The Magic Musical Box....

Sometimes music is simply an outing of the skill to play an instrument. Some bands however go much deeper and they try to put something special to their music as well. ILLUMION for example incorporate the inspiration, that they got from people like Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde into their music. Besides that, they even used some exotic instruments like the Chinese two-stringed spike fiddle (Erhu) and the Chinese four-stringed lute (Pipa) in the symphonic, progressive rock, that they play. You won’t see that too often and it makes ILLUMION a very interesting band to talk to. The exotic instruments, the inspirations, it’s all a good base for an indepth view in the world of ILLUMION.... And if you’re more interested in ‘titties’, you’re reading the wrong interview mate, because it simply ain’t gonna happen in this story…..

When did you get together as a band, and did the bandmembers gain any experience in other bands, before they joined ILLUMION?
Eveline: "Everybody in the band played (and plays) in other bands alongside ILLUMION. (http://www.sote.nl; http://www.unicornmusic.tk; http://www.dwaalspoor-muziek.nl; http://www.ophetekoole.nl) When I was organizing my graduation at the conservatory of Alkmaar in 2002, I asked musicians, that could deal with sympho/progrock. After my graduation I asked many of them to stay and form a band, Ester and Peter did. Emile was easily found, since he was in S.O.T.E. together with Peter. Except for Peter, who didn't attend the conservatory, but was a regular participent in various conservatory graduation concerts, most of the others did attend the same conservatory and also graduated there. I met Peter in 2001 during the rehearsals for the graduation concert of Diane Selie (a keyboard player), whom he was playing bass for. On the basis of that, I invited him to play bass on my graduation concert the next year."

Who came up with the band name ILLUMION and what does it mean? Eveline: “I came up with the name ILLUMION, which is a contraction of illumination and illusion. The name portrays the grey world between seeing the light and disappearing into total madness.”

Can we point at someone as the founding member of the band and how did you actually meet each other?
“Eveline is the founding member and we met each other at the conservatory of Alkmaar, as mentioned above.”

Were you unanimous about the musical direction, that you were about to take or who set out the musical coarse for ILLUMION?
Eveline: "”Peter once introduced me to the band PAIN OF SALVATION. When I heard that music I thought: “This is the music I am going to write for the band!” That never happened of course, since I am not Daniel Gildenlow. But the first song I wrote was inspired by the song “Ashes”, and is called “Silent Breeze”."
Peter: "During the rehearsals for Eveline’s graduation concert, I really appreciated the music she listens to and what she aspires to write. It was very easy for me to let Eveline decide where to go with this (with only some nudges in the right direction by introducing her to new bands from my big CD & vinyl collection)" [Note: Peter is very proud at his collection!!]
Esther: “Yes. Eveline writes in a way, that really speaks to me. The vocal lines she writes are quite intricate and often a lot more difficult than they sound. This makes it very challenging for me to sing them well, as I do have a good range in pitch, but not so much in volume as I would sometimes like to have (or think I need). Her vocal lines in a way remind me of a guitarsolo for voice, so I need to be very flexible to be able to sing her lines. Her lyrics are also pretty difficult to grasp, but are very poetic, powerful and deep. They represent Eveline’s resumé of the subject at hand, but also always interweave her personal thoughts on the matter and I think it an art to be able to do that. So, in that department, I really think she secretly ís Daniel Gildenlow.”

How would you call or describe your music in your own words?
Eveline: "It is difficult to define. Symphonic rock with a subdued mood.."
Peter: "I think the bio sums it up best: "symphonic and progressive music with jazzy influences and definite feminine edges"."

We actually missed your second demo, called “Into The Labyrinth Part 2” (2006). How many copies of both demos were sold and how were the press reactions towards these first musical outings of the band?
Eveline: "We never really sold any of them, whereas they were promos for cafés and bars. We sent them to places, where we’ve hoped we could perform. Because they contained three covers, we did not send this demo to magazines to be reviewed.”

On your second demo, you also recorded three cover songs. Can you tell us which songs you covered and why you chose these three particular songs to include on this demo?
Eveline: " PAIN OF SALVATION's “Ashes”, ARK's “Resurrection” and FATES WARNING's “The 11th Hour”. We all loved these three songs. Back in those days, we did not have enough original material to perform and rehearse, so we decided to add some covers to our repertoire."
Peter: "We did some other covers as well, but these were for the love of the majority. The three that ended up on the second demo were unanimous votes."

Who went to China for a one year study trip? And did you also write music for the album “Hunting For Significance” over there?
Eveline: "I did, and I wrote half the album there."

Was it there, that you fell in love with instruments, like the Chinese spike fiddle and the Chinese four stringed lute or did you already have this certain fascination for these particular exotic instruments?
Eveline: "I took some spike fiddle lessons in Beijing and my music teacher introduced me to the music scene there. Once we went to a graduation concert of a spike fiddle player at the Central Conservatory and then I knew I wanted to do more with Chinese instruments."

Your music is described in your biography as (and I quote here): ‘symphonic and progressive music with jazzy influences and definite feminine edges’. Could you please describe ‘definite feminine edges’ a bit closer here?
Eveline: "First, half of the band consists of women and secondly, we have a female vocalist, who is inspired by singers such as LISA DALBELLO and KATE BUSH. In my viewpoint, she carries out the legacy of these strong female vocalists in our band."
Peter: "The feminine edges show not only in the obvious (half the band being female), but also content and wording of the lyrics, combined with the music that strengthens the impact of the lyrics and their deliverance."

How did you actually get in touch with Progress Records in Sweden? And are you satisfied with them, so far?
Eveline: "I have sent many emails to all kinds of record labels and Progress was one of the companies, that is really enthusiastic about our music.”
Peter: "And the remarks, that Hansi (from Progress Records) gave to our preliminary mixes clearly indicated, that we were on the same page concerning the artistic direction of the album."

Are you satisfied with the final result of “Hunting For Significance” or what would you do different, if you had the chance?
Eveline: "Personally, I am never totally satisfied with the result, but that holds for everything I do. The main issue with this album is, that it is recorded over a period of two years with different recording equipment and different musicians. Consequently, I feel there is less of a unity in the album than we wanted. With regard to the recordings, every song sounds different.”
Peter: "Indeed, from producers/engineers/mastering standpoint, the great difficulty was to make these recordings (and I believe the oldest 'takes' date back even further than two years ago) sound, as if all was done in one go. But the use of so many different instruments alone makes it difficult to make everything sound the same, as well as the songs themselves being ‘as diverse as a broad-leaved forest in autumn’! I must have heard this album over five thousand times by now, but I can still just play it for the enjoyment. So yes, I am satisfied (but the next album will be even better!)."

What’s your favourite song on the album and please explain why?
Eveline: "My personal favourite is “Scarlet Sin”, because I can still feel the inspiration when I wrote that song. It’s based on the book ‘The picture of Dorian Gray’ of Oscar Wilde and I had become so intoxicated by that book when I read it in China, I had to do something with it. I think the lyrics turned out very well and the music really reflects my thoughts about Dorian Gray."
Peter: "My favourite is “Under The Narrow”. It’s such a powerful song!"
Eveline: “It’s my guitar solo in that song, that appeals to you, isn’t it, Peter?”
Esther: "My favourite song is “Infinity”, because there’s a layer of deep emotional pain and regret in the song, while at the same time it sounds tranquil and quiet. Not an easy feat to accomplish in words or song.”

What’s the response of the press been like so far?
Eveline: "They have been very divergent. Whereas music is very subjective, some like our debut album, some don’t."

Did you also get any negative reviews and how do you deal with those in general? Do you try to learn from it or do you rather want to forget about it as quickly as possible?
Eveline: "Of course we have received negative reviews, especially from Germany. But I do not care really. Even the most talented artists in the world are being loved and despised at the same time, so why bother?"
Peter: "Even THE BEATLES have lovers and haters, so as long as you have both you should be OK. But it's really early days yet, there are only a view reviews so far and the negative ones were the quickest to surface, so they must not have spent a lot of time with the album, and it definitely is a grower, so play it again, Sam!"

Who writes the lyrics for the band and what are they about? Are they fiction or real life stories?
Eveline: "I have written all the lyrics. Most of them are about characters of books or films or inspired by poetry. For instance, “Chrysanthemum” is about the fall of a Chinese dynasty, which is based on the film “The Curse Of The Golden Flower” and my knowledge of China’s history. “Under The Harrow” is about “The pit and the pendulum” of Edgar Allan Poe. They are fiction and reality at the same time. I really like the theme of people turning completely mad and the reader does not know if the person is really undergoing strange happenings or if it all takes place in someone’s head. Illusion or illumination?"

Which bands did have a big influence on your music and maybe you can mention the influences of each band member individually here too, please?
Eveline: "PAIN OF SALVATION, MARILLION, FISH, FATES WARNING, KATE BUSH." Peter: "PAIN OF SALVATION, RUSH, TORI AMOS, ALLAN HOLDSWORTH, YES, Wagner, T. Monk."
Esther: "There are so many and it’s impossible to name them all, but bands that are always there are PAIN OF SALVATION, RUSH, KATE BUSH and classical singers, like Marco Beasley, Kathleen Ferrier and Jessey Norman. All musicians with more than one level to their playing and performance. They have to work hard to get to grips with and that really draws you into their musical souls. I really appreciate that in a musician and if I ever get to within one millimeter of their musicianship and talent, I shall die happily there and then (grin)."

Maybe you can tell us a bit more about the special guests, that appear on the album?
Eveline: "Marjolijn Kaiser is a fellow student, she also studies Chinese. We’ve been to China together. She plays the 4-stringed Chinese lute. Irma Vos was my violin teacher at the Conservatory of Alkmaar. She played the violin on “Infinity”."

Who’s responsible for the artwork on “Hunting For Significance” and please explain what you want to say with the picture on the front cover?
Eveline: "When I roamed around in the Academy building of the University of Leiden, which is an old monastery, I asked my fellow student to take a picture of me ‘studying like hell’ in this monastery hall. This became the front cover. It is me trying to prove myself to the world through my studies and my music. The rest of the artwork is done by Jankees Braam of Ixion (http://www.ixion-music.com), a very creative musician, who has done the artwork for many other bands as well, including that of the latest S.O.T.E. album, featuring Peter and Emile."

Let’s take a closer look at your live shows, if we may… Did you already play live and with whom did you actually share the stage?
Eveline: "We did play live before releasing the album, together with ENTROPY and S.O.T.E. Now we are rehearsing and trying to arrange some gigs together with the band SEGUNDA."

What can people expect, when they come to see an ILLUMION show?
Eveline: "No idea. I always had the hope to add some theatre elements to our show, but I do not know if it is feasable."

Is it hard to realise the sound of the CD on stage? I can imagine, that not every detail from the CD can be viewed in a live setting?
Eveline: "That is one of the main issues we have to solve in the rehearsal room. We will never attain the same sound on stage, simply because I do not have six hands."
Peter: "Well, it will not be the same, but what would be the point of a live concert if it was? It will not be less, just different. The necessity to condense various parts to one, is the beauty of playing live."

Do you also use any show elements during your live shows?
Eveline: "Stage garment and make-up is an important feature, but that is quite it."

Do you play any covers live or do you stick to your own penned material during your live shows? If you throw in any covers, which songs do you play then? With whom would you like to go on tour, if you had the opportunity? Name any kind of band, you like.
Eveline: "I would like to meet Tuomas Holopainen of NIGHTWISH and STEVE VAI. I think, the latter could teach me a great deal of stage performance techniques…. And I would like to borrow his wardrobe…"

I guess, there are some nice or funny stories to tell about life on the road. Maybe you’d like to share some of those moments here?
Eveline: "We never had a life on the road. But one time, when we were playing at Total Music in Schiedam, we played a cover of LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT and I worked my ass off on stage to play John Petrucci’s solo and a guy with a pint of beer in his hands shouted ‘titties’ to me. That I do not care for …"

What’s the biggest show you played so far?
Eveline: "Total Music, Schiedam."

Are there any important gigs on the agenda for you in the (near) future?
Eveline: "We will play in our hometown Leiden on the 18th of September, in de Victorie. We will present our album there."

How many times a week do you rehearse with the band?
Eveline: "Schedules permitting, once a week"

How do you get to work on new material? Do you just start writing new songs together or do you start jamming or what? Maybe you can tell us a bit more about your writing process? What comes first: the music or the lyrics or can this be in different order each time?
Eveline: "I write the framework of all the new songs, together with the vocal lines and lyrics. Up to now, we have first recorded them and then went into the studio to rehearse. The lyrics come first, whereas words seem to flow easier than notes in my case."
Peter: "I get Eveline's framework and start building an arrangement around it, then the recording starts, first drums, then rhythm guitars, bass, keys, leads and finally vocals. When the song is finished, we can start rehearsing…"

Do you already have any new ideas for the next album, and if yes what will it sound like?
Eveline: “I finished 2/3 of the new album already. There will be even more backing vocals and all songs are dedicated to literary themes and books.”

What are the future plans of the band on the short and long term?
All: "Get rich or die trying…."

Will you add more Chinese instruments and/or influences to your next studio album or was this strictly meant to be on this record?
Eveline: "I would love to, but my technical skills are not superb. And it will be impossible for me to perform it live."

What’s the rock scene like in Leiden area and which other interesting bands are from this part of the country?
Eveline: "As far as I know, there are not many good rock bands in Leiden. I think, that this holds for North and South Holland in general. There is no scene here for symphonic or progressive rock music. Consequently, there are not many bars, that offer live bands playing this kind of music."

Are there many clubs in Leiden, where you can play live?
Eveline: "I can think of only one and that’s Rockcafe Lazarus."

Where do you rehearse and how did you actually find this space?
Eveline: "Fortunately, the bassplayer and vocalist of our band have a rehearsal room and recording studio in their backyard and attic. They live near Hoorn/Alkmaar."

Metal Maidens is strickly focussed on the role of the female musicians in the (hard)rock and (heavy)metal scene. Do you think that women still need this kind of attention or do you feel, that women are already getting the attention and recognition, that they earn so much?
Eveline: "Without publicity, nobody will make it in this world. But I do think that women should get less insecure and just go for it. I do like female performers with an odd personality, such as Lisa Dalbello or Amanda Palmer. There should be more women like them."

Do you have any hobbies or interests, besides playing music in a band, that are worth mentioning here?
Eveline: "Well, I do read a lot and I am still trying to learn Chinese…."

Is there a market for a band like ILLUMION in The Netherlands?
Eveline: "I am afraid not, although people can read here in Holland, they seem not to know how to listen to music. But we do our best to thrust our music at everyone who has ears."
Peter: "There must be! We like this music, most of the record companies we sent it to liked it and almost all people who heard the album like it. So yeah, there must be a market for it. The trick is to get people to listen to it, so promotion is what's needed!"

Did you also get any response from abroad and which other country(ies) is (are) interested the most in ILLUMION?
Eveline: "I think Scandinavian countries show most interest in our band, but we also got some reactions from France, USA and Germany."
Peter: "And we even have website hits from over forty countries, including Armenia, Japan, Brazil, Argentina Mexico, Australia UK, Canada."

Did any of your Chinese friends listen to your album yet (I guess, you made a lot of friends over there during your study trip) and what do they think about your music?
Eveline: "An acquaintance of mine is a famous Chinese theatre performer and he loved our album!"

Did you already play outside of Holland, and would it be an option to play this music in China?
Eveline: "No not yet. It is very difficult to play in China, because the rock scene has not fully developed there yet. Most of the rock bands are still in a phase of 70s punk rock with an awful sound."

What’s the next step on the ladder of success for ILLUMION?
Eveline: "Sell millions of albums, record an album at Abbey road, organize gigs and let DREAM THEATER play as the supporting act."
Peter: "I think, you're being a bit optimistic there."
Eveline: “ I do think, you should have more confidence in our band, Peter!”

How important is the internet for a band like ILLUMION and who’s responsible for your website?
Eveline: "Most of the reactions come through Myspace, Hyves, etcetera. Therefore internet is a very important medium to disseminate our music. However, we realize that our music is also downloaded illegally."
Esther: “We hope, people will come to the conclusion, that downloading from the internet (or adding a link on their site to where you can download) is illegal, but I’m afraid a whole generation of youth is growing up thinking free downloading is there and it’s accessible and therefore it isn’t illegal. They either don’t understand or don’t care that musicians (and others that work in the field of intellectual ownership) are dependent on whatever money they earn through the legal sale of their music (art, architecture, etc.), in order to be able to afford to make their next piece of work. I fear the legal side of this will take many (more) years to define and progress internationally. It is a hard subject to grasp and next to pursue. Ok, I will stop being mum now and get back to the subject of music….”

Do you have any personal messages for our readers maybe?
Peter: "Go to your (web)store and order the album now!!"

The last words are for ILLUMION....
All: "Enjoy our music, that's what it is made for!"

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, Metal Maidens 'zine / June 2009.

Visit their official website at: www.illumion.net
or go to their My Space site at: www.myspace.com/illumion