OMEGA: THE END OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Skype interview by: Camilla Strand
IN 2014 DUTCH SYMPHONIC METAL TITANS EPICA RELEASED THEIR SIXTH ALBUM “THE QUANTUM ENIGMA” WHICH WAS THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA, THE FIRST OF THE METAPHYSICAL TRILOGY. THE SECOND PART OF THE TRILOGY AND THEIR SEVENTH ALBUM “THE HOLOGRAPHIC PRINCIPLE” CAME OUT IN 2016 AND NOW, ON FEBRUARY 26TH 2021, THE FINAL PART OF THE TRILOGY HAS BEEN RELEASED THROUGH NUCLEAR BLAST. I SAT DOWN WITH SIMONE SIMONS TO DISCUSS WHAT’S COMING UP AND WHAT WE CAN EXPECT FROM THE EXCITING NEW ALBUM – “ΩMEGA“.
With “Omega” being the final instalment of the metaphysical trilogy, what is the central theme of this album?
Well, it’s the end of the “Kingdom Of Heaven” trilogy. It’s our eighth album, and the eight is actually also kind of a special number, because if you put it to the side, it turns into the infinity symbol, and the third and final “Kingdom Of Heaven” is also placed as number eight on the album. This is basically the last part in which science and spirituality have to come together to find out the true meaning of life, and that’s a little bit the red line going through the lyrics, that we have this labyrinth within ourselves. You can also see that in the artwork really well, where we are trying to find our way out, and sometimes you get lost, which kind of symbolises the many struggles we have in life. That we are always searching, and that we hopefully come out the other end of the labyrinth feeling spiritually enlightened.
How was the process of recording the album?
The recording of the album went great, up until the end of February. We had everything recorded with the exception of the lead vocals so Mark (Jansen), who lives in Sicily, had to stay in Sicily because that’s when the lockdown hit. And I live in Germany and our studio is in The Netherlands, so Joost (van den Broek) and I we decided I should search for another studio nearby, and we found a great studio! Joost was there on Zoom and we managed to rent my favourite microphone that I also use when I record with Joost. And then I just recorded basically, I went to my office in the morning, I recorded a couple hours and then I came back home. Then my husband went to work and I took care of our son, so that’s how we were doing it, it was team work!
So, I’m curious, what is your favourite microphone?
It is a Brauner, I think a Brauner VM1. I’m not quite sure about the number, but I know it’s a Brauner. Because at home I also have Neumann and I have Røde and we have Shure microphones, but for some reason this Brauner really fits my voice really well and it captures all the characteristics of my voice.
The album title, the lyrics and even the name of the tour are all very apocalyptic and I was wondering if you think the Pandemic is a kind of Apocalypse?
No, no, not really. But it could also be seen more as kind of a reset or rebirth, I guess. A moment in time where we are all kind of forced to face the facts, what’s going on in the world and not everybody just thinking about their own success and their own lives, but thinking, seeing this as a greater, how do you say, a greater whole? Can you say it like that?
Do you mean like we are interconnected type of thing?
Yeah, that it’s not just ‘me me me’, but we are all in this together and we have to find a solution and work together to come out better.
Yeah, I definitely think the same there, that it’s definitely had to pull us into that awareness of ‘Hey, even going to the grocery store affects other people’.
Inspiration comes from everywhere, not just from other music, but also from nature, from your own emotions, from you know, your own experiences in life that you want to channel through music, and it sometimes just comes naturally.
– SIMONE SIMONS –
Who would you say are the main musical influences for EPICA?
Oh well, I can of course speak about my influences, because I don’t know the guys’. I know some of them, their favourite bands. But all guys, all five boys in the band so to speak, they write songs, they’re our composers. And some of us are hugely inspired by film music, or Disney movies even. I know myself and Coen (Janssen), we are big Disney movie fans.
Any films in particular?
I am a huge fan of the old Disney, and I also love Pixar movies, but in general I am a big movie fan and Rob (Van Der Loo) as well. One of the songs on the album, which is called “The Skeleton Key”, is also inspired musically and lyrically on the movie “Inception” and it was also the working title of the song. And the song “Code Of Life”, that’s written by Coen, it reminds me a little bit of “The Prince Of Egypt” Disney movie and I love that kind of music. It’s also one of my favourite songs on the album. I know Mark is also a big Opeth fan, I myself am also a big fan from Opeth. I think they are a unique band that is very good at keeping the attention of the listener and can surprise you. I find them very innovative. I’m also a huge Rammstein fan, although you don’t really hear that in the music or in my singing. But yeah, inspiration comes from everywhere, not just from other music, but also from nature, from your own emotions, from you know, your own experiences in life that you want to channel through music, and it sometimes just comes naturally. You can feel inspired, right before you fall asleep you get this brilliant idea, or when you’re on the toilet, it comes at the strangest times and the strangest places. Very random!
I definitely get that right before sleep thing all the time, it’s very annoying!
Yeah, and then you think you’ll remember when you wake up, but you should always record it before falling asleep!
Yes, ha ha! I really liked the songs “Rivers“ and “Synergize – Manic Manifest” on the album and I read that you collaborated with a children’s choir?
Yes, that’s true.
How was that?
Yeah, that was a bucket list item from Coen, our keyboard player. Coen has always been working with the choir, writing the arrangements and being there for the recordings. And for “The Holographic Principle” the intro of the album, both of his kids are singing on the intro. And the choir takes up a big part in EPICA, it’s a little bit like the seventh band member. And one of his bucket list items was to have a children’s choir on the album, and we loved the idea, and he organised it all. Together with Joost he went to a little church, I think it’s called Overlangel. Yeah, they were recording in a church, to catch also the sound, the ambient sound, which of course is very important for the ambience. And I think it added another great layer to our music and definitely amped it up once more and gave some songs a special atmosphere that only a children choir or children singing can accomplish.
Yeah, it sounds beautiful on the track. I saw the vlog that EPICA has, where you have all the different vlogs of the production. I thought that was really good. I think that EPICA does a really good job of connecting with your fans online. So, I was wondering if you would consider a streaming concert?
At the moment we have a couple of festivals scheduled, we got to keep our fingers crossed that they will happen. Our European tour was postponed once more.
To 2022 now?
Yes, January 2022, so less than a year now. It’s a little bit a shame, and kind of bittersweet that we have the album, it is going to be released but no tour attached. So, some of our colleagues already have created some beautiful live streams, and we are looking at options as well, because that’s probably the future for still a while to come.
If I want to write songs, I need to be alone… no distractions and need to be in the zone so to speak. I kind of just compose, like, any time of the day.
– SIMONE SIMONS –
Yeah, that’s right. But I think it’s great that you have that production vlog, and also, you’ve got your own website where you talk about your own interests, I think that’s great. And I actually read on there about Cradle Of Filth have an eyeshadow, and that got me thinking, do you think that EPICA would ever get into the make-up game?
I don’t know if EPICA, or maybe myself you know, that I would have my own make-up line one day. I think that would be a cool thing that we could maybe also sell at the merchandise, because there are so many female fans but also male fans that love make up, and you know, why not create. But it’s a lot of work, I have some friends in the make-up industry and talked about that as well, and they were like ‘yeah if you do it all on your own, I know that it takes years to create something like that’. And they advised me, they gave me a different strategy on how to do it, so, maybe that’s something we can add to the EPICA merchandise or something I’ll do by myself, because, like you say, it’s also a big interest of mine.
I think it would be a big seller, you know?
Yeah yeah, maybe a nice red lipstick, a liner. Hahaha!
I saw the “Abyss Of Time” videoclip. You are wearing a couple of really cool outfits. Who designed that?
That was designed by a Polish designer, who I can’t pronounce the last name. She’s called Katarina, but her last name I can’t pronounce. She’s been working together with a Polish video team, Grupa 13. So, for the photoshoot, I organised the whole clothing, together with a professional stylist. And for the video, that was Katarina, and she had some really beautiful one-of-a-kind designs where it took my breath away literally and figuratively because it was sometimes so tight and uncomfortable, but in Dutch we say ‘You’ve got to suffer in the name of beauty’, so that’s what I did. Hehehe.
And the curved keyboard, is that functional?
It works! Yeah, it’s not a gimmick! But it’s crashing a lot. So, during live shows, you know Coen, he does not like to be kept in one spot, so he wanted to use that keyboard. But unfortunately, it often has some technical issues, but it works. It was a great invention.
When I saw it in the video clip I was like: ‘what is that?’ I wanted to see it more! And my last question for you, what are EPICA’s plans for the coming year?
Hopefully to get back on the stage, because we miss it so much. Before the lockdown, and before we went to record the album, we actually had a sabbatical. We only played a couple of shows to promote our album “Design Your Universe” which had its tenth anniversary. So we remixed the album, we recorded some acoustic tracks and then we had, I think about twenty shows to promote that. And then we were gearing up to write the new album and tour… and then the pandemic hit, so we haven’t played a lot lately and we’re just excited to go back on stage. So, our plans for this upcoming year/years is to just hope that the situation will improve and that we can tour again. We are gearing up for the live shows. I mean we are rehearsing, we are designing the stage decoration, all of that still is running behind the scenes, there is just no show at the moment. And whenever we can, of course, we will probably at our own pace start writing new music again. But for me it’s difficult because my son is also at home, so I don’t have a lot of time to work. For the interviews I managed to get a babysitter, but besides that, he’s always home and I just don’t have any peace to work on music. If I want to write songs, I need to be alone… no distractions and need to be in the zone so to speak. I kind of just compose, like, any time of the day. So, just keeping our hopes up, try to stay positive. Stay healthy physically and mentally, and try to see the silver lining, of course, now we can be with our family and that’s a nice thing.