This person could be considered the most mysterious and creative person in the whole heavy metal world. Some 10 years ago he released a totally groundbreaking progressive album and resurrected the almost-forgotten genre of rock operas. Since then he released lots of albums under various names stylistically ranging from acoustic rock to heavy progressive and even gothic metal. After the extremely successful Star One project and the following tour Arjen Anthony Lucassen once again returned to his glorious Ayreon name and created another masterpiece that is already a hit in many countries worldwide. Considering this fact and the thing that all Ayreon albums finally found a way to Russia we decided to talk to the genius mastermind and discuss his latest activities.
MetalKings.com: Arjen, let's start from the first and only tour that you played in at least 10 years, which was with the Star One project. How did you like it?
Arjen: Oh, the tour was incredible! I was very excited and liked it a lot, maybe more than my fans! (laughs) However, we played only seven gigs and in the end it was like, "OK, that's enough".
MetalKings.com: How did it happen that you played that CD hidden track "The Intergalactic Laxative" during the shows?
Arjen: (laughs) You know, I loved that song a lot! I used to play it for my friends at home for many years. And I'm a big fan of Donovan who originally composed the song. I have all of his albums and listen to them more or less frequently. And when hearing words like 'penis head' people were a bit embarrassed but they kept laughing all the time and so when it came time for the Star One album I thought that the song somehow fits into this space content and it could be great to play it. The record company agreed but they had to make it a bonus track otherwise the album could get something like 'Parental Advisory' sticker. (laughs) And when we were on tour and played the whole set when we were done people started screaming, "Play 'The Intergalactic Laxative'!" So I went out with an acoustic guitar and played the song, that's how it happened. But it was only at one show though we recorded it for the DVD and the song is there.
MetalKings.com: OK, why the tour was so small? Did you get invitations from Japan or some other countries?
Arjen: Yeah, sure! Japanese wanted to invite us to play as well. I said, "OK, here is the amount of money we need to come to your place". And they couldn't accept it, it was too much. Just think that the tour itself costs a lot. I have to pay to 10 singers and musicians, tour manager, stage manager, roadcrew, and many many other people. It all costs about 50,000 dollars, which is crazy! And I have to pay this money from my own pocket! And the tour itself is not the only problem. We had to rehearse before the tour, which takes about three or four weeks. It means that I have to fly all the musicians here to Holland, put them into hotels, feed them and pay for all the expenses myself. So the tour only covered Holland, Germany and Brazil.
MetalKings.com: Does it mean that the Star One project is over?
Arjen: No, not at all! You know, there are so many things I want to do but I simply don't have enough time. I want to do a solo album, a new album of Strange Hobby, a new album of Star One and a new album of Ayreon. But just consider that the current album of Ayreon alone took me about one year to make so it's totally impossible for me to be engaged in at least two projects at the same time.
MetalKings.com: The new album of Ayreon "The Human Education" is again a double-CD album. How does it happen?
Arjen: Well, I usually write lots of material. I wrote three hours of music for this album. I don't count the time when I write an album based on some story. So of course, it is almost impossible to release three hours of material so I started cutting tracks and finally ended with 1,5 hours of music. That's when I stopped, called the record company and said, "What about a 2CD release?" They agreed. And you know, a movie always lasts about 1,5 hours so you can compare my albums to a movie since I also have some concept story on each album.
MetalKings.com: OK, there was a single released before the new album and there will be another one in July. Does it mean that the album is very popular?
Arjen: Oh yeah, here in Holland it's my most popular album so far. It already reached the position 19 in the charts and the next week it was at position 7! And in Germany it's 50, which is not bad for such as huge market.
MetalKings.com: Songs on the first single "Day Eleven: Love" are cover-versions of David Bowie and Led Zeppelin. Are they similar to those released on the Star One album in Germany and Japan?
Arjen: Yes, totally the same except for the vocals. I invited different people to sing those songs and I really like the way they turned out. But music-wise they are absolutely the same.
MetalKings.com: What is meaning of the album title, "The Human Education"?
Arjen: Oh, the title concerns the space-based movie "Star Trek". There's a guy in that movie, he's android but he wants to become a human being like people around him. So throughout the whole movie he tries to do it and this transformation is called 'human education' in the movie. So I thought it could be a great title for the album. The guy, who is the main hero of my story, falls into coma and you don't know if he's gonna be alive in the end or not. But he finds a way-out and happily returns back to life. That can be also considered to be the human education.
MetalKings.com: Who did the artwork of the cover? Did you think of it yourself?
Arjen: No, no! Originally I wanted to use a different artist because I wanted to make something different from the artwork of "Universal Migrator". But the guy I applied to is a very busy person, he did some 50 covers of various rock albums and he also wanted too much money. So I finally returned to the guy who did "Universal Migrator" and other albums. But this album artwork was a huge problem for him. In the past, for example, when we were working on the album "Into The Electric Castle" I said, "Listen, I want a castle, space around it, and the castle is on the island, blah, blah, blah". With "Universal Migrator" it was also easy. There was a Mars colony on the cover of the first part, a transformation machine, and a deserted planet surface. On the second part there was a peron, who is travelling through time and space. But this time... well, just think how can you draw a man in coma? It's a feeling, it's hard to express on paper. But the guy did an excellent work! He drew a head of the main hero, space around it and the magical road. But you don't know whether the road is the way he went ito the coma or it is the wayout of the coma. Also if you look on the cover more attentively you will see the eye of eternity on it.
MetalKings.com: Another single will be released in July called "Loser".
Arjen: Oh yeah, many people seem to like "Loser" so the record company decided to release it as a single. There is a live track on from the "Stairway To Heaven" release party, a cover track of Alice Cooper "How You Gonna See Me Now" and an acoustic version of "Castle Hall" from the album "Into The Electric Castle".
MetalKings.com: Why choosing this particular track of Alice Cooper? You like his album "From The Inside" so much?
Arjen: No, not really. My favorite albums of Alice are "Love It To Death", "Killer", "Billion Dollar Babies". I chose that song because Alice wrote that album when he was recovering from the alcohol abuse and worried what would his wife say when he comes back from the hospital. He thought he wouldn't be able to look into her eyes after all the bad things he had done. So this songs fits into the concept of "The Human Education". When the guy escapes from coma he is worried about his wife's feelings.
MetalKings.com: What does the bonus DVD contain?
Arjen: Everything about this album! (laughs) We recorded everything on video from the arriaval of musicians in the airport, us driving to my house, joking in the car, recording sessions, me playing guitar, us having fun and doing mixes and overdubs for the album. It also contains a video clip for the first single's title track "Day Eleven: Love". It is basically a retrospect of the album recording.
MetalKings.com: The new album is released under the Ayreon moniker. Does it have anything to do with the concept of the first album where Ayreon was the main hero.
Arjen: Only the last 20 seconds. I thought that if the album comes out as Ayreon it should have something to do with that first album so I added 20 seconds of music reminding of the Ayreon story.
MetalKings.com: You said you wrote three hours worth of material. What do you usually do with the rest?
Arjen: I throw it in the trash! (laughs) It's true. I record only the best of what I do and never use this leftover music for other albums.
MetalKings.com: While searching the Web some time ago I found a project you and your old friend from Vengeance times, Leon Goewie, were engaged in. It's called The Block Busters and there's a cover-versions album released called "Power To The People". What was it?
Arjen: Oh, this was a funny project organized by a Dutch music journalist. He wanted to record covers of bands from the 70ies. He khew that I'm a big fan of that music and invited me to sing on it. I agreed and sang on "Jean Genie" from David Bowie. Leon sang on "'Coz I Love You". (Arjen immediately finds the CD in his collection and for 2 minutes we listen to those tracks)
MetalKings.com: Great songs! Can this CD be obtained from anywhere?
Arjen: Yes, you can contact the guy and buy the album from him since it cannot be found in stores.
MetalKings.com: Can we expect more Star One albums in the future?
Arjen: I don't know. After doing an album for about a year I... I call it 'a fall in the black hole'. I don't tour so I somehow disappear into my own world for a while. So let's wait and see.
MetalKings.com: OK, Arjen! Thanks a lot for the interview! Hope you'll be able to come to Russia for a promotion tour one day since your Ayreon and Star One albums are officially released here!
Arjen: Of course! I'd love to visit your country. Thank you! Bye!
thanks to Yuri 'The Surgeon' from Irond Records
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