EPICA - (2012 English Version) Coen Janssen - Keyboards

One of the first dates of the tour, and it’s time for Coen Janssen to answer my questions concerning EPICA’s latest album « Requiem for the Indifferent ».
In a very good mood, with a drink, I, my assistant MJ and mister Coen Janssen turned this short lapse of time into this:

SBM: Well thank you so much for your time! You’re back in France and it’s been a long time. It’s one of the first dates of the tour so how do you feel about touring again and presenting the new album to the public?

Coen: We’re very excited to be on the road again and to start off in Lyon is really cool, this venue is always, for us, a great party, big stage, good lights… Usually the last show of the tour is around Lyon, and now it’s where we start and it’s pretty cool.
We’ve to the zoo across the street this morning, it was awesome.

Yeah I saw you few hours ago (Laugh)
As I said, you’re back in France with a new album, but there’s also a new fact: You’re back with a new bass player. Have you anticipated the fact that Yves would leave the band?

Well if you look back of it, of course there were some signs but you can never expect it… After it, sure you can say “There were signs” or “We should have seen it”, but there was no way for him to combine the touring with Epica with his other job, so he had to choose between two things that he loved and I guess it was better to choose the other thing…
And now we have Rob!

And how did he join the band? I know he worked on Mayan with Mark and Isaac and all but actually how did he joined it? Was it Mark calling him?

Well we were all together, talking about a replacement for Yves and he was on the top of our list, so we called him and he basically said yes! So yeah that’s pretty awesome but unfortunately today he’s not here because his health issues are going on so he won’t be here for the first dates…

But who’s gonna play the bass?

Bass gonna be played by a computer (Laugh)

That will be strange!

Yeah it will but it’s the only thing we can do with this short time. Of course we have the recorded parts from the studio and we can play them along… But there will be a statement on the website in an hour… But well health comes first and it’s really important for Rob to have some rest now.

Well that’s no problem, I’m sure that fans will understand this…

Yes I hope so… And at least we’re going to play and have a lot of fun tonight for sure…

Sure! And about “Requiem for the Indifferent”, the album sounds really more complex and maybe less approachable than the others, so how have you approach the writing of the album?

Well… we don’t really do that on the purpose to make it complex or anything… I think that it’s less complex than the previous ones, but it’s just my opinion too. But you know we always write long songs which have technical mid parts but I don’t know if it’s more difficult or less difficult…

Yeah but when I heard it the first time I found it more difficult than a “Consign to Oblivion”…

The first albums are of course less complex, and of course now you have to hear more and first time it’s always very hard to understand an EPICA album I think and that’s why I say it’s not complex because I‘ve heard the album for one year already (Laugh).
But when you start listening to it more then you get the songs, get the ideas and all…

Yeah, when I said complex, it meant richer… About riffs, structures, parts, melodies…

Yeah that’s true…

That’s this kind of complex… Richer!

Yeah, Isaac was with us on the writing process from the start, so he had all the time to give his own riffs and that’s terrifying on the album, we’ve worked out pretty well and it came out really awesome. And some parts, the orchestrations, especially the Arabic sounding parts worked out very well in the end, richer than on previous albums.

It seems that the “Death metal side” of EPICA’s grown up since Arjen and Isaac joined the band. Do you agree?
Maybe the past albums were a little bit more… aggressive, but I guess we want to stay a melo band. It’s easy for us with our singer to make pop songs, or rock songs and throw the metal side of it away. But we all like metal music and that’s why we’re in this band, and we wanna keep it like that. Of course there are easier tunes on it but we like the occasion to put blast beats, grunts and aggressiveness, it’s more fun to play as well (Laugh)

(Laugh) No problem I like it!
The death metal side of EPICA has grown up with the lyrical themes too… Now lyrics seem to be more critical about society, mankind… So do you think that lyrics have influenced the music or is it the opposite?

Well the lyrics always come last in our albums. We first write the music and Simone and Mark write the lyrics so I don’t think that the lyrics really influence the music, but of course when they start writing, music they want to see is a certain subject on certain songs. I think we’ve always been critical on society on every album, but it’s getting more obvious I guess, as society’s getting more… fucked up. (Laugh)

You’re right man!
EPICA seems to be a real democracy, everyone participated to the writing, so how do you work all together?

Well actually it all goes through the internet; we send all the files and music we come up with to the other guys, and then it come back with new ideas, and all in the end we come together and work on specific details, but it’s mostly through the internet.

Ok so you don’t meet together to jam…

No… We live in pretty far parts… Isaac just moved to Munich in Germany, it’s seven hours drive so it’s hard to meet. But with the technical stuff nowadays, with ProTool and computers you can send everything and it’s pretty easy.

Yeah totally…
On the album, Simone sings in a very different way, more… pop and less lyrical, as you said. Was it a choice or just a natural evolution of the music?

I think it’s both… I personally don’t really like this operatic sound… You know when Simone started, when we started, Simone was very young and did not have a lot of experience in a band and in front of an audience. Of course she has grown up in the past ten years that we’ve been touring around the world and we play many shows, and I think the good thing about this evolution is that she can do much more stuff with his voice. Of course she can still do the operatic and lyrical things, and we also have it on the album, but we have to find a good balance… For me, personally I like the new voice, the more normal way to sing. I like it more; I think it fits the music better as well even if you’re still this gothic symphonic band…

And as I said it gives a richer aspect of the music…
On this album we have a lot of solo, and almost rock. And we have also a keyboard solo on “Infernal Warfare” which really sounds like a Children of Bodom one… Is that real or just my imagination?

No I haven’ think about this sounding, I don’t really know Children of Bodom that good but I know that the keyboard player is really fast and really awesome… I also never play solos actually…

Yeah it’s the first time we can hear it!

Yeah it was a kind of experiment, the solo on “Infernal Warfare” was an experiment, it was in another part actually and then we switched and there were some parts left to fill so… “Yeah let’s try a keyboard solo!”, and it worked out cool in the end so it’s how it comes together. But well I just tried something with the theme of the song and this is how it gets there.

And do you like to play solos or do you prefer to step back a little bit more? On stage or even on the album..?

I like that, I have one solo now and it’s cool! But I’m not the kind of solo keyboard player, I see more myself as a piano player, accompanying instead of soloing but I can do it if I have to… And I also enjoy playing it live…

Hope we’ll hear it tonight…

Huumm I think we gonna play it… I’m not sure; it depends on the different set lists we have, and tonight is the first date of the tour so I don’t know… (Laugh)

(Laugh) Surprise!
And do you consider “Requiem for the Indifferent” as a whole concept album? Or just independent songs with a recurring theme?

Well the songs are not on the same theme… We didn’t write it as a concept album but I think that the basic thoughts in the end are that: it’s a requiem for the indifferent really. I think that every song has something to do with the title but we didn’t really come up with that up front, it was more in the end that it came up. That’s why we chose that song for the album title.

And do you think that the Mayan experience has influenced this new EPICA album?

Maybe, but you know I was not in Mayan (Laugh)…
I think that he lost some aggression on the Mayan project, so maybe this album would have been much harder, but EPICA is EPICA, it’s different song writers, Frank and Jack they are not in EPICA, so they write most of the parts with Mayan with Mark, and Mark writes the EPICA stuff, so Isaac and Arjen don’t really write stuff for Mayan anyway. But of course there are some overlaps because we are the same people basically.

Ok! And just a thing about the song “Serenade of Self Destruction”, there was a little mistake, so can you explain what happened?

(Laugh) No it was a big mistake…!
For the bonus CD we added an instrumental version of the whole album, it was only for limited edition, and somehow in the end, when they did the final master tapes the songs got mixed up and the wrong song ended on the final master and we didn’t noticed it…
And the evening before the release we got our CDs and we said “Ah let’s play it” and we heard the wrong song, and “Noooo!”, it was a terrible evening I can tell you that.

Well is that so bad…? I mean as you said on the website, we have a collector one no?

Yeah you can see it like that in the end and that’s ok, but we worked two and a half years on this album and it’s really difficult to accept that something is wrong… But I think that things have been solved as we spoke to everybody and offered the song to people who had the wrong album, to make things right…
And that’s why we’re going to play this song live as much as we can…

Nice choice!
You’re going to tour now all other Europe, but what are your plans for autumn? US tour or something like that?

Yeah, we first gonna do some summer fests and then we gonna do South America, North America and Canada, and at the end of the year we’ll try to do some UK shows and Scandinavian shows and… we’ll already be in 2013 so… we’ll see about that.
First we’re gonna tour and tour and do more shows and tour!

And have you planed to record a show during the tour for a DVD?

No not yet… We’re celebrating this year our tenth year anniversary and we’ll see if we can do something special about that but it’s gonna be after all the touring so in the beginning of 2013 or something…

Ok, because the latest live album was “The Classical Conspiracy” and it was something like four years ago…

Well we’re thinking about doing stuff, and we’ll see what we can do. We have a lot of work preparing the tour and the album so… Will you see the show tonight?

Yes of course!

We’re gonna do a lot of special stuff, it’s the first time we brought our own track with all the stuff and I’m sure it’s gonna be awesome…

I hope so but I trust you!
Time is going on, so we’re reaching the end… So I leave you the final words if you want to say something for the French fans?

“Je t’aime les français”. (Laugh)
It’s really awesome to be in France, all the time; people are really enthusiastic for us, and especially on this venue, I think we played there four times or something and every show was awesome, really cool audience. So it’s still a great venue, for us!

Ok so thank you so much for your time and see you later!

You’re welcome! See you later.
Critique : SBM
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