Mark & Frank :) Thank you for the interview!
Who does the song writing in MaYaN – are you the sole songwriters in MaYaN or are there others involved?
Frank: Mark, Jack and I are still the main songwriters, and for Dhyana we got more MaYaN members joining in. Roel wrote 2 songs which ended up on the EP, I wrote some songs together with George too, Marcela joined in (mainly vocal lines, also for other singers), etc. We are always open to ideas from others, and want to get the best out of everyone. Joost van den Broek, our producer, helped out too with working out details and ideas to get the songs to the next level.
Mark: It’s mostly a group effort indeed. Some songs we write together and other songs get written on our own. I wrote some songs on this album on my own, such as “Tornado of Thoughts“,“Dhyana“,“The Power Process“, “The Flaming Rage of God“ and “The Illusory Self.“ But even in those songs, Jack, Frank and Roel added things and all of the singers in the band write their own vocal lines. It’s a very inspiring process.
How do you approach writing? Do you have an idea first or is it a guitar riff that starts things off?
Frank: When I write songs by myself it’s indeed mostly first a guitar riff (or sometimes keyboard), then I program drums underneath, and go from there. We also write together, for instance when Mark, Jack and me sit together, it can start out with some keyboard chords by Jack, and then we add drums and guitars underneath, or sometimes it’s just a melody and you work from that. But yeah, most of the time it’s guitars and drums, and the rest then follows. And then vocals get written on top of that. And then we work out details where needed.
Mark: I start with either a keyboard or guitar. It depends on my mood and inspiration.
When you’re writing a song, do you have a clear idea of who will do each bit of the vocals, or does that change during the process of recording?
Frank: Yes and no; we’ve tried to find a balance so that every vocalist gets an equal amount, but I must say that it comes naturally when writing the music too, most of the time. When I write some intense death metal song for instance, you want to keep it dynamic, so some softer part or more melodic/catchy chorus will be written too in that song to keep it interesting (and not get tired of just blastbeats and fast double kicks for the whole song). And those parts ask for different vocal styles. Since we have so many vocal options in our band, we can choose which voice suits it best. But for instance for the ballad ‘Dhyana’ the idea behind it was that it was for the ladies. Like ‘The Power Process’, Mark wrote that one with the intention of having the ladies take the lead vocals.
With so many talented vocalists it must be quite difficult to get it right in terms of working out who should sing each part – and I can imaging changing things round could completely change how the song sounds.
Mark: Yes indeed, it can change a lot depending on which singer sings which part. But we don’t think too long about the options, we just let it happen, and with the few parts that we are in doubt about, we experiment until we are all happy.
On Dhyana you recorded with a live orchestra for the first time with MaYaN. How do you think the end result compares to using sampled orchestra instruments?
Mark: I think you can compare it to soccer, if you play on a plastic grass field it’s never the same as playing on real grass. That’s the same with samples vs. a real orchestra. The real orchestra contains real people and they give it that extra 30% of beauty which can’t be recreated by samples. Samples, despite how beautiful they can sound nowadays, still lack that human touch. And funnily enough, even the minor mistakes that people make while playing the scores add to the overall atmosphere. In the end you don’t hear the mistakes but when everything is too perfect you do notice it.
Was it frustrating being on tour with Epica and not being able to attend the orchestra recordings?
Mark: I couldn’t attend as we had to spend our budget wisely, I was actually free at that time but we had used all our available fee to record the orchestral parts. It was a pity indeed as I would have loved to be there, but what with Joost and Jack being there I knew it would be totally fine.
The lyrical themes on MaYaNs albums avoid the standard rock/metal subjects of drinking, partying and sex and instead tend to be more complex. Can you tell us a bit about how you decided on the subjects to write about on Dhyana?
Mark: I like to write about things that I read about in daily life. Even though I also like the good things in life every now and again, I also love sports and that doesn’t match up with drinking too much alcohol. Drugs, I don’t use at all. So these subjects I also don’t like to write about. I see no challenge in them. I ran into some books of Eckhart Tolle and he mentioned “Dhyana” as the moment of now without worries about the past and the future. We, human beings, worry too much and spend too little time in the actual moment. In the actual moment we can experience pure happiness; all “happiness” we generate by thinking about things that can/might happen in the future, are just illusions. It only gives you the illusion of feeling better. Many people nowadays are on anti-depressive medication, and this just makes people feel better for a while – it doesn’t take the causes away. If you don’t go to the root of the problems, they won’t go away. Only by discovering fully where the problems come from and allowing yourself to feel it, we can solve these things.
You launched the album with two live shows (plus a tryout). How difficult was it to organise dates that all the MaYaN members could manage?
Frank: We planned it a long time before, so it was enough time to work that out. Only Merel at first had options with Delain, so she couldn’t confirm playing with us, but we’d already had Arjan Rijnen back her up before, so we figured out the new album too for these shows. Later on Merel was free anyway so at the end she joined in for the three encores. That was fun with three guitar players on stage :)
It must be quite difficult in general to arrange MaYaN tours that fit around everyone’s touring commitments with bands like Epica and Delain?
Frank: Well we first stumbled onto that problem some years ago, and solved that with our extra band members and backup musicians. So when Mark couldn’t make it with MaYaN, George could take over all grunts. When Henning couldn’t make it, Adam jumped on a plane. And Jord Otto and later Arjan Rijnen both filled in for Merel for lots of shows. So there’s now always a way that MaYaN can perform :)
It was great to see all the MaYaN members involved, but the stage looked very crowded.
Frank: Yep, it was quite a line-up haha. De Helling isn’t the biggest stage around but we made it work anyways.
With most songs featuring around 10 people on stage at the Utrecht show I was amazed there were no accidents with people bumping into each other or getting long hair caught in guitar necks. Do you plan in advance where people will move or is it just experience as people do their own thing?
Frank: There’s no planning, it’s all experience and runs naturally. But hair did get caught in guitar necks and bumping happened sometimes ;)
You’ve got two Netherlands shows announced for February as well as playing 70,000 tons of metal in January. Are there more shows to announce for next year?
Frank: Yes; Metal on the Hill festival in Graz (Austria) on August 16/17, ProgPower USA on September 5, and some more tours/shows which are almost 100% confirmed but we can’t tell you just yet. You can keep track on www.mayanofficial.com
MaYaN’s new studio album ‘Dhyana’ is out now via Nuclear Blast, available HERE