Almost a month before Epica plays in Greece, the impressive –from every aspect- soprano, Simone Simons, talks to Rockpages.gr about the new album, “Requiem For The Indifferent”, her voice, the one thing she can’t do without, the fear she can’t get over, and the worst movie she saw lately! Simple, direct, and easy going she doesn’t hesitate to say what’s on her mind and address the ultimate compliment to Angela Gossow… enjoy!
Interview taken by Yiannis Dolas
Simone Simons: Kalispera (good evening in Greek)!
Rockpages.gr: Yeah! That’s right! How you doing?
Simone Simons: Good! We are in Bordeaux, the tour is going well, and we are very happy!
Rockpages.gr: And you are coming to Greece, which is having a real tough time, in about a month. How do you feel about that?
Simone Simons: It’s always good to be back in Greece! I have beautiful memories from Greece. We know that this is difficult times right now with the financial crisis and despite of that we still want to come to Greece and play for our fans, meet our fans and enjoy the beautiful country. The situation is all over the news, everybody is talking about it, but we are not living in Greece, so obviously we cannot say how bad it is, we see it on TV, and we read it on the internet… but, I’ve heard a lot of fans asking from us to come, and we are going to play for less money that we normally get paid for a show, because we also want to make it possible for our fans, and we know that there aren’t a lot of money anymore…
Rockpages.gr: On the new album “Requiem For The Indifferent”, I think that you sound like you’ve incorporated some new elements in your sound. Do you do this because you need to keep your music up to date, and have a more contemporary sound?
Simone Simons: We are always keeping the metal core, which is our sound in each record, but we also have new band members who are also contributing to a newer sound. We have a recipe of the typical Epica sound, but every record should have a little something new , and something fresh, and it’s not that we want to sound like the bands that are out there nowadays, which is why the best songs come on the album. I think too much about how it has to be sound-wise, comparing to other bands nowadays. With each album,from “Phantom Agony”, to “Design Your Universe” we added new elements, because as a band you evolve, you also like different music styles and you incorporate that in the music, but we always try to keep the Epica sound to it. However, everyone is natural to evolve, and become better, stronger when making music…
Rockpages.gr: I read an interview where you said that this is the first time in your career that you first really liked your voice…
Simone Simons: Not the first time, but not in the first two albums. Especially the first one… I am a big fan of my vocals anymore, but I was very young then, and in the meantime I gained experience, better technique, and more confidence. On the first record you can hear that I was inexperienced, and a little bit shy, and I was very young, not mature yet, and in the meantime I started to like my own voice, and started feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished. But, it’s ten years of evolution. A lot has changed, and my voice has changed a lot, and I believe that from the “Divine Conspiracy” it got more powerful, more open, and divert. A lot of people say that they like the first albums the most, and of course I respect that, everyone has a different taste, but for me, for myself, as an artist it took a while before I liked my voice, because I think a lot of artists are very critical about their work and the people might be satisfied quicker than we are. We always know about the mistakes, and which are not visible, or hearable for other people…
Rockpages.gr: …and I guess s it also has to do with the fact that you are the singer in the band, you are not playing guitar, or anything else…
Simone Simons: I guess so… Actually, I played the flute many years ago. The… how to say it, I don’t know the name in English, I tried two types of flute for a couple of years, and then I gave up on them. I decided to use my own vocal pipes!
Rockpages.gr: Actually, what you said, that you’ve been in the bands for ten years, means that you kind of grew up inside this band. How does a person who is growing up biologically and artistically in the same band feel after those ten years?
Simone Simons: Well, there are three original members at the moment, me, Coen and Mark. We’ve known each other for ten years. I’ve known Mark for even longer. It’s a big part of my life and it feels like it has always been like this. So, we know each other very well and the rest three band members Arian, Rob and Isaac are easy going people and good to have around, and of course we see each other a lot during tours throughout the year, as well as when we are off… But, of course then you have your family, you can’t be with the band all the time! But, this is a little bit like a family. Everybody knows each other and we’ve been like this for a long time!
Rockpages.gr: You’ve been also working with the same producer every time, Sascha Paeth. What do you think is it that makes this connection with Shasha so strong?
Simone Simons: Shasha has been with us from the start, and he has been growing with us. He knows our songs, and our sound, and he knows how to take the best out of the band. Before we actually recorded the album we went to Shasha with some demo tracks, to help us make some selection and tell us what we could improve. The music, the vocal lines… He is very important to us and he believes in the band and helps us. He has a good ear for how Epica sounds like… When you are working in music you often get lost… You think about if the music is good, and when Shasha listened to the songs for the first time he told us what he thought that had potential, what
needed more work, and what we needed to leave aside. So, it is important to have somebody from the outside to guide us a little bit. We’ve been working together for so many years, and we think about him like fa mily, so we like to stick to the winning formula, the winning team!
Rockpages.gr: Since you are touring right now, and you have a long way on the road, what is the most important thing that you always have with you when you are touring?
Simone Simons: Hmm, that will be of course my computer so I can stay in touch with family, friends, and loved ones, and I always bring my own candy and movies with me to keep me entertained. Because on a show day you have lots of time to kil l. You are only actually working maybe two, or three hours a day, but you have to prepare for the show, do the soundcheck and all the time in between is waiting time, so each member needs something to ke ep them entertained.
Rockpages.gr: So, since you are so into movies, and you like to watch when you are on tour I’d like you to tell me what was the last one you saw and you totally hated? You thought that it was not good at all?
Simone Simons: I think that was “C arnage” with Kate Blanchet (ed, actually it was Kate Winslet!) , and Jodie Foster. I stopped the movie! I didn’t finish it, I didn’t even like it! That happens so often…
Rockpages.gr : In this album you have also used a lot of “ethnic”, as we call them, elements in your compositions, mainly Eastern melodies, and themes. How did this come up, and have you tried other territories?
Simone Simons: I love the vocals mainly, I always loved them, and Mark likes the music, and he already kind of used these influences even before Epica, and then he continued. The first name of the band “Sahara Dust” I think proves a little bit the oriental touch Epic
a has. With “Design Your Universe” it wasn’t really present, but with “Requiem For The Indifferent” came back again, and I personally like it! I think we should also have not only “European” songs with worldly sound. Since music is universal and international and why not try to combine them? There was a time when people thought that classical music, and metal could not be combined, but it works fine. Music is music and it can be mixed together.
Rockpages.gr: Did you ever think, or did it ever concern you that the audience may judge you for what you look like, and not how you sing, and perform?
Simone Simons: Well, that is not only being in a band. That has always been the case. As soon as somebody has an appealing appearance, a lot of people think that there is not too much behind that anyway, so for me I have to prove that I am first of all a singer… The h
air and makeup, is a hobby for me, and it’s fun but I am the singer in this band so it’s most flattering for me if somebody said “you have a nice voice” rather than “you have a pretty face”, because that in the end will fade, as you become older, and hopefully my voice will be around longer than my face!
Rockpages.gr: What would you say that it’s the best thing, and what’s the worse about being Simone Simons?
Simone Simons: Well, the best of course is that I am a free person, I can do whatever I want! I grew up in a liberal country,
I don’t feel pressed in anyway by politics, religion, family or friends. My hobby s my job and that of course is really amazing. The downside is that you lose your privacy, which is of course important. A lot of people know you, but you don’t know those people, and that’s a little strange, that all this people know you and listen to your voice, while you are not there with them. So, that’s a bit different.
Rockpages.gr: Do you follow the Dutch scene of bands similar to Epica? For example, did you listen to the last Within Temptation album “The Unforgiving” and what did you think about it?
Simone Simons: I like it! They’ve changed their style a lot. I like the old, and the new style. I got the last record, “The Unforgiving” and I like what they do in their shows, they are a very professional band. They were the first band from the Netherlands that really became famous, and they opened doors for us, and I know them since the beginning. So, I kind of also grew up with them, we played together a couple of times. I think the Dutch scene can be stronger with bands like Within Temptation.
Rockpages.gr: You are a soprano, but in Epica there are also brutal vocals, that are handled by Mark. What do you think of girls who sing brutal vocals, like Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy? Would you be interested of doing, let’s say, a duet with her someday?
Simone Simons: Ohh, well… I am open for anything, but I am not listening to… (pauses) I find it weird if females can growl, because to me growls are more appreciated from… I don’t know… guys, and masculine things and I haven’t seen her… I’ve heard that she is really small, she has blonde hair, and blue eyes… but she has something mean coming out! Kind of scary in a way! Probably, I will be scared of her when I see her, but everybody has the right to do whatever they like, it’s just not my cup of tea!
Rockpages.gr: What would you say that it was your biggest fear, that you managed to overcome, or not!
Simone Simons: I am afraid of spiders! My boyfriend told me that I should have a… how do you call them… I don’t know… I don’t like spiders, I never will, and he told me that if I touch a really big spider then I won’t be afraid anymore! I don’t think I will ever do that! I am also afraid of heights, but I think that a lot of people if they are standing at the top of a building looking down will have weak legs…
Rockpages.gr: I think that’s normal!
Simone Simons: Yes, I also think it’s normal because it’s dangerous, otherwise everybody would be jump from buildings…