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Epica’s Mark Jansen : A decade of metal

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On 23 March 2013 Epica celebrated their 10th anniversary with a sold out three hour live performance called Retrospect.  With the DVD/BluRay release now here, guitarist Mark Jansen takes the opportunity to reflect on the concert itself, and a decade of Epica.

Planning for the concert began almost a  year earlier,  with many unique details to be resolved compared to a normal Epica gig . The band reserved an entire hotel near the venue for fans, and a search for a live orchestra and choir led to the hiring of the Hungarian Reményi Ede Chamber Orchestra.  After such a huge preparation and lead up, it was a relief to finally play.  “It was a great feeling to finally be on stage”, explains Jansen.  “But on the other hand we had so many instructions in our heads it was hard to just enjoy it.  I had to find the right balance – and I think I found it – between enjoying what we were doing and staying focused about things I should not forget.  I was still enjoying the show a lot, but not as much as I usually do.  But later on, to watch the DVD and see what you accomplished, that was really enjoyable.”

Working with an orchestra and choir in a live concert setting required its own unique processes, including the hiring of a sound engineer who specialised in working with orchestras.  “It’s quite complex,” Jansen says. “We had 3 sound engineers working at the same time.  One was mixing just the orchestra, sitting in another room and then sending just one line out to the front of house engineer who mixed it with the band.  If one engineer had to mix both at the same time it would be impossible.”

Retrospect was intened to be a celebration of all that is and all that has been Epica.  A key part of that was to bring former members back on stage for a chance to play again.  For Jansen, this was a major part of the event.  “It was our goal to do something special with the show, bring some special elements,” he says. “When you do a retrospect show and you look back on all the ten years then something like this was really needed to complete the show.”  It was a great experience, shared by band, former members and fans alike.  “I was very happy we did it, and also the fans were not expecting we would do something like that, with the whole first lineup. “ offers Jansen. “It was quite unique to do something like this but also it felt natural.  It didn’t feel like so many years had passed by, it was like as if it was yesterday we’d played together.  It’s hard to describe, and the reactions of the guys afterwards was really nice, they all enjoyed it and had a good time and it was like the early years on stage again.”

A decade of recording and playing around the world with Epica has provided Jansen with plenty of great moments.  One in particular has stayed with him.  “We were the first international metal band to play in Tunisia”, he recalls. “That was a very special gig because at the time the regime didn’t allow metal, and to be able to play there was like crossing a barrier.  The first 3 rows were all crying with happiness, I will never forget that.  Even though I had my worse sound ever the people were so happy that I forgot in no time about my problems, I thought ‘today it’s not about the sound’.”

Looking back at the past can also be an opportunity to consider what might have been, something that Jansen admits he occasionally does.  He chooses to take a fairly positive philosophical approach to past errors though. “Of course there are some choices you make that you think ‘I should not have done that’ but some of these things were really needed to learn and improve.  So even though they have a bad outcome, you learn from it.  If I had not done some of these things then I’d not be here now.”

Having spent a lot of energy and time in 2013 looking back, Jansen is now focused on looking forward into 2014.  “First we will finish the new album, we are in the studio recording the album and it will be released at the end of April 2014,” he says.  “After that we will do the summer festivals in Europe and then some touring in the United States, Europe and South America.”  Having visited Australia for the first time in 2013, he’s also hopeful they can return soon. “We want to come back because the first experience was a really good one. It’s a long flight but it’s worth it.  I’m not such a fan of airplanes, for me 20 hours is too long.  But I do what’s needed to tour, that’s just a little hassle in a great job that I have.”

For Jansen and Epica, the plan is for the Retrospect concert and DVD to be just the end of the beginning.  For fans of their unique brand of progressive symphonic metal, let’s hope they are right.

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