Dutch Symphonic Metal sensation Epica will shortly be releasing a new EP, The Solace System, a crushingly heavy collection of tracks recorded during the Holographic Principle sessions. Rhythm guitarist and harsh vocalist Mark Jansen got in touch to have a chat about it, and all things Epica.
On the choice to leave The Solace System’s six tracks off The Holographic Principle, Jansen writes, “Some of those tracks did fit actually but we had to make decisions and we came to the conclusion to leave these specific six tracks out for various reasons. As the quality is high we didn’t want them to end up like ordinary bonus tracks so we decided to release them together as an EP.” He writes of the very heavy direction of the EP, “For sure when Arien [van Weesenbeek], Isaac [Delahaye], and later on also Rob [van der Loo] joined the band, they brought some new influences to the table. These influences you can hear clearly in our sound nowadays.”
The lyrics for the two releases are particularly deep and complex, and Jansen provides some elaboration on them. “We are surrounded by lies and we are also fooling ourselves. When we get stuck in all these lies we realise that we have to change. For example the song Fight Your Demons is dealing about our thoughts who are telling us who we are but these thoughts are not who we truly are. They are not the essence of our beings, they are just a tool in this universe, just as our body is a tool. Many of us however get fooled by those thoughts and identify with them. Another track, Wheel of Destiny is dealing about journalists who write about the truth and risk their lives in doing so.” He goes on to specifically address the track Divide and Conquer from The Holographic Principle. “What’s really going on behind the scenes is usually not how you get to see it in the news. If we like it or not big parts of the media are propaganda tools, not only in sketchy countries but worldwide. Because the way people think is the way they behave. And people better behave well right? At least that’s most convenient after all but every country has an own agenda with own priorities and therefore there are many conflicts of interest. It’s very interesting to dive into it and see what’s truly going on but there’s also a risk to get lost in it and get depressed over it.” However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Another Holographic Principle track, Beyond the Matrix, provides a more optimistic view. “After all I think it’s important to write about positive things as well,” Jansen points out. “In Metal music many lyrics are very negative, with Epica we aim to show both sides of the coin. There’s always hope, whatever happens.”
The Holographic Principle was an interesting and unexpected title for an album, and Jansen adds some detail on the meaning behind it. “The hologram is the whole universe. It might be a sort of artificial intelligence matrix after all existing internally but with a reflection outside of us but I think what we feel is real, our emotions are real.”
In the real world, as it were, Epica have been playing the European summer festivals. Jansen reflects, “They were great, I think we played our biggest shows in our career and huge crowds have been watching us play. It’s great that after all those years of hard work it’s paying off. I’m very thankful for that.”
Jansen also has fond memories of Australia. “Australia is a great country to tour, it’s just so far away otherwise we would come more often. I liked the tour we did with Voyager, great band and great people.”
Epica have tackled “covers” of several film themes live in collaboration with full orchestras, as captured on The Classical Conspiracy and Retrospect. Jansen, however, hasn’t been down to the cinema for a while. “I must admit I haven’t seen many movies the last few years. Due to lack of time. Another hobby I have is to ride my bike and basically all of my free time I use for riding my bike, haha. But in airplanes I watch sometimes a movie as well even though the sound quality is not great and the screens are very small.” Still, he has some final thoughts on great scores. “I like Hans Zimmer’s work a lot. Inception has a great soundtrack. Interstellar is also awesome.”