ARJEN LUCASSEN (Eng.)

Hi Mr. Lucassen and thanks for your attention and time. We can start with the questions if you agree.

Sure, Alex!

 

– Your career is one of the most important ones into the progressive Rock/Metal world. You started in 80’s when you were playing in BODINE and recorded two albums with them, you also were in VENGEANCE, with whom you recorded four albums. How do you remember your beginnings? And what are your memories of both bands?

First of all thanks for the compliment! Well, in Bodine I was the youngest bandmember and I had no music and touring experience at all. So I learned a lot in that band. But I felt rather limited as a composer. When I joined Vengeance in 1984, I was the one with the most experience and I was a lot more free to experiment and compose. It was a wild time, with lots of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Good times, but also bad times. All in all I’m glad I went through that wild period of touring, and I’m  equally glad I’ve left it behind me!

 

– But the 90’s was your decade, especially the end of it. You created your most popular project:  AYREON. What prompted you forming this project?

We couldn’t get a record deal with Vengeance anymore, the music climate had completely changed since the 80’s. We tried to adapt and do what we thought the people and the record companies wanted to hear, but that didn’t work at all. So I finally wanted to make an album that was a 100% ME! No compromises and no concessions with anyone, a total ego-maniac album. I was afraid that no one would ever understand or like this eclectic combination of styles in Ayreon. But to every one’s surprse, including my own, it slowly became a big success in the end!

 

– But I read that the AYREON’s success didn’t occur immediately. At first your project didn’t have good luck and your first albums with it didn’t give you the results that you could expect. What happened? And how did you get to change this situation?

Oh no, the first album was a big success, it just took a while. And also it took me a year to finally get a record deal for that album! No one even wanted to touch it. The idea of doing a progressive rock opera was just preposterous in the days of the grunge of Nirvana and Pearl Jam!

 

– Now AYREON is one of the most important Progressive Metal projects. What do you think was the key to success? And how do you get to have such good musicians as collaborators?

I think it worked because it didn’t follow any trends, it turned out to be a timeless project. Every one was too busy being fashionable, and no one realized that a lot of people were waiting for more meaningful and adventurous music. Well, at first a lot of musician friends whom I worked with through the years helped me out. But when I was getting more successful I was able to get more famous musicians. I guess they liked what I was doing 🙂

 

– And the last question about AYREON. You have cooperated with several well-known musicians throughout your career. Steve Lee, the forever real leader of the Hard Rock band GOTTHARD, participated at one of your best albums entitled “01011001”. He died two years ago in a tragic accident as you must know. Did you know Steve? What do you think he means for the Rock music? What do you think about Lee as a person, if you got to know him, and as a professional musician?

This horrible accident could not have happened to a nicer guy. I met Steve for the first time back in the eighties when we played in Italy with Vengeance, my band at the time.He still was a drummer and a goldsmith back then and I immediately recognized his amazing vocal talent after I heard him sing on a demo they gave me. A bit later he stayed at my house for some days because I asked him to sing in my band, but (luckily) he chose to form his own band with Leo, later called Gotthard. We met again when he came to my studio in Holland to sing on my Ayreon album 01011001. His manager back then only wanted him to sing on 4 tracks, but once Steve got going there was no stopping him and in the end he sang on 8 tracks! I still remember, we started at 10 in the morning and his voice was perfect, amazing… We had such a great time here, he is one of the nicest  guys I’ve worked with, a great singer and a great  person…

 

– Well, you will release your second solo album  really soon, it will be named “Lost in the New Real”. Your first album was released in 1994, but it really wasn’t a really successful one. I guess this new opus is looking for some new horizons in your music, isn’t it? And why have you waited so long to unleash it?

Haha, yes…the first one was a big flop! And yes, I call this new album a fearless album, it has so many different styles!  I wanted to go back to the time when I started Ayreon. To create something that’s all me, without any expectations of the fans. In fact I’ve been trying to do a solo album for years! But each time it slowly turned into an Ayreon…but this time I finally succeeded!

 

– In “Lost in the New Real” you are dealing with a host of controversial topics  such as population control, censorship, euthanasia or religion. You said that you didn’t want to alienate anyone or come off as too confrontational with your lyrics. But now I ask you, what do you actually think about these subjects?

I really don’t want to influence people. I don’t think it’s my task as a musician. For me a musician should be an entertainer. But if you really want to sample some of my personal opinions, you can definitely read them between the lines!

 

– This new “Lost in the New Real” features many songs; it consists of two CDs with ten songs each one. The whole length of the album is 90 minutes. What do you manage to get so much material? Is it the result of a lot of years of songwriting?

Yes, this album took me one and a half years to make. It was a very inspirational time I must say. I love to spoil the fans, if they buy my CD they should get something special!

 

– Among this large amount of stuff you have included cover songs by LED ZEPPELIN, PINK FLOYD, ALAN PARSONS PROJECT and Frank Zappa. Why? Is it your personal tribute to them? Are you a fan of these legendary artists?

Firstly I wanted the cover songs to be related to the concept of the album: the future. Secondly I just wanted to cover songs that have been very influential for me when I grew up. So yes, I’m a big fan of these tracks! Which made it very scary to cover them 🙂 That’s why I tried to make some of them very different from the original.

 

– By the way, talking about the songs on this “Lost in the New Real”, it is an album with amazing musical diversity. Why did you decide to recollect everything in just one album?

I like it when an album is very adventurous and eclectic, from one style to another. Like the early Queen albums (like Night at the Opera), the Beatles White album or Led Zeppelin 3.

 

– I must tell you that I love your new solo album. I know  it’s difficult to choose a top five, but maybe my top five would be  “E-Police”, “Don’t switch me off”, “Our imperfect race”, “The social recluse”  and maybe “Dr. Slumber’s eternity home” But, what’s your top five (or your  favourite song) off “Lost in the New Real”?

Good to read you enjoy it, glad you have an open mind! Wow…that’s hard… I guess it’s too early to say…they are all still my little babies, haha! But that’s a good list you made there 🙂

 

– This album, “Lost in the New Real”, has a  peculiarity; you had the collaboration of one guest star voice as narrator. He is Rutger Hauer, known for his participation in mighty movie «Blade Runner» as Roy Batty. I know that Hauer is one of your favourite actors but, how did you think about having Hauer as guest artist? How was the working with him like?  Are you satisfied with the result?

I’ve been a fan of Rutger ever since I was 10 years young! And Blade Runner is my favourite movie of all time. And there were some similarities between my story and Blade Runner, mainly the question:  in the future, what is real and what isn’t? So yeah, he was an obvious choice and I’m so proud of it! Especially because he wrote all his own words, he was very involved in the whole project.

 

– And the last question about your new album is about the artwork, created by Claudio Bergamin. Do you think that this artwork is representative of the new record?  Do you like your caricature and Hauer’s caricature inside the picture?

I wanted to artwork to be very colourful, and I wanted it to be obvious that this was something very different from Ayreon.  At the time Claudio made this image, we didn’t know yet that Rutger Hauer was going to be the narrator, so the man in the image isn’t supposed to be Rutger.  The person kneeling is a photo of me. There is also a lot of great artwork inside the booklet, like the music: many different moods!

 

– You are now focused on your solo career but, do you plan recording new material for STAR ONE or AYREON? And have you thought about someone to collaborate with you in some of your projects?

I never plan ahead too far, because that would limit me. And I’m changing my mind all the time anyway! I just wait and see where my inspiration takes me. But yeah, I’d love to do another Ayreon soon. Only time will tell.

 

– Talking about your collaborators, who do you think is the best voice that has starred with you  for your music style in that concrete moment?

This may sound corny, but I’m proud of ALL the musicians I’ve worked with, which is over a hundred now. It would be impossible to pick someone, really.

 

– And finally, I have never had the opportunity of seeing you live, and I would love it. So have you thought about touring anytime soon with your solo band in support for this new album or with some of your projects? And will you come to Barcelona or Spain?

I very rarely play live, only twice in the last 20 years. I see myself much more as a composer and producer. In fact I hate playing live, and the whole entourage. It’s not creative at all, I much rather create new music and be productive here in my studio. All on my own, lovely!

 

– That’s all Mr Arjen Lucassen. If you would like to tell something to our audience, it’s the time. Thank you very much for your music and your time, it’s good to see that someone is working so hard to make  high quality music.

You’re welcome, Alex, it’s my pleasure! I really hope people don’t expect a big metal opera here, and that they have an open mind to anjoy many styles of music. I think there is a lot of interesting music to discover on this album, and I had a lot of fun making it!

Saludos,
Arjen.

Alex M. Romero

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