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Interview: Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon)

Interview: Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) Ayreon's Facebook

I really appreciate you time for this interview

How all this crazy idea of making a metal opera comes to you?

I think I was inspired when I was a little kid when I was 10 years old I heard “Jesus Christ Superstar” the rock opera and I loved it so much, inspired me so much, I like the fact that you can close your eyes and you can watch all movie without seen a movie and I think I loved, the music has to be good of course, but I loved it when the text and the story has an extra dimension to the music so I always want it to do that but when I grew up and I was in rock bands, in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I couldn’t do it, we were a hard rock band so in the 90’s I finally made my dream come true, I made my first Ayreon album and I made like two rock opera and it was a crazy thing to do, because no one was interested, really I shock around with it for like a year and I got 30 record companies turned me down they said “you’re crazy man, those days are over” and until a Japanese Record signed me and the album started selling and it’s amazing that it worked out.

Have you ever talk to Tobias Sammet about, how he is doing the Avantasia and how are you doing Ayreon?

All the time, all the time we’re texting “hey what did you pay for this singer”, or it’s like “oh, I want that singer do you have the way to contact him”, and he is like “No, you shouldn’t contact him, he’s and asshole, but try this singer” and yeah all the time we give each other tips, he is a fantastic guy, he’s really a good friend and besides that he’s very talented guy and a great singer so I’m really honored and please to having him in this album, having a big part of him in this album

How do you choose musicians for each album? Which things do you consider about?

I always start with the music, I write the music and then I let the music inspire me to come up with the story and the once I have the music and story then I go looking for the singers and I have like a wish list of at least a 100 singers and I just go to this list and think “ok, which singer would fit on this album and then I pick up like ten or twenty singers and I contact them and tell them what it’s about and would you be interested and this time I got my absolute dream team I got eleven of the best singer in the world and yeah dreams comes true all the time 

Is there any singer you want to work with but you couldn’t so far?

Yeah of course, all the time I mean, especially those singer that I grew up listening to, the singers from my formative years like Robert Plant or David Gilmore, or Geddy Lee this guys, the really big names that would be a dream come true to work with them and I try every time but it’s hard to get through to them, they don’t know me and they have their roots in other music so they are not really interested but, there’re also new singers that I contact I never heard back from them or doesn’t work out so is not as easy people think

Is there any opportunity for Latin American musicians to become part of one Ayreon’s project?

Of course, yeah, I’m always looking for talent, people sends me stuffs and I take a quick listen, it’s great to give unknown talent chance like on “Into Electric Castle” I gave this unknow talent the chance Sharon, and she is huge with Within Temptation and it’s great to have a little part in discovering and like on this album have Mike Mills who is not very known yet and he’s such a great musician and fantastic, so yeah it’s great to give him a chance so of course there’s great Latin American singers that I’m always interested to give them a chance

I’m glad to hear that, how do you get your inspiration to make Ayreon's Operas?

Well, there is two kinds of inspiration, there is an inspirations like you hear music and you think like “oh I want to do something like that” and you steal it hahaha, there’s another kind of inspiration which is giving you a good feeling to create, like something simple like watching a good movie could give you a good feeling and grab the guitar and “oh let’s write a song”, it doesn’t have to be about that movie but just something make me feel good and the thing that really inspired me is getting mails from fans telling me like how much I changed their lives, they were really depressed and they have to take pills and stuffs and didn’t see a way out and they heard it an album mine “The Human Equation” and they climb out of that hole and I really help them as soon as I read something like that it’s like I run to the guitar and “let´s write something new”, so that inspired me. 

Do you read fans comments like ones given in "progarchives"?

Yeah, all the time, I read all the comments, you know I don’t play live anymore so don’t meet the fans anymore and I want to know what they think so every time I post something on Facebook or YouTube I always go to all the comments and luckily in my case they’re usually positive which isn’t always the case, if you look at U2 or other bands it’s like “oh shit, this is crap, fuck you, I hate you” haha but you know the day we put the first track of the album on YouTube, reactions are so good, so positive like everyone usually I go there and “ok let’s delete the bad comments” but there were not bad comments, it was all positive, it’s very cool to know that I built up such a loyal fans days

Which composition do you enjoy the most? Ayreon or other projects?

I like composing, anyway of composing, I like been creative, that´s what keeps me going, I grab the guitar and ideas comes and it’s a good idea, but it doesn’t happen often I grab the guitar every day and 99% it´s crap what I do so awful, and then suddenly that one idea comes and you think like “mmm ok, this is good…" transitioning to a nice song and it really doesn’t matter for me what’s it is, if is in Ayreon, or Guilt Machine or Star One or Gentle Storm or whatever.

The cool thing about Ayreon is that there are no limits I can do everything I can put a middle part, of funky part or the electronic part or pop part, that’s the cool thing of Ayreon, so maybe I should say Ayreon

“The source” in fact it’s like a mix of sounds, one song is not like the next one.

No, no, I only think that the first song “The day that the world breaks down”, I think that song y very representative of the album, it has all the styles in there, and I think if you like that song you will probably like the album

Talking about this live shows thing, Ayreon will give three sold out concerts in September, right?  Have you ever considered a World Tour like Avantasia does?

No, no, yes, I considered it but no I wouldn’t do it


I hate touring, it’s not my thing, I hate everything about it, I hate to traveling, I hate the way thing, I hate having to play the same thing every night and I see myself as a composer/producer and that’s what I’m good at, I’m not a very good performer, and I don’t like doing it, and all I want to be, I’m a very reclusive person so I want to be at home, and I want to work all day in my studio, and then in the evening I want to lay on the couch with my girlfriend and doggie and watch a good movie, I like really small, thinny, lovely bubble life. Been on tour, I did it for 15 years and it’s really not my life, it’s not my style

That’s interesting, is not usual to hear that from a musician

I know, and I don’t understand like people like the Stones (Rolling), they are seventy and they still touring it’s like oh God I want to be at home and put your nice comfy pants and have you doggie in your leg and watch The Walking Dead haha

"The source" is having a good pre-sale, did you imagine the such a great success?

No at all, because we were discussing before how many year book are we gonna make, because those are expensive bastards you know haha and we were like “let’s do so much, isn’t it too much? Yeah, it’s a lot but it will be sale eventually” and then after few weeks they were sold out, which proves we really didn’t’ expect such a huge pre-selling, it’s the biggest pre-sale Ayreon ever had, it’s the biggest pre-sale record company ever had and I don’t know what’s happening. I think we built it up great, we first put those guess to singer on Facebook, people had to guess who is singing, people love that, and a lot of people got to heard a little fragment of the album, and them we put the first song on YouTube which was a big success, people simply loved it, I think the all built up this time is perfect and it’s also very Honest, you know, we are not lieing to people it’s like this is it, this is the music and if you like it, get it and you’ll get great artwork and you get like a 48 pages booklet and five CD’s with DVD with behind the scenes, it’s good to spoile people.

What do you think about all this thing of streaming like Spotify

It’s always good people can listen to music but it’s just crappy that, I don’t know if you know, we get like 0,000029 cents per stream, which means that you have to be stream I thing 2 million times a day to get a minimum, and that’s crappy, but you can’t fight it, it’s the future and I still remember the records companies saying “we don’t want to be part of it” and it was like “yeah but what you gonna do?” You can’t stop it, it’s there I just hope that music will still be special, in my days, you get the typical old man talk, “In my days…” haha, I had to wash the cars in the streets, it was cold, freezing, and I got like one euro per car and I washed fifteen car and then I went to the record shop and buy this album, and it was so special, when I came home and play it like a million times and all the song I didn’t like it, starting like me and that’s gone, the hole anticipation is gone and people  now just go to Spotify and click, listen to 20 seconds and says “that’s enough next song”. I really hope that people can still enjoy music and the way it should be enjoyed, and that’s why I make this beautiful package, just keep going, just showing people this is possible to do, just dream away poor eighty minutes

I know it's difficult to you but, which is your favorite song of "The source"?

Yeah, hahaha it’s difficult, it’s hard to be objective, the moment I finished this was like “ooohh this is the best album ever” haha but it might not be, it’s hard to be objective so I could not say, no, possible all the song picked for videoclip, that´s why I picked them, so they will be “The day that the world breaks down”, “Everybody dies”, “Star of Sirrah” and… those tracks, I don’t even know if I picked them because they’re my favorite tracks of they would be good for a video, but hard to say.

Have you ever considered to launch a Bundle with all the Ayreon albums?

Yeah, I don’t really see the use of that, because I think my fans are so loyal and they already have the albums, I don’t know, I don´t like the idea, I know that the record company once told me “let´s do a compilation” so we did the compilation it was call “Timeline”, and it didn’t sell that well, and I think it´s that it almost feel like a way to make money, you can do it once, you can do twice but then people won’t like you for it

“The source” in coming out in a few days, Ayreon will give three shows in September, but what is coming next to Ayreon?

Well, doing this three shows it’s a lot of work. I’ve been working for more than a year now and all the way up to September is gonna be lots of work, we’re gonna have to work the rehearsals, we’re gonna have to make the visuals for the screen, we’re gonna have to set the whole storyboard, I’m gonna be working on that till September I’m sure, and once that is done we’re gonna make DVD of course, and the DVD will have to be edited, the sound will have to be mixed, probably will gonna be 5.1 sound, so that’s gonna make me busy for another year. So, no specific plans

Who is the best artist to work with?

The think is if I don’t work well with an artist I don’t use it, or I stop it, or kick them out haha so yeah everything you hear in this album I’m 100% behind so it’s so hard to answer that, I’m such a perfectionist, I only use stuff if I’m 100% behind it so it’s not a diplomatic answer, it’s really could not answer I’m proud of every guy and every little part on this album

I really had a good time in with this interview, I hope there's gonna be another in the future, and if sometimes you are coming to Costa Rica for a show or just for fun let me know

Thank you for your time

Cool, Ricardo talk to you next time for the DVD maybe, Cheers



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