Hi Everybody, welcome to SpazioRock. We are here, tonight, with Arjen Lucassen from Ayreon.
Hi Arjen, Welcome to Milan.
Hi, it's good to be here!
How was your flight?
Ah, I hate flights, you know. I am an old man: I'm sort of... it hurts my neck, it hurt my ass... but it was really short. It was over before I realize that.
So let's start with speaking about your new album that you are gonna release next April, "The Source". I listened to that and I personally found it really similar to "01011001"; there are many similarities. Can you explain a little better, with your words, these similarities?
It is actually a prequel to "01". So, in the story, the end of "The Source" is the beginning of "01". You said really well: I also think it is really similar to "01". "The Source" refers to The Source of mankind. Basically, it explains where we come from.
Tell us about a little bit now... something about the cover that is really interesting - you can see that - it is really particular: kind of different, also, from other Ayreon albums. Can you....
Yes. Actually it's what inspired the concept. I was browsing on Google images for side artists. I checked a lot of side artists and I came across this French guy, Yann Souetre, and he made this amazing side-fired art, really industrial; and one of the images was this girl underwater. This really inspired me to go back to Ayreon because I found this I thought: "what if it's Forever?" you know, forever is like... well, you know, if you know "01"! It's the race that lives underwater. And I never investigated Forever's race. So I thought "wouldn't it be cool if this Forever race was once human, like us?" That started the whole story. So it's how the story begun.
So, getting now to the sound of the album. Compared to "The Theory Of Everything", I definitely found it more catchy, in some ways; I mean, more immediate, less progressive, more metal. There is also a lot of folk music, folk metal inside. What do you think is the reason behind it? And, of course, if you agree with me.
I totally agree with you. "The Theory Of Everything" had members of Genesis and Yes, and King Crimson and Emerson Lake & Palmer; it was really my prog album. It was very keyboard-oriented. And it was not a catchy album: it was a very difficult album to get into. You have to hear it hundreds time to get used to it. Because of the way I composed it: I just went into the creation with nothing and I just kept patching things up. And, this time, I had much more of a vision. I had like the artwork, you know. And I wanted to... you said it. I wanted to make a more catching album, more choruses, you know, like: "We are on a Journey to Forever....". Something that really sticks to the mind. So I wanted to make an easier album. And, also, every album I make is a reaction to the album before. And the album before of this was "The Gentle Storm", I don't know if you... yeah, of course you heard it. It was a very feminine album. Of course it had Anneke... and Anneke is very feminine! It was a love story. You know: I write about aliens, and planets, and space, you know. No about love stories. So it was a love story, and it was Anneke singing. As a reaction to that I wanted to make a very masculine album, a very male album; heavier, more male singers, more power. So yes; always.. .my latest album is always a reaction to the album before.
Okay. You spoke about... the guests. Ok, we know that you always call many amazing guests in your albums. How do you manage so many different people from so many different musical genres, all together? I mean; which is the contribution that each of them gives to the final product?
Well... actually now it's getting easier to call singers; you know, I am getting more known and I am working with big names like Bruce Dickinson, and James La Brie, and Devin Townsend, and Mikael Akerfeldt. So people know me now; so If I ask someone, he is more inclined to say "yes". So, it's getting easier for me. And I always look for the singers that fits the music, that fits the story... and, this time... usually, like with "the theory of everything", I only worked with new singers that I never worked with before with. But this time I was like "Hell, I want the best singers in the world!" on this one ... I don't care if I worked with them or not: I want the best singers in the world. And the best guitar players in the world. This is called "The Source" and I see it as a new beginning, you know. The source of "Ayreon", the source of Mankind. That was my rule, this time: no rules.
Specifically speaking about this, there is a guest about which the fans are really curios, that is Tobias Sammet. Because people have always seen you almost like rivals; even though you musically kind of complete each other. How was working with him?
Ah, he is such a funny guy; he is such a funny guy. Actually, we released albums at the same time. I think that was "01"; while he released "The Scarecrow", I think it was; and the press was putting us against each other, as rivals , you know. "They are rivals, and they are bringing the same kind of album, and they have the same singers; I think we both had Jorn Lande. And someone said that to Tobias as a journalist, and he reacted a little bit negative on Ayreon, and then he read it back and said "Oh my god, I didn't mean that." He e-mailed me, out of the blue, and he said: "Listen: you don't know me, but I am Tobias, and I said something negative about you in a magazine.. but I didn't mean it! I live your music!" and then he said "I grew up listening to your music!". And he was just a little kid when he was listening to one of my first bands, Venegance, and then we got in touch. And he I such a funny guy. His e-mails are so... they're like "I have to laugh"; he is a great guy, we talk a lot on the phone, we are really good friends... and of course, I played the solo in an Avantasia album. We did a little song togheter: "elected". It was a little joke. But he never was really on an Ayreon album, and this time I wanted to give him like a big part. And he did such an amazing job: he is such a good singer; an underrated singer. He wrote great songs and he is also a great musician.
Speaking about the way in which you record the album. It surprises the fact that some of the guests are not actually with you in the studio. Is it difficult?
Yeah, I hate it. I don't like it. I want them to be in my studio because, you know, magic happens in the studio. We both can come out with ideas, and strategies, and then of course the guitar... you know, there is chemistry between us; so I love it when they come to my studio. But, you know, people are busy these days. Tobias was touring, Russen Allen was touring with Transiberian Orchestra, James La Brie was on tour with Dream Theatre, you know. But they could not come, they couldn't make it. But they said: "we want to do it. We can do it in our own studio, or we can do it in a studio that is close to us". And they are all true professionals, so I totally trusted that they could do it on their own. Well, the prove is here: that it turned out... not too bad.
For instance, it really surprised me... Tommy Karevik. I don't know if you agree with me!
Yes, really, I said it in the video: I cried my eyes. I listened to it with my little computer speakers and I just heard his voice, not the music. And I was like: oh my god... every word... every line... and then it was like first gush bombs, and then like tears, and I thought "well, just let it come". And they just came. I think this one is the best thing I have ever heard on my albums.
I know "The Source" is a big project but are you planning, or do you have any particular parallel project right now? Apart of the big live shows that we all know about...
I never have parallel projects. I put everything I have into the project I have. That's like everything; and work on it for years, day and night; no holidays, no weekends: and when it is over I am empty. there is nothing. And I have to wait for the expiring this terrible period; but this time I can expire this period by working on the Ayreon Universe.
Let's get now to the hot topic. You are gonna be live with the Ayreon Project, finally. Fans were really looking forward to see that: the prove is that the tickets, actually, run out so fast. Why did you wait for so much?
Because I hate live shows. I did it for fifteen years, in the seventies and in the eighties. It's just not my style: I am not good at it. I have stage-frighten, you know; and Ayreon has never been a live project. But then we did "The Theory Equation", that it was a theater play on "The Human Equation", and it was a big success. And I saw the fans in the audience, you know; I saw them crying. I saw all the emotions they had. And I thought: "it's so fantastic!" I want to do that again. And even if I am nervous about it, already, I think I should just do it and I talked with a friend, that is the keyboard player. I asked "Should we do it"? "Yeah, let's do it together". So we worked for one year now, we will be working for two years, and we want to make it like the happening of a lifetime.
So, getting back to "01011001".. The closing of "The Source" is a far away "The Age Of Shadow Has Begun"
"Yes! yeah... will begin!"
Will begin. Ehm... Italians. English speaking Italians. So,what do you think, have you completed the circle with this album?
Basically, I have always already completed the circle with "01". And that's what I said at that time. I said: "this is complete now, I will never go back to the story". And I lied. Yeah, of course. But it was Yann's fault, because the artwork told me to go back to the story. But yes, it's... I don't know if I want to go back to the story what I should do, you know, because now I have the very start and I have the end. Basically, I am afraid to say the circle is now completed because maybe in a few years I'll do another one, and you'll say: "You lied again!" so I am not gonna say anything!
Ok, so we're really looking forward to the next one, actually. So thank you, Arjen, for having been with us... and if you have a message to leave to your fans, for our readers..
Well, I have always loved Italy, we just had a fan meeting, and there are so many lovely people... I was just talking to you about it. They all got hugs, they are such warm and emotional people... it's really... it's fantastic, you know. It's weird: somehow, I feel I am not worthy, you know. I just write a little bit of music! But it's really inspiring for me, you know, that people like my music so much, and they support me so much. I think I have the best fans in the world. And... yeah. Grazie!