Antihero Magazine’s Anya Svirskaya spoke with Epica frontwoman Simone Simons about the group’s seventh studio album, The Holographic Principle, and much more!
You’ve got a new album coming out at the end of September, The Holographic Principle. Can you tell me a little bit more about it?
It’s our 7th studio album. We worked really hard on the writing and the recording process to come up with the best quality. We have 27 songs, all lined up, we, we picked 18 of those that we actually recorded. 12 ended up on the record. 6 are still waiting to be released, at a later time. All of the 5 guys have been writing songs for this. And the recording process took place at the same studios we did The Quantum Enigma. We worked together with the same producer. And we had also the same guy mix the album, Jacob Hansen. And we recorded with a big variety of live instruments, as well. In order to really have the best, most organic sound that we could possibly take.
And the concept of this album deals with the future where virtual reality has allowed people to create their own worlds? Can you elaborate?
Well, it’s a little bit … you know, scientific. Quantum physics mixed with modern technology. And the idea that we are living in a hologram is something that scientists and physicists are actually researching. If you then switch to modern technology, the virtual reality glasses, where we almost cannot see difference in between the digital simulated reality, and the Reality in which we are living in now. You might start to realize that this also a simulation or a different reality, or hologram.
Sort of like the Matrix?
Yeah, the movies, The Matrix and Inception are my 2 main movies, where I draw inspiration from, and that totally fit into this theme.
Besides Inception and The Matrix, which documentaries or books did you draw inspiration from?
Well, I know that Mark is the one that is more into quantum physics, and he’s watching documentaries from Leonard Susskind. But, Mark is the one to ask all the deeper questions. I kind of am more the philosopher when it comes to this subject. I love to philosophize about everything.
The album artwork is beautiful. Did you work with Stefan Heilemann, this time around?
Yeah, he’s also a long term friend of mine. I live close to him. And he’s the one for the job. We always tell him, in a nutshell, what the album is about and the songs as well. And he starts working. We push him in the right direction, and we also … Mark, Isaac, Coen, and I, have been sitting together making a mood board, and finding inspiration online. Also, doing some Photoshop as well. Isaac is very good at that, to kind of, send Heilemann into the right direction.
And the color scheme, of course, when you talk about holograms you know that you have a really great color spectrum to choose from. That’s something we also wanted to really include into the artwork, but also in my wardrobe.
And make up?
Yes, make up too. I could go crazy. (laughs)
I also noticed that there’s a new logo with snakes. Did this have anything to do with one of the songs on the album? I can see it being kind of a new, cool Epica tattoo, and on merchandise.
Well, the logo is coming from the song, “Universal Death Squad.” It stems from the Ouroboros, you know, the snake biting its own tail. Which is a little bit …the idea behind the lyrics of “Universal Death Squad,” because we are the ones that are creating all technology. Which, in the end, might take over humanity, so you’re kind of biting yourself in the ass.
Okay. And with the last album that you put out, you rehearsed the songs before recording them, to make sure that they would work in a live show. Was it done this time around?
Yes, definitely. Yeah, that kind of, appealed to us. We really enjoyed that, and we liked that writing process. We continued that with The Holographic Principle.
And when you were recording, how long do you each have to record your parts? The vocals, for example. How long does it take you?
It’s very different. Arien, our drummer, he’s a beast. He can nail it in a couple of days. But, for me, my vocals, I take about 10 days to record 18 songs. Which is actually quite fast, for me. Considering how, how long it took to record our very first records.
Epica recorded with real instruments, real choirs, real Orchestra. That really does show in the finished music. It seems that everything is bigger. There’s more growth. Even in your vocals.
Oh, thank you!
Another thing that stood out, is that when you put out the “Behind the Scenes” videos, during the recording process. You guys had 2 or 3 people playing the percussion together.
Yeah, well, some songs really asked for percussion, and not just drums. Our drum technician, he’s the drummer of a punk band from the 90’s. He works at a music shop, so we, we asked him if he could, you know, be helping us out with this. He kind of loaded up the truck, with all the instruments, that he could fit. Then the guys and, I think, even the owner of the studio, were all hitting the percussion instruments. Songs like, “Dancing in a Hurricane,” you can really hear it. And it’s really beautifully done.
The band is currently in the touring process. It must be a real challenge to come up with a set list for each tour.
(laughs) Yeah, with each record, that is added, you have to make choices. And priorities. We have 2 shows coming up. Epic Metal Fest. One in the Netherlands, one in Brazil. We made a set list, that we’re going to rehearse … practice and rehearse together. And then, we will see if we finalize it. But, it’s a … it’s difficult. 7 CD’s!
When compiling the set list and you’re looking through your catalog of songs, do you ever say something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t want to play this song again, I’d rather play something else?” Do you ever have that moment?
Yeah. Like, with the really old songs. The fans love it, but we’ve played them so often, and I find that they are such a big contrast to the new songs. You outgrow certain phases in your life. Those are the classics that the fans always love to hear, so we play for them.
It’s always good to change things up a bit.
Yeah, to kind of stay fresh and not go on auto-pilot.
Exactly. When you’re not on tour, how do you relax?
Cooking, baking, watching movies. That’s relaxing.
You have a 3-year-old son. He comes from a musical family. Both you and Oliver are in very successful bands. Has he taken a liking towards music?
Yes. He likes to dance. He has a rhythm – he has … say a rhythmical bone in his body. Whenever the rhythm changes in a song, he changes up his dance. Whenever he hears music, even if it’s a ring tone, he really starts dancing. He definitely inherited some musicality.
That’s cute. It must be difficult for you leaving him when you go on tour.
Very difficult. Yes. I’m not going to lie.
With this coming tour, will he be joining you, or staying behind in Germany?
Yeah. He’s staying at home, with my husband. when he’s a little bit older, he can maybe join for a couple of days. But, I don’t find it a healthy environment for a small child. He’s in Day Care, and will be switching to Kindergarten, pretty soon. He has his friends and he has his grandmother, and he loves her, so he’s, he’s in a good place. Knowing that he’s in good hands, I don’t have to worry that much.
With your previous album you did launch shows. You included some acoustic shows in record stores. Are there any plans to do something similar this time?
Whenever the opportunity arrives. I guess, for the … let’s see … 2 CD Version, we have some acoustic versions of the existing songs on The Hologram Principle that we kind of put into a different acoustic jacket. They, will be great to be played live, but, so far I think we haven’t planned anything. But, if we get the opportunity, then we’ll probably going to make it work. Because the fans like it. It’s a different side of Epica that we actually also like, as musicians.
You know, in the past, you all did these shows back in Europe, where you performed on the bands anniversary, and you performed albums in their entirety. Living in North America, we are kind of at a disadvantage because we never get to experience things on this scale. Do you think that one day, you will be able to do something similar like this in the United States?
Yeah, well, now we are doing the Epic Metal Fest also in Brazil. If that kind of sets off, then we can see … look at different locations to do something like that. That’s of course, The Festival. And when it comes to Orchestra and Choir, we have a Hungarian Choir that we worked with and that goes really well. Taking it to America, would be … probably, we would have to find an American Orchestra and Choir.
I’ve seen the band perform several times over the years. I remember your first appearance in New York City, it was a small venue, BB Kings in Time Square, and now you are playing in larger venues. When you’re in New York City what are the things you like to do?
I really loved BB Kings. It was also a tour with Kamelot. It’s a great memory. I have a friend in New York, that I’m looking forward to visiting as well. There’s some restaurants, you know, you can get great food in New York. Great shopping.
Sephora is always wonderful.
Sephora, yeah, they have all my money. All my money goes to Sephora. (laughing) But, yeah, definitely, some shopping, some food, some sightseeing.
One final question. This is about your blog. You have very interesting stage looks. I’m pretty sure you do all your make-up. Do you think that at some point, on your blog, you will ever do a tutorial, more or less, of how to put such a look together? As opposed to just saying which products you used. And also tips for aspiring singers?
Yeah. That’s probably also going to happen one day.
Thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview. I have to say, I followed Epica since I was 19 years old, when you guys released the Phantom Agony.
I remember at that time I had this interest in singing and seeing someone who was so close to my age, who loves this music doing what you did as a front woman of your own band. That was very inspiring for me.
Awe, thank you so much!
Any final words to your fans?
I hope that everybody’s going to love The Holographic Principle. We put so much of ourselves in this record, and yeah, I hope that fans are going to connect to it, the way we do, and come and see us play live for them in November.