Staff writer Carl Sederholm recently caught up with Simone Simons of Epica during their stop in Salt Lake City, Utah. After the interview, Simone asked that we provide information about the remaining tour dates and also information about "Retrospect," the 10th Anniversary show coming in March 2013. Links for more information are available below.
SoT: How is the tour going?
SS: Very good. In the beginning, we were a little afraid because of Hurricane Sandy. We were right in the area where it was going to come, but we were one or two days ahead of it. We moved into Canada where the storm was coming so we were a little afraid of that as well, but the shows have been really amazing, great turnout, lots of people and nice special guests touring with us that we really like. So far, things are going really well.
SoT: You guys went to South America on this leg of the tour. Was that your first time in countries like Chile? I noticed a lot of excitement about those shows on Facebook.
SS: No, we've done Central and South America before; the only new country we went to this time was Paraguay. We go to South America almost every year and sometimes even twice a year.
SoT: Have you played here in Utah before?
SS: With Kamelot, I was here as a special guest, but with Epica, this is the first time.
SoT: The heavy metal fan base here is big and is growing. I'm always surprised at how well this venue [The Complex] does with turnout.
SS: There's some kind of music school attached to this place, right?
SoT: I don't know.
SS: Last time I was here, I saw a bunch of people walking around with guitars.
SoT: A few years ago, there was a bunch of "school of rock" kind of things going on around this area; maybe that was part of it.
SS: There was also a school band or something playing here.
SoT: Kamelot just played here in Salt Lake City with Nightwish about a month ago. In fact, I think it was actually the last show with Anette Olzon. What are your thoughts about the current situation with Nightwish, having just replaced Olzon with Floor Jansen?
SS: It's quite dramatic and I'm sure it's not easy for both parties. For Floor, too, it's also not easy stepping in for Anette, but she's already an established singer and can handle the Nightwish material really well, so I guess it's the best solution for what happened.
SoT: How is your health? A couple of years ago you had a staph infection that affected some of your tour. I'm assuming that things are all cleared up.
SS: Yeah, it's all gone. I'm taking good care of myself. I bought a blender for the tour bus and I bought a pan. I make omelets, smoothies, protein shakes. We are eating healthy, working out, and keeping body and mind in balance. You can get the flu every now and then on tour but that staph infection was basically just because I had a very low immune system at the time. I was touring and touring and every time I got sick I took heavy medication to get back on track and just killed my immune system. When we were in Canada and America, I got a staph infection that got into my system.
SoT: I'm glad you're better. That was a long time ago, but if I remember right you had to sit out a couple of dates.
SS: No, we did all the shows in America, even after I went to the hospital I still did a show sitting on a bar stool. We had to cancel some shows after that because the infection was getting worse and worse. Epica also did a support act tour in America for Symphony X together with Amanda Somerville who was replacing me at the time. We wanted to do that tour but we had to wait and see if I would be better. The guys wanted to do it, but wondered what to do if I wasn't healed. We had to turn to plan B. Unfortunately, I felt great, but the doctors could still find bacteria in my body. As soon as your immune system goes down, which happens on a tour, it's just so hectic and heavy all the time. I didn't want to take any risks because health is the most important thing.
SoT: Do you still work with Amanda Somerville [as a vocal coach]?
SS: No, not since the last two records.
SoT: What are you doing now to train your voice? Are you still seeing a vocal coach or practicing? Are you comfortable with where your voice is?
SS: I'm taking a break from singing lessons but I want to take them up again because I like to work on the technique. When you are on tour, you get into a routine and little mistakes can slip in. It's good to have somebody who listens to you and watches you while you sing. I'm going to take up lessons again after the tour. It's on my "to-do" list for 2013. I moved to the south of Germany and most of my singing teachers are based in Holland so I'm going to have to find somebody. Before a show, I listen to music, drink a Red Bull Lite, do my make-up, some vocal exercises, some fitness exercises to warm up my body. I have these little rituals before the show.
SoT: Have you ever thought about doing opera or musical theater outside of your work with Epica?
SS: I've done a metal opera, a project that lasted only 5 shows. It was fun for those 5 shows, but not something I really want to do. Opera is too heavy for me. I prefer the mix of modern music; metal combined with opera. I also like jazz music. I like classical music, but the really strong opera style of singing is not for me. I am also not trained enough for that. You have to really study it.
SoT: I have a friend who sings opera who tells me that they all get vocal coaching even though they all pretend that they don't.
SS: You have to be there every day and sing a lot so you have to be in good shape. If you have the wrong technique or something it can hurt. For example, if I'm really tired my voice automatically starts to crack. Your body is your investment, your job. If you don't take care of it, it can hurt. The other guys in the band can still perform well even if they're feeling sick. With singers, if you have a cold, the first thing that disappears is the voice. You have to be really careful with so many things.
SoT: How do you like being a woman in heavy metal, a musical style that is often associated with men?
SS: I don't know anything different. This is what I've been doing for 10 years now and when I'm lucky I may see a female merchandiser to talk to or something. The guys can get pretty messy and tell me that I'm like their mom. I tell them to drink their smoothies and remind them that they all need to stay healthy. It's always me that's bitching about cleaning up, flushing the toilet, drinking smoothies, stuff like that. It's really fun to hang out with other female singers in the genre like Christina Scabbia, Floor Jansen, Tarja Turunen and others and talk about what it's like. I'm not the only female singer dealing with mostly guys. You always have little things with each other; with guys, they might hit each other and the next day things are good. Girls are just different. But they know how to handle me and I know how to handle them.
SoT: You guys are influenced by composers like Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman. Do you ever listen to more avant-garde concert music?
SS: Coen Janssen [keyboards for the band] was brought up with classical music and he loves Chopin. Mark Jansen loves Rachmaninoff. I am more of a Mozart fan. My dad used to listen to Brahms a lot, as well as Tchaikovsky.
SoT: Any of the newer composers?
SS: Not really
SoT: In an interview I did with Michael Romeo from Symphony X, we talked about Hans Zimmer and John Williams and the influence of movie soundtracks on their music. You guys are similar in that you take the epic scope of movie soundtracks and apply it to heavy metal.
SS: I had a similar question yesterday--how do you explain to people the way that classical music and heavy metal fuse together so nicely? I don't know other styles of music like R&B or Hip Hop would work as well with classical music. You can express things like aggression in classical music; it's not all light and fairy tales. It fits together with the metal scene really well. I'm glad for it because we get the best of both worlds. A 100% metal band would become basically a death metal band, something that after two songs may be the same thing. I really like melodic metal bands. I am also a big fan of the orchestra.
SoT: My favorite Epica album is actually The Classical Conspiracy.
SS: Then you are going to love our 10th anniversary show in March, 2013. We'll be playing with a full orchestra, the same one we played with on that CD. It's going to be called "Retrospect."
SoT: Will there be a DVD of that show?
SS: Maybe; we're still working on all the business arrangements.
Sot: Thank you.
Information about "Retrospect" is available at http://www.epica.nl/news/518-epica-retrospect-10th-anniversary
The remaining tour dates for this tour are available at: http://www.epica.nl/tour-dates