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17th October 2013
METAL DISCOVERY: I actually interviewed Rick Wakeman around three years ago and we were talking about how prog has lost its significance from what the term originally meant, and itís become a bit of a paradox now to have a genre called progressive. What does prog actually mean for you in the twenty first century? What would you say it is?
ARJEN: I would say itís timeless music. And thatís why prog is still around because itís timeless; itís never followed fashions. For me, it has to be adventurous; thatís very important for me. And it has to be challengingÖ and my album definitely is challenging! [laughs] Youíre not gonna get verse/chorus, verse/chorusÖ well, youíre not gonna get any choruses at all on my album!
(Arjen Lucassen on what, for him, constitutes prog)
"I would say itís timeless music. And thatís why prog is still around because itís timeless; itís never followed fashions. For me, it has to be adventurous; thatís very important for me. And it has to be challengingÖ"
Arjen Lucassen - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Lori Linstruth
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Arjen Lucassen Facebook:
The Final Experiment (1995)
Thanks to Freddy Palmer for arranging the interview.
Official Arjen Lucassen website:
Actual Fantasy (1996)
Into the Electric Castle (1998)
The Dream Sequencer (2000)
Flight of the Migrator (2000)
The Human Equation (2004)
01011001 (2008)
The Theory of Everything (2013)
ARJEN: So, yeah, itís challenging music and I think, nowadays, with YouTube, itís madness to do something like this where you get people zapping for thirty seconds or something, but I think there are enough people who still wanna be challenged; who are still looking for that adventure. I think they know if they buy my stuff that they get worth for their money. They get this beautiful package and the whole artwork, and a beautiful DVD with the whole behind the scenes. They get all the lyrics and put their headphones on and they dream away into the story. Yeah, I never thought there would be interest when I started with Ayreon but, now I know there is, and now I know that prog will always be there.
MD: Definitely. And on the whole challenging thing, I think whatís important is that your music is challenging but itís also accessible. Itís not challenging in that it completely distances you. It draws you in slowly and youíre rewarded with accessibility by challenging yourself in the first place, I guess.
ARJEN: Well, the thing is, thereís a lot happening in my music but itís not all happening at the same time.
MD: Indeed, definitely. Itís interesting you were saying about the whole package and something that people want to own because I noticed on Blabbermouth today, they had a sample of some music from the album and there were some comments underneath the article. I think the top comment was somebody saying the albumís leaked online and that theyíd already been listening to it. Then the next guy was saying that he was definitely not downloading it as an Ayreon album is to savour, and buy, and put on your headphones to listen to and appreciate properly. So itís great to see that people still do have that kind of opinion.
ARJEN: You know, itís out there now and people are downloading it, and I get a lot of mails and theyíre not afraid to tell me. They say, ďhey man, Iím gonna be honest with you, I downloaded it but Iím gonna buy it anyway.Ē [laughs]
MD: Which is good!
ARJEN: Thatís amazing. Itís amazing, yeah.
MD: Because youíve written all these fantastic narratives for each of the Ayreon records, hypothetically, if you had an unlimited budget, would you ever want to branch out into visual media in the future with maybe a film? Like, ĎAyreon: The Movieí?!
ARJEN: [laughs] Well, you said it, unlimited budget Ė to do a movie, you have to start with ten million dollars or whatever. But, besides that, I know nothing about that; itís a completely different world. So I canít do anything, I wouldnít know where to start. But, yeah, if a movie director or a company or producer would contact me, of course I would be open for that, that would be great. That would be another dream come true. But, yeah, where would I start?
MD: Hopefully some director or producer will randomly contact you at some point then! It just seems to be the next logical step with the Ayreon aesthetic. The narratives are so vivid in their storytelling element, itís almost crying out for a movie.
ARJEN: Yeah, but the thing is, my music is not mainstream at all. If you look back at all the rock operas that were movies Ė ĎJesus Christ Superstarí had ĎI Donít Know How to Love Himí as a hit; ĎTommyí had ĎPinball Wizardí as a hit; ĎThe Wallí had ĎAnother Brick in the Wallí as a hit. You know, they were all mainstream stuff so, yeah, to get sponsors to invest in this for something thatís not mainstream at all. It sells a lot but itís still under the radar. Itís a weird project. Itís a project that shouldnít work on paper, but it does.
MD: Indeed. What you need is a big Ayreon fan to win the lottery or something and throw a load of money at you and say, ďhere you go, make a movieĒ!
ARJEN: Oh yes! Well, thereís been talk; thereís been a lot of talk about theatre productions, even about movies and, at the end, it starts small and then they realise, ďoh, to be able to do this we need this, and we need thisĒ, and then it becomes bigger and then bigger investors are involved. This happened about four or five times and then, at some point, itís like, ďoh, this is not going to work, itís going to be too expensive.Ē
MD: This is a question Iím guessing youíre asked all the time but is Ayreon ever likely to make it to the stage for special live show or shows with maybe select musicians?
ARJEN: Basically, Iíve been touring for fifteen years, since the end of the seventies till the early nineties, and itís really not my life. I see myself as a composer/producer and not a performer. Itís something Iím not very good at. I can do it but I really have to work for it. And itís not my thing; Iíve become more and more recluse and I love the reclusive life, and I love every day to be exactly the same. I hate travelling, I hate socialising; yeah, itís just not my kind of life. Apart from the fact that, logistically and financially, it would be a nightmare to do Ayreon live. Itís just not something I wanna do.
MD: Thatís fair enough. The final thing I wanted to ask is whatís next in your creative journey, and is there ever likely to be another Guilt Machine album? The first one was pretty amazing and needs a follow-up!
ARJEN: Itís definitely an option. I love that album. In the end, it didnít do so well. It could have several reasons Ė it was released by another record companyÖ
MD: Mascot, wasnít it?
ARJEN: Mascot, yeah, and it didnít have the power that Century Media or Inside Out have. I love that album and so Iíd love to do another one but, the thing is, I never plan ahead and, even if I do, I keep changing my mind all the time! I start in the studio and itís like, ďyeah, I wanna do thisĒ; and I hear something and, ďoh no, I wanna do thatĒ; then I suddenly hear a singer, ďoh, now I wanna work with this guy.Ē
ARJEN: So Iíve learnt that, again, when I started Ayreon, I was fixated, you know, this is what I want to do. But now Iíve learnt to let it go. If I have a better idea, I go that wayÖ and then, at some point, Iím sure about something and I continue. So, yeah, I will just wait for some inspiration to guide me into the next project.
MD: So you never plan, thatís a good way to be.
ARJEN: I do plan for myself but I would never tell other people!... ďBut I thought you said it was gonna be thisĒÖ ďYeah, but now I heard this female singer, I wanna work with her.Ē
ARJEN: So I stopped telling people about it!
MD: Fair enough! Right, thank you so much for your time, itís been very interesting.
ARJEN: Youíre welcome, Mark, I enjoyed it too.