Mark Jansen, Epica interview – Download 2019

After Epica played Download festival this year (their first ever appearance there), I spoke to Mark Jansen about the band’s plans and also about his other band, MaYaN.  We talked about the upcoming reissue of “Design your universe”, possible Uk dates, a 20th anniversary show and more.

You’ve played Download festival today for the first time. I’m amazed it’s taken so long.

How long does the festival exist?

This is the 16th year. It’s been a long wait.  Partway through the set the rain started to come down hard, but it was good to see everyone just stayed there to keep watching.

We were lucky enough that 95% of the set was dry and the last 5% it started pouring but people stayed so that’s always a good sign.

And of course you were probably nice and warm on stage with all those flames.

Yeah for us I could feel the rain hitting the stage a bit, but for me that doesnt matter – if the crowd has a good time then it’s ok.

The only one at risk of getting really wet was Coen when he came down off the stage to get close to the fans.

Yes true.

I’m always half expecting in an Epica show to see Coen riding his keyboard like he does but to come flying off the stage but it never happens.

Once his keyboard fell – it was not connected well. It fell all the way off the stage. So sometimes shit happens.

That’s when you get a moment of horror thinking this could get expensive.

That moment when you see something like that happen you go “oooh” but soon after we start laughing about it, pretty much right after the show.

Once you know the keyboard is ok and he’s not hurt so can carry on with the tour.

The keyboard was not totally ok but we were still laughing about it.

You’ve got a very quiet summer by Epica standards. You’ve got a show in the Netherlands with Mayan also playing, there’s the RockHarz festival and that’s it.

Yes we have a kind of sabbatical this year. After 17 years full force we thought it cannot be bad to have a little bit of a relaxing period but then some festival offers came in and we decided to take just a few to keep it special and also for ourselves, after almost half a year of inactivity with Epica it’s fun to play some shows.

In the Autumn you’re playing half a dozen shows in Europe to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Design your universe”.

Yes the Design your universe tour and we recorded something like five acoustic tracks so it’s going to be a nice bonus disc together with the album.

So you’re reissuing the album as an anniversary edition?

Yes, the Gold edition we call it. It’s remixed, remastered, new booklet based on the old booklet but with different colours, and five extra tracks, so I think it’s a pretty special thing.

On tour are you playin the album in full or just some of the tracks?

I’m sure we’ll play 80% at least. We’ll have to see if we’re going to play the whole thing or the 80% – we have in mind pretty much what songs we’re for sure going to play and that’s pretty much the vast majority of songs on the album. We have to see, we have to find a nice sequence of songs for the setlist and what works well together. I always think when you play an album from beginning to end there’s no surpise, people know already what is about to come and it’s a bit of a pity. I think it’s good to keep a little bit of excitement so people don’t know what’s going to happen.

It’s been quite a while since you last released a live album. Are there any plans to do another one?

Maybe when we reach 20 years it might be time for a new live album to celebrate that. I think that will be good. We’ve reach 18 years already so in two years it could be time for it.

So will you be planning a big show for it?

Yeah definitely. We need to make a huge show to celebrate 20 years.

It needs to be a big one to beat Retrospect (which marked 10 years of Epica)

Yeah because with Retrospect we did a big thing and it’s hard to beat such a great experience like we had there, but yeah 20 years is already double of ten years, time is flying.

As the saying goes, Time files when you’re having fun.

That’s definitely true, time has gone so fast. I always say it’s better having time going fast as you’re having fun than for it to go extremely slow being miserable.

Are there any plans for UK shows?

Not yet. I was opting for a Design your universe show in London but for some reason, I can’t remember why, our booker said we would be better to wait for London till next year, but I’m pushing for it. The sooner the better.

Any plans for the next studio album?

Yeah we slowly started writing now so we’re getting things together, then we have to see when we’re ready to hit the studio. So yes we’re in that period to start writing some stuff.

And of course when you’re not busy with Epica, you’re busy with MaYaN.

Yes that’s right. It’s the variation I like, so it’s not all the time about Epica, sometimes it’s with different people – MaYaN, which is where I don’t play guitar, just focus on the vocals, so something completely different and for me that brings a lot of fun. The variation is what I enjoy so much in life – if I have to do always the same things, like eat the same dish everyday there’s a chance it gets boring, but when you’re doing new stuff you keep finding yourself having a good time.

That sums up a MaYaN show nicely – things are constantly changing and there’s no chance of getting bored.

Some people have other bands so it’s not always possible for everyone to be there for each show.

Even within a show it’s changing as people come on and off stage throughout the set.

That’s right, and with the classics set we also have Arjan Rijnen who was in Revamp doing some of the songs, so it’s a pretty good mix of a lot of talented people.

I’m still amazed that you’ve never had a big crash as everyone bumps into each other when you have 9 or 10 people on stage together.

Each and everyone has a bit of space but of course sometimes it happens that someone is a bit close, but it rarely happens because we keep an eye on each other.

Going back to having fun, I noticed during the Arnhem show at Luxor Live everyone came out for the encore wearing wigs.

Ahh yes. That’s because backstage there were all these dressing dolls with wigs on them. They came up with the idea to all wear them. I didn’t know that as I was on stage doing the announcement for the encore then I saw them all coming up on stage in these wigs.

You did look very surprised.

Apparently they even had a wig ready for me but I didnt see that. It was fun.

The latest MaYaN album, Dhyana, felt like it was a step up from MaYaN being a side project to being a strong band in it’s own right and that had met it’s potential.

Yeah with this third album we thought lets put everything we have, everything we can do, in this album because it’s for fun but also we want to see how far we can bring it, so it’s not only fun anymore, but also looking to see where it can go. If it stays the way it is now, fine, but if it keeps growing then even better because then we can more easily do more shows because it’s quite expensive to bring all these people around, but it’s also a challenge and a part of the fun. Many bands are struggling with the touring because of how expensive it is and we managed in a way to do that in a band with ten people.

It must be quite difficult from a planning perpective – ok we want to do a show on this date, which of the band members are free then, because everyone has other work as well.

We try of course to have everyone there but it can happen that one guy says “I really can’t do this show” but we still want to do it, so we’ll do it and find a way to solve it with a replacement. There’s always Henning Basse when Adam is not available, and when one of the girls is not available the other can do all the vocal parts, but we always try and have the whole band together.

It seems like a big family and probably feels strange with one of the family not being there.

Yeah it does, and everytime someone is not there it feels a bit different but that’s also MaYaN, you never know exactly what you’re going to get.

They’ve even done a couple of shows where you’ve not been there or only played a small part.

Yeah there were two shows where I was not there at all, so the show must go on.

It was a big step for the band when people accepted the band without you being there – it’s no longer Mark Jansen’s side project, it’s MaYaN the band.

In the beginning it wasn’t possible. There was a show I couldn’t do and the promoter said that without me he didn’t want to book the band. ok fair enough. Now the band MaYaN is bigger than my personal name, the promoters say ok even if you can’t do it we still want to book MaYaN. That was what I was aiming for – MaYaN is a thing on its own and I’m happy that the guys can still play even if I’m not available.

We’ve already done something like 85 shows

The Arnhem show was a lovely old venue

Yes it’s one of my favourite venues in the Netherlands.

Thank you very much for your time.

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.