EPICA - Simone Simons on OMEGA, live shows, classical music, reissues, success & more | INTERVIEW
Hello, all you Metal Pilgrims and welcome to the new episode of our interview series with our today's guest amazing Simone Simons of the Symphonic Metal band Epica. Simone and I, among other things, will be speaking about the band's upcoming studio release Omega, the creative process behind it, classical music, the state of metal and much much more. Yet before we start I'd like to take a moment and ask you to support Metal Pilgrim channel and like, comment, share this video, and of course subscribe to Metal Pilgrim on YouTube and any other social media you actually hang out at to be able to submit your questions for all future interview guests, stay tuned with the updates, and for more exclusive rock and metal content! Here you go! MP: Simone, how are you? how are things in the Netherlands? How are you guys coping with the all this madness? Have to get the obvious question out of the way! SS: Yeah, we were in a lockdown, now since today schools are open I don't live in the Netherlands anymore I live in Germany. MP: Oh sorry about that! SS: No worries! I am from the Netherlands, but I've been living in Germany over 10 years now. But yeah so, with kids at home you know no school it's tricky! So everybody was very happy when schools were opening, it's not every day it's just every other day, and then the week homeschooling again, but yeah that's the hardest part and of course - no shows for us for a while, but we still have something to look forward to and that's the new record! MP: Absolutely! And I think everyone who's going to be watching this interview, this is the first thing that they kind of want to know about! So Omega is actually out on February 26th via Nuclear Blast! Congrats on finishing it up despite all the pandemics and all the madness that is going on around the world! I think you guys did a tremendous job by the way. So can you just take us back for just a tiny little bit and and talk a bit about the creative process behind it, and how did it all come into this one cohesive piece that we can hear today? SS: Well we started writing the album in November 2019, that's when we got together. So we rented a little house, so we all traveled
from different countries we live in Sicily, Germany. Belgium and the Netherlands. And we cleared our calendars of any other obligations so we were fully concentrated on working on the music together as a band. And in the past in between all of our touring we were mainly writing the albums digitally, sending each other ideas back and forth, but for this album we wanted to change things up a little bit. And that was very beneficiary for the writing process, everything went much faster, we were super productive, that was the right choice to do so.
Everybody had their home studios with them, and Joost, the producer, was there. He was sitting in the living room and he was working with one band member who wrote the song, and then I was there as well. So people were writing vocal lines and we would just switch up teams. MP: It's pretty cool, you could go from a room to a room and actually work with someone on it on a spot. SS: Yes, everybody had their own station, their own home studio, there was music coming from all corners of the house! And it was nice to do it like that. I mean in the past we were touring so much we were partially writing The Holographic Principle while being on tour, promoting The Quantum Enigma, so we had a heavy schedule. And after The Holographic Principle
touring cycle was finished we then went into a sort of sabbatical. We didn't do any shows but we did do other things, like we released two EPs, and we wrote our biography The Essence of Epica. And after that resting, no touring, we were fully motivated and batteries were charged and it was... MP: So you kind of did it in this, a bit of more of an old-fashioned way. And it's a great thing, you could work together instead of sending files to each other digitally, like most of the bands do these days, and especially during the pandemic times.
What did it mean for you as a band? Did it mean a new beginning for the band in some way or another? SS: Yes, I guess a fresh start. Each album is a little bit like a fresh start, where we go over the last or the previous record and see what we can do to improve. And for Omega we wanted to have a little bit more organic sound, we used full orchestra, of course the big Epica choir. But this time also a children's choir, and that was the first time that we've done that. And it was a good choice because it definitely adds another dimension to the music. Same for the orchestra. I think samples are so great nowadays, but orchestra, it has something imperfect about it! It's something more human sounding, and I think that was the right choice! Besides that we had more instruments recorded beside the Epica members (the guitar, bass, keys), we had a wide array of flutes, we recorded ctar, we had percussion recorded in India. So
we did more than ever before for this record! MP: This is amazing amazing to hear! And on this album you're exploring, and you started talking about this briefly, this concept of The Omega Point, for which unity and working in synergy lies at the very core of! And I think that 2020 kind of showed us, the entire humanity, that without working together we all are screwed, there's not really much hope for us! So which means that this album comes out very very timely in a way. So how did this concept arise overall? And whether the pandemic had any effect on the album's mood at all? SS: Well, the pandemic had only the effect... we were lucky time wise, everything was done by the end of February, the instrumental part and the choirs. But then we had to record
the lead vocals for Mark and myself. And Mark lives in Sicily, and that was middle of march, and that's when we had the first lockdown and countries were panicking. It was the first real lockdown for us, and we faced the challenge to record the vocal somewhere else.
And Mark did it at home and I went to a studio nearby and recorded my vocals there. And our producer was there via zoom, so we could communicate that, we could both hear each other, we could see each other. And that went good, it was the first time for me going to work in the morning and coming home in the afternoon to see my son. Which was nice,was normally I would be in the Netherlands for two weeks without my family. So that was a plus point. The album title Omega comes from the theory The Omega Point. And Mark's the one, who is always giving
the album a name, the title. And his original idea was to call it The Omega Point, but we went for Omega, because it's nice and short. And normally we always have these really long album titles but it's not the time. MP: This is the first time you have it with a single word title. And the Omega point would make it three words which is just ideal for Epica! SS: Yes, I know, but we all thought Epica - Omega sounds good. MP: It does.
SS: The album starts with Alpha and it ends with Omega. And The Omega Point is the spiritual belief and scientific speculation that everything in the universe is coming together to one final point of divine unification. So that's literally the highest point! The big bang is the origin of the universe, and the Omega point is like the end point. And that is something Mark chose to write about for his lyrics.
Partially the lyrics have been inspired by the sacred geometry teachings, and also the green, The Emerald Tablets which are the oldest found wisdom stones. And there's this recurring theme of light and dark, the balance or disbalance of them. Songs like Abbys of Time, Freedom, Synergy are about that mainly, but we also write about the global warming, and it's of course indirectly linked to the whole pandemic - not knowing what is going to happen. The lyrics were written before the pandemic
hit so that didn't have a an effect on like the music or the the lyrical writing. But in a way it is all connected I guess. MP: That's very interesting, and I gotta say that it comes very timely, and I could have closed my eyes and without knowing that you guys wrote it before the pandemic, I could have told that it was written during these times to underline the importance of unification, of us working together towards a greater goal. And these lyrical lines that are running through it, I think come in a very very timely manner! All right and speaking about the you know the music itself and the musical composition of the album, it's been five years since the release of your previous record, but yet you didn't, as you said, stay silent during these years, releasing several EPs. And I think that it is safe to say that Epica sound has evolved drastically since The Holographic Principle.
It's different and it's great. You're both exploring these new horizons and at the same time in a way returning to the band's roots in some songs. So do you think those EOs, especially Attack on Titan have had any influence on Omega sound? Can I practice this new thing on those EPs or not? SS: Well the Solar System were basically songs that we already recorded when we recorded The Holographic Principle, so that's basically connected to that. And Attack on Titan was a fun project. I don't consider Epica a Power Metal band, but those are really Power Metal songs. We even slowed them down a little bit, because they were so fast.
And it was really fun to work on! We translated the lyrics to English, and then we had to rewrite them to fit the melody! And I loved recording the vocals for that. To me it was a great challenge. I could play a little bit of role, I had to spend really long, I had to sing almost like rapping because I had to sing so many words in such a little time, but I'm very proud of that EP! And it helped me evolve also as a singer! I just tried to give my best at that time. And with Omega, it is a little bit more emotional due to the COVID situation - not knowing what the future holds, everything seems so uncertain. And song, like Gaia, I wrote
after I started to panic a little bit in 2019, in august. That's when the Amazon in Brazil was burning, and that was the first time for me noticing that or seeing that in the media. And I started to think about the future of my son, of the children, the younger generation, that things are going in the wrong direction And that what the song Gaia is about. And even though the lyrics were finished, being in the studio, having a new scenario, the album overall feels more emotional, more spiritual. And I think my voice, besides the technical side, even carries more emotion because of the situation. And you can always hear the voice of somebody, how they are feeling, how they are doing. And
I was channeling that in the recording. MP: 100 percent. And I think that you can actually hear it without even you speaking about this. And in terms of the inspiration, when you look for for some, do you have any classical musical composers you you look up to and get inspired by? SS: I know Mark is a huge fan of Chopin and Rakhmaninov. And I like Mozart, and I used to listen to Brahms, Mozart. And when I was a child every Sunday they had the classical radio running in the background. I was in high school, one of the first
movies that I saw during art class and music class was the the movie Amadeus about mozart. And I just loved the music! Of course he wrote many different plays but I really love Requiem, because it's dark, it's melancholic, and I just love choirs and classical music as well, but I don't listen to it that often. Nowadays we are forced to listen to what our son likes and he has his own playlist! MP: I know your pain, baby shark has been on repeat for the past I don't know how long... SS: Yeah yeah! My son, he loves Toto. He likes to listen to Toto. MP: No, we have this ACD song from
Dave & Ava, whatever, YouTube channel, and we listen to it roughly 80 times a day. SS: They got those ear ear plugs with noise cancelling! MP: I use them a lot! Me and my wife have them and we just walk around the house like this. Thank you! And stepping away from the album, but kind of staying on topic of it in a way. Any plans you have... and this is actually the
question that has been submitted by a lot of fans when I announced that I'll be doing an interview with you,,, do you have any plans on releasing remastered/remixed album versions of some older albums like you did recently? For example Requiem for the Indifferent? SS: At the moment we don't have plans for that yet. I kind of lost count which album turns 10 so to speak. Last year we did... or not last year... it was 2019... We did the in the beginning of 2020 the Design Your Universe remastered/remix, and also the acoustic tracks, because that album turned 10. And I don't know, is Requiem after Designing Your Universe or is there still another coming? MP: I thinkit's the next one. SS: It should be, I lost track! MP: You have a lot of them, it's been 20 years! SS: It will be an option, I guess, but we all have to rethink how the future is going to look like, because we have some festivals scheduled this summer, but I don't think they're going to happen unfortunately.
So we might go back into the studio where we might continue writing musicm or doing projects with other musicians, There's a lot of options. I would prefer to be on stage because that would be the normal way of doing things, writing, recording an album. Omega has been finished since a while, we originally wanted to release it last year September and go on tour with Apocalyptica. So we just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope, don't lose hope, and keep on creating music and art. MP: 100 percent, and again as a I say always, I believe that rock and roll and heavy metal, symphonic metal ,any other metal, lives in clubs, in festivals, in real life venues and in real concerts. It's about the atmosphere, it's about the
energy you get from the band and back from the crowd. Online events are great for the time being, because this is the only thing we can have at the moment, but we all do hope that life will get back to something that we can call normal. And we all have to do our part for it, wash our hands, wear a mask if that's what you have to do. Guys, this this is no joke, don't be stupid about it, and let's just get it over with. Let's work together in synergy for the greater goal. Alright, Simone, in addition to being an Epica vocalist you're also a photographer, a blogger, and so many other things! How do you find time for all that? And any other projects that you're currently working on, that we will see from you? SS: Well, I don't know how I do it, sometimes.
At the moment I can't do any photography jobs other than taking photos of my family and friends, because of course, of the pandemic. The same with events, when it comes to the blog, but I created the series for my Instagram, it's called Makeup Monday, where every monday I create a makeup look, and the fans seem to like it. I do giveaways and we've also been super busy with the Epica Road to Omega, which is a little bit like an advent calendar, which is a lot of fun. We stay busy, we don't have enough hours in a day, and I'm also a mother, so I have only limited time during the day to work, and the rest I'm in the kitchen. MP: So do you like to cook?
SS: Yes but, during the pandemic I started to get a love/hate relationship with it, because it feels like I'm constantly in the kitchen! And the cleaning afterwards, I don't like that! MP: That is true, and that kind of the routine starts eating you, and this is very scary in a way. But hopefully, again, we'll all do our part and you'll be on the road again, and I personally will catch you live either in Kyiv, Ukraine, because I'm from Ukraine myself, or somewhere else in Europe! Would love to see Omega on the road. And looking at your close to 20 year-long career in Epica, do you believe there is such thing as a formula of success? Do you believe that Epica is successful because you did something right, and pretty much any band can replicate it? Or it's combination of different things and luck in a way as well? SS: It's definitely a little bit of everything. Most of all - talent!
Getting the right people together, being a good team, and luck - being at the right moment a right place at the right time. Epica was of course very lucky that we had great financial support in the beginning, so we managed to create professional productions, professional sounding songs from the get-go. So that was a big deal, and we were very young, so we could tour a lot without making money, because we didn't have to pay any bills. Nowadays, being mid 30, having a family, of course, you have to find a way to pay the bills, and if you're starting a band you have to first invest a lot! And because we were very young when we started, we were able to tour a lot! And that made us gain a big fan base, we're very very productive band. And it's a combination of many things, but persistence - for sure you have to make sacrifices as well. But I guess we're a good team, like six complete different individuals, all have different talents, and all five guys are writing songs, which makes Epica evolve with each record and keep refreshing our sound! MP: That's great! And in terms of the atmosphere in the band, you guys, I don't want to say, were locked up while writing this album, but you were at the same place for quite a long time. And you had to
work together! How's the atmosphere in the band after all that? SS: It was actually very good! After a long tour where you're stuck in the bus for five weeks, it's different! Because even now in the lockdown you're locked down with your family, who you love, but after a couple of weeks or months you just want some peace and that's totally normal. But we were at a very cozy house and in the middle of nowhere. We went food shopping together, we had breakfast in the morning, we cooked in the evening, and then between we were writing music and everybody had a little bit of different working schedule, but it worked! It worked well, and it was nice for for us to just hang out and not know "Okay, we have to go on stage, we have interviews, we gotta do photo shoots, we we have to go to the airport at three in the morning". Now all of that was gone, we could totally just write the music and it was nice, because it was very rewarding to get results really quickly, because normally we would send each other ideas by WeTransfer or whatever digital platform. We would have to wait for the other person to start working on it, and to hopefully also be inspired but this. We were kind of motivating each other, inspiring each other and fueling the creative process.
MP: Sounds great! Simone, I don't want to keep you too long here, so just two more questions if you don't mind. And number one, this is something I really want to hear from you. Do you have a musical guilty pleasure? Something that you listen to when no one hears you? SS: Well, I have a very wide taste in music, I don't define myself as a metalhead, I just love music! I've been listening to the Weekend lately, because the music's... it's kind of uplifting, it doesn't enhance the nostalgic feelings that I have, or melancholic feelings.
If I want to dive into that I listen to bands like Anathema or and Insomnium ,they are very good at making me feel like that, but in a good way. Music is a little bit of emotion enhancer and I love ABBA as well. But I think that's a guilty pleasure, because ABBA's brilliant band, was a brilliant band! MP: Every metalhead can say anything theyu want about ABBA until it plays somewhere in the middle of a club! Everyone gets to dance then! SS: That's true MP: Thank you! And the last one, this is something we usually do to close the episode. Can you share just one craziest touring story from your 20 year long career now? Or just one memory that you cherish the most? SS: Crazy story was that I almost killed myself with my laptop once. MP: How? SS: It was an accident but I was lying on the bed and with the laptop on my lap, and I was pulling the sheet up, and the laptop fell! And it hit me on the throat, the screen! MP: Oh my God! SS: Right here on the Adam's apple, this part here. I'm very bad with terminology.
And I thought "Oh no!" I heard something snap, and I thought that something broke, and I couldn't breathe anymore. And I was alone in the hotel room and I thought if this is going to be the newspaper "Singer kills herself with the laptop", but I was fine, it just hurt a little bit. I guess I was lucky. And funny or nice memories for me
is still when you have a conversation with a fan, like a quiet, normal, non-hysterical conversation. When somebody just tells you that they love the music, or when they show us their tattoos! I recently saw another beautiful tattoo from a fan who wrote the music score, the music sheet on her arm, and I thought that's such a unique idea! And that's one of the greatest compliments you can get! MP: 100 percent, let's just again pray that you, and all the other bands, will be able to hit the road again very soon, meet the fans in real life, shake their hands, sign the pictures or anything else, and and get the music out there in an old fashioned in a way, in real way that we all love! Simone, thank you so much for your time, any last message for the fans? Anything you want to share with them? SS: Yeah, I just hope we can go back to Ukraine! The last time we were there it was a special show because our drummer didn't make it to the country, we had to do the show without the drummer, because he forgot his passport. MP: Oh my God, this is so bad, I wasn't at it. SS: Yes, this time we are going to be full band on stage, playing songs from Omega and the whole discography! And I hope everybody stays safe and that they love the new music, I think it's a great way to kill the time and just stay motivated in life and bang your head until your neck hurts! MP: Perfect, thank you so much Simone! Just as a reminder, Omega is out on February 26th via Nuclear Blast, make sure you check it out! It's a great record, believe me you will enjoy it a lot! Simone, thank you so much, keep rocking! SS: See ya, thank you!