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Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon)

Interview with Arjen Lucassen from Ayreon
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 27 December 2007, 10:09 AM

Arjen Lucassen visited Greece to promote his new science fiction AYREON masterpiece 01011001 and join, as a guest, AGUA DE ANNIQUE's acoustic show. As usual, METAL TEMPLE grabbed the opportunity to interview the tall guy and learn about AYREON and other stuff. Read on!

How did you decide to make this guest appearance with Anneke and her band?

I am on a promo-tour for the new AYREON album and since Anneke is here we thought that it would be a nice idea. It is the first time we are doing this and actually this is my first time here in Greece.

Hopefully this won’t be your last…

Yes, if the new album sells one million pieces… (laughs)

What is the story behind the title of the new album?

It’s in ASCII code and stands for the letter Y. It’s about the planet Y… I wanted to have a look at his planet do basically this is the story.

 This question comes from the video trailer of your new album; Where do we come from and how do we evolve?

It’s a well known idea that our DNA may have come from a foreign planet in a comet that hit the earth. I always like to get an idea like this and build a story around it.

How long did it take to compose the music of 01011001?

Usually, an AYREON albums takes me about one year.

So, what does come first? The music or the lyrics?

Actually, it’s the music that comes first; I think that I would be limited if I had the storyline in front of me. So, I have the music and I write the lyrics that go with the atmosphere.

 So, the story behind the album’s title does cover the concept of the whole album.

Yes, this album is a kind pf a story sequel to The Electric Castle; here we take a look at his planet (Planet Y). There, they are without emotions since they are depended on the machines that keep them alive for forever. A passing comet is on collision course with planet Earth and that gives them the opportunity to revitalize their race; this is like a reference to what I see is happening in America; people are becoming very depended on the technology and almost forget their feelings and thoughts. It’s like using science fiction to be a little bit critical about technology.

So, is this the future for earth?

No, no that extreme. But I do believe that technology is a friend and a enemy.

 What are your feelings about the use of technology and music?

I hate it. You know, the bands are not experimenting in the studio nowadays. They get whatever sound they like from a computer without trying at all. For example DEF LEPARD; On Through The Night is an excellent album but in the following ones they used so much technology that almost ruined their original sound. The bands should realize that are becoming too much dependent to technology and take a step back to make music more freely.

What is your opinion about the music nowadays?

Today, more things are possible with the help of computers but I think music has become so flitting. People don’t listen to entire albums but to specific songs making their own playlists without making contact with the band. Additionally,  they don’t get involve to the album and eventually the band, so the magic gets lost.

What about vinyl records? Don’t you thing that with vinyl records you get a better sound and actually the whole package is better.

I agree so much with you. You know, that I have already made an initial agreement with the record company to release the new album on vinyl; it would be a really special triple record release. I will fight to make this happen.

How do you choose the guest musicians in every AYREON album?

Sometimes I found someone that is interesting through the internet and especially myspace and other times the record company gives me a heads up for a certain musician who I should check out.

What about the singers? Do you have already in your mind a special character for the album and then choose the right voice for him?

No, first comes the music and then the singers; it depends on them how the music and the lyrics will be. All the melodies are built around their voice and this is how the character is born.

 Is there any musician that you would like to have in an AYREON album but for some reason you haven’t?

Oh yeah many.


Like the heroes I grew up with; Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan, Robert Plant and all those singers, you know…

 Have you ever asked them to join with you in an AYREON album?

Of course, but their roots are in the 50s; they listen to B.B. King or whatever and it’s pretty difficult to convince them since they are not familiar to AYREON’s music.

I’d love to listen to DIO in one of your albums.

Yes me too; I’ve already talked to him and he actually said that he knows AYREON and gave me his e mail address; but I sent him about 10 e mails and every time he raised his price, so…

Have your ever regretted one of your choices regarding a guest musician?

Yeah, but don’t expect me to say names… There were people that it demanded great personal effort to make it work with or some who I could not work with at all. Then, I have to say sorry we cannot use this and this is difficult; this actually happened three times. This is the main reason why I invite the musicians in my studio where we have to work together and see how it goes.

Did you use any exotic instruments in the new album apart from the classics (flute, violins)

This time I didn’t although I wanted to have some. You know that you have an interesting instrument here that I think is called bouzouki that I love to have in one of my songs; it would be really great! You know this is what I really love with AYREON; to get bigger every time and explore new sounds and territories.

Have you ever thought of getting AYREON into a whole tour and eventually make a DVD out of it?

There is one DVD with the new album but getting into a tour it’s impossible since there are 27 guest musicians. I could do something like STAR ONE and have some singers covering for all the guests; this could work. On the other hand, I don’t want to make another STAR ONE album because the first was really magic. I am afraid that I will fail to capture the same atmosphere and actually ruin it! I am actually against sequels; you cannot repeat the same atmosphere and feeling like you had with the first album.

Ok, what is the current status with STREAM OF PASSION? Are you working with them?

No, they have two new guitar players, they are writing new songs and dealing with the record companies by themselves. It was never the plan to be with them all the time because I already have AYREON and to be honest I don’t want to be a puppeteer and guide their every move. They are on their own now and are doing a wonderful job.

You made a video clip for the new album.

Yes it’s for Beneath The Waves; we have been working on this for almost one year and it’s about the water planet and the machines being built. There is not a clear storyline but it’s very atmospheric with beautiful images.

Have you ever though of making a movie with all these stories?

You cannot make a movie without money (laughs); I would love though to see one of my stories in the big screen; I would be in the theatre crying my eyes out…

What about writing a soundtrack for a movie?

I don’t think I can work on commission; it’s impossible for me to have people coming to me saying this is the story and this is how we’d like the music to be. I am an egomaniac with my music. They can always use my music if they want to.

So, is Arjen an easy person to work with?

Mmm, you can say no because I am a control freak, a perfectionist and I want to do things my way. 15 years ago I did things the way others wanted so now I want to go my way; but sometimes when I am working with a singer I change my initial thoughts by accepting their opinion.

Ok, thank you for your time talking to the METAL TEMPLE readers; say anything you’d like to.

I’ve heard that a lot of people had to get used to the album by listening to it a couple of times more to get a mature opinion about and then say that it’s the best AYREON one. So, I hope that in these days of iPods and iTunes more difficult music still gets a chance and people can still dive into a concept album.


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