This year one of the most important bands in the Symphonic Metal Scene is releasing a brand new record, i’m talking about Epica; being just a week away to the release of ‘The Quantum Enigma’, their sixth studio album, after the ‘Requiem for the Indifferent’ that showed up in 2012. Epica kept us waiting two years as they use to do, but everytime they come with a new record, it becomes a highlight of the year, Then… This album is kind of special, first, it’ll be the first album featuring my huge friend Rob Van Der Loo, who replaced Yves Huts in the bass two years ago, also, it’s the premiere release after the biggest step in Epica’s career being already 10 years old and taking the place of one of the most influential bands in Symphonic Metal, celebrating with a huge show with Professional Orchestra and Choir called ‘Restrospect’, this is gonna be a blast!
After all this, i just got to find someone of the members and take his impressions on the new album, and the new Epica direction; but, i had one of them in mind from the first time i knew he composed many songs for this album, being a drummer i found it kind of strange, then i got shocked to know he is a Bachelor in Music, but also one of the most kind persons i have interviewed, i can tell you, in middle of our indirect conversation we had mutual gentle gestures, thanks for that Arien!
By the way, it’s a pretty long interview with 23 questions, if you are an Epica fan as i am, then you should get confortable to read it all since the questions were made by an experienced interviewer, but also a big fan of Epica!
Hi Arien, thank you so much for letting me do this interview, my name is Kenta, and i am from Venezuela, let’s start!
1.-How did you start in the world of music, also how did you get to be professional in music?
A: I started playing drums as a little boy, with spoons and forks on grandma’s plates, and on a very tiny kit I tried to get started playing drums. I started taking lessons when I was seven years old. I was 21 years old when I got to the point of being active in music on a professional level with God Dethroned, and other projects at that time.
2.-You come from a very different genre scene, you were used to play in extreme metal bands like God Dethroned (where Isaac played too) before Epica, how was that you got in contact with the band and come to replace Jeroen? You were the first different member from the original line-up.
A: In 2006 I played in Coen’s music school graduation project called ‘SIC’. I was on tour with God Dethroned in Europe, together with Vader and Severe Torture, when I got a phonecall from Coen, asking me if I wanted to play drums on Epica’s next album, which I did one week after I got back from tour in October 2006. I joined the band officially a year later, after having done live shows as a session drummer first.
3.-As I said you came from a more extreme sound band ‘God Dethroned’, how was that change of sound for you? Since Epica’s sound isn’t that heavy, how do you handle these differences?
A: I think that Epica’s sound is still pretty heavy, but of course not in an extreme metal – kind of way. What makes it less heavy for some people might be the keyboards, female vocals, choirs, orchestra… But if you listen to the drums, bass, guitars and grunts, then it’s still pretty heavy shit, haha! So for me, I didn’t have to adapt my drumming style too much. I still play a lot of double bass, fills and rolls, and I still sweat a lot when I play an Epica set.
4.-When you entered Epica, its sound became much heavier, faster and epic, with ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ and also the upcoming albums; you think you had something to do with that changes in the band’s sound?
A: I think I have an influence because of my drumming style and sound, but the material was written before I got the call from Coen. The band wanted to go a bit more extreme and harder, with more speed, so we connected very well together. When I play, I hit hard and firmly, and that also reflects on the total sound.
5.-In the coming Epica release ‘The Quantum Enigma’ set for May 2nd, you wrote 2 songs, and one of them we can already hear it since it was released as a single, in case of ‘The Essence of Silence’, is it your first composition for the band or did you write something before?
A: It’s not my first composition. I wrote stuff for God Dethroned in the past, and for Epica, I wrote parts of Martyr of the Free Word, and Our Destiny. But it’s the first time I wrote an entire song for Epica.
6.-How was the process of writing them? The Essence of Silence is great! And I was shocked to know that you wrote it, cuz, I think you hadn’t written something for the band before. Also what can we expect of Reverence –living in the heart-?
A: Thanks a lot! I started writing the songs at home on the kitchen table with a piece of paper and a pen. I was doing some dishwashing, and melodies, rhythms and riffs just popped up in my head, and I wrote them down. For there on I worked it out on my pc for the other guys to listen to, and we all worked on it to improve the song. I think you can expect that Reverence is going to blast from the stage like a bomb. It turned out to be a really cool song!! Lots of double kicks!!
7.-It isn’t too usual to see a drummer writing music for a band, that’s maybe because some of them do not have a professional background in music, but in your case you’re a bachelor in music right? Where did you study for that? Does anyone to have a professional formation in music to write music?
A: I have a degree in music yes; bachelor of music. I studied at the Conservatory of Rotterdam from 1998 till 2002.I don’t think you have to have an education to be able to write music, but it helps.
8.-Do you play other instruments? Can you write riffs and else?
A: Just drums. But I have a perfect pitch, which enables me to write guitar riffs.
9.-Talking of the singles, why doesn’t Epica announce the singles with anticipation? The official Facebook of the band of the band announced The Essence of Silence and Unchain Utopia many days after their official release.
A: I believe we announced it with anticipation. First we announce, then we release.
10.-How would you describe the sound of The Quantum Enigma? The band has said that, there will be the old elements but also new things.
A: The sound is very heavy!! But also clear and transparent. We’ll have familiar elements in the music, but also a few surprises.
11.-The band recorded a music video in Sweden some weeks ago; it will be for ‘Unchain Utopia’ right? When can we expect it to be released and how would you describe it?
A: We’re still working on the clip, and don’t know when it’s going to be released. It’s going to be cool, but I’ll leave it as a surprise.
12.-Will it feature Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) and Dianne van Giersbergen (Xandria), or what will the band do with these ladies since some weeks ago a photo of them two with Simone was published in Epica’s facebook page, tell me something about it!
13.-The band didn’t have guest solo vocalist in the two last albums (RFTI & TQE), only in the choirs, Why?
A: We didn’t feel the need to do so. It was cool to have Tony Kakko on White Waters from Design your Universe, but we don’t like to do that every time.
14.-Which are your favorites songs from TQE? How epic is going to be the last track?
A: That changes every day, haha. I like the heavy stuff, and TQE is full of that, so that’s great!!
15.-How does the band manage to make the live setlist since every time Epica makes a new album, there must be added longer and longer songs every time, it seems to be like two hours aren’t already enough for an Epica show.
A: It’s getting harder indeed, but every time we come up with a set, and we try to satisfy the fans with a strong selection of our songs.
16.-Are you planning to include the shortened version of ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ in the setlist? That was so great to hear it live for the second time ever in Retrospect, that would be great if you include it. Also, who had the idea to re-write it, and how was the process?
A: I don’t think we’ll play that in our shows. It was nice for the Retrospect gig, but we’d rather play new songs instead. Coen rewrote it. We rehearsed it, and played it. It turned out very well.
17.-By the way, Retrospect show was 3 hours, wow, how did you do to keep these three hours playing so hard?
A: I was in good shape, and the adrenaline kept me going. I didn’t realize it was a 3-hour show actually! It felt like an hour, haha.
18.-For Retrospect you also performed a new instrumental intro and outro and the song ‘Retrospect’. Who wrote that? and aren’ t you gonna release in official material in the future?
A: Coen wrote the intro/outro, and Retrospect. We won’t release that as official material.
19.-What’s the good and the bad on making such long tours around the world with Epica?
A: The good is that we get to do what we’re good at; playing music. We have a lot of fun, which is important in life. The bad part is that it sometimes becomes routine, after a long while, and being away from home.
20.-Despite being traveling to a lot of countries, not always you get the chance to have a day off and go out to know the city, but sometimes you get to do it. Which city has impressed you?
A: New York City.
21.-Can you give some advices to the people that want to learn grunting, as you do in Epica?
A: Don’t try to scream. Build it up slowly, and search for your own style and sound that fits you best.
22.-Are you comfortable with Epica’s music? Or do you participate in some other bands with heavier stuff?
A: I’m very comfortable with Epica’s music. And for heavier stuff I have MaYan.
23.-What do you think about symphonic metal as a genre for the future?
A: I think it can have a lot of potential, and a lot of great bands to carry the flag. There’s quite some talented bands in this genre, and still a lot to discover.
Thank you so much Arien! Can you please some final words to all the readers?
A: Buy our new album TQE – you’ll love it!!!