New album of a project Ayreon from Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen is always a huge thing on a progressive metal market. Practically on he can manage to invite the biggest names within singers and instrumentalists. Next to that, he has skills to catch respected artists in the peak of their form and also present new talents. New album The Source comes in the time, where Ayreon brand needed some refreshment and therefore Arjen used his biggest powers. Fans are getting incredible line-up and a typical sound. However let us hear/read more from the author himself.
In this case, I would like to offer you two options how to enjoy this interview. First half is text and the second one is audio. Question on movies is shared in both versions. Feel free to comment, which option do you prefer more. It will be an inspiration for future interviews. Thank you.
How does your schedule look these days? Not tired from the interview yet?
Well, I had signings in record shops for the last four days and it was pretty heavy. You got like seventy people and you have to talk with them of all, make a little photo and sign their stuff. It was two shops a day in the different parts of the country. So yeah, it was pretty heavy, but fun. (Laugh) It’s cool to see so many excited people.
I can imagine it was intensive for you, as you always say you hate touring. But at the same time, you are very active and extremely nice on social media. So, how was it for you to have so many personal interactions at the same time?
That was fantastic. I love meeting the fans. That was never a problem. Nah, the problem is really the traveling, waiting and stress. Then there is practicing and other many reasons why I don’t play live. Meeting the fans would be actually a reason to play live.
Glad to hear that. Well, being such a perfectionist, you might be worried about any sort of mistake… from the technology of course. (Laugh)
(Laugh) Absolutely! I really don’t think I am a good performer. People always say: “Oh, you are so humble,” but really it’s true. (Laugh) Because now the rehearsals for Ayreon Universe started and of course I am always present. This band is so amazing and when I see them play, I realize I could never do this in my life. As I always tell you, I see myself as a good producer and a good composer. But really, not a good performer. That’s such a waste of time. (Laugh) Only when I really, really work hard for it, but it’s such a waste of time. (Laugh) Others, like these guitar players in the band, they just do it! It looks like, they don’t need to practice at all. (Laugh)
Two ladies of Arjen’s life
Before we talk about your new album, I would like to ask, how is your doggy? I can imagine, she is having some hard time with you constantly composing and giving many interviews lately, as I heard some barking on the latest video interviews.
Oh, she is really my girlfriend Lori’s doggy. She is the mummy. So, as long as mummy is there, she is ok. She hates, when I go and when I am back, she is so happy. It’s fantastic. (Laugh) But she is handling it well. It would be worse, if mummy would be gone. When people come here, she loves it as well. Especially girls. Maybe some guys are a bit too rough for her. At first she is a bit nervous, but when they kneel and let her come to them, she turns to a big cuddly. (Laugh)
Did I understood correctly, there are no great guitar solos from Lori on the album?
No, she really stopped playing guitar. She has done a lot of photography and she is amazing at it. Her goal is to make hundreds photos of people. She already has a lot of them and it looks great. She’s busy with that and of course she is doing a lot for me as well. The first clip you saw for The Day That the World Breaks Down was actually completely made by her. That was such an important clip and I believe that was the basis, why this album is so successful. So, she is pretty busy and also she is learning Dutch now, finally. (Laugh) It’s going really fast and she is very talented.
I thought it was very honest to start with The Day That the World Breaks Down, as it shows all aspects of my music. So, I think, if you like this song, you will like the album and if you hate it, you will not like the whole thing.
I always loved your teasers, whether it was for Ayreon, Guilt Machine or Star One. I must say this one is really one of the best you have.
Thanks Dan! When I had the song, I was already thinking to place all the singers in it, as I really love the song. I thought it was very honest to start with this one, as it shows all aspects of my music. So, I think, if you like this song, you will like the album and if you hate it, you will not like the whole thing. I can clearly say that. A bit in comparison to DVD The Theater Equation, where we put the best parts on it, but when people got it they were like: “Oouuh! Doesn’t look so good.” (Laugh) I kind of felt we were cheating a bit, with that little compilation we made on live DVD. So this time, we decided: “Let’s show twelve, thirteen minutes all of it.” I had some great footages from the singers and I added few comments underneath. Well, I’m saying few because I had ten times more and it was hard to pick. (Laugh) At some point it was too much as there were singers singing, musicians playing, artwork going on and then you had me explaining things. It was really hard to find a good balance. We worked on that for about two months, but I think with a great result.
I really miss Lori’s great solos, especially as I loved everything from first Stream Of Passion album till Guilt Machine. However, we can see her name in various roles nowadays. She is taking care of the website and doing your management, so I guess you are in really good hands.
Absolutely. I would be totally lost without her. I keep telling her that, but she hates to hear that. (Laugh)
I would like congratulate you on your new album The Source, which I enjoyed not only because it is a prequel to my most favorite Ayreon album 01011001. Please tell us how the songwriting went, as from the multiple times we spoke together, I remember you saying, the process is incredibly fast, when you start adding guitars, folky parts. How was it this time?
Even more than with others. Not only, because this is a reaction to the previous one, because composing style on The Theory of Everything, was totally different. There I just went into the studio and recorded everything I had. I placed everything behind each other, which made it really complicated album. I mean, I love it but I can understand people saying it was missing structure and it was hard to get into. This time it was much more natural and I was more selective as well. I had about fifty ideas when I started, so I could throw away about thirty of them. I just picked the best ones and worked on them. In the beginning I didn’t know, what it is going to be. It could have been a solo album, because that’s what I always try to do. Then it looked little bit like a Star One album, cause I had couple of pretty heavy guitar riffs. But then the folky parts came in and it was clearly Ayreon. At that point, I had no idea for a story. I just knew I want to go back to science fiction. Because I didn’t do that on the last Ayreon album and not even on The Gentle Storm, which was a love story. So I turned around and decided to get inspired by artwork. I went to google images and DeviantArt where I just put in “Sci-fi artist” and for weeks I was checking the results, until I came across Yann Souetre. His art inspired me immediately. I liked every detail of his dark industrial look. Then I saw the image of the girl under water with tubes and stuff. That’s basically, what brought me back to the story Alpha 01. That was the catalyst. I found many other great artists, but the thing was, I loved only two or three images. With Yann Souetre, I liked twenty or thirty images. That was great, because I was thinking to use more of his work for booklet.
When we were talking about that flow of creativity, I was just wondering, what are your tools and creative pillars, on which you rely, not to get lost. Personally, I do need some sort of a structure, so I can absolutely understand you divided the album into four parts.
I don’t really have that. I just go for it. (Laugh) I just keep going and organizing comes later. As I am composing, I really don’t think about anything. All the good ideas – I let them come and all the bad ideas – I totally delete them, if I don’t want to hear them again. Then I just work and work and work, until I am totally happy with what I have. At that point, I don’t even know if it’s going to be a double album or not. I just check how much material I have and I realize: “Oops, it’s a double album!” (Laugh) At that point I start dividing all the songs in a way: “Ok, I want to start with this one. It’s actually pretty heavy, so I want a softer song to go next. After that I want a heavy song again. Well, this song ends in an A, so it would be cool to start another one in E.” As far as four parts go, I had vinyl in mind. I am glad to see it’s coming in again. I really love people listening to vinyl, as you really have to listen. It’s an experience. So I made four Chronicles with a double vinyl album in mind. So, maybe that was a pillar.
It’s getting harder for me to find good stuff in sci-fi
What affected your inspiration for the past year or two? I know you are not a book reading fan, but were there any discoveries within movies or series, which you haven’t seen before or coming back and discovering sth you never seen there before? One fan was wondering about a movie I, Robot and in my case, I watch Interstellar at least once a year as a total mind refresher.
Cool! (Laugh) Yeah, that was a great movie indeed. I remember seeing Arrival, which was good. However, I gave up on Star Trek really. I don’t get it anymore. I think too much of the sci-fi nowadays is based on action and effects. What I liked about Star Trek was the fact, it was about people and human emotions. It had little bit of humor in it. It wasn’t all about the effects. I love when movie looks great, like Prometheus in 3D. It’s getting harder for me to find good stuff in sci-fi and I don’t think sci-fi inspires me to come up with my own stories. It’s music that inspires me more than movies. However, I just started watching Westworld. It’s pretty interesting and it looks fantastic. But that’s not a source of inspiration.
Second half of the interview here: