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Jerry Lucky: Letís go backÖwhat were you doing before the creation of Unwritten Pages?

 

Federic Epe: Quite a few things really, none of them specifically in the musical vein. I was still taking a break from that after my old band disbanded, in which Iíd been writing songs and singing for about 7 years. So I was looking into other things I have always been interested in, such as film and video games, playing roles in small, somewhat experimental movie projects and working on my own game concepts. Somehow I always ended up working on music in some way, though. Thatís how a story of mine eventually turned into Noah.

 

JL: Tell us how Unwritten Pages (as a project) came together to record Noah.

 

FE: That was a long, interesting and somewhat tedious process, both logistically and financially speaking. Itís the nature of the beast when youíre working independently as you can imagine. What you get in return is complete creative freedom and overly long production times :-)

Of all that was recorded I would say that about 50% was tracked in Pancakeland, which is Glennís studio. This includes most vocal tracks and guitars. Davyís drums were recorded in Excess Studios, Rotterdam. Others laid down tracks in their own studios. Alejandro for example worked in the comfort of his own studio environment and then uploaded his tracks for us to grab and add to our master sessions in Pancakeland. As for me, Iíve tracked most of my vocals and keyboards in our own studio, which Iíve been extensively working on and expanding with my brother and dad.

 

So once I got past the initial demo stages, I slowly realized that Iíd in fact underestimated the scale of this project, very much so even. In retrospect, I look at the whole thing as a true learning experience, like throwing yourself into ice-cold water. 5 years later, Noah is set and done.

 

JL: Perhaps give us your personal ďthumb-nailĒ outline for the story youíve created. What inspired you to tell this particular story?

 

FE:Noah pretty much tells the story of two individuals from two very different social backgrounds and the people around them. The story is partly set in Utopia City, one of many independent metropolises on Earth. It tells of a distant future where supreme political parties and uranium dictate the course of action and Earth has become a dead rock. The other part of the story is set on Mars, where survivors of a genocide have settled to build a new existence, which is revealed to have its own unique challenges.

 

I would say that what inspired me most when we did Noah were 80ís film and music, such as the music and general tone in Ridley Scottís Blade Runner. Iíve also always loved the sort of sci-fi film noir style in James Cameronís The Terminator. I think he always referred to it as tech noir, which for once really hits the spot if you ask me.

 

What also inspired me and keeps inspiring me is the music and worlds created in video games. Iíve been an avid gamer for as long as I remember and I have seen and experienced the whole development as a passionate gamer, from freak niche to multi-zillion dollar industry, which pretty much is where it stands today. Take a game like Final Fantasy VII for example. That was a huge influence. One of the most memorable games out there with a storyline and characters that most high-caliber Hollywood directors can only dream of. Very deep and touching. I would also have to say the 16-bit era of video games, mainly Nintendoís SNES era. I could really go on a few pages here.

 

JL: Is Unwritten Pages an actual touring band? Will it be?

 

FE: I wish we were. It just isnít realistic in our current state. Weíre spread all over the globe and I doubt anyone would want to pay for the whole thing. That is probably the biggest issue, unfortunate as it is: money. But who knows, things may change in the future and touring is definitely something thatís on my list. With future albums and increased revenues in the billions, it could always happen ;-)

 

JL: That would make it difficult. So let me ask is touring important for youÖor do you prefer the studio environment?

 

FE: Right after my last band, I didnít really feel like doing any live shows. So I was very happy with the whole ďdig in, record musicĒ approach. Now that Noah is done, I do miss playing live though. It used to be a big part of my music. It would be interesting to see how people resonate to the music in a live environment. But for something like Noah you would need a certain kind of live environment and I think weíre still hundreds of miles away from that point in our careers. Then again, with another album it could always happen. Even Noah could still happen at some point.

 

JL: Thatís right Ė never say never.  Iím always interested in how and why an artist comes to create progressive rock music. What were your inspirations?

 

FE: For me it started the same way it did for many other fans of progressive music I guess. I was introduced to bands like Dream Theater and I found their musical approaches fascinating. Combine whatever music you love without any boundaries. I have pretty eclectic musical tastes, so it was an obvious choice for me to pursue a similar approach. I donít know if itís me, but progressive music has become a bit more of a commodity than the actual way of creating music. While I understand the need for categorizing music to some extent, I find it hard to look at a lot of the music as being ďprogressiveĒ. All of a sudden there seems to be a formula for writing progressive music and a lot of so-called progressive bands - especially the bigger ones - seem to be following the same trend which really isnít about writing innovative music. Of course this is all personal perception and as such very subjective stuff; in the end, it all comes down to your own definition of progressive. I donít even know if Noah is a progressive album, but for me it was the most refreshing thing to do at the time.

JL: Perhaps you can shed a little light of creating and performing progressive rock music in Holland these days.

 

FE: Hmm, I am not sure if I make for a good example ha ha. I am the German kid who grew up in Holland and attended school there. Iíve been living in Belgium for several years now, but I am planning on moving back to Holland early next year because I want to be closer to the studio.
What Iíve been able to gather is that Holland is a very prog-friendly country. Iíve been to a lot of shows over the years and they can be very welcoming; at the same time, they can also be extremely honest to the extent of what some would call harsh. Being a native German with a Dutch passport, Iíve always been a bit baffled by some of the rivalry between the two countries. They both share a lot of passion when it comes to progressive music. Dutch and German people are more similar to each other than they like to admit. Just donít tell them or chances are youíll get sandwiched.

 

JL: When youíre not doing Unwritten Pages, what do you do? And what kinds of music are you currently listening to?

 

FE: I love doing nerdy things. I am a big nerd in disguise. I spend a good deal of time on assembling and flying RC aircraft, such as gliders and quadrocopters. They also give me a good excuse to spend time outdoors whenever possible, which is something I really enjoy. I live close to the Dutch and German borders and weíve got gorgeous scenery here. I grew up in South Limburg, Netherlands and Iíve always enjoyed it there simply because of that. I am obviously into video games, although theyíve lost a good deal of their old charms, as is often the case whenever something grows big.

 

Music-wise, I currently enjoy Air a lot, which is a French duo performing electronica/ambient/trip hop, that sort of thing. Great stuff. I also enjoy Eric Johnson and am currently listening to Devin Townsend and some of the older Porcupine Tree stuff, such as Signify.

 

JL: Do you have any observations of the current prog scene? There is certainly a growing acceptance (or at least tolerance) of the genre these days, donít you think?

 

FE: Well, one thing leads to another really. There certainly is a growing acceptance, but there is also a lot less original content from the bigger prog bands these days. I guess a lot of them are tapping into certain markets and scenes (thatís why you see a lot of so-called goth elements in prog music these days) and I canít blame them for wanting to make money. Sudden image changes to squeeze the cow a little further also seem be a common thing these days, with Dream Theaterís Systematic Chaos being the prime example unfortunately (mind you this is coming from a long-time hardcore DT fan).

 

On the other hand, youíve got music fans whoíve developed a tremendous sense of awareness of the things around them, people who reject the junk heaps fed by dying industry giants. People who donít reject songs because theyíre over 3 minutes in length. Songs that evoke a sense of something fantastical. That, I believe, is the greatest thing with regard to this growing acceptance.

 

JL: Your CD is entitled Noah Part 1Öso are you at work on part 2? Whatís your timeline for that project?

 

FE: I can tell you that weíve started working on our next album and that weíre about one-third through the demo phase. I can also tell you that itís not Noah Pt. II. Although I am sure Pt. II will happen at some point, I need a break from all the science-fiction. Itís been over 5 years after all. It also wouldnít be very true to what Iíve said earlier with regard to how I like to approach new music. The next album is going to be much more intimate and focused. That is not to say soft or poppy. I am currently aiming for a late 2011 release, so no more 5-year projects for me I hope!

 

It will be very different in that it will generate a completely different mood. Itís not going to be a concept album; there will be an overarching theme, but no storyline or characters. Consequently, there wonít be a cast of singers. Musically, it will be a lot more in-your-face and personal than Noah, a lot more driven, although I am sure others will be the final judges of that :-)

 

JL: Lastly then I always like to find outÖif you were stuck on a desert island and only had 5 discs with youÖwhat discs would they be and why those 5 in particular.

 

FE: Five is going to be tough. I would end up hating myself for leaving behind some of the other discs. Let me try, though:

 

Dream Theater - Awake: definitely their best album with the best lyrical content thanks to Kevin Moore. There isnít a single song that I donít find fascinating on this one.

 

Porcupine Tree - In Absentia: perfect crossover between intelligent songwriting, fascinating lyrics and hooking melodies.

 

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral: such a unique musical approach. Love it or hate it but Trent Reznor keeps reinventing himself and this is some of his best work, although I also love his more recent stuff.

 

Akira Yamaoka - Silent Hill 2 OST: his music truly makes you feel lost. He seamlessly blends industrial sounds with beautiful ambient arrangements and Angelo Badalamenti-like tremolo guitars.

 

A personal playlist of my favorite video games music: hah! No way I could do without :-) Think Final Fantasy and Castlevania games, as well as a bunch of music from Nintendo, id Software, Capcom and Konami titles. Way too much, itís not going to fit any disc - argh!

 

There are so many new bands

and artists in the progressive rock

genre these days that it's hard to

keep up. One of those new to the scene

is Dutch band Unwritten Pages. I recently

reviewed their new disc Noah Pt. 1 and wanted

to find out more about the band. Here is my interview with founder Frederic Epe.