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Interview: Epica’s Simone Simons on ‘Attack on Titan’, ‘Essence of Epica,’ and more

Posted by on July 16, 2018

Dutch symphonic metal titans Epica’s new EP Epica Vs. Attack on Titan is scheduled to arrive this Friday (20th) via Nuclear Blast (pre-order here). This will be the second EP the group has released when it was just last year they dropped The Solace System back in September 2017. While the group seems to be taking a break from living on the road, they are focusing on their new book The Essence of Epica and you can find more information here. We were lucky to catch up with vocalist Simone Simons to learn more about the book, the new EP, their 1000th milestone performance, and more.

How was it working on covering Attack on Titan compared to your original material?

It’s slightly different even though we still had the same approach, but we did an Epica production, quality wise. We worked thoroughly, rewriting the songs of course. The structure and songs were there and the majority of the melodies. But the lyrics were translated from Japanese into English. Then we had to rewrite them because they didn’t get the flow or the lyrics were just direct translations. And then we recorded them in the studio, demo tracks first to send them off to Japan. Hopefully, to get approved. After that, we recorded the real deal with orchestra and choir as well as backing vocals, the whole package. How we do it with everything.

It definitely does sound very Epica. Especially compared to the last two albums that you guys have worked on (The Holographic Principle / The Quantum Enigma). Epica has been very active, how do you balance your time with your family as well as time with your husband since he’s also in an active band (Kamelot)?

Yeah. I wish I could say that our days have more hours, but that’s not the case. But yeah. A lot of planning and we have family who support us also. But it hasn’t always been easy, I’ll be honest with you (laughs).

I know that you guys have been touring a lot the past few years.

Yeah, that’s true.

How do you feel about Epica’s milestone? Especially with your recent 1,000th performance back in April?

It’s quite crazy to think long enough about it. I mean, (laughs) we’ve always been on the road. Not much time to reflect on what we have done or achieved so far. And I think those shows, like 1,000th shows, are, a retrospect, those are great opportunities for us to realize what we have achieved, what we have accomplished over those years and we’ve been touring so much, Always busy, busy writing the new record. And time just flies by and there you are, my 1,000th show. If you realize it’s really indeed a milestone and always I try to enjoy the shows so much, but I always end up being so stressed that I want to do everything right. And when things go wrong, like I got fire on my head, in my hair (laughter). But yeah, it’s definitely crazy.

I’ve seen you guys perform quite a few times and you don’t look stressed on the stage at all.

No, normally I’m not. But for bigger shows, I always feel more pressure and mostly I don’t sleep well the night before. And that means that I’m exhausted but I’m running on adrenaline. I would feel so excited I just couldn’t get to sleep. Sometimes I get a little waves of insomnia.

I was curious ’cause when you guys are on the road, is there any rituals that you do to keep your voice in tune to maintain your voice?

Try to have a healthy diet, workout, sleep. I don’t drink a lot of alcohol. I don’t smoke. I don’t party. I don’t go into clubs where I have to talk really loud because I already know I’m gonna lose my voice. And watch my vocal technique.

To stay healthy and fit, that’s awesome.

I’m also a mother, so I have to run after my boy who’s really fast (laughter). He kind of makes sure that we don’t get out of shape. And we live on the third floor, so we gotta walk quite some stairs, and carry groceries and suitcases also. And yeah, that keeps you in shape.

Over the last two years, you guys were able to tour North America three times, which definitely made up for the four-year absence. With that said, are you guys going to take a break from touring? Or is there anything you have planned that you can reveal to us?

Well, there’s a new project we’re working on and it’s The Essence of Epica, that’s our new book. This is going to be a super thick coffee table book where we’re gonna dive into the history of Epica through our eyes. You know, we’re going to sit down with the creators of the book, we’ll have individual interviews. We’ll have group interviews, we can help each other get into the dusty corners of our brains and dig up some gold memories.

That’s awesome. Yeah, looking forward to the book. Speaking of the history of Epica, in the beginning, did you ever think you guys would make it this far?

Actually, I had no clue. But I always had a feeling on the inside when I was asked to become the singer and I didn’t want to do it the first time. I wounded up the second time (laughs). The same question, I thought, I think I have to do this. I think this feels right. Even though I was scared shitless. You know, I didn’t want to be on the stage. I had one show when I was 12 and I hated it. I didn’t think it would be something that would become so natural to me many years later or even my job. That’s my answer (laughter).

Epica tends to release a new album roughly every two years. Now that you have two EP’s and the book coming out, are there any plans for a new album that you can share?

It’s still a star in the sky. We don’t have any big plans. We first want to of course, dedicate a lot of our time to the book and step back from touring for a while, because uh, yeah, we’ve toured a lot last year. Roughly 200 days of 2017 we were on the road. And, that was a lot. So I think we deserved a little break to recharge our battery and write the book and come back full force and write a killer new album.

Of course. For when you guys are on the road, I know it must be difficult to put a set list together since you have a lot of choices throughout your career. Does it always depend on the city? Or what’s your overall process to create a setlist?

Well, we always go to, I think it’s setlist.fm, it’s this website that Mark (Jansen) always goes to, to check which set we played last time we were in that city. And then we try to hustle it up as much as we can. But we still have a skeleton setlist. Depending on which new album we have, we always start with the intro of that album, the first song. And we mostly always end with ‘Consign to Oblivion.’ And then we just fill it up with songs. Make sure that we don’t play exactly the same setlist as we did, if we tour a lot in the states, we did two tours in the US and we’ve three tours in Europe and a lot of our fans, they like to come to several shows. So we also try to, keep things exciting and fresh for, for the band, but also for the fans and offer them a great experience.

You guys definitely put on a wonderful show every time.

Thank you.

For fun, if you could make a movie based off of any Epica album, which one would it be?

Oh … good one. That’s difficult. I don’t know, can’t think of a movie, that movie still has to be made. I guess that’s the right answer (laughter). Maybe after we’ve released the Essence of Epica, the book, then maybe filmmakers will contact us like, this sounds like a great movie, you know? (laughter) Then we can do a movie. That’s something I would like to do in the future. To be a vocalist on a movie score.

That would be cool, I can definitely see you guys do cinematic work for a film, maybe an action film.

Yeah. Or a new hit series on Netflix and we do this cover track. Something like that that would be cool.

That’ll be fun. Is there anything else that you want to add?

We’re very happy with where we are right now. Curious to see what the future holds.

As a woman in rock and metal,  how do you take the criticism about people who are against women in metal?

I don’t think anything about them. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion and I have my musical preferences, even though I always say I fall in love with melodies, not with genres. And I just wish people would be more open-minded. But you know, it’s their right to like or not like something and nowadays, with the internet and the computers and the smartphones, everybody can just throw out their un-sugar-coated opinions online. I mean, if I have a bad day and I read a bad comment, then it can harm me for the rest of the day. But in the end, what’s really important is that my family and friends first of all, that I like what I’m doing and if other people like that as well, that’s a plus. I don’t make music for the masses so that they like me. It’s just for them to like me and do it because it’s something that comes from me. But I know art is subjective. Not everybody’s gonna like it. Not everybody’s gonna like me. That’s life.

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