Mark Jansen and his new project

What does Mayan mean to Mark Jansen? Is it a challenge to Epica’s media success? Is it an outlet for his extreme metal background? Is it the opportunity to inform people about an interesting civilisation? Is it merely a side project or a real ambition?

All of the answers to these questions are available in the latest interview of the friendly Mark Jansen, who admits to having used Epica’s network in order to introduce his project (and he has every right to do so). He is respectfully honest. Mark also wisely told us about his apprehension concerning having to follow Mayan concerts with Epica ones as well as about his fans reaction and to the potential success of his new project: « I would already be happy if every show we could have, like 100, 150 people, my mission would be accomplished. »

« I would already be happy if every show we could have, like 100, 150 people, my mission would be accomplished. »

Radio Metal: Ok, first question, what is your connection with Mayan culture, in relation to your band’s name?

Mark Jansen: I’m really interested in the Mayan culture because it’s a rich culture with a lot of knowledge. Since I read a first book about the Mayan culture, I was fascinated about it, and then, read many books about it. I think the Mayan people lived closer, in harmony with nature and that is something we forgot nowadays. That’s why I think we can still learn a lot from ancient cultures like the Mayan. Of course they also have a lot of other knowledge, about astrology for example. The question is how did they know these planets, which they couldn’t see with their tools. So it’s very interesting to read about it and think how they managed to came all this knowledge.

Apparently, at first, the Mayan band was just a fun project, and then the band grown more important and became very serious. What happened to change your mind?

Yeah in the beginning, it was just fun, some old buddies making music together, and after a while, when music started evolving, we sent some tapes to Nuclear Blast and they liked the music a lot. Then we thought we had to make a serious band. So, as soon we found out there was a lot of potential, we started work even harder on it, we wanted the best possible results and also make plans about touring. Everything happened quite fast, in like, one year, we wrote material, signed a deal with Nuclear Blast and we had a tour scheduled. It’s been extremely fast.

Do you think Mayan could become as big as Epica?

I don’t know. Some people say it’s more extreme so it’s hard to get a crowd. Some people say it’s something completely new and expect it can be bigger than Epica. I’m not with my head in the clouds. I don’t expect anything and whatever comes, it’s great! But I would already be happy if every show we could have, like 100, 150 people, my mission would be accomplished. We will see. If it’s gets as big as Epica for example, we would have to see how we are going to schedule all shows with Mayan and Epica. But as long as that’s not the case, we don’t need to think about it.

« I got a lot of experience with Mayan that I can use in Epica songs. There would be even a little more extreme parts in Epica, but not over the top! »

Most of the time when people create side projects like you did, they try to change their environment. However there’s lot of Epica’s member in Mayan. Why?

Yeah, it’s good to change of environment, that’s also what I did. I composed music together with Frank and Jack so that was a completely different way of working but I also know guys like Arien and Isaac very well and they are really great to work with. So I thought “Why looking for other guys while these guys fit already. The thing is that when you have many peoples from different bands, it’s hard to get them together for a show but as most of them are also playing in Epica, that’s not so hard to schedule some extra shows. There are advantages. When you can get a drummer like Arien… Once I played with him, I never wanted to play with anybody else anymore. He’s such a great guy, he’s friendly and a very skilled drummer! So he has everything what you’re looking for in drummer. It would be a big task to find somebody else who can do what he can do.

The list of musicians who contributed to this album is very impressive but honestly it’s also a little disappointing because there is no surprise, it’s made of familiar guests who are known by Epica’s fan, so, why did you take this choice? Why didn’t you take the opportunity to try out some totally new collaboration?

I think there are many surprises on guests. For example Jack is doing some vocals, he never did before, he’s doing some screams. Arien has been doing a lot of grunts, he did some on Epica’s albums but not that lot. The guy from Sons of Seasons, Henning Basse, is doing six songs. I think these contributions are very unexpected. There’s also the contribution, Lova from Italy, she’s an unknown talent, nobody never heard of her in the scene, so In think this also a surprising thing. The only thing I think that makes you saying that is that I asked Simone and Floor to collaborate. The reason is that there are many fans have been asking over many years, to have them singing together on an Epica or an After Forever album. For several reasons, that never happened. Now with this band, I thought that every opportunity were open to let this finally happen and have this whish for many fans fulfilled. That was the main reason for the choice of these two girls, and I’m also still a fan of both of their voices, so it was 1+1=2!

Epica helps with Mayan’s production; there is some news on Epica’s website, about Mayan shows, etc. You toured together and there are many Epica members in Mayan. Don’t you want to make Mayan more independent so that people won’t think it’s just Mark’s side-project?

Well, whatever you do there are always advantages and disadvantages. I think at the beginning of a band, it’s good to advertise in the best possible way, because nobody knows about it yet. So we used the Epica’s website and Facebook for that. We probably wouldn’t manage to catch so much attention if we didn’t, so that was a conscious choice. But I think because we wrote music in such a different way, that I heard from many Epica’s fans who liked the soft side of Epica “I’m not so much into Mayan”. I think it will be two very distinctive bands. Also Arien and Isaac, they come from death metal bands, so they can enjoy the death metal roots a lot. Also for me, personally, in Mayan, I play no guitar and in Epica I do, so it’s a completely new challenge and I don’t see a reason to have both bands even more different from each other. I think I’m happy the way it is now. In the future we won’t need the Epica’s website anymore to advertise for Mayan things, when Mayan will have its own fan base. I’m happy the way we did it.

You mentioned Opeth and Symphony X as your influences for this album. When I listened to it I also noticed a very Dimmu Borgir feeling, for the symphonic and progressive scale. Would agree with that?

Yes I’m also very much into Dimmu Borgir. I think as such for the atmosphere, Dimmu Bordir has a very dark atmosphere, also with their keyboards. I think we also have a dark atmosphere in Mayan so I can understand when people think that, and I also agree. But Opeth is even a bigger influence because I listen to a lot of Opeth myself and I think it’s a very interesting band. They make albums that you have to listen many times before it really gets you and I think it’s also something we created. I you listen to this album once I think it would be very hard to get it. I have also read it into reviews, that people started to really appreciate the music only after like 5 listening sessions. That’s also what I’m a bit afraid of. If journalists only listen to it once and write a review, it would be a completely different review than somebody who would have listened to it ten times. The future will tell!

Could you say you lunched this project because you were not satisfied enough with Epica’s extreme parts? Is Mayan a kind of an outlet for your extreme influences that you cannot fulfill completely with Epica?

Yes, absolutely. I think with Epica, we have a certain style, even if we got more extreme over the years, there is a certain line that we cannot cross. If we would release this album under the name of Epica for example, there would many fans disappointed and also Simone wouldn’t have a very big role anymore, she’s a front singer with Epica and that has to stay like this. So if you want to create something way heavier, it has to be on a different name. But for sure, I like extreme music a lot. I played 15 years in more gothic metal oriented bands and I thought now it was about time to create something in the more extreme corner.

« The paradiso would be a test case, we would do two full sets and if Arien manage that in a good way, then it’s possible. Arien is the key, definitely! (laughs) »

According to this, since you have a very extreme project, will Epica’s extreme side diminish now?

For sure it’s not going to happen. There will always be extreme parts in Epica as well. We wrote like 14 songs for the upcoming album and there are many heavy parts. I think that course we have with Epica won’t be affected by Mayan. Maybe on contrary, I got a lot of experience with Mayan that I can use in Epica songs. There would be even a little more extreme parts in Epica, but not over the top!

How do you think Epica’s fans will respond to this album?

Like I said I expect that 50% will really like it, the ones who liked the heavier side of Epica already, that’s also what I noticed from the people who heard the album. I think that for the other half of Epica fans, who are more into the quiet parts; it’s not their cup of tea. So I think 50 % of Epica fans will like but also that we will get a new crowd, maybe from people that think that Epica is too soft for them. They may like Mayan instead.

You stated that you wanted Mayan to tour with Epica. Do you think that Arien, Isaac and yourself will be able to play 2 concerts during a whole tour ? Both bands are physically demanding, especially for the drums. Do you think it’s possible?

If Arien can do it, then we all can do it (laughs)! The paradiso would be a test case, we would do two full sets and if Arien manage that in a good way, then it’s possible. We would see, if Arien is not able to perform to Paradiso show, which I don’t expect, then we shouldn’t do this long tour together. But we would have to see, sometimes on the tour with Mayan we only had to play 45 minutes, it wouldn’t need to be also one and a half hour. So think it would be possible.

So, Arien is the key!

(laughs) Arien is the key, definitely!

How long a Mayan + Epica show would last?

At least 3 hours! That’s why it’s a big test case for Arien !But only for the Paradiso, if we do a full tour, and Mayan only had to play 45 minutes, it would be two hours and a half, maximum. So then he can rest for ½ hour more.

« I think that when a singer doesn’t have to sing during, for like 4 minutes, he’s better leaves the stage. I sometimes see a band where a singer stays and doesn’t know what to do, that looks a bit shitty. »

What are current Epica’s long term news?

We are going to the studio in the summer to record a new album, it would be probably released in March 2012. Then we got a couple of big tours: Europe, North America and South America and we will also do summer festivals, so 2012 will be a busy year for Epica.

Do you have already written something for this next album?

Yes, 14 songs.

So what can you tell me about these songs?

That there are great! (laughs) I think there are on the line of “Design the Universe” because we were really happy with the style of that album; also many fans asked us to keep this style since they enjoyed it a lot. But we always do whatever feels good, but the songs will be in the line of “Design the Universe”. So I think it won’t be a big step in a different direction, but we always try to add some new elements.

The band will be celebrating its 10 years anniversary next year. What did you plan for this event? A whole album played live, some new featured guests, a DVD maybe?

For sure! We want to record a DVD of that event and we are looking into the possibility to get the orchestra from Hungary where we played, over to the Netherlands, to do a big show with that orchestra and release the DVD that many fans asked for but never got, from “The Classical Conspiracy”. Then we are going to do a new show with some new classical songs as well. Hopefully this time we can make a DVD of it. But it’s all plans, we still have to discuss and work it out. But that’s basely the rough idea.

Recently, Simone Simons was criticized by the fans for her stage performances and notably for the fact she leaves the scene when she’s not singing. Did you hear these criticisms and how do you deal with that?

I hear it the first time! I think that when a singer doesn’t have to sing during, for like 4 minutes, he’s better leaves the stage. But that’s my personal opinion. I sometimes see a band where a singer stays and doesn’t know what to do, that looks a bit shitty. I personally don’t understand such criticism because she only leaves when she really doesn’t have to sing for like 4 minutes and she stays on stage for other parts, when she has wait like one minute. I don’t know from where this criticism comes from, it is journalists, fans? Everybody has his own opinion and of course we listen to it, but on this one, I personally don’t agree.

Ok. So, last question, on your Facebook page, the admin recently stated: “Just to be clear: I am not Mark.” Could this be because he kept receiving love messages from your female audience?

(laughs) Yeah, the guy created a Facebook page because mine had already 5 000 friends and I couldn’t add anybody anymore. So he created this one and I just had to put myself as administrator but for some reasons I cannot change that! So I cannot “like” any other pages anymore. I don’t know what’s wrong with Facebook so the guy who created it for me is still administrator himself, (laughs) it’s quite of funny situation yeah!

Interview conducted by phone in May, 2011
Traduction: Lucas
Mayan Website: www.myspace.com/mayanofficial

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