Exclusive Interview Series: The internet and the music industry – MaYaN – Mark Jansen
As part of a new series of interviews EspyRock commander-in-chief Michael Hughes, who has just written a dissertation on the effect of the internet on the music industry for the University Of The West Of Scotland, will be getting the views of artists on the internet’s effect on the music industry. The interview series will cover what is currently going on with the band at the moment but will also feature a questionnaire ranging from topics as to illegal downloading, social networking, technology and the future of the industry.
Next to give us some of his time was guitarist, vocalist and songwriterof MaYaN and also of Epica. With his new band MaYaN preparing for the release of their debut album ‘Quarterpast’ I was given the opportunity to submit some questions to talk about the band and their upcoming album.
Read on as Mark and also guitarist Frank Schiphorst talk about the message behind the band, their heavier sound to that of Epica, the journey to get to this stage and also the big news that the second album is already underway.
Listen to ‘Drown The Demon’ from ‘Quarterpast’ below which features Simone Simons (Epica) and Floor Jansen (Revamp) and grab your free download of the song over at Nuclear Blast. Mark states this song shows what MaYaN stand for: “heavy riffs, guitar solos, lots of grunts and still enough room for melodic parts.”
‘Drown The Demon’
Firstly I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for taking some time to answer some questions. The release date is rapidly approaching, feeling at all nervous that your debut is close to becoming a reality or have you been doing this too long now to feel nerves?
Mark Jansen: You’re welcome. I feel excited but also a little bit nervous but that’s because it’s something new. I am confident that the quality is good so I’m not nervous about that part.
How long and hard a journey has it been as you have had to fit this all in between working with Epica also?
Mark Jansen: It developed quite naturally but I have to confess that it was (even) more work than I initially thought. I also didn’t expect that there would be so many interview requests. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very very happy about that but I didn’t expect it, so I have had less free time over the last year than I would have liked to have. But if I had to choose between having all this free time and no MaYaN or the way it is now, I would have chosen the latter anyway. I can’t live without music and new challenges every now and then. So I was really in need of this. It takes a lot of energy but it gives me also a lot of energy in return.
While the albums sound is similar to that of Epica it does take it up a notch and is heavier. Was this something you always wanted to do but felt that you maybe couldn’t do with Epica and reach that new audience?
Mark Jansen: We have worked with the same producer Sascha Paeth as we do with Epica but he tried to give the album a different sound compared to Epica. I think he succeeded. The guitars are way more upfront compared to Epica for example. The sound of the band itself is way heavier indeed. I wouldn’t be able to do this with Epica as Epica has developed its own sound.
Are you hoping Epica fans enjoy it because it remains similar to the band but with some new elements thrown in?
Mark Jansen: I am sure that many Epica fans will not enjoy it. I made some fans listen to it already and the reactions are diverse. Some die hard Epica fans say it’s too heavy and too complicated for them but on the other hand I think that those who like the heavier side of Epica already will love this album. Some people kept asking me for more growls on the next Epica album. I don’t think that’s a good idea as Simone would get a smaller role and that’s not the way to go for Epica but it made me think and now MaYaN fulfills the wishes of those people.
Your writing process was a little different this time as for Epica you wrote alone most of the time but for MaYaN you spent time more time with Frank and Jack. How different was this process for you and do you think the band’s music benefitted from that extra support and input throughout the process?
Mark Jansen: It was a completely different way of working and therefore very refreshing. It gave me a lot of inspiration which I wouldn’t have had when I’m working alone. So this album wouldn’t have been possible to create without Jack and Frank. Their contribution is quite big.
I am presuming the band’s name is related directly to theculture. What made you decide to go with this as the name, is it simply down to personal interest and the themes and such it can supply you for writing? Or have you addressed other themes on the album?
Frank Schiphorst: The band’s name is indeed related to the Mayan culture, and a personal interest also, however the lyrics are not about the Mayan culture. They are about corruption, misuse of power, untrustworthy governments, and excuses for war, all things going on destruction our world and ourselves in the end. There are lessons to be learned here from the Mayan-culture such as living in harmony with nature, your world around you, and not tearing it apart by misuse as seen in the lyrics.
Mark Jansen: Indeed, the lyrics are dealing about corruption. They were written right after last year’s summer. I followed the news in Arabia with special interest. People do not accept corrupt governments anymore. I’m really curious what’s next. Also in other parts of the world we have to deal with corruption within governments were people tend to believe authority but if you investigate many cases and decisions you find out that there’s always a second agenda. We’re living in a world where money rules, just ask a person on the street what’s more important, money or health and you’ll get the answer: health. But in reality, money rules the world. None of the best medicines come to us but the ones by the biggest companies do. Some companies make deals with doctors so they get a percentage for each time they prescribe the medicine. That’s literally a sick system! We need to get rid of that. I believe we are all connected to each other and we have to help each other with the best intentions instead of profit from each other and earn money on each other’s backs.
With the writing process being different and it being a new band, was there anything different for you when you went to record the album or did you change yourself and adapt to what would be a different album in the end?
Mark Jansen: We went as a band to the studio and recorded everything there. I think there are big advantages of working like this; you can stimulate each other and have a good time after the recording sessions. The band gets closer to each other and I think it results in a better album in the end this way. We all had the feeling we wanted to do something different than we’re used to do with Epica.
Was it a challenge recording this album because firstly you had to work with Epica but secondly you had a number of guest vocalists so was it hard to make the time and fit everything in on a tight deadline?
Mark Jansen: I was wondering about that too but in the end all guest vocalist were available in the same week so we have recorded literally all the vocals of the album (also the grunts) in one single week. It was a very tight schedule and nothing could go wrong. Luckily we made it and even though we were working some days until 4am; it was a great week.
Just tying back to question when we look at the band’s name and themes, the artwork and album title are two big points when stem from this. I’ve seen you mention from the competition that the title ‘Quarterpast’ seemed to fit with your views that it was maybe too late to save the world and time had passed. Does the artwork look to build off that idea with the points such as the gold representing the wealth and greed and power people have and the nuclear plant in the background to show the damage that we’re doing to our world?
Frank Schiphorst: We like to let the fans interpret the cover in their own ways, and your interpretation is indeed quite fitting in covering some parts. You’re definitely on the right track :)
Having been signed to and supported by Nuclear Blast with Epica, was it good to know that they were interested in signing your new band also and keeping you part of the family?
Mark Jansen: Nuclear Blast has always been my dream label. When we signed there with Epica I celebrated this with quite some beers ;-). Now for MaYaN I contacted them and told them about the band and we agreed that if Nuclear Blast liked the band and offered us a good deal then we would not look any further for another record company to try to get a better deal. NB liked the material a lot and made us the right offer. So we kept our promise as well and signed without having been in touch with any other company.
The question remains as to how you will dedicate your time between Mayan and Epica, do you think it will be hard to work the two of them together or do see the two bands working together possibly touring and more?
Mark Jansen: It’s a luxurious position, even more than before we can take the best opportunities. So I don’t see it as a problem but as a challenge. I also think that we will do some touring together in the future.
Nuclear Blast are known for promoting their artists very well and do so with singles as well as press so have you thought about single releases, concepts for music videos or such that will allow you to promote the band and get the name out there?
Frank Schiphorst: Actually we’ve been brainstorming about a video together with a director and we will work on it after our club tour in May. The concept of the video is pretty clear to us as the lyrics lead the way, and it will be worked out quite soon. In the meantime Mark has done a lot of work in creating audio-teasers and video clips from the studio and rehearsals and we do as much as we can to promote the band. Together with Nuclear Blast we have a great team for that.
What are your plans for the rest of 2011 with Mayan and Epica?
Frank Schiphorst: For MaYaN, first is our May club tour which is coming up and the album release party the 19th of May in Paradiso, Amsterdam. After this tour we’ll do the video and we’ve already started writing for the new album, so probably more of that too. For the summer we can hopefully play at some festivals. We’ve already been confirmed for the Zwarte Cross festival July 16th, which will be a blast :) Next to that we would love to do as many shows as possible with MaYaN and we’ve already been talking about the possibilities to do a tour in South America, which we’d love to. So we hope we sell a lot of CD´s to be able to do as much of that as possible.
Mark Jansen: With Epica we’ll enter the studio after summer and that album will be released in the beginning of 2012. After that we’ll start touring again.
Thank you for taking time to answer these question, please feel free to add anything you wish below.
Frank Schiphorst: Thanks for the interview, thanks to all fans already supporting us with their enthusiasm, and I really hope our baby called ‘Quarterpast’ will be heard and unveil itself to the listeners, and enjoyed as much as we did making it. See you on the road! \m/
Internet and the music industry
The biggest issue with the internet for artists is of course illegal downloading and there has been a rapid decline in value of the industry as the internet expands throughout the world. Several artists I have spoken to have stated that it has become part of life and that now selling albums is no longer a profitable business; money is solely earned from touring. What are your views on the matter of illegal downloading?
Mark Jansen: I see advantages and disadvantages. The big advantage is that people get to know your music through the internet on their own. In the past bands were depending on radio, TV and the other media. If they didn’t like you for some reason you could forget about it. Now people decide themselves what they want to hear and that’s a great thing. It’s a pity that we don’t earn much money with CD sales anymore but the die-hard fans still buy our albums and we still make some money from it. More important nowadays for the bands is their merchandising.
Do you feel that any of the current methods such as watermarking or streaming based models which have users paying a fee to stream music will take off and help stop the illegal sharing of music files? Or do you see any strength with the idea of giving away your music for free, having it shared around the world and again relying on touring to make money?
Mark Jansen: Watermarked files definitely help in avoiding albums to leak before their release. That is exactly what frustrated me most. I hated those people that leaked albums 2.5 months before release. With the watermarks everybody takes its responsibility, finally. Now record companies can trace down the person who leaked it and punish him. It’s a great method! :)
The global recorded music industry saw a 31% decline in value from the years of 2004 to 2010 but the digital music market has seen a 1000% increase in value over the same period. Do you see the internet’s influence on the industry as the sole cause of this decline or do you believe there are any other factors which you consider an issue?
Mark Jansen: I think that’s progression, things change. People spend more time online and I truly believe that many people still want to pay for music to support the artists so they buy music online instead of downloading. Of course many others don’t and don’t give a shit, which is a big pity because we work hard for the music and have to make a living from it.
With such a growth in the digital music market, many artists have already stopped creating physical albums; the most notable is Rob Zombie who stated his most recent release would be his last physical album as the growing popularity of iTunes and Amazon is now controlling album sales. The IFPI recently published findings that 16.5% of internet users in the United States purchase their music digitally than physically.
Firstly as an artist and music fan, do you still buy physical albums or do you download from digital music stores? Secondly, do see the digital music markets as something positive for the industry and your career as a new and cheaper distribution method?
Mark Jansen: I never download and I still buy albums. I like to have a physical product. To continue, I love physical LP’s way more than physical cd’s. LP’s are just magical :)
As the digital music stores assist in distribution, other factors that come into releasing an album are marketing and promotion of any sort. What are your views on the ability to use the internet to promote and market yourself?
Mark Jansen: Social media is more important than ever before. By promoting your band in a clever way you can reach millions of people.
Social networking has naturally become a massive asset in the industry for labels and artists to be able to interact with fans on an everyday basis from anywhere in the world. Do you feel that if the social networking boom hadn’t taken place that it would effectively hinder careers as there would have been no direct route to communicate with fans?
Mark Jansen: It takes a lot of time but bands definitely benefit from social networks.
A big development in recent years has been the hardware and software that has been created for anyone and everyone to purchase. We now find aspiring artists building their own home studios at their computer by purchasing top of line software, sound cards, microphones and such. What are your views on the technology advancements in recent years from software, hardware and even to the MP3 itself? What positives or negatives if any do you see from these advancements?
Mark Jansen: Again there are advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you can work at home and spend less money; the disadvantage is that a great producer is missing, someone who can tell you what you could have done better.
While purchasing hardware/software and recording in your own home studio is a method of removing big studio costs and staff costs, recently fan funding in return for incentives has become a new way forward. Recently in the UK bands such as Madina Lake, Funeral For A Friend and The Blackout have used Pledge Music (Kickstarter in the US) in which fans contribute towards the cost of the studio in return for signed albums, special gifts and more. Do you think this method of involving fans more intimately in the creation of an album and offering them incentives to do so could be a way forward to combat the losses through piracy?
Mark Jansen: Bands are investigating new roads, some will work some will lead to dead ends. The future will tell.
In the United States from 1999 to 2009 there was a 17% fall in the number of people hired as a musician and in Europe, while not directly musicians, the estimated number of jobs likely to be lost due to piracy in the creative industries will reach 1.2 million by 2015. Do you worry as an artist that you will ever be swept by this wave and be forced to leave the industry you love in order to provide a better living for yourself?
Mark Jansen: Not a single second I fear this; I’m a self-made man, I know what I am able to do and I’m not depending on these kind of things. I create my own future and have the ability to adapt to new situations quite fast as I’m quite inventive.
When you consider the industry previously to the time before the internet and to now with the internet in full swing, what do you see for the future of the industry?
Mark Jansen: The record companies which adapt best to the new circumstances will survive. Bands will always exist, no matter what :)