Unwritten Pages interview (06/2012)

With: Frederic Epe, Michel Epe
Conducted by: Milena (e-mail)
Published: 14.06.2012

Band profile:

Unwritten Pages

Stream Unwritten Pages' new album on bandcamp.

Mora: How do you like the feedback for Fringe Kitchen so far?

Fred: Reception for the album has been great so far. I am extremely happy that people out there are willing to invest time in our music.

Mora: Are you planning any live shows to support it?

Fred: We would certainly love to. The songs on Fringe Kitchen would lend themselves perfectly for a live set I think. John (Macaluso) and I spoke on the phone the other day and he said that we should play live shows and that he would be joining us if we ever get it off the ground. That was definitely a big motivator. But then there is also the whole logistical and financial side to touring if you want to do things right. But, you know, it could always happen. It's just a matter of good timing.

Mora: Your debut, Pt.1: Noah, is a two-disc concept album with a lot of guest musicians and it took you five years to complete it. Fringe Kitchen is, on the other hand, a very compact band effort that just sort of happened on its own, if I've understood it correctly. What caused such a paradigm shift in between the two albums that made you approach them so differently?

Fred: Circumstances were just a lot different this time around. I was in my second college year when I started working on Noah, and the whole thing went all the way from nerdy sci-fi story to geeky sci-fi tribute album. To be honest, I wasn't even sure where Noah was headed musically until maybe halfway through the demo sessions and you can definitely hear that at times I have to admit.

With Fringe Kitchen, we knew from the get-go where we wanted the album to be stylistically. What we didn't want was another concept album and we certainly didn't want to do any more sci-fi. The album had to be a lot more personal and intimate than our debut, it had to have that driving feel and songs that just flow nicely. In a nutshell: good songs with a twist.

Michel: Making Noah was a great experience. We got to work with some really fantastic people, some of whom we've been fans of for a long time and who have become dear people to us ever since. With that being said, we felt that the whole musical concept of Fringe Kitchen was tailored more towards a smaller formation of musicians. We aimed for a more intimate, guitar-oriented style, whereas Noah was this big epic album with multi-layered vocal arrangements and a lot of orchestrated sections and other instruments. Also, when you work with so many people, scheduling recording sessions and meetings can get kinda tricky.

Fred: Yes, we weren't ready for another 5-year plan ;-)

Recording Fringe Kitchen

Mora: Fringe Kitchen is also a family effort: your father Lothar helped you two out with the album. Three family members working in the studio together is something one does not see every day! How does it feel like? Do you make sure you leave your eventual family disputes at the studio door and vice-versa?

Fred: Everything develops quite naturally when we sit down to work on music, which is great. The way things often happen in the studio is that either Michel or I will come up with an idea, a rhythm or just a series of chords and the three of us take it from there. "Intoxicating Sweets" was one of those cases where the song was pretty much finished in terms of song structuring when I introduced it to the rest. Michel ended up adding the chords for the bridge and Lothar came up with additional backing vocals. He's always been a tremendous help, because he has this big pool of experience and past bands of different genres to tap into.

To answer to your last question: family disputes are probably the biggest downside to working with your own family members, because it's almost impossible to just leave those at the doorstep. The good thing is that we're usually able to solve our non-musical issues rather easily, usually by means of sharp or heavy objects ;-)

Mora: The album is being distributed through your own label, Turricane Records. For a lot of bands, the work on an album is done when the final note is played in the studio, but your job extends to worrying about the business side of things as well. How are you handling it so far?

Fred: I don't know, haha. It's a lot of work for sure, but it's also been a very interesting ride so far. Working in-house was a very conscious decision, one that - amongst other things - was based on our previous work with ProgRock Records and their lack of communication. Speaking of that particular label: I'd strongly recommend any band looking for a serious and honest deal to stay away from them. I don't want to start a mud fight here, but I've heard similar troublesome stories from other musicians who have worked with them.

Anyway, back on topic: I've talked to a number of musicians regarding potential labels and it's just a very discouraging topic at the moment. We'll never make a ton of money with our music and that's all well, but at the end of the day what's yours, should be yours, right? I am sure there are honest labels out there still, but then they have to be a good fit for your specific type of music and, in turn, you have to be a good fit within their scheme. It just felt like the right moment to give it a shot and try to figure it out ourselves. If nothing else, it will be an important learning curve for us. The one thing I can tell you for sure is that promoting my own product is not a lot of fun for me personally. And by that I don't mean giving interviews, I think they are tremendous fun. Think gathering press contacts, writing back and forth, keeping track of your shipments and inventory, bookkeeping… all these things that just don't have anything to do with creating music. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. It's just what needs to be done, really. It's as simple as that. My parents and Michel have been the greatest help I could possibly ask for, so that's a big plus!

Mora: John Macaluso (Ark, toured with James LaBrie) recorded drums for the album. How did you contact him? Will we perhaps see him playing on your future releases as well?

Fred: I just sent him a couple of demo tracks, not expecting much really. He got back to me the next day, telling me how much he loved the stuff and that we should meet up to get it done. We recorded his drums in Rotterdam in July last year and I have to say he was one of the most pleasant and easiest guys to work with. What a drummer! I am sure we'll be working with John again. I for one would love to. Whether it's going to be the next album, I don't know. It all depends on what the next album will entail musically and of course John's availability.

John Macaluso with Michel, Lothar and Fred Epe

Mora: What are your favorite metal bands?

Fred: I don't really listen to a lot of metal these days, although I still enjoy the hell out of Pantera. Everything they did just feels so overwhelmingly powerful. I like the older Opeth stuff, not sure if it counts. Awake by Dream Theater is one of my all-time favorites, but I don't really like what's become of the band. Out of some more recent bands, I enjoy Animals As Leaders and Devin Townsend.

Michel: Textures, Devin Townsend, Anthrax, Pantera are some of my favorites.

Mora: Some of your favorites outside of the metal spectrum?

Michel: Recently, I've been listening to the latest The Flashbulb album a lot. Also Soundgarden, A Perfect Circle, OSI, David Bowie, Toto, Air (especially Moon Safari), Pendulum and Porcupine Tree/Steven Wilson.

Fred: Soundgarden is one of the bands I listen to on a semi-regular basis. OSI, Nine Inch Nails, Gov't Mule or Akira Yamaoka come to mind as well. A lot of nerdy video game music from the 8-bit/16-bit era.

Mora: Since there are two people writing the music, how do you come to a solution when you disagree about a certain section - do you believe in compromise, or solve it by some good old fashioned arm-wrestling?

Fred: It's funny you'd mention arm-wrestling in this question, because I was totally going to use that in one of my answers. Dang! [note: My prophetic powers are undeniable] In most cases we'll solve it through compromise. I guess you could say I have the final say in most cases, but I am obviously not going to tell my brother how to write his own music. So yeah, sometimes you just have to swallow your pride. And in a lot of cases I am glad I did, because Michel has a tremendous understanding for well-written songs.

Michel: It's weird, but we never get into a real fight when it comes to music, although both Fred and I can be very headstrong. I think we're on the same page when it comes to composing. When the idea feels right, we'll use it. We leave little to no room for false pride.

Fred: I'd say little…

Michel: Whatever!

Mora: Where do the lyrics come from - the head or the heart? And what/who is your main lyrical inspiration?

Fred: A bit of both. It really depends on the album. In the case of Noah, I was really inspired by a lot of my favorite 80's sci-fi movies. The lyrics on Fringe Kitchen, on the other hand, are on a much more intimate level. The whole idea of self-imprisonment kind of inspired me. People who are trapped in their own worlds, stuck in their own heads due to excessive drug use, childhood trauma, abuse… you name it. People who try to shake their own shadows and end up attempting to escape their own past. But I also try to write my lyrics in a way which lets everyone fill in certain blanks and make sense of them in their own way. To me, music always ties in with images, which is why the other big inducing factor for this album were a lot of the old David Lynch flicks.

Mora: One of the first things I've noticed about you guys is that you have a knack for giving interesting names to songs and albums. Who's the main culprit for it and how do you get ideas?

Fred: God, I wish I had a formula for that. Thanks! I usually come up with these weird names, save for "Wasted Land", which was written by my Michel, and of course "Kaleidemote", which was written by our good friend James Cook. For Fringe Kitchen, I just wanted snappy, tag-like names that fit the lyrical content of each song. "Terminal Defect" for example is one of these songs where I simply needed a name that would fit the dark, aggressive and, in case of the mid section, somber tone of the song.

Mora: Speaking of lyrics and names - you knew this one was coming - tell us the story behind "Intoxicating Sweets", if there is one?

Fred: Haha, indeed! The title is meant as an analogy of sorts between consuming tons of drugs and stuffing yourself with sweets on a daily basis and, as a result of that, losing your social understanding and sense of reality because of the way you start experiencing your surroundings and the way people around you start looking at you, perhaps even closest friends or family. It's a downward spiral from there on out in a lot of cases. There is a desire to return to "normal", deep within, but it's an uphill fight nonetheless.

Mora: As Frederic informed me prior to this interview, you two are well trained in the art of nerdery, Frederic's main "specialty" being video games. How did you get infected with video games and do you both share the same passions in the field?

Michel: Well, for me it all started with the very first Gameboy we had at home. It gradually got worse, and now we're basically collecting every nerdy piece of crap we can get our hands on. To this day, I remember all of the music from my favorite games, because they were full of memorable tunes. In a way, games have been a big influence for me, musically speaking.

Fred: We could have another interview just on the basis of that question, but I think most people would generally be turned down by the oozin' nerdom. Although I am sure at least some people can relate to it! I will try to keep it brief and give you a short overview of my string of infection and the game music that comes to mind with it:

My neighbors's NES with Super Mario Bros (Stage 1-1 obviously). My very own first Gameboy at the age of 7 (Balloon Kid and Gargoyle's Quest, good times!). Amiga/Commodore (Alex Kidd). Getting my Super Nintendo at the age of 10 (Super Castlevania IV and Plok, some of the best music in video game history). Playstation 1 (Final Fantasy VII, simply epic). There is so much more really, but these moments stand out for me. A couple of years ago I started getting my hands on a lot the consoles I simply couldn't afford when I was younger, like the SEGA Genesis (or Mega Drive as it was called in Europe) or SNK's Neo Geo. Gosh, I feel like a freak. This can't be normal! Is it normal?

Mora: How did you start playing music? Did you want to start a band from the very beginning or did that desire come afterwards?

Fred: I started drumming at the age of 10 and played in several cover bands and kept on doing that until my16th birthday, I believe. Then I picked up my dad's guitar because I wanted to sing angry songs like Kurt Cobain and formed my first own band, called Fumigate. I kind of took it from there and just started playing a little of everything and with different musicians in different formations. Just to be clear: I do not look at myself as a true multi-instrumentalist, as I don't consider myself a, let's say, good guitarist or keyboarder. Writing songs and singing is what I truly enjoy.

Michel: I'm lucky that I was born in a family of musicians, so the decision to start playing an instrument came very naturally and early and was also supported by my parents. Playing in bands came somewhat later though.

Mora: Since I probably won't get an opportunity to interview two brothers any time soon, I feel obliged to ask you what is the biggest trouble you've ever gotten yourselves into and what was the punishment for it?

Michel: I can't tell, because Fred would kill me.

Fred: No idea what he's talking about… unless he's referring to the Gameboy incident back in Belgium. Let's just say that a Gameboy fell and consequences were severe ;-)

Mora: Where do you think the band will be ten years from now, and where do you hope it will be?

Michel: Hopefully, on stage. I'd love to get our music out there and present the songs to an audience.

Fred: Live performances would be great, but my main priority remains writing fresh and hopefully somewhat intriguing music for each release. I would hate to get stuck in one place. It's hard to tell where Unwritten Pages will be in ten years, because we aim for something completely different with each release. We're certainly not making things any easier for ourselves like this. Hopefully more people will check us out, explore our music and find something of worth in it.

Mora: On the behalf of Metal Storm I'd like to thank you for reading and answering these questions.

Fred: Thanks a mil, it was great fun!

Michel: Thanks for the interview!


Posted on 14.06.2012 by A part of the team since December 2011, writes about the progressive, the sad and the melodic. She's nice until she's not.

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