Interview Arjen Lucassen

“Illegal downloading of new albums even before the album is for sale has to be stopped”

(May 2012, text by Martien Koolen, edited by Peter Willemsen)

After seven albums from Ayreon, two from Star One, one from Guilt Machine and one from Ambeon, Arjen Anthony Lucassen finally released his first real solo album called Lost In The New Real (see review). He already released the solo album Pools Of Sorrow, Waves of Joy under the name of Anthony in 1994, but that was a rather unnoticed and unsuccessful album. On the new CD Arjen did all the lead vocals and he played most of the instruments. Since it's a concept album Background Magazine was very curious to know everything about it by having an interview with the 'master' himself...

I think that all questions have already been asked and answered, or do you feel that we as interviewers are still able to come up with original and interesting questions?

“It sounds like you have been listening to the song Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin a lot, ha, ha! However, I still think that you can respond to the same, well-known questions in a different way as an artist. Although sometimes if you have seventeen interviews in a row which I once had regarding a new Ayreon-album, you are totally exhausted and almost fed up with these questions... As far as the solo album is concerned journalists seem to be less interested than for my Ayreon albums; so far that is...”

Arjen Lucassen

That's rather strange indeed. How are the reviews of the album so far?

“Ninety percent is positive and ten percent is somehow negative, but I must say that I'm almost immune for the good reviews, which is not meant in an arrogant way.”

So, you're still getting angry on reading a bad review about a new album?

“Yes, it still hurts. Lately I've read two reviews from Germany which were rather negative as they didn't like the second CD; they determined it as a bonus CD with loose leftover tracks, which is absolutely not the case of course.”

You might say that Lost In The New Real is a real solo album!

“Yes, that's true; it's not a Star One or an Ayreon-album, so listeners that expect that kind of music will maybe disappointed. Especially Ayreon-albums are rather bombastic and feature many different singers, but on this album I did almost everything myself and that's the main difference between my other projects and this album.”

How did it feel to sing everything by yourself?

“I loved it. I love to sing although I have to say that my voice is rather limited. I'm no Bruce Dickinson or Russel Allan; those singers are out of my league and their singing completely differs from my singing. I know my limitations and so the songs are written for my voice and within my reach, so to say. The vocals on any album are very important; it adds emotion to the music. Take for instance the voice of David Bowie and you know what I mean. If the man only talks I already get gooseflesh, so...”

Cover: Lost In The New Real

The cover of the album is rather spectacular. I love it, but some reviewers said it's as ugly as hell....

“I did that on purpose of course; everything in that cover is over the top just to get a reaction from people, so they will talk about it and that's good for the promotion of the album. It's based on movie posters from the fifties and sixties and I really like it. Some people said it looks like Back To The Future or Raiders Of The Lost Ark but that was not my intention.”

Why did you ask Rutger Hauer to be the narrator?

“I've always been, and I still am, a fan of Rutger Hauer. Ever since I saw Floris on TV he was my hero and besides he played in Blade Runner, my favourite science fiction film of all times. The story of that movie has similarities with my concept, so that was rather handy. He wrote all the lyrics which he narrates at the beginning of each song on the first CD, so he really made an effort there and the result is great don't you think?”

What is your favourite song on the album?

“Without a doubt Lost In The New Real. I'm really proud of that song as I have never tried anything like that one. It's a very diverse epic song lasting more than ten minutes; it contains lots of tempo changes, musical passages and great twists and turns.”

What sort of music do you listen to at home at least if you have time for that?

“During running I always listen to new music. I read a lot of music magazines, the reviews that is, and then I select what new music I would like to hear. In the evening I just enjoy the old shit, but being a musician makes it more complex to listen to music, as I listen to music differently from 'normal' people. I also like classical music, but no opera singing and as I told you before: singing has to do with emotion and I don't really hear that in opera arias.”

Regarding the lyrics on the album: do you see the future positive or negative?

“I see lots of possibilities for the future and I think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle; think of the E-Police which kind of reminds me of George Orwell's book 1984. Something has to be done in the music business; we need a digital revolution as quickly as possible. This illegal downloading of new albums, even before the album is for sale, has to be stopped.”

You, live on stage performing the entire new album isn't going to happen, right?

“I'm afraid that you are right! I have done some acoustic performances in record stores, but I really hate it. I don't feel comfortable doing those things. In fact I really feel awkward, but the fans are so excited and really happy when they see me entering the store to do my thing. Sorry, folks, it's not my thing anymore. If I would decide to perform this album live then I would have to take some singing lessons and I don't know if I could cope singing all those songs night after night. And by the way I hate practicing, so..!”

On CD2 you recorded five covers that I normally don't like, in fact I loathe them. However Welcome To The Machine, and especially Veteran Of The Psychic Wars are excellent covers. How on earth did you come up with a song of Blue Oyster Cult, one of my favourite metal bands ever?

Arjen on stage (picture by Henri Strik)
“Well, in Europe Blue Oyster Cult is not so well-known, but in the USA they were really popular. It was the first band I ever saw live on stage. I was thirteen way back in 1973. I always loved that band and when I heard their album Fire Of Unknown Origin, produced by one of my favourite producers Martin Birch I was really sold. Since then Veteran Of The Psychic Wars from that notorious album has always been my favorite BOC-song and I always wanted to do something with that track. My version stays very close to the original, but that is how it should be, I think.”

Do you have any other plans at the moment?

“Well, I don't plan things so I will see what the future brings. To tell you the truth, secretly I think that a new Ayreon-album is coming to my mind in the near future...”

Thanks again for your time Arjen.

“Thank you, it's always a pleasure.”

More info about Arjen Lucassen on the Internet:
       Arjen's Website
       album review 'Lost In The New Real'
       album review 'Star One - Victims Of The Modern Age'

All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013