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Topic ClosedInterview with Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon - 14/04/08

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Queen By-Tor View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Interview with Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon - 14/04/08
    Posted: April 14 2008 at 17:49
I had the chance to interview the one and only Arjen Lucassen or Ayreon about his new album 01011001 and related matters. So here it is!

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PA: First Iíd just like to thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for our website!

AL: No problems! No Problems!

PA: First thing I wanna ask: What were the pressures that you have to deal with on this album? Like pressure with time or expectations from the fans, press and what have you.

AL: Luckily I have nothing to do with time pressure, I am my own boss, so thatís cool, I have my own studio. So thereís no rush and as soon as Iím ready with the album I call up the record company and I say itís ready. You know? So luckily if I want to spend like, four years making it thatís no problem. So luckily thereís no time pressure

About pressure form the expectations from the fans: um, there isnít pressure for me at all. Itís like a challenge. I really need that challenge to come up with something good. Besides that I mostly try not to make a ďbetterĒ album but to make a ďdifferentĒ album.

PA: After a very well received album like The Human Equation - which was a story told more about one person and their life - why did you decide to go back into space with 01011001?

AL: Because Iíve always been such a huge science fiction fan. Ever since I was a little kid and I used to watch Star Trek on TV and I saw Spock and Kurk and [he laughs] and ever since that time I was hooked on science fiction. Basically for the previous album, The Human Equation I tried to do something different. As Iíve said I never try to make a better album Ė always make a different album. And this time, to be honest, I couldnít wait to get back to the whole science fiction thing. Also I wanted to explain the story, the big storyline a bit, which started on ďThe Electric CastleĒ and this album was the perfect way to connect all my previous albums and complete the story more or less.

PA: It does feel like the album does span over the whole saga, all the other albums are referenced in there, eh?

AL: Yes, yes, thatís right.

PA: So is the story concluded or is it just coming to a climax now?

AL: UmÖ I think itís reached a conclusion. At the time of the last song itís reached a circle and I think thatís exactly what happened. If I would have gone into the story even more I think I would alienate people from the whole story line.

I think you can compare it a bit with X-files, you know? At a certain point the whole story line became so complicated. I would like to avoid that. So from now on I know I have to come up with something new. And I have NO idea whatÖ but thatís the challenge for me.

PA: So in the future do you think youíre going to start a new story or youíre going to expand on this anymore?

AL: No, I think that this story is complete and I donít know if Iím going to start a whole new story line or just like Ė Like the human Equation, you know, was a sidestep. I have no idea. I donít think I will start a new story line. I think Iíll do somethingÖ Iíll do something different. Maybe itíll be a science fiction again or maybe a horror story, but I guess it wonít be part of this whole big story again.

PA: The saga is so intricate. Did you have the story for 01011001 in mind while working on, say, Into The Electric Castle? Did you have this thought out or does it come as you write it?

AL: Itís always while Iím writing it. The whole process is step by step. When I was doing the first Ayreon album I didnít even know that I would be doing more Ayreon albums, I had no idea. When I did ďInto The Electric CastleĒ I had no idea was going to be exploring this story later on. That was mainly for doing 01, the last album, because I wanted to explain what happened on The Electric Castle. ďOkay itís about this alien who is doing an experiment with the human race,Ē but it was never explained - why did he do this, why did he lose his emotions? it was also never explained Ė what does his planet look like? With this album I wanted to take a peek behind the scenes and explain the previous albums a bit more.

PA: So in your opinion, just a worldly question here, do you think this world will eventually become like the planet Y? Or was your story just a story?

AL: Um, well, I hate to be preachy and I also hate to bring across my personal view in my music, you know. Cause Iím a musician, not a politician. So I try not to put my personal view in it. Bu I try to base it more on facts and facts that I see happening around me Ė like the dependence on technology. Itís a fact, you know, weíre becoming more and more dependant on technology and whether itís a good thing or a bad thing: I try not to give my view on that.

I think it has both good and bad sides. Itís also a well known fact that human kind is headed for the sixth extinction, the fifth extinction is, of course, the extinction of the Dinosaurs, the sixth will be the extinction of mankind and I do think weíre headed for that extinction. But itís nothing like my storyline. So your kids will be okay [he chuckles]

PA: [I laugh] On a different topic, itís really clear that Ayreon has a lot of folk feel in the music, in songs like Loser and a couple from the new album like The Truth Is In Here, where does that come from?


AL: I think it came form Thin Lizzy which I really really adore, one of my favorite bands. I think it came from Jethro Tull, Iím a big  Jethro Tull fan, Iíve got all their material. But also the real folk stuff, I also like those kinds of bands. Iíve always liked the whole folk thing Ė like the melodies and the chords and the flutes, you know. Yeah. I donít know why it is.

PA: So a question about some of the musicians youíve worked with so many people over the years. Have things ever come down to a battle of egos? How does that work?

AL: Um, well there was certainly a couple of big egos there [he laughs] but Iíve never had any problems with anyone. Which is kind of hard because I only see them for two days. One day they start recording Ė they sleep at a hotel or at my place Ė and the next day we finish the recording and the go back home. So thereís no time for horrible fights Ďn sh*t [he laughs] you know. Because Iíve had my share of fights with the bands Iíve been in. Iíd been in Vengeance for 9 years and with Bodine before that and there were, like, loads of fights and I was getting so tired and so sick of it. So I decided to work with different musicians each time.

Not just for that reason, also because it keeps the music very spontaneous and also because my music has many different styles and many different emotions and I need all these musicians to portray all these different emotions. You know. But the bigger the ego the better for me. [He laughs] the bigger the ego is of the singer the more personality and charisma he has, I guess.

PA: Working with such big acts are you ever struck speechless by any of your guest's ability to perform?

AL: All the time. All the time. If you work with people like Jorn Lande or, before that, Russell Allen, or Bruce Dickinson itís like, ďMy god!Ē you know? [He laughs] These guysÖ theyíre real geniuses. I mean, often people call me a genius and I always say ďHey man I am not! Really I am not!Ē and I know because Iíve been working with geniuses and you see them come into my studio and ... umÖ yeah! Itís amazing, really, itís amazing. All the time. Not just the well known singers but also the new talent. Itís such an honor you know, being able to work with all these musicians.

PA: On a similar note: You had really big names this time around on the prog side of things. What was it like working with Phideaux Xavier and Daniel Gildenlow?

AL: PhideauxÖ Iím a huge fan of this guy since his last album, Doomsday Afternoon, was my favorite album of the year. I loved it. Itís funny, he sent one of these CDs years ago, and I get so many cds sent to me I never have time to listen Ė but at the time I had time to listen and I was, like ďOh my god this is so great!Ē And it turns out this guy was a big Ayreon fan and he was even on the Ayreon mailing list. So we started writing with each other and I became a big fan of this guy and I did a little bit on his last album and in return he sang a couple lines on my new album.

Daniel Gildenlow as been on my list for years, he was also on the list for Human Equation but I didnít feel I had a part for him. You know, Pain of Salvation is so interesting. The music is uncommon and itís so deep, there are so many layers and you have to hear it a couple of times before you can appreciate it. And the same goes for my music, I think. And of course, good guy, heís a very very emotional singer and like I said, very charismatic.

PA: So whatís the biggest difference between working with a progressive singer and a metal singer?

AL: Um, I think each singer has a personality of his own whether heís a progressive singer or a metal singer or a folk singer or whatever. Theyíre all so different from each other so itís hard to group them. Thatís very hard. For instance Ė Fish - I worked with Fish from Marillion on the third album Ė he is a real character, you know [he laughs] heís a such a personality, such a huge charismatic guy. I can imagine that a lot of other prog people I worked with are much more introverted you know. I think thereís a difference between every singer whatever style he sings, or she.

PA: You've said that you've attempted to get Steve Wilson on board for a project or two but he didn't feel that he was "good enough". Are you going to make an attempt to recruit him again in the future?

AL: Um, I asked him for Electric Castle I remember, and I sent him two of my CDs. I sent him my ďStrange HobbiesĒ project, which is like a psychedelic 60s kind of project and I sent him my second album Actual Fantasy. He loved my stuff, he said, ďyeah thatís fantasticĒ Ė and those were the days of letters, there wasnít even e-mail yet, he sent me a letter Ė and then I sent him some stuff from Electric Castle that I wanted him to sing on. And it was just to Prog for him, heís not a big prog lover, unfortunately. I asked him again for the next album, he said, ďno, no man, this just isnít my kind of music.Ē  And thatís his choice and I appreciate it. But thatís a shame, you know, because Porcupine Tree is one of my favorite bands over the last years. And again, Fear of a Blank Planet is not a perfect album. So yeah, Iíve given up. Iím not going to bother him anymore [he laughs] unfortunately.

PA: You've done many guest appearances and you say that it's not often for money. How do these collaborations usually arise?

AL: Well, a lot of them were repaying the favor. A lot of people have played on my albums or sang on my albums so to return the favor I play or sing on their album. Which is a great way to keep the wallets closed and reach out with a favor, that kind of thing.

At a certain point I felt that I was going too many guest appearances. Simply because I couldnít say no [he laughs] and as you said, I did it all for free. I did too much stuff. The reason why I noticed it was too many was because I started reading reviews where they were saying like, ďHey, we found an album were Arjen Luccasen is not playing!Ē [He laughs] and thatís where I thought, ďIím doing too much.Ē

PA: [I laugh] About touring! Touring with an act like Ayreon would be somewhat... difficult. Would a full out Ayreon tour be a dream of yours if it was physically possible?


AL: No! It would be a nightmare! [we both laugh] Iíve done it for 17 years. Ever since I was 18 I got into my first professional band and I toured until I was 35. In various bands Iíve toured the whole world. And it was fun when I was a kid and it was all sex, drugs, rock Ďn roll Ė and that was cool. But at a certain point I started feeling like an actor. Like, with vengeance we played 9 years and played 100 times a year and we played he same song a thousand times and, you know, it didnít feel right! I want to be creative! I want to write new stuff and record new stuff, not play the same sh*t all over again.

Basically my reason for the Ayreon project was Ė I was tired of touring and I was like, ďHey, letís do something like this, letís do a rock opera and not worry about touring with it!Ē so thereís no restrictions. I donít have to play it twice so I can do anything I want. Like on the last album I had 17 singers because I donít have to play live. And I have like, so many guest musicians: I have violins and cellos and flutes and all this stuff, because I donít have to worry about it live so I have no limitations recording these album.

Of course doing an Ayreon Live, you know, with the original musicians is impossible because they all have their own bands and even to get them in my studio for one day is really hard, it takes months of preparation. So to tour with the original cast Ė impossible. The only way you could tour with it would to be like a theater production, and to hire a bunch of actors for a year and rehearse for half a year, tour for half a year Ė that would be an option. But playing live is just not my passion anymore.

PA: I heard that there were plans for ďInto The Electric CastleĒ to be made into a feature film, which never happened. If that ever arose, if you had that opportunity, would you ever take it?

AL: Well, thatís not my opportunity because I record albums Ė thatís what I do. I have no idea how to make a movie [he laughs] thatís up to someone else. But of course, if someone were to make a movie of my albums that would be ďYes!Ē that would be a dream come true, definitely. But someone have to be interested like a producer and director would have to be interested. Then youíd have to find sponsors because something like that cost millions, because theyíre huge stories! The last album was a story about a water world and the end of the world! [he laughs] You need a lot of special effects Ďn sh*t. That would cost millions. But if someone would be interested that would be a dream come true.

PA: What's next for you? Taking time off or resuming your hectic schedule?

AL: Well, as I said Ė I like to be creative. If Iím not creative I get restless. So I havenít had a holiday in 10 years I think. I guess I should have one because my body startsÖ complaining [we both laugh], little aches here and there, itís like, ď hey man! donít you think itís time for a holiday?Ē But I want to be in my studio and I want to create and I want to play with my old analog synths and my mini-moog and my Hammond and I want to create sh*t! You know? Thatís when Iím most happy. But you canít always create, you canít always have inspiration. And thatís pretty awkward every now and then.

Thatís what I call ďThe Black HoleĒ especially after doing an Ayreon which takes me one and a half years and which takes all my energy and after that youíre empty! You canít just continue and do a new project. So, yeah, what Iíd love to do is go strait into a new project but I need inspiration for that. So Iím waiting for that! Once I get the inspiration it will guide me into my new project. But I never plan because it never works out anyways. I planned so many things in the past Ė Star One was going to be a Bruce Dickinson solo album, Ambeon was going to be an instrumental album this last album was going to be a solo album. So I just stop planning, I just start recording and after a while itís like ďhmm! I think turns out to be, whateverĒ. I just know that I would love to do a solo album one day. Maybe that time has come now, I have no idea.

PA: If you did do another solo album do you think to would be better received just because your name is bigger now?

AL: Of course, yeah! But besides that, my previous solo album sucked! [We both laugh] That might have something to do with the fact that it flopped!

But I was really lost at the time I really didnít know what to do. Itís such a weird album it has pop songs and it even has country songs and folk songs andÖ I was lost. I really lost the plot there. This time Iím much more focused. And it would be a challenge for me to do an album without the guest vocals. Sometimes to limit yourself is a challenge. Itís a challenge to do an Ayreon because thereís so many styles but maybe itís even more challenging to do something with less styles.

So yeah, Iím going to try. But Iíve tried so many times before and I fail hopelessly because then I hear this great singer and itís like ďAH! I want to work with him!Ē and then there goes my plan [he laughs].

PA: So Iíve just got a couple more questions for you. I pulled these ones off our forums, some of our members had a few questions they wanted to ask you. This first one comes from member Roland113 in Pittsburgh:

"On 'Into the Electric Castle' I believe that Fish has the most commanding voice.  On the other hand, due to his prestige, I would guess that he has the highest price tag.  Was the decision to kill off the Highlander first an artistic or monetary decision?"

AL: [Laughs heavily] That was definitely monetary! Yes.

No, if he would have had the time and if he would have been less expensive I would have had him sing more, definitely. No, Fish was very expensive, he was one of the most expensive singers Iíve worked with.

PA: Was it worth it?

AL: Definitely! 100% yes!

PA: Member Nightfly (Paul) in the UK asks:

" Arjen, one of your many talents is finding so many great vocalists to sing on your Ayreon albums. You did the Stream of Passion album with the amazing Marcela Bovio after her appearance on The Human Equation. One of my favorite vocalists on 01011001 is Anneke Giersbergen; would you consider a similar project using her or any of the other singers from those sessions?"


AL: I always love to work with Anneke, and sheís been my favorite Dutch vocalist for years. After she sang on The Electric Castle she didnít want to do any guest appearances anymore because her band would not let her. But now sheís left The Gathering, so now sheís more open to do guest projects. But yeah, I would love to work with her again.

But! As I said, I love to work with new singers because itís much more spontaneous to work with new voices, So yeah, sheís one of my favorite singers so I would like to work with her again, but maybe in a little while.

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Special thanks to Arjen for giving us this interviews, and best of luck to him in all of his future endeavors! I certainly hope that I get the chance to speak with him again!

Another special thanks to Easy Livin' and [email protected] without whom this would not have been possible.

And of course our leads at SPV/InsideOut Records who gave us the interviews in the first place. thanks!



Edited by King By-Tor - April 15 2008 at 11:38
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 14 2008 at 19:32
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Cool interview, well done!
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 14 2008 at 19:39
Great interview.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 14 2008 at 19:45

Great! Clap

I liked the reference to "Strange Hobby", a CD I really enjoy... Star
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 14 2008 at 20:00
Clap Well done, King By-Tor - you'll be awarded a medal for this on Dutch Queensday next week. Wink
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 15 2008 at 03:42
Superb!! This was King By-Tor's first venture in interviewing. He has a natural talent for it.Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 15 2008 at 11:44
Nice, hope to see many more interviews like this Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 16 2008 at 09:26
Love his music or hate it, the guy is just a class act.  Great work By-Tor
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 17 2008 at 14:58
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 18 2008 at 13:45
Excellent interview; very interesting! Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 18 2008 at 22:53
Awesome job Mike Clap,can an interview with RUSH be that far away .
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 19 2008 at 00:41
Embarrassed

Thanks everyone! Glad you enjoyed it!

Sorry about the delay on the Riverside interview... schedules conflict and such Confused

Originally posted by Johnobvious Johnobvious wrote:

Love his music or hate it, the guy is just a class act.


Very true, he was a very good guy to talk to! He also had a very good sense of humor and was quite down
to Earth despite his Spaced out music

Originally posted by Sinkadotentree Sinkadotentree wrote:

Awesome job Mike Clap,can an interview with RUSH be that far away .


LOL

here's hoping Thumbs%20Up. They are coming by Vancouver after all!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 23 2008 at 07:51
Very cool interview, thank you.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 26 2008 at 05:34
Great, Arjen is a Tull Fan! So why not ask Mr. Anderson to join on his next Ayreon AlbumTongue
Give me all the Forests, give me all the Trees give me everything as long is it for free
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