Epica: Power & Elegance

Deadlines Are Often Thrown Overboard....

Over the past ten years, Simone Simons has had the world at her feet as the vocalist for Dutch symphonic masters Epica; the classically trained enchantress has beguiled even the harshest of critics to achieve the status of both master and commander of symphonic metal; and with a voice that powerful I wouldn’t be game to challenge it. Epica are en route to Australia this week to begin a string of shows on a world tour promoting their fifth studio album, Requiem for the Indifferent. Epica have recently achieved a decade in the industry and to highlight their mammoth career the band celebrated by hosting their most ambitious project to date, Metal As Fuck caught up with Simone recently to discuss the anniversary antics, the new album and the trip down under.

How did you join as Epica’s front woman? I believe you were quite young “I joined Epica eleven years ago; I was seventeen at the time. I loved to sing and was in touch with Mark [Jansen – guitarist/vocalist] over a new project he was working on. I grasped the chance; it was the right decision for me at the time and a great opportunity. After the release of the demo we were signed. Eleven years later here we are”. Upon your arrival, being the band was in new waters, was there a lot of discussion as to how the band was to sound and what did you want to achieve as a vocalist? “In the beginning I really didn’t know much, in fact I really had no idea, I didn’t have enough life experiences at the time, I look back at my earlier work and I can tell that my voice is a lot stronger now, I was a little girl then [Laughs] now I have much more technique after this personal journey of mine”.

Now being a classically trained singer, did you find there were any challenges encompassing all the styles of Epica in the beginning? “On your first record there is always that unique feeling you know, the feeling that you can’t have ever again, each time we would experiment with something different, with different members and styles. The changes that came within the band over the years have been the very symphonic styles of metal and the use of film scores. I trained in classical lessons for five years, attended workshops, now I have become more powerful in each style we use”. Female fronted metal does on occasion land the stigma of being confined to the one genre of ‘Gothic Metal’ – not so in the case for Epica; has the band always been so elaborate fusing all these styles? “We draw so much inspiration from so many styles that it is impossible to pinpoint one influence, the use of oriental fusion for example has also come into play over the years”. There are six members of Epica who are all equally involved with the writing for the band – how do you go about it all? “Well a couple of the members will write the basic structures, I am at the end with vocals and lyrics [Laughs] we have a new bassist [Rob van der Loo] who’s approach is fresh and different, so now we need to fit that in somewhere also”. Lyrics are primarily handled by yourself and Mark, what sort of topics do you prefer to cover? “We express views on several - society and politics always come to mind – we will always continue to come back to certain topics if we are passionate enough about them”.

With a voice that speaks in volumes (literally) - in my mind it's flawless - fans generally do like to sing along to some of their favourite songs from any band – most people can’t with Epica, I think butchering comes to mind? “Well [Laughs] for the last two years I feel as if I haven’t been doing much in the sense of touring to hear [Laughs]. I have been fairly busy with my second touring family though”. [Kamelot] The latest album Requiem for the Indifferent covers some strong and controversial topics infused with the Epica intensity – did you know or have some idea with where you wanted to go with the album in the early stages? “Lyrics wise yes. Mainly Mark will set the album mood, we then sit down and express thoughts – who should write it lyrically and so forth. For me I have my favourites, some I have to let it grow on me before I start. Mark has a stronger connection to the music, he already knows which songs are his and we never fight about it”. Now the composition of music vs. deadlines (an issue that became one of the reasons for Ad’s [Sluijter] departure from the band) does this affect the creativity process for the band at all? “Yeah, well deadlines are often thrown overboard, there are generally three stages with us, the whole calm ‘oh we should get it done by then’ then comes the panic ‘it will never be done by then!’ Our record label will deliver the date at the last minute and even though everyone strives for perfection, sometimes when we feel it hasn’t been achieved sometimes you just have to let it go”.

Requiem for the Indifferent is the bands fifth studio album – however Epica have also got a love album; The Classical Conspiracy (2008) how was that experience? “Definitely one of the highlights of my career! The classical aspect is so important to the music of Epica; this is how we are supposed to sound. If we could, we would spend all of our special occasions using the same orchestra”. The band have been extremely busy through 2012 and looking to be in 2013, currently on the world tour for Requiem for the Indifferent and celebrating your ten year anniversary in bombastic fashion – the plans for Retrospect sound amazing; how are the preparations for the anniversary show going? “It has been very busy yeah, currently we are rehearsing for the shows on the tour, arranging Visas, packing bags and sitting on planes. Retrospect will be like no other, it’s a massive mountain we have climbed”. Indeed and the band will be in Australia very shortly, for the first time, I personally can’t wait. We will be in Sydney watching the show, trying our hardest to not sound like a drowning cat…. What are your expectations for the tour? “We cannot wait to come to Australia, it has been a country we have been eager to come to for a long time. We hope you all enjoy the show”.