Interview with Ayreon 2

Source: Rainbowflame's Metal Domain
By: Joseph White
January 2001

In this interview, Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the brilliant multi-instumentalist and songwriter behind Ayreon, talks about his music, his roots as a musician, his love of Rainbow and Pink Floyd and of a possible project with Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson.

Joseph: First off, thanks for doing this interview for RainbowFlame's Metal Domain.
Arjen: No problem. That's a good name, Rainbow is one of my favorite bands and Rainbow Rising is the best album ever made.

Joseph: The lady who runs RainbowFlame's Metal Domain is a big Rainbow fan and she is also an Ayreon fan. She will love the fact that you are into Rainbow.
Arjen: Ritchie Blackmore is just an amazing guitarist. Rainbow had a huge influence on me as a musician.

Joseph: I was just going to ask you about that. Which guitarists influenced you the most? Obviously, Blackmore is one of them.
Arjen: Yes. Also David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), he is just a tremendous guitarist, every note is perfect.

Joseph: I've noticed that a lot of Ayreon's vocal melodies have Beatles in it.
Arjen: I love the Beatles. John Lennon was brilliant.

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Arjen Lucassen

Joseph: I hear big Pink Floyd similarities on The Dream Sequencer as well.
Arjen: Pink Floyd influenced me, I just love their work. Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, T. Rex, Glitter. All of those bands can be heard in my work. When I was a kid, I used to dress up in a wig and pretend I was a rock star and sing to different songs and pretend to play guitar. And then I decided that I would play guitar for real.

Joseph: Eddie Van Halen is one of my favorite guitarists, his style is just so energetic.
Arjen: When I first heard Van Halen, I was blown away. I thought "wow". Great stuff.

Joseph: You interviewed David Gilmour last year. Any chance a project will come out of that?
Arjen: No. David will not do it. When I talked to him, I could tell that he was not interested at all. I told him how Pink Floyd influenced all these progressive bands like Dream Theater and Shadow Gallery and he didn't seem to care. He told me he didn't like progressive music. He is more interested in his roots as a musician which is not really progressive.

Joseph: That's too bad because I think about the two of you together and it blows me away. It's the ultimate "dream team" for me. As a fan of Pink Floyd and a big fan of yours, it would be great. You mention Shadow Gallery. Are you a fan?
Arjen: Well, I received an e-mail from Gary Wehrkamp (guitars/keyboards) from Shadow Gallery telling me how much he admired my work. I hadn't really listened to Shadow Gallery before so when I finally listened to their albums, I was blown away. I put them right up there with Dream Theater, they're just a great band. And then, of course, that led to me working with Gary Wehrkamp on Flight of the Migrator. His solos were just amazing. I admire him, he is much more technical and faster than I am.

Joseph: Shadow Gallery is one of my favorite bands. A few months ago, I interviewd Mike Baker, Shadow Gallery's vocalist. He said that as he has been working on the new Shadow Gallery album (which will come out sometime this year), Into the Electric Castle was a huge influence on him. What do you think of that? That you are influencing other artists?
Arjen: Wow, that's great! Its really cool that that my work is so respected by other musicians. When I listen to Shadow Gallery's new album, I'm going to see if I can pick up any Ayreon on it. Shadow Gallery, they are big Pink Floyd fans, too. In fact, Gary and I have talked about recording a Pink Floyd song together.

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Click here to read the review of
Ayreon: Flight of the Migrator

Joseph: Mike Baker mentioned something about that, too. He said that he wanted to be included and that he would love to sing it.
Arjen: Yes, I think Mike and I will both sing on it.

Joseph: When I introduce family and friends to Ayreon, I try to describe Ayreon's sound, which is difficult for me. I usually compare your sound to Pink Floyd and the Beatles but heavier. How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard Ayreon before?
Arjen: That's hard, you know. I would probably do it the same way. I'd compare Ayreon to Pink Floyd and the Beatles and Zeppelin. I'd call it adventurous music like Queen and Rush. I listened to albums like Jesus Christ Superstar and Tommy (the Who) and the Wall--concept albums. I love adventurous music. Operation: Mindcrime, too. That's what I try to do with Ayreon, I try to be adventurous but it is hard. It is hard to come up with something new for every album.

Joseph: I just introduced Ayreon to my little brother--he's eleven years old. He loves Ayreon.
Arjen: That's great that younger people enjoy my music. I'm just bringing '70s music back and it's cool that people like your brother like it. Of course, it's new to him.

Joseph: I've introduced him to Boston and Shadow Gallery and a little bit of Dream Theater but he likes Ayreon the most. In fact, his birthday is coming up here pretty soon and I bought him the Dream Sequencer as a birthday gift. He received his first cd player for Christmas but he doesn't have any cds to play yet.
Arjen: That's great! You always remember your first album and that's great that his will be Ayreon. Maybe he'll grow up and become a musician and then his album will be someone's first album.

Joseph: On Flight of the Migrator, that really worked out well with Bruce Dickinson on "Into the Black Hole". That song came out great. How did you hook up with him?
Arjen: Well, I knew the manager of Helloween, who was also Bruce's manager. I asked him to give Bruce one of my cds. Bruce loved it. But then, he rejoined Iron Maiden and I thought he would never have the time to work with me. So I kept calling and calling. Finally, I reached him and he flew to Belgium to record the vocals. He loved "Into the Black Hole" because it gave him more room to work with as a vocalist. With Iron Maiden, he has faster vocal melodies and not as much room to work. It was different for him. It was really cool to be standing next to a musician I admired so much and he was singing my song, I couldn't believe it. It was just a great feeling.

Joseph: Is there a chance you will work with Bruce again?
Arjen: Yes. We were going to do an album together and Bruce was going to write the story. But I haven't heard from him because he is so busy, you know. So I'm not sure.

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Arjen and Bruce Dickinson

Wow, that would be great!
Arjen: Now I hear he is working with Rob Halford and Geoff Tate so I don't know what will happen.

Joseph: Yeah, I heard about that. That would be great, too. Three of the best vocalists in metal history.
Arjen: I would like to be involved with it somehow but I don't know.

Joseph: Have you started working on the new Ayreon album yet?
Arjen: No. It's so hard to come up with something new and I don't want to repeat myself. I just bought a new recording system and I am running Ayreon songs through it and making new songs, more ambient songs. Right now, I'm working with a fourteen-year old female vocalist who sings on this new project. She is just so amazing, just a beautiful voice. I couldn't believe it.

Joseph: Is this that new Ambeon project? I heard a soundclip at your website and I could not believe it. She was incredible.
Arjen: Yes, she is on my new Ayreon cd, Ayreonauts Only. A song called "Cold Metal" that will be on the Ambeon album, too.

Joseph: I've heard that song. I couldn't believe she was only fourteen. "Cold Metal" is a bit heavy. You just couldn't help having at least one heavy song on Ambeon, could you?
Arjen: No, I tried but I always end up writing heavy songs. I can't help it, you know

Joseph: That's the great thing about your music. The songs are big, epic and bombastic. In fact, when the Universal Migrator format was first announced, most of the people I know said that were only going to buy the heavier album (Flight of the Migrator). But many fans who bought both thinking that they would enjoy the heavier one more, ended up liking the Dream Sequencer (the softer one) more.
Arjen: That's great that metal fans can appreciate softer music, I think it just says a lot about the Dream Sequencer. I really liked the way that album turned out, you know. I won't do it again, having a soft one and a heavy one as two different albums, but I had to do it this time. I don't want to repeat myself as an artist and it is hard to come up with new ideas. I just had to try it, you know.

Joseph: You did throw in some bombastic moments on the Dream Sequencer so it isn't all soft.
Arjen: Yes, it is mostly soft with some heavy moments like Flight of the Migrator is mostly heavy with some soft moments.

Joseph: I've had a hard time deciding on which of the two albums is my favorite. As far as songs go, "Dawn of a Million Souls" (from the Flight of the Migrator) might be my favorite.
Arjen: Yes, that song came out perfect, I think it is my favorite as well. When I first heard it, I cried. Russell Allen (vocalist from Symphony X) was great. He's just such a great singer. And Michael Romeo (guitarist from Symphony X) was awesome on the solo. I saw Symphony X a few weeks ago, they are just an amazing band.

Joseph: Releasing two different albums with the two Universal Migrator discs, did that work out well rather than releasing a double cd like you did with Into the Electric Castle?
Arjen: Electric Castle worked out perfectly, I just couldn't do another double album so cheap. The reason for releasing the 2 seperate Migrator albums was that the styles were so different and I didn't want to force people to buy both.

Joseph: What has the fan reaction been like to the two cds?
Arjen: Some fans didn't like the idea of two cds it but it was just so hard for me to make Into the Electric Castle. But the Universal Migrator cds have done quite well, I'm happy with it. Into the Electric Castle is still the biggest selling Ayreon album, though. It's the favorite one among Ayreon fans. Actual Fantasy is my my worst selling album.

arjencover2.jpg (13799 bytes)
Click here to read the review of
Ayreon: The Final Experiment

Joseph: I liked your first cd the most, the Final Experiment. Maybe because it was my first Ayreon album. i like all your albums but that one is my favorite. Maybe because it so epic and bombastic.
Arjen: Yes, it is a heavy album. It is so different from Actual Fantasy, which is softer. But I don't like to repeat myself. I have great respect for bands like AC/DC but I can't do that. I have to do something different with every album. I have to try new things. I mean, AC/DC is doing what they like to do, you know. And they are happy with it and maybe that is all they can do. But I can't do that. I have to progress. This is progressive music, you know. I would just get bored doing one thing.

Joseph: I guess its whatever works for the artist or band. If the your happy doing one thing and it works for you, then keep doing that. If you keep wanting to push yourself and trying new things. You do that, obviously.
Arjen: Yes, and it is very hard. People are always comparing everything to Into the Electric Castle and it is hard, you know. I can't keep making Into the Electric Castle. But it is so hard to do something new, something better. It is really a burden, you know. After Ambeon, I'm thinking about just making a hard rock album.

Joseph: That would be fun. Do you have any vocalists in mind?
Arjen: Yes and I've already talked to three singers. But I don't think I should mention them right now, you know.

Joseph: I don't want to get you in trouble. I think you said something about this at your web site, didn't you? You gave us a hint?
Arjen: Yes, two British singers and an American. But I really shouldn't say anything more just yet.

Joseph: Thanks for your time. Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?
Arjen: I think progressive music is really starting to do better in America. Bands like Dream Theater have really opened the door for a lot of progressive bands and I think that is just great. The fans are really helping us all become better known. I really appreciate all my fans and I hope that progressive music continues to grow.

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Arjen and Damian Wilson


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