EPICA – Entering The Simone System
October 29, 2017, a year ago
Certainly been a busy time for Epica. 2016’s The Holographic Principle put Epica on top of the symphonic metal mountain and the band has been riding high into space with even more new music, this time in the form of an EP, The Solace System, released September 1st through Nuclear Blast Records. On the back of the EP was a co-headlining North American jaunt with Lacuna Coil, along with Insomnium and Elantris for support.
The creative juices are clearly flowing for Epica as all the songs for The Solace System were written/recorded during The Holographic Principle sessions. There was never any plan to have a double album or anything like that though. Vocalist Simone Simons explains, “We always fill up each CD with the maximum amount of songs. Our songs are quite complex, a lot of information and these songs are all our babies and we wanted to keep it special and we thought in the end the songs that didn’t fit on the album, we can keep them together and release them as an EP because we’ve haven’t done that before, instead of spreading them out over different versions of The Holographic Principle. We recorded all 18 songs to be on The Holographic Principle and by the end of the recording we made the selection and the six that didn’t fit in, they are now the EP.”
And how did the selection process go? With seven opinions to be heard (six band members plus the producer), that’s a lot to figure out. “We all made our list of favorite songs and there were great similarities in our preference of songs. And then you have to look at the album from beginning to end, you have the intro, the first song, and then you have to build up the flow a little bit and the songs on the EP are all really awesome, but the lyric topics can be seen separately from the songs on The Holographic Principle,” Simons answers.
As for Simons’ favorite track on the EP – the raucous “Architect Of Light”, penned by drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek, with lyrics from the singer and the song tackles a very friendly topic, nightmares. “It’s interesting to analyze the dreams and the nightmares and where they come from”, wonders Simons and she reveals that she has “a lot of nightmares” and “dreams crazy stuff every night.”
“Immortal Melancholy” is a beautiful, yet somber ballad and a piano led version of this song can be found on the acoustic bonus disc of The Holographic Principle. “It’s a bittersweet love song about two people, a couple that both were really ill and they knew that they were going to die, but they didn’t want to leave the other behind so they decided to end life together”, Simons reveals about the track. Tragic stuff, but there’s more to it.
Simons goes on, “I thought it was a really good story; it’s from friends of my aunt that actually they did that. I heard about the story, but never met the people and I was really inspired by it and thought it would be a good topic for the song.”
Going further with the acoustic music; the band does a great job with arrangements, melodies, and vocals for the acoustic realm, so I wonder if there is any possibility of a full album of just acoustic stuff. “In truth, we’re a metal band”, says Simons, “and I think we wouldn’t get full satisfaction doing just acoustic stuff. Every once in a while as a project it’s nice and we’ve done a lot of acoustic shows in the past. I enjoy them, but I know for example our drummer, he’s like you know (mimics tapping a chair). He feels naked, he needs his whole drum kit!” Before dubbing it “Disney metal”, in the short of it, she says “there’s a chance” of it happening, but not likely.
Now how about that cover art. The Solace System cover keeps the similar purple color scheme from The Holographic Principle and has Simone’s back turned in a spacey atmosphere.
Simone explains the cover, “Stefan Heilemann did the cover again; we shot the photo in my house and my son was running around behind me; he’s actually in the photo, but he had to Photoshop my son out. He was running around with a carrot in his mouth posing and that was really cute.” I guess The Carrot System or The Carrot Sessions EP as a title was out of the question.
In preparation for the EP, two anime inspired videos were released for the title track and “Immortal Melancholy”, with a third video finishing the “story” to be released soon. As for the reasoning going in this direction, the singer reveals, “The decision came from our keyboardist Coen (Janssen); he likes that kind of stuff and it was like ‘ok, what can we do what we haven’t done before?’ We have very limited time because we are on tour all the time, writing songs, and we also want to be home in-between that time and recording videos takes a lot of time. Coen wrote up the storyline, it’s like a trilogy; it will all make more sense when the third one comes out, because a lot of people are like ‘what?’ and myself I’m like ‘I don’t get it.’ (laughs)”
With anniversaries becoming a big moment to celebrate past releases, 2018 sees 15 years since the release of the debut The Phantom Agony. The band is already touring throughout the summer next year and there are plans to write and record the next album. There is a however a “secret project” which will be released in 2018 and also they will record a song with Holland’s famous and most prestigious “Metropole Orkest” after winning a contest that featured other Dutch acts like Within Temptation, Caro Emerald, and Kensington. As of now, there are no concrete plans to celebrate the anniversary.
The music business can be funny sometimes as Epica has also had their 2007 album The Divine Conspiracy and 2009’s Design Your Universe reissued on vinyl by Nuclear Blast. The band had no idea about the reissues and found out when the press release was first issued. “That’s all Nuclear Blast, I have no clue what they’re doing”, laughs Simone. “I am always as surprised as the audience.” As for any other possible vinyl reissues, you’re guess is as good as hers when it comes to that.
Epica’s lyrics are always a fun topic. Critics like to point them out for being pretentious and full of themselves for using big, long words and trying to sound important. Simone scoffs at that notion and contends, “We don’t consider ourselves pretentious, we like to give each song a special message and not write about dragons and fairytales. We write about recent things, politics, spirituality, and philosophy to make people think and give the songs literally and spiritually a voice and not just write about fiction.”
It’s impressive for a band with English not being their native language to have such a huge vocabulary and as sad as it may seem, they speak better English then most native speakers. In regards to expanding hers, Simone explained how “back in the day”, “I made my own dictionary, I read whole dictionaries and wrote down words that I thought were beautiful and memorized them. It expanded by own dictionary because you can throw in the word ‘like’ or ‘so’ so many times and you of course have to learn how to rhyme, and then you go to Thesaurus.com, or you take a dictionary or my personalized dictionary and expand my word game.”
In terms of learning the language, they had an English course in high school and Simone further describes, “When we watch movies in The Netherlands, the movies are not dubbed to Dutch, we have subtitles so we still hear it and that’s why most of us don’t have a strong accent because we know how it sounds like. I made fun of my husband (Kamelot keyboardist Oliver Palotai) because he’s German and they have everything dubbed in German and so he was sometimes talking to me and I’m like ‘what are you saying? You mean ‘this’ or ‘that’ because I don’t know what you’re saying’.”
Before wrapping things up, I had to ask Simone on how she became involved with Arjen Lucassen’s Ayreon, and the new album The Source. This was a topic Simone was definitely excited to expand about.
She tells the story, “I’ve known Ayreon, Arjen Lucassen since before I was in Epica and one of my favorite albums was The Final Experiment and I was singing along to the songs thinking, ‘Oh, it would be nice to sing these.’ I love the melodies, I like the happy feel he gives to the music and he’s a great guy and when I got the offer to do ‘Web Of Lies’ (from 2008’s 01011001) I was like ‘Yes!’ and you can put that off my bucket list. I loved working with him, we had a great time and then a couple years went by and then all of a sudden ‘Would you like to be on the new album? I will give you more parts this time.’ I was like ‘Yeah that would be cool.’ I respect all the artists he works with and so I went to his house again and we recorded the songs and we did a little behind-the-scenes video, photoshoot, and he only sent me the parts where I’m singing on so I didn’t know the whole songs! Then he sent me the Earbook with the CDs in it with a little thank you note, with a little drawing, but there was like two hours before I had to leave for a tour, but I don’t have a disc drive and I’m like ‘shit, I have to grab my whole computer somewhere which takes two hours to load get in the songs, so I’m like iTunes, Ayreon – The Source, ok, now I have it.’ I took it with me on tour in South America and I listened to it the whole tour and that album is a little bit linked to that tour. I listened to it every day and I told Arjen we got to do more together in the future.”
And we would sure love to hear it.