Omega is the first collection of all-new material by Epica in five long years. On their eighth full-length, the Dutch symphonic metal titans go all cinemascope, in a stunt both effortlessly and cunningly unleashing their biggest, grandest, flashiest opus yet. For the first time in years, they congregated in a villa in the pastoral beauty of rural Holland, setting up their temporary studio in several rooms. For one intense week of renewed bonding and creativity, they accumulated their ideas, they jammed, they wrote, they discussed. Above all, however, they just spent time together as friends. Just like in the old days before the members scattered across four countries.
I had a chat with Mark to figure out How to Bond with your Band-mates.
New and old bands, gather around the fireplace, please. We’ve got a story to share…
WELCOME TO MHF MAGAZINE.
Omega is an album that reflects the close bonds the members of Epica share, beyond making music professionally. Is the band only as good as the unity of its members? And how do you establish these bonds?
Yeah, I completely agree and I think that if you are making music together you need to have a good bond. If there’s not a good atmosphere people are going to suffer from it. For me it was always important to create a good atmosphere where everybody feels valuable, important and to feel the friendship because when you work all the time together, its important to have a friend to talk to rather than a colleague. So, I’m happy that Epica after almost 20 years are still together with almost no lineup changes which shows that the band members are happy with each other.
So you guys were basically locked up in a gorgeous villa, which was your temporary studio for an entire week. Having a bunch of creative individuals stuck together in room might lead to conflict. How do you deal with quarrels or differences of opinions?
WE decided to book just 5 days for that reason. So if for example we would get tired of each other after 4 days, we wouldn’t have booked to many days. % days felt like a safe amount of time. But even after 5 days the atmosphere was amazing and we wished we would have booked more days. For the next album we’ll probably do it again. It worked out really well and we are grown-ups you know, of course there are going to be different opinions but we always deal with that in a good way. If someone says “I don’t like this part”, we are going to improve that part instead of arguing.
You can either spend 2 hours arguing or you can use that time wisely and improve that part and everyone is happy.
What’s you all-time favorite memory with the band?
Oh, they are so many its hard to pick just one! If I had to pick just one I would probably say the ten year anniversary which we did with a live orchestra. Even though I was nervous as hell.
Let’s talk about Omega. This time you went all out. What was the creative process like and why did you choose to invest so much in aesthetics?
We had more time this time, we didn’t have to rush through anything. Usually, you have to squeeze everything together, videos and photoshoots… but since we had to delay the album a couple of months we had the opportunity to have much more time for everything including the aesthetic side of things.
Let’s talk about the Epica Vlogs. So basically you are creating content besides the music itself and you are expanding your exposure while bonding with your audience as well. What other marketing or branding techniques have you been utilizing?
There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes. First of all I would like to say we have been a self-managed band for many years, for the first 11 years. But then the work piled on and we decided to work with a manager. We tried a lot to find the right person and since he joined the band, everything became much more professional. It was good that we didn’t have to do it all by ourselves and also he showed us all these branding techniques that we had no idea about. For example, we released a new song, got a lot of views on Spotify and then you get higher on the list and then when the album gets released you get much more exposure.
Surely the music has to be high quality but besides that you need to use all that branding techniques as well to promote it the right way.
So, the business side of things is also important in the music industry, despite the ongoing fear the bands tend to have.
There’s nothing wrong with doing business. Some people think business is a dirty word but my father is a businessman and I have always been and still am very proud of him. I see so many great bands that they are shit at doing business and they can’t promote their stuff right to get to the next level. You have to combine everything. And if you have the right team you can’t go wrong. Now that my father is retired for example he became the bookkeeper of Epica, so we know that we are in good hands.
You hear all that stories about bands getting ripped off, at least we know this in not going to happen to us.