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With vocalist Simone Simons resting and recovering from a lurgie, Loud grabbed a chat with Epica’s founding guitarist Mark Jansen about his band’s greatest achievements and working with orchestras – which seems to come down to the same thing!

This will be your second visit here. Are looking forward to coming back to Australia?
Yes, because the first time we had some really great fans come out for the show and there was more interaction between fans and band, so I’m really looking forward to playing again, and to play from the new album some new songs that people haven’t heard before. I’d also love to do some sightseeing again. I think we have some free time there. There are a lot of things to do and a lot of shows to play, so I can’t wait!

So will we hearing a lot of new stuff from Epica this time?
Yes. The fans have been asking for a lot of these new songs, and we gladly play them!

You must be very proud of what Epica has been able to achieve. You’ve done some very big things.
We did some spectacular things: a Retrospect show with orchestra , we also played that big show in Hungary – that also was with an orchestra. They were two of the biggest highlights. We played some great festival shows in Europe. There’s many things that we’ve done already, but there’s always something more to accomplish. Hopefully, with all the wishes we have we can reach all these goals and then, when there is nothing left to
do, then we can die happily!

Your music is quite symphonic ordinarily – how different was it performing with an actual orchestra?
It’s very different. You have to do everything different to how you’re used to because there is this guy in a tie up there before every song starts. Normally you’re talking before every song starts, but now there’s a totally different way. That’s one of the things I liked about the situation, to get used to that at the beginning and find a way to work around that. And with an orchestra, you have an extremely different sound also when you play. You sound different to what you’re used to, you concentrate more because usually you listen to certain musical aspects and automatically react naturally at the right point, but now you have to concentrate and if you hear something different you should not get distracted. But we understand that when you play with an orchestra, that’s how our music has to be. Unfortunately we don’t have the finances to play every show with an orchestra. If that was ever able to happen in the future,  our whole tour with an orchestra – that would be a dream come true.

Did you learn something about song writing from working with an orchestra?
From every new experience, you learn. And what we’ve learned from playing with an orchestra was when we played from John Williams, the Star Wars song ‘Imperial March’, we found it very rich with the orchestra. We also played that between tracks from our Score album and we found it way less cool, and we thought how is that possible? And we noticed that Williams had put a lot of brass into the track and arranged it in such a great way that it all fit in together, and so on our new album we also used a lot of brass. So whenever we do in the future a show with an orchestra, we will sound like Williams! (haha)

When it comes to exploring new horizons, is there somewhere you want to take the band on tour that you still haven’t been yet?
Yes, well on this tour we will playing in New Zealand for the first time. Also Japan… We had the chance this tour to play Japan, but it didn’t happen so we have to wait a little longer to play Japan. There are a few places we haven’t been to yet, but not that many. Denmark – we haven’t been there. That’s one of the few places in Europe we haven’t played yet but we are looking to make it happen this year. We would like to play some shows in the Middle East. The situation there doesn’t really allow for us to go there for a tour right now, but we would like to be able to do a tour in the Middle East.

There are a lot more places opening up to heavy music now, which is just great as music really is a language that anyone can understand.
Exactly, that’s one of the things we have noticed when we play all over the world. Music fans have so much in common, and it’s because of the music. Even though the cultures are all different, the reaction to the music is basically the same. As soon as the music starts, we are literally like a family. It literally feels like that.

Catch Epica as they tour Australia with Voyager:
18/3: Max Watts, Brisbane QLD
19/3: Max Watts, Sydney NSW
20/3: 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC