal stuff, so it’s the perfect mixture between inspiring people and getting them more involved in being involved and not just not giving a damn and doing your own thing. Becoming more of a community instead of being selfish and just thinking about yourself.

The album has been out for some time, so is the touring cycle about to wind down for you now to allow you to work on a follow-up soon?
We are going to be doing some more summer festivals and then we are going to write and record a new record and quit touring for a couple of months so we can concentrate on that part of the job. Then in 2014 we’re gonna start touring again from Spring on. We’ll have a little break from touring, but that’s ok after almost ten years of continunous touring.

Do you have a particular favourite song that you like to perform that you think really comes to life when you play it live?
Well the favourites from the fans are definitely “Cry for the Moon”, “Sensorium”, “Consign to Oblivion”, “Unleashed” and from the lastest record, “Storm the Sorrow”. And those are powerful songs to play live. The crowd knows them, we can have interaction with them and they can sing along, and those of course are the most fun ones. Whenever we bring out a new record and we start to play the longer, more complicated songs live, fans are sometimes a little bit confused. They’re listening more, they’re concentrating more because they don’t know the songs yet.

What other things are you doing besides Epica?
Well the band is basically my main work. I have toured with other bands, of course, and I have been working as a make-up artist, but very little at the moment. Epica is my main band and when I’m at home I enjoy just being at home because I enjoy the possibility of not having to work a second full-time job. Epica pays the bills, luckily! (laughs)

I know a lot of musicians at every level are finding it difficult to make money from their music. How is downloading and piracy affecting Epica?
Well we know that music and any sort of digital piracy is a 21st Century problem. People pay for the Internet and think that everything on the Internet is for free. Which is not the case. We work hard into making an album, there’s a lot of work and energy that goes into making an album which people can download within two minutes. That doesn’t seem fair, but luckily we get some money still out of record sales and live shows. That’s why Epica is touring so much. For us it’s easier to keep the band alive by touring. That’s where the biggest amount of money comes from. A 21st Century band can still sell a lot of records, but if you could compare it to the 80s, you would add another two zeros to the back (of the figure). So I can imagine that a lot of the digital downloading has taken some money from us. But even in this age of dowloading, we’re still doing quite well. I can imagine for a starting band it’s very difficult. Of course there’s iTunes, but the money from iTunes and downloads isn’t that much.

You’re doing four shows down here. Originally it was only going to be three but there was enough demand to do a fourth. You must be pretty happy that there’s enough of us here who want to see you to create a need for a fourth show.
Yeah, we thought going there the first time maybe one or two shows, so doing four is a pleasant surprise. We can’t wait to finally come Down Under.

So what are you expecting from us here in Australia?
Well I’ve met some Australians at shows around the world, because Australians like to travel and they were very cheerful and kind people, very European in a way. I’ve heard the country’s lovely. At the moment Opeth’s touring there and I talked to Mikael (Akerfeldt) yesterday and he said he loves touring Australia, so I trust him.

Australia is a long way to bring any band, so will we be getting the full Epica production show here?
Unfortunately we can’t do the really big Epica show because financially the airlines are making it impossible to bring all our stuff. It would cost us thousands of Euros on each flight to have all our equipment and our stage decoration with us. So we’ll have to do a toned-down version. The energy is still going to be the same, the set list is still going to be the same. It will still be one hour and forty five minutes of Epica. We always try to make the best out of it. As lovely as stage decoration is, the real energy on stage is between the fans and the band. The band is still gonna be awesome!

Australia is one place you haven’t been to before. Are there other places you are hoping to get to in the near future too?
Taiwan, China and India are also new territory for us. Australia has been on our wishlist for some time and now that’s finally happening so maybe one day we can add Japan to that as well.

It must be great for you to know that South East Asia is really opening up now because it seems that you would just never run out of places to play there.
Well, our stage is the whole world. Wherever there are places to play, we will play. Some certain countries it’s difficult to get access to, but we never give up trying. If the promoters are interested, we will come. The fans are always interested. They’re always asking when we’ll come. We would like to come play for you guys tomorrow, but there’s the business side. You have to make it happen financially. But we’ll interested in playing anywhere.

You haven’t played here yet so you don’t have to say that you love us the best. Is there a country or an audience that just seems to get Epica better than anywhere else?
I believe that all my colleagues in the metal scene know that in Latin America you have the wildest shows and the wildest experiences! (laughs) The culture there is not comparable to European culture and the fans over there are just very passionate. There’s been some funny situations, but also some amazing shows over there as well.

Epica is touring Australia in April:
17/4: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD + Gorefield
19/4: Metro Theatrte, Sydney NSW (Lic. A/A) + Metal
21/4: Billboard, Melbourne VIC + Eyefear
23/4: Capitol, Perth WA