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20th October 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: I remember you saying you wanted it to be more of an ambient release, with that in mind would you ever consider doing another Ambeon?
ARJEN LUCASSEN: I would love to do another Ambeon, the problem is it would have to be with Astrid. I wouldn’t do an Ambeon without her.
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(Arjen Lucassen on his prolific recorded output and frustration at lack of a 'constant flow')
"...you usually do the album, then go on tour for half a year, then you go back and write the next album. I don’t tour so I finish the album and wanna go into the next album but it doesn’t work that way...I would give everything to have a constant flow and not have to take breaks ‘cause I don’t like breaks at all, I wanna be creative, that’s what drives me."
Arjen Lucassen - uncredited promo shot
Photograph suplied by, and used with permission from, Karl Demata at Eleven PR
Interview by Nicholas Dishington
Official Arjen Lucassen Website:
Official Guilt Machine MySpace:
Thanks to Karl Demata at Eleven PR for arranging the interview
On This Perfect Day (2009)
MD You wouldn’t do one with a different singer?
AL: No no, that wouldn’t feel right. That album was so special and she was so great and she was I think the biggest talent I’ve ever worked with. She was 14 at the time and that was scary y’know? Her father brought her to the studio and on the way she wrote the lyrics. She came in and had no idea what to do and just sang it, was the first time she had been in a studio. I gave her the headphones and she said “Yeah but if I put the headphones on I can’t hear myself sing!” but when we put the mic up she sang it and it was perfect. That was really scary, she’s a real wonder child. Unfortunately that comes with a lot of problems and she has not been doing well these last 8 years or so. Not at all, she was committed with big problems. I’m always very happy when I get an e-mail from her where she says she’s fighting. Actually, a couple of weeks ago I got a mail from her and she was very positive. She was out of the hospital and she was going to music and stuff but I don’t think she’s ready to do an Ambeon. I’d be afraid to ask; she’s doing her own things. I do know that some years ago I asked her if it was okay to re-release Ambeon but she didn’t like the idea; she was like “I’m not sure if I’m still behind that” but still, one mail from her saying “Let’s do another Ambeon” and I’m in there. I would love that.
MD: Ah well, fingers crossed! Well I’ve heard you’re a big fan of Muse. What did you think of their new album?
AL: Err… yeah, I have to be honest now [laughs] it was too… derivative. I already recognised a lot of melodies in the first song and then you have these little Queen moments.
MD: Yeah there was a lot of Queen about it…
AL: … and then I heard like Brian May play and then checked the artwork to see if that’s Brian May playing but no, it’s someone imitating him. Damn it just didn’t feel right. To many hints to other stuff… I mean I was born in the 60s and 70s and I grew up with Queen. ‘Queen II’ was my first album and still is one of the best albums ever made and, I dunno, it just didn’t feel right. I’ve already been trying to listen to it, twice now but I can’t seem to get over that so I can’t really give my opinion yet. I have to say though I really, really like all their stuff so far. I dunno this last album maybe it’s a bit too 80s or something…
MD: You worked with Robby Valentine, I think it was on ‘Into The Electric Castle’. He‘s got a lot of the Queen sound about him hasn’t he?
AL: [laughs] It’s great and he’s definitely got his own style. He’s another major talent, he’s another wonder kid. I’ve worked with him quite a lot actually; he also worked on other albums that I did. I helped him a lot with other stuff, I mixed some stuff for him. We see each other occasionally and he’s such a nice guy and an amazing musician, a great piano player.
MD: I think it’s a shame he doesn’t get as much recognition as he deserves really.
AL: It’s a real shame because in Japan he was this big star but no, here in Europe he doesn’t get that much recognition. It is a shame because he’s an amazing musician.
MD: In a similar vain to the Muse question, what do you think of Stream Of Passion’s new CD?
AL: Well it’s good that they’ve definitely chosen a style - “Well okay we’re a female fronted gothic band. That’s the kind of album we’re gonna make” - and it’s very in your face, very clear what they want. I think the first album we did was interesting but very inconsistent. It was kind of like a mess. It had a couple of good songs but it’s not an album I’m proud of. It was supposed to be a Marcela solo album, that’s how it started out. I had some songs still from ‘The Human Equation’, mainly ballads because I thought there were too many ballads if I had used those songs. Because it worked so well with Marcela I wanted to do a solo album with her but somehow this morphed into a band and suddenly we’re playing live and the songs weren’t really good for a live setting. I think I would have made a different album had I known it would become a band. So I think that with this second album that they did make a consistent album.
MD: I was going to see Stream Of Passion in Sheffield and there was that whole problem with customs and everything…
AL: Yeah, that was a real shame. That was horrible sitting there at the border for hours and hours and hours when you just wanna play and do that show but with them not letting the Mexicans in…
MD: I can’t believe they did that to be honest.
AL: Well it’s the rules y’know? Basically it was the mistake of our tour manager, he should have arranged that before we went there. So I really don’t want to blame customs there; I mean, that is their job. At that point you don’t think like that, you wanna kill someone [laughs] but looking back at it, it should have been arranged before we went there.
MD: It was a shame but I guess these things happen. Are you considering at any point in the future doing a solo album?
AL: I definitely want to do a solo album and I’ve been planning it for so long now. Actually, the last Ayreon album was going to be a solo album; didn’t work out. Then Guilt Machine for a blue Monday was also going to be a solo album. But then you hear a guy like Jasper and it’s like “Oh my God!”. I always find better singers than me, that’s basically what’s happening. Again now I was going to do a solo album but then I was like “No, no, no, I’ve done this Guilt Machine album which is a very atmospheric album.”
MD: I was going to say, which route would you want to go down?
AL: Well, right now, as a reaction to the Guilt Machine album, I would wanna do a heavy album but of course I can’t sing heavy stuff so I would love to do a heavy album in the style of Star One maybe. If I were to do a solo album I would love to do more factory sounds. Still song orientated, not too industrial. Maybe a little bit the style of Guilt Machine without the heavy parts.
MD: Sounds brilliant! Do you have a constant flow of writing or do you take breaks between albums?
AL: A constant flow, that would be so great! That’s the wish of every artist I’m sure and that’s not possible unfortunately. The thing is, if you do an album you usually do the album, then go on tour for half a year, then you go back and write the next album. I don’t tour so I finish the album and wanna go into the next album but it doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t come, I’m empty. I’ve been working now on Guilt Machine for a year and I put all my energy and all my ideas into it and it’s the best I had at that moment and after that it’s empty. Of course you want to go into the next project but the more you want it the less inspiration you have. I would give everything to have a constant flow and not have to take breaks ‘cause I don’t like breaks at all, I wanna be creative, that’s what drives me.
MD: Moving on to Ayreon… in ‘01’ something bothered me. The line “and it was finger-licking good”. I think was in ‘Comatose’ - were you paid by a certain fast food restaurant to say that?
AL: [laughs] Hey man, I’m a vegetarian! Do you really think I would I do an advertisement for Kentucky Fried Chicken? No, I’m a vegetarian, well I do eat animals that had a good life, the ‘green butcher’ we call it here so no I would never eat meat…
MD: Especially not KFC?
AL: No, I used to when I was a kid but definitely no. In fact, that whole song, it was actually ‘Connect the Dots’, not ‘Comatose’.
MD: Ah, I’m really sorry.
AL: It doesn’t matter, but yeah that song is all about doing wrong things so anything that’s in that song is wrong. It’s about illegal downloading; about using your car instead of taking the bike; about playing games all the time and not raising your kids properly and… eating finger licking good [laughs]; it’s just one of the vices I’m mentioning there. It’s about people not connecting the dots. That’s a quote actually I stole from Al Gore from ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ where he says that people know they’re wrong, they just don’t connect the dots. That’s what that song is about.
MD: How did you feel about wrapping up the Ayreon saga? Would you want to do something like that again or is that all behind you now?
AL: Well with the whole story arc I sort of started with the first Ayreon album and I wasn’t aware anything more at the time because I didn’t even know that there would be a second one. Then I did the second one that was different and then the third one that was different again but then after that I suddenly started connecting all the Ayreon stories. Suddenly I got entangled in this whole Ayreon universe where everything just seemed to come together and everything seemed to be connected. On ‘01’ I wanted to wrap that up because it was getting a bit too complicated and somehow I had a solution to the whole problem… I mean to the whole story. I also wanted to wrap the whole story up because it was getting too complicated for me, but definitely for the fans. I can imagine people who don’t know the earlier albums would be a little bit estranged.
MD: It’s something you really have to immerse yourself into isn’t it?
AL: Right yeah, they would feel alienated like “I don’t know what this is about”. So yeah, it felt good to wrap it up. It’s a misconception that it’s the end of the Ayreon saga, that it’s the end of the whole Forever/Planet Y Science Fiction story. I don’t think I’ll stop with Ayreon, I’m sure that one day I’ll feel the need again to do another Ayreon but I’ll just have to come up with something new but maybe set within the same universe. So I do think I'll return to it but not for some time yet.
MD: When you listen back on old albums can you enjoy them or does the fact you've been there throughout the whole process kind of ruin it?
AL: I can enjoy the Ayreon albums, sometimes when I hear them, things like ‘The Electric Castle’ I think “Wow yeah, I did this!” and think I'll never be able to do that kind of thing again.
MD: So would you say ‘Electric Castle’ is your best one then?
AL: Err… yeah, I'd say so, I really enjoyed that approach where you put it all down on tape. Nowadays with computers it's all very different and you can work on each thing individually, not like now.
MD: It was nice that in the special edition of ‘The Final Experiment’ you put in all the rejection letters you got back from record labels. What would be your advice for other bands who want to make something that's not deemed commercial enough to be signed?
AL: If it's good then it's commercial, if it's worth people listening to then it will sell. When I sent out those letters there was 15, no actually more like 50 replies all saying “Yeah I love this” and “I really think the Prog Rock is great”, but then they'd say they didn't want to sign it. But then I got with this small label and things just went from there.
MD: Finally, you’ve always had a close relationship with your fans… what’s been the strangest thing a fan has said or sent to you?
AL: Well most of it's by e-mails nowadays. I'm trying to think. Well, coincidentally, I've got this huge pack of books; I said I didn't like reading so this guy sent me all these Scientology audio books.
MD: Oh right, that is strange!
AL: Yeah, not really my kind of thing. I want to send them back at some point.
MD: Cool. Well thanks for that.
AL: Yeah thanks, hopefully I'll speak to you again when I go with the new Star One then?
MD: Hopefully, yeah. So you're definitely set on a Star One then?
AL: Yeah, just thinking about all the singers although you never know how it's going to go. I say it's Star One but it could be something completely different.
MD: Well I look forward to hearing about that then.
AL: Thanks very much.