Interview by Laura MedinaDutch Symphonic Death Metal band MaYaN will be releasing their follow-up album to 2012’s “Quarterpast,” with their heaviest, extreme to date album,“Antagonise” that is due out on Jan 31 (EU), Feb 3 (UK) & Feb 4, 2014 (US) via Nuclear Blast Records. Founded by Guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen (Epica), Keyboardist Jack Driessen (Former After Forever) and Guitarist Frank Schiphorst (Former Symmetry) in 2010, MaYaN combines two types of music elements: Symphonic and death metal. If you could describe MaYaN and the upcoming release of “Antagonise” it would be BRUTAL! I got the pleasure and honor to chat with Frank to discuss the upcoming release of “Antagonise”, MaYaN’s future tour plans, what fans can expect at their CD release parties in the Netherlands and what was it like sharing the stage with famous musicians from all types of metal at the Christmas Metal Symphony concerts. Stay tuned here at Femme Metal Webzine to see what else Frank had to say in our little chat. Who’s ready for the year of MaYaN?!! Frank, it is a pleasure and honor to interview you today! Congratulations on the upcoming release of “Antagonise”. “Antagonise” is a much darker album in terms of the overall sound and esthetic approach than your debut album release “Quarterpast”. What can you tell us about the songwriting process for this album?
Hi Laura, thank you, the pleasure’s all mine! Basically the songwriting went the same… Jack, Mark and me sitting together just recording what we play at the moment, inspiring each other with our ideas. The song grows by itself then 🙂 This time we focused a little more on the flow of the songs and keeping it a bit more metal. We also got to know each other’s style better through the past years, and since we now have Laura and Henning as full members we know what ‘tools’ we have aboard which makes the composing even easier if you ask me. And this time you can hear Rob for the first time on the album, and he even wrote the guitars+drums for the opening track “Bloodline Forfeit” which became a real killer. We’re always open for ideas from everyone in the band, so very cool he wrote something that fit the album as well 🙂What other details could you tell us about the production process for this album?
We again made the demos in our home studios. After the instrumental part of our album was finished the vocal lines were written by each vocalist on those demos. In the meantime I made guide tracks for the drums from those demos, and we took those and Ariën to the Sandlande Recording Facilities where the drums were recorded. Then I got the drum tracks from the studio and recorded the guitars in my home studio and sent the finished tracks to Rob and Jack who recorded their parts as home. Two tracks were sent to Dimitris who recorded his violin parts in a studio in Athens. The mixes were sent to Mark and Henning who recorded their parts at home, same for Marcela, and Laura and Floor went to the studio to record their parts. And then Joost van den Broek mixed everything and Darius van Helfteren mastered it. It all worked out great, in a very relaxed and efficient way.What kinds of influences or subject-matter themes inspired you to write “Antagonise”?
As for the instrumental parts; we just play and see what comes out. Lyric wise again wrote about corruption, misuse of power by governments, etc. like on “Quarterpast”. Only now more current items such as the spying by the NSA, the revealings Edward Snowden did, and more items you’ve heard about on the news and/or internet the last year.What type of reactions have you received already about “Antagonise”?
The thing that stands out from the reactions is that we indeed have a better flow in our songs, and that it’s more in-your-face metal and a more developed and recognizable own ‘MaYaN-sound’. We’ve gotten many great reviews already, very flattering. We also read in two reviews this album sounds more like Epica… ok we can expect people to compare MaYaN to Epica, because of Mark, but we still write in a totally different way. Jack writes the keys here, I write most guitar parts, so must be the sound of Mark‘s grunts and Ariën‘s drums then 😉“Bloodline Forfeit” features not only hard, fast grunts, heavy guitar riffs and fast drumming but includes clean vocals made up of male and female counterparts to balance out the song as a whole. How would you describe this song in your own words?
Symphonic thrash metal! 😉 Rob sent us this demo, guitars + programmed drums, and we were like ‘wow, this kicks ass!’ It has this killer thrash-riffs and basically a very simple and open chorus which sticks in your head immediately. So then Jack wrote keyboard parts on this song and Henning and Mark their vocals, I wrote a solo at the end, and you can hear Marcela as well on this track.What insight can you give our readers about the album cover artwork and how important it is to present your material in the way you would like it to be presented to the public?
To us it is important that everything fits together perfectly, and we want the album cover to express what the album is about of course. So again we sent Stefan Heilemann the lyrics, and he came up with this great piece of art which says it all. In his words it’s the big ‘dictator machine’ crushing everything in its path and antagonizing the civilians, which you can see fighting back now, throwing Molotov-cocktails at the machine. And then there are many details, as for instance the scepter the machine is holding, pushing down on that well known scale. So it’s an in-your-face way to shows what basically is going on nowadays.MaYaN was co-founded by Mark Jansen (grunter/screamer) and Jack Driessen (keyboardist) in 2010. How were you approached by Mark and Jack in joining them in a death-metal experimental project that would combine death metal and symphonic metal elements?
I got to know Mark when he and Simone joined as guest singers at the Christmas Metal Symphony in 2009. I played in that band we had together with a 30-piece orchestra, playing all kinds of metal classics with their original singers. And this was with Joost van den Broek as well, as the musical director, so it’s cool to have worked with him again now with “Antagonise”. Anyway, when Mark and Simone joined on stage at the CMS, we had something extra going on between us, it really clicked. Not that long afterwards I talked to him on MySpace again and he asked me if I wanted to join Jack and him to write an album. And then the real chemistry happened between the three of us, writing songs in no time, and we wanted to take this on stage and form a band around it and go for it. This became MaYaN and brought us to where we are now 🙂What are some of your favorite tracks from “Antagonise” and which ones are you looking forward to playing live?
That’s always a hard question. Every song has something special… I really love “Paladins”, “Faceless Spies”, “Devil in Disguise”, “Burn Your Witches”, and “Insano” gives me goosebumps every time (Laura rules). For playing live songs like “Bloodline” and the above really stand out for me. Songs on which the heads can be banged. Except for “Insano”, I’m not that much of an acoustic guy haha. And Isaac played this one on the album as a guest, because I don’t have an acoustic guitar at home.You recruited Merel Bechtold, lead guitarist of Purest of Pain, to replace former guitarist Isaac Delahaye for the upcoming release shows in the Netherlands. I am amazed by her phenomenal talent with her 7-string guitar and her brutal guitar riff solos. What type of energy and talent does she bring to the MaYaN “table” so to speak?
She’s very fanatic which absolutely gives energy, and her talent makes me want to practice harder… She’s amazingly tight at rhythm guitars and does it in such a relaxed way I sometimes asked myself what I have done wrong in all those years haha. 😉 Next to that she’s very professional, produces music herself, gets around in the business as well, really knows how to get a good/pro tone from her guitar/amp which not all guitarists have (tons of distortion and no mids don’t really work in a band setting for instance ;-)). She figured out all songs by ear, which saves me a lot of time as well since I don’t have to transcribe every song now, and she’s a beast on stage which is very important as well.
What can fans expect to find at your upcoming release shows in the Netherlands?
We bring the best crew possible to make these shows killer, and we have something extra for the release shows; both Marcela and Dimitris will join us! These probably will be the only shows you can see them both join us. Especially Dimitris since he has to fly in from Greece. So you don’t want to miss this!What can we expect in the coming months following the release of “Antagonise”?
We’re working on some festivals for the summer, and soon try to get more shows. The album is almost released here, we had some awesome reviews as well (yesterday, Jan.25 that is, we got the new Aardschok magazine, most important rock/metal mag in the Netherlands, and we got chosen album of the month, which is a huge achievement here), and almost the release shows! So enough material to get some new shows with. Hopefully we can arrange a South American tour again which was awesomely successful the first time, or tour where ever possible, and play the bigger festivals like Zwarte Cross or Graspop again, but we also have to take Epica into account since they release their new album in April. So check our agendas and go for what’s possible.You recruited both Floor Jansen (Nightwish/ReVamp) and Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion) to contribute guest female backing vocals alongside with now permanent band member Laura Macrì on “Antagonise”. Was the decision to bring on these two very talented ladies based mutually as a group or was it brought up by a single band member?
Mark, Jack and I took the decision, but of course the whole group has to feel positive about that. Floor told us she’d love to participate again on the new album so that’s a no brainer for us. Of course she has a smaller guest role because she’s busy enough with Nightwish and ReVamp, but she again gave the songs she sings on this great energetic extra with her amazing voice. Next to that we have again used synthesizer-choirs on the album, but we thought it would be great if this would be done with a real human voice. And for that we thought of Marcela who has the perfect voice for those choirs. She has this certain vibrato which suits those choirs beautifully. And while she was at it, we immediately asked her to do some non-choir vocal lines as well because it would fit certain parts perfectly.Speaking of Laura, Henning Basse was also added as permanent member to MaYaN earlier this year. Not only do these two vocalists add contrasting, haunting and dynamic vocals to Mark Jansen’s death metal grunts and screams but added something that completes the whole “puzzle” of what MaYaN is really about. What contributions, energy or talent do they bring to MaYaN overall in your personal opinion?
I think it’s great how Henning‘s voice can go from very clean and emotional to really raw metal and almost grunt-like screams. And from there on Mark takes over for the real deal in grunting and screaming. And on the other, clean, side of Henning there’s Laura taking over in the opposite direction with her operatic voice in which she’s an amazing talent as well, so we basically can cover all grounds we want in our music with vocalists who really complement each other. And when we take this on stage together the real magic happens. It’s awesome how you see all those loud metalheads go to complete silence and awe when Laura sings haha :))Since 2008, you have been playing in a concert series that takes place all over Europe during the winter holidays called “Christmas Metal Symphony” that includes a six-piece band and a 30-piece classical orchestra under one roof performing the best metal songs of all time. Could you take us back to your first performance with Christmas Metal Symphony and recall your exact moments leading up your performance on stage with some of the best metal musicians of all time?
Oh yeah I recall that! Marcel Coenen, the other guitarist and long time friend, asked me together with Joost if I wanted to do it. To play metal classics with heroes such as Chuck Billy… you can imagine my reaction haha… freaking awesome! I had been playing together with Marcel for some years then. He had joined Symmetry (my old band) as a guest on our last show, I had been performing his solo-albums live with his band later, so knowing each other very well and being on that level of playing together got me there. Joost had been the keyboard player of his band Sun Caged for years and we, as Symmetry, performed together with Sun Caged as well, so that’s how Joost and I first met. Well then I learned the set for the first CMS edition, we got together in 013 Tilburg to rehearse with a great band with Johan van Stratum (Stream of Passion) on bass, Jeffrey Revet (also SoP) and Joost on keys, Koen Herfst (I Chaos, Bagga Bownz, Armin van Buuren) on drums and Marcel and me on guitars. And then all singers (Chuck, Russell Allen, Doro Pesch, Mats Levén, Johan Edlund, George Oosthoek, Marcela Bovio, Floor Jansen, Ian Parry) came in one by one and we rehearsed with them and the orchestra and then did that amazing first show in Tilburg! The place was packed, the songs kicked ass, just standing there backed by an orchestra is an amazing feeling! It was a success and something I’ll never forget. Then in 2009 we did it again with (mostly) different singers and again this kicked ass! But after that all work really got to me, since I had a day job with late shifts, and figure out 25-30 songs at night in like 4 weeks time, and then also having MaYaN as a band, so I unfortunately had to quit CMS because I just couldn’t do it anymore. Last year CMS picked it all up again and did this great European tour at the end of 2013 with Jord from ReVamp on guitars and Ariën on drums so he recently told us all the stories haha.Where do you see yourself in the future in 5 years? What about 10 years?
No idea haha. Still going strong with MaYaN hopefully, and still feeling as lucky as I do today by being able to do this amazing thing called music. And still having a great home together with my great girlfriend (probably my wife then ;-)) and enjoying life as it is. If I look back 5 or 10 years I couldn’t have told you I would be here where I am right now, so who knows what time brings this time..One of the best feelings about going to a concert is meeting the band and standing front row headbanging and singing at the top of your lungs through every song. I know if MaYaN ever toured in Los Angeles, California you count on me being there in a heartbeat. Could we expect a world tour of some sorts in the near future that stops in maybe Los Angeles *wink wink* <laughs>?
We’d love to!! Hell yeah, if we get the chance, we’ll be there, no doubt! So get your local promoters to book us now! 😉 Actually we already had an offer to tour North America/Canada but unfortunately couldn’t do it with MaYaN because Epica has plans already then, but hey, get back to us anytime. 😉 We’d love to see you screaming and banging haha! That’s one of those things that brings us so much energy and makes us love what we do… the audience/fans are just as important in keeping that going!Do you have any last words you’d like to say to our loyal Femme Metal Webzine readers or to your MaYaN fans?
Well major thanks for supporting us!! This really makes it possible for us to continue doing what we’re doing! And go get “Antagonise” and let us know what you think! You can find us online at www.mayanofficial.com and www.facebook.com/mayanband 🙂Frank, once again thank you so much for allowing us to interview you today and take the time out of your schedule to speak with us. I wish you all the best of luck with MaYaN and look forward to hearing the “The Year of MaYaN”!
Thank you! The pleasure was all mine, Laura! Cheers!