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erik neuteboom View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Ayreon 1997/8 (Part 1)
    Posted: February 10 2006 at 08:57

     INTERVIEW WITH ARJEN ‘AYREON’ LUCASSEN         

      

                                                         (By Erik Neuteboom)

 

Arjen Lucassen is a highly acclaimed musician on Prog Archives so in my opinion it is time to let him talk about his childhood, his early bands, his successfull musical project Ayreon and several sidesteps like Ambeon, Steam Of Passion and guest appearances (Ars Nova, Glass Hammer). Part One of this interview is based upon two interviews I did with him in the late Nineties. Part Two contains an interview I will do in march this year when Arjen has finished his Steam Of Passion tour,  late February.

 

In the late Seventies and Eighties Arjen Lucassen got national fame with the hardrock bands Bodine and especially Vengeance but then there was a long silence ...  until Arjen presented his new experimental project called Ayreon in 1995. From the first CD entitled The Final Experiment he got a lot of media attention and the sales went well, very well. In fact Arjen Lucassen became the first progrock artist with big sales since Earth & Fire, Focus and Ekseption who got huge commercial success in The Seventies. In 1996 Ayreon released his second album Actual Fantasy, two years later followed by the excellent 2-CD Into The Electric Castle (A Space Opera), my personal favorite! In that time I did two interviews with Arjen for small progrock magazines, one in 1997 with Background Magazine and one in 1998 with Platenblad. Both times I was invited at his wonderful farmhouse, deep in the forest in the southern part of The Netherlands where life is far more ‘easy-going’ than in the big cities like The Hague and Amsterdam. Arjen needs such an enviroment in order to create his music and to stay away from all the hectic, caused by the enormous success of his musical project Ayreon. When I arrived at Arjen his home I couldn’t believe my eyes, what a wonderful farmhouse, large area and and modern studio.  Arjen showed me his guitars and vintage keyboards like a Minimoog and Solina string-ensemble, I was even allowed to play on his Minimoog! The first floor of his rebuild farmhouse includes a varied collection of rock and progrock albums and a large-screen television. Arjen was also just married, his wife owns a few horses that were grazing in a large meadow, life seemed to be very friendly for Arjen!

 

                                 PART ONE: The Early Years-Into The Electric Castle

 

Can you tell something about the little boy Arjen?

 

Help, haha, where do I have to start? I was born in Hilversum but raised in de Bloemenbuurt in The Hague. I was very much on my own and stayed most of the time at home. But after discovering the guitar I knew what to do ..!

 

At what age did you discover  that pleasant  world?

 

Far too late, I was at about 14 or 15 years old and had just discovered The Sweet. I was determined to make that kind of music but in fact too lazy to learn to play guitar. I joined a playback band and started to perform on school. I was the singer, wearing a wig and the juwels from my mother. No, this didn’t cause psychological problems! We did some try-outs and our first gig turned out to be a huge success, we decided to call ourselves The Flying Potatoes. Our repertoire contained songs from The Sweet and Slade and we visited other schools until on one day a guy walked towards me and said “The Sweet is music for queers”, he advised me to listen to Deep Purple. At first it was a bit heavy for me but eventually I embraced Deep Purple, especially their 2-LP Mde In Japan became my music!

 

Why did you like Deep Purple so much?

 

Everything, the power, the mighty sound, the guitar that is running through the whole music, the fat Hammond organ and the sceramy vocals. It’s a perfect blend of power and melody and I wanted to play guitar like Ritchie Blackmore, I had the idea that I could do that. This time I concluded that I had to start to learn playing guitar. Of course I started with Smoke On The Water on one string and then step by step more things. As all the other boys of that adolescent age I was very insecure but playing guitar made me happy and feeling good. After half a year of endless excercises I started to search for a band. This was a magical moment but at that time I didn’t know the difference between an electric and acoustic guitar, how to switch on an electric was a mystery for me but it fascinated me very much. In my first band we played a lot of covers from Bad Company and I was very pleased with myself. A bit arrogant you can say but in fact I couldn’t play very well. When I listen back to that music I think “sh*t, how bad” but I had the idea that I was the best! And I was focussed on speed, it couldn’t go too fast for me.

 

When was your moment to think about a professional carreer?

 

I had to finish my school because my parents were very clear about that. But from the moment that I listened to The Sweet I had a professional carreer in my mind. During my school period I had a lot of small jobs and it went more and more difficult for me to finish my school. I was very popular because of my playback band and at one moment I had 11 girlfriends! Thanks to a lot of cribbing and falsificating autographes from teachers for homework I finally finished a private school ‘for difficult children’ because they had kicked me from the regular school! That private school was terrible with a lot of scum and the building was just like the Second World War prison Colditz. They taught me discipline, that must have been the clue to my recent success I presume ..

 

When did things start to work for Ayreon?

 

I was playing in a schoolband named Mover. The teacher of the drummer also had a band and one day I decided to watch that band Bodine. I was blown away and asked for auditions as a singer.  But due to the fact that in those days many guitar-duo’s were popular, like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, I offered myself as their second guitarplayer after excercising their repertoire for two months. I loaded my equipment in my father’s car, drove towards their rehearsal room, started to join them and after some hours I was a member of Bodine! I got the advise to learn on simple notes and rhythm because I was too much focussed on speed. Again I went into a kind of musical identity crisis, “what a fool I was”. But I packed myself and for a year I only excercised and excercised until I everybody was satisfied. Unfortunately Bodine was a bit boring: most of the guys were at least 10 years older and they had another life, not really sex, drugs and rock and roll, we were always rehearsing or giving interviews and then everybody was gone! And the money was bad, I even had to ask for an unemployement benefit. But don’t get me wrong, Bodine evokes also good memories because at every gig many young women were screaming and I had no problems to choose the most beautiful for making some fun, haha! For me this was the best way to proove myself, nowadays I am much more on my ease with myself.

 

The next step was Vengeance. How did you manage to join  this known Dutch hardrock band?

 

One day we did a double bill with Vengeance while I was in Bodine. I was very impressed how they ‘rocked’ on stage and got into a conversation with the members after a concert. Soon after they called me and asked me or I knew a guitarplayer for Vengeance. I said ‘yes’ and phoned the members from Bodine that I had decided to call the band a day. I have had a good time in Bodine, I loved their groovy sound, I have learned a lot but for me Vengeance was the new challenge I was looking for. When I called Vengeance back and told them that I wanted to be their new guitarplayer they all cheered and said that they were very glad to have me in their band, I felt so welcome at that moment, great! Vengeance was a wonderful time but very hectic, all were young and loved to make R&R pleasure the whole time...

 

All cliches of rock and roll?

 

Yeah, mainly sex and alcohol and we broke down a few hotel rooms, one time we were even told that we couldn’t leave Germany because of some troubles we caused! But at one moment I was fed up with this rock and roll existence and I was also disappointed about my musical development. Everybody expected pure rock and roll music like the songs Crazy Horses and Heavy Rock And Roll Shower. It was party time on stage but I was unhappy, the band even asked me to write a song about a Wallbanger.

 

..?..

 

That is a cocktail, try to write something about such a weird subject! But despite all my frustrations in the end, Vengeance had made it. The albums sold well (worldwide 50.000 copies) and we got a lot of gigs, especially in Germany. And I was also allowed to write some serious stuff like Arabia, an epic-like composition. But due to the heavy rock and roll outbursts it went wrong with Vengeance.

 

What is your general impression from that period  with Vengeance?

 

I never look back but listening to Vengeance I have to admit that some material sounded a bit childish. Despite the huge success I have chosen for my private life and I was no longer happy in Vengeance: band members didn’t appear on rehearsals, there was agression and we suffered from constant tension between the band members and pressure to do gigs and make albums. It’s sad but we had a lot of offers from American labels and even the management from Iron Maiden ad Bon Jovi loved to let us sign! At that moment I had to evaluate “is this what I want or ..” and I decided to leave this kind of life. In 1992 we did a very successfull farewell tour, I have earned a lot of money in those days! Usually we put our money into the band but after the tour I could save my money for myself.

 

My record collection contains an album from the Dutch musical project Pythagoras featuring Rene De Haan on keyboards and Bob De Jong on drums. I discovered your name on the cover. What do you remember from that project?

 

At that time I was playing in Bodine and I had just learned to play a little bit slower. I used to go to the Moonlight Records shop in de Wagenstraat in The Hague. The owner Bob De Jong sold many interesting albums like the Krautrock. We talked about it and I told him that I played guitar, eventually he asked me to collaborate on his next album with Pythagoras. That was music in the vein of Pink Floyd, one of my favorite bands so I agreed. I went to the studio in Loosduinen in The Hague. There was also a Mellotron, owned by one of the members from Plackband, known as the “Dutch of mid-Genesis”. We started to jam and soon the rehearsal room was loaded with the smell of joints! I was not into drugs but I couldn’t avoid to inhale the smoke so after some minute I was ‘stoned’ and in that state I did my Floydian inspired guitar solo. Everybody was ‘high’ and all were yelling “great” and “groovy” but one moment I was so far away with my solo that Bob had to scream that I had to finish my solo!

 

Your first solo effort entitled Pools Of Sorrow, Waves Of Joy was extremely overlooked, what can you remember from that hard period?

 

After the demise of Vengeance I founded my own band named Plan Nine, it featured Peter Vink and Cleem Determeijer (both from Finch) and a background choir. I had made some demo tapes with my vocals, these reached the office of Ray’s Music. They reacted very enthousiastic and begged for more! I immediately started recording songs and eventually under my first name Anthony  I recorded and released that first solo album. It has nothing to do with progressive rock, It was a project just for the fun and included a wide range of styles like country and folk. It was played on the radio but failed to sell. In fact logical because my fans expected music in the vein of Vengeance so everybody yelled “hey, softie, what is this?”! My own band Plan Nine also turned out to be a disappointment, I realised that for me hometaping on my own with was the best way to make music! And I was determined to make a rock opera, a kind of musical dream.

 

So at this point Ayreon was in the embryonal phase?

 

Yes, more and more I began thinking about working out a project by myself with guest musicians. I have to mention that Cleem Determeijer was a huge support for me with his conservatory knowledge of music. The basic idea was a conceptual piece, similar to War Of The Worlds by Jeff Wayne or Jesus Christ Superstar but also the works from Nostradamus, it should play both in past as future. It started very small but gradually it became bigger and bigger. When I got stuck with my project, my wife helped me with the story line, at some moments she yelled from below on the staircase that she had some good ideas! I was very busy with the story and longed for every morning to continue with it, this was a very pleasant and exciting period But I still had no idea that it would be a commercial success and I was far away from developping it into a rock opera or a progrock album. I played the music to several people and they all said that the music evoked the Middle Ages, especially King Arthur. I went to the UK to investigate the legends of King Arthur. It was a very inspirational time for me and back in The Netherlands I started to write the lyrics. In the beginning I didn’t know what the end would be ..

 

You were not worried about producing a cliche subject: The Middle Ages, King Arthur and a conceptual project?

 

No, it just had to be. The story is about someone who lives in the Middle Ages and has a vision about the future. King Arthur has nothing to do with it, he is only present in one song.

 

How did it eventually come to the CD release of The Final Experiment, your first album as Ayreon?

 

First I recorded everything on an eight-track recorder. Then I searched for all the musicians I wanted and finally I went straight into the recording studio. I was afraid that the project would never finish, imagine that you have so many ideas and nobody will ever be able to hear it, a terrible thought! But evenutally I finished the project and went to SI Music, in that time the best selling progrock label although it went bankrupt in the late Nineties. I considered SI Music as my best chance and it turned out that the boss was very enthousiastic about my music, he was very willing to release it on his label. His offer was reasonable but no more than that so I started to contact and visit other labels. At one moment the known Phonogram was serious but they couldn’t trace a single in my repertoire so I got another ‘no’. With the help from Dutch hardrock magazine Aardschok I got in touch with the Japanese JVC, they offered me a good deal, including a nice amount of advanced money! I also had an offer from the German label Dream Circle but then came Hans Van Vuuren, the boss from Dutch label Pseudonym Records. He had build up his label due to clever re-releases from The Sweet along Kayak and Finch. He invited me at his office, listened to the tapes, reacted very positive and finally said “how much money do you need?”! When I came home I noticed a fax with a very good offer from Hans, a few minutes later followed by a fax with an even better offer from him! I was impressed by this man his enthousiasm and confidence in my musical ideas.

 

His direct approach and believe in your music appealed to you?

 

Indeed, most record companies will invest in you but don’t have a problem to dump you shortly after. Hans continue to show his wish to contact me and eventually I signed him in Europe and to JVC in Japan. We started with 1000 copies, it went very slow but gradually things began to develop quicker and the big boost came when the single Sail Away To Avalon (featuring Barry Hay from The Golden Earring) got airplay on the Dutch national radio. And with the help from mouth-to-mouth publicity and Dutch Aardschok magazine (Album Of The Month) my debut CD The Final Experiment started to sell. At the end of the year Aarschok even awarded it as Album Of The Year! I was not very pleased with the reaction from SI Magazine (allied with SI Music), they nailed my album while their boss was so enthousiastic about original demo tapes. But fortunately SI Magazine was the only that wrote negative!

 

The cover of The Final Experiment is a bombastic, dreamy painting with two different worlds. Was that a deliberate choice?

 

Yes, the logo is alike featuring Gothic characters for the name and computer characters for the title. The same goed for the booklet.

 

Let’s talk about the music, it delivers some heavy pieces but also some more mellow parts featuring the ubiquitous Mellotron.

 

The Mellotron, yeah, it is such a nostalgic instrument! It reminds me of the days of Rick Wakeman his early solo efforts and The Moody Blues. I miss the Mellotron in contemporary progrock and the same goes for the Minimoog. Contemporary progrock is more AOR than progrock.

 

The keyboards on The Final Experiment are done by you?

 

Yes, I handled all the keyboards. That meant a lot of programming for me. I also wanted analogue instruments like the Minimoog synthesizer and the Mellotron. It was not easy to get hold of these vintage keyboards but eventually I was able to purchase them and Cleem did a great job on it!

 

Earlier in this interview you mentioned briefly Barry Hay, singer and frontman of The Golden Earring and a known ‘womanizer’. What was your experience with this Dutch rock legend?

 

In the past Barry Hay had joined Vengeance on stage because he liked our music. When I was arranging the music for The Final Experiment I phoned him and asked or he was willing to collaborate on my album. He was positive and I went to his home in The Hague where we talked about my composition on which Barry would sing. Then he came to the studio, I have to admit that I was really nervous, also because I was a bit afraid that I had to conclude that Barry his vocal contribution would not match with my ideas! But it was a great experience to make music with one of the heroes of the Dutch rock history, the one who is responsible for the vocals on the ‘all time classic’ Radar Love! At one moment it was going the wrong way but Barry asked for “a kick in the ass” and then he did a magnificent vocal performance on my composition. Unfortunately Barry didn’t mention this during a tv interview when he was asked about musical sidesteps. He only said that “he was doing something that has to do with symphonic rock”, I think because symphonic rock it not ‘hot’ in the macho world of the rock stars.

 

Your first Ayreon album was such a commercial success that even John De Mol Junior, the # one tv producer in The Netherlands, wanted to do something with it!

 

Yes but I was not happy with the idea that my music was performed on Shell ‘parties’ while the music is also about pollution! And I didn’t want to let my music commercialize, you never know what they have in mind to earn money with your music. I preferred the ‘cult’ about my progressive rock album and was pleased with the reactions from all those progrock fans.

 

Your second album Actual Fantasy is more electronic and features less guest musicians. What was your reason for this?

 

After finishing my first album I intended not to repeat myself in musical terms and it should sound more bombastic. I started to search for all the interesting elements froms bands that I loved like the fat drums sound from John Bonham from Led Zeppelin with my heavy guitar dubbed over it. And I wanted to use the vocals more as an instrument. I clearly had a concept in mind and I still have the opinion that the result is good although some compositions are weaker than the rest. It also sold less but eventually the sales were two-third from The Final Experiment. I think that I had in those days some troubles with my inspiration.

 

The spanning time between your first and second album is one year but between your second and third two years, what is your explanation for that difference?

 

Of course I did my side-project Strange Hobby, this in order to have something musically interesting on my mind instead of falling into a black hole, like after leaving Vengeance. As a Sixties freak I decided to record my favorite Sixties compositions (with bands like The Move, Beatles, Status Quo, T Rex and Pink Floyd) from that wonderful, very adventurous and warm era. I gave them my own touch by adding heavy guitar layers, I loved to do it but it was just for the fun. Then my managar Hans Van Vuuren presented the idea to release these recordings under another name so nobody knew that it was me, Arjen Anthony Lucassen from Ayreon. We did the remastering in the famous Abbey Road Studios (The Beatles and Pink Floyd) with the assistance of Chris Blair. Unfortunately this project was totally overlooked, in the end I revealed to the media (like Muziekkrant Oor) that it was me who was responsilbe for the music on Strange Hobbit. When this project was over, I got in touch with Leon Goewie, ex-singer from my old band Vengeance. He was loading the shelves in a supermarket, I considered this a a huge waste of talent so I decided to help him and took some material from my forthcoming new 2-CD Into The Electric Castle. This led to the release of the new Vengeance CD entitled Back From Flight 19 but I have to say that I am not really proud of it because it has become not a good rock and roll album, it contains too many commercial tracks. If I had known that it eventually had become a new Vengeance album, I had written pure rock songs! During the removal the my new home I had so much time to spend that I started to write. It turned out that I was more and more prolific, the ideas came like cascades! At one moment I had so many ideas that I proposed Hans to make a double CD. He said I was a fool, also because of the double charges for everything.

 

But again you were looking for a challenge, something really progressive?

 

Yeah, nobody was positive about a rock opera and a double CD so we decided to do that because we were different, you know. I wanted a cover in the vein of Roger Dean. Thanks to my brother Kjald I got familiar with the work of Jef Bertels, an outstanding Belgian artist. He is, like me, very much on his own and working the whole time on ideas, we are professionals on the same level. I proposed Hans to price the 2-CD as a 1-CD and to share the costs. In the beginning I was a bit nervous but eventually I have earned the money 10 times back! My way of thinking is not very average, I want the best and I am prepared to take risks for that challenge.

 

On your third album Into The Electric Castle you return to the mighty sound of keyboards like the fat Minimoog synthesizer, the powerful Hammond, the majestic Mellotron and lately you have even bought a Prophet V synthesizer. Can you explain this ‘vintage’ taste?

 

It has to do with nostalgia, everybody knows the Mellotron work in early and mid-Genesis, the Minimoog from Rick Wakeman and the Hammond organ from Keith Emerson! And all those keyboards have their own, very distinctive sound. The modern keyboards have an impressive sound but in the total sound of progressvie rock you cannot distingish and often even hear these digital keyboards while the vintage keyboards are so powerful and expressive, you don’t need technical tricks.

 

The range of vocalists on Into The Electric Castle is impressive but at first you had some very famous singers in your mind?

 

Yes, I have a box that is loaded with letters from very famous persons like Donovan (he was too scary and advised Jon Anderson..!), Kate Bush and Paul McCartney. Tony Marton from Black Sabbath asked 20.000 pounds, this was a bit too much for me because he is not really a very known singer.

 

And what about Fish, is he still in the ‘Fishious’  circle of his own misplaced childhood?

 

The Fish is costly paid! It was very difficult to reach him, he is always busy, doing several things together: the radio and the tv are on and he in ‘on-line’ while reading a book. You got the idea that he doesn’t hear or understand you but for sure he does! His drinking habits were incredible, I had to give up very early but he didn’t stop, I think also because emotionally he went through a very difficult time: his latest record failed to sell and touring was very expensive for him. The first day I arrived it was chaos at his home: media, fans, Fish on tv and in the papers, his miserable financial state (he even had to sell his appartment) was hot during an interview on tv. That night we played a lot of records and it turned out that we shared many records from the past like Marc Bolan from T Rex, it was for both of us the first LP we ever bought!

 

Do you have the idea that you came closer to him at these moments?

 

Well, he is just an actor, a very good one who can also improvise very well. He can give you the impression that he likes you but at other moments he doesn’t notice you at all. To be honest, I was afraid that he had lost the power in his voice because of his drinking habits, enforced by many footbal teams that spend the night at this home! But he managed to do his job well, he is no Ronnie James Dio or Steve Walsh but he has his way to convince you with his acting talent and emotions. And that’s what I needed on my album, his expression and Scottish accent, wonderful. And he didn’t sing out of tune, a great performance for Fish in those days!

 

To me Fish seems a person who has huge problems with a critical note?

 

Oh yes, for sure! When he asked me my opinion about his vocal performance I said that I wanted to listen to it at my ease at home. He was obviously irritated, he must have expected an immediate positive respons. He looked at the technician and said with an evil grin “I hate this guy!”. He acted that he was joking but inside he was burning about this ‘rejection’. Anyway, it was a great time at his home, he also has a fine woman, from Germany. She is the one from the videoclip Kayleigh. I talked with Fish about his Marillion period. He said that he got an offer to make a reunion tour with Marillion but he refused. I tried to convince him that he could return to the progrock top if he was willing to make the same kind of progrock as Marillion but he only answered with “f**king Marillo’s!”... He has a very broad taste and is determined to put that into his music, he follows his heart. I am glad that many progheads said to me that Fish his contribution to my album was the best in years from Fish.

 

Another singer on Into The Electric Castle is Peter Daltrey from the legendary psychedelic UK Sixties band Kaleidoscope. Was he a kind of hero for you?

 

When I was in my Twenties I got more and more interested in the wonderful Sixties music and I went on for a quest to known and unknown bands from that era. I got familiar with the famous Nuggets CD compilation serie and on one of these CD’s I was impressed by a song entitled Jenny Artichoke, it turned out to be from from Kaleidoscope. I started to search for more from this band and one day I discovered an album from Kaleidoscope, .. in England, that made it even more special for me! I had to pay at about 50 dollars but I didn’t hesitate for one moment, I only thought “JUST DIG THAT LP!!”. It was excatly the kind of music that I loved and in the famous UK magazine Record Collector I read that solo albums from their singer Peter Daltrey were released in Japan. I phoned the record company and begged them to bring me in contact with Peter Daltrey and I immediately ordered and paid his solo albums. Two weeks later I got a letter from Peter in which he explained that I was the first who had bought his solo albums, Peter even didn’t own those albums himself! So I was very happy that I had succeeded to get in touch with Peter, one of my musical heroes, and decided to send all my Ayreon CD’s to him. Soon after he told me that he was delighted about the Ayreon music. We kept contact and I even did some guitar work on one of his albums. After I had send him a letter in which I wrote that I was searching for singers because of my forthcoming 2-CD Into The Electric Castle, he said “I own you a favour”. I proposed him to do the story-line, within two weeks he send me a huge bunch of lyrics! On my account he flew to Holland for a long weekend and even did some interviews for several music magazines.

 

How did you get in touch with famous Focus musician Thijs Van Leer?

 

That was arranged by Wim Stolk from Dutch progrock band Maryson. Thijs Van Leer joined Maryson on their latest CD and I managed through Wim that Thijs could listen to my Aryeon album The Final Experiment, it turned out that Thijs Van Leer was very positive. But then It was very hard to get in touch with Thijs: first his poshy wife was a bit reluctant (“Thijs doesn’t make that kind of music anymore and I am sure he won’t play on your album”..) and his manager didn’t allow Thijs to do some work on Into The Electric Castle. And eventually the new line-up from Focus was also negative about a contribution from Thijs on my new album. I phoned Thijs, explained my ideas about my new music and asked him or he knew another flute player who was able to replace Thijs. Suddenly he was interested and went to my home for some rehearsals. Thijs has a bit arrogant attitude but for sure he can play and improvise as the best! The interplay between us was great and I decided to add another song from our rehearsals. Then Thijs simply answered “Oh, but in that case you have to pay 500 dollars more..!”, using that poshy accent. But a few days later he told me that he had heard our rehearsals, he was very positive and had the opinion that “our un-mixed music is already on a high level!” ... Thijs opened the door for further musical dialogues!

 

Tell me something about the collaboration with Ton Scherpenzeel, once a famous keyboardplayer for Dutch progrock legend Kayak?

 

It is such a great musician and a very friendly person! My manager knew him from the Kayak CD-releases. I got his number, phoned him, told Ton that I was a Kayak fan and eventually send him my Ayreon CD’s. He was pleased with it so I dare to ask him for a synthesizer solo contribution for my new album. He explained me that he was not a typical solo player but more into ‘orchestrations’ and ‘melody lines’. But I succeeded to convince him by saying that I had noticed him doing some wonderful solo playing on the Prophet V synthesizer on several Camel gigs! At my home he managed to create a spendid, very fast synthesizer solo in a very short time and he refused to accept money for it.

 

Can you tell about Robbie Valentine? He is a very good musician who is  famous in Japan but almost unknown in the rest of the world.

 

It is a virtuoso who has a mega success in Japan with his releases. He looks weird wearing lots of make-up and long painted hair, obviously inspired by Freddy Mercury. When we did some rehearsals I played a few guitar chords and he turned these into entire symphonies, incredible! Originally I intended to let him arrange only one composition but in the end Robbie delivered four, including some keyboard soli, the first in twelve years but he easily played these one after another.

 

Another known keyboard player on Into The Electric Castle is Clive Nolan from neo-prog legend Pendragon and bands like Shadowland and Strangers On A Train. Why did you want him on your album?

 

During the Pendragon gigs I got more and more impressed by his soli on the Minimoog, high above placed on his wide range of keyboards. Again my manager Hans was the one who delivered me his phone number, I asked him about a certain synthesizer sound and he immediately knew which sound I was looking for. I send him a tape in order to let him play a synthesizer solo and soon I got it back, he added in a letter that he was a bit disappointed that his contribution was so small and asked for a larger contribution on a next album. He was shocked when I asked him how much money he had in mind for his work because he was used to do it for free. So eventually I send him 10 CD’s!

 

Back to the huge success from the 2-CD Into The Electric Castle: CD Of The Month in Aardschok (a known rock magazine in The Netherlands) and CD Of The Week in De Veronica Gids (a known Dutch TV Magazine). Is it still going strong?

 

In the known German music magazine Rock Hard it was Album Of The Month, that is great because Germany is one of the largest music markets in the world for hardrock. I was both delighted as a bit astonished about my sudden great success. Also the other German rock magazines were very positive and I did a lot of interviews. My sales from Into The Electric Castle are better than my first two albums together, this is ridiculous because it was without a single or a videoclip, radio airplay and concerts. But the great thing is that in The Netherlands I am in the Album Top 100 for eights weeks, that is the black on white proove that the sales are good.

 

How about the reactions from the music press in your native country The Netherlands?

 

In fact nothing but positive,only the known Dutch Music Maker had doubts about how many people are waiting on progressive rock. In their review it’s almost impossible to trace anything about the music, very disappointing from such a typical music magazine! Perhaps they prefer bands like Caesar... But I am very proud on Into The Electric Castle and don’t mind about Music Maker their doubtful review.

 

You have finished your 2-CD, do you intend to relax or are you already busy with new ideas?

 

I cannot simply relax and if you have fisnished your album you are glad that you are selling well. This also means that you have to do your PR so you are always busy with your music. The real joy is making the music, then you become a part of the public and the press.

 

What music do you like and do you know some recent progrock bands?

 

For me it started with The Beatles, then Pink Floyd and Yes a few years later. And let’s not forget ELP, they have so much power in their music. Genesis is very good too but in my opinion more a technical band, I prefer the atmospherical progrock like Pink Floyd. Recent progrock? And I try to collect all the bands from the famous German label Brain.

New progrock? Well, once a week I go to a record shop in Breda, they know my taste and I always go home with many CD’s. I love Porcupine Tree, really splendid music. And Cairo, Magellan, Spock’s Beard, I recently witnessed a gig in Utrecht. Also Radiohead, King’s X, IQ, Arena.

 

I am curious to your All Time Album Top Five?

 

A short while ago I have written something about that, let me see … oh, yeah: everything from The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin!

 

Would you be a bit more specific...?!

 

Well, OL, let’s go: Magical Mystery Tour from THE BEATLES, Wish You Were Here from PINK FLOYD, and III from LED ZEPPELIN. Then Spartacus from TRIUMVIRAT and the compilation The Atlantic Years from EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER. I also love JETHRO TULL and HAWKWIND...... and WHITE NOISE, one of the first psychedelic bands. And RAINBOW RISING, great!

 

My final question: what’s your ultimate musical wish?

 

I am fullfilling nothing but my musical dreams!! But I would like to work with David Gilmour, not only because of his guitarplay, I also like his voice very much. At this moment I am working out my idea to make one mellow and one heavy CD, you can buy them both or separate. The mellow one is more worked out in my head than the heavy one: music between The Beatles and Pink Floyd and lots of analogue keyboards. I have some difficulties with my inspiration, it is a vicious circle: in order to get inspiration you have to feel good  but you only can feel good when you have inspiration, do you know what I mean? You have to break through that vicious circle so at this moment I pick up 20 CD’s that I am only playing from eight o’clock in the evening. Before that time I am surfing on Internet and enjoying myself to play those 20 CD’s! And when it is 8 o’clock in the evening, I lie myself comfortably between my sound equipment!

 

 

In March this year I will publish a new interview with Ayreon (Arjen Lucassen) about the period between 1998 and now. At this moment Aren is touring with Steam Of Passion unti late February.

 

 

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 10 2006 at 13:12
Great, long and interesting Interview Erik!!!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 10 2006 at 13:19

Good interview, Erik, I appreciate your work.

I am eagerly awaiting for the second part of the interview.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 10 2006 at 14:23
[IMG]http://www.painofsalvation.com/news/images/a-collage-change.jpg">
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 10 2006 at 14:40
Thanks fellow progheads, always good to see some reactions ! I am too looking forward to Part Two  !
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 10 2006 at 16:24
Time couldnt be better, just last weekend I got Into the electric castle and The human equation...and now I am such a Ayreon fan!!!
"You want me to play what, Robert?"
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 11 2006 at 11:40
Awesome



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 11 2006 at 13:13
Great stuff Erik, a super read.Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 11 2006 at 14:43
Great interview. I also like the DVDs on Arjen's SE albums.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 14 2006 at 05:22
fantastic interview Erik, cant wait for part 2.
Spending more than I should on Prog since 2005

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 14 2006 at 06:42
Thanks, fellow progheads  ! At htis moment I have started to prepare Part Two that will be more focussed on making his music with Ayreon.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 14 2006 at 08:17
Your interview rules, Eric!
"All you need to do is sit back, and acquire the taste." - GENTLE GIANT
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 14 2006 at 08:48
 wow  i bet your fingers hurt
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 15 2006 at 18:37
Eric,  :)

You did a great job. Thank you.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 16 2006 at 20:12
Very interesting to hear Fish's opinion on Marillion these days... 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2006 at 17:38

Erik, great work, and thank you for this first part, im waiting for the second.

Now i know why your name is in the Arjen´s thanx in The Universal Migrator


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 22 2006 at 17:42
Oh, thanks Memowakeman, I was not aware of that!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 23 2006 at 04:45

Well, this is one of the best interviews I've read in a long time.
Next to the fact that the questions are good and Arjen sounds like someone who won't give a one-liner as an answer, you seem to have pulled it off to create a certain atmosphere during the interview, which results in some very interesting lines.

Abolutely marvellous. I am looking forward to part two, which I think will be even more interesting for me personally, because I absolutely love his work over the last couple of years.

Thanks!


Focus on the music... Focus!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 23 2006 at 05:00

Thanks, the forthcoming weeks I am going to prepare Part Two by listening to his albums and thinking about questions, I hope it will be ready end May because in the meantime I will have a 3 weeks holiday (in Aruba where my Dutch wife was born and raised). The many positive reactions are a big boost to my, the perfect inspiration  !

"En bedankt voor de prettige woorden, Man Made God!"

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 23 2006 at 06:03

I can't think of a more perfect holiday: listening to The Human Equation while sunbathing on Aruba. Lucky you!

What I personally am interested in is the difference in the approach of prog music between the icons he has worked with in the past, and the 'new' faces like Akerfeldt & LaBrie.
Good luck with the preparations.


Focus on the music... Focus!
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