Half a year ago you split with your guitar player Ad Sluijter. Do you keep in touch with him and do you know what he is doing right now? What is his occupation at the moment?
Mark: I was the most in touch with him. We did split, because he was not happy any more with so much touring, and he couldn’t have enough time for composing any more, and this was the part he liked most. He is a slow writer and when we toured so much, all the guys had no inspiration. He felt a bit sad about that he would have no new songs on the album, he said it was better for him to leave. “The Divine Conspiracy” was his favorite album, and it was better for him to leave, instead of staying and having no songs on the album. And what he is doing now, he is a producer, he produces a new band, a band from Spain and he is doing a quite good job with that.
You found a replacement for him – the place of guitar player was taken by Isaac Delahaye. Did you discuss this issue with him? Is he willing to write for the band as well?
Mark: Yes, we
talked about it with him and once he was in the band, he worked like a horse on the songs together with me. And we worked out all the guitar parts. The volume of work was as big as was in the past, or even bigger. Isaac made an amazing job in a very short time, he has a lot of inspiration, a lot of ideas. And I think that it was the right time, the right moment to have him in the band. Besides, as for the stage performance – he does it very well, and yeah we are very happy with him.
On the 8th of May you released via Nuclear Blast a new double concert live-CD, "The Classical Conspiracy", which was recorded on the 14th of June 2008 in Hungary at Miskolc International Opera festival. How did you come up with such an idea to record classical compositions?
Simone: Actually it was Marco’s concept…
Mark: No, she is speaking about “The Classical Conspiracy”, so the question is for you!
Simone: Oh, yes, I think I heard “The Divine Conspiracy”…I’ve always wanted a show with a real orchestra and a qui
res. And we had a little show, something like this several years ago, so we kind had a taste of it. Orchestration and quires are a really big part of our music, and we always wanted to do it live, and in Hungary we finally got a chance to do it. But it was not for a DVD, it was for a CD. Moreover some time before Therion already recorded a show with orchestra there. We had to arrange our songs and rehearse the songs we were going to play within a very short time frame, and we also decided to record the show, and it was also rather difficult.
I think you had a very tight schedule…
Mark: Yeah, we had a lot of shows and we did a lot of shows and we wanted to do this show as well. We had to find a way to fit it into our tight schedule, so we had not so much time besides all the preparations, we had an extra amount of work because of the DVD registration, as we don’t work with any management ourselves, so we had a lot of extra work ourselves which we had to doing a very limited time. We had to care for all the organization matters, and we had almos
t no time for it, so it was rather complicated.
The CD consisted of two parts – the classical part and the songs that you usually perform in Epica. So the question to Simone – what do you like more – to sing in a classical style or to sing the way you usually do it in Epica?
Simone: Eh, a good question! On that show the two things which I love were combined. I like both as much. For me to sing just opera becomes boring after a while, and Epica is a big part of my life, I take part in different side projects as well, I like to explore different sides of my voice in one thing. Actually “All by Myself” was the first song I started with when I had singing lessons.
And what is more difficult for you in terms of performing/singing?
Well, I started with classical singing lessons. After Epica I was bigger and bigger. Singing wise classical singing was better for me, but performing on stage Epica is nicer, because I can be myself, I can be silly and funny on stage. And when you are on stage with clas
sical music you should have respect for it, you should slit into the role and in Epica I may do whatever I want.
Oliver Palotai from Kamelot did all the arrangements for your songs for this performance. Why did you chose him and are satisfied with the way he did his job?
Simone: Well, his job was to rearrange the orchestrations of the Epica songs. His is a part of the family, he is my boyfriend. And we always try to, if somebody has a quality, and passion, and he’s already done that before. He has already done it with Doro, he was there on the rehearsals. And so I think that he is the best choice in this regard for us, he did an amazing job.
May I ask you a personal question?
Simone: He-he, mm… First ask and I’ll say whether I may answer or not (laughs)
All right! It is very difficult when one person in couple is a musician, because he or she is always on tour or at rehearsals, and it is very difficult for the other person. And I just cannot imagine the s
ituation when both people in a couple are musicians, professional musicians, you are the vocalist of a very popular band, Oliver is also a part of a very successful group. So when do you have time to meet, just to be together?
Simone: Well, we had a luck to spend some time together before we went on tour, now he is playing with his own band in Europe. And it is very good if you can combine, for example when you are on tour you can give concerts and be together at the same time. Well, it has two sides, you can be together on tour for a month, then you can be at home for a couple of months – and of course it is great. And when you have bad luck – when one goes on tour, comes back and then the other one goes on tour. We’ve recently already twice had such situations, but we both understand what it is like to be in a profession like this, and we try to be in contact when we are on the road, we have Internet, we have phones – it works. We also know the advantage of being both musicians.
Your upcoming album is called "Design Your Universe". What do
you mean by this title? Do you call for improving the world we live in, for creating a better world?
Mark: "Design Your Universe" basically means that you can create indeed your own world. People are always complaining that the world is shit, the government is shit, but they don’t think that they have themselves the responsibility too. They may not give all the responsibility away and blame everybody. And we say – look at yourself and design your universe, it means that you are able to create your own universe. You are the calculator of this world. That is basically what the title means, but of course the album touches upon a lot of themes and you’ll understand everything from the lyrics.
Simone, you once said that “I feel like I’ve got an old soul.” Why? Is it because you are surrounded by people who are much older than you? And moreover you got into Epica when you were very young….
First of all even before Epica I had friends who were older than my age, I have very few friends who are my age. When I was a child I was alwa
ys thinking too much. I had problems with sleep and I was thinking, thinking. I don’t know the English word for -----, well I was thinking about everything. Of course I have my sill side, but i always felt older and i always had my fears.
Simone, I know that you like classical music...
Simone: Yeah, all of us...
And also the music from films. Did you get a proposal to record a song as a bonus track for some movie?
Mark: Once we recorded a soundtrack, it was a Dutch movie, but the movie was not that good, so we released a bonus track from the movie. It didn't fit to the movie at all, and moreover we were not satisfied with the way they used our music in the end of the film. But if we can get a new opportunity, we will definitely think about that. Of course there should be free time and we should fit it into the schedule.
Simone: And sometimes our songs, our ready songs are used in the films, so we don't write songs especially for movies. These are songs that are on the album.
Simone, this is a question for you as a woman. How do you manage to keep up good appearance on stage and behind the stage?
Simone: Well, you have to set priorities when you are on tour. I am not a big party girl, I don't drink alcohol, I don't smoke. That's not a problem for me to stay away from that. When someone smokes in the band, i just try to stay away. I try to sleep a lot, i try to eat healthy...
Marko: ... and she has the biggest muscles of us all (laughs)
Simone: Yeah, that's it. And you have sometimes to retreat your fans, your audience, you have to save your voice, but it is very difficult, because everybody wants to talk to you, everybody wants to see you. You have 24 hours, and within this time yo have to play a show, you should comunicate with your fans, and to have a rest, to sleep, you have a venue with several thousand fans and you should pay attantion to each of them, so it all is rather difficult.
(at this moment the band tour manager gave me the sign that I can only ask
one more question) So, I'm afraid I have to ask you the last question. Simone, you had a break because of your illness, and now when you are again back on stage what do you feel and what do you expect from this show?
Simone: Well, it was in the year 2007 and 2008, and of course it was not a nice time, and I got into a vicious circle, I got sick several times and I took medications for it. Because of that I had an irregular life, bad food, no sleep, I had a very low immune system, and I needed time to rest. We had to cancel some tours, Amanda (Somerville) replaced me for a tour. I preferred to take a break, and when we finally began to play live it was really nice. I was strong enough t o beat illness. Now is the first time we are here, we saw a lot of our fans at the hotel, you see a lot of fans here and it is good!
Thank you for this interview, good luck for Epica and for each of you personally. Have a great show!!
Interview by Ksenia "Wolfin" Khorina
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