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Epica The Quantum Enigma Interview 2014

Epica The Quantum Enigma Interview
Interview conducted by phone w/ lead vocalist: Simone Simons April 7, 2014


For me, a new Epica album signals an all new musical jigsaw puzzle to puzzle over. With every subsequent release from this very talented Dutch metal act, listeners are always guaranteed to hear something that carries substance. depth, and mystery, which are the distinguishing elements of skillful art.


Their newest album-The Quantum Enigma- is appropriately named, since the concept behind each of the album’s songs are shrouded in mystery. When you first listen to it, the listener observes different things in each of the complex, symphonic-metal tracks on the album. Essentially, the songs themselves reflect the erratic, ineffable nature of quantum physics, in that the observer of a certain subatomic particle reaction always sees that reaction behave in a different, unpredictable way each time it is observed.

Conversing with Simone Simons, the talented lead vocalist of Epica, is always an enlivening experience. She has great charm, charisma, and a fresh sense of humor. More importantly, she is a veteran when it comes to partaking in interviews, and she is simply a wonderful person to talk in-depth about the brilliant music both her and her equally talented bandmates create.

Justin:  This isn’t your first time in New York, right?

Simone:  No, it’s like the sixth or seventh time in New York.

Justin:  Have you done anything exciting, as you tour the city for the sixth or seventh time?

Simone:  Well, unfortunately, when I arrived here, my suitcase didn’t arrive. So, I had to do some emergency shopping, like buy some toiletries and some clothing.

But that isn’t all I’ve been doing. I’ve also had a couple nice dinners and breakfasts, so far. So, good food. Yesterday was super sunny, but today is a little cloudy. We’re inside and indoors, anyways.

Justin:  Yes, it’s miserable outside, it looks very grim. I guess one could say that it is perfect weather for a metal concert, because it looks so doomy and gloomy.

And so, a lot of your fans are preparing to head to Vintage Vinyl Records tonight for the Epica performance. Is this your first time going to that store, performing at the store?

Simone:  Yeah, I’ve never been there before, so it’s definitely cool to have like a mini, intimate concert tonight. I’m looking forward to it very much.

Justin:  Yeah, I think they need to dim the lights a little bit, so we have that coffee-shop ambiance. But, it’s very different from a metal concert.

Simone:  I always like those acoustic shows, always enjoy them very much.

Justin:  Now, we’re going to start getting into the thick of things with The Quantum Enigma. I’ve had the chance to listen to the album because Loana, the wonderful publicist for Nuclear Blast Records, sent me an early version of the CD. I absolutely love it, very theatrical, very bombastic, very Epica epic.

Simone:  Thank you!!

Justin:  So, my first question revolves around the whole concept of the quantum enigma, which might confuse half the fans because they might not be very scientific.

Simone:  Well, the quantum enigma is kind of the research they did with quantum physics, where they were observing particles, everything in the world that consists of particles. They found out that whenever you observe it, it changes, once you look away.

So, that would mean our mind, our vision, our observations are changing reality. It means that we can never really know what is true reality. There may be one reality, or several. Are we really here? So, it’s very philosophical. And, that is perfect for Epica, and what we stand for. It’s a little bit of a red line going through all the lyrics.

You know, the quest for reality, the circle of life; life and death, everything in between, the mind, the power of the mind. Those are the topics going through the whole record.




Justin:  And, that’s why when I first saw the name, Quantum Enigma, I thought, “Wait, is this some sort of spiritual brother to Design Your Own Universe?” because it does have that same sort of theme of relativity, and creating or fabricating your own universe.

Simone:  Yes, there is a connection because on this record, you have “Kingdom of Heaven:Part 2.” And Design Your Universe’s “Kingdom of Heaven” is also dealing with near-death experiences and quantum physics, so we kinda continue with that on this record.

Justin:  Well, I did have a more focused question about “ Kingdom of Heaven,” but I guess I could ask it now, since you brought it up.I listened to “Kingdom of Heaven:Part 2 ,” and it’s very different in sound from the earlier version from Design Your Universe. How do they connect?

Simone:  Oh, well, it’s basically a coincidence. It was not planned in advance that there would be a “Kingdom of Heaven: Part 2.” When Mark was writing the song, he kinda got the feeling that it could work. We got to use the Tibetan monks again in the beginning to serve as a kind of connection point. Yes, and it’s also dealing with the quantum physics, and the scientific tools as to what life is, something we like to philosophize about, but there are also facts.

So, same as “Kingdom of Heaven-Part 1,” this track deals with near death experiences. Mark knows a lot about it, and it’s really interesting. Even though, I am one of those people who are very stubborn and difficult to persuade, but the music, as well as the lyrics, connect with the Tibetan monks and quantum physics.

Justin:  Also, I just have a question about the album cover art. I don’t know who the artist is, but every time I see it; it’s very eye-catching. It kinda is like your music, it has a lot of depth. Going along with the quantum enigma theme of the album, each person observing the artwork and coming away with a different meaning. What is the idea of having, for example, a head submerged in the ocean for The Quantum Enigma cover?

Simone:  Well, there’s the Buddha on the cover, who stands for spirituality. It is meant as a symbol. The rock island stands for our vision , our observation, what we see is what we think is reality. But, that is only the tip of the mouth. When you go deep into the sea, the sea is a symbol of mystery, and you see DNA there, and symbols for earth, wind, fire, and water.

You see the boat searching, which stands for humankind always searching for the answers, for more information. You see the trees, the roots. It stands for that there is more than the sea, and that everything goes much deeper, and that a lot of what is real is not visible. There’s indeed a lot more information that we need about these things.

Another fun fact is that the cover is only a part of the bigger artwork, so when you unfold the booklet, you have the complete artwork. The cover that you see is the center-point of the complete artwork.

Justin:  Whoa, so that really is just a partial part of the complete artwork, almost like quantum physics, where you are observing one thing out of a huge picture of different quantum reactions. I don’t know much about science, so…

Simone:  Yes, everything is “quantumized.”

Justin:  Now, I’m going to move into the new single that has just been released. And it is called “Unchained Utopia,” correct?

Simone:  Yes.

Justin:  Is there going to be a music video for this? Because, you know how fans love having music videos before the CD actually comes out.

Simone:  Yes, we have the lyric video for “The Essence of Silence.” And, we recorded a second video recently in Sweden. We went to Sweden for a couple of days, and that video should hopefully be up in the next couple of weeks. So, it should definitely be out before the record comes out. But, they are still working on it. We want it to be perfect before we release it to the outer world.

Justin:  And, what song is this video going to be for? I didn’t quite catch that.

Simone:  It’s going to be “Unchain Utopia.”

Justin:  Cause, that’s the process that I’ve been seeing other bands use, like the lyric video comes out first, and then the music video comes out.

Simone:  Yes, it’s an easy way to quickly promote the record. You know, those videos are made pretty fast. They are not so expensive to make. You always record the real video before, but it takes a while to finalize it. The great thing is that the fans can already rehearse or practice the song itself. So, that’s a cool thing. Also, for me, I can watch the video and get the lyrics in my head, as well.

Justin:  And, the fans can also sorta think in their heads how they’re going to headbang, which parts are going to be the most headbang intensive parts.

Most people don’t rehearse their headbanging, though. Some people do, hardcore people, maybe.

Simone:  I don’t. For me, it’s spontaneous. And of course, you have at some points during a show, moments where we are all head-banging together. So, the majority of it is just spontaneous. You do what the music asks of you.

Justin:  Going along with this whole theme of “Unchain Utopia,” the first thing that even came into my head, when I even saw the title before even listening to the song, was this idea of dystopia, which is a very popular genre, with films and show, like The Hunger Games, and the Walking Dead. I know, in your past albums, you have had this apocalyptic theme. So, how does this apocalyptic theme emerge in this song?

Simone:  Well, I don’t know The Hunger Games, but I do know The Walking Dead. The song itself is basically about the people breaking free from a corrupt government. So, what you see in Ukraine and the Arab Spring, where people are trying to regain power over their own lives and society. And, that the politicians often tell a different story from what’s really happening. Things are being kept from the public, and the government has a different vision of utopia than the people. It is about setting both worlds free.

Justin:  Yes, a lot of Epica songs, really, throughout all your albums carry that heavy political message sometimes, expressed in a very subtle, artistic way, such as “Feint,” that one song about that incident that happened. I forget what incident that was.

Simone:  Yeah, the one about the Dutch politician that got shot to death.

Justin:  And, I just wonder whether there have been times where these songs, carrying such a message, have ever been controversial to some fans in certain countries, where these incidences have occurred?

Simone:  Yes, definitely! When we have written about extreme fundamentalists and some people might not speak English very well, and they immediately think that you are against religion. We are not against any religion. We are against the extremism-the side of religion that is dangerous. It should be enriching, and not restricting or life-threatening.




Justin:  It is interesting that some people might assume criticizing one extremist form translates to criticizing the whole thing, when that isn’t what your band is doing with those songs.

Simone:  No, No definitely not.

Justin:  Do you have a tour plan for The Quantum Enigma in the US?

Simone:  Yes, we are finalizing it. It is going to happen later this year.

Justin:  And, are there any particular bands that are going to join this tour, or you can’t reveal that information?

Simone:  No, we’re working on it right now, and we hope to release some information really soon. But, we are coming to the US this year.

Justin:  Now, about tonight’s acoustic concert, does the band itself, including you, find it hard to take very bombastic, very layered songs, and translate them to a very minimalistic acoustic performance?

Simone:  We have some balance, for which we do acoustic versions of, and for this CD, we recorded two more acoustic versions of normal songs. So, we kinda changed the structure, and all the band members will play acoustic instruments. Now for tonight, it is just Isaac and me, so it is guitar and vocals, so we had to rewrite some songs a little bit. Isaac has to take over more of the melody, because we have already played acoustically this year. Coen isn’t there, so now there is no keyboard. We still gotta somehow make it work. Yesterday, Isaac and me were rehearsing, and the day before, and we still have some before we leave for Vintage Vinyl. So, let’s hope the songs work out well!

Yeah, we recorded them on our phones, and it sounded good, and let’s hope that the fans will like it as well.

Justin:  I’ll be there tonight, as I’m traveling all the way from the Philly area to Vintage Vinyl Records.

Simone:  That’s cool!

Justin:  The one thing I loved about Requiem for the Indifferent was how you really challenged yourself vocally, and with this album you really stretched those vocals in some of those songs. One of the last times I heard one of your higher notes was in that “House on a Hill,” song by Kamelot. .

Simone:  Yes, and on Requiem for the Indifferent, there are some of those high notes, as well, and on the song itself. Yeah, I have much more versatile vocals now.

Justin:  I definitely saw that during your last performance in Philly. You were even able to do some of those low notes really well. I had chills down my spine, when you did that one low note (during the end of Cry for the Moon), which I didn’t even know you were capable of because I think when people hear singers from symphonic metal songs, and they always think that the singer is restrictively soprano.

Simone:  Well, I am more of a metal singer. I can single both high and low. That is kind of a good thing. I have the freedom to do what I want.

Justin:  Yes, versatility is really important to metal music. I wanted to ask how lyric writing is. I know you have written many of the lyrics for some songs in past Epica albums. How was it to do it once again with this album?

Simone:  Well, Mark asked me when the songs were demo versions; he asked me which songs I would like to write lyrics for. And, I have my preferred songs, and this time I wrote seven songs. Mark wrote about ten, including the intro. because I was kinda running out of time. Having a baby was pretty time-consuming. This time, Mark wrote a little bit more.

But, it was a challenge, writing lyrics and not sleeping, taking care of the little one while my husband was on tour. So, yeah, it was a challenge for me. But, I am very pleased with the lyrics. This time, we worked with Buffy Duberman, She is a New Yorker, she has her own company, Rock Your English!, and she checked our lyrics, and picked out the really bad grammar, and we were ready to go.

Justin:  Awesome, and I wanted to congratulate you on your new addition to the family.

Simone:  Thank you very much!

Justin:  That has to be quite a challenge to both take care of a new infant, and also write lyrics for a new metal album.

Simone:  Oh yes, it’s totally a challenge, but I succeeded and I am proud that it worked out. We wrote the best record so far, we have a new addition to the Epica family, so all is amazing!

Justin:  Yes, and I think it is one of your most complex albums, even though the others are, this one is going to take me a month to fully unravel all that is within that album.

Simone:  No, that’s cool. That means that our music is not boring to you, and you’ll discover new things each time you listen to the album. It’s like an investment for the future.

Justin:  I just cannot believe how much more complex your future albums could grow.

Simone:  You have to play it in rewind to fully get it!

Justin:  I have just one last thing to ask you. Do you have a message for your fans in the US, and for our readers of Sonic Cathedral?

Simone:  Yes! Thank you for the support for all these years, otherwise we’d have to do other jobs that we don’t like. We can travel the world, write music, meet our fans, and that is all because of the support of the fans. Keep your eye out for The Quantum Enigma, and come visit us when we are on tour!

Justin:  Thank you so much Simone for this interview for Sonic Cathedral!

Simone: You're welcome!



Thanks to the wonderful Loana, of Nuclear Blast Records, for making this second interview with the lovely and talented Simone Simons of Epica, possible! As always,you rock! And, thank you to Lauren Hughes, the fabulous photographer, for providing the eye-catching, lovely photos that are published in this interview. She is a wonderful friend and writer, as well!!