Dutch symphonic death metal outfit MaYaN is about to drop their latest album, entitled “Antagonise.” Reason enough to catch up with keyboardist Jack Driessen (ex After Forever) for all the latest news from the MaYaN camp…
Mark Janssen is often seen as the figurehead and mastermind behind MaYaN. However, there are way more people involved as well. Can you share some light on this?
Of course! MaYaN started out was a project initiated by Mark and myself. We both played in a band called After Forever in the distant past. We were both teenagers back then (laughs). AF really took off, but I took the conscious decision to focus on my study and I left the band at the time. Mark and I lost contact, but a couple of years later we saw eachother again at a local metal event. We started talking again and not long after we started working on a track Mark wrote with Epica in mind. The magic was still there and we discussed doing a project together. At some point former After Forever guitarist Sander Gommans became involved, but he didn’t have enough time to really commit himself fully. Mark brought in Frank Schiphorst on guitars. There was a lot of musical chemistry between the three of us and it didn’t take long before we started working on new material. Up to this day we form creative backbone behind MaYaN (laughs). Via Mark‘s contacts other people became involved as well, including singer Henning Basse and several other members from Epica.
The material on “Antagonise” is very compact and to the point. To which extent was this a deliberate move?
This is very a much a spontaneous development. In our early days we experimented much more with our sound. On “Quarterpast”, our debut album, we were still very much looking for our own sound and we weren’t really aware of the musical skills of each individual member and how to harness these for MaYaN . With our second album we’ve grown as a unit and that’s something you hear back in our music. “Anatagonise” as a whole is way more coherent and compact as you rightfully pointed out. Henning Basse has a more prominent role as vocalist and even Rob van der Loo, our new bassist, contributed a song.
The symphonic elements are not so prominent anymore and they are more used to create a certain atmosphere. What’s the story on that?
That’s a very sharp observation! On the first MaYaN album the symphonic elements took more of a leading role. This has something to do with my musical background and the role that I had within After Forever. With MaYaN I really take the time to completely map out the symphonic and orchestral parts, something I never did with After Forever. This way I really managed to integrate my parts better within the overall musical concept. I used more traditional keyboards which works very well with Henning’s vocal lines and the more traditional metal parts.
“Quarterpast” had a really polished, almost Epica-like, sound, while the new record is little rougher around the edges, production-wise. How come?
That’s true, “Quarterpast” has a really polished sound. That album is recorded in the Gate studios in Wolfburg, Germany. That’s where most of the Epica records are recorded, so the producer took Epica as a reference for how “Quarterpast” should sound like.
In hindsight a little more dirt wouldn’t have hurt. This time around we hired Joost van den Broek as producer and he really made sure that “Anatagonise” got the rougher sound we were looking for. We used the latest albums by Dimmu Borgir and Carcass as a reference for the type of production we’re after. Joost really knew what to do. His first mix blew us away. We weren’t really happy with the mastering at first, but luckily Joost managed to work around this and he saved the day once again (laughs).
Mark is quite fond of using these grandiose concept stories in which he questions certain political, economic and cultural developments. What’s the story behind “Antagonise”?
That’s true (laughs). On “Antagonise” it’s all about the pitfalls and the decline of our current political and economic system. A great example of this is the current NSA scandal where government agencies illegally use wire taps to keep their allies and citisens in check. The general public isn’t aware of this shameful practises. However, there’s a growing sense of awareness that things need to change in this respect. We live in a democracy and we all have the constitutional right of having privacy, without the government checking in our every move. This is one of the major themes on the new record.
But then again, is there still such a thing as privacy? Loads of people put their whole life on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook..
That’s a fair point. It works in both ways. On one side it’s the government that is spying on its citizens, but at the same time a lot of people aren’t aware of the fact that everything they put on Facebook and Twitter gets recorded and is there for everyone to see and read. Not to mention the fact that the data its generates is used for corporate gain. People have a responsibility what they put or not put on internet, but then again it’s downright frightening what companies and government agencies know about you without you realising it. We’re going towards this sort of big brother type of police state and that’s something I find really terrifying. That fear also one of the themes on the new MaYaN album.
Mark is often seen as the figurehead and musical mastermind behind MaYaN, but in truth you and Frank Schiphorst are major contributors as well. Does it bother you that you don’t get the same level of recognition?
It’s difficult at times, but then again Mark is our most visible and well-known member. He has worked tremendously to get After Forever and Epica off the ground and he’s quite ssuccessfulin doing so. Seen in that light it isn’t strange he draws more attention than the rest of us. We knew this was bound to happen when we started out with MaYaN. For me it’s all about the joy of creating music together and I see MaYaN as a celebration of our many years of friendship. Mark‘s high profile works in our advantage. When he tells in interviews that’s he’s also playing in MaYaN, more people are bound to check us out. Like I said before, I’m in there for the music and the joy it brings.
You decided to leave After Forever at a certain point in order to pursue a regular career and a normal life. Mark Janssen and Floor Janssen both went on as professional musicians and they both achieved great success in doing so. Do you regret this decision in hindsight?
No, not at all (laughs). At the time I made a very conscious decision to leave After Forever and to go for a regular type of life instead. I also didn’t study music, because I wasn’t too sure whether it would provide me with a stable career in the long run. I did realise that it would be a shame not to use and develop my musical skills any further and that’s why I’m in MaYaN. I’m very happy for both Floor and Mark that they managed to carve a nice career for themselves as professional musicians. As for me I have the best of both world. I have a nice regular career going on and I make music with my friends. I couldn’t wish for more.
With the current decline of the music industry in mind a regular job provides more financial security than being a professional musician ever could…
That’s very true. Take Epica for instance. It took them ten years to reach their current level of success, but individual members still had to take on side jobs in order to make ends meet. This is a clear indication of how tough it is to make a decent living playing in a metal band. Don’t forget all the hard work and the hardships it takes in order to achieve a certain level of success.
The Epica guys have to tour for months on end and that’s not necessarily the most healthiest of lifestyles and that’s something a lot of people don’t seem to realise. When you have a family you have to miss out on a lot of special moments with your partner and you don’t see your kids for very long periods of time, like Coen (Epica keyboardist) has to go through. I have a lot of respect for him how he deals with that. I don’t envy him in all honesty.
Finally, last Summer I did an interview with Floor Janssen, before she joined Nightwish as a permanent member. I asked her whether she would be interested in doing an After Forever reunion. She wasn’t particulary interested for various reasons. What’s your stance on this?
I can’t blame her for saying this, because her career really took off after she left After Forever, especially now she’s new the singer for Nightwish. As for me, an After Forever reunion would be a lot of fun. With MaYan we played a couple of old After Forever songs during our South American tour. Floor was a part of that as well and we had tons of fun doing so. It’s not something I have given much thought about and I can perfectly understand where Floor is coming from with Nightwish‘s grueling touring schedule in mind. I still have very good memories of my time in After Forever and “Prison Of Desire” still brings a smile to my face. I really wouldn’t mind being a part of reunion with my old bandmates (laughs).