Saturday, February 23, 2019

February 23rd, 2019 - Living In The Now: An Interview With Mark Jansen And Frank Schiphorst Of The Band MaYan!

The wonderful Dutch symphonic death metal super group MaYan was formed in 2010 by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter Mark Jansen (of Epica and After Forever fame), guitarist Frank Schiphorst (of Symmetry and Control Human Delete fame), and keyboardist Jack Driessen (of After Forever fame).  To date, MaYan has released three studio albums ("Quaterpast", "Antagonise", and "Dhyana") and is currently touring.  The band includes drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek (Epica), guitarist Merel Bechtold (Delain), bassist Roel Käller (Consonance and SkullSuit), vocalist Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), vocalist Laura Macrì (Le Div4s), vocalist George Oosthoek (Orphanage and Celestial Season), guest vocalist Henning Basse (Firewind), and live guest vocalist Adam Denlinger.  Simone Simons (Epica) and Floor Jansen (Nightwish) have both contributed to past albums as well.  

I recently sat down with founding members Mark Jansen
and Frank Schiphorst (two heavy metal heroes of mine!) during the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise my wife and I attended, and spoke with them about .  Here's that interview... enjoy!

B&T: So MaYan!  Brand new album, which is fucking amazing!

MJ and FS: [laughs] Thank you!

B&T: It is epic... an epic album!  So tell me about the concept.  How did that come about?

MJ: The lyrical concept or the musical concept?

B&T: Both.... both.

MJ: Both... I will start with the lyrical concept.  Yeah, it is about living in the now, forgetting about problems of the past and about worries for the future.  Now is happening.  Yeah, It's about making fun of being in this life... this lifetime.  And because I think the illness of the current time is that people are all the time stressed.  There so much worry and distraction with mobile phones.  And going back to the basics would be good I think... a good medicine for everybody to enjoy life more. And that's what we try to do.    

FS: Yeah, on stage and how we write and record guitar... and just go!

B&T: Maybe we can go backward in time a little bit... how did MaYan come to be?  How did you guys come up with this?

MJ: Well, it was maybe eight years ago or more.  The first time... the first thing that happened was I ran into Jack [Driessen] at a concert.  He was the old keyboard player in After Forever as well... my first band.  We hadn't seen each other for many years and then we ran into each other and we were talking.  We thought it would be cool to make music together again.  And then we contacted Sander Gommans, the old guitar player of After Forever and we were all sitting together composing music and it was really cool.  At a certain point he [Sander] said, "I really don't feel like touring again.  It's not for me and I feel like you guys want to get on with this band so you better look for another guy."  And then I remembered Frank... we had worked together at a show.  And I remembered him playing great... playing all this classic stuff he was playing at the show.  I contacted him and he wanted to join.  We tried to work on some music and it worked really well!  

FS: Yeah, the first time we sat together at my place... Mark, Jack, and me and we just put on the computer and the click track and recorded spontaneously... we just played something and recorded it and that became "Sinner's Last Retreat" I think --.

MJ: Yeah!

FS: ...the song in an afternoon and an evening.  We've had some good chemistry ever since.

MJ: Ever since we've done it many times.  There's not a single time we've been sitting together that nothing happened.  There's always something happening.  And we don't have so much time because everybody has busy schedules so it's really cool that when we actually sit together that there's always something happening.  There's always something exciting happening.

B&T: So there were just the three of you originally.  What made you decide to do a grandiose band with multiple singers?  Right now you have five singers.

MJ: Yeah, we call it the "Five Singer Death Punch"! [laughs]

FS: [laughs]  Good one!  It's true, right?  First you make music and then you match it up.  "Hey, we need this kind of vocals."  And we get guest vocalists and then you tour with them and then you're like, "do you want to stay?"  [laughs]

MJ: Yeah, that's how it develops.  In the beginning, it was like a project situation.  We didn't know yet how many shows we would do, but now we are going towards 100 gigs.  And that's alright for a band like MaYan.  We want to do even more gigs in the future, but that's a nice number when we've already reached 100 gigs.  We have to make something special out of that.

FS: Yeah, definitely.

MJ: Like a DVD!  People are already asking for it!

B&T: Yeah, that would be amazing!  That would be great!  To go back way into your past, a question for both of you... how did you get into music?  Who inspired you?  What got you playing guitar and writing?

FS: It happened spontaneously.  I remember being a young kid and if there was somewhere a musical instrument like a piano with people we knew and were visiting, I would try notes on the piano.  I remember that when I was five or six also... we had friends who had this acoustic guitar and it just drew me.  And later on, I was like twelve and I got my first keyboard.  I started out as a keyboard player.

MJ: I didn't know that! [laughs]

FS: [laughs] And wrote some keyboard parts.  I write some keyboards every now and then.

MJ: Yeah, that I know! [laughs]

FS: But when I was fifteen, my music teacher in school had a distortion pedal for guitar and the dad of a friend had an electric guitar so we combined those two and then that day the sound [makes distorted guitar sound] and I was in love!  From there it goes on.  I started teaching myself and listening to metal.  That's the most interesting kind of music for guitar in my opinion.  Yeah, it led from there.

B&T: Very cool!  Any particular guitar players that really inspired you?

FS: When I started, I started playing at the local library... they have tablature books from Whitesnake... the 1987 album and Van Halen "1984" and I was into Extreme, the "Pornograffitti" album - Nuno Bettencourt, Mr. Big's "Lean Into It", "Passion And Warfare" by Steve Vai.  They were tablature books and I had those albums and I started figuring out how to work it on guitar.  And it got more extreme later on, but..."

B&T: Very cool.  How about you Mark?

MJ: Yeah, I started writing some music when I was eleven years old, but I didn't take it that seriously about how the music sounded.  It was like... I was also playing a bit of keyboards... a very little Casio keyboard [laughs] and then I was recording a keyboard part and then I was playing that and recording another keyboard part and trying to play some guitar on it.  And I was always out of tune and I was like "what the fuck?"  And then I found out if I pitch it a bit more, then suddenly it was in tune again.  That's how I wrote my first songs.  Yeah, then one of these things I composed when I was eleven ended up many years later on an Epica album.

FS: Which one?

MJ: Umm
... "La‘fetach"... it's kind of an Eastern sounding intro... that song.  And yeah, like I said, I could only play a few chords and that was it.  When I was at the age of fifteen or sixteen, a friend of mine started taking guitar lessons and I was like, "he's gonna do it and I can't stay behind!"  So I also started playing guitar.  He was saying like, "I'm going to be playing in a band and if you don't play guitar and I start a band myself and I'm gonna conquer the world."  And I started playing too.  And the plan was that we would always start a band together, but at a certain point, he was not really motivated or developing and I wanted to go for it.  And that's when I started playing with Sander Gommans, the guy that I was referring to earlier, and that resulted into After Forever.  There was a guy (Holterman) who we were playing with.  We were three guitar players.  At some point we said, "if you play the bass, we can form a band."  But he said, "I don't want to play bass.  I want to play guitar."  So we had to look for a bass player.  Many years later, he said, "that was the worst decision of my life."  [laughs]  But that's how it started and then Holterman left and that became After Forever.  And from After Forever, that resulted in Epica and Epica resulted into MaYan and now we are sitting here.

B&T: Nice!  Guitar players that have influenced you?

MJ: Slash from Guns N' Roses.  I was really an addict of Guns N' Roses and I was really watching that "Use Your Illusion" Tour video all the time and I thought, "one day I want to experience something like that."  [laughs]  Yeah, and now I am!  When you play Wacken Open Air and you see that sea of people, then you sometimes think back about being a kid dreaming about it.  Sometimes it's a... you have to really remember yourself... how beautiful this is what you are doing because that's when it's happening.  There are so many times when you go on the automatic pilot.  It doesn't mean that you aren't enjoying it, but that happens to everybody.  But if you truly enjoy the moment, that's the best.  

B&T: I would imagine it's sometimes... you kinda hit that, it's your job, but it's also your passion.

MJ: Yeah.  

B&T: So that's an interesting dynamic that you're dealing with.

MJ: It is.  So you have to find a way to keep it fun because if you watch many bands, you can tell which bands are playing, but not really enjoying it and which bands are enjoying it.  And of course, you can't enjoy 100% of all the shows, but you can go for 95%, 99%.  It should be fun.  Of course, when you are really sick and you are struggling, then you have a hard time, but all of our shows... it is really fun to do.  And I think it really is a pity when I see a band who really isn't enjoying it anymore.  I think, "stay home!  Give your spot to a new band who really likes to be there." There are too many bands out there that are not enjoying it anymore.  Yeah, that's a pity because it's the best job in the world I think and it's so much fun.  That's also... personally I love so much doing MaYan and Epica... not just one of the two because if I've been on the road with Epica for quite a while, I really desire to play with MaYan.  That's the variation that I like.  If you do all the time the same thing, yeah, you end up getting in that situation where you feel like going to that automatic pilot kind of situation.  And that's what I always try to avoid because I like to enjoy it to the fullest.  

B&T: Is this the first time MaYan has played on 70000 Tons of Metal?

MJ and FS: Yup!

B&T: Is this the first time you both have been on this or have you...?

MJ: I was here with Epica.  

FS: My first.  A few years ago, almost all of MaYan were here.  We had Epica here, Firewind with Henning Basse, one of the singers.  We had Delain here with Merle and George, one of our vocalist is always guesting with them too.  I don't remember, but I think only Jack and me were at home and the whole time I was thinking, "shit!" [laughs]  So it is about time.  

B&T: Any bands you've seen or bands you are looking forward to seeing on the ship?

FS: Tonight I'm going to see Atrocity and God Dethroned, (old friends, good friends), Vicious Rumors.  I love this band. I want to watch them.  I'd like to see Obituary, but I think we've missed them already or they...

B&T: I think they are playing right now.

FS: That's okay.  This is nicer. [laughs]  

B&T: Sorry.

FS: [laughs]  No problem, no problem.  I don't know.  I look at the day and night [schedule].  There's so many bands.  

B&T: It's a little overwhelming.

FS: It's pretty overwhelming indeed.

MJ: As often with festivals where there are a lot of bands playing, a lot of cool bands playing, it's always a bit like you've got to make decisions.  And you want to hang out with friends, but you also want to check out some bands.  But I also like as Franks says, I like to go with the flow.  I don't make a schedule for myself.  I just see what happens.  When I'm free, I think, "what shall I do now?"  There's always something that comes to the mind.  Now I desire to do this or that.

FS: It's fun to go with the flow indeed.  There's a lot of new stuff at a festival.  A lot of people don't know us, but they check us out because we play them.  But the same goes for us you know.  Sometimes we are sitting in the casino bar having a beer.  "Okay let's go watch this band that's close by."  And then you see a new band.  "Holy shit!  What's this?"  That's the beauty of a festival and especially now on a cruise ship.

MJ: For me, I'd like it to see Fleshgod Apocalypse and I want to see Delain because I want to see Merle and George performing with them.  I would like to see one of the sets of Kamelot.  There's quite some good friends play in Kamelot.  And let's see, there's Temperance from Italy.  There's a friend of mine playing in it.  I want to see also Ne Obliviscaris play on day four.   And let's see, Pestilence, God Dethroned.  Today I saw Coroner.  

FS: Coroner... I missed them.

MJ: Yeah, you missed them?  I watched like five songs.  It was really cool.

FS: I know them from way back.  

MJ: Like with them... I saw because I just happened to be there and I was having a good time.  

FS: Did you know them?

MJ: I knew them, but I didn't know they were playing.  I was wanting to enjoy the sunshine and "hey, they are playing!  Let's check them out."

[knock on the door from the press guy]

B&T: He's knocking so I better wrap this up.  

MJ: [sings] Knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door! [laughs]

B&T: [laughs] So my blog... it's a little ridiculous.  I pair heavy metal music with craft beer.  So I see you guys drink a little bit of beer.  [points to beer bottles on the nightstand]

MJ & FS: [laugh]

B&T: So after a gig, after recording and you just want to chill out, what beer do you crack open and what album do you put on?

FS: Ah, good one.  Beer and album?  So I like... Leffe Brunes I love.  If the weather is getting nicer in the Netherlands, a lot of special beers come out at the supermarkets so I check out... like Belgians.  That's great beer.  And which music do I put on?  It can be anything from the most brutal death metal.  If I'm driving, I listen to  hard rock like Whitesnake, but maybe when at home it can be really extreme stuff with unpronounceable names. [laughs]  It has to be musical.  There's so much.  I can't tell you what.

B&T: Cool!  

MJ: Yeah, for me I like the most are Weizen beers.  That's definitely my favorite.  And what I like to listen to after a day of recording or a festival or a club show, I like to listen to '80s rock.  Because when I have a heavy day of recording, my ears like to have some peace.  For example, my all time favorite to listen to is "Hotel California".  

B&T: That's fascinating.  It is always interesting to find out what musicians listen to because it is never what you think I've found.

FS: I just like to listen to music and if it is good music, it can be anything.

MJ: Do you know Clannad?  Check it out.  That's a band I love to listen to and most people don't expect that from me at all.

B&J: Thank you so much for speaking with me.  This is a joy!

MJ: Thank you very much!

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