When someone mentions the name Arjen Anthony Lucassen, the first thing that comes to mind is his band Ayreon to which he is the heart and soul and where he is the only permanent member. With a few fantastic rock operas Ayreon has developed into a truly big name on the global metal scene, but Arjen doesn't rest on the laurels, he has put his main band on hold and plunged into a variety of side projects. One of them is called Star One and it's got a new album coming out via Inside Out Records in April 2002. The album is quite different from Ayreon, but Arjen's style is recognizable already after a few minutes of the playing time. We managed to contact Arjen by phone on the eve of the album's release, which was not an easy task, for the number of reporters willing to communicate with the founder of the ongoing metal opera trend was enormous.
MetalKings.com: Hello, Arjen!
MetalKings.com: First I'd like to know what is the right pronunciation of your name.
Arjen: It is Arjen [arjen].
MetalKings.com: OK, can you tell me how you got your middle name Anthony?
Arjen: Well, my father gave it to me! (laughs) It's my official second name.
MetalKings.com: And you used this name for a solo album...
Arjen: That's right, yes. You're well informed!
MetalKings.com: I have the album, I think it's great, really!
Arjen: Oh, do you have it? I think only five people have it in the world! (laughs)
MetalKings.com: Including me! (laughs)
Arjen: Yeah, but that album was a flop, it really sold bad.
MetalKings.com: But I still think it's great and it was a good departure from the Vengeance thing.
Arjen: Right, but people didn't understand it. It wasn't hard rock, it wasn't prog or something. People thought, "What's that he is doing now? He must be crazy!"
MetalKings.com: The title of the album was "Pools Of Sorrow, Waves Of Joy". Did you take it from The Beatles?
Arjen: Of course I did. I'm a big John Lennon fan and "Across The Universe" is one of my favorite songs. And it was the period in my life when my girlfriend broke up with me, Vengeance broke up and I had no more record deal. So it was a horrible time, yes. But anyway it was waves of joy and that's why I called the album that way.
MetalKings.com: OK, Arjen, let's go back from the very beginning. How did you get into music?
Arjen: Well... as I said before The Beatles were a big influence on me back in the 1960s, I love The Beatles. And in the 1970s we had this glitter period with The Sweet, Slade, Alice Cooper...
MetalKings.com: KISS, maybe...
Arjen: No, KISS was later, much later. It was the beginning of the 1970s when I saw it on TV and said, "Wow! That's what I wanna do!" But I was too lazy to play an instrument so I played in a playback band, we did The Sweet covers. And we played everywhere, you know. But then the kids from the older classes of the school they came to me and said, "Oh, The Sweet and that kind of music is for silly, listen to this!" and gave me "Made In Japan" from Deep Purple. And when I heard Ritchie Blackmore playing I thought, "Oh, I have to buy a real guitar and learn to play it!" So that was the start of it, I guess.
MetalKings.com: And as far as I know you played in a band led by your music teacher?
Arjen: Not really, no. It was the drum teacher of the drummer I was playing with. So my first band was Mover, I was 18, I think it was 1978. So their drummer's teacher had a band and this was the band called Bodine and I joined that band a couple of years later...
MetalKings.com: ... and played on two albums of that band, right?
Arjen: You're right, yeah! Wow, you know everything! (laughs) Yeah, I played on the second and third album, that's true.
MetalKings.com: And the albums were recently re-released.
Arjen: Yeah, they were re-released by Transmission Records. They took the third album and added bonus songs from the second one.
MetalKings.com: But they took away one song from the second album...
Arjen: Right, I had to choose that because it didn't fit on the CD and we had to leave one song out.
MetalKings.com: And what do you think about that Bodine period?
Arjen: Well, on one side they were good musicians, extremely good musicians, the best drummer in Holland (Gerard Haitsma), an incredible guitar player and a very steddy bass player (Armand van der Hoff). And I actually learned how to play there, how to play very tight, how to play in tune, you know, to play solo not just fast but to play one note and do it good. But on the other hand, they were kind of boring guys, they were all 10 years older than me, they didn't like partying and stuff. And in those days I was young, I was 20, after the girls and after the party, you know. So it was a bit boring. And another problem in that band was that they didn't like melody, they were in love with AC/DC and stuff like that. And I always liked melodic music, already in those days I was into prog music. So I didn't like to be there, I wrote songs but they were just a little part of me. And then, I think, it was in 1984 when a band called Vengeance played as support and they were great, you know, great melodies, a great singer. And then they rang me up if I knew a guitar player for them, their guitar player had left... and I knew a guitar player for them, it was me! (laughs)
MetalKings.com: Well, then it was your Vengeance period and I still wonder why the very first self-titled album was not re-released by Pseudonym Records?
Arjen: Oh, it was horrible! (laughs) But in fact I don't know, maybe it wasn't good enough. The songs were mostly finished when I joined the band. I think I wrote just two songs for that album and it was recorded very cheap, the sound is bad and the songs are not that good. So it's not a very strong album although you can already hear the potential.
MetalKings.com: But I still think Vengeance was one of the biggest bands in Holland together with Vandenberg...
Arjen: Yeah, that's true. But Vangenberg had the luck that they had a huge hit, it was "Burning Heart", and it was also a big hit in the U.S. But we were the biggest club band, you know, we played three times a week and we always had a full house. Yeah, that was a very intense period with lots of great things but also lots of horrible things as usual.
MetalKings.com: And as far as I know your singer Leon Goewie was a very original performer.
Arjen: Yes, a very original, very crazy. Like a performer he was a cross between David Lee Roth and Biff Byford. And he sounded a bit like Biff, you know. And he was a crazy guy on stage and he was always holding beer over his head, raping women on stage (laughs), he was wearing crazy clothes and... yeah, he was really crazy on stage. The only problem was that he was also crazy offstage. But he also liked to have a stiff drink now and then, if you know what I mean.
MetalKings.com: Well, I always wanted to know what was the song "Code Of Honor" from the album "Take It Or Leave It" about?
Arjen: I think it's about orphanage or something, a school. It's the school where you go when parents do not have the time to educate you. So you go to the school and you learn all those rules and you have to follow the code of honor. But I think the idea came from our singer who once saw a movie where the kids had to learn rules, were getting killed and led a horrible life. He had that beginning and then I wrote lyrics that someone might have stolen something, got in that school and became a sort of a prisoner there. Well, I can't really remember but that's all I can recall.
MetalKings.com: Did Vengeance have any video clips?
Arjen: Yeah, we did a very expensive video clip for "Arabia" which was partly made in Arabia, in Rotterdam and at an oil refinery. So that was a very expensive thing and it was only shown a couple of times. And then we had a couple of cheap clips that we made in a discotheque when we were playing on a TV show. They were filmed in the afternoon but it looked like horrible, you know, it was disco with its cruel light.
MetalKings.com: And what about your anthem, "Rock'n'Roll Shower"?
Arjen: Well, this one was a cheap clip, it was one those made in disco. It was just us performing in the disco, not very good. I think they played it once or twice on MTV.
MetalKings.com: OK, but I know there is a kind of live video of Vengeance in the series of "Metal Hammer Roadshow" when you played with Steeler, Darxon and After Hours, right?
Arjen: Well, I can't really remember it. I think I saw it once, and it was really dark. I haven't got the copy. What do you think of it?
MetalKings.com: Well, it's probably not so good as it could be but still the only chance to see old Vengeance live performance right now.
Arjen: I remember, that show was supposed to be two days. We were supposed to play two evenings but after the first night Vengeance wrecked the hotel, it was like $10,000 damage. We were not allowed to leave Germany, they took our equipment... so that was really sex, drugs and rock'n'roll! (laughs)
MetalKings.com: Are there any more demo tapes or unreleased stuff from Vengeance?
Arjen: No, I don't think so. I guess Pseudonym released everything on those re-issued versions. They discovered lots of bonus tracks.
MetalKings.com: And why did Vengeance split in 1992?
Arjen: Well, in 1989 it was getting too much with the singer. We couldn't take it anymore. We had to fire him and found Ian Parry. He was a great singer but not as crazy as Leon. Leon was very important in the band because he was so crazy, I guess people missed him. But I think the worst thing was that the musical climate was changing and the 1980s music was out. Grunge came in and we couldn't get signed because Ian Parry is more an AOR singer and AOR was dead, of course. So we just couldn't get a deal, we've been trying for two years and we got some kind of a deal in Japan with Alfa Records.
MetalKings.com: But what about that "The Last Of The Fallen Heroes" album released in Japan in 1994?
Arjen: Oh, it's more a collection of demos. And before it we made a best-of thing for Sony with some new songs. And in 1992 we decided to do a farewell tour and it was crazy because lots of people showed up, you know. But still it was a sign for me that that kind of music was over and I had to do something else.
MetalKings.com: And how did it happen that Vengeance released the album "Back From Flight 19" in 1997?
Arjen: Well, I think I did it after my second Ayreon album. And Leon rang me up all the time, he said, "You know, I've been there, I've been horrible, you know. I changed and I'm now working in a supermarket, I'm cleaning out the supermarket each night!" And I thought, "Oh, my God, this great singer and great performer is not busy with music?!" So I said, "Alright, I'll write a couple of songs for you and you'll do whatever you want." And then in two or three weeks I wrote songs for "Back From Flight 19". I said to Leon, "Well, here are the songs, do whatever you want, go and form a band or something..." And then suddenly Transmission Records approached us and said, "Oh, we've heard the demo, we like it but we're only interested if you release it as Vengeance." But I said, "Well, it doesn't sound like Vengeance..." But Leon agreed, he said, "Great! Let's release it as Vengenace! That's the way for me to play live again and go on a little tour." So I said again, "Do whatever you want." We got a couple of Vengeance members like Oscar who played a solo and Jan Bijlsma played some bass guitar, Peer Veerschuren played a couple of solos and it was released as Vengeance, which was a mistake I think. So the whole thing was a way for me to help Leon but I will not do that again because I'm not so proud of that album. There's a couple of good songs but it's definitely not Vengeance.
MetalKings.com: Does the band exist right now?
Arjen: Well, I've heard that they tried to play live again, they engaged Jan Zomers but there were lots of fights between band members. And I've heard that a couple of weeks ago that Peer hit Leon to the ground and they had a huge fight, so now it's really over.
MetalKings.com: OK, let's move further and talk about a side-project called Strange Hobby. Was it just another cover-album or a tribute to your favorite artists?
Arjen: Yeah, a tribute. I always loved the 1960s. It was a time when real songs were made, great songs, people were experimenting with psychedelic stuff. And in the 1990s I suddenly got interested in the 1960s. I like those songs and think they were really like a discovery. And after the "Actual Fantasy" album I've been in the studio and you know, Ayreon is a very difficult music, very complicated and I suddenly had a feeling, "Oh, I wanna do something really simple, like punky or heavy versions of 1960s songs." And that's when I recorded the Strange Hobby album, I did it all on my own.
MetalKings.com: Probably that was a kind of a break from the Ayreon music...
Arjen: Yes, the recreation. Usually I fall into the black hole but this time I said, "Oh, let's do this for a joke." And the record company had the idea of releasing it without a name, without telling people who it was and it could create some excitement when people say, "Who is this? What is this?" But it didn't work because people knew how it was and they weren't so interested, so it was another flop. But I think it's good. Maybe the songs are too much alike, too short and after 10 songs you think, "Oh, that's it?!" But I do like that album and I'm not ashamed that I did it.
MetalKings.com: OK, Arjen, let's talk about your new album "Space Metal" which is going to be released soon. Tell me, is this album a concept one?
Arjen: Yes, it is. It's not an opera or complete story like on the Ayreon albums but the concept is space movies. So every single song is based on a space movie.
MetalKings.com: Probably you might name some of them...
Arjen: Of course, obviously I used well-known stuff like "Star Wars," "Star Trek" and films like "Star Gate" and the biggest film ever made called "2001: The Space Odyssey", films like "Alien". Mostly my favorite movies that influenced me through the years.
MetalKings.com: Maybe you read books about space travels or something...
Arjen: It's strange but I've never read a book in my life! I read only on the toilet (laughs), it's magazines and updates about the music. And in most of the cases I don't have the patience to read those books and I don't have enough time, I'm always busy.
MetalKings.com: Well, in its traditional way Inside Out Records decided to release a special edition of your new album with bonus disc. So how did you decide to make the second one?
Arjen: I had something like 12 songs for the Star One album and there were two songs that I didn't really like that much, I thought they were a bit too rock'n'roll. So I decided not to put them on the album. And I've always been a huge Hawkwind fan. I grew up with them, got all their albums. I guess they are the inventors of space rock and I when had the idea of doing this space metal project I decided to put a Hawkwind medley on it. And I thought it would be really cool to have the original singer of Hawkwind on it. And I succeeded in it, it was a dream come true. So I got those two songs and the medley and people from Inside Out said, "OK, let's do a bonus disc." But I thought, "Oh, three more songs... people are gonna pay extra money, so I gotta think of something more to do!" So that's how I did the dolby surround mix of songs. So if you have a good amplifier you can hear the sound coming from slipboxes which is great for science fiction. And still I thought it was not enough and was like, "OK, I'll do a couple of covers." Of course, the covers had to be in space, too, otherwise it doesn't fit. And I immediately thought of that great David Bowie song "Space Oddity", I truly love the song, it's great. And an interesting fact about the song is that it is not about space so I made a really strange version of it. I made a weird version of "Space Oddity". Well, and there's a hidden track on the album but I won't tell you about it because it's a joke! (laughs) You will laugh when you hear it! (laughs)
MetalKings.com: OK. As far as I know you didn't sing on the album.
Arjen: No, I didn't sing on the first disc. I sing "Space Oddity" and that hidden track because I am not a metal singer. My favorites are John Lennon, Sid Barrett, Steve Perry, David Bowie... I like more 1960s voice, guess that's my style so I can't do metal, don't have a power voice.
MetalKings.com: How did you involve keyboardist Jens Johansson (ex-Yngwie J. Malmsteen, now with Stratovarius) in the album?
Arjen: It was great because I get a lot of e-mails each day, e-mails from musicians and lots of fan-mail. I don't play live anymore, but I still got contact with fans. And suddenly I got an e-mail from a person who said that he loves my music, listens to my albums all the time. And then I looked at the name of the person and it was... Jens Johansson! I thought, "Oh, my God! This can't be true!" (laughs) But it was true. I've been e-mailing with him a lot and we became friends. So when I was doing this album I asked him to play a keyboard solo. And it's an honour for me to have him on the album because he's probably the fastest keyboardist in the world.
MetalKings.com: In one of the interviews after the first Ayreon album "The Final Experiment" I saw a photo depicting you in front of an ancient castle. Is it your recording studio or your home?
Arjen: (laughs) I wish it was! (laughs) No, it's a very famous castle here in Holland and it's a kind of a museum with paintings and stuff like that. Oh, I wish it was true! (laughs) And yeah, my studio is called "The Electric Castle" and I'm sure that people expect to see a huge castle but no, it's just a little room. But don't tell anyone! (laughs)
MetalKings.com: Will the Star One album be released in Japan?
Arjen: Yes, I just signed a deal with Marquee Inc. and the album will be released in Japan in one or two months.
MetalKings.com: And will the Japanese edition have bonus tracks?
Arjen: Oh, you got very good questions! You did your homework very well! And you speak English well for someone from Russia because I just did four interviews with Russian guys and I had a really hard time understanding them! It was really, really hard! Sometimes I just didn't understand them! OK, let's get back to questions. You asked about bonus tracks, right? Well, they will release the same tracks as the Europeans do and of course they wanted a bonus track. So Eric (Norlander), who is my manager for Japan, said, "OK, you've got to do the bonus track." And I said, "Oh, I can't do it, I'm finished and I've got nothing more!" And he said, "Well, think of a great cover, something from science fiction." So then I suddenly thought of "No Quarter" from Led Zeppelin. It's not about space but I think that somehow it was influenced by "Lord Of The Rings". So I thought I'm gonna do an acoustic version of "No Quarter" and it's also one of Lana Lane's favorite songs. She sang it and I haven't heard it yet! I sent it to Eric and asked him to give the song to Lana and then send it to Japan. So I'm curious how it turned out!
MetalKings.com: Arjen, I wonder what happened to that girl Astrid van der Veen from your project Ambeon.
Arjen: Well... she is 16 now! (laughs) And I haven't heard much from her lately. I know she's got a boyfriend who is about 30 or 35. And it's not going very well in school for her. I haven't heard from her for a long time, I've been trying to reach her but I couldn't.
MetalKings.com: And is it possible that you release more albums with Ambeon?
Arjen: I think so because I'm not really satisfied with the first album. I think it could have been better because it's a bit cold for me. It's too electronic, a bit too much computers... And I didn't know how well Astrid could sing for I didn't know her and she didn't know me. So one day definitely I'd like to make another one and make a better one. It was a good start, quite OK, but it could have been better because I didn't have that feeling like on Ayreon albums like "Yes, this is right! It feels good and this is what I want!" And I haven't got that at 100 percent on the Ambeon album although it's a good album and has some good songs.
MetalKings.com: Well, as far as I know you have a list of your favorite singers and you choose names from it and try to contact them, right?
Arjen: Yes, it's true.
MetalKings.com: And I still wonder why you didn't use a couple of really great singers in rock music world. Both of them have very interesting voices and their own styles. The first is German singer Michael Kiske (ex-Helloween).
Arjen: I thought about it and I already talked with his manager, but at that time I heard that he didn't want to do rock music anymore. But recently he did the Avanthasia thing and other different things so it's still an option to work with him. But at that time I got in contact with Andi Deris (Helloween) who is a fan of my music and I used Andi on the Ayreon album. So I might record with Kiske one day.
MetalKings.com: The second guy is Jorn Lande (ex-The Snakes, now in Millenium, etc.) from Norway.
Arjen: Absolutely right. He's amazing, he's a new powerful singer who's got the same quality as David Coverdale and he also sounds like Ronnie James Dio and Glenn Hughes. He's very powerful... but he plays on a lot of albums, he releases five or six albums per year. And you see, I wanna have a bitter feeling that I'm unique, that I'm doing something original like the fact that I have Dave Brock of Hawkwind who never sang on any other album before. And though he's not such a great singer like Dio it's still so special for me to have him on the album. And the same thing is with Bruce (Dickinson, Iron Maiden) who doesn't do such things a lot. Maybe that's the reason why I haven't tried Jorn yet. But I agree that he's an amazing singer.
MetalKings.com: Arjen, what about your involvement in side projects like Nolan/Wakeman album "The Hound Of Baskervilles"? How did it happen?
Arjen: Well, you know that Clive plays on my albums and it's great not to pay to each other but do each other a favour by playing on each other's albums. So he and Oliver Wakeman, who is a good friend of mine too, asked me to play on their album. He sent me a song and I put all rhythm guitars on it and lead guitars, too. I guess it was the song called "Shadow of Fate" with Bob Catley on vocals. Then I sent it to Clive and he liked it so much that he asked me to do an extra song. (laughs) So I said, "OK, send me another song, I'll do it!"
MetalKings.com: And why you didn't play on the second album of The Consortium Project "Continium In Extremis"?
Arjen: I don't know, he (Ian Parry) didn't ask me.
MetalKings.com: Well, there's a thing about the first Ayreon album. It tells about the end of this world because of many problems such as wars, computers, etc. Do you really believe in this story?
Arjen: No, no. But I do believe that one day it will all go wrong with the world. I think, there's too many people coming up and people are now putting animals in flats, they're building flats for animals and those animals will never see daylight. And there's too many things going on in this world which I don't like. But it's not that it all will be over in 2984. It was just a workplay with 1984, I just added 1,000 years to that George Orewell novel.
MetalKings.com: Arjen, I guess it has no sense to ask you about tours...
Arjen: No, I might play a couple of shows with Star One. Next week I'm going to play with Lana Lane in the USA and Japan, and if it works out great and I still can play guitar on stage then maybe I'll do a couple of shows myself.
MetalKings.com: Well, Arjen, thank you for a great interview. It was really amazing talking to you!
Arjen: Thank you! You had very good questions. It was nice a interview! Bye!
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