Jean-Christophe : Hello Arjen, I’m Jean-Christophe from the french webzine neoprog.eu, nice to have the opportunity to ask you a few questions, it’s a great honour.
Arjen : Hi Jean-Christophe, no problem!
Jean-Christophe : We thought that with Human Equation, there will be no more Ayreon’s fantastastic stories, we were wrong...
Arjen : Oh yes, I will never stop with Ayreon, I'll stop breathing first!
Jean-Christophe : You released a final compilation, Timeline, wich summarize the whole Ayreon’s adventure, and then what we heard ? Incredible news ! Arjen Anthony Lucassen announce a new Ayreon, The Theory Of Everything.
What happened ? You haven’t resisted to fan’s pression ? You wanted to continue the saga ?
Arjen : No, I only felt like doing a new Ayreon if many things were different: A new story, new singers I've never worked with and a new way of working.
Jean-Christophe : For The Theory of Everything, you have changed a little bit your mind. Many of the guests musicians came from the progressive universe, not from the metal: Steve Hackett, Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson…
Arjen : I think it's about even. Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson from the prog side, and Nightwish, Kamelot, Dream Theater, Grand Magus and Lacuna Coil from the metal side. A nice balance :-)
Jean-Christophe : Definitely the most progressive Ayreon album.
Arjen : Oh yes, I agree.
Jean-Christophe : Was it a deliberate choice to put more prog in Ayreon this time, or was it just done by the circonstances and opportunities ?
Arjen : I never really plan anything, things just happen! But it was a conscious decision to make a more transparent album in the style of Into the Electric Castle. Which means less singers, a bit less heavy and more instrumental parts.
Jean-Christophe : If we compare all Ayeron’s albums, The Theory of Everything seems the most easy listening, less metal, less folk too, more melodic maybe.
Arjen : It's funny, I've had different reactions so far, some say it's more folk. I wouldn't know, I would have to check it with a stop watch I guess, haha! But yeah, it's definitely very melodic, maybe more than ever.
Jean-Christophe : For example The Electric Castle could be describe as chaotic if we compare both albums. Can you talk about that ?
Arjen : This album is definitely more consistent than previous albums. Maybe because this time I wrote everything chronologically. It all came very natural, I guess that's why I ended up with 4 longs tracks of more than 20 minutes.
Jean-Christophe : As all your projects, Ayreon is inspired by Sicence Fiction novels and movies, your last and fantastic solo album Lost In The New Real was a brillant demonstration of this. Can you tell how begun this passion for Science Fiction ? Who are your favorite novelists and movies ?
Arjen : I've been a sci-fi fan every since I first saw Star Trek in the early 70's when I was still a kid. For me it's the unlitmate escapism. I'm also very interested in science and physics. Unfortunately I'm very bad at math, so I have to turn science into fiction :-)
Jean-Christophe : I’ve see you only one time on stage, long time ago in Strasbourg (France), for the promotion of the Stream of Passion very first album Embrace The Storm. It was an incredible show in a small place (La Laiterie) crowded, with Damian Wilson and you, playing Stream of Passion album and also Ayreon and Star One tracks.
Arjen : Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
Jean-Christophe : Have we any chance to see you again on the roads one day in France ?
Arjen : No, sorry. I don't play live anymore. I see myself as a composer and a producer, not a performing artist. I don't like it and I'm not very good at it :-)
Jean-Christophe : As usually, with the help of youtube, you make us slowly discover the singers and musicians who have participated to Ayeron album. It’s always for us a big challenge to discover who plays what, who sings.
Arjen : It's also fun for me, I love to tease the fans just a little :-)
Jean-Christophe : Nobody talks before your announcement. How do you keep de secret around that, special instruction, TNT belt until the D day ?
Arjen : Haha! Well, I just ask them not to make it official. I know I can trust them.
Jean-Christophe : I remember that Michael Mills was in a hurry to announce the news...
Arjen : Haha, true.. Mike couldn't wait! Well, he had a festival in Australia that week, so it was good promotion for him.
Jean-Christophe : How started this Ayreon concept, guest musicians from so many horizons in a metal progressive project playing sometimes short parts of an epic opera ?
Arjen : I guess it all started back when I was 11 and I heard the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar with Ian Gillan. With my (metal) bands in the 80's I couldn't do a progressive rock opera, but when I was 35 back in 1995 I could finally do it. I love to put many different styles and emotions in my albums, and the various guest musicians add to the variety.
Jean-Christophe : How do you works with so many artists. Each musician travels to your studio to work with you ?
Arjen : Yes, it is very important that all the singers are with me in the studio when I record them. So I fly them all over, or come to a studio of their choice.
Jean-Christophe : Do you give them some material before they come to record ?
Arjen : Yes, they get all the songs with guide vocals. But they are of course free to interpret the vocals in their own special way.
Jean-Christophe : How do you contact them, something like ‘hello, it’s Arjen, come home to play with me for the next Ayreon’ ?
Arjen : Something like that, yeah!
Jean-Christophe : Is there some artist who refused to work with you ?
Arjen : Oh yes, of course. But I won't tell you who :-)
Jean-Christophe : Your music is always tinted of folk melodies, even in Star One or Lost In The New Real. Where they come from ?
Arjen : I think from bands like Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention and Thin Lizzy, and singer-songwriters like Donovan and Dylan.
Jean-Christophe : Have you ever imagine to write a full folk album one day ?
Arjen : I think it will be hard for me to stick to just one style. But yeah, I would certainly like to give it a try one fine day!
Jean-Christophe : For the Theory of Everything, you’ve invited Michael Mills, an australian Toehider frontman band, not really well known in Europe but who has a really great, eclectic and prolific production. How do you meet him ?
Arjen : I read an article in a magazine about Toehider where they compared it to the old Queen albums. So I checked it out and loved it. Then on Youtube I saw a clip of Michael Mills playing and singing a cover of Jethro Tulls's Thick as a Brick which was amazing, so I wrote him that I just had to have him on this album! What a genius this guy is...
Jean-Christophe : In all your work, which is your favorite project if there’s one ? Ayeron, The Guilt Machine, Star One, Ambeon or your last solo album ?
Arjen : Ayreon is the mother ship. It contains all the styles of the other projects. So I'd say Ayreon. But an Ayreon takes a lot of energy out of me and is very hard to realize, creatively and logistically, so after an Ayreon I always need to do some other projects whic are slightly simpler, more focused on one style and less singers.
Jean-Christophe : After this really great Ayreon album, what do you plan ? What are your projects ?
Arjen : Thanks, glad you like it! I have no idea yet what comes next. For the moment this Ayreon has completely sucked me dry, creatively and emotionally. I now have to wait for inspiration and then let's see where it guides me. It will definitely be something simpler again :-)
Jean-Christophe : Thank's Arjen !
Arjen : Cheers,
Rédigé par Jean-Christophe le 04/10/2013